In this week’s parsha of Behaalotecha (don’t ask me to pronounce it) we have Miriam being given a severe punishment. Her ‘crime’ was chastising Moses for his treatment of his wife, Tzipporah. Tzipporah had given Moses two sons (Gershom and Eliezer), had saved his life at one point, but was now being separated from Moses. Miriam knew that Tzipporah had been a wonderful wife to Moses and could not understand why he was doing this. She knew Moses had a good marriage – and it was an intermarriage.
Tzipporah was a beautiful woman and utterly faithful to Moses. His marriage to her (a Midianite) was what today we would call an “intermarriage” – Jew to Non-Jew. Some Jews today would consider such a marriage to be a betrayal of the Jewish people or of our lineage. Nothing could be further from the truth. As Miriam recognized, Tzipporah was a incredible addition to our people, not a subtraction. We should all be proud to have her in our family.
Intermarriage rates in the US are over 50% and climbing. Some Jews make the argument that in order to ‘preserve’ Jewish continuity that a Jew must marry another Jew. This is not true. Jewish continuity is not dependent on this kind of marriage. Moses, our greatest leader, was not dependent on this kind of marriage. Judaism is preserved by making a difference in the lives of human beings, not simply because it has been around a long time.
Marry the person you fall in love with no matter where they come from. Judaism will survive, or not, based on its own merits.