“Hello, rav. A few years ago I had a close relationship with a non-Jewish girl. After a while, I left her for that reason. Since then, I have become more religious. I put on tefillin every day, learn the weekly Torah section and try to keep Shabbat.
Today I regret the sins of my youth. I have thoughts and memories of that time which keep disturbing me. I would like to better understand the reason why marriage between a Jew and non-Jew is forbidden, and its ramifications. Why does Judaism view it as so terrible? I understand that there is always the option for a non-Jewess to convert, and the children can also convert. Thanks in advance.
You overcame a great trial, and you didn’t lose your connection to the eternal people. Kudos to you! With God’s help, you will yet establish a fine Jewish family with a worthy Jewish woman with whom you will bring Jewish children into the world.
Unfortunately, in every generation, Jews have assimilated and cut themselves off from the Jewish people. Assimilation is a devastating phenomenon, especially in our generation.
The U.S. is known to contain the largest number of Jews abroad. The Jewish People Policy Institute found that the Jewish population in the U.S. in 1970 was about 5.4 million, and today the number stands on 5.275 million. It turns out that 75% of all Jews learn in non-Jewish schools and over half of the Jewish community is intermarried with non-Jews.
Since 2010, 55% of U.S. Jews have assimilated into American society.
Rav Zamir Cohen shlita has justifiably called this the “Silent Holocaust.” It is not an exaggeration. Millions of Jews have lost their Jewish identity living among gentiles in our times. They have simply disappeared. Millions.
For good reason, intermarriage is one of the most grave prohibitions in the Torah. We can not imagine worse ramifications than the disappearance of the Jewish people.
Look back: You know that you are a Jew, but this is only due to the remarkable fact that all your righteous fathers and mothers going back 3300 years married only Jewish partners. If God forbid only one of your male ancestors would have married a non-Jewess, the magnificent chain of your Jewishness would have been permanently cut off and you would no longer identify as a Jew. It’s enough to lose one link in the illustrious chain of generations to tear apart the entire chain, God forbid.
Concerning the gravity of the prohibition of intermarriage, God commanded us in His holy Torah, “You shall not marry them, you shall not give your daughter to his son and his daughter you should not take for your son, for it will take your son away from Me and they will serve other gods.” (Deut. 7:3)
The Torah documents a very famous case that occurred during the Generation of the Desert: a tribal leader called Zimri ben Salu openly consorted with a non-Jewish woman in public and encouraged others to imitate his sinful and degenerate deed. A terrible plague broke out and 24 people died as a result. When Zimri was put to death, the plague ended and the people were saved (Numbers, Chapter 25).
Assimilation is dangerous for the collective of the Jewish people, but it is even worse for the individual who did this sin. Our sages relate that a Jew who ties himself to a non-Jewess will find himself miserable and she will lead him to hell in the Hereafter: “She is tied to him like a dog… in the Hereafter.” (Sota 3b)
This punishment is not because non-Jews are slated for Hell but because these relationships are forbidden. The Jew has caused the non-Jewess to sin by having a forbidden relationship with him, and the non-Jewess has caused him to sin by having a forbidden relationship with her. Because the sin of assimilation causes the Jewish people to diminish, it is viewed extremely seriously in Heaven. The non-Jews are supposed to live in peace with us, and not cause the assimilation and disappearance of the Jewish people.
Our mission in the world is to be a united nation who is holy to God: “You will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the things which you should speak to the children of Israel.” (Ex. 19:6) Our goal is to be a “light to the nations” instead of assimilating among the nations: “For they are a people who dwell alone, and are not considered among the nations.” (Num. 23:9)
Concerning the conversion of a non-Jewess:
If God forbid you would bring children to the world through a non-Jewish woman, your children and grandchildren through her would be non-Jews in every way. These children would have no commandment to be circumcised and they do not say Kaddish for their deceased father.
Children who convert to Judaism are not considered by Jewish law as their father’s or their mother’s progeny, but are considered like new individuals that came into existence (Yevamos 22a). Even more, when they reach adulthood and discover their origins — they have the option to renege on their Jewish conversion and revert to being non-Jews, in which case their conversion is retroactively annulled: “Whether a minor was converted by his father or by a rabbinical court — he can protest when he grows up. His status is not like an apostate Jew but like a [gentile] idol worshipper.” (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 268:7)
I once heard a sorrowful story about childless Jewish parents from New York who adopted a non-Jewish child and raised him as a Jew. A short time before his wedding they revealed to him that he was born non-Jewish and believed he would happily accept Judaism, but to their shock, he chose to abandon his parents and lead a life as a non-Jew.
