Lamentations: First Kinah – Line 20-21
“They have outraged women in Zion…for they ran after and defiled their neighbor’s wife.” Midrash: Nebuzaradan commanded his troops saying, “The God of this people hates lewdness; so take care not to touch any married women.” The Babylonians were more careful than we were!
Yechezkail : “Whereas he himself did none of these things. That is, the son has eaten on the mountains, has defiled another man’s wife.”
Ibid : This is one of the most powerful allegories in Tanach. God compares us to a newborn baby left abandoned, unwashed, naked and desperate. He took us in, bathed us, cared for us and raised us. Yet, despite His love and care we were not loyal to Him. We chose idols, other powers to worship. God compares this to adultery. We cheated on our Beloved. We chose other relationships. When we speak of our adultery we do no limit ourselves to the literal meaning, of which we were guilty in the time of the First Temple. We refer to our worship of other powers, cheating on our relationship with God.
We live in a time when we are more careful than ever with the laws of modesty and the laws pertaining to relationships between the sexes. Yet, we must still ask ourselves if this stanza, accusing us of adultery, also applies to us. It is tempting to say that we are innocent in this regard. It is appealing to insist on our holiness in this respect. We are resolute in the laws of dress and in the separation of the sexes. We constantly address the need for holiness in our lives. We live in a world with little or no sexual morality. We are constantly bombarded with sexuality and temptation. It is impossible to walk on the street and not see sex being used to sell absolutely anything. You can’t open a newspaper without seeing sexual advertising. When we walk on the streets we see people dressed with blatant sexuality. There is no holiness in modern society. So we fight back. We become stricter and stricter in our insistence on the laws of modesty. We fight back with an ever-increasing stress on holiness.
The Shelah HaKodesh said that we must use stringencies in the laws to fight the influences of society. He said that almost 500 years ago. How much more so in our times! Yet, we are perceived as backward and chauvinistic for our stringency in the separation of men and women. We don’t and should not care how we are perceived.
However, according to this stanza there must still be something lacking in the relationship between men and women. We have to ask ourselves if our approach is working. Are our children prepared to fight the influence of modern society? Are they incorporating all that we teach them in a healthy way? Do they take pride in their way of life, or do they feel deprived? Can we say that since our approach works for so many that it is working despite the fact that there are large numbers who cannot fight back with confidence?