Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Born and Married Jewish

Essay One: Born and Married Jewish
The simplest definition of a Jew is one who underwent a proper conversion to Judaism or traces his lineage maternally to one who underwent such a conversion. In recent times, this latter assertion has been under fire from “Progressive Jews” who feel that matrilineal descent should not define a Jew and that a Jew can be a Jew even if his father was Jewish and his mother was not. However, the Mishna in Kiddushin 66b states that if a child's mother is not Jewish, then the child is "like her"—that is—not Jewish. This Halacha is codified in the Shulchan Aruch[1], without mention of any dissenting opinion; no one argues. Many Jews who are considered “Natural Jews” or “Jews from birth” are actually matrilineal descendents of the Ancient Israelite nation, who underwent a conversion en masse at Mount Sinai. Torah law does recognize paternal lineage, but not in regard to establishing one’s Jewishness.

Although one inherits his Jewish status from his mother, other statuses in Halacha can be inherited from either parent or from just the father. The Davidic line, Kohanic line, and Levitical line are all established through paternal inheritance. However, a child of a mamzer (“bastard” or illegitimate child born from a union of the forbidden relations) from either parent retains the status of a mamzer regardless of the other parent’s status. The status of one’s nationality is based on his mother’s family, while other statuses are based on the father’s side. Therefore, when the Torah forbade first- and second-generation Egyptians and Edomites from marrying into the Jewish congregation[2], the definition of such a person’s nationality strictly follows the person’s mother, not father. Accordingly, a member of the Jewish Nation can only be a member without conversion if his mother is Jewish. However, once a person is already Jewish through one’s mother, then tribal and familial affiliation (which the inheritance, kingship, priesthood, and Levite statuses are dependent on) is dependent on the father’s side of the family. This rule is derived from the Torah[3], which equates one’s family with one’s father’s household, showing that family.

The Torah tells[4] about a story of a man whose mother was a Jewess and whose father was an Egyptian who lost a court case and ended up cursing HaShem. About this man, Nachmanides records[5] a dispute between himself and the French Sages, with the French sages maintaining that this blasphemer was a convert (and not a Jew from birth), while Nachmanides himself maintained he was a Jew, but merely had tainted lineage (pagum). The French Sages to whom Nachmanides includes Rashi who wrote that in the court case, the blasphemer claimed his right to inheritance in the Land of Israel as a son of a Jewess, but Moses ruled against him with the verdict that he was not a Jew. Nachmanides himself elsewhere[6] was unsure whether a child born to a gentile and Jewess is considered a tainted or not. While the Gemara[7] rules that the child is surely not a mamzer, it is unclear whether such a child is a pagum. One can infer from Tosafos[8] that such a child indeed is a pagum, but is surely Jewish[9].

Rav Papa says[10] that if the daughter of a Levite (a Bas Levi, or Levia) and non-Jew have a firstborn baby boy together, the child is exempt from the Kohanic redemption of the firstborn because the boy is a Levite. How can the boy be a Levite if Levitical status is reliant on the father’s lineage and the father, as a non-Jew, lacks any lineage[11]? Rabbi Chaim Brisker[12] explains that a Levi is not exempt from this requirement of redemption because he is part of the tribe of Levi, for tribal affiliation is inherited paternally. Rather the reason the boy is exempt is that he himself is a Levi as determined by his genealogy from his mother, albeit his tribal affiliation is not Levitical. According to this, one can properly be called a descendent of Levi'im by just having a Levia as a mother, but would not be called part of the tribe of Levi unless his father was also a Levite. In the opinion of Rav Papa, the exemption from the redemption of the firstborn comes from just being a descendant of Levi (usually from the father’s side, but if the father lacks lineage because he is not Jewish, then from the mother’s side), so even if the boy is not a Levite, he is exempt from the redemption. Tosafos[13] assert that even if this boy is considered a non-Jew, he is still considered a Levi according to Rav Papa. Rabbi Ya’akov Loeberbaum explains[14] that if such a child converts, he would be rightfully a Levite because his mother was one.

