“‘No, my brother!’ she cried. ‘Don’t be foolish! Don’t do this to me! Such wicked things aren’t done in Israel. Where could I go in my shame? And you would be called one of the greatest fools in Israel. Please, just speak to the king about it, and he will let you marry me.’
“But Amnon wouldn’t listen and since he was stronger than she was, he raped her. (2 Samuel 13:12-15)”.
This horrendous rape scene is not the only example of sexual abuse and violence against women in the Torah.
Lot offers two virgin daughters to the Sodomite mob to protect male visitors (Genesis 19:8); and Deuteronomy (22:28-29) commands that if a man rapes a virgin, he must marry her and cannot divorce her.
We might point to rabbinic sources that condemn these acts and others that see them as mere tools to teach about another ethics.
However, while Maimonides provides for the father and daughter to refuse such a marriage resulting from the rape of a virgin daughter, he also condones the beating of a ‘bad wife’.
Passages such as these have one clear message for Progressive Jews that stem from the verse, “Male and female did God create them” (Genesis 1:27). In the words of Rabbi John Rayner: “From this it follows that men and women are equally bearers of the Divine Image and hence that it is wrong for either sex to discriminate against the other.”
We are not of generations that will abhor the Edomite merely for being an Edomite; we are of the generation that shall say ‘no means no’, we abhor sexual violence and abuse.
We will see sexual discrimination stamped out and prosecuted appropriately in its event. And we will strive to convince societies whose sexual ethic remains biblical to join those enlightened.
Aaron Goldstein is senior rabbi of Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue