Intermarriage – The Strategic Threat to our Demographic Balance
Parshat Pinchas – Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald
Our parsha picks up where the previous parsha left off.
Zimri Ben Salu, the chief of a clan of the tribe of Shimon, stands at the head of those who want to allow Jews to intermarry. He employs a defiant and provocative tactic: he stands before Moshe, in full view of all of Israel, with the Midianite woman Cozbi Bat Tzur at his side. "He said: Ben Amram (Moshe), is she (Cozbi) prohibited or permitted? And if you say (she is) prohibited, who permitted you (to marry Tzipporah) the daughter of Yitro?!" (Sanhedrin 82a)
In the Yerushalmi Talmud Sanhedrin: "He said to Moshe: isn't Tzipporah a Midianite? So isn't Cozbi as kosher as she is?! Is one of them pure and the other one impure?!
Moshe Rabbenu gave a logical answer: "My wife Tzipporah joined Am Israel before Matan Torah. Not only that, she underwent immersion (conversion)!"
But Zimri still had the audacity to make a demagogic retort: "He said: (You make the laws so that) you get what is pleasurable for you! Immediately Moshe and all of Israel burst into tears." (Midrash Pitaron Torah, Balak p. 191) And King Shlomo cried out, "A wicked man has audacity in his face!" (Shemot Rabbah)
Pinchas, who witnessed this, "saw the event and remembered the Halacha" (Sanhedrin 82a) - a severe Halacha which was given to Moshe at Sinai, but which Moshe forgot at that moment of distress. Pinchas said to Moshe "Great-uncle, didn't you teach us when you descended from Mount Sinai that a man who has relations with a non-Jewish woman, the zealous smite him!" (Sanhedrin 82a)
And even when this doesn't happen, one who intermarries transgresses a Torah prohibition, and if they aren't punished (by a Beit Din) by receiving lashes, then they are punished (by G-d) with Karet. (Rambam, Issurei Biah 12)
Intermarriage is a death-blow to the spiritual future and identity of the Jewish People. It strikes at the Jewish family unit and its holiness.
These marriages have no connection to "Kiddushin"; additionally, the offspring aren't linked to their father's identity or religion: "This sin, even though Beit Din cannot sentence the transgressor to death, shouldn't be taken lightly! But the outcome is more serious than all the other arayot (forbidden relations)! Whereas the child of an ervah (forbidden Jewish woman) is entirely the man's child and is considered Jewish although a mamzer (illegitimate), the child of a gentile woman is not his child! As it is written, "he will pull your son away from Me" – will pull him away from going after G-d! And this thing causes us to cleave to those Akum (goyim) which G-d separated us from them, and to regress behind G-d and betray Him." (Rambam Issurei Biah 7-8)
Marriage has a deep personal significance; it expresses a unique connection which is formed between a couple. Additionally, the family cell has national significance. It is a basic molecule of the nation and its demographic base, as it is the institutionalized framework for propagating society. And by its virtue, the progeny retain their religious and national identity, and this way it preserves the continuity of the generations. The demographic balance depends first and foremost on the proportion of deaths to births. Intermarriage is a deviation from the national and religious framework and negatively affects the demographic balance.
Demography is a significant strategic factor in any state, especially in a democratic one. In a democratic state, policy is decided by the majority, so the demographic balance and the birthrate of every sector affect the collective identity and the state's policies. In a nation with an "army of the people" the birthrate affects the size and the quality of the army.
Demographic trends in the Jewish nation worldwide have profound consequences; therefore intermarriage and assimilation are Enemy Number One to its future. In Israel, demographics have far-reaching strategic repercussions on the future of the State and Zionism. As a Jewish and democratic state which is the Jewish national home, it must maintain a solid Jewish majority. Therefore it must stand on guard and encourage childbirth, support families and their welfare and support Aliyah. And above all, it must strengthen Jewish education which is the most effective safeguard against intermarriage.