You know the joke about God forbidding the seething of a kid in it’s mother’s milk..
Said God to Moses: “Don’t boil a kid in its mother’s milk!” Moses replied, “You mean you don’t want us to make cheeseburgers? “Said God, mildly shocked and bewildered, “I just said — not a kid in the milk of its mother!” Moses frowned, twirled his beard, and responded, “You mean, don’t even use the same plates for cheese & meat?” God’s face reddened. “Just don’t boil a kid in the milk of its mother”! Said Moses, “My God! You mean we have to wait six whole hours after eating meat before we can have some milk?” God threw the Divine Arms wide into the Cosmos: “Have it your own way, Moses!” And so we do. (quoted in Rabbi Arthur Waskow’s Down to Earth Judaism)
Well…. The Rabbis, in their wisdom, even made it more complicated. They decided that if a drop of milk falls into a pot of chicken soup, as long as it’s less than one part in 60, it’s statistically and otherwise irrelevant (batel b’shishim)…. the soup is kosher.
So does this mean, that one can add a drop of milk to every meat dish, as long as it does not exceed one part in 60? Of course not.
The Rabbis, in their wisdom made a general distinction between doing the a priori right-thing הלכה לכתחילה halacha lechatchila (such as not drizzling a steak with drops of milk) and after-the-fact בדיעבד… Bidieved such as the chicken soup that was on the receiving end of a drop of milk… which can still be served at the Shabbat table…
Did the Rabbis stay awake at night wondering what kind of an example they were giving by permitting … and enjoying the tainted soup? I don’t think so… they gave us more credit than that.
So when the demographers come out with still another study showing that we American Jews are diminishing ourselves through intermarriage, as they did this week in a new Pew report, I think that we need to use the same Rabbinic wisdom. If we are concerned about the demise of American Jewry we need to focus not only on the half-full bowl of the alphabet soup of investing in Jewish education and enrichment, but also on its half empty counterpoint.
We need to realize that while, in-the-first-instance, intermarriage is not kosher, after-the-fact, we need to show Rabbinic wisdom and make it kosher…. Just like that bowl of chicken soup drizzled with a little dairy. We need to embrace and encourage those of our community who make alternative choices to choose to engage and embrace the Jewish community as their own… just call it Jewish Penicillin.