Sunday, August 18, 2013

Views which grate on modern sensibilities:Sexual abuse is less serious than using an inaccurate commerical scale


Update:8/18/13Rape: Different perspectives through history
Update 8/1813 I was in Beit Shemesh for Shabbos. The Rav of the shul gave a drasha about Yafas To'ar based on the Ohr HaChaim (Devarim 21:11)  -  that sometimes rape is the result of spiritual attraction. He also explains the rape of Dinah in this way. This Ohr Hachaim in my opinion is inconsistent with Chazal and clearly grates on modern sensibilities. [The Ohr HaChaim mentions in about 5 places that he sometimes presents views that disagree with Chazal] I mentioned  to the rav that I was not aware of a single other commentary which expresses such a view  While he also didn't know of anyone else who gives this explaiantion - he didn't seem to understand what I found problematic with the Ohr HaChaim. [In contrst there is no mention of any spiritual significance to rape in his commentary  Bereishis 34:1 regarding Dinah and Shechem]
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Update 8/18/13 Chofetz Chaim says that the  Torah indicates that slander is worse than rape

ספר שמירת הלשון ח"ב - פרק כב
"וענשו אתו מאה כסף, כי הוציא שם רע על בתולת ישראל" (דברים כ"ב י"ט). ואיתא בערכין (דף ט"ו.) במשנה, נמצא האומר בפיו חמור מן העושה מעשה, [שעל אונס ומפתה אין צריך לתן, רק חמשים כסף, וגם אינו מתחיב מלקות, מה שאין כן במוציא שם רע]. ונוכל לומר, דזוהי כונת הכתוב (עמוס ד' י"ג), "כי הנה יוצר הרים וברא רוח ומגיד לאדם מה שחו". והינו שהאדם, כשהוא מתבונן לפרקים על עניניו, אינו מתבונן, רק על מעשיו, אבל אודות דבוריו אינו חושב כלל, כי חושב בנפשו, מה קלקול יוכל להגיע על ידי דבור, הלא הוא דבר שאין בו ממש? אבל באמת לא כן הוא, כי הקלקול שמגיע למעלה על ידי דבוריו הוא הרבה יותר ממה שמגיע על ידי מעשיו.
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I just received the following letter which raises a very important question. It seems at first glance at this gemora that either our evaluation of sexual abuse and sin is too high or that of theft is too low.

Dear Rav Eidensohn

I am just working on Yevamot (21a) and I came across this Gemara, which states that the sin of uneven measures is worse than the sin of arayot, because one can do teshuva for the latter:
Yevamos (21a)[Soncino translation and notes] For R. Levi said: The punishments for [false] measures are more rigorous than those for [marrying] forbidden relatives; for in the latter case the word used is El, but in the former Eleh. — El implies rigour, but Eleh implies greater rigour than El. Is not Eleh written also In connection with forbidden relatives? -That [Eleh has been written] to exclude [the sin of false] measures from the penalty of kareth. In what respect, then, are they more rigorous? — In the case of the former, repentance is possible; in that of the latter repentance is impossible. [Bava Basra 88b - One cannot by mere repentance make amends for robbing. The return of the things robbed must precede penitence. In the case of false measures it is practically impossible to trace all the individual members of the public that were defrauded.]
Perhaps this goes some way to explain why incest and other sexual crimes are not treated as seriously as they should be in certain communities. Firstly, the possibility of real teshuva is something which I imagine psychotherapists would challenge. But the Gemara says it is possible. And incest (or other sexual sins) are not as bad as stealing (though I know that in some communities stealing is also not considered such a serious sin).
                           Regards, 
                             D.

Artscroll answers the question based on Rashi (Yevamos 21a) that as long as a mamzer didn't result from the sexual sins it is possible to do complete teshuva. In contrast stealing from the masses when it is not known who the customers are and thus can't return what was stolen and thus can never completely repent. Thus the gemora is not saying that sexual sins are less severe than stealing but rather that the punishment from false measures is more inevitable than for sexual sins. "Thus although the arayos transgressions carry the harsher penalty (kares), the punishment for using false measures is more severe in the aspect of its virtual inevitability, due to the extreme difficult of performing proper penitence to preclude it."

