Attitudes Towards Adultery in Hinduism and Judaism

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Adultery within Hinduism and Judaism is considered to be a serious offense. Both religions contain a vast majority of coherent ideas on the subject of infidelity, lust, and sexual pleasure. In Judaism, the act of adultery is punishable by death. In that same manner, it is the Hundi belief that an act of adultery can carry bad karma even onto a next reincarnation. Hinduism and Judaism have similar beliefs within their religions when it comes to adultery, for example, they both carry similar consequences for an adulterer. Both have much lower opinions of women who commit adultery vs. that of men. Finally, while at certain periods of times they might’ve had different opinions, now in day and age their ideas on adultery have come to an agreement.

In Judaism, adultery is defined as a woman who is married and has sexual relations with a man who is not her husband, yet the Tanak does not state that a married man having sexual intercourse with a woman other than his wife is considered an adulterous act. During biblical times, the wife was portrayed as a sort of property to her husband, therefore her committing adultery meant that she was neglecting the fact that she belonged to him. On the other hand, the husband is not her property. (Jewish Virtual Library, 2008). If a woman committed adultery, both her and the man she had intercourse with would both be publicly killed (stoned). Aside from this, in Genesis 26:10 committing adultery is mentioned as a “great sin” (Bereishit – Genesis 26:10, New Living Translation) when Abraham claims that Sarah was his sister and he gives her to Abimelech, Abimelech explicitly states that someone could have taken Sarah and had sexual intercourse with her, making them commit the great sin of adultery.

The punishments one receives after committing adultery in Judaism are quite severe. In the Tanakh, it’s been clearly stated that a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, both him and the woman are to be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10, New Living Translation). Though adultery is very common in today’s day and age, and it is even encouraged at times, Jewish law stays true to the Torah. Adultery is not something that has been made a social norm within those who still practice the religion today. Adultery is still punished, the only small difference in today’s Jewish community is that there is a movement of Jewish women that demand not only the crime being punishable for them, but for men as well. In Hinduism, the consequences of being an adulterer are harsh as well. Though Hinduism does not have one supreme god, and they don’t have one clear scripture to follow, Hindus do have values and ways of life that have changed over the years. In Hinduism, adultery is defined as a woman having sexual intercourse with a man that is not her husband, and vice versa, a man having sexual intercourse with a woman who is not his wife. “A man should not think incontinently of another’s wife, much less address her to that end; for such a man will be reborn in a future life as a creeping insect. He who commits adultery is punished here and hereafter; for his days in this world are cut short, and when dead he falls into hell.” (Vishnu Purana 3.11) Though the punishment for Hindus was not a public execution, their punishment still involved cutting the days they live here on earth short and being reborn into something of less worth in the next life.

In ancient Jewish law, as well as many other laws, the idea that only a woman who commits adultery is to be punished, but if the husband is caught committing the same crime, it is not punishable against him. If a man suspected any type of adultery from his wife, he was allowed to demand a hearing and have her killed then and there. This, however, is not the case now in days, there needs to be proof of cheating, and the husband isn’t allowed to kill her. Instead, he has to right to divorce her, which means that she is left with nothing and no one. Just as in Judaism, in Hinduism, the cheating wife seems to have a different punishment than that of the husband’s. Her karma is that not only will her social status go down, but her future generations will as well. This is said to be because of the fact that she is connected to every man she has had intercourse with, and it will take a long time for those connections to disappear. (Subramuniyaswami, 1999). In Hinduism, a woman who is caught cheating carries more consequences than when a man is caught cheating. Recently that has changed, the law that criminalized adultery no longer takes place in India. (Biswas, 2018). This article continues and states that before; the law stated that a woman could not file against her adulterous husband. This and many other restrictions on women caused men to take advantage of the law. This means that they would use it for their own benefits such as divorce cases where the wife would receive maintenance. The supreme court case stated that women are not their husband’s property, and therefore should not be criminalized any differently than men are.

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While at certain periods of times Judaism and Hinduism held different beliefs as a whole, today, their ideas have come to an agreement in regards to adultery. Some might argue that Judaism has a much more focused point against adultery vs. that of Hinduism, being that it is punishable by death. Yet, Hinduism shuns upon adultery but doesn’t take such drastic measures against it physically. People have stated that because Hinduism is the oldest religion, it has seen the most changes when it comes to the do’s and dont’s of the law. For example, sexual pleasure has been around for a long time, and Hinduism has acknowledged that. One way of doing so is with the Kama Sutra which is known to be the oldest book on sexuality. Therefore, people argue that Hindus don’t really care for marriage and the sanctity of it, having sexual pleasures is much more important than having one spouse forever and ever. Yet, knowing that Hinduism has gone through a lot of different changes, there have obviously been changes in regards to adultery. In ancient times, only the man was allowed to have sexual intercourse outside of his marriage, but the wife could not. The only law in ancient Hinduism regarding adultery was that a man was not allowed to have sex with another married woman, other than that, it was not frowned upon. What those people don’t know is that this argument is weak.

Today, Hinduism holds a high place for marriage. Those who are married are said to have prosperous lives with great sexual and emotional support from their spouses. When someone commits adultery it throws off the balance of that great marriage and it causes the person who committed the act to ruin their social status not only during this lifetime but the next one as well, which is why not many Hindus actually commit adultery. In Hinduism, social status is extremely important, and when someone is caught cheating on their significant other, their social status is degraded. In Hinduism -like many others- committing adultery ruins the trust and love between spouses and their families are destroyed. Children have to be in the middle and the whole situation is awful.

In Judaism marriage has always been sacred. The Talmud talks about a baby girl being sort of “assigned” to a baby boy 40 days before his birth by a heavenly voice, and that is the woman he will marry. Today, a traditional wedding is like many others, the girl is proposed to with a ring, and she is allowed to say yes or no and from there, wedding ceremonies differ in regards to their branches and beliefs. After the wedding, comes the marriage as a whole. Being married is extremely important because if one isn’t married then it’s seen as not fulfilling what God wants. Having a significant other isn’t solely for procreation, having a spouse means that you have a companion, love, and intimacy with someone. (Jewish Virtual Library, 2008). As mentioned before, polygamy was allowed when it came to Jewish men, now in days, that has been banned in many branches of Judaism and in Israel as well. Though polygamy was allowed, it was not very common, due to the fact that in marriage, the man has to take care of his wife, meaning that if he had more than one wife, he was obligated to take care of every single one of them.

While Hinduism and Judaism carry different fundamental beliefs, there are moral and ethical ideas in which they unite. Both religions focus on living a life of good acts and this is reinforced with the idea of Dharma and a jealous god. Judaism believes in a monotheistic fashion and Hindus feel comfortable with the idea of over 3 million different gods, yet both do not approve of living a life with infidelity. Overall, when thinking about these two religions, it can be hard to find similarities between them because of how different they are as a whole, but when looking into the smaller details and their core beliefs when it comes to adultery, they are indeed very similar. It is important to acknowledge that both religions carry similar beliefs when it comes to the consequences one should face when they cheat, and it is a fact that both religions make the female carry more of a burden than the male. Though today a lot has changed in regard to how ancient times were. The woman isn’t just an object, and the death penalty is not allowed.

Both religions have come to the conclusion that marriage is a beautiful thing that should be enjoyed between two people. Marriage should not be taken as a game because a family can be ruined. Therefore both Hinduism and Judaism carry the same expectations between a man and a woman who are married, they should not cheat, and if they do, either their next life will deal with that choice, or they are left without their family and home.

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