Parshios Acharei Mos & Kedoshim
Following Torah Standards
The Torah in both of these parshiyot of the week seems to place a great deal
of concentration on issues of sexuality and intimacy. Human sexual behavior
in the eyes of the Torah forms one of the three bases of civilization and of
a human being’s relationship to its creator. The Torah views it as a matter
of both physical and spiritual life and death.
In a very detailed fashion, the Torah outlines for us the liaisons between
humans that are permitted and forbidden. These laws have been the basis of
Jewish life and of much of the rest of humankind as well for millennia on
end. The world has witnessed great swings in what is accepted as acceptable
social and sexual behavior. However the principles of the Torah have
remained unchanged, proven safeguards to family and society.
The Torah recognized sexuality as one of the driving forces of human
existence. It literally is the primary force of human creativity. Such a
powerful force needs to be guided and harnessed for good purposes. Unchecked
it can lead to destruction and disaster.
So the Torah regulated it and channeled it into productivity and creativity
and away from wanton behavior and disastrous promiscuity. Today’s society
has set much looser norms in these matters and therefore the entire family
structure, which is the backbone of society, is being endangered. The rabbis
of the Talmud, foreseeing such a periodic decline in morality and sexual
behavior, insisted that these laws be read publicly on Yom Kippur. The way
to holiness and purity and to forgiveness lies in the observance of this
code of behavior.
The Roman Catholic Church is currently deeply embroiled in its scandal of
priestly pedophilia. Our society is also not free of this scourge that
traumatizes and damages the lives of all involved, usually in a permanent
fashion. When the perpetrators of such behavior hide behind religion and
long frocks the damage done to society and faith is even greater.
There is no nice pedophile and these people should certainly not be
protected at the potential expense of other victims. A society that
tolerates such malefactors is complicit in the immorality and evil of their
behavior. The Torah points out the severity of their behavior by indicating
the severity of punishment that they are held to.
To the Torah it is clearly a matter of life and death that is involved and
this type of serious judgment is intended to set a standard of behavior and
of probity for the entire community. Because of the strength of this
physical drive within us, the Talmud warned us that no one is above
temptation or abuse of trust. And, therefore, no one should be seen as being
somehow above the law in these matters as well.
There is no escaping the standards of behavior that the Torah has set for us
in these matters. And to emphasize the matter, these standards are repeated
again in the Torah in order that we may benefit from this guidance and
aspire truly to holiness and purity in ourselves, our families and community.
Rabbi Berel Wein