Thursday, July 26, 2007


In the class of Tuesday, 24 July Adam Okienko (pictured, right) attended, and we welcomed Don Marks (pictured, left) for the first time.

Among other things, we discussed the concept of intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews, and the concept that Jewish descent is matrilinial only. These concepts are found in the verse: "When the L-rd your G-d brings you to the land that you will inherit, many nations will fall away before you; the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Prizites,the Hivites and the Jebusites ... And you shall not marry with them; do not give your daughters to his sons and do not take his daughters for your sons. For he will turn your son away from me and they will worship other gods ... " (Deuteronomy 7:1-5)

The Talmud (Kiddushin, 68b) points out that the verse only seems to be concerned that the son of the Jewish woman will be turned away, "for he (the non-Jew) will turn your son (from a Jewess) away." It does not seem to be concerned that "she (the non-Jew) will turn your son (from a non-Jewess) away." The implication is that the son of the Jewish woman and non-Jewish man is still considered "your son," the son of the Jewish grandfather. But in the case of a gentile woman married to a Jewish man, the child is not considered "your son," i.e., he is not recognised as Jewish, and thus we are not warned about the grandchild.

This demonstrates that intermarriage is spiritually detrimental for both Jews and non-Jews. But why will a non-Jewish father necessarily lead his Jewish son astray, if he is an otherwise decent person? This cannot be a condemnation of non-Jews, G-d forbid, for they are beloved by G-d (Ethics of Our Fathers, 3:14) as they were created in G-d's image (Genesis, 9:6) to serve Him.

Rather, this combination cannot work since G-d set up the universe such that the Jew and non-Jew are not supposed to mix in this way. This can be understood from chemistry, where we find that certain substances are harmless and even useful on their own, or when mixed with other substances, but are lethal when mixed with each other.

The same principle holds true in human relationships. A woman could well be a wonderful person, but if she is married to one man, she must not engage in relations with another, and if she does, she does terrible spiritual harm to them both. Similarly, the Torah is telling us that intermarriage is harmful not only for the Jew involved, but also for the non-Jew, for the explosive "chemistry" brings out the worst in them.

Indeed, this relationship is so contrary to the spiritual makeup of mankind that according to Jewish law, the very word intermarriage is a misnomer. There is no intermarriage because a Jew and a non-Jew simply cannot unite. Thus, no matter how committed they are to their relationship, it cannot be called a marriage, and no divorce is required for them to end it.

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