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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Jewish Tradition’

Adultery and Marriage: a Jewish Approach to Monogamy

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

It is well known that one of the Ten Commandments is the prohibition of adultery. Extramarital sex has historically been a man’s game, since the male sexual desire is stereotypically assumed to be uncontrollable. A recent survey by the National Opinion Research Center has shown, however, that the number of married American women having adulterous affairs has nearly doubled over the last decade. Today, 21 percent of men admit to having such affairs while 14.7 percent of women now admit to having them.

Sociologists explain that women today are more willing to cheat since they have stronger careers and aren’t as worried about the financial loss they would incur in a divorce. A recent Pew Research Center poll showing that working mothers are now the primary “breadwinners” in 37 percent of American homes (up from 11 percent in 1960) seems to bear this out, as these numbers roughly match the proportion of men and women having affairs. Most of these breadwinning women are single mothers, but 40 percent of them are married and earn more than their husbands. Perhaps it is true that when women began to enter the workforce in greater numbers and rise in the corporate world, they learned from and now emulate corporate male behavior.

In What do Women Want?, Daniel Bergner notes that women may be no different from men in their struggle with monogamy and desires for sexual novelty , although there may be differences depending on the situation. For example, research on rhesus monkeys demonstrated that males initiated sexual relations when the monkeys were kept in smaller cages, but in larger spaces the females initiated sexual relations. Significantly, this and other findings have occurred at the same time that the number of women in scientific research has soared. We hope that science has passed the era when scientists could claim that women suffered from “hysteria” (based on the Greek word for uterus), irrational behavior supposedly caused by disturbances in the uterus.

One might think that monogamy was considered to be against the norms of evolution, since a male biologically wants to have as many offspring as possible. Analysis of various animals living with their brood show that anywhere from 10 percent to 70 percent of their offspring have a father different from the male animal currently staying with the brood. Professor David P. Barash of the University of Washington famously quipped, “Infants have their infancy; adults, adultery.” Even among primates (which include humans), more than 200 species are not monogamous. However, British scientists have found that in the three species of primates in which monogamy evolved, it did so after a period where males had earlier committed infanticide. In reaction, fathers began to remain by their children and mothers to protect them from rival males, thus establishing the monogamous nuclear family. The virtual universality of this system among humans, and its staying power across civilizations, argues for its value.

Even among other species from beetles to baboons, while exogamous sex occurs, one mate will often react with a ferocious jealousy if it observes the other straying. Promiscuity may be necessary among some species for survival, but that does not mean that these creatures like it.

Marriage is one formal marker and arrangement for monogamy. In the Jewish tradition, marriage is a central institution, and Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik wrote about this unique commitment:

On the one hand, the great covenant [of marriage] has been compared by the prophets time and again to the betrothal of Israel to G-d; on the other hand, the ordinary betrothal of woman to man has been raised to the level of covenantal commitment. Marriage as such is called berit, a covenant. Apparently, the Bible thinks that the redeeming power of marriage consists in personalizing the sexual experience, in having two strangers, both endowed with equal dignity and worth, meet. And the objective medium of attaining that meeting is the assumption of covenantal obligations which are based upon the principle of equality. Hence, we have a clue to the understanding of the nature of matrimony. All we have to do is analyze the unique aspects of covenantal commitment and apply them to the matrimonial commitment (Family Redeemed, 41-42).

Knowing how hard it is to find the perfect partner, the Rabbis taught: “It is [as] difficult [for G-d] to match up [a man and a woman for marriage] as it is to split the sea (Sotah 2a).” Elsewhere in the Talmud, the Rabbis debate whether the primary goal of marriage is to produce offspring or about the marriage itself:

Rav Nachman said in the name of Shmuel that even though a man has many children, he may not remain without a wife, as it says: “It is not good that man be alone.” But others say that if he does have children then he may abstain from procreation and he may even abstain from taking a wife altogether (Yevamot 61b).

But even those who subscribe to the latter position, that it is not obligatory to get married, must agree that it’s still desirable and good (i.e., not legally required but clearly very good and important) to marry.

