There appear to be diverse views among Jews on this troubling subject -- but why the
secrecy regarding 'holy' teachings that may be a factor in sexual abuse of minors by
and Hear, an educational forum for the examination of religious truth and religious
WE ARE TOLD there is a movement afoot to
(child-adult sex) socially acceptable and legally permissible. Researching the issue, we
find that many dominant voices on both sides of the controversy are Jewish.
How is this possible? Which voices speak
for the core values of Judaism? Our questions are not prompted by idle curiosity, but by
social concern. America is rapidly becoming Talmudized, and we should understand the direction in
which our social policies are moving.
Let us start with an article in the Washington Times,
a major newspaper that espouses conservative Christian values. The Times provides a
useful starting point because they name names. Let us borrow the Times' viewpoint.
(ILLUSTRATION: Talmudic Scholar by Jewish artist Marc Chagall.)
Jewish Bad Guys
Feminist writer Judith Levine's book Not Harmful to
Minors: The Perils of Protecting Kids from Sex has been condemned by those who say she
excuses sexual abuse of children a charge she strongly denies.
Ms. Levine says she was "misunderstood" after a news article last month
quoted her saying a boy's sexual experience with a priest "conceivably" could be
The Washington Times depicts Harris
Mirkin as follows:
Harris Mirkin, a professor at the University of
Missouri-Kansas City, published a 1999 article in the Journal of Homosexuality complaining
that boys who have sex with men "are never considered willing participants, even if
they are hustlers." He has also written that "children are the last bastion of
the old sexual morality."
The Washington Times cites a controversial
psychology research study:
A 1998 "meta-analytic" study in an American
Psychological Association (APA) journal argued, among other things, that
"value-neutral" language such as "adult-child sex" should be used to
describe child molestation if it was a "willing encounter."
The study was conducted by Bruce Rind,
Robert Bauserman, and Philip Tromovitch, and was published in the Psychological
Bulletin in 1998 under the editorship of Nancy Eisenberg.
Jewish Good Guys
Here come the good guys. Meet Joy Silberg.
Ms. Levine's book favorably cites the Rind study and, in
a telephone interview, she defended the study as "methodologically meticulous."
But Baltimore psychologist Joy Silberg, whose clinical practice involves treating
child-abuse victims, says the study is "horribly flawed."
"I can't call it science," she said.
Ms. Silberg, the Baltimore psychologist, agrees that the "whole
academic movement" to legitimize sex with children "is growing."
Now comes Dr. Laura
Radio host Laura Schlessinger led a campaign against
that study by Temple University psychology professor Bruce Rind and two other academics.
Congress eventually voted unanimously to condemn the Rind study which has already
been used as evidence to defend accused child molesters in at least three court cases.
Dr. Laura is, of course, widely considered
a shining example of moral rectitude. She is famous for her denunciation of homosexuality,
and very popular with those who call themselves fundamentalist Christians. As one of
Orthodox Jews, Dr. Laura received the 2001 National Heritage Award from the National
Council of Young Israel, an organization of 150 Orthodox synagogues in the US. The
executive vice president of Young Israel is Rabbi Pesach Lerner. The following report
comes from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The program for the National Council of Young Israel
dinner described Schlessinger as "a powerful source of inspiration and pride for all
Jews." The mainly right-leaning Orthodox Jews filling the large room applauded her,
and many approached her afterward to ask for autographs and declare their admiration
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
We are told that Schlessinger is a member
of a Lubavitch synagogue, Chabad of Agoura, in suburban Los Angeles. Then:
Schlessinger's rabbi, Moshe Bryski, insists that his
most famous congregant is serious about the moral questions she receives, researching
Jewish ethics and frequently calling him to consult on issues that arise on her show.
"There is a sense of responsibility because at times she'll call me about
specific questions, and I realize the answer is going to be broadcast to 20 million
people, and I better get it right," Bryski says.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
The Jewish publication, Forward,
also covered Dr. Laura's Young Israel award.