Despite all the pilpul, in practical Halacha, a child whose mother is Jewish is Jewish and a child whose mother is not Jewish is not Jewish, regardless of the status of the father[15]. A popular, yet controversial, term amongst the more assimilated sects of world Jewry is “Half-Jewish”; however, such a term is both meaningless and baseless. One is either a Jew or not a Jew[16]. The Torah discusses[17] the case of a Jewish man whose Jewish daughter marries a non-Jew. The resulting grandson[18] it is said will stray from his Jewish grandfather because of his non-Jewish father, but nonetheless he retains his Jewish status because of his Jewish mother. If such a child were not considered Jewish, then his lack of fulfillment in the Torah would not be called a misdirection of the proper path; rather, he would simply not be a Jew. Even though such a child is legally a Jew, such intermarriage is still not recommended because intermarriage can ruin certain aspects of the family, home, and community if children are brought up in an environment where one parent is not a Jew. Furthermore, in the converse situation (i.e. a Jewish male marrying a non-Jewish female), there are even halachik prohibitions involved.

Some secular historians argue over various dates for when Judaism began to use matrilineality in determination of one’s Jewishness; however, the Torah True view is obvious (that it was always an essential part of Judaism). One view amongst historians is that the rules of matrilineal descent were effective as an indirect result of the First Crusade (1095-1099). When Christian Crusaders were on their mission to re-conquer Jerusalem, they plundered Jewish European communities along the way, raping many Jewish girls. When these Jewish girls were left pregnant and birthed children, the Rabbis supposedly declared the offspring to be valid Jews, thus starting the rule of matrilineal descent in Judaism. However, this oft-repeated account is simply not true because the rule of matrilineal descent predates the First Crusade because it is mentioned in the Mishnah and Gemara, which preceded the Crusades by at least half a century. Rather, other historians claim that the origins of the rule of matrilineal descent were the Rabbis of the Mishnah at Yavneh (in the period immediately following the destruction of the Second Holy Temple). However, this too is flawed because these historians base themselves on inferences in the writings of Philo and Josephus, who are not credible sources for Jewish law (they were by-and-by secular/Hellenized Jews), and the inferences are only inferences, not implicit writings. Furthermore, there are explicit verses in the Bible, which prove matrilineal descent, so the rule must surely have predated the Tannaic Period.

Another view on the historical context of the rules of matrilineal descent is that the rules started with an enactment by Ezra the Scribe[19]. When the Jews returned to Israel after the Babylonian Exile, Ezra made them vow[20] to put aside their non-Jewish wives and the children those wives had borne. They could not have put aside those children if those children were Jews, thus Ezra must have ruled that those children were considered not Jewish. However, it is difficult to say that Ezra made up a new Halacha that is so fundamental to Judaism. Rather, the actual time that the rule of matrilineal descent came into effect was at the Revelation of Mount Sinai. Many proofs that historians bring to show that Judaism at one point believed in patrilineal descent are from verses and stories, which were from before the acceptance of the Torah at Mount Sinai. However, this is not a proof to one of the above already-disproved opinions; it merely shows that before Mount Sinai there was a patrilineal descent. This is consistent with the Torah view because before Mount Sinai, the status of “Jew” did not necessarily exist as it does now; the pre-Sinai Jews were merely members of the Abrahamic family, but not members of the Jewish Nation until the Revelation at Mount Sinai. As already explained, familial relation is based purely on the family of one’s father, so it is understandable that HaShem’s covenant with Abraham was passed to his male descendants, to Issac, to Jacob, etc…, skipping the daughters. This covenant was a mere inheritance, which is passed down to one’s sons and not daughters[21].

