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V'etchanan 5768

V'etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING! In this week's Torah portion the Almighty instructs the Jewish people, "You shall not intermarry ... " (Deut. 7:3-4). With the ever-increasing assimilation and the ever-increasing intermarriage, more and more people consider it to be impolite and "politically incorrect" to even broach the subject. It is so sensitive that in outreach circles, intermarriage is referred to as the " I " Word. However, I guess if the Almighty felt fit to bring up the issue in His book, I can bring it up in the Shabbat Shalom Weekly.

People frequently ask me for advice about intermarriage situations (probably because of the book I wrote - How to Prevent an Intermarriage - A Guide for Preventing Broken Hearts. It is available as a free download in English or Spanish from My experience is that every Jew cares about the issue. Even the most secular Jew has a pang of remorse that the 100 generations of Jews possibly ends with him or her. Even if they are not excessively bothered by the Jewish issue, there is always the fear of the greater chance of divorce (in the U.S.A., about 50% of marriages end in divorce; it is estimated that 70% of intermarriages end in divorce.)

Oftentimes parents well-meaningly say, "As long as they are happy" and hold back from sharing their thoughts, feelings and experience with their child. "It's none of my business." "He's over 21, it's his decision." "We raised her with values and free will; we're not going to change her mind." "He knows what I think." There are probably as many reasons as people not to raise any issues.

Why should parents have a discussion with their child? Because they want their child to be happy and have a happy marriage? As one wit remarked, "Marriage is grand, but divorce is 100 grand." If there are potential problems, does it make sense to deal with them in advance? Is it fair to one's child - or to the non-Jew - to hold back information that may help ensure that the happiness that they have now will not turn into a miserable, pain-filled marriage or into the anger and huge personal and financial cost that happens with a divorce?

Doron Kornbluth wrote a wonderful book, Why Marry Jewish? - Surprising Reasons for Jews to Marry Jews (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242). In a fascinating, pleasant, even intriguing format, the author presents the facts of what happens in intermarriages to the couples and the children.

He draws from a plethora of studies to highlight the stumbling blocks and pitfalls that exist in intermarriage situations between people of any religions, not just Jews. I recommend to parents that they buy 2 copies, one for their child and one for the non-Jew. The book is not offensive nor preachy - it's informative. The more information a person has, the better decisions he or she will make.

Being a parent is not a popularity contest. It is a responsibility to love, guide, nurture and protect one's children. Love is not just the pleasure one has from focusing on the good in a person; love is a responsibility. One is doing a disservice to his child if he doesn't try to communicate important issues that need to be dealt with to ensure happiness. And to assume that the child already knows the issues and has discussed them is naivete.

For more on "Intermarriage" go to!

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Torah Portion of the Week

Moshe pleads with God to enter the Holy Land, but is turned down. (Remember, God always answers your prayers - sometimes with a "yes," sometimes with a "no" ... and sometimes with a "not yet.") Moshe commands the Children of Israel not to add or subtract from the words of the Torah and to keep all of the Commandments. He then reminds them that God has no shape or form and that we should not make or worship idols of any kind.

The cities of Bezer, Ramot and Golan are designated as Cities of Refuge east of the Jordan river. Accidental murderers can escape there to avoid revengeful relatives. They then await there until tried.

The Ten Commandments are repeated to the whole Jewish people. Moshe then expounds the Shema, affirming the unity of God, Whom all should love and transmit His commandments to the next generation. A man should wear Tefillin upon the arm and head. All Jews should put a Mezuzah (the scroll is the essential part) upon each doorpost of their home (except the bathroom).

Moshe then relays the Almighty's command not to intermarry "for they will lead your children away from Me" (Deut. 7:3-4).

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

In the Torah, Moses states:

"See that I have taught you statutes and laws as the Lord, my God, commanded me to do in the midst of the land" (Deuteronomy 4:5).

What do we learn from the added phrase "in the midst of the land"?

Philosophers have taught that if a person wants to live a life of sanctity and perfection of the soul, he must flee from inhabited places and live alone in the wilderness. There he will separate himself from other people and from all worldly pursuits. This is not the path of the Torah. Moses told the people, "I have taught you to follow the commandments in the midst of the land." That is, you should live an elevated life among other people. True sanctity and perfection is to live among people and behave both towards God and towards your fellow men in a manner consistent with Torah values.

The ideal of the Torah is to bring sanctity and idealism into all aspects of human endeavor. If you live alone, you will be free from anger, envy, causing other people pain, etc. However, you will be missing opportunities for kindness, compassion and love. Moreover, the true test of controlling anger or of honesty is when you have to deal with others. Only when you are in the company of other people can you fulfill all aspects of the Torah.

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Experience is not what happens to a man;
it is what a man does with
what happens to him.
-- Aldous Huxley

In Memory of
Dr. David Brian Davidson
With love and fond memories
Esther, Lucrezzia, Harleigh, Dylan,
Ashley, Beaujon, Cheyayn, Portia,
Akira, Maayan and Gabriel

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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Copyright Rabbi Kalman Packouz 2008


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