Rabbi Mayer Twersky

A People of Destiny

And [Eisav] said, 'Travel on and let us go - I will proceed at your pace.' But [Ya'akov] said to him, ...'let my lord go ahead of his servant; I will make my way at my slow pace according to the gait of the work that is before me and to the gait of the children...'

Chazal teach us that Parshas Vayishlach which describes the encounter between Ya'akov and Eiasv provides a blueprint for Jewish-gentile relations throughout history. The topic of Jewish-gentile relations is obviously too vast for a single dvar Torah. Let us, however, focus on the pesukim quoted above and on one element of these relations.

Ya'akov accords Eisav great respect, yet firmly declines to travel together. What paradigm has Ya'akov established for Jews throughout Jewish history?

We accord gentiles respect in keeping with their human dignity, their status of the handiwork of Hakadosh Baruch Hu. R. Yochanan would greet everyone in the marketplace, Jew and gentile alike. Moreover, since there certainly is a universal dimension to Jewish life, we can cultivate a genuine friendship and collegiality. Colleagues in the lab or law firm can and do share common experiences. In addition, Jews are exceedingly respectful of governmental authority. The relationship which existed between Rebbe and Antoninus exemplifies these elements of Jewish-gentile relations

It is, however, of paramount importance that friendship and/or collegiality not obscure or encroach upon the most basic fact of Jewishness: as Jews we have a unique mission and destiny, and consequently must safeguard our Jewish destiny. Accordingly, notwithstanding his sincere desire for good relations, Ya'akov tells Eisav, "I will make my way..."

Against this background of destiny and identity many halachic social constraints on Jewish-gentile relations can be understood and, in paramount, the egregiousness of intermarriage stands out. Intermarriage Rachaman litslan destroys Jewish identity and prevents the rendezvous with Jewish destiny. Accordingly, the Rav zt"l was absolutely adamant regarding the ban on attending an intermarriage. Often we try to rationalize and justify attendance of such weddings. We reason that if the Jewish partner comes from an assimilated background and was never exposed to Yahadus, what right do we have to judge him/her and boycott the wedding. Why should a ba'al teshuva strain family relations by absenting himself/herself from a sibling's wedding? After all, it is not the sibling's fault.

But, of course, that line of reasoning is fallacious. In refusing to attend an intermarriage we are not judging another individual. Only the Rebbono Shel Olam can pass judgment on one's liability, and to what extent extenuating circumstances should be taken into account. But although we refrain from judging individuals and affixing individual liability in such cases, we can and must judge actions and courses of action. Unquestionably, intermarriage is anathema because it destroys Jewish identity and destiny. Accordingly, it is nothing less than a chilul Hashem to be present at such a marriage. One can not attend a wedding as a conscientious objector. By attending, one eo ipso joins in celebrating. A Jew can not under any circumstances celebrate the partial destruction of Jewish identity.

With this same compelling line of reasoning in mind, the Rav was also equally adamant that subsequent to the wedding intermarried "couples" must not be included in family gatherings or invited to family semachos, and the like. Inviting the couple as such eo ipso acknowledges and accepts their illicit marriage. Under no circumstances may this acceptance be forthcoming. Let us not delude ourselves into thinking that we would be simply maintaining relations for purposes of kiruv. To the contrary, we are being m'sa'yai'a yedei ovrei aveira, strengthening the hands of those living in sin and creating a chilul Hashem.

May Hakadosh Baruch Hu save us from nisyonos and guide us all along His path of Torah u'mitzvos.

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