PERSPECTIVES: Compromising A Sacred Trust


by Simcha Backman - Los Angeles, CA

December 24, 2009

Infidelity is in the news with the recent development of Jenny Sanford --- wife of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford --- filing for divorce after 20 years of marriage. The world's No. 1 golfer, Tiger Woods, is also involved in a web of infidelity, possibly involving several women. Infidelity is not new in the celebrity world, but what does your faith teach about infidelity? Are we truly damned if we cheat on our wives or husbands?

Infidelity is not only a problem among celebrities, but is fairly prevalent among the general population as well.  One factor contributing to this sad trend is the pervasiveness of overt sexual imagery and innuendo that regularly inundates us all.  Whether it's plastered across billboards or relayed through the Internet, television, or print media, many advertising campaigns routinely portray explicit promiscuity and self-indulgence.  Every day, these messages reach all of us -- including our impressionable children.  Over time, this desensitizes society and obscures the deeper purpose and essential significance of intimacy, and can lead people to consider their marriage vows expendable.

According to Jewish thought, the institution of marriage is extraordinary since it symbolizes on a physical plane a much deeper spiritual reality.  We are taught that husband and wife were originally one soul which was split into two. When they reunite in matrimony, their bond is unique because it represents the recreation of a single entity -- this is the definition of a "soul mate."

Infidelity causes the tearing apart of this spiritual union, and creates irreversible hurt and pain within the family unit.  With true remorse and a sincere commitment to future faithfulness, it is possible to keep together such a severely damaged marriage.  However, chances are that the wounded partner will forever be scarred and will carry the injury within for the rest of his or her life.

I would hope that following the recent rash of highly publicized stories of infidelity, national advertising agencies would recognize their moral responsibility by toning down the explicit sexuality of their marketing approaches.  Regardless of whether there is any change of heart on Madison Avenue, however, each of us has an important duty to help educate society about the intrinsic value of remaining faithful to one's spouse.  We can do our part to point out that marriage represents a sacred trust -- and that a betrayal of that trust always carries painful, lasting consequences.

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