29 comments :

  1. This is a very interesting Gemara, but I think it is suggesting that our evaluation of theft is too low rather than of arayot being too high.

    If we start with the assumption that arayos are seen as very severe by most "normal" people, it is teaching us the importance of weights and measures. And this is not even speaking about sexual abuse, but forbidden (willful) marriages.

    The danger is reading this and concluding that since we all might fiddle this scale or that measure, then perhaps arayos are not as bad as they are cracked up to be.

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    1. The gemara is definitely speaking of the severity of theft. However the vast majority of forbidden relations are cases of incest (with the exception of eshet ish, homosexuality and nida). Almost every case of incest I have heard of has involved abuse. Perhaps things were different back in the time of the Gemara. But more likely abuse was not a term they used. The gemara does not seem to consider the psychological damage to the victims of either sin (which I assume is much greater in the case of sexual sins), nor the psychological difficulty of the perpetrator doing teshuva.
      I doubt that anyone today would consider theft more serious than sexual sins. And even if the Gemara is simply using hyperbole (which it probably is) - it is not something which anyone would write today. A journalist (or anyone else) who used such a comparison nowadays would probably be looking for a new job pretty soon afterwards (not to mention the flack s/he would receive).

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    2. It seems to me that Chazal were trying to instill a fear into people about theft/ weights/measures by comparing it to gilui arayos. Today they might phrase it something like:

      " cheating on taxes or stealing from the Government is worse than owning a smartphone / sitting next to a woman on a bus".

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    3. What's wrong with owning a smartphone / sitting next to a woman on a bus, or indeed owning a smartphone anywhere or sitting next to a woman anywhere (excluding his nidda wife on the same bench, or women generally at times of his prayers, etc.)?

      Cheating on taxes or stealing from the government, whilst being wrong, is not comparable to a storekeeper cheating with weights and measures. Whilst both are cheating vast numbers of people, taxes and other governmental frauds affect the community as a whole, repentance is possible and the amount of fraud can be calculated and repaid. A store owner who cheated, will have cheated a vast number of individual people, varying amounts, thus, it is impossible to calculate the amount to repay to each individual and it is equally impossible to identify all these individuals.

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  2. > Perhaps this goes some way to explain why incest and other sexual crimes are not treated as seriously as they should be in certain communities

    Many of these communities also don't treat theft as seriously as they should either. If they don't do that is it any surprise that arayos get short shrift?

    At any rate, one cannot simply rely on the simple meaning of this gemara. Yes, technically speaking theft is harder because it requires teshuva and a return of the lost item but limiting the comparison to arayos to just that misses the element of damage caused by sexual abuse. In that regard arayos are certainly worse as the victim carries the damage for the rest of their lives and nothing makes it go away whereas if a person has stolen he potentially could return everything.

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  3. The Gemara is saying that theft, in some respects, is worse than sexual impropriety. That is not difficult to understand. One sin has a victim, the other does not.

    Sexual ABUSE, however, is not a victimless crime. That's the problem. The heredi world keeps thinking that sexual abuse is a question of Arayos. It is not. It is a din in Nefashos.

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    1. I fully agree with your formulation, James.

      The crime of arayot might be immensely enjoyable to both sides. Rape is first and foremost psychological abuse, often involves physical abuse as well, and finally transgresses laws of arayot.

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    2. James: It isn't the Hareidi world. It is the Torah world. And you're wrong. It is a Din in Mamanus.

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  4. Is sexual abuse really considered simply another case of arayot? Equivalent to consensual improper relations with a forbidden adult relative?
    Or wouldn't abuse be even worse than arayot since there is the abuse aspect where the individual is not just having a forbidden relationship (for example a homosexual relationship between two willing partners) but is also harming another individual by virtue of his compelled involvement. Hence, the term "abuse." It would seem that equating it with any old case of arayot between two lustful and consensual individuals sinning together would not be a realistic portrayal of sexual abuse.

