Adultery in the Jewish Religion

by James Stuart
Moses shared the prohibition of adultery as one of the Ten Commandments.

Moses shared the prohibition of adultery as one of the Ten Commandments.

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Adultery, along with idolatry and murder, is one of the three great sins in the Jewish faith. Jewish scripture condemns individuals who violate the sacred bonds of marriage and have sexual intercourse outside of marriage. Traditionally the punishment for adultery was death for both the man and woman, but, obviously, modern followers of Judaism no longer practice this punishment.

Definition

The Jewish faith characterizes adultery as any sexual relationship between a married woman and any man other than her husband, but modifications to the Talmud further extend the definition of adultery to women who carry on intimate relationships with men against the wishes of her husband. According to Jewish scripture, relationships between married men and single women do not technically constitute adultery. However, modern interpretations of Jewish law no longer recognize a genderdistinction in adulterous relationships.

Exceptions

The Jewish religion does provide a few exceptions under which the faith tolerates adultery. Traditionally, if a husband already suspected his wife of adultery, he could divorce his wife, which would provide sufficient moral protection for a relationship with another woman. In the case of the woman, situations where she was coerced or forced into adultery, or occasions where she mistook the other man for her husband are not adulterous, because the woman was not exercising free will.

Mamzer

Jewish scripture also contains teachings about the offspring of adulterous relationships. In traditional Jewish law, such offspring are referred to as "mamzer", and the Jewish faith prohibits their marriage into the Jewish community. However, according to an essay by the Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs, Reform and Resconstructionist movements within the Jewish faith no longer accept or apply this concept, and Orthodox and Conservative movements usually avoid applying it whenever possible.

Divorce

In modern Judaism, one of the most common responses to adultery is divorce. However, the type of adultery that necessitates divorce is rare and requires one partner to have warned the other, and evidence of the adultery must have been witnessed by a third party. In situations where one partner suspects his spouse of adultery, but has no proof, the Jewish faith does not require a divorce, though he still has the right to divorce.

About the Author

James Stuart began his professional writing career in 2010. He traveled through Asia, Europe, and North America, and has recently returned from Japan, where he worked as a freelance editor for several English language publications. He looks forward to using his travel experience in his writing. Stuart holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and philosophy from the University of Toronto.

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