Double Mitzvah – Aharei Mot

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by Tamar Fox. Check out Tamar’s last post in this series, Double Mitzvah – Tazria / Metzora.

This week’s double parsha (so, quadruple mitzvah?) includes some of the more difficult and problematic Jewish texts about sexuality. Specifically, at the end of Leviticus 18, 19, and 20, we get a lengthy list of prohibited sexual relationships, and prohibitions against uncovering the nakedness of a variety of relatives.

There are some people who have spent a lot of time interpreting these texts in ways that makes them more palatable, and I’m grateful for all of their work and all of the context they’ve uncovered regarding these texts. In particular, Rabbi Steve Greenberg has demonstrated that the prohibitions against male homosexual intercourse can be read as prohibitions against sexual violence and humiliation in the context of a particular pagan ritual.

But I’m interested in pulling back a little, and thinking about the philosophy behind giving all these prohibitions. I live in a world where most of my friends have an open attitude of being GGG (good, giving and game) with their partners. This can mean doing all kinds of (sometimes weird) things in the name of making a partner happy, all with the understanding that the partner will return the favor.

At the same time, getting consent, and being mindful of others’ bright lines, is paramount to maintaining a healthy sex life, and something that’s under constant discussion amongst my friends. It occurs to me that this dichotomy– being open to all kinds of things, while maintaining a clear set of boundaries–is the philosophy espoused in the Torah. Though the particulars that it bars are sometimes offensive or unthinkable to us, the text is creating its own “safe zone” – ruling some behaviors out, and others in.

I cannot really make sense of some of the difficult things in this week’s Torah portion. But I can use this time to think deeply about my own limits–where they come from, why they’re there, and what they bring to my life.

Shabbat shalom!

Author of Jewrotica's Double Mitzvah column, Tamar Fox is a writer and editor in Philadelphia. She will try anything once, including open relationships, dating someone who is chalav yisrael, and going to Suriname.