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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 (87)
March 20, 2017
Recent genetic testing data reveals that among current Jewish males a striking similarity in their Y chromosome resemblance to one another. However, among Jewish females there is notable variation and dissimilarity in the mitochondrial data suggesting that Jewish males have chosen non-Jewish females over millenia.
If the Jewish "soul" resides in the female as this article argues, then what is the Jewish soul? Spirituality, the notion of race and religion, identity and genetics etal, the contradictions are interesting aren"t they?
January 13, 2017
Rabbi Aron Moss why is it then in the Holy Scriptures it is always the sons of the father that are the only ones listed even in the TORAH only a few daughters are spoke of and never the mothers. Yes the fathers are only there for a short time at conception but then they are the dominate one that raises the children and the sons become the next leaders of the family and tribes. Nowhere is there a matriarch that rules as a tribe or one that G-d speaks to to lead or rule from the time of Moshe up until the late Golda Meir, yes there have been strong women in our history but not as a common historical leader. Why was Abram told he would have a son and Sarah laughed because she was too old but G-d made it so and then because Abram had sex with Sarah's hand maid our life long enemy was created for which we will fight until G-d ends this madness between the muslims and jews.
Ralph Moran
January 12, 2017
Jewish religion passed down from female
interesting also to note that DNA in mitochondrial cells,
is inherited from the mother only, and does not get mixed with each generation.
June 15, 2016
I am a Jew
Abraham was a jew, Nowhere in the TORAH does it say the mother has to be a JEW but it does say the Father is a Jew. In most cases we never knew who the mother was in the scriptures but we knew who the Father was because it says the fathers name who begat who. The TORAH always says who the father was and didn't G-d tell Abraham HIS seed would be many. G-d didn't tell Sarah this. Now who did Moshe marry was his wife a Jew? Who did Isaac marry? Was she a Jew?
In the TORAH the book of B'RESHEET (GENSIS) Chapter 36:1 It tells of Esau's Descendants and it says that Esau took hi wives from the women of Kena'ani (Canaan) that means his wives were Canaanites. So who is a JEW?? Rabbi's cannot change who is who because they want to. Also in chapter36:3 it says Esau took his wive Adah daughter from Eilon the Hittite and another from Hivite. So now who is a Jew. How can you be from a Canaanite woman and a Hebrew father and be a Jew, but this is what G-d put in place
Arizona, USA
June 10, 2016
Who is a Hebrew
I think the idea of using the moms is a way to cover up the exploits of males who went through out the whole world bearing wives that were not Jewish and having offspring that were mix ancestral bloodlines .. Large number of men took on foreign wives in Europe and had offsprings from those wives who are not Jewish women there from the tribes of the foreign locations where they settled ; it so if you want to take that premise then the offsprings would not be excepted by the Orthodox but yet they are that is a contradiction ... Theoretically man passes his seed to woman, God sees Abraham seed as it is passed down through generations after generations we are connected through Abraham's blessing from God and you are of Abraham seed says the Lord ..God blessed Abraham seed..and example would be saying I'm related to my mother and I'm not related to my father that is idiotic..
April 21, 2016
Jewish Lineage
Could it be that a pure Jewish lineage results from the condition that to be Jewish one's mother must have been. I don't think it has anything to do with identifying parents and it is insulting and antisemitic to insinuate Jews wouldn't know who their fathers are. A pure Jewish lineage that goes back to Moses resides in all Jewish woman who house the miracle of life and birth.
March 19, 2016
I was raised Jewish with it's traditions and religion so I always identified myself as a Jew but I got my DNA tested recrntly by a reputable scientific organization and the reaults came back saying I have Ashkenazi Jewish genes. So I guess it is in our soul as well as our DNA.
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