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Does Intermarriage Work?

Does Intermarriage Work?

Can I Have a Relationship With Someone of a Different Faith?

© Yoram Raanan
© Yoram Raanan

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!

My response:

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

© Yoram Raanan
© Yoram Raanan

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.

Just Friends

© Yoram Raanan
© Yoram Raanan

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.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
Yoram Raanan takes inspiration from living in Israel, where he can fully explore and express his Jewish consciousness. The light, the air, the spirit of the people and the land energize and inspire him. His paintings include modern Jewish expressionism with a wide range of subjects ranging from abstract to landscape, biblical and Judaic.
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JDV January 18, 2018

It seems that the children of mixed Faith marriages have no religion at all or become Unitarians. Reform Judaism has changed, it is now very watered down so the level of knowledge is minimal. Having a shared faith can cement a marriage in times of trouble. Why look for problems? Many of the children of these marriages don't appear to have a keen sense of identity either. Reply

Anonymous Oklahoma January 15, 2018

I have to be strictly honest. I joined a local reform and conservative congregation to accommodate my partner. It did not work out for me. I have since dropped my membership. It’s almost a holy war during Pesach and during the High Holidays. Reply

K. Toronto April 14, 2017

Re: Zipporah

Torah does not specific whether Zipporah is the Cushite woman or not. Torah does confirm that Zipporah and Moses become the parents of 2 sons, Gershom and Eliezer, thus they fulfilled the mitzvah of establishing a family.

There isn't really much evidence that Moses neglected Zipporah; she helps him out of some trouble in Exodus 4:24; although she does say in the NRSV that he, Moses is a 'hatam damin' to her, a 'father-in-law', or, conversely, a 'bridegroom'.

That mystery can be read at least two ways ...So, my question is about sovereignty, as Moses' spiritual 'mission' unto the Lord is to lead the israelites across the Red Sea & into Canaan, bring forth the 10 commandments to secure civil society & safeguard a covenant with 'heaven' ...etc.

Which contract came first? marriage, or leadership? Was Zipporah trying to say she was asked to forfeit earthbound simchas for an exalted purpose? What does it mean to be 'bridegroom of heaven', living tree of the Holy Name? Reply

Anonymous March 29, 2017

How do you account for the fact that Moses married a women of another faith? Reply

Tzvi Freeman April 3, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

He didn't.

They both had the same faith. Reply

Anonymous April 14, 2017
in response to Tzvi Freeman:

Rabbi ZV, this response is beauteous maximus!! Reply

Kevin Ogden South Africa March 16, 2017

Familiarity Thank you, I am enjoying your writing.

Secrets, I have come to know are not a deception.

Reserve parts of yourself (God made you with value in mind) for those close to you.

Add value by seeing the value.

Thank you I look forward to more. Reply

Dinah Austin, TX February 26, 2017

Right relationship words I suppose the only truly right relationship words that would be the basis for sharing oneself in that intimate physical way with another would be whatever he says under the chuppah. Reply

Anonymous Hattiesburg February 25, 2017

Rabbi, your response was a very wise one--and I'm not Jewish. I agree with you completely. If I can add a comment: if you are a Jewish man who has no intention of marrying a non-Jewish woman, then don't initiate a sexual relationship with her. I had one relationship with a man who was saying all the right relationship things. When the relationship finally ended, I read a newspaper interview with him online--he is a minor public figure with a relative who married into a very prominent political family--in which he said he opposed intermarriage. You cannnot imagine how hurt I was. I had loved him deeply and found out--in a newspaper article--that he had been using me for a commitment-free relationship. So, please, if you won't marry a non-Jewish woman, then don't date her, have sex with her, and keep dangling the possibility of a commitment. Those actions are saying that she is a second class human being that a man can use and cast off. Reply

Ronnie Los Angeles February 24, 2017

I totally disagree regarding having women as friends. I have many men and women as friends I have no interest of a sexual nature in these women. Nor do they have an interest in me. We are just friends. I suppose it's hard for you to understand this concept since you were never allowed to interact with any girls or women when you became a rabbi Reply

