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What is wrong with intermarriage?

by Rabbi Tzvi Shapiro

  

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Love knows no limits:

We live today in a multi-cultural and multi-religious society. We mix freely with, and respect, people of all faiths. Many Jews today grow up fully assimilated and comfortable in a secular society and environment. Why is it such a big deal if a Jewish man finds a non-Jewish woman (or vice versa) with whom he feels totally compatible and decides to marry her? She is a genuinely lovely person with a fine character – he might even claim she is much nicer than any Jewish woman he has met. She respects his Jewish background and culture and both share the same civil values, hobbies and pursuits. A perfect match, yet not made in Heaven. Why not?

The decision to marry outside your faith is perhaps the most telling moment about your association to it. It is when a person must consider what being Jewish actually means. Is being Jewish simply an accident of birth? Is it a meaningless title and easily replaceable? Or does it describe the essence of your identity? Can one retain full Jewish identity when married to a "better half" that is not Jewish? Is it fair to impose your own religion on your partner? Is it sensible to give up a heritage you cherish because of the person you love? Is it practical or possible to raise children with both religions?

Often people will ask what is more important – a happy marriage or one’s religion? But is that even an interchangeable equation? Can a couple really have a happy marriage while suppressing or imposing a religion? Can a person really find long lasting true love while ignoring his very identity and heritage?

Judaism doesn't think so. The Torah, which was given to bring peace to the world, wants to see peace between couples and peace within households. This peace is only achieved when people are free to express their identity on their own, and free to express it jointly with their spouse. That is why the Torah commands Jews to marry fellow Jews.

Reaching cloud nine:

The most important aspect of marriage is the opportunities it provides for growth. The Talmud1 says "he who doesn't have a spouse is incomplete". Finding your soul mate is an unparalleled upgrade enabling each partner to reach new heights through the common entity they have now become.

If your roots are planted in different histories, heritages, beliefs, and identities, can there really be healthy and shared growth?

Can there be growth at all? Can there even be stability?

Marriage in general, even between two people of similar background, entails a certain risk as to eventual adjustment and compatibility. Even when two people have been acquainted for some time there is no sure guarantee as to what the relationship will be like when the acquaintance is turned into a marriage, where the two will be thrown together under one roof for 24 hours a day, day after day and week after week. But when the backgrounds are entirely different, and where these differences date back for scores of generations – and are consequently of a deep and lasting quality – the chances of adjustment and compatibility are so negligible as to be almost non-existent.

Statistically speaking, intermarriage usually results, sooner or later, in endless friction and unhappiness. That a casual, or even more serious, kind of relationship seemed in the past to indicate compatibility, is no proof that it would be so ever after in a marriage situation. On the contrary, it is inevitable that two people of such divergent backgrounds, cultures, and histories, should be affected by hereditary and environmental forces.

Love is blinding:

This might not come to surface when the relationship consists of going out for coffee, shopping in the mall and enjoying a romantic movie. Furthermore, the lust for physical intimacy often overshadows any other considerations. But when the relationship materializes into serious commitment, sharing every moment and every issue, not to mention raising children, suddenly more opinions and decisions are necessary, and more of your background, education, family, and heritage come to play in each one of those decisions.

Footnotes

  • 1. Tractate Yevamot 63a

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Jewish Identity » Non-Jews » Intermarriage
Life Cycle » Marriage » Intermarriage

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Solomon
Son of King David, and succeeded him on the throne of Israel in the year 836 BCE. he was the wisest man to ever live. He built the first Holy Temple and authored several books of the Bible.