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The Jewish View
By Avi Lazerson
In one week, the US news agencies reported that sodomy was no longer considered a crime and in another story, reported that a man was accused of raping several girls between the ages of ten and twelve years. During that week, there was talk in the papers of the new understanding of relationships between consenting adults, and at the same time, condemnation and calls for lengthy jail sentences for men who abuse minors.
Interestingly enough, the Jewish view of this news is a bit strange, at least in the eyes of the contemporary world. According to the laws of the Torah, acts of sodomy, homosexual relationships and adultery, especially when the adults are consenting, result in the death penalty. Rape of minors, on the other hand, is considered as a case of damages, and the perpetrator must pay, who? The father!
Now it is conceivable that the question should be raised, what is the reason for the Torah to be so severe in its penalty, especially in acts of sodomy and homosexuals, who do not hurt anyone, and only concern two consenting adults. And on the other side, a rapist of young girls, why should the Torah, let him off with a small payment of damages, when in reality, he is a sick person and inflicts harm on innocent young girls.
The answer could well be that in the case of sodomy, homosexual relationships, and adultery, the Torah is not concerned with physical damages, but rather in moral degradation of society. We could say that the Torah views the purpose of sex is not for the goal of pleasure but rather in procreation, even though pleasure is derived through sex. Sodomy, homosexual behavior, and adultery tear the moral fiber of society and reduce the social values to a hedonistic striving only.
In the view of the Torah, life reaches its apex in the service of G-d. As man approaches G-d he must put his desires aside, and supplant them with the wishes of his creator.
The world has gone through subtle changes since the time of the Torah. The concept of marriage three thousand years ago was never considered as a romantic situation, but rather a pragmatic relationship in which the participants could provide for each other and at the same time create a family. Remember, that early marriages were not just a husband and a wife, but a husband and several wives. A successful marriage was one in which the husband was a good provider and the wife (or wives) was an enterprising home-person. Romance was rarely a reason for marriage and more likely than not, not a part of it. Marriages were bartered and the ability to make a living and to support a family was a prime consideration in the selection of a husband, and the industriousness and character of the woman, plus the dowry, an important factor in making the match.
As time progressed, the principles and guidelines of marriage began to change. First the marriage as a polygamous union was changed. Early marriages were one many, many wives. With a relationship like this, were the wife was only one of many vying for the attention of the husband, the women's role was obviously different from that of today. Marriage eventually changed to a monogamous one.
The next change came later, in the so-called modern era. In the last several hundred years has the concept of romance become a prime point of match making. The couples started deciding for themselves if they felt the match was appropriate based on their own feelings.
As the romantic element grew in making marriage not only a framework for procreation, but also for sharing intimacy, it changed the scope of marriage. Marriage was no longer a framework for continuation of life; it became a source for personal happiness and intimacy. The quest for intimacy and bonding of hearts became vogue, and a marriage transformed into being the grounds of personal happiness. Older concepts of marriage died and were replaced by newer ones.
In addition, in our times, the ability of the individual to earn enough money to take care of himself plus all of his/her personal needs short circuited the needs for marriage. If personal pleasure is the main pursuit in life, then all others aspects of life must become subjected to that desire.
The Torah, however, sees life differently. That action of giving of one's seed is looked at as a sacred act. Man gives of himself to create another. To waste this G-d given act by expending his seed in a manner in which bears no resemblance to creation, is abhorrent. One who wastes his seed in a manner to take a momentary but perverted pleasure is a person who takes not just his creation lightly, but more seriously, thwarts his Creators plans for all of mankind.
Similarly, sexual acts involving men with animals are also prohibited by the Torah. There is no redeeming aspect of this type of act. It is merely a degradation of G-d given gift of life. Those who throw off life by engaging in such perversion are liable to the death penalty under the laws of the Torah.
A rapist, while certainly not from the desirable types of people, has used a person in a manner not becoming. However, since he has not caused any deep physical damage, but depreciated the girl's ability to marry, he must pay damages to the father. Foul as he may be, he directed his sexual act in the correct direction. However, his crime was that it was not within the framework of marriage.
from the August 2003 Edition of the Jewish Magazine