In this week’s parasha, the subject of intermarriage is raised. Rebekah tells Isaac: “I am disgusted with my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries a Hittite woman like these, from among the native women, what good will life be to me?” (Gen 27: 46) In the previous chapter, Esau’s two Hittite wives are said to be “a source of bitterness to Isaac and Rebekah.” (26:35) The Hittites were enemies of our ancient ancestors. But is it enmity that underlies Rebekah and Isaac’s animus? Or is it a fear of “the other?” Is it a desire to protect the family values and beliefs? Maybe Esau’s two wives were difficult people, and Isaac and Rebekah inferred that all Hittite women were like them. Whatever the reason, it is clear that there is a strong preference for in-marriage. So, Jacob is sent off to the ancestral home in Padan Aram to find a wife. There is much to be said for choosing a mate who has a similar world view, but we also see today many cases of interfaith marriages that work and non-Jewish spouses who bring strength to our people. Rebekah and Isaac’s aversion seems a bit overwrought by today’s standards. How do you experience attitudes toward intermarriage today in the Jewish world? Have you seen a change in your lifetime? Feel free to comment below.
Rabbi Dena Feingold