Besides this, there are very serious disputes concerning conversions where it is doubtful that they were done for the sake of heaven. It is unnecessary to say how dangerous it is to commingle into the body of Jewry an Erev Rav (admixture) of non-Jews who present themselves as Jews while lacking pure motivation. Such individuals are an embodiment of “your devastaters and destroyers came from you.”
The most famous case of this occurred during the Exodus from Egypt, when an Erev Rav of non-Jews attached themselves to the Jewish people. Moses wanted to reach out and draw them to God, but the Erev Rav initiated the sin of the Golden Calf and caused the Jews to sin. Rashi writes on Exodus 32:7: “You said it is good that converts should attach themselves to the Divine Presence, so you undertook to convert the Erev Rav without asking My advice — they became corrupt and corrupted others.”
Conversion is proper only in special, rare cases where a person’s desire to live as a Jew is pure and without ulterior motives, as we saw in the story of Ruth the Moabite. Otherwise, it will cause grave damage to the Jewish people.
* * *
Imagine an angel descending from heaven who tells you: She is not your other half!
Now I would like to refer to the thoughts which you say are causing you distress. But first, I would like to quote the golden words of the Rambam on the extremely serious prohibition for a Jew to form a close relationship with a non-Jew or a Jewess to form a close relationship with a non-Jew:
“These are given lashes by the Torah, as it says ‘You shall not marry them, you shall not give your daughter to his son and his daughter you should not take for your son…’ Even though this sin does not mandate a death penalty by the rabbinical court, it should not be light in your eyes because it brings a devastation which all the other sins of forbidden relationships do not. A son born to him despite him transgressing the laws of forbidden relationships is still his son in every way and is still considered a Jew even though he is a mamzer (bastard). But a son born from a Kuthite (non-Jewess) is not his son, as it says, “for it will take your son away from Me” — the son will leave God. This will cause him to attach himself to idol worshippers whom the Almighty has separated from us, and he will abandon God and will betray Him.” (Laws of Forbidden Relations, Chapter 12)
Distressful memories are a trial from heaven. It is possible that their goal is to atone for the forbidden relationship you had — if you courageously overcome them (See the Rambam’s Laws of Repentance, beginning of Chapter 2). But don’t make the mistake of thinking that these thoughts, or more accurately, these fantasies, are an expression of a love you lost.
Are you aware that the statistics show that every third couple in western society today get divorced? Every third couple! The dreadful situation can be seen throughout the U.S. and Europe, and unfortunately also in Israel. Believe it or not, most of these people were once in love. They were completely convinced that they had found true love. But the test of time proved that it wasn’t love but “infatuation” — a mixture of passion and inflated imagination that made them unrealistically idealize their partner. Astonishingly, the statistics reveal that a greater number of divorces occurred among couples who lived together before their wedding! It turns out that true compatibility occurs only when there is commitment and partnership within the framework of married life. Not the ties before the wedding.
You should realize from these facts that whatever you felt and experienced with that woman was mere imagination that has nothing in common with true love.
Emotions can lie and mislead. And it’s the same with memories. What you feel today is not necessarily what you will feel tomorrow. True love is built on giving and investing in each other. It is tested in the crucible of life, ups and downs, compromises and personal sacrifice.
Kabbalah teaches that a man and a woman are one soul which was divided into two and came down to This World as two bodies which are supposed to return and reunite in marriage. “He shall cleave to his wife and they will be one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) The gemora states, “Forty days before a fetus is created, a voice goes out from heaven and announces, ”The daughter of so-an-so for so-and-so.” (Sota 2a)
Imagine an angel coming down from heaven this second in front of your eyes and announcing that a certain woman is not the other part of your soul and wasn’t intended for you, while your true partner is waiting for you somewhere else? Would you listen to his voice?
Without a doubt, as an intelligent person, you wouldn’t let your ephemeral feelings deceive you, particularly after you became aware of how easy it is to delude oneself when feeling the thrill of infatuation.
