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Concerned Parents

Our son is planning to intermarry. We are very upset, and feel strongly that he is making a mistake. In the meantime, he has given us an ultimatum: Either accept her, or I don’t want to have anything to do with you. We want to protest, but we don’t want to alienate either of them. What should we do?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

This is indeed heart-breaking for you and your family.

It used to be that when a child intermarried, the family would sit shiva, as if the child had died. This is not the custom today; since intermarriage has become so common, the "shiva" is not a deterrent and we must find other approaches.

You need to be careful not make things worse. Your goal is to bring your son close. Being confrontational will only drive him further away. It gives him an "excuse" to ignore you. So you need to act with warmth, understanding and love.

I suggest that you communicate two things:

1) We are totally opposed to your being in this relationship. We believe you are doing something damaging and harmful to yourself, and as parents who care deeply about you we cannot condone this. Not because Judaism is racist (clearly not, since any human can convert to Judaism), but because we believe that the Jewish people are a precious – and endangered – species. When a Jew marries a non-Jew, it is a step that weakens the Jewish people, who have a mission to bring morality and monotheism to the world. Non-Jews are fine people, but intermarriage pulls the Jewish partner away from the mission.

2) We love you and care for you totally, and nothing that you do can ever change that.

This is a tricky balance, but both these must be communicated clearly and effectively.

Remember that he is not doing this to hurt you. He is confused.

The most important thing is to not get into fights, but to remain calm and always emphasize that you love him and will always love him.

In practical terms, what can you do about it?

1) Get him to realize how important his Judaism is, and how this woman does not share that. For example, why is it that when Israel is under attack, your son is extremely concerned – but she cannot relate. Why is it that through the centuries, our ancestors have endured the torments of exile, torture and ovens – yet continued to remain loyal to the Jewish people?

Of course, there is no way to understand the deep riches of Judaism, with a 13-year-old's Hebrew School view. Before making this most important decision of life, urge him to find out what's been driving the Jewish people to greatness for the past 3,000 years. Suggest that he attend a Discovery seminar, an excellent presentation of Jewish history and philosophy which is given in hundreds of cities throughout the world. For a current schedule, visit www.aish.com/dis/

Also, you could send him the book, "Why Marry Jewish?"

http://www.targum.com/excerpts/marryjewish.html

2) Raise serious doubts that this will work long-term. If she is Christian, get them to discuss the topic of Jesus. It is the most deeply-engrained cultural difference between Jews and non-Jews. Will she want their children to be baptized? It is a documented fact that intermarried couples have a 3-times higher divorce rate (USA Today – Dec. 4, 2002). Would your son ever consider going into a business with a partner who carries such a greater risk of failure?

Once you've raised sufficient doubt, you can advise them to try a separation, while pondering this question: "Do I need to be married to this person to find happiness in life, and is it worth all the trouble? Or would I be better off looking for someone else to marry?"

3) Remind your son that he may experience a spiritual awakening. People who do not profess a belief in any particular religion often turn back to religion later in life. A Gallup Poll showed that religious commitment is lowest from age 18-39 – precisely the time when people are making decision about who to marry. I have a folder of emails from intermarried people whose lives turned to horror when they (or their spouses) turned back to religion. The issues become insurmountable.

By marrying Jewish, his children will be Jewish and his married life will be free of these liabilities. I guarantee that his Jewish soul has a Jewish soul mate. He deserves it all and can have it all.

As far as his ultimatum to "accept her," that is a decision that you and your husband will have to make. If you feel you are strong enough, you should just tell him: “A relationship between a Jew and non-Jew is not recognized by the Torah as having validity. So you are not married to her. It's not a question of us accepting or not. We accept you fully as our son; we do not accept your relationship with this woman.”

Also you can explain to him that it is he who is closing the door, not you. Even before he was born you established your family guidelines, and if he voluntarily wants to continue this relationship and cut himself off from that, that is his decision, not yours.

