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Home :: Seven Laws :: Fifth Law is No Lechery

Fifth Law is No Lechery

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No Lechery Law means banned sexual affairs which include six separate cases: with mother, with father's wife, with married woman, with sister by mother, homosexuality and bestiality. Each of them is the consequence of said in Tora (Bereshit 2:24): "Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh". It seems to be just one non-committal phrase, however sages of ancient time managed to see here accurate instructions regarding what is allowed and what is forbidden as for intimate affairs. They gave a concrete explanation to almost each word in the sentence. However everything is not as easy as it seems on the face of it - one is going to meet a lot of nuances in reality.

Banned sexual affairs are the temptation most difficult for overcoming. That's why precautions guarding morals of society are not just old-fashioned rules that world can dispense with. No way. Omnipotent Who modeled human soul is perfectly aware of all moving inducements and instincts He installed into every creature. That's why He orders to make precautionary measures against immorality. Coz if the instinct is bridled and harnessed for work done for the holy purposes - it ties human with his Creator, and due to that Shechina (G-d's presence - Biblical language translation) inhabits this world. If not - the powers of Yetzirat Giluy Arayot (lecherous origin - Biblical language translation) brings him down to animal's level. Immorality is loathsome to Hashem. Infringement upon No Lechery Law is hard coz of both depravity with its deed and those consequences it may lead to. Rabbi Levy said (Bereshit Rabba 53): "Everybody who's possessed by passion for banned sexual affairs will be ultimately fed with his own flesh."

No Lechery is called Giluy Arayot in Biblical language - that is nudity unveiling if translated directly. We should start from finding out what is prohibited and what is not?

Two Sages - rabbi Eliezer and rabbi Akiva - interprete the over-mentioned Biblical verse next way (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 58a):

"Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother (it's said to first man Adam - RASHI's comment). Rabbi Eliezer says: his father is his father's sister (by mother), his mother is his mother's sister (by mother; all the more so his own sister by mother). Rabbi Akiva says: his father is his father's wife, his mother is his mother literally. And cleave - and not to male partner but - to his wife - and not his neighbor's wife - and they shall become one flesh - those who can be one flesh (by outcome of semen which is building material for flesh which mother and father are one in - RASHI's comment); it's written to exclude domestic and wild animals coz human and animal can not be one flesh (animals can't bear from human - RASHI's comment)."

Halacha (practical law) takes two opinions into account, establishing banned sexual affairs the way it was adduced at the very beginning of the page. However, the definitions of such notions as feme covert, father's wife etc will be a little different from our daily their understanding. That's why let's understand each one in details.

Who is feme covert? One must learn it. First of all, what does the matrimony begin with as for the peoples of the world? Bible presents young people with a great freedom with reference to that. According to Tora, official weddings are not obligatory at all, though they're are welcomed. A girl is considered to be married by so-and-so guy since the moment their mutual decision about living together is confirmed by "act of love". It is precisely after such deed that they are considered to be husband and wife of full value, since it's written in Scripture (Bereshit 20:3): "Behold you are going to die because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is husbanded by husband" (in literal translation - she who had conjugal relations with her husband).

But there's one important detail about it. We can not avoid going into it. The matter is, when speaking about the prohibition of adultery, Bible brings a requirement only for natural way of coitus - a vaginal one. All the rest, that is sexual intimacy by anal and oral ways is not considered to be adultery, according to Tora's Law, and the one who does it is free of any punishment. Strange, but comes as it is. You're going to get surprised but this is exactly as it's presented by Scripture (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 58b):

"Rava said: Noah Descendant who had sexual intimacy with his neighbor's wife unnatural way - he's free of punishment. What's the reason? It's written in Scripture (Bereshit 2:24): And cleave to his wife. To his wife, but not his neighbor's wife (that is Tora prohibits only to cleave - RASHI's comment); and cleave - that is natural way (and there's no cleaving in unnatural way coz as far as woman gets no pleasure from that, she doesn't cleave to her partner - RASHI's comment)."

However, non-deliberate mistake is not considered to be infringement upon the prohibition of adultery. Such mistake is when, for example, somebody spent the night with girl, being sure she belongs to no one, and then it turned out she had and has a husband. However, if beforehand he knew she's not free and yet he spent the night with her natural way (even with her consent) - then he infringed and brought death sentence of Heavens upon himself. That's why one should always ask if girl has a guy when getting acquainted with her. Coz her answer for this question is equal to if she considers herself to be somebody's wife or not. The married girl also infringes upon this prohibition if she deliberately gets in intimate affairs natural way with another man. A married woman who commits adultery, including intentionally, does not become forbidden to her husband. And if they want to continue to be together - she remains allowed to him (Chidushei haRan on Tractate Sanhedrin 57b).

The spouses are considered to be divorced since the moment one of them took a decision to part with the other. It makes no difference whether it was guy or girl. And even if only one of them decided to leave and live separately and the other is against that - according to Tora's law, they are considered to be divorced.

The particular case of the infringement upon the prohibition of adultery is the bondmaid whom man meant as a wife for his bondman, and then he got in sexual contact with her. But such man is to be sentenced to the death penalty only in case if the rumours girl is meant as wife is already spred and people say about her: "She who's from so-and-so bondman's house." And girl is considered to be again permitted since the moment the master separates her from the bondman and she starts to walk in public sites with unveiled head.

Who is father's wife? This is any woman whom one's father lived together with. What is she different with from feme covert then? By that she remains prohibited to son forever, even if his father divorced with her later. And even after father's death she still remains prohibited to his son for intimate affairs by any of possible ways.

