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January 20, 2017 / 22 Tevet, 5777
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A Torah Perspective On Educating Our Children About Sexuality (Part X)

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As we have been discussing, it is essential for parents to take an active role in teaching their children Torah ideas in regards to sexuality and modesty.

This is necessary because of the invasive exposure they experience from secular sources and culture, and also because we can no longer afford to be na?ve about the existence of sexual predators in our midst. If children do not possess clear knowledge and age-appropriate understanding of the parts of their body and how they can be used or misused, how can they protect themselves?

To quiet those who think it is forbidden to expose children and adolescents to sexual ideas, we referenced a halachic ruling from the Ezer Mekodesh (Shulchan Aruch, E.H. 23:3) where he states that it is permitted even for a young man to study parts of the Torah related to sexuality.

In addition, in order for us to be effective parents, we must adapt with the times. As certain social and psychological norms have changed over the years, our response to them must change as well. Keep in mind; halacha recognizes that over time, certain biological realities 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 change.

In this final article we will discuss an important and pertinent aspect of a Torah-based sexual education. Today, our adolescents mature relatively early and are in excellent physical shape. However, they have no outlets for their sexuality until marriage, which in many cases happens more than a decade after they reach sexual maturity. Many young men and young women live away from home in dormitory settings and may turn to members of their own gender for some form of sexual contact. In addition, though the Torah forbids masturbation, many adolescents find it almost impossible to resist.

Parents and educators may feel quite uncomfortable with this topic and hope that by ignoring it, it will go away. However, that is not a solution. In the vacuum of guidance and leadership from caring adults, these youngsters experience acutely destructive guilt and shame. While these acts are forbidden, they are not unnatural, and we must provide them with appropriate direction that balances Torah concerns with common sense. Too much guilt and pressure on children will cause excessive anxiety or other pathological reactions, and therefore, we must make every effort to present these halachos in an emotionally sound manner without sacrificing halachic integrity. This takes sensitivity and compassion. We must help our children understand that managing sexual desire is an ongoing process, and it is not at all unusual for adolescents to struggle with this. Excessive guilt or worry is counterproductive, and so our focus should be on engaging in constructive and healthy activities in the future.

We owe it to our children not to deny them the rich and comforting heritage we have. As Jewish parents we need to craft an approach that is psychologically healthy as well as in adherence with the strict parameters of tradition and halacha. It is not always easy to do the right thing, but it can be rewarding once we do. The increased prevalence of divorce, infidelity and sexual abuse in our community demands of us to courageously enter into dialogues with our children about morality, sexuality and marriage, so we can help them grow into true bnei and bnos Torah.

Rabbi Simcha Feuerman

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