Sexual Ethics are integral to Judaism because they provided direct guidance on how to behave morally and in accordance with the Torah and God. Although, over many years Jews were suffering from persecution, they are currently showing stability which can be attributed to the framework that is outlined through the strong ethics that they uphold. Sexual ethics provide guidance on how to behave morally, righteously and in accordance to the Torah as well as preventing promiscuity, infidelity, immorality and sexual acts which hinder the constancy of Judaism.
The teachings on Adultery, homosexuality, contraception and pre-marital sex provide a framework for Jewish conduct through re-iterating the principle beliefs of monogamy, procreation, fidelity and the covenant made between Moses, Abraham and God in a practical manner. Sexually ethical conduct is essential as it promotes behaviour that is respectful, consensual, faithful, morally correct and righteous. Sexually ethical conduct provides Judaism with moral framework for procreation, fidelity and the ability to maintain faith.
Adultery is the most valued sexual ethical teaching in Judaism because it breaks the covenant made between Abraham and Moses and defies the principle beliefs of love and fidelity.
Adultery directly defies the Jewish belief of love, commitment and the sacred institution of marriage and is immoral because it put in jeopardy the family unit which disintegrates love between partners and inturn breaks honest and trust. In addition to this, as monotheists, Jews believe in fidelity and procreation and adultery damages and destabilises the social framework for Jewish conduct thus providing behaviour that is evil and unethical.
The universal condemnation of adultery by Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Liberal Jews indicates that adultery is immoral as it breaks the word of God. The united stance on adultery reflects the value of marriage and this is evident in the Torah where it states, “Do not commit adultery” in the Ten Commandments. This is further emphasised in the commandment, “You shall not covet your neighbours wife. ” Furthermore, the universal condemnation of adultery by all Jewish variants reflects Jewish beliefs as t protects society from promiscuity, disease and deformed birth which have the potential to jeopardise the framework for Jewish conduct and hence continue the tradition in stability and morality.
This results in society being spiritually and ritually clean, also promote the belief of fidelity and honesty, which will inturn encourage Judaism to be moral and stable. Sexually ethical conduct is crucial promotes the beliefs in God’s true intentions; that love was between a man and a woman. In addition to this, the morality and stability of Judaism is affected by the restriction of procreation which comes with the act of homosexuality.
The importance of life and procreation is clearly evident in the Jewish stance on homosexuality as Jewish religion and community is against homosexuality, regarding it as sinful, whether gay or lesbian, as it destabilises the framework for Jewish conduct. Homosexuality is not the ideal state in Judaism and is a challenge to the ideal of marriage and family as it inhibits longevity and continuity of the tradition thus destabilising the religion through immoral acts. It is important to note that it is homosexual acts, not homosexual orientations that are forbidden as Judaism focuses on a person’s actions rather than a person’s desires.
In addition to this, it defies sodomy, hence promoting the principle beliefs of fidelity and ritual cleanliness. Homosexuality defies the direct word of God to ‘Go forth and multiply’ (Genesis 1:28), because it promotes infidelity, ritual uncleanliness and consequently jeopardising the framework for Jewish conduct. This can be reinforced as stated it Leviticus, “No man is to have sexual relations with another man, God hates that”. (18:22). Such an act is condemned in the strongest possible terms as it is abhorrent and is punishable by death by the Orthodox Jews.
The Orthodox stance on homosexuality can be reinforced as Leviticus states, “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death” (20:13). Furthermore, progressive and conservative jews are more likely to accept homosexuality, but those who are homosexual are discouraged from practising and expressing their inclination. The act of homosexuality may not be an ideal state in Judaism but due to modern advancements, is slowly making its way into becoming accepted.
Sexually ethical conduct is essential as it allows Jews to follow a framework that has established the belief in the need for procreation. The act of spilling seed directly defies and destabilises the belief in procreation and the right to bear children with your partner. In addition to this, the act of contraception defies the mitzvah to marry, procreate and have children. The methods of contraception allowed under Jewish law are those that don’t damage the sperm or prevent it from getting to the intended destination, such as contraceptive pill. This is because the Tenakh states that God wanted humans to populate the earth.
The religious view on birth control is based on the principle that it is a commandment to marry and have children and it is forbidden to “waste seed”. This law is based on the story of Onan (Gen 38:8-10) who was killed by God for practicing coitus interruptus as a means of birth control. Contraception also interferes with procreation, taught in the first commandment of the Torah; “Be fruitful and multiply”. Furthermore, reformed and liberal Jews allow birth control for a large number of reasons, such a reason may be when the pregnancy may in anyway harm the carrier of the baby.
However, Orthodox Jews are more restrictive and believe that contraception shouldn’t be used for selfish reasons or to completely avoid having children. Through this sexual ethical teaching, Judaism has been able to maintain a framework by which it can remain in a righteous and unwavering state. Sexually ethical conduct is fundamental to the stability and morality of Judaism as it provides guidelines to the correct way to treat marriage and the fact that it is disrespectful to defy the belief in love and marriage.
In additions to this, acts that defy love are considered insolent and go against the moral framework that guides Judaism. Judaism believes in the importance of marriage in the development and completeness of the human being and that a person must take responsibility for the partner and relationships must continue. Thus, Judaism doesn’t permit sexual relations between partners prior to marriage, as a sexual act itself is such a powerful force in defining a relationship. A sexual failure can destroy a relationship despite prior declarations of love.
The only way to ensure that there will be some degree of responsibility after sex through the act of marriage. In the Torah, the word used for sex means “to know”, which indicates that Jews believed sex involved the heart and mind as well as the body. The divine idea that a man and woman are to become “one flesh” (Gen 2:24), indicated sacred elements presents, the sexual act symbolising the union of those created in God’s image. Thus, all strains of Judaism view sex as permissible only within the sanctity of marriage.
This view enables Judaism to remain honest and secure because of the framework that they follow. To conclude, Sexual Ethics are vital to Judaism because they provided direct guidance on how to behave morally and in accordance with the Torah and God. Sexual ethics as demonstrated and described in the Torah include Adultery, Homosexuality, Contraception and Pre-marital sex. Each of these plays a pivotal role in providing a framework for the conduct that Jews must follow to ensure that the tradition may continue in stability and morality.