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People Who Live in Glass Houses

By Tzvi Fishman
7/23/2010, 12:00 AM

One of the most basic premises of Judaism is that man has free choice. Again and again, the Torah commands us to choice good and reject evil. To help us, the Torah makes absolutely clear what is considered good and what is considered evil. For instance, in this week’s Torah portion, we read:

“Now therefore hearken, O Israel, to the statutes and to the laws which I teach you to do, that you may live and go in to possess the Land….” (Devarim, 4:1).

“You shall not add to the word that I command thee, neither shall you diminish from it, that you may keep the commandment of the L-rd your G-d which I command you” (Devarim, 4:2).

A person cannot say, “Because I have an inclination to eat lobsters, I am not to blame for eating lobsters.” Nor can he say, “Because I have an inclination to look at pretty women, I am not to blame for looking at pornography on the Internet.” Nor can he say, “Because I have an inclination for men, I am not to blame for engaging in homosexual relationships.”

The Torah makes clear that even though man is beset with many evil inclinations, such as for forbidden foods, theft, speaking bad about others, sexual transgression, covetousness and hatred, it is his task to overcome them.

This is a fundamental principle of Torah. A Jew is commanded to keep the commandments and overcome the urging of the evil inclination which leads him astray. Though a person may be born with a craving for cheeseburgers, he is to refrain from eating cheeseburgers. Though a person may be born with a craving for looking at women, he is to refrain from following after his eyes. Though a person may be born with passion for sexual transgression, he is to refrain from indulging in lusts prohibited by the Torah.

For instance, the Talmud teaches us that a person born with a leaning toward bloodthirstiness, should turn his inclination away from murder, and direct it instead to a more noble purpose, such as becoming a mohel or ritual slaughterer of kosher meat.

No matter how hard the passion is, we have the capability of overcoming it, and of choosing good instead of evil. No one has the right to say, “I was born that way, with a lust to eat shrimp, and that’s the way it is.”

As I wrote in a recent blog, homosexuality is an abomination. But so is incest, pre-marital sex, adultery, sexual relations with non-Jews, violations of the laws of niddah, and other sexual deviations, as it says in the Torah at the end of the long list of sexual transgressions numerated in the portion of Achre Mot: “You shall safeguard My decrees and My laws, and not commit any of these abominations… for if anyone of you commits any of these abominations, the people doing so will be cut off from amongst their people. You shall safeguard My charge that these abominable traditions that were done before you shall not be done, and not make yourselves impure through them, I am Hashem your G-d” (Vayikra, 22-30).  

In other words, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.