“Don’t Let Him Marry a Canaanite”- The Danger of Giving up an Inch of Our Heritage

This week’s סדרה opens up with Sarah’s death and a lengthy description of Avraham’s acquiring of מערת המכפלה as a burial ground for her and future generations of Jews. In continuing with פרשת חיי שרה’s theme of life cycle events, Avraham sends his trusted servant Eliezer to find a wife for his son Yitzchak, in order to ensure a fulfillment of G-d’s promise that his descendants would be numerous like the sand and stars.

Avraham gives Eliezer a lot of latitude with the assignment, only asking, truly begging, his servant:

  אֲשֶׁר לֹא-תִקַּח אִשָּׁה, לִבְנִי, מִבְּנוֹת הַכְּנַעֲנִי, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי יוֹשֵׁב בְּקִרְבּוֹ.

So that you shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell. (בראשית כד:ג)

Avraham then advises Eliezer to go to Haran to find a wife from the children of his brother Nachor, but the main and only condition that our first patriarch puts on finding the next matriarch is that she should not be a Canaanite.

Reading this, we can’t help but wonder why Avraham was so against his son marrying a Canaanite girl. It couldn’t be because they were idol worshippers- after all, Avraham’s own family were also עובדי עבודה זרה. What about the כנענים made them so unfit that Avraham immediately rejects the idea of marrying his family into theirs?

Chizkuni writes that Avraham was afraid that, if his nation was married into the Canaanite nation, then at that time, things may become more peaceful between himself and his neighbors. But, in several generations, when his descendants return to conquer the heritage that Avraham himself was promised, they will not be able to properly control the land, because the כנענים would rightfully claim that they are “part of the clan,” and should be able to stay. In order to protect the Jewish legitimacy to control the Land of Israel, Avraham decided to avoid making any relationship, especially through marriage, with the Canaanite people.

In our times, there are many Jews who try to delegitimize our sacred connection to ארץ ישראל. These are mostly left-wing Jewish activists in Europe and America (BDS, J-Street, etc), as well as many left-wing and secular politicians and activists here in Israel, who ally themselves with the terrorists who have killed no less than six Jews this month, rather than controversially helping us control our own country. While this is always painful, those of us still fighting for Jewish independence have unfortunately grown used to this status quo of our “more enlightened” brothers resisting the truth- since 1948, this is regretfully nothing new.

What is terribly painful, however, is when a religious, learned Jew steps up and publically denounces the Jewish connection to a holy site. This is why last week’s statement by the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rav Yitzchak Yosef, against the Jews’ ascending the Temple Mount was especially hurtful. Rav Yosef, at the funeral of a terrorist victim last Friday, publically denounced Jews who frequent the holiest in Judaism as rabble-rousers who are “inciting terrorists to spill Jewish blood,” violating הלכה in the process by following “fourth-rate rabbis [,who] cannot dispute the rulings of the sages of Israel.”

The Mishna in Avot famously teaches that it is not proper to compare the greatness of different gedolim– for this reason,  and in deference to Rav Yosef’s appointed political position, I will not personally attack him to delegitimize his psak. Instead, I will reiterate that making a statement like this not only disrespects those, like Rav Yehuda Glick, who have been hurt standing up for our sovereignty of הר הבית- it also gives legitimacy to our cousins in Jordan and their claim that they should have full control of the holiest spot in Judaism.

Whether or not one believes that Jews should be ascending the Temple Mount at this time, giving that contested piece of land back to the Jordanians after our brethren’s blood was spilled taking it in back in 1967 would be a truly criminal waste of Jewish life. We’ve also seen above, that an action like this would directly counteract Avraham Avinu’s effort to avoid marrying Rav Yosef’s original namesake to a Canaanite (though of course our patriarch clearly only followed “fourth-rate” rabbis, because he went up to הר הבית to sacrifice his son on G-d’s command without first checking with “the sages of Israel”). Any Jew who fears G-d and believes in the Torah would know that this spot, known by many names in scriptures including ה’ יראה, הר המוריה, and בית א-ל, is holy to us and, whether or not we should go up yet, it cannot be given to our enemies, especially our contemporary cursed Canaanites. The fact that one of the highest ranking religious officials in the Israeli government invited Muslims to take it back by legitimizing their “silent intifada” is completely counterproductive and embarrassing, and while I am sure that the honorable ראשון לציות had the most pure intentions by making this statement, I do not believe I am exaggerating in the least when I say that he may have very well undid Avraham Avinu’s life mission by disconnecting our nation from the Temple Mount.

A few people have shared Rav Yosef’s statement with me recently, and asked me how I can continue to condone ascending the Temple Mount after the Sefardi Chief Rabbi has officially prohibited it for political reasons. In response, I have asked these friends of mine, many of whom are Ashkenazi and most of whom live in Israel, if their presence here is a source of tension with the Muslims. Of course it is, they respond, why should that make a difference? I then reminded them and I now remind you of the ruling of the Satmar Hasidim that living in the Land of Israel is currently אסור מדארייתא and is considered a form of giving into the most powerful evil inclination. The Satmar Rebbe has even voiced his opinion recently that the blood of all victims of recent terror is on the hands of every Jew who calls ארץ ישראל home. My friends scoffed at this statement- we aren’t Satmar Hasidim, they said, their Rebbe is not our posek. Neither is Rav Yosef mine, I replied.

In short, I remind everyone reading this that we should not feel that our right to go up to is threatened at this time. The Rishon Lezion’s statement that our contact with our holiest site should be limited is very much like the Satmar Rebbe’s statement that anyone living in Eretz Yisrael is an עובד עבודה זרה- it doesn’t affect us because it’s a statement in response to current events, without any change in הלכה. While we must take every word that every rabbinic figure of religious Judaism says very seriously, we cannot pick and choose which controversial political statements, said in the guise of הלכה, we listen to.

With Hashem’s help, we will merit the building of the בית השלישי and the coming of the גואלה, a time without terror attacks and unfortunate and unnecessary losses, so that the right of Jews to ascend הר הבית will no longer be a gray area. Shabbat Shalom.

About the Author
Born and raised in Teaneck NJ, Tzvi Silver moved to Israel in 2012 after catching aliyah fever while learning abroad. Tzvi is now pursuing a degree in Engineering from the Jerusalem College of Technology, and works on the side as a contributor for local newspapers in the New York Area. Tzvi's interests include learning Torah, rabble-rousing, and finding creative ways of mixing the two.
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