Marriage Disagreement about Interracial Marriage

July 10th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 26 comments

Greetings: My question is what does scripture say about interracial marriage?  My husband and I have recently had occasion to discuss this and I am asking for wisdom to respond to some of his concerns.  We both were raised in rural WV where our culture frowns on this.  I used to agree with the reasons we were taught growing up.  1. Ham & descendant of Canaan were cursed 2. God told the Israelites not to marry from other groups 3. God separated the continents during Peleg’s time to divide nationalities. 4. Moses couldn’t enter the promised land because he married a Cushite from Ethiopia.

But as I’ve matured as a believer, I’ve read the scriptures they drew from and didn’t find God mentions this but that it was more likely [people] read how they wanted it to speak. The only separation I found was from pagan nations, or unbelievers.

I’m not searching merely to have a topic to discuss or argue but my husband is truly upset that have changed my mindset. While I would  prefer my grandchildren not marry interracial it’s more due to the reality of the family division it would bring.  I will however advise their potential mate be a believer. He however is frustrated because my change of heart challenges his prejudice. He is beginning to blame my church for teaching me this and while I have been believing he will come to have a relationship with Jesus and come with me, this seems to be a backwards route. I’m sure I’m not alone in this culture/religion shift.

Deborah L.

Dear Deborah,

Having just returned from speaking at many churches in Ghana (RDL),  I had the opportunity to see a number of outstanding marriages  between people with black skin and people with white.  We have noticed this also at many churches we admire here in the United States.  However, and this is huge, these marriages are between two believing Christians.  We also know several interracial couples in Israel and of course both spouses are deeply committed Orthodox Jews.  Shared belief is what matters. We would like to discuss  this question from a few more  angles, starting with correcting some Biblical misinformation.

Taking your points in the opposite order:

1.        We have no idea where you are getting this idea from. Tzipora made Moses a wonderful wife, even assuming the responsibility of circumcising her sons when Moses delayed. (Exodus 4:24-25)  Scripture is very clear  that Moses did not enter the land because he struck the rock rather than speaking to it according to God’s command. (Numbers 20)

2.        We discuss the spreading out of nations as spoken about in Genesis 11:8 in our audio CD Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel.  Dividing people into nations in no way ruled against marriage between groups.

3.        You are correct that the Israelites should only marry other Israelites. It is equally true that Christians would be well advised to marry other Christians. This is a spiritual mandate, not a racial one. Even descendants of our arch-enemy, Amalek can convert to Judaism at which point that individual becomes a full Israelite. There are two nations, Moab and Ammon which were descended from Abraham’s nephew Lot, from which male converts were not accepted due to deep cultural flaws. (In today’s day and age we have absolutely no idea who comes from these lines.) There is absolutely no suggestion of this being connected to skin color  and as Abraham’s relatives, they came from the same family as he did.

4.        Ham’s 4th son, Ham, was indeed cursed by his grandfather, Noah, to serve his brothers. (Note, he was not cursed by God.) However, Ham had many other descendants as well. We know that this verse was misused historically in support of  enslaving Africans, but that isn’t textually  supportable. Biblical verses have often been perverted in the past and we know many today who continue to misquote and take things out of context on all sorts of issues.

None of this matters in your disagreement with your husband. It sounds to us as if your involvement with church is leading you to grow in ways that are making your husband uncomfortable. We are sure this is not the the only issue to crop up between the two of you.

As we see it, the question is how to maintain a loving and respectful marriage as you mature in certain ways. Of course,  in all successful marriages on all sorts of issues, both husbands and wives focus on their spouses good points rather than weaknesses. We urge you not to allow religion to become a wedge between you. Demanding that your husband grow spiritually at the same pace and time as you is unrealistic.

Until and unless this becomes a practical issue for your family, we would suggest that you not discuss it. Why focus on an area of disagreement? Hopefully, your husband will see you becoming a better and happier person through your church involvement. At the right time, this may encourage him get more involved as well. This will not happen if your church involvement leads you to condemn and provoke him.

We are not familiar with rural West Virginia culture but no matter how you and your husband were raised, the fact is that the coming generations are likely to think differently about race. As long as your husband treats all people with respect and kindness, what he thinks about different races marrying is truly not terribly important.

Sometimes, the other way is the best way to look,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

 

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26 comments

Esther Weiss says:

Thank you Rabbi Lapin ~
When I think of God, I think colorless. We are all a package » some light/some dark. Sounds easy but sometimes can be difficult.
Shalom

Marcus page jr says:

Just a quick note about the comment
“Ham’s 4th son, Ham was indeed cursed by his Grandfather”

That 4th son was Canaan and that son was the father of who we know today as the Canaanite. We also know that the prophetic curse pronounced by Noah came true when Joshua entered the promise land with his armies and proceeded to take the land inhabited by the Canaanite and subjugate them under Israelite authority.

So the question is what does this has to do with enslaved Africans that were sold again to slave merchants in America thousands of years later?I have absolutely no idea. Being they were most likely descendants of Cush, Mizraim and Phut.