Rav Soloveitchik further explains:

Within the frame of reference of marriage, love becomes not an instinctual reaction of an excited heart to the shocking sudden encounter with beauty, but an intentional experience in reply to a metaphysical ethical summons, a response to the great challenge, replete with ethical motifs. Love, emerging from an existential moral awareness, is sustained not by the flame of passion, but by the strength of a Divine norm whose repetitious fulfillment re-awakens its vigor and force. The marriage partners, by imitating G-d who created a world in order to be concerned with and care for it, extend the frontiers for their communal living to their offspring, and by questing to love someone who is yet unborn, defy the power of erotic change and flux. The ethical yearning to create and share existence with someone as yet unknown redeems hedone by infusing it with axiological normative meaning and thus gives it a new aspect — that of faith. Since our eternal faith in G-d is something which defies rationalization, the mutual temporal faith of man and woman united in matrimony is just as paradoxical. History does not warrant our unswerving religious faith; likewise, utilitarian psychology denies the element of faith in the marriage institution (Family Redeemed, 42).

No one claims that monogamy is easy. We know from psychological studies that young people often have cognitive skills that are still evolving, and it is difficult to tell whether two people can grow compatibly over decades. The choice of a partner is a serious matter. Honest and loving marriage is central to the Jewish faith. We must do all we can to collaboratively preserve the holy covenant that strengthens our families and societies.

We must protect our own marriages and the institution of marriage. Adultery, as one of the many causes of failed marriages, must be rejected through ethical conviction and spiritual commitment. We must all have personal moral accountability, legitimate caring for our spouses and children, and Jewish commitment to the pledge of monogamy and shared covenant of love and devotion.

Is Someone Framing Women of Wall with Death Threat to Rabbis?

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

The Chief Rabbis of Israel filed a complaint with the police Monday after receiving letters threatening them with death if they try to stop the Women of the Wall (WoW) movement from praying in the custom of men, complete with a minyan, tallis and tefillin.

WoW officials immediately condemned the death threats and denied any connection with them.

“All those involved and educated on the subject know that there is no connection between the content and style of these letters and the spirit of nonviolence, tolerance and acceptance which drives Women of the Wall,” WoW stated. Addressing the rabbis who were threatened, they added that they “wish them strength and courage during this trying time.”

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and his Sephardi counterpart Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar received letters with a picture of a handgun. The letter stated, “This is your final warning. If the Women of the Wall are not allowed to daven in line with their custom, we will use all means at our disposal and will end up with one hundred Haredi bodies. Your end is near.”

The Chief Rabbinate stated that the threat is a “red line that has not yet been crossed in the past.”

For all those who have been hibernating the past several months, the Women of the Wall, cheered on by American media and the Reform Movement, have successfully won their campaign to be able to pray at the Western Wall, in the back of the women’s section, even if not in accordance with Jewish tradition that is maintained by Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz. He said he also received a death threat in a letter to his home.

The women will be back in full force at the beginning of the new Hebrew month of Tammuz, which starts Saturday and Sunday, having won permission from the Supreme Court last month to pray in a minyan with tallis and tefillin at the Kotel.

More than 1,000 Haredim, most of them high schoolers, prayed in protest, but the scene was marred by several Haredi men who threw bottles and rocks at the Women of the Wall.

So who sent the death threats?

If a member of WoW sent the letters, she definitely is not a core member of the group.

The writer could have simply been someone who hates Haredim and decided to hitch a ride on the WoW campaign to express outrage at Haredi rabbis, who on the one hand safeguard Jewish law and on the other hand often use religion coercion that distances Jews instead of bringing them closer to tradition.

And there is the worst possibility, if not the most probable.

Someone out there cannot accept the fact that, right or wrong, the women have won the battle. What better way to disgrace WoW by insinuating they are threatening Haredi rabbis to get their way?

This Shabbat, Jews from all over the world will read the Torah portion of Korach, of the Tribe of Levi. He insisted that all of the People of Israel are holy and that Moses was not the only one fit to lead the people.

He met his end when his followers were swallowed up by an opening in the earth, burying them alive.

Opponents to the Women of the Wall will have a field day comparing them with Korach.

