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    Sitting shivah for a child who marries out – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Is it true that some parents sit shivah if a child marries out?

    A. Sitting shivah after an intermarriage certainly happens but not as frequently as in the past because mixed marriage was rare in pre-emancipation days.

    Intermarriage is clearly prohibited in the Torah (Deut. 7:3) and spelled out in Nehemiah (10:31, 13:23-25).

    In the Talmud (AZ 36b) some argue that this applies only to the Biblical “seven nations” but Maimonides (Issurei Bi’ah 12:1) follows Rabban Shimon bar Yochai in ruling that the ban applies to women of all gentile groups.

    The reason is that it is regarded as treachery (Mal. 2:11-12), i.e. a threat to Jewish identity and continuity.

    However, a person who “marries out” is still a Jew, albeit a sinner, and can be counted towards a minyan (Orach Chayyim 55:11). There are communal edicts against allowing him to be called to the Torah; it is incongruous for the synagogue to honour him when he has dishonoured the Torah and the synagogue (Zichron Yehudah 1:45).

    The person who has married out is still subject to Jewish obligations unless he renounces Judaism and becomes an apostate.

    The sources are mostly in the masculine: “he”, not “she”. This is partly because this is standard legal language but also because Jewish men tended to marry out more than Jewish women.

    There are some who believe that a person who marries out is to be mourned as if he were dead, but this may be a misreading of the views of Rabbenu Gershom of Mainz who sat shivah for his son, though it is not certain whether the son was alive or dead. If the latter, Rabbenu Gershom did not sit shivah when the son married out but when the married-out son eventually died (Or Zaru’a 428).

    It is very hard and harsh for a parent to cut a child out of their life and to say when asked about their son, “I have no son”.

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