Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Marriage and the Old Testament Narrative

I've seen the following piece on more than one website run by observant Jews. Since I've seen it in several places without attribution, I assume it is anonymous and public domain, so I reproduce it here. It discusses whether any of the major biblical characters would be good potential husbands from the perspective of traditional, observant Judaism:

"Would we make a Shidduch (marriage match) with anyone from the Torah?"

There's Avrohom Avinu (Abraham):
He seems to be frum but really he's a BT and his father made idols, not our kind...next.

Yitzchak Avinu (Isaac):
Well his grandfather made idols, there was all that nastiness with Lot and his half brother is an Arab.

Yaakov Avinu (Jacob):
His great-grandfather made idols, his brother went off the derech, his mother comes from a very treyfe family and he wasn't shomer negiah with Rachel Imeinu before they were married and he spent a lot of time with his uncle, who's mammesh a rasha.

Yosef HaTzaddik (Josef):
His mother had an idol once and she died early, plus he's a slave and his brothers don't like him, must be something in that and with all the issues with Avraham Avinu and Yitzchak and Yaakov Avinu...better not to.

Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses):
Oy, what a maaseh!!!! His parents separated, then they got back together, his parents abandoned him, put him in a basket, he was raised by goyim...not our kind for sure. He may be close to HaShem but his background is so problematic we wouldn't want him in our family!

Dovid HaMelech (King David):
Descendants from a Geyoret, not our kind of people. Sure a few generations have gone by but all things being equal shouldn't we look for someone with more Jewish background?

Shlomo HaMelech (King Solomon):
See above, and his mother's marriage was very dubious, he is rich though but the Yichus and family background is very tricky.

Shidduch = match (here, a marriage match)
frum = pious (like German “from”)
BT = Ba'al Teshuva; a “revert” to the faith
derech = lit. road; to "go off the derech" is to cease observing one’s faith
treyfe = not "kosher"
shomer negiah = the laws regulating touching between sexes, i.e. PDA
"mammesh a rasha" = bad dude
maaseh = story, tale
goyim = “nations” or “Gentiles; non-Jews
HaShem = the Name, i.e. pious reference to God
geyoret = female convert to Judaism
Yichus = family background, connections

The point is, from a contemporary observant Jewish perspective, many of the biblical characters themselves would be less than desirable marriage matches.

Compare what's going on in this piece with Matthew's genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1, where the apostle calls painful attention to some of the unusual marriages that formed the ancestry of Solomon, the greatest king and one of the most important Messianic types of the Old Testament.

It is worth noting that, contrary to the contention of some, the Old Testament writers tended not to revise the history of Israel in order to whitewash the deeds of the ancestors.


Anonymous said...

I heard that Jews like wealthy men because they believe the Messiah will be wealthy. Is that true?

John Bergsma said...

I think everyone wants their daughter to marry wealth, all other things being equal. Who wouldn't? As far as the connection of wealth with the messiah, I'm not aware of a Jewish tradition on the subject.