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Intermarriage is not merely unwise; it is a rebellion against Jewish tradition and Jewish continuity that will almost always end in heartache and misery. 

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

Intermarriage is certainly a sensitive, if not outright painful, subject to discuss. However, it is widely misunderstood by Jews and non-Jews alike. Let us take a look at the Jewish opposition to intermarriage. As we will see, it is not a racial issue nor a superiority issue (though the Chosen people do need to keep among themselves!), but rather, a direct instruction from God as clearly stated in the Torah.

The primary source for the prohibition for a Jew to marry a non-Jew is in the book of Deuteronomy 7:3-4, where it says: “You shall not marry them [the gentiles], you shall not give your daughter to their son and you shall not take his daughter for your son…Because he will lead your son astray from Me and they will serve strange gods…”

The Talmud examines this verse in surgical detail, noting that it says “he,” and not “she,” will lead your son astray. From here the Talmud derives that in the event that your daughter marries “their son,” your grandchildren, also considered to be your sons, will be taken away from the path of Torah and Judaism. So too, in the event that your son will marry their daughter, their children are no longer considered to be your children. They are her children. They are not considered Jewish.

It is clear from here that opposing intermarriage is not racist. It is a Divine command. There is no ban on white Jews marrying black Jews. No ban on Chinese converts to Judaism marrying Russian converts to Judaism. There is no ban on color or race. Only a requirement that Jews marry Jews. It is only by Jews creating Jewish families that Judaism can continue. Judaism cannot and does not continue in an intermarried home. It is at best a watered-down or symbolic Judaism. It ain’t the Judaism of yesteryear, to say the least.

Marriage, too, is a Divine institution and not an experiment or “drive-through” commitment as it has become today. Just because two people love each other doesn’t mean that they can or should marry each other. For one who does not believe in the Bible, marriage can simply be seen as a formality, a social pressure, or a mechanism to ensure inheritance for the children. For one who believes in the Bible, however, marriage is much more than all that. According to Judaism, marriage is the bringing together of two halves who become a whole. These are spiritual connections that are only possible between two people who share a soul. The Jewish soul is only compatible with another Jewish soul. Any other marriage is like forcing the round peg into the square socket.

Statistically, intermarriages don’t last. Well over 75% of Jews who intermarry end up divorcing. A common trigger for this divorce is children. Things are often lovey dovey until the children are born. And then things get complicated. All of a sudden parents are disagreeing on how to educate their children. Should there be a circumcision? A baptism? Neither? Both?  Now the true essence of each parent comes out. Rarely are these issues solved to complete acceptance and agreement.

An article on intermarriage would be incomplete if we didn’t address the conversion-for-marriage quick fix. Many parents, or even the prospective couple, come to their rabbi seeking to convert. They believe that this band-aid will make everything work. They are wrong. Marriage-for-conversion doesn’t work. It does not make the marriage, and in fact, it is not even a conversion.

Make no mistake, Judaism is open to conversion. We don’t proselytize, but if a non-Jew truly feels that a Jewish lifestyle is for him or her, he or she can be converted. A conversion for marriage, however, is invalid from the get go. Only a conversion for the sake of rejecting all other philosophies and accepting to perform all the mitzvot (commandments) of Judaism is valid. A conversion with hidden or ulterior motive of marriage to a Jew is invalid.

Allow me to leave you with this thought on conversion. It is interesting to note that when referring to sincere converts, the Talmud says, “a convert who has converted is like a newly born baby.” But when the Talmud speaks about a slave who has been freed, it does not say “a freed man that has been freed,” but rather , “a slave that has been freed.” Why is it that when speaking about a convert the Talmud says “a convert who has converted” instead of a “non-Jew who has converted?”

One explanation is that an authentic convert, although born from non-Jewish parents, was actually born with a Jewish soul. It is this soul that pushes him or her to convert to Judaism later in life. This is why a convert is compared to a newborn baby. Once a baby is born, it is an independent person. Until that time it is not independent but an extension of its mother. So too, a convert before conversion is an embryo of sorts whose Jewish soul needs to “get out” and “come into the world” in order to achieve its independence, happiness, and life. This is not true for conversions of convenience.

Therefore, as I hope has been made clear. Intermarriage is not merely unwise; it is a rebellion against Jewish tradition and Jewish continuity that will almost always end in heartache and misery.

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