A meta-Halachic quandary of intermingling humanoid species
Marriage is always a touchy subject in families. It would be even more difficult if a child brought home a prospective spouse from another planet or even another galaxy! Despite the possible cultural differences, it may be entirely possible that these humanoid aliens could intermarry with terrestrial humans and create some pretty cool hybridization! In today’s post, we’re going to look at whether a Jewish person could marry an non-Earthling based on some fascinating Rabbinic material about non-humanoids here on Earth. One inspiration for this post is from Star Wars: the Clone Wars, episode “The Deserter”, where a human clone named Cut marries an alien woman called a Twi’lek (pictured below), as well as the Star Wars comic “Doctor Aphra”.
Is it permissible to marry a non-human?
Let’s start off by ruling out the obvious things:
שהזהירנו שלא לשכב עם הבהמות זכריהן ונקבותיהן. והוא אמרו יתעלה ובכל בהמה לא תתן שכבתך. והעובר על לאו זה במזיד חייב סקילה ואם לא יסקל הנה הוא בכרת, ואם היה שוגג יביא חטאת קבועה:
We have been commanded not to copulate with animals, as it says “do not lay down with any animal”Sefer HaMitzvos Negative #348
שהזהירנו מהביא הנשים הבהמות עליהן. והוא אמרו ואשה לא תעמוד לפני בהמה לרבעה תבל הוא. וזו גם כן מצוה בפני עצמו ואינה נכנסת במצוה שלפניה
There is a separate prohibition for women to not bring animals with which they may copulate, as it says “a woman may not stand before an animal to copulate, it is a detestable thing”ibid. #349
Our new alien squeeze (oh sorry, maybe you need to be shomer negiah with the alien), therefore, cannot be from an animal species. Even a talking animal could be included, and all you need to do is ask Bilaam’s donkey about THAT relationship:
ארבעה הדיוטות בלעם ודואג ואחיתופל וגחזי: בלעם בלא עם דבר אחר בלעם שבלה עם בן בעור שבא על בעיר
The mishna teaches that four prominent commoners, Balaam, Doeg, Ahithophel, and Gehazi, have no share in the World-to-Come. The Gemara elaborates: The name Balaam is interpreted as a contraction of: Without a nation [belo am], or one who has no share in the World-to-Come with the Jewish nation. Alternatively, the name Balaam is interpreted as one who wore down the Jewish people [bila am]. He is the son of Beor, one who engaged in bestiality [be’ir].Talmud Sanhedrin 105a (trans. courtesy Sefaria)
Therefore, it’s fair to preclude many alien species that are of similar genetics to terrestrial animals, such as those that possess the prehensile tail, claws, wings, fur, or other animal like qualities. However, in discussing the prohibition of intermingling animal species, the Rambam helps us understand what some of the qualifications are for permitted and prohibited animal mixtures:
הַמַּרְכִּיב זָכָר עַל נְקֵבָה שֶׁאֵינוֹ מִינוֹ בֵּין בִּבְהֵמָה בֵּין בְּחַיָּה וּבְעוֹף וַאֲפִלּוּ בְּמִינֵי חַיָּה שֶׁבַּיָּם הֲרֵי זֶה לוֹקֶה מִן הַתּוֹרָה בְּכָל מָקוֹם בֵּין בָּאָרֶץ בֵּין בְּחוּצָה לָאָרֶץ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא יט יט)
“בְּהֶמְתְּךָ לֹא תַרְבִּיעַ כִּלְאַיִם”.
מִין שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ מִדְבָּרִי וְיִשּׁוּבִי כְּגוֹן שׁוֹר הַבָּר עִם הַשּׁוֹר וְהָרַמָּךְ עִם הַסּוּס מֻתָּר לְהַרְכִּיבָן זֶה עִם זֶה מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהֵן מִין אֶחָד. אֲבָל אַוָּז עִם אַוָּז בַּר כִּלְאַיִם זֶה בָּזֶה מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהָאַוָּז (בֵּיתִּיִי) בֵּיצָיו מִבִּפְנִים וְאַוָּז בַּר בֵּיצָיו מִבַּחוּץ מִכְלָל שֶׁהֵם שְׁנֵי מִינִין
Hybriding a male and female from two diverse species, whether mammalian or birds, or those that live in the sea violates a Torah prohibition of “do not crossbreed your animals”.
