In the past several articles we have discussed the importance of parents taking an active role in teaching their children Torah ideas about sexuality and modesty. This is because it is essential that the first images to that fill their developing minds on these concepts must be appropriate ones. There is so much invasive exposure they experience from secular culture, and much to be concerned about in regards to the existence of sexual predators in our midst. If children do not possess clear knowledge and an age-appropriate understanding of the parts of their body and how they can be used or misused it is hard for them to protect themselves.
There are those who may feel that it may be forbidden to expose children and adolescents to sexual ideas because it will arouse in them a yetzer hara. Last week we discussed a halachic ruling where this issue is dealt with clearly. The Ezer Mikodesh tells us (Ezer Mekodesh, Shulchan Aruch, E.H. 23:3) that it is permissible for a young person to study those sections of the Torah that relate to sexuality.
We also stressed that in order for us to be effective parents, we must adapt with the times. What one-generation considered inappropriate to discuss with children, is not necessarily true today. Halacha has recognized that even biological realities and makeup of humans are subject to variations and change. (See for example, Magen Avraham, O.H., 179:8.) Certainly then, it is a reasonable conjecture that our cultural, social, and emotional realities, are also subject to variation from generation to generation.
Since there are dozens of halachos that are impossible to understand without knowledge of the mechanics of human sexual intercourse and reproduction, it is clear that teaching a child about sex is part and parcel of the commandment to teach Torah. After all, how can one possibly teach the laws of family purity, the laws of sexual immorality and the laws of marriage without also teaching about sexual matters?
Just as one example, Meseches Kiddushin, which is taught in many junior high and high schools for relative beginners in Gemara, clearly describes sexual intercourse as one of the three methods by which Jewish marriage is accomplished (ibid 2a.) Some might argue a child does not need to know explicitly the mechanics of sex to understand that intercourse is one of the ways to consummate marriage. But such an approach will result in a loss of clarity and true understanding of the material. It can be compared to asking a person who comes from a primitive country with no monetary currency to try to understand the stock market. He might grasp it, conceptually, but he really will not have a true understanding. Nothing in the Torah is accidental; therefore the emotional and physical process of sexuality is not coincidentally related to the conceptual understanding of how the marriage bond is enacted according to the halacha. If a child is not taught this, he is then deprived of an opportunity to benefit from this aspect of the Torah. He may be able to repeat segments of the Talmudic discussion as a parrot might do, but he cannot understand it in the way chazal meant for it to be taught and learned.
Furthermore, there are also important moral teachings that cannot be understood without a real understanding of sexuality. In Mishna Avos (3:1), man is taught to reflect upon his humble origins as a way of realizing his mortality and warding off sin. Surely this is an important lesson young men should learn, yet the Mishna makes its point by stating: “From where did you come from? A putrid drop.” It is fair to say that the rabbis are suggesting, that in order to fully grasp the magnitude of the universe and the potentially small place we occupy in it, we need to conceptualize that we were once a drop of human seed.
(To be continued)