- Torah Portion and Tanach
- Achrei Mot
Although the entire gamut of Torah commandments is discussed in this week's Torah reading, nevertheless it is obvious that the major emphasis is on the subject of sexual morality. It is almost impossible to even discuss this subject in the current climate of politically correct Western liberalism, which justifies any type of human behavior in this area and where even discussing this situation brings upon one the approbation of being bigoted and intolerant. Yet in the long run of human history the current acceptance of unrestricted sexual freedom has had many precedents. The power of the sexual drive in human beings is not a recent phenomenon. Psychiatrists and psychologists all recognize the sexual drive as being one of the primary physical wants and drives of all human behavior. The Torah certainly recognized the primacy of this physical drive in our lives. In fact, the Torah therefore devoted much detail and instruction in this matter in order to achieve a balanced and positive channeling of his drive. For it is the basic drive that preserves human continuity and generational existence. The Talmud points out to us that without the existence of this drive in nature generally no hen would lay an egg and life as we know it would disappear. Judaism therefore never denied or even denigrated the necessary existence of the sexual drive in nature. It never preached celibacy; on the contrary it always promoted the concept of marriage and physical union between spouses. What it did oppose, and still opposes is the wanton "everything goes" attitude toward sexual behavior. Eventually all of society pays a heavy price for unrestricted sexual behavior.
The Torah therefore speaks to us in terms of being kedoshim. This word is usually translated and used as a term for holiness. This is undoubtedly correct. But like most Hebrew words the word also conveys a different and perhaps more subtle meaning to it. It also means "dedicated." In fact, one can say that the primary thrust of Judaism is that one should live a life dedicated to service of God and of man with vision and appreciation of the true meaning of life and its gifts. Being dedicated in terms of Jewish life means valuing the concept of family, the necessity of continuity of generations and the primacy of proper behavior regarding others particularly and in society generally. It is the dedication to these goals that translates itself into the idea of holiness. The lack of any code of sexual morality makes any such dedication impossible. Unfortunately we live in an age where holiness is at best a curiosity and certainly not the goal of most people. But the Torah in its eternal vision demands from us holiness in all ages and societies. The ancient classical world of Persia, Egypt, Greece and Rome, mighty as these empires were, nevertheless disappeared because of their inability to maintain a society based on paganism and sexual freedom. No high sounding slogans about tolerance and acceptance of everything will eventually save Western society from such a fate as well. The Torah cautioned us regarding this inevitable rule of human society and we are therefore bidden to maintain the traditional standards of Jewish behavior in this matter no matter what.