A breed that has both wild and domesticated species are permitted to hybridize when they are extremely similar. However, some domesticated and wild birds have a noticeable physical difference, and are therefore two dissimilar types.Mishneh Torah, Kilaayim 9:1 and 9:5
It’s important to note that the kilayim, the prohibited hybridization, is a statement AGAINST creating a different and new mix of species in animals. It is also imperative to note that the prohibitions of bestiality and prohibited hybridization are separate and distinct prohibitions. An attempted hybridization of human and animal is only one prohibition category, and an attempted hybridization of physically different animal species is a distinct prohibitive category. What seems to be an important defining feature of the laws of kilayim is that the two humans or animals must be PHYSICALLY similar.
Therefore, it would be prohibited to introduce your Wookie friend to a Trandoshan or Mon Calamari, because they are a dissimilar animal species, even though they share human characteristics. Similarly, an observant Jewish person could also not hybridize with an alien species that has animal features. For further reading into some interesting discussions on “prohibited hybrization” in Rabbinic thought: Bereshis Rabbah 18:6, Sotah 9b, Shabbos 145b, Sanhedrin 58a, Avodah Zarah 22b, Alphabet of Ben Sirah 78
Would the Torah permit marrying a humanoid alien?
Even though the material presented seems to indicate that the Torah could prohibit marrying humanoid alien species with animal genetics, we do have a source that implies that a certain species of humanoid can bear human children.
הדולפנין פרין ורבין כבני אדם מאי דולפנין אמר רב יהודה בני ימאTalmud Bechorot 8a
The dulfanin reproduce like people. The Gemara asks: What are dulfanin? Rav Yehuda says: They are creatures that are called sons of the sea.
ה”ג הדולפנין פרים ורבים מבני אדם – שאם בא אדם עליהם מתעברות הימנו
Our text reads: ha’dulfinin (the dulfyn creatures) increase and multiply from humans [emending “like humans’]
בני ימא – דגים יש בים שחציין צורת אדם וחציין צורת דג ובלע”ז שריינ”א
Sons of the sea – there are these species of fish which are half humanoid and half fish and in our Old French they are called ‘sirenes’Rashi to Bechorot 8a
This humanoid terrestrial creature is the ‘siren’ or ‘mermaid’ made popular by works like “The Odyssey” and “The Little Mermaid”.
Here’s what we know:
- Torah prohibits mating with animals.
- Torah prohibits hybridization of dissimilar animal species.
- Certain humanoid terrestrial species can hybridize with regular humans not tied to the mast of a ship.
So what of our adorable human and Twi’lek couple? Can they have chupah and kiddushin – a sanctioned Jewish ceremony – of intergalactic proportions? Let’s consider a cool case in the Mishnah:
הַפְּרוּטִיּוֹת אֲסוּרוֹת, וְהָרַמָּךְ מֻתָּר. וְאַדְנֵי הַשָּׂדֶה, חַיָּה. רַבִּי יוֹסֵי אוֹמֵר, מְטַמְּאוֹת בָּאֹהֶל כָּאָדָם. הַקֻּפָּד וְחֻלְדַּת הַסְּנָיִים, חַיָּה. חֻלְדַּת הַסְּנָיִים, רַבִּי יוֹסֵי אוֹמֵר, בֵּית שַׁמַּאי אוֹמְרִים, מְטַמֵּא כַזַּיִת בְּמַשָּׂא, וְכָעֲדָשָׁה בְּמַגָּע:Mishnah Kilayim 8:5
Mules of uncertain parentage are forbidden [one with another,] And a ramakh is permitted. Wild man-like creatures are [in the category of] hayyah. Rabbi Yose says: they cause impurity in a tent like a human being. The hedgehog and the bush-mole are [in the category of] hayyah. The bush-mole: Rabbi Yose says in the name of Bet Shammai: an olive’s size [of its carcass] renders a person carrying it unclean, and a lentil’s size [of its carcass] renders a person touching it unclean.
