Why does Israel permit(ted) incest

Why does Israel permit(ted) incest???

The general prohibition against incest with one’s “near of kin” (Lev. 18:6) has been held to be limited to the following degrees of consanguinity: parents (18:7); mother-in-law (20:14); stepmother (18:8); sister and half sister (18:9) (but not a stepsister as the Karaites maintained); granddaughter (18:10); aunt (18:12–13); wife of father’s brother (18:14); daughter-in-law (18:15); brother’s wife (18:16); stepdaughter and step granddaughter (18:17); and wife’s sister during the lifetime of the former (18:18). This list is exhaustive and may not be added to by analogies (Sifra, Aḥarei-Mot 13:15), since creation of any criminal offense requires the express pronouncement both ofthe conduct prohibited and the resulting punishment (see *Penal Law; cf. Ker. 3a; Sanh. 74a). A list of another 20 degrees of consanguinity was later drawn up, however, by way of analogy – albeit not to create additional criminal offenses, but as additional prohibitions of intercourse and impediments to *marriage (Yev. 21a; Maim. Yad, Ishut 1:6).

The punishment for the various offenses of incest varies – while biblical law prescribed death by burning for incest with one’s mother-in-law (Lev. 20:14), it did not prescribe any particular mode of execution for other capital offenses of incest (Lev. 20:11, 12, 17, 19, 20, 21), some of which were clearly to be visited with *divine punishment (*karet; Lev. 20:17, 20, 21). In talmudic law, the offenses of incest were eventually classified as follows:

(1) those punishable with death by stoning – incest with mother, stepmother daughter-in-law (Sanh. 7:4);

(2) those punishable with death by burning – incest with stepdaughter, stepgranddaughter, mother-in-law, grandmother-in-law, daughter, and granddaughter (Sanh. 9:1); and

(3) all other offenses of incest to be punishable with karet or *flogging (Maim. Yad, Issurei Bi’ah 1:4–7). As several of the offenses are threatened with both judicial and divine punishment (e.g., incest with mother and stepmother; Ker. 1:1), the rule was evolved that capital punishment would be imposed judicially only where the offense had been committed after previous warning that it was punishable and in the presence of witnesses; while divine punishment was deemed to apply where the offense had been committed without such previous warning and without witnesses being available (Yad, Issurei Bi’ah 1:2–3). Flogging came to be administered not only by way of punishment for such incestuous acts as had been made criminal offenses, but also by way of admonition and rebuke (makkat mardut), for incestuous acts which were not criminal (Maim. ibid. 2:8). Occasionally, capital offenses were reduced to offenses punishable with flogging, as in the case of incest with one’s wife’s near relations after her death (ibid.)

Incest is a capital offense only where sexual intercourse has taken place (Shab. 13a), although complete penetration is not a required element (Maim. ibid. 1:10); but the prohibition to come near anyone of one’s “near of kin” was interpreted to render any bodily proximity, within the prohibited degrees of kinship, punishable with flogging (Maim. Yad, Issurei Bi’ah 21:1) – except kissing or embracing one’s mother, daughter, sister, or aunt, or such other relatives who do not normally arouse the sexual urge (ibid., 21:6; and see *Sexual Offenses). The offense of incest is committed by the female as well as by the male participant (Yev. 84b; TJ, Sanh. 7, 9, 25a; Ker. 2:4; Maim. Yad, Issurei Bi’ah 1:1); but where the offense is committed upon an infant or upon a person asleep or by a person unaware of the incestuous relationship, only the initiator of the act is punishable (Ker. 2:6).

Each single act of sexual intercourse amounts to a complete commission of the offense (Maim. ibid. 3:12). The turpitude of this kind of offense is stressed in the Bible by such epithets as “wickedness” (zimmah, Lev. 20:14; Ezek. 22, 11), “corruption” (tevel, Lev. 20:12), “shame” (ḥesed, Lev. 20:17), and “impurity” (niddah, Lev. 20:21). Incest is one of the three cardinal offenses (together with murder and idolatry) which a man may not commit even in order to save himself from certain death (Sanh. 74a; Yad, Yesodei ha-Torah 5:2); nor in order to save another person’s life (Tosef. Shab. 15:17); nor can there be any justification for its commission on any medical grounds (TJ, Shab. 14:4, 14d; Pes. 25a). Opinions are divided among medieval scholars as to whether a woman, as well as a man, must choose to die rather than commit incest. Some hold that a woman, being the passive partner, may submit to incest rather than be killed (Rashi to Yoma 82a; Isserles, YD 157:1 and cf. Tos. to Av. Zar. 54a), while others maintain that she should prefer death (ET, 6 (1954), 110). It is also maintained that the female’s enjoyment is tantamount to the male’s action (Tos. BK 32a), constituting “an overt act” for which her punishment is flogging.

In the State of Israel there is no statutory prohibition against incest as such, but it is an offense, punishable with five years’ imprisonment, for anyone to have sexual intercourse with an unmarried girl below the age of 21 who is his or his wife’s descendant, or his ward, or who has been entrusted to him for education or supervision (Section 155, Criminal Code Ordinance, 1936). Apart from this particular provision, it would seem that sexual intercourse within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity described above is, indeed, left to divine punishment.

Jewish views on incest (Part 2)

In the Bible

The Bible lists several types of relationship which it regards as incestuous unions; one list appears in Deuteronomy, and two lists occur in the Book of Leviticus. These lists only mention relationships with female relatives; excluding lesbianism, this implies that the list is addressed to men. Since the lists would then describe women with whom it is forbidden for a man to have a relationship, they also indirectly imply a list of men with whom it is forbidden for a woman to have a relationship. These lists then compare as follows (blue = forbidden for men only, pink = forbidden for women only, purple = forbidden for both men and women)

One of the most notable features of all the lists is that sexual activity between a man and his own daughter is not explicitly forbidden, although the first relation mentioned after the Levitical prohibition of sex with “near kin” is that of “thy father.” The Talmud argues that this absence is because the prohibition was obvious, especially given the proscription against a relationship with a granddaughter. As with the case of a man’s own daughter, the shortness of the list in Leviticus 20, and especially of that in Deuteronomy, are explained by classical Jewish scholarship as being due to the obviousness of the missing prohibitions.

Apart from the case of a man marrying his daughter, the list in Leviticus 18 roughly produces the same rules as were followed in early (pre-Islamic) Arabic culture. However, most tribal nations also disliked exogamous marriage – marriage to completely unrelated people.

Judaism’s view is that prior to the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, some of the prohibitions only applied voluntarily. Thus in several prominent cases in the Torah, the incest rules are ignored in favour of marriage to a close relative; Jacob is described as having married his first wife’s sister.

Secular views

Some secular Biblical scholars have instead proposed that forbidding incest with a daughter was originally in the list, but was then accidentally left out from the copy on which modern versions of the text ultimately depend, due to a mistake by the scribe.

To Be Continue ………. 

Jewish views on incest

Jewish views on incest

Judaism’s views of incest are complicated. In general society, the exact list of sexual relationships that would constitute incest vary from person to person, and from state to state, but in Judaism this list is somewhat clearly defined by virtue of Judaism’s reliance on theHebrew Bible and its codes of prescribed behavior. Although Jewish marriage without sex is theoretically possible, the Biblically-derived incest rules of Judaism effectively set down the degrees of kinship that either allow or preclude marriage between a male and a female.

TO BE CONTINUE ………