Religion & Beliefs

Adultery, Jewish Law, and Dirty text messages

Once upon a time there was me, and I met this guy, and he was excellent. Nice, funny, and the most attractive person I’d ever seen in real life. And we met in a coffee shop. And he complimented my … Read More

By / February 19, 2007

Once upon a time there was me, and I met this guy, and he was excellent. Nice, funny, and the most attractive person I’d ever seen in real life. And we met in a coffee shop. And he complimented my musical taste. So I was psyched. I was even more psyched when I discovered that he was the best kisser this side of the Atlantic. Nice.

Then a bunch of things happened. He sent some awesomely inappropriate text messages (let’s just say he definitely can’t ever run for office with these babies chilling in my phone) and when I sent an intrigued but belated response (he sent his messages on Friday night, and I didn’t check my phone until after havdalah) he was all, “Oh, sorry, I can’t hang out now, I’m on my honeymoon. I just got married. But I’ll call you when I get back on Sunday ;)"

Seriously? Oh yes. Seriously. Mr. Hot Stuff was ON HIS HONEYMOON. The Friday night message had apparently been one of those, “It’s my last chance before I get married,” things. Except, the whole winking emoticon and the thing where he’d call me on Sunday imply that he didn’t see marriage as much of an obstacle. And yeah, the whole time we were hanging out, him coming to my apartment, buying me drinks, introducing me to his friends, HE WAS ENGAGED. Not something he saw fit to mention to me, of course.

I live in fear of running into him on the street. Or worse, running into him and his wife. Who is undoubtedly lovely and brilliant and tall, and who probably doesn’t know how slimy her husband is.

And the worst part is, this whole cheating thing is a recent theme in my love-life. In the past seven months I’ve been pursued by Mr. Hot Stuff and two other attached men. One was a married but separated Hassid, and the other was just a nice and interesting Jewish guy who apparently didn’t think his girlfriend would mind if he dry humped me. And when I told him that I minded that he had a girlfriend he played the whole, “I don’t know how long it’s going to last with her” card. And people say chivalry is dead.

Anyway, all this got me thinking a lot about adultery and Jewish law. Because even though I never knowingly did anything with someone in a relationship, the trilogy of experiences left me feeling pretty yucky. And if I’m going to be condemned by halacha I like to at least be aware, you know?

Happily it turns out halacha only considers it adultery if the woman is married, so I’m in the clear. This essay by Ismar Schorch, former chancellor of JTS, talks a little about adulteresses and how they’re (mis?)treated in Jewish Law, what with being forced to drink those sacred waters to prove their innocence. The best part of Schorch’s piece is when he writes, “Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai, who consolidated Pharisaic Judaism after the year 70 C.E., halted the ordeal procedure because adulterers increased beyond number. As promiscuity spread and the social order unraveled, Rabbi Yohanan saw the injustice of singling out women as solely responsible.” So props to Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai, but it still annoys me that according to Halacha Mr. Hot Stuff gets off scotch free. Apparently, cheaters do prosper.