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Judaism's Perspective on Domestic Violence

In most religions, living ethically is both a road to salvation and the pathway beyond it. All religions have practical codes that are used as ways of living or ways of doing things for instance, Islam has the five pillars and ethical teachings, Buddhism has the Noble Eightfold Path and precepts, Judaism has the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) and Christians have the Sermon (Goldburg, 2009). The five main religions obtained their religious codes through their God by self-revelation to prophets (Goldburg, 2009). World-wide religions such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism have different approaches when faced with difficult ethical issues.

Domestic violence is one of the ethical issue that is common among all religions, it is defined as a violent or an aggressive behaviour within the home involving violent abuse of a spouse or partner (DVRCV, 2020). There are many attitudes towards domestic violence in Judaism. It can be argued that the Jewish traditions and the Decalogue influence an adherents’ religious-ethical response to domestic violence hence, domestic violence is believed to be unlawful but can be justified under certain circumstances.

This essay will investigate and analyse interpersonal conflict (domestic violence) from the perspective of Judaism in order to evaluate and draw conclusions about the extent to which religious ethics influence an adherent’s response to domestic violence within Judaism religious traditions.

Although domestic violence is a common issue among all religions, it is not a new issue in the Jewish community. This issue affects men and women in heterosexual and same-sex relationships. In Jewish families, domestic abuse occurs at about the same rate as in the general population (15-25 percent) among all socioeconomic levels and denominations including the unaffiliated reports the Jewish Coalition against Domestic Abuse (Jacobs, 2018).

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Family violence occurs among the Orthodox at least as much as it does among Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform Jews in Jewish traditions. In Judaism, it is believed that it is forbidden for a person to harm another this may also include physical abuse, although the Torah does not sate it. It is shown in the Talmud. The Talmud is the comprehensive written version of the Jewish oral law and the subsequent commentaries on it (BBC, 2009). It is made up of the Mishnah and the Gemara. The Mishnah is the original written version of the oral law and the Gemara is the record of the rabbinic discussions following this writing down, it includes their differences of view (BBC, 2009).

Some Jews reject the concept that it is permissible for Jews to use domestic violence because of adherence to the principle that a husband is bound to honour his wife over others. That women, as well as men are made in the image of God is a more egalitarian interpretation for rejection of domestic violence and those who respond in that way actively promote equality within Judaism. “God created man in His image, male and female, He created them,” (Genesis 1:27) (BibleGateway, n.d.). This statement within the Torah tells us that we are all created in the image of God. That fundamental tenet would seem to require that at a very minimum, we do not physically abuse others (Johnson, 2015). The Torah is an important focal point for the Jewish faith and a guide to a way of life. However, Depending on whom one consults about the topic, domestic violence can be justified in the Jewish community. Some accept and legitimize the occurrence as the exercising of the husband’s inherent right to educate, discipline, and/or correct a disobedient wife (Myers, 2009). According to the Jewish law, the man owns the wife (Myers, 2009). When a man is betrothed the Hebrew word koneh translates to the verb acquires (Myers, 2009).

Wife beating is permitted in the Jewish communities as a way for a husband to educate their wife. It is usually condone in a response to taunting or degradation. Rabbis who know Jewish husbands that beat their wives and permit it usually justify it either as a means for the husband to educate his wife in proper behaviour or as a way to obtain domestic harmony. According to (Dorff, 1995) , It is believed that a man who strikes his wife commits a sin, just as if he were to strike anyone else. If he does this often, the court may punish him, excommunicate him, and flog him using every manner of punishment and force (Dorff, 1995). The court may also make him swear that he will no longer do it. If he does not obey the court’s decree; there are some authorities who say to force him to divorce her, if he has been warned once or twice because it is not the way of Jews to strike their wives (Dorff, 1995). That is a non-Jewish form of behaviour. Thus, the R. Isserles (Rabbi Moses Isserles) rules that when the beating is rooted in the husband’s aggression, it is not acceptable and the court should compel him either to desist or to divorce his wife (Dorff, 1995). However, If it is caused by the wife’s antagonistic behaviour, then the husband is subjected to no such penalties but if she is the cause of it for example, if she curses him or denigrates his father and mother and he scolds her calmly at first but it does not help then it is obvious that he is permitted to beat her and castigate her (Dorff, 1995). If it is an unknown cause, the husband is not considered a reliable source when he says that she is the cause and portrays her as a harlot as all women are presumed to be law-abiding (Miller, 2012) (Biale, 2011).

In conclusion, an adherent’s religious-ethical response to domestic violence can be influence by traditions and laws hence there are many attitudes toward domestic violence within the Jewish community. Domestic violence is a huge ethical issue, it is defined as a violent or an aggressive behaviour within the home involving violent abuse of a spouse or partner. Judaism believe that domestic violence is unlawful but it can be justified in certain circumstances as it may be used for educational purposes. Ethics is not only about values and principles, it is also about identities and relationships. In most religions, living ethically is both a road to salvation and the pathway beyond it.


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Judaism's Perspective on Domestic Violence. (2021, Apr 05). Retrieved from

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