You Are Not Alone
Elements of their assimilation are reflected in their names: Esther is a Persian name (her Hebrew name was Hadassh after the Myrtle tree) that is related to the goddess Ishtar. And the name Mordecai is derived from the name of the Babylonian deity, Marduk.
The story of Esther is about a Jewish girl who was intermarried a Gentile, the Persian King Ahasuerus. Evidently, intermarriage with Persians was widespread and socially quite acceptable at all levels of Jewish life.
Telling evidence for the extent of intermarriage comes to light during the late return to Zion of the Jewish exiles under Ezra (458 BC). Jewish-Gentile marriage was apparently widespread among even the elite of the Jewish returnees coming out of captivity. It touched even the sanctified families of the Levites and the leaders of the Cohenim, the priests (see the discussion of the social controversy in Ezra chapter 10).
However, even during exile, assimilation and widespread intermarriage, Jewish identity remained firm and continuous. In fact, the term Jew originated during that period. It is derived from Hebrew Yehudi, the descendents of the tribe of Judah and a generic term for all the children that came from the Patriarch Jacob. The reference to Mordecai (Esther 2:5) is the first time the term Jew appears in the Bible. Ironically, it appears to signify Jewish identity at a time when the existence of the people was most threatened. 2,500 years later, a vibrant Jewish community emerged out of modern Persia, Iran, as it moved out to Israel, Europe and the United States in the 1970s.
The celebration of Purim this month (14 Adar, between March 9-11) commemorates a valorous fight for Jewish survival against the backdrop of intolerance, intermarriage and assimilation in the ancient community. In similar fashion, 2,500 years later, the American Jewish community is intermarrying at the rate of 52% of the time. Some have dubbed intermarriage a significant threat to survival, calling it the “silent Holocaust.” And yet, history teaches that there is real hope if you are a Jewish-Gentile couple,
First, you are not alone. Widespread intermarriage is not new to the Jewish people. We have seen it in Jewish history both widespread and in the highest levels of society. Esther, the intermarried Jewish beauty, became a queen in ancient Persia. If you are a Jewish-Gentile couple, there are many more just like you.
Second, historically, Jewish-Gentile intermarriage has not wiped out the Jewish people. There are many Jewish-Gentile couples that are trying to preserve Jewishness within their family and in the cultural training of their children. They are also seeking to find a marital foundation in spiritual harmony. That is possible when both partners seek the one true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob without excluding Messiah truth. Jewish and Gentile partners can experience and preserve the beauty and heritage of Jewishness in their marriage and family. Likewise, Jewish and Gentile partners can experience life with God and welcome the power of His grace through knowing the Messiah of Israel.
A third observation is that the Feast of Purim illustrates God’s covenant faithfulness to protect and preserve His people. The guarantee of Jewish survival from an exiled, assimilating past is rooted in God’s promise to preserve a people for His own name’s sake. God is the guarantor of Jewish existence throughout the ages.
We encourage all Jewish-Gentile couples to seek the one true God who is manifested through Israel’s Messiah. We urge you to seek Him and the blessing of spiritual harmony. You are not alone.
Tuvya Zaretsky ©2009