Many modern and assimilated Jews view intermarriage (between Jews and gentiles) as a contribution to multicultural societies, which can enrich the cultures of both sides. However, other opinions are not so accepting of intermarriage. In many circles, intermarriage is termed the “Silent Holocaust”[22] because it is slowly wiping out the Jewish communities (especially the non-Orthodox ones[23]). This is because children of intermarried couples rarely retain any Jewish identity, and many go on to intermarry themselves. Even when the children of such couples to identify themselves as Jewish, they are still more likely to marry non-Jews (like their parents), and the likelihood that the grandchildren of the original intermarried couple will maintain their Jewish identity is slim to none. Furthermore, many intermarried families are actually broken and unhappy families, as evident from the higher divorce rate in intermarried families. Additionally, many kids growing up in such an environment become confused as to the proper religious beliefs because they are exposed to a multitude of relatives who believe in a pantheon of religions and philosophies. In many circles, the Jewish parents of intermarried couple have the custom of sitting Shiva and mourning upon the mixed marriage, as a way of equating intermarriage with the end of one’s Jewish life.

Many Progressive Jews claim that opposing intermarriage is a racist view and that those who oppose intermarriage are to be equated with Nazis. However, this assertion is flawed. Technically, racism is only discrimination against a specific race or the declaration of superiority of a race. The U.N.’s accepted definition of racial discrimination[24] is “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin…” Judaism is not a race; it is a religious society associated with a non-geographically-bound nation. As a member of such a society, there is an injunction to follow certain commandments and believe in certain beliefs (which are truisms). Jews are not restricted to any skin color, line of lineage, nationality, or ethnicity, Jews have a varying array of pigment, and Jews come from various countries around the world. If one properly converts, one is accepted as a legitimate Jew[25] just as one who can trace one’s lineage directly to King David is accepted as a legitimate Jew. Race has nothing to do with Judaism, so the ban against intermarriage cannot be considered racist. If a person is completely familiar and comfortable with his or her Jewish identity, then such a person would not even a will to marry a member of another faith[26].

According to Halacha, in addition to marriage with a non-Jew being forbidden, such a marriage is not even legally binding. The esoteric understanding of this can be that marriage is a spiritual act, which fuses together two souls; the souls of a Jew and a non-Jew soul cannot be fused. Therefore, not only is intermarriage prohibited, it is inherently impossible. Tosafos write[27] that the prohibition of marrying a gentile is based on the verse concerning the seven nations of Canaan, which says[28], “And you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughter to his [a gentile’s] son, and you shall not take his [a gentile’s] daughter for your son.” The Talmud understands[29] based on this verse that the wedding of a Jew and non-Jew is not legally effective[30]. Rashi writes[31] concerning the rest of the gentile nations that the prohibition of relations with them is based on the verse[32], which states that a captive beautiful gentile woman can only be cohabited with after she goes through the prescribed ritual, implying that before so all gentile women are forbidden for cohabitation[33]. Rabbi Achai Gaon writes[34] that the lack of a legal effectiveness in such an intermarriage wedding is derived from[35] “and she has been cohabited with.” This implies that gentiles can only create a marriage through physical consummation and not through a verbal, monetary, or contractual betrothal. Indeed, Maimonides codifies[36] such a law that gentiles do not have such a betrothal and can only declare their wives through intercourse.

The Mishnah says[37] that the punishment for a Jewish man who has intercourse with a gentile woman is that zealots can kill the man. However, as the Gemara[38] explains, this is true only in rare instances when the act of intercourse is done in public (with a quorum of ten or more Jews) and the sin cannot be stopped any other way, and the zealot can only kill the transgressor, while he is in middle of the forbidden act[39]. These rules are learned out of Pinchas who speared Zimri ben Salu, the prince of the tribe of Shimon, and Kozbi bas Tzur, a princess of the Midianite royal family while they were engaged in relations[40]. Maimonides adds[41] that any gentile woman who purposely has relations with a Jewish man should be put to death[42]. In addition to the punishment that a zealot can do to a man who has relations with a non-Jewess, a man who has relations with such a woman is subject to flogging from a Rabbinic Court because there are four different prohibitions upon such a woman[43]. If the conditions are not able to meet the criteria needed for such a sinner to be flogged, the sinner would be punished by HaShem Himself with kares as it says[44], “And one who cohabits with the daughter of [one who worships] a foreign god, the man who does so shall be cut off”[45].

