Marriage and family are the cornerstone of Orthodox Jewish life. The Jewish view of marriage -- that two halves are bound together as a single entity -- is derived from Genesis 2:24, which states that a man and woman "become one flesh" when they marry. Emotional and physical intimacy are reserved for marriage, so infidelity is unacceptable. Jewish law serves as a safeguard to prevent extra-marital relationships.
Acknowledging that men and women have certain natural temptations, Rabbinic authorities established laws to prevent inappropriate behavior, including infidelity. The complex laws of yichud, the Hebrew term for seclusion, prohibit men and women who are not married to each other and who are not blood relatives from being alone together in a secluded area. For religious Jews, violating the laws of yichud is highly problematic even if there's no physical contact. Rabbi Manis Freedman argues in his book, "Doesn't Anyone Blush Anymore?" that a man and woman alone together constitutes a sexual event, even if they're not physically intimate.
Modesty in speech, dress and overall demeanor plays a key role in preventing infidelity. Orthodox Jews avoid dressing, speaking or behaving provocatively toward members of the opposite sex. Both men and women try to present themselves in a dignified and refined -- rather than flashy or seductive -- manner. Religious Jews believe the emphasis on modesty lowers the chance of inappropriate behavior outside of marriage and preserves and enhances sexuality within a marriage.
To prevent forbidden relationships, Orthodox Jews opt for gender-separate activities. Men and women pray in separate areas of the synagogue and work out at gender-separate gyms. When Orthodox men and women do interact publicly -- at work, for example -- the tone is formal. Colleagues avoid addressing each other by their first names, touching or speaking about intimate subjects. Psychotherapist, marriage counselor and ordained rabbi M. Gary Neuman supports such an approach. He warns that sending funny e-mails, joking around, and casually hanging out with members of the opposite sex are forms of emotional infidelity that can be devastating to a Jewish marriage.
Observing the laws of yichud and tzniut and maintaining a healthy distance between the sexes is not a matter of distrust or belief that one's spouse is incapable of self-control. Rather, Orthodox Jews acknowledge that God created people with strong physical desires, and they choose not to take unnecessary risks. When channeled properly, physical desires add tremendous depth to the marriage. When they are directed outside the marriage, they can wreak havoc. Husband and wife willingly distance themselves from members of the opposite sex to preserve and strengthen the marital bond.
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