In our case, it wasn’t an angel who told you that this non-Jewess wasn’t your soul partner but the King of kings, the Holy One blessed is He, the Creator of the universe, who created your soul and divided it into two. He informed you in His holy Torah that your soul partner is not among the gentile nations. “Do not marry with them.” (Deut. 7:3) Your other half is to be found among Jewish girls. You will God willing one day found a faithful Jewish home with her.
If God forbid you had married that non-Jewess, besides the fact that all your descendants wouldn’t be Jews, it would only be a matter of time until you discovered that she wasn’t the right one for you either.
[By the way, here is the answer for Jewish girls who tragically view the subject of intermarriage as a minor matter, and who tell themselves that in any case their children will be Jewish even if the father is a gentile. Since every Jewish soul is divided in half, between a Jewish man and a Jewish woman, it turns out that her true other half is somewhere among the Jewish people and she has cleaved to a non-Jewish soul which is not for her. She brought upon herself a flawed and disastrous marital situation. Besides cutting off her holy connection to the Creator of the universe, she has chosen to lose her other half in This World and in the Hereafter for eternity. Moreover, her children who grow up under a non-Jewish father will not be connected with all their heart to Judaism. They will live in a split world and the gentile world will have a strong allure for them. Most likely, they will assimilate one day just like their mother, and she will lose all her descendants because of her spurious connection to a gentile.]
Let us go back to the data. Many enlightened gentiles in our generation have learned to be courteous and to cover up their true feelings towards Jews. Europeans are repelled by antisemitic comments that are not “politically correct” but the fact is: 129 countries in the U.N. regularly condemn Israel but haven’t condemned even once the murderous terrorist organizations who seek to destroy us. Respectable universities around the world have joined the BDS campaign against Israel. The inevitable conclusion is that most gentiles in the world are against us, and not just the millions of Arabs who openly despise us and call for our annihilation. Millions of polite, refined gentiles also hide similar sentiments against us.
I heard a story of a European Jewess who had intermarried with a refined, congenial Frenchman and only after many years, discovered his true sentiments when in a moment of anger, he burst out and called her a “dirty Jewess” and even uglier antisemitic insults. These events repeated themselves until she left him.
You don’t know the future and what it holds for you. So you have to believe and trust that God knows what is good for you in This World as well as in the Hereafter. After everything, our life here is fleeting, temporary, and far shorter than what we are willing to admit to ourselves. So the important thing is not to lose our goal of eternal life.
God willing, you will courageously withstand all the trials and merit to establish a wonderful Jewish family with your true partner who shares the same root as your soul.
* * *
One last point for encouragement: Your reward in heaven is far greater than you can imagine!
Our sages say that a commandment that one fulfilled with difficulty is greater than a commandment done without any difficulty. God gave you a very serious trial but you succeeded in overcoming it. You should know that your reward in Heaven is equal to the magnitude of the prohibition you might have transgressed! This is an exceedingly impressive reward to take with you for eternity to the Hereafter.
Our Patriarch Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his only son for God — and he taught us, his Jewish descendants in every generation, to be prepared to wholeheartedly sacrifice for our Creator even “your only son whom you love.” This means we have to be willing to sacrifice to God anything which is more precious to us than any other thing in our life, even the children and the wife that we love. This is a proof of real love because we wouldn’t make this sacrifice to anyone besides the One who is more precious to us than everything else: “You shall love the Almighty your God with all your heart and all your soul and whatever you possess” (and Rabbi Akiva adds: “even if He takes your soul!”).
There is no supreme value worth living for which is greater than the love of God.
Righteous Jews gave up their lives to die in sanctification of God’s Name in all generations and all times. They died with the “Shema Israel” on their lips. But it is just as important to sanctify God’s Name in one’s day-to-day life. It is said that it is even harder to sanctify God’s Name in one’s day-to-day life than to sanctify God’s Name by one’s death! You withstood a trial that God sent your way and you sanctified God in your day-to-day life.
At this occasion I would like to praise Hidabroot’s “Shvuyot” department which deals with hundreds of cases of Jewish women who were about to intermarry and become lost from the Jewish people. To report such cases or get assistance: 052-9551591.