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Sunday, 3 May 2015

Attending an Intermarriage

Daf Yomi Kesubos 89

Avi’s cousin, Debbie, was getting married.  Sadly, however, her fiancée, Brett, wasn’t Jewish.
“Rabbi, can I go to the wedding?” Avi asked, “She’s my only cousin and we’re very close.”

Rabbi Chiya bar Avin taught: If a man betrothed a woman (without completing the marriage) and she died, he does not mourn for her, nor may he become tamei (ritually impure by coming near a dead body) for her (if he is a cohen).  Similarly, if he died, she does not mourn for him, nor become tamei for him. 
Rashi explains: She need not involve herself with the funeral arrangements or become tamei, whether she is a cohen or an Israelite, even though it is a mitzvah to become tamei to the (seven) dead (relatives) that are mentioned in the parsha, as it is written “to her, he shall become tamei.”

In today’s climate of rampant assimilation, the question of attending an intermarriage is tragically one that I get often.  Of course, my first response is that it is wrong to attend.  By being there you are silently acquiescing to and sanctioning the marriage.  You are taking part in what they perceive to be a ‘simcha,’ G-d forbid. 

But sometimes people feel that they just can’t snub their loved ones.  In those situations where it’s impossible to get out of attending, I advise them to skip the ceremony and just go to the reception, provided of course they’ve made arrangements for kosher food (or they’re just having a drink). 

But this is not a blanket heter (permission)!  The Torah allows us to become tamei for our seven closest relatives: mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter, spouse.  Not cousins.  Not close friends.  Not step-children.  Not godchildren.  Not golf-buddies. 

Your mahj friend will get over it.  And if they don’t, they’re not worth having as a friend.  Someone who doesn’t respect your values is not a true friend.  And not attending an intermarriage is indeed a value of the utmost importance.  Not only are you sending an improper message to the parties involved, but think about how your kids view your attendance – the message they’re getting is that in your eyes intermarriage is not such a terrible thing, after all!


Sometimes even the cohen must become tamei.  But only for close relatives.  May you merit the courage to be true to your values and be a shining example for your children, grandchildren, cousins and golf buddies!