Anonymous dallas February 24, 2017

i commented once on this, this time more personal. i have tried relationships of the marriage kind where divinity played little or no part...the lack of 'divine sense' was a destructive reality both jointly and individually and they all failed big time!
i noticed the same failure all around me, it was normal to fail and lack of divinity was not considered a factor or a solution!
maybe 2 different divinity faiths would be better than none? I am realizing that successful divinity faith is rare, not common, and I am at a loss for words regarding the meaning socially and universally about this? Reply

sunil subba India February 23, 2017

It makes things easier and without the conflict zone in the relationships when two become one with the same degree of enthusiasm for prayers,readings in the mornings and evenings and of the same commitment to going to the syangoge as well as making the commitment to the Jewish community. Reply

Robert Stillwater February 23, 2017

Intimacy We are created for intimacy - yet we fear it. Being intimate with someone means to expose your soul at the deepest level - where all the flaws and monsters lie hidden, tucked away of of sight. To allow someone else to see you as you really are takes great courage, because they might not like what they see and run away. Only if you have that type of intimacy with G-d can you have it with another human being. As we confess our faults before the holy G-d can we experience His grace and His love in spite of our Selves. When two people have this kind of relationship with God, they are able to have that level of intimacy with one another. It's a love that is unconditional. It's a love that doesn't require performance. Few people experience that kind of love with another human being in this life, and so we settle for second best - being cordial, kind, and compatible. Friends but not intimate. I think that's what Tzvi was getting at. Reply

Moishe Friedman NYC February 23, 2017

A good foundation Nicely said and easy to grasp. What you say goes equally for ethnicity as well as religious belief. You start your building blocks early on in life. Culture, and environment are important. Reply

Your Pal Perry Thornhill February 23, 2017

Great answers Tzvi!! Holds for all people of all faiths. Plus there are very few if any Platonic relationships in this world. Reply

כרק WEST VALLEY February 23, 2017

Everyone has that one person who views are different than your find that so called inner light is not found in what you do but in your understanding that we serve a G-d that has not create us for his amusement but has bestowed on us to provide love to the community by loving the un-lovables....our service to him shares in just that... Reply

Robert Newhouse Stillwater April 20, 2017
in response to כרק:

"by loving the un-loveables" - easier said than done. Where does the love to do that come from? We may desire to do that but if you've ever tried to love your enemies you've already discovered that love is not found within us. I find my natural default is to want them to experience the same pain they caused me. I don't want to love them. I want them to experience justice for hurting me. How does one get over that to actually desiring to love them? Reply

Sondra Brown Lorton February 22, 2017

Raised an Orthodox Jewish son w/ Presbyterian husband Reply

linda tustin February 22, 2017

Attempting to be otherwise. This isn't about Interfaith marriage, but trying to adopt another belief system that you are not born into. This is about a gentile trying to be Buddhist, then a Hindu, because of personal shock about Catholic priest scandals. I found many inspiring teachings, but I was a spiritual pretzel. I imagine the same thing might happen to those married into different faiths. Always the pretzel and an outsider. Reply

Anonymous Southeastern PA February 22, 2017

Great Fantastic. Yashar koach. Reply

Ari February 22, 2017

Relationships This article is lovely. I attest that being in a relationship with someone of a faith other than your own is disastrous. For me it was a massive waste of time and in terms of changing I say this, "people may shift but they don't CHANGE". The older I get the more I realize that you must know who you are, what your beliefs are, what you want and seek a person who mirrors you the most. The rest is childish nonsense.

Thanks Rabbi and Shalom,
Ari Reply

Yocheved November 22, 2017
in response to Ari:

Shalom Ari,
I totally agree! Reply

arthur yanoff February 22, 2017

interfaith relationships. the great jewish novelist,philip roth, who is often most misunderstood by people who have hardly read him , in one of his books mentions interfaith marriage. his thoughts were that it is structurally impossible on the deepest levels beyond comprehension. that a yiddishe neshumah is connected to all other jewish neshumahs is the way it is. this does in no way cast aspersions on other people or their beliefs. a jew can legally marry a jewish atheist because it is a marriage between 2 yids. as some sages remarked,when we marry another yid it is as though we have embraced the entire Torah. our continuity as a people depends on jewish women. once we can internalize the serious implications of the jewish mother, we have the opportunity to recognize the unwavering importance of jewish survival. Reply

Lewis Brackett San Diego Ca USA February 22, 2017

Leviticus says Leviticus 17:34
But the stranger that dwells with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. Reply

Jeremy Stack Everett September 24, 2017
in response to Lewis Brackett:

WA Yes stranger who fully converts Reply

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