The executive director of Young Israel, Rabbi Pesach
Lerner, said Ms. Schlessinger was chosen because of her success "in changing the
moral compass of this country," on issues such as abortion, abstinence and
homosexuality. He also cited her personal religious journey that eventually led her to
adopt an Orthodox lifestyle.
No doubt Rabbi Bryski listens to Dr.
Laura' show to see how his student is doing. Given her fame as an Orthodox Jew, we might
expect that some of the rabbis affiliated with the 150 Orthodox synagogues in the Young
Israel organization would listen in, too.
Jewish law, of course, is based primarily
on the Talmud.... Let's follow Dr. Laura, Rabbi Bryski, and Young Israel directly to the
source of their doctrines, the Talmud. We will ask the reader to be patient and tolerant
when reading this material, even though some of these ideas may be very new.
(Note: When excerpting quotations from
the Talmud, we sometimes omit non-germane text and footnotes. Omission of text is
indicated by an ellipsis (
). To see the full text and footnotes, refer to the
original article linked below. It is our pleasure to make available on line a number of
Talmud tractates, so that you can see the excerpt in full context. We indicate unprintable
Hebrew characters, words, and phrases with the symbol [H].)
Talmud Permits Child-Adult Sex
Talmud law permits sexual intercourse between children
and adults. This doctrine is contained in a number of Mishnahs. Before we examine
them, however, it is necessary that the reader be familiar with the word kethubah.
According to the Soncino Talmud Glossary:
KETHUBAH (Lit., 'a written [document]'); (a) a wife's
marriage settlement which she is entitled to recover on her being divorced or on the death
of her husband. The minimum settlement for a virgin is two hundred zuz, and for a
widow remarrying one hundred zuz; (b) the marriage contract specifying the mutual
obligations between husband and wife and containing the amount of the endowment and any
other special financial obligations assumed by the husband.
Babylonian Talmud, Soncino Talmud
Zuz is a unit of currency. We see,
then, that a dollar (or zuz) value is put on virginity.
Now let's look at a Mishnah from Kethuboth
MISHNAH. WHEN A GROWN-UP MAN
(7) HAS HAD SEXUAL INTERCOURSE WITH (8) A LITTLE GIRL, (9) OR WHEN A SMALL BOY (10) HAS
INTERCOURSE WITH A GROWN-UP WOMAN, OR [WHEN A GIRL WAS ACCIDENTALLY] INJURED BY A PIECE OF
WOOD (11) [IN ALL THESE CASES] THEIR KETHUBAH IS TWO HUNDRED [ZUZ]
Babylonian Talmud, Tractate
Soncino 1961 Edition, page 57
The translator, Rabbi Dr. Samuel Daiches,
amplifies the text with footnotes:
- A man who was of age.
- Lit., 'who came on'.
- Less than
three years old.
- Less than nine years of age.
- Lit., 'One who was injured by wood', as a result of which
she injured the hymen.
Rabbi Dr. Daiches
Let's review the above-cited Mishnah:
"When a grown-up man has had sexual intercourse with a little girl, or when a small
boy has intercourse with a grown-up woman
" It is obvious that sex activity
between a grown man and a little girl, and between a grown woman and a little boy, is a
part of the woof and the warp of everyday Talmud life; such relationships, in the eyes of
the Sages, are unremarkable. There is no prohibition
on sexual activity between adults and young children it is simply regulated. Recall
the words of the Very Reverend the Chief Rabbi of the British Empire the late Dr. Joseph
Religion in the Talmud attempts to penetrate the whole
of human life with the sense of law and right. Nothing human is in its eyes mean or
trivial; everything is regulated and sanctified by religion. Religious precept and duty
accompany man from his earliest years to the grave and beyond it. They guide his desires
and actions at every moment.
Rabbi Dr. Hertz
Thus, if the Talmud
permits girls three years old and younger to be sexually used
by adults, that is the law. The concern of the Sages is to ensure that the adult is not,
technically speaking, in violation of any of the rules.
with notes, references, and sidebars