Does my body belong to me? - Shoftim

Thursday, 20 August, 2020 - 7:14 am

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The idea that “my body belongs to me” is discussed a lot these days. “Since my body is mine”, some argue, “I can do with it whatever I wish, as long as I don’t harm those around me.” It sounds logical. Naturally, there must be laws about what affects other people. But why should anyone mix in what concerns my own body?

In this week’s Parasha, we learn that the Jewish penal system includes death penalty for some very serious sins. Death penalty can only be given if there were two witnesses who saw the sin with their own eyes. The Maimonides explain that the death penalty cannot be applied based only on the admission of the sinner. If someone admits to committing a murder but there were no witnesses, he is not sentenced to death. Yet, in matters relating to money and other property, if someone admits something, that is accepted and considered as the best proof for his culpability. In the words of the Talmud: “The admission by a litigant is worth a hundred witnesses”.

Why this difference between the laws relating to someone’s body and someone’s possessions?

From the Torah’s perspective, our body does not belong to us and is exclusively G-d’s property. Our money, our house and the rest of our possessions were given to us by G-d. We must utilize them according to G-d‘s will, but they are considered ours. On the contrary, our body does not belong to us. It is a loan from G-d and even though we have it in our control, it remains a divine property with a higher spiritual quality.  

Since our body does not belong to us, we are forbidden to harm it, not with actions, not even with an admission in court. We have a special responsibility to handle it correctly, according to the instructions of the Owner. Feed it with kosher food, dress it with modest clothing, not to harm it intentionally, as with a tattoo and generally take care of our health.

Let us keep the sanctity of our bodies and protect it. Let us choose a Mitzvah that is related to our bodies, such as avoiding mixing meat and dairy, which we will keep more carefully this week. When Mashiach will come very soon, we will be able to see with our eyes this sanctity, and not only believe that it exists.

Shabbat Shalom,


 Based on an article from Tali Lowenthal  

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