Project Genesis


Question: I have to give a talk to students about watching or looking at pornography, and i would like to know what i should basically say is it allowed or not?

Answer: There is no ambiguity in Torah sources: pornography is clearly and comprehensively forbidden. Here’s a brief and incomplete selection of sources:

The Torah itself forbids thoughts of forbidden sexual relationships in the Shema prayer itself: Numbers 15: 39. The words “after your eyes” are explained by the Talmud to mean using your eyes for such sights. Remember, it is the primary goal of pornography to awake such thoughts in a person’s mind.

The Talmud (Brachos 61a) says that one who engages in a permitted activity (the Talmud’s case: counting out change into a woman’s hand) as a means to stare at a woman “will not remain free of the punishment of Gehinnom (hell)”.

The Talmud (Yoma 29b) also tells us that “thoughts of sin (Classic Commentary of Rashi: sexual sin) are worse than the sin itself” which seems to mean that they cause greater suffering in the person himself – not just Divine punishment, but actual emotional suffering (think of the high social and personal costs associated with such literature)!

The Code of Law (Shulchan Aruch, Orech Chaim 307 #17) considers the authors, printers (and, according to the Mishna Brura, even the retailers) of books of “Divrai Cheshek” – romance novels – as “those who sin and cause others to sin”. A very serious category.

The great Jewish legal decisor of our time, Rabbi Ovadya Yosef (I believe in Yechave Da’as), proves (from a Talmud in Nedarim in which a young man was tempted to sin based on seeing his reflection in a pool) that an image is just as powerful as seeing the actual thing. Based on this, he forbade seeing immodest images on television etc.

I hope this helps and I wish you the greatest success in this project.

Rabbi Boruch Clinton
Ottawa, Canada

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