Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery

Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery

The act of adultery is a violation of a commitment. But this aspect of adultery should technically be covered in the range of the prohibition against stealing. If one member of a partnership committed themselves to the agreement under the belief that the other member would maintain their part of the agreement, then when one partner violates the deal, the other partner’s commitment was falsely obtained.

But adultery goes further than the violation of a commitment between two partners. Adultery is the violation of humanity. When a person puts his desire for physical pleasure above his desire to keep a solemn commitment he has identified himself more as an animal and less as a human. One who commits adultery tramples upon honesty, honor, human dignity, kindness and integrity all for the sake of a crass physical pleasure.

With this understanding of the prohibition against adultery in mind we can see how the spirit of the seventh commandment extends far beyond the actual act of violating a marriage vow. Any activity that redefines a human according to the qualities that we share with animals and tramples on the qualities which separates us from animals is a violation of the spirit of this commandment. It makes no difference if the human we are redefining is ourselves or if it someone else.

This would obviously include a situation where a person allows lustful thoughts to consume their minds and hearts. One who does so diminishes the noble side of man, the side which appreciates justice and honesty, the side that is impressed by kindness, selflessness and integrity and cultivates the animal side of man, the side that has no problem with selfishness and greed. But this also extends much further.

Defining people according to attributes that we share with animals, be they physical beauty, brute strength, cunning, agility and athletic prowess diminishes humanity. This is not to say that we should ignore these gifts, but they should not be the defining factor. The human is a being that appreciates truth, loves kindness and despises greed and pettiness. That is who we are. Identifying ourselves or others according to animal-like qualities is a diminution of the human being.

The spirit of the commandment that prohibits adultery is a guide to life. It calls us to be noble and to see our fellow humans as noble beings. And it would have us draw away from anything that would lessen the dignity and nobility of the human being.

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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6 Responses to Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery

  1. Jim says:

    R’ Blumenthal,

    This article is a timely corrective for one of the disorders of this age. A great number of people in American society have complained about the objectification of women in film and other media. However, some have misunderstood the nature of the problem. They have misidentified this as an egalitarian issue. So, they propose as a solution that men be equally objectified, arguing that they only request that if men have something to ogle, women should be granted the same opportunity. Rather than upholding the dignity of women, they settle for the equal degradation of both sexes. If, instead, we upheld the dignity of women and men both, I cannot imagine to what degree society would be improved.


    • Eleazar says:

      Except that the main way men are degraded is by becoming the butt of every joke in the media. If there is a buffoon on a television show or in a commercial, it is always a man.On sitcoms, the dad is almost always portrayed as the dumbest person in the house.

  2. tsvi Jacobson says:

    Very good definition of adultery but I wish the article also provided suggestions for the individual caught up in this sin to obtain forgiveness and cleansing as your definition also must deal with the habits of the age we all find around us and sadly among us.

  3. Ben Av says:

    Adultery as the violation of a partnership does not really fit with the halacha that only sex with a married woman constitutes adultery. A married man having sex with a single woman other than his wife is not committing adultery, even though he would be violating contemporary partnership obligations.

  4. Ben Av
    The whole point of this article and the others in this series –
    Is that the spirit of the law extends far beyond the letter of the law. So while it is true that in the days when polygamy was accepted a marriage vow did not consist of the man committing to keep only one woman – the spirit of the law still precluded immoral behavior. With the marriage commitment changing to include the man’s commitment to keep one woman – the moral obligation under the spirit of the law is obviously intensified

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