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