Many miseducated Jews attempt to justify marrying non-Jewish spouses by explaining that many important characters in Tanach did so also. However, such a rationalization is flawed. Many of the cases in Tanach where Jews seemingly married non-Jews occurred before the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Until that time, there was no such thing as a “Jew” or “non-Jew” according to many authorities, and so the ancient Israelites were able to marry almost anyone. Even if there were such statuses, and for sure after the Sinaitic Revelation when there were such statuses, many of those perceived gentiles who were married to characters in Tanach actually underwent conversion before marriage. Moshe married Tziporah before Mount Sinai and continued the marriage after her conversion. Before Basya, the daughter of the Pharaoh of Egypt, married Calev[46], she underwent a conversion[47]. Similarly, Boaz only married Ruth the Moabite once she converted[48]. King Solomon married many foreign women; however, the Talmud says[49] that they all converted[50].

The prohibition of intermarriage is so stringent that the Talmud equates intermarriage with idolatry[51]. After the Babylonian exile, Ezra forced all the men returning to Jerusalem to divorce their non-Jewish wives and forsake their kids born. This was a pre-requisite for the building of the Second Holy Temple. Similarly, it is very possible that a pre-requisite for the building of the Third Holy Temple. It is by no coincidence that Deuteronomy 7:3-4 which is both the source for matrilineal descent and the prohibition of intermarriage is read yearly during the week of Tisha B’Av. Tisha B’Av is the day when Jews remember the destruction of the first two Holy Temples and anticipate the construction of the Third Holy Temple, may it come speedily and in our days: Amen.

