Project Genesis

Basics of Judaism

Who is a Jew?

Scriptural Basis for Matrilineal Descent

Question: Can you prove to me, on the basis of the scriptures, that the status of being a Jew is relayed through the mother?

Please see the book of Ezra, Chapter 10, Verses 2-3 – “...We (Jews) have trespassed against our G-d, and have taken “nashim nachrios” (non-Jewish women)... Now, therefore, let us make a covenant with our G-d to put away all such women and all that are born to them… and let it be done according to the Torah.”

In these holy Verses, we see Jews who had taken non-Jewish wives, and now must leave them. The verse also clearly states that these Jews must also leave behind their children. Since these children had Jewish fathers, but non-Jewish mothers, they were not Jewish. If these children were Jewish, the fathers would have been required to take them.

Rashi validates this for us with a Torah Verse: Devarim (Deuteronomy) 7:3-4 – “Neither shall you make marriages with them, you will not give your daughter (Jewish) to his son (non-Jewish)... for he will turn your son from following Me.”

Although verse 3 clearly prohibits intermarriage (both by a man and a woman), Rashi uses verse 4 to inform us of the status of the children. By using the word “he” (“for he will turn your son from following Me”), the Torah implies that the husband is a non-Jew. Nevertheless, the child is described as “your son”—meaning he is Jewish. By implication, if the wife is not Jewish, the child will not be considered “your son”—meaning that the child will not be considered Jewish.


Rabbi Azriel Schreiber

[Editor – See here for more posts on the basis for matrilineal descent.]

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