The good news is: Acceptance of adultery is going out of style. Nearly two thirds of men and 70% of women now disapprove of all kinds of adultery, compared to about half two decades ago. (BBC News 11/25/13)
This will surprise many people because during the same two decades the acceptance of homosexual relationships has doubled in terms of numbers believing they are “not wrong at all”.
For those who like their percentages explicit: in 1990-91 45% of British men and 53% of British women agreed with the statement “Adultery in marriage is always wrong”.
Twenty years later the figures were up by a third to 63% and 70%
The exact figures for agreeing that “Male same sex relationships are not wrong at all” rose by more than 100%: 1990-91 men 22% and women 29% compared to 2010-12 men 48% and women 66%
The Seventh Commandment reads: Thou shalt not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14)This is one of the Torah’s most obvious and easy to understand commandments.
But what is the meaning of the word “adultery.”
People today tend define it as any act of sexual intercourse between a married person and someone who is not their spouse.
Many Christians however, have argued that adultery should also include lustful thoughts and words because Jesus taught:
“You have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.“ (Matthew 5:27-28)
One can argue that sinful acts usually start with impure thoughts; so to stop sinful acts we must forbid impure thoughts and make people feel guilty for having such sinful thoughts and feelings.
It is not reasonable, however, to equate thoughts or words with adultery itself. Doing so undermines both the concept of adultery and efforts to deal with it.
Also, in Jewish law and philosophy, sinful thoughts and feelings that are not acted upon are not a sin: indeed many rabbis believe that to resist acting upon a sinful thought or feeling is a Mitsvah-a good deed.
People who lust, but do not act upon their lust, should be proud that they resisted transgressing one of God’s most important commandments.
Jesus was an idealistic perfectionist, and while many of his ideas were inspiring; some of them have been counterproductive and harmful. Judaism rejects the idea that bad thoughts, that are not acted upon, can doom one to hell.
There is a satirical fable in the Talmud about Rabbi Hiyya bar Ashi, who continually worried about his sexual impulses.
His wife, after years of sexual neglect, disguised herself and in public flirted with Rabbi Hiyya. He acted like a love sick school boy and climbed to the top a date palm to get her some dates..
When he came home he confessed to his wife that he was depressed because he had flirted with a woman. She told him it was no big deal, because she was the woman. He replied that even if nothing occurred and no one was hurt, his sin was in his desires and intention.
Hiyya should have learned from this experience that in accordance with Jewish law the sexual neglect of his wife was his sin. Instead, the Talmud relates, Rabbi Hiyya blamed himself and started fasting. He fasted so much that he died from his fasting. (Kiddushin 81b)
The story teaches us that Rabbi Hiyya was a super pious, idealistic, perfectionist and it killed him.
Although Judaism does not condemn people who have bad thoughts, it does teach that people are given credit for their good thoughts even if they do not get the opportunity to act on them.
And good thoughts and feelings that are also holy can be effective if they are done as a part of a religious ritual. Holy marital sex is an example.
Marriage-holy matrimony for Jews, is a reenactment by two individuals of the holy covenant first entered into by God and Israel at Sinai; when God and Israel first chose each other.
God chose Israel saying, “You shall be a special treasure for me,,, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:4-5 & Qur’an 5:20). The Jewish people chose God by answering, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (Exodus 19:8).
Torah is a Jewish marriage contract between two covenanted partners. Mitsvot (Jewish responsibilities) are our daily loving interactions.
Torah Study and worship are the pillow talk between God and Israel. Tikunim- Kabbalistic mystical exercises, meditations and sexuality are the intimacies of married life.
Most Jews know that sexual activities between a husband and wife are a Mitsvah. Many Jews know that lovemaking on Shabbat is a double Mitsvah. Some Jews know that the Kabbalah (the Jewish mystical tradition) teaches that the Shekinah (the feminine presence of God) rests on a Jewish man when he makes love to his Jewish wife on Shabbat.
Very few Jews know that the holy Kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria, developed several Tikunim to enable spiritually aware Jewish couples to repair fractured hopes and intentions in those around them, to elevate broken spirits both near and far, and to re-energize efforts to make life holy through a couple’s own lovemaking at night.
These Tikunim are among those referred to as Tikunay Hatzot-mid night spiritual exercises.
Every Jewish wife partakes of some aspects of Leah and some aspects of Rachel. Like Leah, every woman is potentially very fruitful, both emotionally and physically.
Like Rachel, every woman is potentially spellbinding and enthralling.
When her husband regards his wife as a gift from God and loves her totally, faithfully and submissively, his lovemaking and partnership being more to give her pleasure than for his own pleasure, he realizes and actualizes her blessings and God’s blessings.
This is especially important when duress makes her weep openly or inside, All forms of Tikun Hatzot stress this.
Sexual activity prior to midnight increases the aspect of Leah. Sexual activity after midnight and in the pre-dawn or early morning hours increases the aspect of Rachel.
Sexual intercourse with Leah, better known in Lurianic Kabbalah as the face of Imma, the great mother Goddess, helps to reduce negative actions and situations in family and personal affairs.
Sexual intercourse during the second part of the night is with Rachel, who ascends in the morning as Matronita, the ruling presence of Shekinah.
Elevating Matronita helps avoid the worst case public scenarios we fear and helps increases the number of small but important contributions to the improvement of Jewish and world society.
One who regards his wife as a gift from God will pray in her intimate presence.
These Tikunim should be done every Shabbat and if desired once or twice during weekdays. They are not magic but if done faithfully they always have a positive impact over time.
A Hassidic mystic, Rabbi Nathan Hanover, adds, “After you perform Tikun Hatzot, prepare yourself and unify the Holy One with Shekinah by making your body, each and every limb, a chariot for Shekinah.”
Thus sexual activity should end with the wife above, feeling she is Shekinah; the ruling Matronita blessing her husband and raising to heaven, with her husband below feeling that he serves as a mystical Merkavah-chariot (as did the Holy Temple in Jerusalem) elevating her to the heavens.
This helps actualize their thoughts and desires and promotes remedies, rectifications, and blessings for those around them and throughout the world.
For more information about Jewish views of mystical sexual relations see my book: God, Sex and Kabbalah or my web site: rabbimaller.com