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Protecting the sanctity of intimacy

Friday, 19 April, 2013 - 11:50 am

As the Boston saga unfolds and the sad details are released, it really brings out the yearning for a time that Isaiah speaks of when, “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all of My holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of G-d, as the waters cover the sea.” As I write these words, the people of the Boston area are still under lockdown. The families of the victims and those that were injured are still reeling from the shocking experience. Certainly all of America and caring people the world over support them and wish them well during this terrible time. We pray for healing and comfort as well as for the success of the law enforcement personnel who are trying to put an end to this nightmare.

In this week’s double portion we read twice about the prohibitions of forbidden relationships. Indeed Jewish law has many safeguards in place to prevent the possibilities of these relationships to develop. Some of these restrictions are sometimes regarded as extreme and unnecessary – yet the Torah sees human nature and determines that they are neither extreme nor unnecessary. (Indeed if our society adopted some of these measures, the number of harassments and inappropriate workplace interactions would decrease significantly – not to mention the destruction of people’s personal lives.) It would seem that the Torah is obsessed with intimacy and relationships. Why indeed is there so much legislation in Halacha governing this area of life?

Kabbala teaches that the higher the spiritual source the greater the potential for falling very low. The Tanach, the Talmud and Kabbala very often employ the analogy of marriage and love as a metaphor for the relationship between Hashem and the world and more specifically the Jewish people. This imagery is used because the nature of intimacy is a physical reflection - a mirror image – of this divine spiritual phenomenon. As such intimacy in its proper setting can be one of the loftiest spiritual experiences – a reflection of G-dliness.

However there is also the potential for falling very low when it is out of the proper setting. Therefore the Torah has so many safeguards in place to protect the sanctity of intimacy. We are surrounded by a society which has cavalierly removed all of the boundaries and safeguards. There are robust industries devoted to the free fall of morality. We have come to view this sacred experience as a casual good time without regard for consequence – be they short term or long term – physical or spiritual.

So we read this week’s Parsha and its extra strength message of morality and sanctity. We need to internalize the message and apply it in our lives so that indeed we live up to Hashem’s command, “Kedoshim Tihiyu – holy you shall be.”

Mazel  tov to Ilan and Sarah Fuchs upon the birth of their daughter.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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