Our Perasha discusses the concept of intermarriage. Our Haftora Reading discusses the problem of cults.
On the subject of intermarriage, our Reading starts off with praising Pinchas the zealot who slaughtered a Jewish prince and a Midianite princess who were having a romantic interlude. Many of the Jews had followed the lead of Zimri the Jewish prince and started to become overly friendly with the Midianite blonds.
After this episode the Jews are commanded to fight a war against the Midianites. This war was fought because of intermarriage. Today we are fighting a war of love. The Gentiles are loving us to death.
Our Haftorah deals with the related topic of Jews joining cults. The story was at length discussed in one of the faxes which I used to send here. At this point in History the Jews were so into the cult of Baal that there were only 7000 Jews who had not kissed the Baal. In the chapter before our Haftarah the prophet Eliyahu asks the Jews the following question:
Eliyahu came close to all of the people who were present and asked them, how long will you hold two opposing concepts? If G-d is the lord then follow him and if the Baal is then follow him, The people did not answer him even a word.
These two topics of intermarriage and cults although they were discussed in the Torah thousands of years ago today we feel as if these stories were written in our generation.
If you go through lists of the members and even the executives of cults you find a totally disproportionate number of Jewish members. As far as intermarriage is concerned there is hardly a Jewish family which has not been touched by the question of intermarriage.
There is a common denominator for these two problems. Unfortunately they are all of our problems. The problem is that most Jews only care about being Jewish once a youngster is about to join a cult or when the son or daughter is twenty something and is only going out with gentiles.
When the child is growing up we frown upon him having too much connection to the Jewish religion. We do not want them to spend too much time studying in Israel. Encouraging a child to spend at least half of his time studying Torah instead of only studying Secular is totally unheard of. In the words of a friend of mine, “Many observant families would love for there child to be a little connected to Judaism. If he will be too connected then it is preferable not to be at all connected.”
This view is so correct. They reflect the Pasuk which I quoted before. Eliyahu asked the Jews how long will they pay service to both religions. The Jews of those days thought that it was perfectly fine to be Jewish and to serve the Pagan gods. This was especially true because there was a strong economic force to act like the neighboring residents of the Lebanese city of Tyre. Here (I showed a picture which was found on a vase from the Israelite period) is an etching which was found on a wall in Israel. It demonstrates how they tried to amalgam the two religions. It says To G-d (using tetragrammaton and His Ashera. It uses the name of G-d which we do not pronounce. The picture illustrates G-d with his very own forbidden Ashera. Imagine G-d himself worshipping Avodah Zarah.
Imagine the frustration Eliyahu experienced in dealing with such people. This is the same frustration we experience in trying to cope with the world around us. When a family member, maybe a cousin, decides to abandon the Jewish religion in favor of a gentile spouse or just as bad joins a cult the only thing we can really think about is how to prevent it from happening again.
The healthiest way to prevent intermarriage is to encourage a child to spend time studying Torah and doing Mitzvot. Although seeing to it that a child is in a Jewish environment when dating may prevent intermarriage we are still left with the question of our commitment to G-d and the Torah. This is the question the Jews had in the time of Eliyahu. The answer they gave was pitiful. They said that G-d wants us to worship idols, even he does.
Let’s give a better answer to the dichotomy of Torah and The secular world than they did.
When speaking like this previously students have told me that Secularism is not idolatry. This is true. I even have a degree in Psychology. Secular studies does become like idolatry when we feel that it has intrinsic value greater than the Torah. Our Rabbis have come up with a nice saying.
If they tell you that there is wisdom among the gentiles believe them. If they say that there is Torah among the gentiles do not believe it.
Unfortunately, I have met many who give religious power to certain secular pursuits. We should avoid doing this.