Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Intermarriage "R" Us


A couple of weeks ago, there was an article lauding intermarriage in our local Jewish newspaper. I couldn't let this pass without a response. So I wrote an article in answer.

The author of the pro-intermarriage article had some pretty unconvincing reasons for intermarrying. He said that Christians had also suffered at the hands of the Nazis and sort of implied that this made it ok to marry Gentiles. I said that, while it was terrible that Christians suffered at the hands of the Nazis (his figures on the number of Christians killed by the Nazis was inflated and, according to my best friend, who knows more about this sort of thing than I do, probably came from some white supremacist site), but this was irrelevant when it comes to discussing intermarriage because intermarriage has nothing to do with shared suffering and didn't begin when Jews were persecuted. I said that Jews were protecting a way of life, Shabbat, Kashrut, family purity laws, and these were things that were intrusive lifestyle differences.

I got a lot of positive feedback to the article I wrote. But one friend gave me the best feedback of all. She's a friend of mine (and a very sweet person) who I sing with in my Jewish community choir. She told me she loved my article and gave me a big hug. I then told her that I should have added something to my article. I started explaining what I thought I should have said by telling a joke.

A congregation hired a new Rabbi. His first Shabbat giving a d'var Tora, he talked about Shabbat. The board members came to him after the sermon and said, "Since we have a lot of members who don't keep Shabbat, please don't talk about Shabbat." The next week he spoke about Kashrut. The board members came to him after the sermon and said, "Since we have a lot of members who don't keep Kosher, please don't talk about Kashrut." The next week, he talked about intermarriage. The board members came to him after the sermon and said, "Since we have a lot of members who are intermarried, please don't talk about intermarriage." Finally, in desperation, the Rabbi says to the board, "well, what should I talk about?" The members of the board smiled and the president said, "Judaism!"

I should have said that even if you don't keep Shabbat, Kashrut and family purity laws, preserving our heritage is Judaism and Shabbat, Kashrut, family purity and the Mitzvot are what makes Judaism Jewish. These are the essence of what being Jewish means. Judaism isn't some social club. It's a way of life, and a way that gives life meaning.

When Hashem (G-d) gave the Tora, (S)He gave us a guide for living a perfect life. If everyone in the world followed the Tora (Jews following our laws, Gentiles following their 7 Mitzvot) perfectly, we would all have perfect lives. (Of course, since we are human, it would be impossible for us to follow the Tora perfectly, but the closer we come to perfection, the closer our lives will come to perfection.)

Rabbi Kuk used to say that there are two kinds of Jews -- those who are religiously observant and those who are not yet religiously observant. I tend to agree with him. I see every non-observant Jew as someone who might one day be observant and, in being observant, might bring him/herself and the earth closer to that perfection.

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