[1] Even HaEzer §8:5
[2] Deuteronomy 23:9
[3] Numbers 4:22
[4] Numbers 24:10
[5] Ad loc.
[6] Chiddushei HaRamban and Sefer Zechus to Yevamos 45a
[7] Yevamos 45b
[8] Ad loc.
[9] Although, the Karnei R’eim (to Yevamos 45b, §1) says that Tosafos (to Kiddushin folio 78) hold such a child is not a pagum because the child is not even Jewish in the case of a Jewish mother and gentile father. However, Tosafos in Yevamos do not follow this opinion because elsewhere Tosafos write (Yevamos 23a) that if the mother is a Jewess, the offspring is always Jewish.
[10] Bechoros 47a
[11] See Yevamos 98a
[12] Chiddushei Rabbi Chaim HaLevi Al HaRambam, Laws of Forbidden Sexual Relations 15:9
[13] Bechoros 47a
[14] Responsa from the “Genius of Lisa”, §25
[15] Reform Judaism’s bilineal policy adopted in 1983 is wrong on two accounts: It considers a child born to a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother as Jewish as long as the child identifies with Judaism. Conversely, is considers a child born to a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father as not Jewish if the child does not identify with Judaism.
[16] In Halacha, there are two cases where the term “half-Jew” can technically apply, but they are not relevant to this discussion. The first such case is not common but involves certain complications concerning conversion, while the second case involves a non-Jewish slave who is in-between statuses.
[17] Deuteronomy 7:3-4
[18] Although the actual text says “Your son”, the Torah sometimes refers to one’s descendants as one’s children. The Talmud actually equates one’s sons to one’s grandsons (Yevamos 62b).
[19] Even some Orthodox Jews subscribe to this view.
[20] Ezra 10:2-3
[21] Although the Torah says (Numbers 27:8) that if there are no sons, an inheritance is be bequeathed upon death to one’s daughters.
[22] This term was coined by Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, founder of the National Jewish Outreach Program. Rabbi Meir Kahane also used the term “silent Holocaust” to refer to the high rates of assimilation amongst American Jewry, which is a clear outcome of intermarriage.
[23] Even “Rabbi” Dr. Barry Leff of Congregation B’nai Israel in Toledo, Ohio, himself an intermarried Jew of the Conservative Judaism persuasion, opposes intermarriage. He quotes from Alan Dershowitz’s "The Vanishing American Jew" that “in a few generations the only Jews left in America will be the ultra-Orthodox. He predicts that liberal Judaism will intermarry itself out of existence”. (See Leff’s essay “Lessons on Intermarriage from Abraham,” Untied Synagogue Review, Spring 2006).
[24] In a resolution adopted in the 1966 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
[25] Many feel that conversion is the way to solve the intermarriage crisis in the Jewish communities. Certain Rabbis, operating on a halachik decision from Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, help encourage the non-Jewish partner in interfaith marriages to convert properly. Others, however, disagree with this approach as it increases the likelihood of conversions with improper intentions.
[26] Indeed, Jonathan Rosenblum (of Jerusalem Post, Mishpacha Magazine, and Jewish Media Resources) wrote that the best way to solve the intermarriage problem is by convincing such movements as Reform Judaism to actually have a uniquely Jewish identity, as opposed to being a syncretized conglomeration of Judaism, Christianity, and “American” cultures ("Get Me to the Church on Time", February 2002). This long-due attack on Reform Judaism was well justified because the movement officially endorses intermarriage and thereby officially contribute to the eventual demise, heaven forbid, of the Jewish nation (if the trend continues).
[27] To Yevamos 76a
[28] Deuteronomy 7:3
[29] Yevamos 76a
[30] Although the focus of the prohibition seems to be that a father cannot marry off one of his children to a gentile, the Minchas Chinuch §427 writes that it obviously also applies to the one who married the gentile himself. The punishments of lashes only apply to the latter, not the former because the former is a prohibition where the sinner does not actively carry out a forbidden action, while in the latter case, the sinner sins actively.
[31] To Yevamos 45a
[32] Deuteronomy 21:13
[33] The Kesef Mishnah to Maimonides, Laws of Forbidden Sexual Relations, Ch. 12 gives another rationale to the equivalency between the seven nations and other gentile nations, that is, that when the Torah wrote in Deuteronomy 7:3-4 about a Jew’s grandson being led astray, the extra word “astray” comes to include all types of non-Jews who can led Jews astray, whether of the seven nations or not.
[34] Sheiltos to Parshas VaYishlach, §25
[35] Genesis 20:3
[36] Maimonides, Laws of Marriage 1:1-2
[37] Sanhedrin 81b
[38] Sanhedrin 81b-82a
[39] Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinmen asks (Ayeles HaShachar to Sanhedrin ibid.) why Pinchas did not just physically force Kozbi and Zimri to separate, thereby saving Zimri from his death penalty because the zealous act cannot be done unless the sin is still occurring. He answers that in sexual relations there is still pleasure from “pulling out” so by forcing a separation Pinchas would actually be causing Zimri to sin more (because the prohibition of the forbidden sexual relations is a prohibition of pleasure, not of action), so he was forced to have to kill Zimri on the spot.
[40] See Numbers 25:7-18
[41] Maimonides, Laws of Kings 9:7
[42] The source is Numbers 31:16-17 where HaShem commanded Moses to wipe out all the Midianite women who seduced the Jewish men into relations. However, see Chemdas Shlomo to the end of Yevamos, chapter 4 how discusses whether the gentile woman herself has a prohibition in such a situation or not.
[43] They are menstruating woman, maidservant, non-Jewess, and prostitute. Although there is a dispute between Rashi (to Avodah Zarah 36b) and Maimonides (Laws of Forbidden Sexual Relations 12:2-3) whether the last of these applies specifically to a Kohen, or to all Jewish men.
[44] Malachi 2:11
[45] Although this is not mentioned in the list of sins for which one is punished with Kares in Kerisos 2a because, even though it is explicit in the Prophets of Tanach, it is not written explicitly in the Pentateuch and that Mishnah only lists sins which kares is associated with in the Chumash (see Aruch L’Ner to Kerisos 2a).
[46] Chronicles 1 4:18
[47] Sotah 12b
[48] Ruth 3:3 See Maharsha to Yevamos 77a
[49] Yevamos 76a
[50] Alternatively, Tosafos (Yevamos 76b) explains that Solomon never formally married those women, which was then permitted.
[51] Sanhedrin 82a


Sarah said...

I'm in an interesting situation...
My father, who grew up with a strong non-religious Jewish identity, and my mother who was raised strictly Roman catholic decided to raise me and my sister Jewish. They joined a reform synagogue, and we grew up being told that we were both "just as Jewish as anyone else" (my mom never converted though).

