“The following five points if followed, would virtually end sexual misconduct and cure most of the woes of modern society in this arena.”
By Rabbi Jacob Rupp
Shortly after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, an anti-Semitic article was written in which it stated that his behavior supported an old stereotype that Jewish people were ‘pervy.’
Weinstein’s behavior is certainly not in keeping with Jewish practice.
The Torah, as the foundation of Jewish law and practice for over 3,300 years, contains laws and concepts so progressive that they outdo the most stringent modern workplace guides against sexual misconduct.
The following five points from the Torah, if followed, would virtually end sexual misconduct and cure most of the woes of modern society in this arena.
1. Sexuality is private and modesty is an asset.
After Adam and his wife ate the forbidden fruit, their selfish nature awoke, and as a result they were aware they were naked. The fact that one person could become the object of another’s gratification left Adam and Chava (Eve) feeling vulnerable. As a kindness, God clothed them. The lesson? Looks are deceiving, and people are easily affected by what they see. A witness to a horrific incident may need as much therapy as one who experiences it. Since we are more than our bodies and our sexuality, we cover up the physical aspects of our bodies because we don’t want other people to evaluate who we are as a person/make assumptions about us based on how we look.
Despite Judaism putting a value on physical health and beauty, these traits aren’t the sum total of who we are; our character is. Therefore, we strive to express ourselves through who we are, rather than how we look and how we dress.
2. Sexuality is a reflection of our humanity
The Torah notes that animals of both genders were created in one utterance from God, whereas people, male and female, were created in two. From here our sages explain that human sexuality and gender are far more complex than simple biology, as is the case with animals. We don’t just pick a mate. Who we are, how we identify, and how we interact when it comes to the intimate areas of our lives are a unique expression of us as individuals. One intimate life, and which partner(s) they choose should be a profound expression of the self. Respecting other’s sexuality is about seeing him or her as a person worthy of respect, instead of an object to be conquered or used for selfish pleasure. It is as simple as recognizing the humanity of another.
3. Sexuality needs commitment
The Torah introduces intimacy in the context of marriage, teaching that the best use of intimacy is in a committed relationship. This is because sex, rather than a vehicle of pleasure or procreation, is the most profound way two people can bond with each other. The Torah describes the first humans’ physical relations by saying “Adam knew his wife,” meaning he related to her on the deepest level. The more potent something is, the more it must be guarded. In the same way nuclear secrets should only be shared between committed allies, or a massive capital investment should only happen between partners with a high level of trust in one another, sexuality which can create great levels or personal pain or pleasure, should exist only where there is trust and commitment.
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4. Touch is sacred
Like sight, touch also can be highly deceiving. Touch creates positive (or negative) sensations in the brain that stimulate the feeling of connection between two parties. Studies show that a server who touches a patron on the hand or arm while handing him a check is far more likely to get a higher tip. Touch makes us feel close to one another, and as such we should avoid touch where the outcome of two people coming together is ill advised. As a general rule, we don’t touch people with whom the risk of “getting the wrong message” could happen. Imagine how this rule alone would completely change the game when it came to sexual misconduct in the workplace.
5. Space shared with another is sacred
There is a sliding definition of “risky behavior.” Unfortunately, when lines are not clear, boundaries are often crossed. Jewish law forbids two people with whom an inappropriate relationship could occur (think opposite genders, or adults with children) to be secluded with each other.
The natural fear that people have of their errant behavior becoming public knowledge prevents them from acting inappropriately. When meeting with others, one should leave the door open, or convene in an area that others could realistically walk in and interrupt.
The other side of this law is that privacy creates intimacy. There is a custom at a Jewish wedding that the bride and groom spend their first moments of married life in privacy to signify their new commitment to each other. One of the reasons why passion and intimacy has become such a fleeting commodity in the modern era is because people showcase so much of their personal lives via social media. This makes us jealous, less satisfied, and always seeking ‘more.’
The Torah teaches that we sell ourselves short when we promote our physical appearance as our greatest asset. We lose our humanity when we don’t see the humanity in the object of our desire, but instead see that person as a tool for our personal fulfilment. Intimacy belongs in the safety of commitment, and to prevent crossing boundaries, the Torah advises us to limit our touch and our seclusion with those to whom we don’t have said committed relationship.
Imagine that—all of our modern woes cured in a 3,300 year old book!
Before JACOB RUPP started his career as a rabbi and coach, empowering people to find their spiritual destiny and create the lives they desire, he had his share of obstacles to overcome. Battling obesity and growing up with a verbally abusive alcoholic father, Jacob struggled to find meaning in his life, and make sense of his reform Jewish upbringing. Though he fought his mother each time she suggested he learn more about his Judaism, he discovered while in college that learning Torah had the potential to unlock his deepest needs for contribution and self discovery. Jacob’s story is a perfect example of how anyone can overcome the obstacles in their life and achieve their higher calling. Fast forward a few short years, and Jacob has been able to empower hundreds of people develop their spiritual identity, get healthy, and live a life on their own terms. Despite failing Hebrew three times in college, being rejected from reform Rabbinical school, and having lost all contact with his father from the time he was in high school, Jacob persevered. He lost over 100lbs, has spent over a decade in Jewish outreach, and is using his experience to show that anything is possible. He is now happily married for over ten years, has four amazing children, is an orthodox rabbi, published author, artist, and fitness enthusiast.