Here, in the comments of Rabbi Yose, we have an example of a dispute into what classifies as human. The Tiferes Yisroel has an interesting insight into the dispute that can help us understand our question: The so-called “wild-man” is very much humanoid even though we classify it with apes. It’s germane to the discussion of animal types because it either looks enough like a man to be considered a similar species, or it’s enough of an animal to not be included in the Toarh’s category of ritual impurity from the corpse of dead humans. The “wild-man” to which the Mishnah refers is none other than the orangutan. What we can gather from his comments is that the rules of kilayim, prohibited hybridization, can impact a dispute about the human status of human-like animals. It would be safe to say that the majority opinion of the Mishnah(those that say it is a wild animal) cannot classify as human any life form that isn’t 100% similar to terrestrial humans in every aspect.
Although these two sources do not discuss the issue of marrying the siren or the orangutan, what we can conclude is that marriage could be possible when hybridization is also possible. Specifically, marrying a siren could be sanctioned by the Torah because they look like humans and hybridize with them. Conversely, you could argue the opposite: even though it’s possible to have a human/siren hybrid, the half-fish part of the siren would be too much of a difference to permit a marriage with them, similar to the law quoted above concerning animals that have different features. The orangutan would be ruled out easily because it’s neither capable of hybridization nor does it look extremely similar to humans. Twi’leks essentially look like terrestrial humans and can hybridize with them, so marriage with them certainly seems possible. However we might want to consider the issue of marrying into interstellar life.
Here’s a source about interstellar life mixing with terrestrial humans:
רבי אומר, ראו המלאכים שנפלו ממקום קדושתן מן השמים את בנות קין מהלכות גלויות בשר ערוה ומכחלות עיניהן כזונות, ותעו אחריהן, ולקחו מהן נשים… רבי יהושע בן קרחה אומר, המלאכים אש לוהטים, שנאמר (תהלים ק”ד) משרתיו אש לוהט, והאש בא בבעילה בבשר ודם, ואינה שורפת את הגוף. אלא בשעה שנפלו מן השמים ממקום קדושתן כחן וקומתן כאדם, ולבושו גוש עפר, שנאמר (איוב ז’) לבש בשרי רמה וגוש עפר. רבי צדוק אומר מהם נולדו הענקים המהלכים בגובה קומה ומשלחים ידם בכל גזל וחמס ושפיכת דמים, דכתיב (במדבר י”ג) ושם ראינו את הנפילים…
Rabbi says, the angels saw the daughters of Cain and descended from their holy place on high to enjoy their beauty, pursued them, and took them as wives… since heavenly host are primarily composed of a burning flame, they descended to earth and wrapped themselves in an earthly body, in order to protect their earthly wives… these unions produced the great giant peoples that were taller than the other peoples of the earth, and these giants abused their power to take whatever they wanted. These peoples are called “nefilim” (Bamidbar 13) [because they descended from the fallen angels].Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 22
From this source, we see an example of a hybridization that, when taken in context of the Torah’s story of Cain and the descent of man at the end of Parshas Bereishis, did not bode well for mankind’s existence on Earth. While not explicitly espousing a Torah prohibition, this Midrash does seem to imply that an extraterrestrial hybridization was a very bad time in the history of our world. Naturally, you could then understand any angst a parent would have in seeing a Twi’lek as a potential partner. Twi’lek, however, were not any different in the Star Wars canon than humans, save their prehensile apendages. One child born to Kanan Jarrus (human) and Hera Syndulla (Twi’lek) had no appendages. Maybe this couple is in the clear…
The Bottom Line.
It’s fair to conclude that the Torah would prohibit a relationship between a terrestrial observant Jewish person and an extraterrestrial humanoid species that contains animal genetic expressions because they are clearly not the same looking species. That means no chupah for your Wookie or Trandoshan love interests. Sorry Nokk and Winloss, I won’t be coming to that chasuna. Marrying a Twi’lek, our original question, would be totally within the permissible guidelines of the Torah’s requirement to hybridize with humans (so you’d likely have to convert the Twi’lek, unless there were a tribe of Jewish ones on their home planet of Ryloth). It’s also fair to conclude that an extraterrestrial humanoid species devoid of super powers and that does not pose a threat to the order and justice of society would be a safe shidduch to support. Maybe there is some wisdom in the Jedi prohibiting knights and masters from getting married and having children….