Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parshas Chayei Sarah 5770- Do not take a wife from amongst the Canaanites

First a quick explanation on the change in format.  I had a request from one of the users on Yahoo! Answers to post a question on Parshas Hashavuah to actually render some benefit and educate people properly on the Jewish POV instead of it just containing the nonsense from the anti-Semites and “messianic jews”.  So, we’ll test it out and see how things go. If you’re from Yahoo! Answers- go and return on Friday after that best answer is chosen- no cheating by reading this now!

Question: Parshah HaShavuah question: Avraham extracts an oath from someone this week; Yitzchak issues a similar command later- what is the related command and its significance?

Answer: Avraham makes Eleizer swear to the following when sending him to find a wife for Yitzchak (Bereishis 24)

3. And I will adjure you by the Lord, the God of the heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose midst I dwell.

ג. וְאַשְׁבִּיעֲךָ בַּי־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם וֵאלֹהֵי הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר לֹא תִקַּח אִשָּׁה לִבְנִי מִבְּנוֹת הַכְּנַעֲנִי אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי יוֹשֵׁב בְּקִרְבּוֹ:

4. But you shall go to my land and to my birthplace, and you shall take a wife for my son, for Isaac.”

ד. כִּי אֶל אַרְצִי וְאֶל מוֹלַדְתִּי תֵּלֵךְ וְלָקַחְתָּ אִשָּׁה לִבְנִי לְיִצְחָק:

Later we see Yitzchak giving Yaakov the following command Bereishis 28:

1. And Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and he commanded him and said to him, “You shall not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.

א. וַיִּקְרָא יִצְחָק אֶל יַעֲקֹב וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתוֹ וַיְצַוֵּהוּ וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ לֹא תִקַּח אִשָּׁה מִבְּנוֹת כְּנָעַן:

2. Arise, go to Padan aram, to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father, and take yourself from there a wife of the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother.

ב. קוּם לֵךְ פַּדֶּנָה אֲרָם בֵּיתָה בְתוּאֵל אֲבִי אִמֶּךָ וְקַח לְךָ מִשָּׁם אִשָּׁה מִבְּנוֹת לָבָן אֲחִי אִמֶּךָ:

What is the significance? Ramban brings that Canaanites were excluded because of the curse on Ham. Avraham knew of the curse and knew that later the Canaanites would be displaced from Yisrael.  Thus Avraham did not want the Jews in later times to be associated with the spiritual lowliness of the Canaanites.  On a more practical level, marrying into the Canaanites might have caused problems later if people were related to the Canaanites, it may well have caused many to not want to fight in the wars required for the Jews to inherit their land.

The Kli Yakar goes further with this.  He looks at the entire phrase in each case:  with Avraham there is a stipulation to go to his land, his birthplace.  Yitzchak includes the stipulation to go to Padan Aram, to the house of Bethuel.  In both cases, there is a requirement to find people that are not just not Canaanites, but are specifically not from any of the descendants of Ham.  Avraham shows this by stating “my birthplace”- with the implication that it is from his family, the descendants of Shem, that the wife should be found- not from the majority in Ur Chasdim who were descendants of Ham;  Yitzchak specifies to go to the house of Bethuel to find a wife- once again, Bethuel had many neighbours that were not Canaanites, but were descendants of Ham thus he wanted to make sure Yaakov would take a wife that was not from ham.

Another reason brought by the Kli Yakar is from the phrase” The actions of the forefathers are signs of what would happen to us, their descendants.  All the Avot had the power of prophecy; all knew the struggle we would fight with assimilation and intermarrying with the nations around us.  In their own way, they wished to help us, to make sure that we would not be influenced by their actions- that in the future when the Jews were in Israel and were surrounded by Canaanites, that none would take one for a wife and say “Our forefathers did so, why should I not?” With the giving of the Torah, the commandment to not marry Canaanites and people from other religions was explicitly given Devarim Chapter 7

3. You shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughter to his son, and you shall not take his daughter for your son.

ג. וְלֹא תִתְחַתֵּן בָּם בִּתְּךָ לֹא תִתֵּן לִבְנוֹ וּבִתּוֹ לֹא תִקַּח לִבְנֶךָ:

Today, this fight against assimilation, against intermarriage with people from other religions is a massive fight.  I have seen some in the Orthodox movement become complacent:  It is less than 6% in Orthodox, why should we worry?  Why?  Are those who are halachicly jewish but in other movements, any less Jewish?  HaRav Moshe Feinstein zs”l stated they are a “tinok shenishma”- like captive children who were not brought up to know Judaism and thus cannot be held liable for breaking the halachah.  This makes intermarriage as much our problem as theirs.  Even more- as Modern orthodox grows, as a larger and larger percentage of Orthodox Jews have regular and open contact with the non-Jewish world, will this figure stay so low in Orthodox circles?  I hope so, but I believe that unless we take positive action to ensure so we will find that percentage growing even in the Orthodox world.  I do not believe that the answer is in exclusion and withdrawal from the world- Avraham’s tent was open to all, he did not withdraw and neither should we.  But if we are going to be part of the modern world, we need to educate our children and others to the need for them to marry Jews, to remain Jewish.  We need to be like the Avot, commanding (or in the modern era guiding) our children to marry people that are appropriate and will bring yichus to call of Bnei yisrael


November 11, 2009 - Posted by | Torah | , , , , , , , , ,

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