The main thing is to keep the relationship with your son strong and positive. Keep the door open, so that when he starts having doubts about this woman, he feels he has a Jewish home to go back to.


Dishwasher on Shabbat

I know that you can't use a dishwasher on Shabbat, but I'm wondering if I can load the dirty dishes into it? Or perhaps I shouldn't be touching the dishwasher at all on Shabbat?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

It is permitted to put dishes in the dishwasher on Shabbat. Since you are essentially using the dishwasher as a place to store the dishes, it is no different than any other dish rack or cabinet.


Items Doomed to God

I’m trying to make sense out of Leviticus 27:28-29. It seems to state that all items doomed to God, whether people, animals, or fields, may not be redeemed. They are most holy to God and must be destroyed or put to death. Does this mean that if a person dooms someone else to God he must be killed? Can we do this to anyone we don’t like? Perhaps this is why the judge Jephthah killed his daughter.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

You are right that those verses appear quite shocking on simple reading. However, they are much more understandable based on the interpretations of the Sages.

Before beginning, I will note that according to the Sages the subjects of the two verses are somewhat different. We will therefore explain each one separately below.

Verse 28 reads as follows:

However, any doomed item which a man dooms to God of anything that is his, whether a person, animal, or the field of his heritage, may not be sold and may not be redeemed. All doomed items are holy of holies to God.

There is some debate in the Talmud (Erchin 28-29) regarding the precise meaning of the verse, but the principles are fairly well agreed upon. We can “doom” objects to God either by consecrating them to the Temple or to the Priests. When we do so, they become Temple or Priestly property. We may only consecrate that which belongs to us – whether our land, house, movables, animals or slaves. (This is the intent of the “person” mentioned in the verse; Talmud Gittin 38b, Erchin 28b.)

What does the Temple do with property consecrated to it? An animal fit for a sacrifice will be offered to God. Anything else will generally be sold by the Temple treasurers and the proceeds will go to the Temple treasury. (The owner himself can redeem what he consecrated by adding 25% to its appraised value.) All of the above is basically the subject of Leviticus 27.

Verse 28 discusses items consecrated to the Priests. Such items may not be sold by the Temple custodians and may not be redeemed by the donor (“may not be sold and may not be redeemed”). Rather, they become permanent Priestly property, divided up among the Priestly family on duty at the time the gift is dedicated. (Once the Priests divide them, they have no sanctity and can be used for ordinary household use (Talmud Erchin 29a).)

(The final phrase of the verse appears to refer to items consecrated to the Temple – which so become “holy of holies.” The precise interpretation is discussed by the Talmud (Erchin 28-29).)

Verse 29 is unrelated. It reads as follows:

Any doomed item which has been banned from mankind shall not be redeemed. It shall surely be put to death.

What is the meaning of this cryptic, ominous verse? There are two opinions (both appearing in Talmud Erchin 6b):

(1) The “doomed item” of the verse refers to a person (the Hebrew gives no indication if a person or object is intended). The “doomed” person is one whom the courts have condemned to death – and as a result, is banned from mankind. If a person vows to donate his worth to the Temple (see e.g .Leviticus 27:2-7) he owes nothing. Since the person is about to be killed he has no “worth”.

(2) As above, the “doomed item” is a person condemned to death. He may not “redeem” himself by paying money to commute his sentence, but rather he must be put to death.

(Regarding Jephthah, although almost all the commentators do not understand that he literally killed his daughter (see this past response), there is one interpretation that he did. The commentator Ramban (Nachmanides) explains that Jephthah erred in his interpretation of this verse, thinking that the law that a doomed person must be put to death extends even to decrees made by a ruler and even though his daughter did no wrong.)


Due to limited resources, the Ask the Rabbi service is intended for Jews of little background with nowhere else to turn. People with questions in Jewish law should consult their local rabbi. For genealogy questions try JewishGen.org. Note also that this is not a homework service!

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