By Rabbi Zvi Solomons
There are three things for which a Jew should rather be killed than transgress. These are idolatry, murder and adultery.
In the 613 commandments, these are punishable by death. There are, of course, other transgressions that enter into the calculations when a person sins in one of these three ways, which would also have to be taken into account.
The recent case of Ashley Madison has brought several of these into sharp relief. The problem of adultery, something which shames and hurts the other person in a relationship, is obvious. One might say that the exposure of the people who committed such a nasty sin is prosaic justice, and an apposite retribution for what they have done.
Yet there are other aspects of this, which we would do well to examine. For a start, there is the issue of the exposure of those who signed up to the site.
Cynics may laugh, but merely signing up and paying is not evidence of behaviour even though it is evidence of a certain callous level of intent.
Were all these people really unfaithful? Did they commit adultery at all? Halacha has certain parameters that would have to be fulfilled.
Then there is the pain caused to the other party. One might argue that there is no benefit to society in this exposure – how might the innocent person feel once the humiliation of a public revelation has been forced onto him or her?
Marital affairs are best dealt with between partners and not in such a public and easily researched manner.
To put it onto the internet is an exacerbation of any humiliation caused, and makes it more widespread.
What of the children of these marriages?
The other friendships and family members?
What of the chances of the couple staying together?
Now the whole world will be able to search them out. And the information is not just there for a few days or weeks; it’s there forever. This gives a new meaning to regret.
The lies and deceit are also severe and obvious problems, but they are minor compared to what else we can consider.
How many people will hurt themselves because of this revelation? How many will suffer depression or, like poor Pastor John Gibson, kill themselves?
The repercussions are too many and too large to expand on here. However wicked the initial sin, a person should be allowed to repent and should always have hope.
Belonging to the site is not firm proof of sin, but will cause untold pain and suffering to many innocent people.
Is that really what the hackers wanted? •
Zvi Solomons is rabbi of the Jewish Community of Berkshire, Reading UK