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Why does Torah restrict man from doing things that are natural?

by Rabbi Yossi Marcus


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I’m not sure what you’re referring to by “things that are natural” but I will respond to your unspoken assumption that everything natural is good. This assumption itself is quite natural, so much so that we don’t really think about it. If we did we would see that it is nonsense.

Imagine you walk into a couple’s house and the place stinks. You don’t say anything, you’re polite, but the place smells of human waste.

After a while you figure out that their two-year old is not trained and has been doing his business all over the house. So why don’t you guys use diapers? you finally ask in desperation.

They say: “Oh, we read this really great book about raising kids and it says you should try to be as natural as possible. Do not impose your preconceived notions upon your child. We thought that diapering the child was rather reactionary and frankly unnatural. Very knee-jerk. On our trip to Kenya we saw the cute little monkeys running around—no diapers in sight. Perfectly natural. As nature intended. The kid was born naked; we’d like to keep him that way for as long as possible.”

That’s a rather outlandish example, but you see the point. It is natural for people to rip off the towels from the Marriot. It is natural for people to lie about their income to the IRS. It is natural for people to speed if they think they won’t get caught.

Do you still think that natural equals good?

G-d created us with certain natural impulses so that when we overcome them we have achieved something. If we were all angels—as you imply—there would be no purpose for our existence. That’s why the Torah was not given to angels—it was given to us. Naturally.


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Doesn't answer the question...

Posted by: Benjamin, TX on Apr 03, 2006

This still doesn't answer many questions. Every example you gave of something natural was something that material affected another human being in a negative way. This still does not describe how other "natural" things are bad; only how hurting others is bad.

For example, you linked this page from the question about masturbation; the problem is, it doesn't answer the question at all. Masturbation does not cause anybody else material harm. Your answer only shows how stealing, lying, not paying taxes, and causing an unpleasant smell are wrong (though I still don't see why the diapers is really wrong or a sin, just socially unacceptable).

Is there a better answer for why other natural impulses and desires that do not harm or even affect other people are wrong? Thank you.

does answer question

Posted by: Rachel, Albany, NY on Oct 18, 2006


The rabbi does not get into why certain things are forbidden by the Torah. He is simply challenging the notion that BECAUSE it is natural it MUST be okay. Hence his examples of natural things that are not okay. You are right--this does not mean that all natural things are bad. It does not explain why masturbation, for example, is wrong. He is only addressing the sentiment that all natural things are neccesarily healthy and conducive to goodness and a better world.

i think this notion of "natural equals good" is one that pervades the cultural left and i'm glad the rabbi addressed it.

All the best,

Masturbation *does* Hurt Someone

Posted by: Amitai, New York, NY on Dec 02, 2006

If masturbation(M.) was a simple reaction to hormone levels in the blood, than it indeed it would be no different than sneezing, a natural corrective. But it is not that simple.

Animals cry to clean their eyes. Human beings are unique in that they cry for other reasons - for ex., when one is sad. And for human beings to reach orgasm, one requires mental sexual excitation.

The sexual act is supposed to be a 2-person deal, like hugging, a mutual sharing. M., on the other hand, requires a form of mental (int. and emotional) treatment of the opposite sex as an object, or what Buber would an It, and not a Thou. Often M. involves looking at pornography, but even without physical pictures, we can assume it requires fantasizing. in the same category of sins that good people can commit as neglecting to say good morning to the doorman, or thanking the barber. To forget that an entire class (gender, economic, et al) of people are not thinking, feeling souls hurts you, women, & everyone!

Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.