What Would Maimonides Say About Sexting and Anthony Weiner’s Betrayal

Aggrieved political wives have a long, sad history in this country, and in Judaism. From King David to Bill Clinton, betrayed wives have, sadly, become part of the fabric of the entitlement that surrounds powerful men. And in Judaism, figures like King David’s conquests have been, in some quarters, celebrated as evidence of his virility.

It’s a tired and offensive trope, one which undermines the sacredness of marital vows by suggesting they don’t apply to powerful men, and treats women and wives as objects in men’s lives rather than the subject of their own.

Which is why thousands of women are breathing a sigh of relief today with the news that Huma Abedin, the brilliant, accomplished wife of Anthony Weiner, is leaving him after he was caught in (yet another) sexting scandal. Abedin’s - who is a Muslim - decision to stay with Weiner, her Jewish husband, was judged harshly by many women – Jewish, Muslim and neither, who believed her choice to stay gave tacit permission to the repeated betrayals. It wasn’t an altogether fair judgment, given the two had a child together, but understandable given the visibility and lewdness of the scandal.

And the truth is, Jewish law judges men like Weiner, who repent and then knowingly commit the same sin again, even more harshly than the wives who stay with them. In Hilchot Teshuva, Maimonides suggests that there are five transgressions for which “it is unlikely that the person who commits them will repent.” (HT 4:4). The third of these is “One who looks at women forbidden to him. He considers the matter of little consequence, rationalizing, ‘Did I engage in [sexual] relations with her? Was I intimate with her?’” It’s as if Maimonides had anticipated – and warned against – betrayal by sexting.

But there’s a thin line between schadenfreude and a celebration of a person’s – even a broken person’s – downfall (and collateral damage that’s a result of that downfall). Immediately after detailing the third transgression (above), Maimonides warns that those who take pride in another’s shame forfeit our share in the world to come: “[The one who takes pride in another’s shame] tells himself that [he himself] has not sinned, for he did not…humiliate…[the other]. He merely constrasted his [own] good deeds against the deeds or wisdom of his colleague in order that, out of comparison, he would appear honorable, and his colleague shameful.” (HT, 4:4)

This applies even – especially - in the case of Anthony Weiner when the urge to judge (and feel self-righteous) is overwhelming. What women like Abedin need now is all as much compassion – and as little judgment – as we can muster. There are very few of us who haven’t forgiven someone we loved who did not merit our forgiveness. This doesn’t make us worthy of others scorn and self-righteousness – it simply makes us human. Maimonides knew that, and we should too.

Rabbi Jordie Gerson works as a full-time Rabbi for Adventure Rabbi in Boulder, Colorado. She is an accomplished writer and speaker with a blog at the Huffington Post religion. Follow her on Facebook.

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

What Would Maimonides Say About Sexting and Anthony Weiner’s Betrayal

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close
Close