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  5. Non consensual sex is A HORRIBLE FORM OF THEFT+ it is much worse than stealing money. It is stealing the persons innocence, childhood, optimism about life, and risks ruining their chances of a healthy shidduch and marriage. Some psychologists refer to the sexual abuse of children as "SOUL MURDER". In light of the fact that there is an extraordinarily high correlation between the sexual abuse of children and victims later vulnerability to suicide, substance abuse, familial violence and promiscuity, I believe the description of such abuse as soul murder is particularily apt.

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  6. The Gemara in Yevamos is obviously talking about the kind of Arayos that someone can do teshuva from. For instance a forbidden relation between two consenting adults.

    When one molests a minor, there is something much worse than arayos. The molester might have scarred someone's soul for life in a non-repairable way. Long after G-d forgives him for the Avaira of arayos, he still remains unforgiven for the b. Adam l'Chaveiro pain that he cause someone else. I imagine that it is much easier for a victim to forgive someone that cheated him out of a few ounces of food, that to forgive someone that molested him.

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    1. A minor in Jewish Law means a male under 13 or a female under 12.

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  7. Why are you equating "Arayos" with "incest and other sexual crimes"? Arayos in this context refers to consensual relationships that are forbidden by the Torah. Rape and molestation are forms of chavalah in addition to the arayos component.

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  8. Rabbi E.
    The previous post without a name was from me. Avraham Poupko from Yerushalayim.- you can use my name.
    Thanks and keep up the excellent work

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  9. I would think this is utterly irrelevant. This is presumably referring to consensual relationships. The issue of molestation is the retzicha the psychological destruction. Ma ibyan shemitta etzel har sinai.the letter writer has shown he doesnt begin to understand abuse and molestation. Rav elyashiv certaibly did

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  10. So far comments have suggested that abuse is a form of murder and a form of theft and a form of chabalah.
    Can anyone point to any literature (earlier than the last few decades) which supports this?
    Clearly the Torah deals with rape as an issue of chabalah, requiring payment of 5 damages (in addition to the rapist being forced to marry the victim). Are there any responsa which claim that abuse is chabalah? It seems to me that it is much worse, though I suppose paying for all the counselling and treatment should be part of the punishment.
    Does anyone speak of abuse in terms of murder or theft? Do the responsa speak of punishment in terms of 5 damage payments?

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  11. The Gemara is not talking about sexual abuse. Arayos in this context probably means consensual relationship between to erva relatives. Sexuala abuse is not consensual.

    Notice that Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim says reason for Arayos is because those close relatives are in each other's company very often, so the isur of arayos is to keep them from tashmish together.

    Also, Gr"a in Aderes Eliyahu, Haazinu (Devarim 32:5), says there is a third category of sins (besides bein adam l'chaveiro and bein adam l'Makom) - bein adam l'atzmo, and that arayos are part of this group. In my mind, this is only talking about arayos where there is consensual contact - an eishes ish certainly has bein adam l'chaveiro because by the adultery the woman becomes forbidden to her husband.

    Rambam seems to hold arayos is bein adam lamakom. See Hil. Teshuva 2:9 - "Teshuva and Yom Kippur only atone for aveiros bein adam lamakom like someone ate something forbidden or had a forbidden relationship (ba'al b'ilah asurah)." This is probably incest arayos, but Eishes Ish probably also has a bein adam lachaveiro aspect as mentioned.

    Noda Biyehuda (Kama Orach Chayim 35) in discussing an eishes ish case says it contains both bein adam l'chaveiro and bein adam l'Makom.

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    1. Adultery with an Eishes Ish is a capital crime with the death penalty for the eishes ish and her paramour.

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  12. Also notice that this Gemara in Bava Basra quoted in the post is a true point - BUT we have takanas hashavim - I know that takanas hashavim allows a thoef to repay the value of the object and not the object itself so it is easier for him to do teshuva, but I'm not sure if and how takanas hashavim applies to tracking down victims - perhaps he gives money to Beis Din? Does someone know about this?

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  13. Shasdaf and James understand the gemara correctly. Rabbi Eidensohn, please publicize the correct understanding of this gemarah...

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  14. The Chofetz Chaim brings down from this weeks Parsha Dvarim 22, pasuk 13 and 14 that for someone that speaks Loshan Hara, it is worse than rape. Look at Gemora Arachin, page 15 amud Aluf where the Mishna Perak 3 Mishna 5 states that the Debur is more stringent that the Act.

