26 Iyyar 5774
This is one of the things I have had the most trouble with: sin.
In Christianity, sin is mainly something you do against G-d. You disobey, or you break commandments, or whatever. But you also have original sin – sin that you get because you were descended from Adam, and he sinned, so that means until you’re baptized, YOU carry ADAM’s sin.
Apparently Judaism isn’t cool with that. And there’s exactly one time per year when sins against G-d are even talked about: Yom Kippur.
Most sins are the sins you commit against other people. These may also be broken commandments/mitzvot, but the main issue is: you hurt someone else either by what you did or by what you didn’t do. Another human being. Not cool. Cut it out, apologize to the person you harmed, make amends, and don’t do it again.
However, this seems to leave out things you do that don’t actually harm anyone, but that are supposedly “morally” wrong. For example: where does consent come into play? Does consent mitigate sin? If (for example) a married couple likes to play spanking games, does the spankee’s consent mitigate or eliminate the spanker’s sin? I can’t find clear answers for this kind of thing, even in Reform Judaism writings, although there are opinions available on the web.
There does seem to be a rabbinic argument in favor of polyamory (look up Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in NYC), and the main points are listed at AhavaRaba, or “Big Love” in Hebrew (roughly), which is an email list for poly Jews. I will be adding myself to that list at some point, I’m sure.
And we’ve already discussed the homosexuality question in the drash I posted a few weeks ago (see “The Verses That Won’t Let People Live“), so I don’t need to go into that, I don’t think.
Part of what I’m wrestling with here is just the idea that some of the things I do or like might be things that HaShem really doesn’t care about. As someone raised in several faith traditions where even my thoughts (never mind my actions) could be sinful, this is hard to wrap my head around. In Catholicism, you confess everything, even if it was only a thought. In Judaism, it seems, your confessions are mostly to the people who were harmed by your action or inaction, and a once-a-year apology to G-d for the mistakes you’ve made and the offenses you’ve made against him alone.
Any thoughts? This is one place I can’t seem to find a lot of guidance.
5 responses to “Wrestling Match #8: Sin”
I’m confused. Where does it say spanking is a sin?
It doesn’t, but in Catholicism I believe that BDSM is considered sinful. At least that’s how I was raised.
As we say on Yom Kippur, “For sins against God, the Day of Atonement atones. But for sins from one human being against another, the day of atonement does *not* atone until you have gone to that person and made amends.” It is up to us to be responsible for our actions and our anger. Adonai cannot absolve you of actions you do not have the temerity to own; those you must take responsibility for, as well as their consequences.
And regarding consent? Where there is consent there is a request, a desire, and a reason. It creates the difference between hurt and *harm*. Where there is consent there is no sin, provided that consent is given freely and without duress, and that it and all personal boundaries are *respected*.
I wish I could get you out to New Hampshire for National Havurah Institute.
Have you read the High Holiday liturgy? Sex is mentioned in it, but it’s clearly open to personal interpretation.
Also, you have a Jewish kinky OSO, have you asked her?
*smiles* Yes, I have asked her. But you know how I am – I am trying to get different views on this topic to see if I can begin to grok it in some way.
I have not yet been able to read any liturgies. I’m still struggling with the basic Hebrew alefbet.
What is the National Havurah Institute?