Thursday, August 11, 2011

Parashat Va'etchanan - פרשת ואתחנן

 Photo: Miriam Woelke


In this week's Parasha, Moshe is asking Hashem if he is allowed to enter Eretz Israel. So far, Moshe was not allowed to enter and meant to die without crossing the Jordan river due to the sin of hitting the rock with his staff instead of speaking to it.

In Talmud Sotah 14a, the question, why Moshe was so anxious to enter Eretz Israel, comes up. The answer is that only in Eretz Israel, Jews are able to fulfill all the Mitzvot. Abroad they are limited. Just look at the Shemittah year which only applies to Israel. Furthermore, prayers from Jews abroad do NOT go straight up to Heaven but first go to Israel, then to Jerusalem and then go up to G - d. Whereas prayers from Jews in Israel go directly up to Heaven.

I do not think that Moshe had a problem with his prayers not going up immediately but still he was extremely anxious to fulfill all the Mitzwot.

Another very important issue in this week's Parasha is Intermarriage. All over the world as well as in Israel, Intermarriage is becoming the greatest danger to Judaism. Just look at the figures in the UK or the US. Unfortunately, also in Israel we do face the problem more and more. Many secular Israelis go to the Far East after their army service and when they come back, they come with a woman from India, the Philippines or a European non - Jewish tourist they met somewhere.

In Parashat Va'etchanan, Moshe tells the Jews not to assimilate with the nations which are living in Eretz Israel. The Canaanites, the Jebusites etc. Destroy all of their images, do not turn to their idol worship and do not marry them. In Talmud Avodah Zarah 36a the question is coming up if the Torah only prohibits marriages between the Canaanites and the Jews and if it does not concern marriages between Jews and other Gentiles. The answer is that the students of Hillel and Shammai as well as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai say that this Torah law concerns ALL marriages between Jews and Gentiles. The Talmud Tractate Kiddushin 68a says that marriages between Jews and Gentiles are invalid according to Halacha. In case, the non - Jewish partner decides to convert to Judaism, the case is seen differently (orthod. conversion).
If you want to learn more you can look up the RASHBA on Tosafot and the Rambam (Mishna Torah - Hilchot Biah 12:1).

People who do intermarry mostly only see themselves and do not consider the problems they are causing. First of all, there will be many problems for the future generations. Children from those marriages do have an identity problem. I have seen many of such children coming to Jerusalem. They became interested in studying in an orthodox Yeshiva and suddenly faced the problem that they had a non - Jewish mother and were not Jewish at all. Some even started hating their parents for doing such a thing as getting intermarried. The youngsters had to convert to Judaism and sometimes the non - Jewish mother made problems, as she rather wanted to see her child in church.

I heard about another famous American case where a Jewish girl wanted to marry a non - Jewish guy. However, the guy underwent an orthodox conversion course and, in the end, did not want to marry the Jewish girl any more. He became too religious and did not want to bother with a Jewish girl who is prepared to marry a non - Jew.

Even if Jews live abroad, they should always be aware of their special task in life. The Chozeh of Lublin, Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Horowitz, said that our soul roots are in the Sefirot and in the names of HaShem. "You are a holy people and you are holy to Me". Unfortunately, too many Jews forget about this when the live among the nations. Money, cars, job etc., anything seems to be more important than their own identity.

A few years ago, there was an American guy at Rabbi Mordechai Machlises house on Shabbat who made a desperate speech. It was Shabbat afternoon and the guy said that at the same moment while he is talking, his brother in the States is getting married to a non - Jewish girl. When he was speaking, he was almost crying, as he was studying in the Yeshiva Ohr Sameach next door. He was so desperate that he asked the Rabbi if there is anything we can do to cancel the wedding. Actually, he had thought of a curse.

Of course, there was nothing we could have done and a curse is not the right response. Hopefully, sooner or later the brother will come to the conclusion to separate from his non - Jewish wife and find his real soul mate. Or the wife might convert to Judaism. Who knows ?

Anybody considering an Intermarriage at this moment and reading this article should reconsider it. Think about what you cause and what you do to your future children. Each of us should think about our Jewish task in life, our purpose in this world and who created us.

Shabbat Shalom to all of you.

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