As I've began to stray outside "progressive" judaism and want to find my way in halacha, I've struggled with the fact that I'm not halachically Jewish. I wonder what the conversion process would be for someone like me. I feel that I'm not at the same point as someone converting to Judaism from outside the faith. I daven every day from a traditional siddur, my hebrew literacy is far beyond that of most American Jews (I just spent a semester in Israel), and I place Judaism and Israel at the center of my life.

I sincerely do want to convert, but because we belong to a Reform community, I'm not sure if the more orthodox communities I see myself moving toward would even validate a conversion performed by a reform rabbi, in which case, it's not worth the effort. And I'm worried that my halachic status would distract a rabbi I'm not familiar with from acknowledging that halacha aside, I do already practice Judaism, so I'm not sure the entire conversion process should be the same. Or does it have to be?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

I would suggest either staying a non-Jew with strong Jewish connections by keeping the Noahide Laws, or if you really want to convert, try converting Orthodox. I would like to suggest visiting these forums: http://jewsforjudaism.org/phpBB2/index.php? there are lots of people who went through scenarios similar to yours and they can offer great insight.

Liorah-Lleucu said...

This Halacha is codified in the Shulchan Aruch[1], without mention of any dissenting opinion; no one argues.

i.e., not a kosher judgment

Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

Why is that?

Ilan and the baby said...

"Mishnah and Gemara, which preceded the Crusades by at least half a century"

The mishna proceeded the crusades by about a thosand years, not half a century.

Also, you should mention more on the a Jewish woman who marrys a gentile man. This happens quite a bit, and the argument is always that the kids will be jewish, so who cares. You touch on the point, but don't really go into it that deeply.

Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

Ya but the Gemara was only 1/2 century before and I grouped them together so I had to use the latest time. Is that your only criticism of my essay, Ilan and Aviva Surah??

baby and friends said...

One, the first of crusades, ehihc was by no means when it was in full swing, by the earlest accounts was 1009

The complete talmud, it's it's final form was redacted around the year 700. So there are three centuries between them, not half a century.

Also, baby's name is Aviva SArah, not Surah?

The Qur'an is composed of 114 chapters, each of which is called a Surah

Does my baby go around jhading agaist the infidels? No she doesn't. Find me a legiment Jewish work that spells Sarah like that

Your Chavrusa said...

The simplist definition of a Jew is "One obligated by Halacha to obey the laws of the Torah."

This entire issue was brought up in recent times with regard to the State of Israel's open citizenship if one is a Jew .

A good post. Thanks.

Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

ok so I did a little rounding of numbers to make the essay flow better. It's not a crime. and FYI, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sura_%28disambiguation%29 and anyways, I didn't call your daughter Surah, I called Aviva Surah.

And who's my Chavrusah? Ya'akkov? Yitzchack? Yisrael? Which one?

Ilan and baby said...

"ok so I did a little rounding of numbers to make the essay flow better. It's not a crime."

No, but it is poor scholorship, and it would make your essay be laughted at by anyone who knew history. At best, it's sloppy and at worst it shows a lack of understanding that can taint the rest of the paper for it's reader.

"Surah is the name Sarah pronounced in the typical Hassidic pronounciation."

I assume you mean this? A) Are eaither one of us chasidic (and don't tell me how you put on your taffilin nusach ari, we both know your as litvish as a monkey is stinky) B) Chassidim write in Yidish, so how they spell in english is secondary. C) most chassic works that are translated write is as Sarah. D) At the nameing the rabbi said it SARAH.E) you can't just take something you read on the internet and base logic of off that.

Be honest now, you were the one who named Tom Crusis' baby were'nt you?

Your Chavrusa said... said...

It's me Wally!!!!!

Reb Chaim HaQoton said...



AnnieGetYour said...

I know that this conversation is effectively over, but I just found it.

I'd like to point out that idolatry is most often compared to adultry, not intermarriage, the comparison is that idolatry is as if you have "cheated on" G-d with a foreign god.

Jasia said...

Just wanted to let you know that your articles appeared in the latest edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.

Thanks for sharing!

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