Does Jewish Law Encourage Child Sexual Abuse?

Failed Messiah
September 4, 2010

A small section of the Shulkhan Arukh, Code of Jewish Law, allows behavior that today would be considered criminal.

Rabbi Eidensohn of the Da'at Torah blog posted the following excerpt from the Shulkhan Arukh, Even HaEzer 21:7, this morning:

Therefore a father is permitted to hug his daughter and to kiss her as well as to sleep in bed with her while their naked bodies are in contact. This is also permitted for a mother with her son as long as they are children. When they grow up and the son is considered an adult [at 13 years and a day] and the daughter grows until she has breasts and pubic hair (Yechezkeil 16:7) they can no longer sleep with their parents and have their naked bodies in contact but they can only sleep together while clothed. However if the daughter is embarrassed to stand naked before her father or if she is engaged to be married or if the mother is embarrassed to stand naked before her son even if they are still children once the nudity causes embarrassment then they can only sleep together while clothed.

Rabbi Eidensohn is rightly puzzled by this, although he says he was told this was a common European practice for Jews and non-Jews until WW2.

Common or not, universal or not, I'm appalled and you should be, too.

[Hat Tip: Yankel.]

Update 10:15 am CDT The poverty excuse.

The assumption made by many commenters below that poverty is the cause for sleeping naked all together is, I think, wrong.

Jewish law has no difficulty mandating that a man have a tallit a very expensive garment, BTW and tefillin also very expensive, or that dozens of other expensive ritual practices must be followed. In relatively recent times, we stopped eating the back half of mammals something that drove up the cost of kosher meat considerably.

Halakha could have mandated a loincloth or a night shirt but it does not, even those the cost of these garments even 500 years ago was not high.

Also, the idea that most Jews were stereotypically poor, walking about in rags with no shoes, etc., is false.

We often view Jewish poverty through the eyes of post-WW1 Poland, where government decrees forced thousand of Jews out of middle class professions, and left a huge portion of our community destitute.

But this was not the case before that, and it was not the case in Spain, Turkey, Egypt, France, etc.

So why would Jewish law mandate expensive items like tefillin, tallitot, arba kanfot, etc., but not mandate relatively inexpensive items like a night shirt or a loin cloth?


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