Forbidden Relationships Listed in Yom Kippur Torah Reading

One of portions of the Torah read out loud on Yom Kippur (during the Mincha service) contains a listing of deviant sexuality and relationships that are forbidden because “Anee Hashem” for G-d Himself has declared them so.

We are not scared of discussing such subjects head-on, and the Torah in plain, clear language tells folks what is on the “don’t” list in physical relationships.

The whole listing first starts with the Passuk [verse] that says, “I am Hashem, your G-d”.  The Meshech Chachma says that before giving us the list of forbidden relationships, G-d tells us that if He said we are forbidden to have these relationships, we can be sure that we are able to control any desires to have that relationship, because Hashem created us and knows our limitations and capabilities.  Therefore, if Hashem says a sister and brother cannot have a physical relationship, we know that there is no person who is created biologically in a way that makes it impossible for them to control themselves and not have that kind of relationship.  This goes for any of the forbidden sexualities.  If Hashem said no to the relationship, we can control ourselves and not have that relationship.  No one can claim he/she cannot control desires.  Note, it doesn’t say it is easy to control, but that it is doable.  {And a challenge for Torah sleuths – which desires might not be able to be controlled and, therefore, guidelines are set up if and when that desire strikes a person?}

The Chofetz Chaim writes that he doesn’t understand why people are horrified if someone does one of the wrong things listed in this Parsha, but then can’t care less when someone does other wrong things.  As an example, the Chofetz Chaim says that if a brother and sister got married, we would say, “Horrors – how dare they go against Hashem and do such a disgusting thing.”  But when folks randomly sleep around, we don’t say that, even though it is clear from this Parsha that it is also disgusting to Hashem when we do that.  Wrong is wrong, not based on our flawed logic, but based on what G-d said is wrong.

Hashem created our bodies, He created our desires, and He told us how to use it right.  It is sad when we take this beautiful gift He gave us called sexuality and misuse it. In fact, what we do when we misuse it is rob ourselves of what could have been.

Let me explain.  Many moons ago, I mentored some street toughs.  One of the kids, a gang member, ended up staying with me for a bit, along with her misbehaving mutt, a mangy creature with crooked teeth and a propensity to bite.  The mutt also had certain desires not under control, and, therefore, acted like an animal, to put it quite politely.  I wondered some days, how could I have been so blessed as to be forced to put up with that dog’s off-kilter out-of-control behavior.  And then, one day, when it was time to give a lecture to a group of my street toughs about abstinence until marriage I knew why G-d had sent that mutt to me.  I was able to demonstrate animalistic behavior, right up close.  I was then able to explain that there are those who have a more refined physical relationship, one that is not of the “use whatever you got nearby” variety.  Most of the kids got the message loud and clear and most of them decided they wanted sexuality only in the context of commitment of a healthy marriage.  Most didn’t want to turn into an object being used for the moment by someone who didn’t learn to control desires.

Sex, it can be G-dly and nurturing…or it can turn humans into animals.


About jewishspectacles

Jewish Spectacles-the kind you look through, not the kind you create!
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2 Responses to Forbidden Relationships Listed in Yom Kippur Torah Reading

  1. Gavi says:

    I think the guidelines are for yefas to’ar in ki seitzei…

    • 100% right. Ding,ding,ding (or however clangs the bell for right answers). There are other more subtle examples that commentators say also have that aspect to them. But the one you cited is the one we know as a definite fact that it is a desire that is really out of control and not healthy, but might not be able to be controllable and, therefore, has guidelines to it.
      Two others…permanent slavery — that the world economy at a certain point made some folks think that life was not possible without owning slaves, hence there are guidelines IF a person had a slave. Another one is a pregnant woman who wants to eat on Yom Kippur.

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