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Violence Against Women: Jewish Values

Jewish Values

Jewish texts explicitly prohibit a man from forcing his wife to have sexual relations. Rami b. Hama said in the name of R. Assi: "It is forbidden for a man to compel his wife to fulfill the mitzvah [to have sexual relations], as it is said 'and he that hastens with his feet sins' (Proverbs 19:2)." R. Joshua b. Levi said: "Any man who compels his wife to have intercourse will have unworthy (inferior) children" (Babylonian Talmud, Eruvin 100b).

In the Mishneh Torah, (Sefer Nashim) Maimonides included several passages relevant to the topic of wife abuse. The text reads: "And thus the sages commanded that a man should honor his wife more than he honors himself, and love her as he loves himself. And if he has money, he should increase her benefits according to his wealth. He should not intimidate her too much; he should speak with her gently, and should be neither saddened nor angry." (MT, Sefer Nashim 15:19)

The myth that domestic abuse does not occur in Jewish households is one that needs to be dispelled. Current statistical evidence reveals that violence within Jewish families occurs at a rate that correlates with our representation in the general population.

Our tradition teaches us that mental anguish and moral degradation are the equivalent of physical murder. We are commanded not to stand idly by while our neighbor bleeds. The sanctity of human life is one of the core values of our value system. In an increasingly impersonal and alienating society, the dehumanization of the human being and the carelessness with which human life is abused or even taken stand in direct violation of these affirmations of our traditions. Therefore, it is our responsibility to attempt to protect the safety of all citizens, a small part of which can be accomplished with education and prevention of domestic abuse.