Double Mitzvah – Bamidbar

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by Tamar Fox. Check out last week’s post in this series, Double Mitzvah – Behar / Bechukotai.

Rated PGThis week’s parsha doesn’t have much sex or sexuality in it, but the haftarah, from the Book of Hosea is chock full of sex-shaming. In the haftarah, Hosea compares the covenant between the Israelites and God to a marriage between a husband (God) and a wife (the Israelites) who is adulterous and a harlot.

It’s frustrating to read this kind of bald-faced Biblical slut-shaming, even if it is in the service of a metaphor reminding the people to be faithful to God. But the very end of the haftarah has two famous verses that teach us an important lesson about relationships, love, and sex: “And I will espouse you forever: I will espouse you with righteousness and justice, and with goodness and mercy. And I will espouse you with faithfulness; then you shall be devoted to the Lord.” (Hosea 2:19-20)

Where earlier Hosea painted a picture of a woman (a metaphor for the Israelites) being kept in with a wall of thorns to prevent her from pursuing other gods, this closing reminds us that our relationships — particularly the closest and most intimate relationships — need to be built on a foundation of righteousness, justice, goodness, mercy, and faithfulness. Those may seem like grand concepts, and hard to pin down, but it reminds us that what binds us to our partners, what “espouses” us, you might say, are deep, important things. If you dig into your relationship and you can’t find righteousness, justice, goodness, mercy, or faithfulness, that’s a big red flag.

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.