Torah for Today: What does the Torah say about… Tyson Fury?

Torah for Today: What does the Torah say about… Tyson Fury?

Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

by Rabbi Ariel Abel

In a recent interview with the Daily Mail, world champion heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury remarked that of three societal taboos – abortion, homosexuality and paedophilia – the first two have been made legal.

Can the first two rank alongside the third? So, what does the Torah say about this? In Judaism, taking the life of an unborn child is not murder, but forbidden if it is done without the overriding purpose to save another life.

Homosexual acts are proscribed by scripture.

By contrast, paedophilia is murder many times over; victims of abuse have to relive the pain and humiliation of abuse endlessly.

For many of those victims, it becomes a challenge simply to want to stay alive. The Talmud discusses adult sex with young children, but does not focus on the pain and humiliation suffered by the child. It concentrates only on the legal perspective of the adult as culpable or not in the eyes of Torah law.

However, as we find with many aspects of the human condition, the universal cardinal sin of inflicting pain on creatures is certainly applicable here.

By contrast, consensual sex between two males, while prohibited by Biblical injunction, carries no such universal and lasting damaging effect on anyone else and thus it cannot be ranked alongside paedophilia in terms of its severity.

An aborted child will not live to suffer further. More so, carrying out an abortion where the foetus is threatening the mother’s life so that the already-existing life may continue to live is a Torah imperative, not an option.

Thus, the Bible teaches that human intervention overrides predetermined natural designation. Nonetheless, natural designation is the work of God, and if a man or woman is born thinking, feeling and acting differently from the norms of his or her sex, it is fatuous to suggest that this is a test that they must overcome at all costs.

There are meta-Halachic concepts which must be considered rather than resorting to dismissing issues of sexuality and gender with generalisations.

Tyson believes that a Bible culture determines that homosexuality is not living for God; being homosexual is living for the self, not for God. I respectfully disagree.

Heterosexual couples are perfectly capable of behaving ungraciously and thereby they do not necessarily live for God, any more than a same-sex couple. As men and women of faith, we must ensure that Biblical laws are preached with love and practised with compassion.

• Ariel Abel is rabbi to communities in north-west England

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