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Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Should you reject your intermarried child?

Daf Yomi Yevamos 32

Story #1. John and Sharon’s son was seriously dating a non-Jewish girl.  After much begging, pleading and cajoling, they offered him an ultimatum:  Choose her or choose us.  If you decide to marry her, we will completely sever ties with you.  Don’t ever call us again.

Story #2. Chaim and Shannon’s son was seriously dating a non-Jewish girl.  They told me about the relationship and were quick to add, ‘It’s okay.  We love our son and his girlfriend is very sweet and kind.’

The Mishnah states:  Two brothers were married to two sisters and one of the brothers died.   Afterwards, the living brother’s wife died.  The original widow remains forbidden to him forever, since she was originally forbidden to him as his wife’s sister.

The Gemara exclaims: This is obvious!  Previously we learned the case of three brothers (1, 2, and 3), two of whom (1 and 2) were married to two sisters.  One of the brothers married to the sisters (1) died and so the brother not married to a sister (3) did the levirate marriage with the widow.  Meanwhile the sister married to the other brother (2) died.  When his brother (3) dies, he is still forbidden to marry the widow, since she was once forbidden to him as his sister-in-law.

Says the Gemara: If in that case, where she was not completely rejected from the family (i.e. she was married to brother 3), we say ‘No!’ here, where she was completely rejected, how much more so!

Listen to the Talmud’s advice on relationships, rejection and maintaining boundaries.   In our first two stories, the parents had radically opposite reactions to their inter-dating child.   John and Sharon completely rejected their child, while Chaim and Shannon accepted the relationship.   The Talmud teaches us that there are times when the correct way to deal with such situations is not to reject your child, but at the same time not to be afraid to say ‘No!’ 

G-d never rejects any of His children and neither should you.  But G-d is not scared to spell out his expectations and remind us of what makes him happy.  Too many parents faced with children who put them in an awkward position simply give up and accept defeat. 

Life is full of challenges.  As long as you are still alive, the Almighty wants you to face your challenges.  Think of David in the Bible.  He could have just accepted that Goliath was way too big a problem to tackle.   But instead he said: Let me run straight toward the issue and tackle him head on.

Your job as a parent is to love your child unconditionally but never cease to remind them about what’s important in life.  About your family’s values.  About the thousands of dollars you invested into their Jewish education to ensure they would make the right decisions.


Love your child.  Never reject them.  But never be afraid to stand your ground.  You are their connection to the chain of tradition that goes back to Mt. Sinai.  If you won’t tell them, who will?