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Why Is Jewishness Passed Down Through the Mother?

Why Is Jewishness Passed Down Through the Mother?



Why is Judaism passed down through the mother? I understand in olden times it was easy to know who your mother was and there was no way of proving fatherhood. But these days we have DNA testing, so why can't someone be Jewish even if only their father is Jewish?


Jewishness is not in our DNA. It is in our soul. The reason it is passed down through the maternal line is not just because it is easier to identify who your mother is. It is because the soul identity is more directly shaped by the mother than the father.

Jewishness is not in our DNA From a purely physical perspective, a child is more directly connected to their mother. The father's contribution to the production of a child is instantaneous and remote. The mother, on the other hand, gives her very self to the child . The child is conceived inside the mother, develops inside the mother, is sustained and nourished by the mother, and is born from the mother.

This is not to say that a father and child are not intimately attached. Of course they are. But as deep and essential as the bond between father and child may be, the child's actual body was never a part of her father's body. But she was a part of her mother. Every child begins as an extension of their mother's body.

This is a simple fact. It doesn't mean she will be closer to her mother, or more similar to her mother, or follow her mother's ways. We are not discussing the emotional bond between parent and child, but rather the natural physical bond. There is a more direct physical link between mother and child, because a child starts off as a part of her mother.

The body and its workings are a mirror image of the workings of the soul. The physical world is a parallel of the spiritual world. And so, the direct physical link between mother and child is a reflection of a soul link between them. While the father's soul contributes to the identity of the child's soul, it is the mother's soul that actually defines it. If the mother has a Jewish soul, the child does too.

If the mother is not Jewish but the father is, his Jewish soul will not be extended to the child. There may be a spark of Jewishness there, but if it was not gestated in a Jewish mother, the child will have to go through conversion for their Jewishness to be activated.

Jewishness is passed down by the mother because being Jewish is a spiritual identity, it defines our very being. And our very being we get from our mother, both in body and in soul.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to
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Discussion (80)
January 11, 2016
Re: David
With regards to the question of IVF and surrogate mother's see: In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and Reproductive Options and Artificial Insemination Part 1/
Yehuda Shurpin for
December 21, 2015
You are correct it is not a race. There are black Jews, white Jews, Asian Jews.
But neither is it only a religion. There are folks who (sadly) deny their Jewish faith and yet they are still very much a Jew if they were born a Jew! The Jewish spark can be buried under many other layers...
Perhaps the best word for Judaism would be a family.
And the Torah tells is one is part of the family if they either have a Jewish mother or were adopted into the family through a Halachic conversion.
Yisroel Cotlar
Cary NC
July 29, 2015
You mention a few Biblical examples of where the Jewish identity came from the father. But that shouldn't be a surprise as the examples you bring were all from before the giving of the Torah! Back then there was indeed not this clear-cut definition of a who is Jew and the system of matrineal identity. Rather, anyone who married into the family and adopted those traditions became part of the clan.

But following the giving of the Torah, this all changed. More here:
Yisroel Cotlar
June 17, 2015
Abraham was the first to recognize G-d on his own, and he taught others about G-d as well. Abraham is therefore known as the first Jew. The formation of the Jews as a nation occurred at Mount Sinai, and since then, Judaism is passed from mother to child.

Rabbi Judah Halevi, in his philosophical work, the Kuzari, explains that Adam was handcrafted and chosen by G-d. However, until Abraham, those who served G-d did so only as individuals; it was only after Abraham that these traits were passed down as an inheritance.
Rochel Chein
June 14, 2015
Is Adam who God formed from dust Jewish?
London England
May 27, 2015
What makes a person Jewish
I ask because all Jews are not religious and when you plant a seed it grows to what plant it is. When a man plants his seed in a woman it then grows into a human. The woman supplies the egg but by itself it can not grow it needs the man. ELOHIM always tells the man it is his seed that will multiply. ELOHIM does not tell the woman her seed will multiply. It is the man who teaches his seed who they are and what their responsibility is to ELOHIM and family and community is. I find that it is always the man who is expected to do more in the faith, work, family, and community and country.
ELOHIM told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, not Sarah to do it. I have been asked by friends and others about this because after World War 2 a lot of families were destroyed and there were not a lot of records. Many of the men knew their fathers were jewish but did not follow the faith as many of them had changed to the Christian faith to flee Europe.
Ralph Moran
May 13, 2015
Jew via the mother ?
I wonder if there was already a conversion process in place by then ?
Perhaps different from now, but there must have been some sort of process where by the bride(gentile) was accepted into the clan.
For example would they have already had the custom of ritual immersion (mickveh) ?
May 13, 2015
Jew via the Mother?
Read Kings both books, read Chronicles and the seed of the father, not the mother. The seed of Abraham not Sarah, Issac married a gentile, Jacob married a gentile, Joseph married a gentile, Moses married a gentile so how did the seed come via the mother, that is not in Torah or anywhere else.
Ben Fox
April 16, 2015
So what is the other half of my nationallity?
I have read all the reasons I am not Jewish and I can accept that....I did not grow up with my Jewish father, only my non-Jewish mother....But how do I describe the other half of me? I have the DNA of my father giving me a dark skin, eyes and hair so I don't look like my Irish mother...I get mistaken for a Latino because I live in AZ. So when people ask me if I am Latino and I say no, they want to know what I am. Now I am happy just to be me but after half a century of wondering, it would be nice to have a definitive response since I know I am not Jewish because I have not converted.
Suggestions for those of us with a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother? Who do we say we are???
March 30, 2015

A good explanation I heard once was that it is like citizenship and you have to meet a number of criteria to be able to identify yourself as a Jew. eg. I am quarter Irish but that does not mean that I can go and live as a citizen in Ireland right now since I am not an Irish national. If people started doing that on the basis of their DNA percentage, there will be chaos. There will also be a problem of intermarriage in Judaism if one is not identified as a Jew, and then married a person born to a Jewish mother.
The children and their descendants will then be in the exact situation where a lot of people are here. It is true that people led by some like Hitler will not care how far back or on which side we may have Jewish ancestry , but it is also true that under the Orthodox Jewish auspices we're not defined as Jew or non-Jew by the criteria set by the anti-semites. It depends on who you want to be recognized by as being a Jew.