Genesis 9:22-24
22   And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
23   And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.
24   And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.

A lingering question I do not understand is why in the world would Noah curse his grandson Canaan when Ham is the actual person who saw Noah’s nakedness. Was this some sort of mistake?

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Marcus–
You really do need to own a copy of the Thought Tool books https://rabbidaniellapin.com/product/thought-tools-set-3-softcover-books/
You see, we answered your very question in a Thought Tool dated July 13th, 2011. I know you’ll rush off and purchase your copies of Thought Tools but for your convenience, we’re going to reproduce the relevant Thought Tool here. Please enjoy it.

Ham-I-Am
July 13, 2011 11th day of Tamuz 5771 Volume IV Issue #28

“You look at the sun three times a week?” asked George’s optometrist incredulously. George explained that counting sunspots was his hobby and he depended upon his eye-care professional to keep his vision healthy.

“I can only keep your eyes healthy, George, if you follow the rules,” insisted his doctor.

How ridiculous of George to keep looking at the sun and expecting his doctor to fix his eyes. Many of us harm our lives because we do not know how the world really works.

Here are two rules of reality that are helpful to know.

1) Regardless of how much we possess, we are created with a drive to want even more.
2) Our actions can unintentionally harm our children’s lives.

We learn these two timeless truths by solving a pair of perplexing puzzles in the Biblical account of Noah.

First:

The sons of Noah who emerged from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japhet,
and Ham was the father of Canaan.
(Genesis 9:18)

Four verses later-

Ham, the father of Canaan saw his father’s nakedness…
(Genesis 9:22)

Who cares that Ham was the father of Canaan? Why not also tell me who Shem and Japhet’s sons were? Furthermore, did we need a reminder of the relationship after only four verses?

Second:

Ham did something that the text (Genesis 9:22) refers to as “seeing his father’s nakedness.” Then, Noah awakens and utters a dreadful curse against Canaan.

And he said, “Cursed is Canaan…”
(Genesis 9:25)

Why would Noah punish Ham’s fourth son rather than the miscreant himself? How did a sleeping Noah even know what Ham did?

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that the Torah uses euphemistic language. Ham’s terrible crime was castrating his father.

Why? After the Flood, God instructed Noah to be fruitful and multiply. (Genesis 9:1) By making sure there would be no more sons, Ham wanted to guarantee that he would inherit 1/3 of the world rather than only 1/4.

So, Ham prevented the birth of Noah’s fourth son and Noah harmed Ham’s fourth son. But that’s not fair!

The Torah is teaching us two lessons we need to know.

1) Even someone who owns as much as 1/4 of the entire world desires more.
2) Everything we do either helps or harms our children.

Scripture is far more than a history book; it is a guidebook to the world. It may not seem fair that parents’ misdeeds damage their children. But it is how the world works. As the Ten Commandments state, when we do something really bad , it impacts our children, our grandchildren and perhaps even our great-grandchildren. (Exodus 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5:9) Bernie Madoff’s children and grandchildren had their lives forever changed by the actions of the notorious swindler.

Knowing these rules truly benefits us. We can channel our own drive for desiring more into positive enterprise, thus using it constructively. We can also understand human nature better, thereby interacting more effectively with others.

We can behave in ways that give our children advantages rather than disadvantages. We can also structure our society more wisely. Instead of recognizing that children thrive in stable, two parent families, we normalize alternative arrangements. Instead of helping individual children overcome tough challenges we pretend that all situations are equivalent. In doing so, we encourage damaging conduct.

People can and do often overcome the effects of their parents’ mistakes, but one of the strongest human impulses is to protect our children. God created the world with this parent/child connection to encourage us to behave properly, ever aware of our present and potential children.

As much as we like to believe that our actions are our own business, this simply isn’t true. Our behavior yesterday will even impact the lives of children we may bring into the world tomorrow.

Teaching reality as it is, rather than as how we would like it to be, is one major gift the Bible offers. There are many more reality lessons from Noah which I present in my 2 audio CD set, The Gathering Storm. It is this week’s highlighted (and discounted, online only) teaching. I’d like you to have it.

Cordially
RDL

B Hills says:

RDL,

Thank you for that explanation. That ordeal with Ham and his father was a bit odd until now. Blessings!

Brannon

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Now it makes sense, right? Otherwise, why on earth did Noah curse Ham’s fourth son? Weird. But once you have ancient Jewish wisdom’s back story all is clear
Cordially
RDL

Peter Mondello says:

“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear” (1 Peter 3:1-2).

