Congregation Etz Hayim at Hollis Hills Bayside

The consolidated communities of Hollis Hills Bayside Jewish Center and Marathon Jewish Community Center

Shabbat Hayei-Sarah 5774

After burying his wife, Sarah, Avraham begins to confront his own mortality and realizes it’s time to solidify his legacy. After all, God has promised him a long-term covenantal relationship. It took long enough for Avraham to produce an heir to this covenant, and in order for the heir to have an heir, he needs a wife.

So he commissions his servant to go back to the other side of the river–the very place that Avraham left to begin the journey toward covenant–to find Yitzhak a bride. Yitzhak “cannot be compromised through assimilation into the ways of the Hittites. [He] cannot, must not, marry a Hittite.” But, as Rabbi Avraham Feder notes in his collection of essays called Torah Through a Zionist Vision, the people of Haran are no less idolatrous than the Hittites. So what makes them any better marriage material for Yitzhak than the locals?

In other words, is Avraham admitting that his son’s intermarriage is inevitable?

This very argument is commonplace today, as some Jewish strategists look at the intermarriage statistics and presume that there’s nothing to be done to stem the tide. They focus, instead, on outreach to interfaith families in an attempt to keep these families connected to Judaism.

But not everyone agrees with this mindset. Recently, the online journal Mosaic published an article by Dr. Jack Wertheimer of JTS, titled “Intermarriage: Can Anything be Done?” You can read the essay, as well as several responses from thought leaders in Jewish sociology, here.

So what was Avraham’s strategy? On Shabbat morning, we’ll explore this question by looking at ancient commentaries and modern experts on the Jewish future. 

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom, 

 

Rabbi David Wise