middot separation besorah the power of separation

the power of separation

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-donotenterRav Shaul is very clear in his assertion that those members of the body of Messiah are to remain separate from a sexual world-view disconnected from that of Torah:

For this is the will of God, that you should be consecrated (separated and set apart for pure and holy living): that you should abstain and shrink from all sexual vice, that each one of you should know how to possess (control, manage) his own body in consecration (purity, separated from things profane) and honor, not [to be used] in the passion of lust… — 1 Thessalonians 4:3–5, Amplified Bible

Sexuality is one of the most potent aspects of human existence. There is very little middle ground in sexuality. It is either tender and loving or violent and oppressive. It is either welcomed or utterly invasive. It is either holy or it is profane. In fact, this is so embedded in the human experience that the DSM–IV (the manual for diagnosing mental dysfunction/disease/illness in the U.S.) has an entire section of disorders linked directly to those who find satisfaction in varieties of invasive sexuality. At the same time, the larger world does not draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable sexuality in the same way Torah does. One frightening example is that of magazines that photo-shop images of female models in such a way that their body’s proportions are almost identical to that of adolescent girls … this is the image of sexual attractiveness in America.

One of the most profound assertions of our ability to remain pure and holy in this way is found in Rav Shaul’s letter to the Romans:

Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Messiah Yeshua. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. —Romans 6:11–13, NASB

On the surface, it may not seem true that those of us who are members of the body of Messiah Yeshua are uniquely empowered to overcome sexual impurity. However, it would be unwise to undermine or pass over Rav Shaul’s assertion that we are dead to sin. What if the awareness of our freedom from sin is the key? Strict cognitive psychologists would tell you that with one’s mind one can overcome almost anything. Is this so unlike the Besorah? After all, in Romans 12:2, we are encouraged to have our minds renewed. The focus on belief and creed is not at the expense of doing the right thing; rather it is there to enable us to live with renewed minds. Our minds are the source of our actions. A renewed mind leads to a renewed life.

We are not only required to remain sexually pure, we are empowered to do so. So what does sexual purity (separation) mean according to Rav Shaul? It means having control over one’s passions and using sexuality in a way that sanctifies creation. After all, sexual union is one of the acts where we partner with God’s creativity. In sexuality, we can become partners with God in the renewing of creation in a way that sanctifies relationships and families.

When we refrain from sexual behavior until it is sanctified through the ordinance of marriage in a union declared good by God, renewing the creation He called “good” from the beginning, we demonstrate our freedom from the power of sin to control our lives. May we all orient ourselves to the boundaries God has set for one of the noblest gifts He has given us.


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