There may be something to that comparison, but the same scoffers – and I am far, far from being a supporter of WoW – might recall that a recent Torah reading describes how the “elders” who were close to Moses and complained to him that two of the elders were prophesying.

“And the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him [Moses], and took part of the spirit that was upon him and put it upon the seventy men of the elders, and it was, when the spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, but did not continue.

“And two men remained in the camp – one was called Eldad and the other was called Medad – and the spirit rested upon them; and they belonged to those who had been recorded, but they had not gone out to the Tent [of Assembly], and they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, and said, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp,’ and Joshua son of Nun, servant of Moses from his youth, answered and said, ‘My lord Moses, restrain them.’ And Moses said to him, “Are you jealous on my account? Would that all the people of the Lord might be prophets, that the Lord would put His spirit upon them!” (Num. 11:25-28)

Jewish Tradition and the Secrets of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

What can explain the Shades of Grey phenomenon? Why are so many women reading a book about submission in an age of feminine liberation? Several national magazines have tackled the question, but no one seems to answer it satisfactorily.

Women worked so hard to achieve parity with men and to even win independence from them. They have even overtaken men in many areas. Sixty percent of all college degrees are awarded to women. Boys can’t keep up with the girls in High School, even in subjects like mathematics and the sciences where the boys used to dominate. Three out of four of the last Secretaries of State were women. And about seventy percent of divorces are initiated by wives. It’s the women rejecting the men and not so much the opposite. Battle of the sexes? The men lost.

Yet now women are fantasizing about submission before men, obsessing over a book where a young, liberated female college student signs an agreement to be completely submissive to a billionaire businessmen.

What gives?

I read the first volume of the trilogy, and it only compounds the question for me. It’s poorly written and I found it boring. Perhaps the subsequent volumes are better. As erotic literature it deserves at best a ‘C’. Yes, the contract part where the woman has to sign and  officially become submissive was novel. But that’s about it. I don’t mean to be uncharitable, but most of it reads like cheap smut.

Some writers have said that the explanation lies in the modern woman’s inability to carry the entire burden that has been placed on her. As she struggles to balance career, family, and other responsibilities, she just wants someone to lighten her load. She wants someone to take full control so she gets a break. And a book about a man taking over her life is thereby, in a sense, liberating. But if that were the case then a novel about a woman getting a really good housekeeper and financial planner could have been just as adequate. Why submission?

Here’s the reason.

Our world has little understanding of lust. We put all our emphasis on love. We watch romantic comedies about men and women slowly falling in love, in a low-simmering manner. We laugh with them until they tie the knot and live happily ever after in their comfortable, humorous, cozy little lives. We offer platitudes like love as if they were the most powerful emotion in the world.

But here is simple proof that it is not. About eighty percent of the men who cheat on their wives claim to love their wives. Except lust for another woman has superseded their love.

In truth, lust is the most powerful emotion in the universe. Yes, it is far more temporary than love and it wears off much more rapidly. Yet, like a long-distance runner competing with a sprinter in a 100-meter-dash, love doesn’t stand a chance.

That’s why in Judaism a husband and wife are not supposed to get so close to a member of the opposite sex to whom they are not married. We’re not supposed to allow lust to grow to such an extent where it begins to challenge love. Love can compete in the long term, but rarely in the short.

And, in truth, lust is one of the most necessary components of a marriage. I pity the husband and wife who have ceased lusting after one another. In so doing they have lost the deep, carnal passion that draws them to one another and makes each feel desirable. We all want to be wanted, need to be needed, desire to be desired.

The Bible concurs. The tenth commandment is that a man should not lust after another man’s wife, which means, by direct implication, that he ought to be lusting after his own wife.

So why do we so disparage lust? Why do we trumpet love at lust’s expense?

For two reasons. First, we mistakenly think that lust is something merely physical. We wrongly attribute it to being of the body. In truth lust is the feverish, intuitive gravitation of masculine to feminine and feminine to masculine. Real lust occurs when there is perfect polar alignment between masculine and feminine opposites. Lust is what magnetizes an otherwise ordinary man and woman to become infatuated with each other. It is not merely of the body but is rather the arrangement of two opposing energies that causes us to passionately incline toward one another.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 3/28/08

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories by e-mail to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215.

