Vayikra 19;29 warns a father not to prostitute his daughter. Ritva and Ramban offer less than obvious insights which seem to me to put the verse in a broader, more contemporary illuminating context.
The obvious prohibition warns a father against arranging a non-marital sexual relationship for his daughter. Rashi (and Rabbenu Yonah in Sha’arei Teshuvah) think the verse means to ban any sexuality outside of marriage. We would all know to include what people today refer to as one-night stands or hookups; Rashi and Rabbenu Yonah add even concubinage arrangements, where the parties intend a long term monogamous relationship (on her side), although without kiddushin, the sanctifying ceremony before the full marriage (in our weddings, the ring ceremony). In plain words, they understand the Torah to object to living together as much as to casual sex.
Shu”t Ha-Ritva 43 thinks the verse prohibits putting any woman in a position where she is likely to act improperly. He was addressing a case where a certain woman seemed precluded from marrying; Ritva notes she is young, good-looking, and finds abstinence difficult. He says they are obligated to find her a road to marriage, otherwise they are burdening her with a perhaps irresistible temptation to promiscuous relations. Placing such an onus on her violates our verse, constitutes being mechalel her le-haznotah,.
Ramban’s version of Vayikra Rabbah 24;5 adds another nuance. The Midrash says Kedoshim would be read at Hakhel, the every-seven–years’ ceremony where the entire people gathered to reconnect with Torah (In the beautiful Hakhel-memorial ceremonies the Chief Rabbinate of Israel organizes in our times, they use a different set of readings for Hakhel).
The beginning of Kedoshim serves the purposes of the ceremony, R. Chiyya says, because rov gufei Torah, most of the essential aspects of the Torah, are included in it (he does not specify rov gufei Torah).
- Levi says Kedoshim works because all the ideas of the ‘Aseret Ha-Dibberot are included, and shows how each is reflected here. For Lo Tinaf, do not commit adultery, the Midrash points to Vayikra 20;10, both parties to adultery shall be put to death. While the verse does exactly parallel adultery, it’s the only verse the Midrash uses as a parallel for the Ten Pronouncements which comes from chapter 20.
Ramban cites the Midrash (in verse 4) with all the same parallel verses as in our version, other than for lo tinaf. There, he quotes our verse, a father may not arrange non-marital sex for his daughter. The verse is in chapter 19, making it a better fit with the other verses, although it’s about a non-adulterous relationship, where lo tinaf most simply speaks about adultery. I have no idea whether he made the change, or this was his version of the Midrash.
Either way, placing the verse in the Midrash encourages us to think of lo tinaf as covering more than adultery. When Jews assembled every seven years for a national reminder of what grounds their relationship with Hashem, this Midrash held one component to be the centrality of proper sexuality.
Ritva thought the Torah did not mean to put humans in a position to struggle with what would otherwise be acceptable sexual urges. Those who foster non-permissible sexuality, on the other hand, fill the land with zimah, sexual immorality.
In Parshat Acharei Mot, Rashi said the Torah refers to kedushah always in the context of abstinence from improper sexual relations. Here, the Torah tells fathers (and, in Ramban’s Vayikra Rabbah, tells all of us, at Hakhel) to be sure we order society with proper sexual mores.
Currently, Jews live in a world which denies many of the Torah’s views about what constitutes proper sexuality. I suspect it has been true more often than we stop to notice—the end of Shofetim speaks of a pilegesh, which Rashi thought our verse prohibited; Chazal understood the Torah’s prohibition (in Acharei Mot) of acting as the Egyptians and Canaanites to refer to homosexual marriage and polyandry (a woman marrying two men).
Sexuality was never simple, I am suggesting, and the Torah in Acharei Mot and Kedoshim wants us to absorb its insistence on heterosexual marriage as the sole appropriate outlet for our sexuality because many other versions will tempt various people, not in ignorance of the fact.
Or, as Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks says in his Yom Kippur machzor, to explain the reading of the list of sexual sins at Minchah on Yom Kippur, monotheism introduced sexual ethics to the world.
Including a father guiding his daughter towards marriage rather than other unions she might have found acceptable.