Parshas Vaetchanan
Devarim 3:23 - 7:11

Living with the Reality of Our Mistakes ©
By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Gary Lee Belk and Mr. Donald Wayne Belk, may they rest in peace.

In Parshas Devarim in great detail I shared the story of a couple, a father and a step mother, who lost their children. The judge approved the children's mother's request to move out of state with her children. The sad, sad fact is the mother is not Jewish. The children will not be raised Jewishly.

With this week's parsha sitting right here in front of us, we can review our mistakes in the light of the words, "Carefully guard the commandments of Hashem your G-d, and His testimonies and His statutes that He commanded you." Deuteronomy 6:17

As humans we make mistakes. As Jews we make mistakes. Some of our mistakes seem to dissolve and go away through the course of time while other mistakes seem to hold on forever. One particular type of mistake that holds on and holds on is the violation of the Torah mitzvah, "DO NOT MARRY THEM." Deuteronomy 7:3 The sad story mentioned above is the result of violating this Torah prohibition. Rashi defines these prohibitions of theTorah as follows:

First, "Do not give your daughter to his son."
Second, "Do not take his daughter for your son."

Rashi explains the unfortunate results of these mistakes:

First, "If the son of the {non Jew} marries your daughter he {the non Jewish son-in-law} will turn away {from Judaism} your grandson." Rashi points out that the Torah considers this son your grandson. In other words the Torah states that the pain of this mistake is that a Jewish grandson will be born and live a non observant lifestyle because his mother married a man who is not Jewish. This is horrible!

When we as Jews ignore the warnings in the Torah we bring G-d's condemnation on the intermarriage relationship. We introduce our innocent offspring into a world with a serious prenatal handicap, the difficulties of intermarriage like a ball and chain attached to their ankles forever. Later we learn the wisdom of avoiding intermarriage after we G-d forbid have made the mistake and after we G-d forbid have children. This may seem hard, but consider the sentence we are passing upon our child according to the Torah. The Torah clearly states that this Jewish child will "serve other gods and Hashem's anger will be aroused against you." Why would any of us want Hashem's anger to be pointed in our direction? Why would anyone want to bring a Jewish child into a relationship that the Torah clearly states will result in the child violating the Torah? This is like condemning a Jewish child to idol worship before birth.

Now factor in the division in the relationship between the Jewish mother and the non Jewish father. Please consider the burden of strife this relationship will have to endure. Please consider the predetermined strife of this child's mixed up environment that he will grow and develop within. Christmas or Chanukah? Easter or Pesach? Pentecost or Shavuos?

Second, we have the scenario of the non Jewish daughter in law and the Jewish son. This situation is also very difficult. Yet there are certain conditions that do not exist in this intermarriage relationship. Rashi states, "From this we learn that your daughter's son, who is born of a non Jewish {father} is considered your {grand} son; but your son's son, born of a {non Jewish mother} is not considered your {grand} son, but rather her son; for it is not said [regarding the prohibition] 'Do not take his daughter for your son,' because she will turn [your (grand)son away from me], but only that he {the non Jewish father} will turn your {grand}son," etc.

According to Rashi's definition, which is also the Orthodox position, this son is NOT JEWISH. However, that does not make it any easier on the son or daughter of an intermarriage. As a father with two sons from a non Jewish relationship*, I see many of the painful struggles that each of my sons experiences. It is very sad. They did not author the problem, they can only be affected by it! They want to be pleasing to both parents but can only please one. Which one will it be? The Torah states according to Rashi, "It will be their mother." The Torah is correct. (*The Torah defines a Jewish relationship as a Jewish male and a Jewish female who join in marriage under the chupah. An intermarriage relationship is not recognized by the Torah.)

So to have a happy relationship, even in a life of a very relaxed observance, it is wise to marry in accordance with the Torah. Not observing the Torah is a mistake that holds on in intermarriage relationships... This is a mistake that usually ends in divorce. This is a mistake that condemns Jewish children to a sinful, tormented non observant life. This is a mistake that condemns children to face their parents' poor choices. This is a mistake that separates and tears at the soul of everyone involved, including the step mother, the step father and children from their relationships. This is a mistake in which the results are already stated in the Torah and backed by social statistics. This is a mistake that can be avoided. I hope and trust that you will not need to live with the reality of the mistakes of intermarriage, neither your mistakes of intermarriage nor the mistakes of your present spouse's (former) intermarriage.

For those already on the path of intermarriage, please visit our section on "Intermarriage Conflict."

Wishing you the best,

Dr. Akiva G. Belk

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