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Reader Interest Ignited… Re ‘Incredulous In Lakewood’ – Chronicles 2-15

Dear Rachel,

I have been following the discussion regarding the gas stove whose flame was extinguished on Shabbos. It appears from the original letter and the responses that there is some confusion regarding a gas leak versus carbon monoxide and the dangers involved in each.

The original letter referred to a gas stove that had been left on, but the flame had blown out. In such a situation, gas continues to flow out of the stove, and as there is no flame to consume it, there is a gas buildup in the home − hence the smell of gas, which gets stronger as time progresses and more gas flows out.

In practical terms, this is the equivalent of a gas leak, where a hole in a gas line and gas is leaked into the atmosphere. Breathing in the gas can lead to headaches, but the main danger in such a situation is the risk of explosion. Gas is obviously highly flammable, and the smallest spark, including, for example a spark from static electricity, can cause the gas in the air to combust, leading to an explosion.

Carbon monoxide, on the other hand, is an odorless, colorless gas that is released as the result of combustion (burning of fuel). As it is odorless, it cannot be detected and there is no way to identify its presence until symptoms appear. Carbon monoxide prevents the body from using oxygen, and carbon monoxide poisoning (which occurs from breathing in too much of it) is fatal. This occurs particularly quickly in young children − often even without the early warning signs of headache, nausea and muscle weakness.

All burning produces carbon monoxide: a furnace or hot water heater, a fireplace (gas or wood), and yes, a stove, which is lit. In any situation where there is carbon monoxide production, proper ventilation for carbon monoxide to escape is essential. Chimneys should be cleaned regularly, and whenever a stove or gas oven is left on (over Shabbos and Yom-Tov for example), it is very important to ensure adequate ventilation.

The main hishtadlus everyone should do is to make sure to have working carbon monoxide detectors in the home. Carbon monoxide detectors are similar to smoke detectors, but they go off in response to increasing levels of carbon monoxide. A carbon monoxide detector is the only way to know that your family may be in danger − and such advance warning can save lives.

Thank you for opening up this forum for an important discussion of safety in our communities.

A Concerned Mother of Young Children in Queens

Re “Thank you” – Chronicles 2-22

Dear Sir,

How can a father of a family, one who claims that he loves his wife and his children, stoop so low? How can a Bas Yisroel, a mother of Jewish children, lure a man into a relationship?

Am I shocked? No! Appalled and disappointed, Yes! We unfortunately live in a society where immorality and promiscuity are the norm; therefore nothing shocks me anymore.

You state in your letter that you fell in love in a matter of weeks with “another woman” − who happens to be married to another man and is the mother of his children. A type of love that turns your stomach into mush, you say – a love that you have never felt before.

Dear Friend: Do you know what the definition of love is? Let me enlighten you. Love in the Jewish Tradition: (not in the secular world where they sing the well known song, “First comes love, then comes marriage” etc.) First comes a mutual attraction that results in marriage and develops into a deep and meaningful relationship as the years go by. This equals sharing and caring, putting your spouse’s needs at times before yours, respect and understanding, feeling each other’s pain and frustration The list goes on and on.

What you feel is lust, not love, for a woman you cannot have unless you wreak havoc on her life, as well as on yours − which, to your credit, you have avoided until now. You lust after that “Forbidden Apple” that you cannot have, after the extravagant object that you cannot attain. Let me warn you, human nature from the time of creation is such that once you acquire that which you are “dying for,” it immediately decreases in value.

The seemingly “innocent” phone conversations, her voice on the other end of the line, arouse in you forbidden feelings and desires. There is no such thing as a friendly conversation between a man and a woman who had a past relationship who are still attracted to each other. Keep in mind the disaster of mega proportions that your actions could create if you continue down this path.

Stop!! Run as fast as you can and don’t look back! Cut the cord!

In a moment of insanity, past resolutions can be broken, and if that happens, your home as well as your lady friend’s will crumble and you will both reach a path from where there is no return.

To stray is not our way

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/reader-interest-ignited-re-incredulous-in-lakewood-chronicles-2-15/2008/03/26/

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