Search our Archives:
» Opinion & Society
DESPERATELY SEEKING SARAH, OR SAMMY, OR. . . .
Intermarriage Problems, B.C.E.
by Ted Roberts
Our Torah, the Book of Books, that perennial best seller of Moses - the
Torah always tells it like it is. A characteristic that inspires
credibility even in the eyes of those who might spend their Wednesday
nights with an ecumenical Unitarian study group instead of an orthodox
minyon. The biblical family of characters; patriarchs and prophets,
kings and commoners are as real as the Goldbergs next door. And the lily
is never gilded. David and Bathsheva, literally, could be a three-page
spread in the National Enquirer and end up a week later in the New York
Times and the Washington Post. The more things change the more they stay
Four sub plots stand out.
and his Philistine bimbo, Delilah, who turns out to be employed by the
Not a great match.
Then there’s Solomon, who never met a non-Jew of the
feminine gender that didn’t captivate him. A thousand wives, they say,
and maybe three who’d qualify for synagogue sisterhood membership. You
thought the Queen of Sheba lighted candles on Friday night?
‘bout King Ahab and Jezebel? Ahab’s mate selection was as faulty as his
soul. Jezebel, the Baal worshipper, gave her name to two millenia of
witches, even until today.
The only really successful mixed marriage in
The Book, is Boaz and Ruth. But women don’t say things like, “your food
will be my food” anymore. They say, “let’s go to that cute quiche place
tonight and since you hate quiche, when we get home you can defrost a
nice hot dog and pretend it’s brisket in onion sauce like your mother
used to make”. Ruth also said, “Your people will be my people” and
hurried down to the corner mikvah. Sweet Ruth - a 6th Century BCE girl -
not to be found in today’s neighborhood bars.
Intermarriage? What’s to
Let’s say you live in Yenneveldt, North Dakota.
Population; 500 wholesome Christian neighbors, 200 unaffiliated sled
and 3 Jews. You and your frostbit wife are two of the Jews. The other
is your daughter, Leah - as warm and lovely as the sunrise over Mt.
Carmel. But what good’s a sunrise on an uninhabited landscape? So,
what’s the fiercest problem blighting the lives of mature Jewish couples
with grown-up kids (beside the limited choice of yarmulkes in the
synagogue box)? You got it. A Jewish mate for Leah or Manne.
case of our mythical couple in Yenneveldt, North Dakota, the only
solution is maybe to move to Miami Beach where there’s a Jewish singles
group pot luck supper every night of the week. Or at least send Leah to
NYU, not the University of North Dakota - a fine school - but with a
minyonless Hillel Chapter; and probably better attendance at the Lutheran
social than the annual Purim party.
When my friends bemoan this problem,
with corner of the mouth whispers, as the Rabbi explains the Sedra, I
remind them of Jacob’s problem. Yes, Jacob, the son of Isaac. Here he
was in Canaan - which makes North Dakota look like Crown Heights -
surrounded by heathens. Son Joseph is already climbing the corporate
ladder in Egypt where he’ll eventually marry the daughter of Potiphera,
Priest of On. Not exactly a great way to start a Jewish family. Then,
says the Book of Book with its usual candor, his brother, Judah, woos a
Canaanite. I’m sure he told an anxious Jacob and Leah they were just
Leah: “Judah, didn’t I see Shua, the Canaanite, sitting on
the hillside with you tending the sheep?”
Judah: “Oh yeah. Nothin’
serious. She needed help with her homework at Canaan U. Sheep Tending
101. A little on-the-job training, you know.”
Leah: “Uh, I hope she went
home before dark. Those Canaanite girls, you know. I hear her mama’s a
priestess over at the fertility grove and you’re old enough to know what
Judah: “Oh no - she just takes attendance, Shua says. And
sprinkles incense once in a while.”
Well, I mean what else
could she say? Where was her golden boy to go and find an Israelite?
There was Uncle Esau’s kids, but they were all males. Then there was
Zayde Isaac’s brother, Ismael. But he was wild. I guess Judah could
have dated Lot’s girls. But I don’t think either one was Bas Mitzvahed,
much less Hadassah members."
The point is, of course, marriage
possibilities were lousy due to a limited field. Like selling mezuzahs
in Damascus. Also consider that by today’s rules of matriarchal descent,
none of Jacob’s grandkids are Jewish because the boys were limited to
Hittite, Perezite, Jebusite, and Canaanite wives. The one exception is
the children of Dinah - Jacob’s only daughter. And the Book of Books
doesn’t even tell us their names.
Ted Roberts is a Jewish humorist and commentator whose work
appears in the Jewish Press. as well as in Disney Magazine,
Hadassah, Wall Street Journal, and others. He lives in Huntsville,
from the October/November 1999 of the Jewish Magazine
Please let us know if you see something unsavory on the Google Ads and we will have them removed. Email us with the offensive URL (www.something.com)