Growing up in an ultra orthodox environment I was taught that the worst thing you could ever do is intermarry. I was taught that a Goy (non-jew) and a Jew have different souls which just are not compatible with each other. I was taught that unless a jew marries a jew they can not have a happy marriage as they are just not compatible. I have relatives who have intermarried and have amazing, happy relationships so this explanation never sat right with me.
I want to take a deeper look into intermarriage throughout different stages of jewish history. Lets begin with Moses. There is a story from the bible which tells of how moses took a Cushite (black) wife. The story says that his sister Miriam spoke bad about his decision to have this wife and so she was struck with tzora’at (a form of leprosy). So it is easy to see that Moses- one of the greatest jewish leaders was allowed to take a wife from another tribe and his sister who spoke out about this was punished. I learn from this, that it is not for us to judge or speak ill of someone elses choice of spouse.
Let’s look at another great king and leader- King Solomon. King Solomon had hundreds of wives and concubines, yet he is still referred to as the wisest man and the greatest king. According to the Torah the reason that intermarriage is not allowed is because it will lead the people to idol worshipping. King Solomon’s spouses were known to be idol worshippers. This is probably so much worse than intermarriage these days where most people believe in one god. Yet king Solomon is still referred to the wisest king of all time.
I wonder why was he not thrown off his throne for intermarrying? Why was he not ex-communicated? Why was he not put to death and shame for this? Why did jewish people listen to the advice of someone who married so many blatant idol worshippers?
Could it be that the people of those times knew something that ultra orthodox jews today do not? Perhaps they had more tolerance and were able to look past King Solomons relationships? Perhaps they could see the wisdom and greatness of King Solomon and this outweighed his obvious transgressions?
So my question is why can’t ultra orthodox jews today do the same? Why are inter marital relationships so bad? Why are people who intermarry ex-communicated? Why are people who intermarry looked down upon? Why is it so bad?
Lets look at another famous intermarriage in jewish history- the relationship of Ruth and Boaz. Ruth was from the nation of Moab. The Torah clearly states that a person from the nation of Ammon or Moab may not be accepted in the jewish people. These two nations are seen as such terrible, wicked nations that they were to be annihilated. Yet Ruth was a Moabite, and she is looked at as a great jewish person.
I must question this phenomenon and compare it to someone who wants to convert these days. Why was Boaz allowed to intermarry someone from one of the most wicked nations? The logical answer to this is that Boaz was very rich and saw a young girl who he wanted and so he could buy his way into marrying her and having her accepted into the jewish nation. Of course no ultra orthodox jew is going to tell you this explanation and they will tell you how he had a prophecy and god told him that he was to marry this girl and she was a holy person even though she was from this wicked nation and blah blah blah.
Lets look at converts and someone who really does want to convert and be part of the jewish nation today. The ultra orthodox rabbis make it literally impossible for someone to convert. If Ruth lived today I doubt that she would have been able to be accepted into the ultra orthodox world. The main reason for this is that she was dirt poor. In order to convert into the ultra orthodox world you must be able to pay for private lessons to learn about the Torah- which cost a lot of money.
Another reason why she would have been unlikely to convert is that I doubt she would have kept the sabbath to every minute detail. Did she go to shul each week? I can’t believe that Ruth was allowed to intermarry before she kept every commandment to the most stringent detail. These days only after paying lots of money, going to shul each week, keeping every commandment to a level that most jews do not keep, then you can convert. After you convert then you can marry a jew. So why was Ruth allowed to have sexual relations with Boaz before she had converted. Did she even convert? Did the laws of conversion which exist these days even apply then?
In conclusion I say that intermarriage is allowed and has obviously been allowed and accepted in the past. Most people these days are not idol worshippers and will not lead people to idol worship. The laws of conversion which exist these days make it so difficult for someone to convert that even someone who wants to marry under jewish law is forced to intermarry as their spouse can not convert in the ultra orthodox way. It is not for us to judge someones choice in spouse- leave the judging for god. Harmonious relationships do exist with people from different religious and cultural backgrounds.