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    1. (6) ספר שמירת הלשון ח"ב - פרק כב
      "וענשו אתו מאה כסף, כי הוציא שם רע על בתולת ישראל" (דברים כ"ב י"ט). ואיתא בערכין (דף ט"ו.) במשנה, נמצא האומר בפיו חמור מן העושה מעשה, [שעל אונס ומפתה אין צריך לתן, רק חמשים כסף, וגם אינו מתחיב מלקות, מה שאין כן במוציא שם רע]. ונוכל לומר, דזוהי כונת הכתוב (עמוס ד' י"ג), "כי הנה יוצר הרים וברא רוח ומגיד לאדם מה שחו". והינו שהאדם, כשהוא מתבונן לפרקים על עניניו, אינו מתבונן, רק על מעשיו, אבל אודות דבוריו אינו חושב כלל, כי חושב בנפשו, מה קלקול יוכל להגיע על ידי דבור, הלא הוא דבר שאין בו ממש? אבל באמת לא כן הוא, כי הקלקול שמגיע למעלה על ידי דבוריו הוא הרבה יותר ממה שמגיע על ידי מעשיו.

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  15. Ramban doesn't say anything about הקלקול למעלה. His reason is that the lie had financial motives:

    כי המנהג לכתוב לבתולה מוהר חמשים כסף והנה זה הוציא עליה שם רע בעבור ששנאה ורצה להוציאה בלא כלום ולכן ענשו הכתוב במאה כסף

    He doesn't explain why the man should both be flogged and fined. Maybe the flogging is for the shem ra per se?


    The girl who is seduced... yes, her father will get less, but that's based on a reality not a lie.

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  16. Explaining the "attraction" that led to rape is not lessening or justifying the severity of the sin . The Gemara says that Goyim have a stronger attraction to the animals of a Yid then to their wife's .That obviously is not justifying such sins for Nochrin .

    I don't believe that the Gemara or the Chofets Chaim was saying that Lashon Hora is worse than rape . He was saying that Loshan Hora is worse than an immoral act , as you see he put it as worse than "seduction and rape" . The emotional and physical damages for the act are measured out separately .

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  17. Related to this discussion is that in two instances that I know of, rape is considered a permissible manner of initiating a marital bond: in the case of the eishet yafet toar (the beautiful woman captured in war) and in the case of a yevamah (a widow from a childless marriage who marries her deceased husband's brother).

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  18. Recipients and PublicityAugust 18, 2013 at 6:52 PM

    Daat Torah said..."I mentioned to the rav that I was not aware of a single other commentary which expresses such a view While he also didn't know of anyone else who gives this explaiantion - he didn't seem to understand what I found problematic with the Ohr HaChaim. [In contrst there is no mention of any spiritual significance to rape in his commentary Bereishis 34:1 regarding Dinah and Shechem]"

    Unfortunately, the Sabbateans claimed that the Torah's laws of arayot ("forbidden sexual relationships") were null and void due to the arrival of Shabtai Tzvi who they assumed had ushered in the "messianic era" and that therefore all that was "forbidden" by the Torah was now "permitted" thus eating treif became "kosher" eating on Yom Kippur was "allowed" and that sexual restrictions no longer applied -- all derived from misapplied Kabbalistic and mystical concepts that on the "level of God" there is no "right and wrong" so to speak, only a spiritual awareness of the Godhead. That is from where lots of these misapplications and distortions and false "heterim" (allowances) and "droshas" (interpretations) come to be and why one can come across not just the mention but the active breaking of the Torah's prohibitions of sexual and immoral acts. It's as if an alternate universe of ideas connected to Torah co-exists side by side with the conventional Torah ideas. Come to think of it, the nachash hakadamoni (the serpent in the Garden of Eden) also had clever ways of explaining away what God had explicitly forbidden, and as the commentaries explain he then essentially "raped" Eve or had relations with her that were counter to what God had allowed that amounted to a form of "rape" once he convinced to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

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  19. What of an abuser who abused many victims whose names he did not know. Might the arguments of weights fall on them.

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  20. why do you translate incest or forbidden relationships with "Rape"? Could be consensual incest...

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