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Peter–
I can tell you that Jewish wives do not read that New Testament verse!
Submissive is not exactly the right word most Jewish husbands would choose.
Cordially
RDL

Ty Steward says:

Ah yes. . . intrinsic human (male) nature. It’s a fascinating subject, especially when explained regarding God’s desires for us (as explained by such a wise Rabi as you Mr. Lapin. . .) I am grateful for your wisdom and ability to explain such concepts to a dunderheaded such as myself. I tip my hat to you.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Ty—
Thank you for writing.
Three points if I may….
I’m not sure the failing to which you allude is any more male than female. I think you were right the first time. Human.
Second, just as we’re not allowed to be rude and denigrating about others, we’re also prohibited from doing so towards ourselves. You’re no “dunderhead”. Nobody who invests their time reading our ancient Jewish wisdom could possibly be a “dunderhead”.
Finally, you credit me for being “such a wise rabbi, Mr Lapin” but you may not know that the bulk of this, and most other Ask The Rabbi questions, are actually written by Mrs. Lapin with a little of my help. If I’m wise, it’s only as part of a couple.
Cordially
RDL

Rabbi Daniel and Susan – Excellent perspective on race regarding these verses! The Torah – especially in the way you explain it gives such clarity on subjects we get confused about and use our distortions to justify prejudice and harm against each other. The main focus for race is to embrace the reality that we are all part of the human race – red, yellow, black and white – they are all precious in his sight . . . and life is better when they are all precious in our sight as well.

John Miramontes says:

Rabbi Daniel and Susan,

I enjoy your articles and I admire your replies to your audiences on so many difficult questions and issues that we face on a daily basis within ourselves, our families and our culture.

Question? How much time do you guys spend reflecting on some of these issues that are posed to you? Before reading your replies to the question, I try in earnest to answer the concern and I have to admit some of these issues stump me. I have been a believer for decades and I am no spring-chicken.

God Bless your work.

John

Susan Lapin says:

John, we’re glad that our words have value for you. On one level, we’ve spent decades reflecting on some of these questions because our answers, to the best of our ability and with God’s help, come from years of absorbing ancient Jewish wisdom as well as counseling individuals. On a more specific level, depending on the question we usually discuss the issue, reflect and pray on it and then one of us writes an answer and passes it on to the other for additions and changes. So, it absorbs quite a bit of time. When we’re both happy, we publish.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear John–
We pray, research, and contemplate. Sometimes it can take many weeks before we feel ready to sit down and collaborate on writing our response.
Of those submitted, we try to select the most challenging and relevant questions and those are usually also the hardest.
knowing you have the mind of a spring chicken, we appreciate you writing
Cordially
RDL

Carmine Pescatore says:

Years ago I read something about race that stuck with me. A child asked his mother why she was white and his father was black. I forget the answer but God was mentioned. He then asked what the color of God was. She replied “the color of water”.

Susan Lapin says:

Carmine, the is a book called

    The Color of Water

and I believe the quote may come from there. Sadly, for me, the white mother was from a dysfunctional Jewish immigrant family that came from the same city as my grandfather.

RICHARD KEATON Nash says:

SHALOM RABBI DANIEL LAPIN:
The Children of Israel wandered in the dessert with the Prophet Moses for 40 years before God (I AM) permitted them to enter in the promised land of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua. Question: From your research, approximately how long did it take the Prophet Abraham to make his complete journey from Ur of the Chaldeans to the promised land of Canaan?
FROM: PASTOR RICHARD KEATON NASH

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Pastor Nash–
Thanks for writing us your question. Actually, the way we like using this venue is for readers to comment and discuss the particular teaching we presented-in this case, the disagreement about interracial marriage. We don’t do general questions here particularly about textual questions. Feel free to submit it to our Ask the Rabbi page. This is just by way of apologizing to you for not responding to your question here. You probably already know us well enough to know that there is seldom any simple and quick response to serious questions like yours. Hope you understand.
Cordially
RDL

Ian says:

Shalom,

Ian here. A young(23 years old) Kenyan listener, to your podcast, and reader, of your blogs; who really appreciates your insight and teachings on how the world reaaalllyyy works! I thank God for the both of you and know that your words are shaping lives all over the globe:) .

Regards,
Ian.

Susan Lapin says:

Ian, we very much appreciate your taking the time to tell us. We love being able to picture people around the world coming together in trying to walk in His ways. Thank you.

Hope Rich says:

Rabbi Lapin, the answer was superb. I could not agree more that people deliberately misinterpret the Bible to suite their belief (hatred and undisciplined) lifestyle.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thank you for writing Hope,
It is possible to prove anything with selective statistics and it is just as easy to prove anything with selected Bible verses. For me, this affirms the vital necessity of ancient Jewish wisdom. I need to know what a verse meant to Moses long before I try to superimpose my visions on to it.
Cordially
RDL

Alessandro Mecle says:

Dear Rabbi and Mrs Lapin, thank you for these teachings. Many times I reach your text expecting one thing and, by the end, I find more than I would expect. God Bless!

Susan Lapin says:

That is one of the nicest things you could say to us, Alessandro! Thank you.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Great hearing from you Alessandro,
Take care.
Cordially
RDL

eddie sanders says:

Splendid…Rabbi Lapin…Splendid.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thank you Eddie–
Thank you.
Cordially
RDL

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