Sometimes it seems our Western world has been turned on its head. Things previously unthinkable are permitted, encouraged and even mandated in today’s society. Same-gender marriage is the most striking example. Many would see this, by very definition, as a contradiction in terms. Leaving aside marriage, the relationships themselves were illegal in the UK just decades ago. Now it is hazardous even to speak against them, for fear of infringing the code of “political correctness” – a modern trendy doctrine that has been stretched to absurdity.
The media has become obsessed with sexuality. It is virtually impossible to turn on the radio or read a newspaper without the risk of being bombarded by discussion and explicit reportage on the most intimate personal behaviour. One cannot help feeling media personalities simply relish talking about it.
Pornography is rampant as never before. The youngest children have access to technology that exposes them to indecent data and images that damage their minds. Public advertisements with provocative pictures contribute to the perpetuation of a licentious environment.
Prominent personalities from every walk of life are being accused daily of abuse and harassment , often historical. Of course the acts they may have committed are reprehensible.
If judicially proven, they warrant severe punishment. But it has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous, when a man who makes any kind of patronising comment or advance towards a woman who then chooses to complain can be condemned and ostracised out of hand.
Equally alarming is the blurring and distorting of the most natural distinction since Creation – that between male and female.
Teachers within certain education authorities have been advised not to address boys as “boys” or girls as “girls” for fear of upsetting those who may be uncomfortable with their gender.
An incredible court judgment recently held an all-boys’ and all-girls school sharing the same campus breached sex discrimination laws.
From our Jewish perspective (and probably that of other faiths too ), these developments are highly disturbing, especially now we have reached the point where our orthodox schools are being required to teach matters of sex and sexuality in the classroom under the spurious cloak of “relationships” and “protected characteristics” – a rank violation of our faith. How are “British values” and “community cohesion” served when Ofsted inspectors can quiz Charedi schoolchildren on same-gender relationships?
If ever there were a time when the profound wisdom and relevance of the Jewish laws of chastity and modesty were incontrovertibly visible, it is now. Some, even among our own fraternity, speak disparagingly of our laws as narrow-minded and outdated. How wrong and misguided they are! Yes, Judaism forbids sexual relationships outside marriage. Women are indeed obliged to dress modestly and unprovocatively, which is the greatest tribute and respect to their femininity. Yes, parents have been exhorted by rabbinical leaders to restrict the availability of the internet to their young children. True, the strictly-Orthodox community has its own challenges and is far from perfect. But its problems are minimal compared with those within society as a whole.
Our Torah and rabbinical teachings are our greatest protection. We should treasure and never be ashamed of them, for they are the foundation of morality in this world. And those who cannot personally identify with them should at least respect and understand those who do.