Who is mother? It's woman who carried and bore a child. What is she different with from father's wife? She remains prohibited to son forever even in case she never was his father's wife. That is if, for instance, she was seduced or raped by child's father, and he didn't marry her after that. In any case - she is prohibited to son for intimate affairs by any of possible ways.

What is homosexuality? It is a coitus with the participation of two and more males when one of them copulates with the other anal or oral way. Both male performing active role and male performing passive role infringe upon No Lechery Law as for this sexual perversion.

What is bestiality? It is a coitus with the participation of human and animal, it makes no difference male or female. The intimacy with animal by any of possible ways is prohibited.

But who is sister by mother and where does the prohibition to have intimate affairs with her come from? The sister by mother is the girl who is one's sister by stepfather. The prohibition to have sexual intimacy with her follows from written in Scripture (Bereshit 20:12): "And also, indeed, she is my sister, the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife." And though the verse speaks about Abraham and Sarah who was Abraham's niece by father's line (coz grandchild is like child - RASHI's comment), the verse is also interpreted according to its direct sense. That is it wouldn't be written in Tora if the sister by mother is permitted. And practical law means it.

And the Sages said clearly, people who got in banned sexual affair with one of six over-mentioned cases are to be punished even in case witnesses saw them in position regular for intimate relation but did not see intimacy itself (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Bava Metsia 91a).

Thus, we considered all six cases of banned sexual affairs. Now what about all the rest, is it permitted? Yes. And this is one opinion of the Sages. The practical law follows it. However there's a different opinion. It's written (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 57b):

"The Sages teach: why is it written in Scripture - no man (written regarding No Lechery (Vayikra 18:6): No man shall come near to any of his close relatives, to uncover nakedness - RASHI's comment). To include the peoples of the world who should beware of Lechery the way Israel is commanded about that."

How is Israel commanded about that? The over-mentioned Tora's chapter enumerates fifteen kinds of banned sexual affairs: with mother, with father's wife, with sister (both sister and stepsister), with granddaughter (all the more with daughter), with father's sister, with mother's sister, with father's sister-in-law (aunt), with daughter-in-law, with brother's wife, with woman and her daughter, with woman and her sister (by life of first one), with one's wife during menstrual cycle, with married woman, homosexuality and bestiality.

And there it's written (Vayikra 18:6): "No man shall come near to... uncover nakedness." That is here the question is not about coitus only natural way but about coitus in general whatever way it's done. That's why according to this stricter opinion, the adultery by any of possible ways is prohibited, whether it's vaginal, anal or oral sex. Besides, from here it follows the warning not to display signes of intimacy regarding those prohibited to us, according to Biblical law, as for intimacy. And even if it doesn't lead to the intimacy with them, yet it's prohibited to embrace, kiss them and perform all the like actions referred to intimate affairs. That's why it's written "come near" - to them, performing actions that may lead to intimate relation.

And it is also written (Vayikra 18:24): "You shall not defile yourselves by any of these things, for the nations, whom I am sending away from before you, have defiled themselves with all these things." And He would never punish them unless it was prohibited to them.

The Prohibition of Any Sexual Relations between the Peoples of the World and Israel

The plan of populating and development of this world, foreseen by Creator, strictly prohibits any sexual intimacy between the peoples of the world and Israel. What is the reason for such strange ban, you ask? Of course, it's difficult to understand such things nowadays. Still, the answer is very simple. It's written in Scripture regarding Israel (Dvarim 7:3): "You shall not intermarry with them." RAMBAM explains (Sefer Hamitzvot, Prohibitive Commandment 52) it is one of six hundred and thirteen commandments given to Israel - the prohibition to get in sexual intimacy with other peoples (by force of they always rejected G-d). Then Tora explains what means "not intermarry" (there): "You shall not give your daughter to his son, and you shall not take his daughter to for your son." And it's written in Talmud (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Avoda Zara 36b):

"Tora prohibited the relation, which is similar to a conjugal one."

Here from follows the categorical prohibition of any intimacy between the peoples of the world and Israel. However, unlike among the peoples of the world where girl can have only feme covert status, in Israel girl can have two more categories - the betrothed virgin; and she who ascended under Hupa (wedding hut of branches - Biblical language translation) but had no conjugal relations with her husband. And there's a difference in the punishment given to him who infringes the prohibition of intimacy with them. And this is the only case when Noah Descendants are sentenced to the death penalty different from execution with sword. And here is how. Mishne Tora" Religious Code, Laws of Kings and Their Wars 9:7 - Maimonides (RAMBAM):

"Noah Descendant who got in sexual intimacy with Jewess is to be sentenced to the death penalty in any case, whether coitus was done natural or unnatural way. And if the girl was betrothed virgin - the criminal is to be sentenced to throwing down onto stones, the way Israel is treated in this case. And if the girl was she who ascended under Hupa but had no conjugal relations with her husband - the criminal is to be sentenced to strangulation, the way Israel is treated in this case. And if she was a married woman who already had conjugal relations with her husband - the criminal is treated the same way as if he would get in sexual intimacy with his neighbor's wife, that is he's executed with sword."

As far as in Bnei Noah courts only the execution with sword is used, the criminal who got in intimacy with Jewess of two first categories is judged in Israel courts, where the sentence is executed (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 57b).

That's why already at the first date it's better to ask girl if her mother is not Jewish (belonging to Israel is defined by mother's line unlike the peoples of the world for whom the belonging to these or those people is defined by father's line). I can understand such question is going to sound at least not to the point when getting acquainted. Yet life is more expensive! Besides, it's gonna be done in the name of given Law's observing. Make sure, G-d can appreciate your endeavours!..

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