An old friend wrote me recently asking about the haredi community's attitude toward trafficking in women, and inquiring what it is doing to end Israel's well-documented prominence in this field.
The truth is that the community will never take the lead on such an issue. For the same reason that the haredi press is silent about the upcoming international gay fest - haredi parents don't want their children asking about such things - it is not about to start writing about white slavery. Moreover, haredi leaders suspect that their opposition would only serve to turn traffickers into "heroes of freedom."
Still, I was taken aback by my friend's apparent cluelessness as to the Torah approach to such trafficking. For only three sins is a Jew required to give up his life rather than transgress - murder, idolatry, and the most severe sexual prohibitions. The afternoon Torah reading of Yom Kippur, the most solemn day of the year, enumerates those forbidden relationships, and warns us not to indulge in them as did the Canaanite nations that preceded us, lest the land also vomit us out.
When the gentile prophet Balaam found himself unable to curse the Jewish people, he advised Balak to ensnare them in promiscuity with the Moabite women. "Their God hates licentiousness," Balaam told him. Immediately thereafter, Zimri, a prince of the tribe of Simeon, brazenly took a Midianite princess in the Tent of Meeting, and brought a decree of annihilation upon the entire Jewish people.
One midrash on the Flood attributes generalized destruction that kills the righteous and the wicked together to licentiousness: another states that God is slow to anger with regard to every sin besides licentiousness.
IT WOULD be hard to think of another area in which the attitudes of Torah Jews diverge more sharply from those of much of secular Israeli society than with respect to sexual relations. The public square grows ever more hypersexualized. As more than one secular Israeli writer has lamented recently, there are body parts on regular display in Israel that are seen nowhere else in the world.
The tabloids read by the vast majority of Israelis increasingly mimic those no self-respecting person would be seen looking at in other countries. One tabloid recently offered a tribute to the pictorials of England's lowest tabloid - and devoted eight pages to bachelor parties. (Readers send me this stuff.)
The print and electronic media conspire to convince the public that sexual relations are at once the be-all and end-all of life and no more significant than any other physical act, such as brushing one's teeth (except that most people are finicky about sharing toothbrushes and don't brush their teeth in public).
Ynet recently polled readers on their number of sexual partners, both before and after marriage. The results showed Israelis to be the biggest sexual braggarts since a group of prepubescent Samoan girls had so much fun pulling Margaret Mead's leg. But the tragedy is that so many Jewish men and women find rampant infidelity something to brag about.
Even religion has to be sexualized. The media could not get enough of New-Age "rabbi" Mordechai Gafni, with his calls to bring back the eros to religion and blessings to the female aspects of the godhead (or whatever), only to profess themselves scandalized when the eros-extolling Gafni turned out to be just another serial sexual predator.
The baleful effects of these sexual messages are felt all around. The huge commercial sex industry and the most brutal exploitation of women are only the tip of the iceberg. Every week, it seems we read of another, often desperately needy, teenage girl exploited by a group of boys over a period of months. Only the ages of the victims and perpetrators keep going down. A 13-year-old slept with half an air-force base because she felt like it. What's the surprise, considering the celebrity role models placed before her?
THE GAY parade scheduled to take place just after Tisha Be'av is but another aspect of the sexualization of the public square. Participants have defined themselves exclusively in terms of their sexual practices. And the planned parade will be an "in-your-face" flaunting of those practices. There is no way that the organizers can ensure a sedate march, with thousands of veterans of previous international gay bacchanalia expected to arrive from abroad.
Nor was the march meant to be respectful. Jerusalem was chosen as an affront to Judaism, just as Rome was previously chosen as an affront to Christianity. Yet somehow I doubt the next international fest will conclude at the Ka'aba stone in Mecca.
ONLY AFTER the Flood was mankind permitted to eat animal flesh. The people of the generation of the Flood saw themselves as no different in kind from the animals. In this vein, our Sages interpreted the "corruption of the earth," which led to the Flood, as relations between different species. (An ancient midrash states that the men of that generation made out formal marriage contracts between two men and between men and animals.)
To correct the error of that generation, and emphasize the absolute chasm between man and all other animals, God now permitted the consumption of animal flesh.
Our generation is once again witnessing the celebration of man's animal nature. Just as animals show no shame walking around naked and performing natural functions in public, neither should humans. So goes the mantra of freedom.
In truth, the comparison is unfair to animals. Their instinctual mating is a fulfillment of the Divine will: "He did not create [the earth] for emptiness; He fashioned it to be inhabited" (Isaiah 45:18). Only in man are the powers of procreation - which are meant to strengthen the conjugal bond through which man overcomes his existential loneliness, and ensure future generations - ever found to deviate towards emptiness and futility.
Don't believe it? Step outside and look around.