Jewish religious values are predicated upon the unity of God and the integrity of the world and its inhabitants as Divine creations. These values identifyshleimut ["wholeness"] as a fundamental goal of human experience. Sexuality and sexual expression are integral and powerful elements in the potential wholeness of human beings. Our tradition commands us to sanctify the basic elements ofthe human being through values that express the Divine in every person and in every relationship. Each Jew should seek to conduct his/her sexual life in amanner that elicits the intrinsic holiness within the person and the relationship. Thus can shleimut be realized. The specific values that follow are contemporaryinterpretations of human shleimut: B'tzelem Elohim ("in the image of God"): This fundamental Jewish idea, articulated in Genesis 1:27 ("And God created Adam in the Divine image ... maleand female. ..."), is at the core of all Jewish values. B'tzelem Elohim underscores the inherent dignity of every person, woman and man, with the equal honor andrespect due to each individual's integrity and sexual identity. B'tzelem Elohim requires each of us to value one's self and one's sexual partner and to be sensitiveto his/her needs. Thus do we affirm that consensuality and mutuality are among the values necessary to validate a sexual relationship as spiritual and ethicaland therefore "in the image of God.".
Mishpacha ("family"): The family is a cornerstone of Jewish life. The Torah, through the first mitzvah ["commandment"], p'ru u'rvu, "be fruitful andmultiply" (Genesis 1:28), emphasizes the obligation of bringing children into the world through the institution of the family. In our age, the traditional notion of family asbeing two parents and children (and perhaps older generations) living in the same household is in the process of being redefined. Men and women of variousages living together, singles, gay and lesbian couples, single parent households, etc., may all be understood as families in the wider, if not traditional, sense."Family" also has multiple meanings in an age of increasingly complex biotechnology and choice. While procreation and family are especially important asguarantors of the survival of the Jewish people, all Jews have a responsibility to raise and nurture the next generation of our people. The importance of family,whether biologically or relationally based, remains the foundation of meaningful human existence.
Tz'niyut ("modesty"): The classic "Iggeret HaKodesh--"The Holy Letter"--sets forth the Jewish view that the Holy One did not create anything that is notbeautiful and potentially good. The human body in itself is never to be considered an object of shame or embarrassment. Instead, "...it is the manner andcontext in which it (i.e., the body) is utilized, the ends to which it is used, which determine condemnation or praise." Our behavior should never reduce thehuman body to an object. Dress, language, and behavior should reflect a sensitivity to the Jewish respect for modesty and privacy. As Jews, we acknowledgeand celebrate the differences between public, private, and holy time, as well as the differences between public, private, and holy places.
Simcha ("joy"): Human sexuality, as a powerful force in our lives, has the potential for physical closeness and pleasure, emotional intimacy andcommunication. The experience of sexual pleasure and orgasm, both in relationships and individually, can greatly delight women and men. Our traditionteaches that procreation is not the sole purpose of sexual intimacy; it not only recognizes but rejoices in the gratification which our sexuality can bring to us.As an expression of love, the physical release and relaxation, the enjoyment of sensuality and playfulness, which responsible sexual activity can provide isencouraged by our Jewish tradition. The sages teach that the Sh'chinah, the Divine Presence, joins with people when they unite in love, but add that if there isno joy between them, the Sh'chinah will not be present (Shabbat 30b, Zohar l). Judaism insists that the simcha of human sexual activity should be experiencedonly in healthy and responsible human relationships.