Dear Ask-the-Rabbi Rabbi,
Hi! I am writing an advice column for people in inter-religious relationships. I'd like to gain perspective from different religious officials. Would you be interested in offering a statement on whether or not you believe someone can be in a relationship with a person who has differing religious beliefs or even no beliefs at all? Thanks a lot! I appreciate it!
I think it's perfectly possible for two people to have a good relationship although they have very different beliefs. I think it's healthy to have such relationships. Why close yourself off to every member of society that thinks differently than you?
But if we're talking about building a home, we’ve entered a different world. To build a home, you need to start with a firm foundation.
There’s not much security out there in the real world. A home is a place where you attempt to create that. For yourself. For your spouse. For your kids. And for anyone who you bring into this home.
A home is the most precious thing you can build in your entire life. Build a factory. Build a tower in Manhattan. Build a spaceship. A home is a much greater achievement. Incomparably greater.
How do you build a home? A home is sustained by the continual process of two beings melding into a single whole.You start by connecting two people at a very deep place. They may be entirely different in personality, behavior, looks, height and FB status, but deep inside, they are continually in the process of melding two beings into a single whole. And they can only do that because they truly are one at their core.
So if a belief means something that means a lot to you (you have another definition?), then it doesn’t make sense to attempt building a home on a foundation of beliefs that don’t match. Because if the beliefs don’t match, the insides of these people don’t match.
And if you think, “Well, I’ll change his/her beliefs!”—what kind of beliefs are those going to be? How deep will they run? How long will they last?
Close in Body, Close in Soul
How about a sexual relationship with someone who has different beliefs?
Jews have always considered sexual relationships to be something sacred and of deep meaning. In a sexual relationship, someone is allowing you into their very personal space, and not just physically and emotionally. In a sexual relationship, someone is allowing you into their very personal space, and not just physically and emotionally.
This union is going to include the deepest parts of your soul as well. That’s not up to you. That’s what happens.
That’s why we call a marriage “kiddushin,” which means “sanctification.” It’s that preface to sexual union that renders it a divine union in which souls unite. And it’s also a vital aspect to building that home I discussed earlier. Because it’s a physical reflection of a much deeper, soul-level connection.
But if the souls are in conflict, the bodies cannot truly unite. There is no sanctity, no meaning. Just a piece of your soul ripped off and stuck in a place where it does not belong. And, as many a torn soul can tell you, it’s going to be damn hard to rip it back from there.
What about a “just friends” relationship with a member of the opposite sex?
It’s easy for people to fool themselves, but there’s really no such thing as a relationship between a man and a woman without sexual undertones. I know we live in an idealist society, but there are facts of biology and they’re called hormone triggers.
So if you are being pulled into a relationship with a member of the opposite sex, keep in mind that this is a soul-level relationship as well. It can’t be otherwise.
Be friendly with everyone. Love them all and care for them. But save your inner self, the part of you that comes out in sexual union, for building a home.
And build that home on a firm foundation of two souls that share a single inner light. Which is what we call faith.