As with most things, one verse from the Torah is often open to many different interpretations.
This is especially true when it comes to mixed faith marriages, something that is a real dividing line between Orthodox and Liberal Judaism, between counting people out and counting them in.
The Torah clearly legislates against marriage to the seven Canaanite nations telling us: “You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son.” (Deuteronomy 7:3) Halachah expands ‘Canaanite’ to mean all non-Jews. Liberal Judaism notes that the Bible is full of Israelite men marrying foreign women, not least Moses and Joseph. And Solomon had a whole harem of non-Israelite wives!
Different parental experiences are also presented. Abraham succeeds in finding a suitable shidduch for Isaac, while Isaac and Rebekkah are pained by Esau’s intermarriages.
The Hebrew Bible is punctuated by admonitions against intermarriage but whether it be for love, lust, or gain an Israelite leader or the regular Israelites were soon recorded as having erred against law and custom.
But here’s the news… from the Torah until today we have been concerned with mixed marriage and are still here to talk about it!
Like most Jewish parents, I want my daughters to marry Jews. Preferably Liberal Jews. It would be even better if they were a member of my shul – but I can’t be too chutzpadik!
But if they did decide to marry someone who is not Jewish, I would never commit the sin of sitting shiva for them or counting them out. They, their partners and their children will be just as welcome in my shul and my home. Liberal Judaism will always count them in. If you feel counted out, within Judaism there is a place where you will always be welcome.
Aaron Goldstein is senior rabbi of Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue