Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Judaism and Intermarriage: Part 1

Some of this is still in a rough state. I am working to clean up the language a bit and provide additional sources. If you haven't already read the introduction you can do so here. It will help explain this post.

The basis of Jewish marriage principles concerning non-Jews comes from the following Biblical passages.
Deut. 21:10-14 "When you go forth to war against your enemies, and Hashem your God has delivered them into your hands, and you have taken them captive, And you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and desire her, and take her for a wife - Then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and do her nails, And she shall remove the garment of her captivity from her, and remain in your house and weep for her father and mother a for month, and after that you may approach her and have intercourse with her, and she shall be your wife. And if you do not want her, you shall send her out on her own; you shall not sell her at all for money, you shall not treat her as a slave, because you "violated" her.

(Deut. 7:3): "You shall not marry them (non-Israelites), you shall not give your daughter to their son and you shall not take his daughter for your son."
The above verses were applicable to the Israelites who were making their way from the Sinai desert into the land of Canaan, as well as being applicable to all future generations of Israelites. The peoples that they encountered on their way were predominately from nations that held vastly different religious, national, and social morals which would have meant giving away children in marriage would have been consigning said children to paganim, which is forbidden in Judaism.

The above verse also needs to be clearly understood within the context of Jewish commentary on the verses, all of which make the case that it is preferable that a non-Jewish partner not be taken in the above circumstances. Jewish law dictacted that during a time of war, if a city was surrounded that only three, of the four sides, of the city be surrounded. The fourth side was left open so that innocents could escape without injury. Yet, in a situation where a soldier saw a woman that was beautiful to him, he was not permitted to just take her. There are some who say that the period of one month was to give a cooling period between the initial attraction, possibly an attraction to someone foreign, and then with a level head look again at the situation.

When the rabbis predicted that a result of this captor/captive - husband/wife relationship would be a rebellious son. From the sages we are told that taking a captive woman as a wife could lead to having a rebellious son. This idea is logical -- taking a woman with alien values into one's home would certainly have an adverse effect. The child of such a woman will be a child raised by a mother who adheres to a radically different belief system. The child's rebelliousness against Judaism is understandable, predictable. This child was reared with intellectual dissonance, by virtue of being taught different ideas from his mother and father. It easy to see how such an upbringing would produce a confused child who suffers from spiritual angst. The Torah simply made a provision for those men who desired such a woman, i.e. that if this is what you are going to do you have to do things in a certain pattern.

The reason for this prohibition is clearly spelled out in the following verse: "Because he will lead your son astray from Me and they will serve strange gods…" ("Strange gods" can also be interpreted to mean those ideals and ‘isms’ that do not conform to the dictates of the Torah, and before which one bows his head and dedicates his heart and soul.)

Concerning Deut. 7:3 about giving sons and daughters into marraige with non-Israelites the Talmud (Yevamot 23a) points out - and Rashi quotes it in his commentary on the aforementioned verse - that from the precise expression of the verse (he -and not she- will lead your son astray) we can derive two things. In the event that your daughter marries "their son," he will eventually lead astray your sons (in other words, your grandchildren, who will still be considered your sons) from the path of the Torah. In the event that your son will marry their daughter, her children are no longer considered your children, but her children. They are not considered Jewish.

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