After failing to curse the Jewish people, Bilaam advised Balak to lure the Jews into sexual immorality "for their God hates zimah" (Sanhedrin 106a). We also find that many cases of forbidden relations incur capital punishment (Lev.20). And before the Flood in Noah's time: "the earth was corrupt before God.. for all flesh corrupted their way" (Gen. 6:17), Rabbi Yishmael says - this refers to sexual immorality (Sanhedrin 57a).

Why is this so hateful in God's eyes? Is it due to the consequences of the breakdown of family or some other reason?

  • G-d makes the rules and put nature in place with its laws and wants us to maintain them. Whilst the animal kingdom procreate with whomever they see fit, we are "above" the animals and have to control our instincts.
    – CashCow
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 11:40
  • I think this question could use some more explicating. If I'm understanding you correctly, you're asking why specifically is Bilaam suggesting to tempt them into sexual immorality as opposed to other sins? Because "why does God hate zimah" is simple - he said it's assur, so why WOULDN'T Hashem hate someone transgressing his command? Commented May 19, 2016 at 11:56
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    See: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/38228/8775
    – mevaqesh
    Commented May 29, 2016 at 15:08
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    Because it is a disfigurement of love, which, according to the great Hillel, represents the bulk of the entire Torah. So if your psyche is viciously assaulted by hatred or malice, you escape the attack of evil by running towards goodness and loving-kindness for safety; but if even love itself has been corrupted, then there is no hope of escape anymore, since even the good, which is supposed to come to one's aid and rescue, has become tainted, and cannot henceforth provide any help.
    – user18041
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 1:50

5 Answers 5


Rabbi Mayer Twersky writes:

Rashi, commenting on the verse "you shall be holy" (Vayikra 19:2) states:

"abstain from sexual immorality ... because wherever you find abstention from sexual immorality you find holiness"... Seforno establishes an equation between holiness and eternity. Thus, to be holy means to be forever preoccupied with that which is true and enduring, and to resist the allure of that which is illusory and ephemeral, thereby becoming worthy of eternal life. Hence, the phenomenology of holiness described by Rashi and Ramban. Involvement with sexual immorality and even the indulgence of lust signify the ultimate preoccupation with that which is transient and ephemeral, the very antithesis of holiness.

source: http://www.torahweb.org/torah/2002/parsha/rtwe_kedoshim.html

  • I don't see why "sexual immorality and even the indulgence of lust signify the ultimate preoccupation with that which is transient and ephemeral". Maybe a one night stand, but marrying a sister might be a long-term commitment.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Oct 13, 2018 at 21:51

Ramban (Vayikra 18:6) comments that while the Rambam and Ibn Ezra tried to give a reason that in order to minimize sexual promiscuity the Torah forbade sexual relationships with those women one is regularly with (sibling, parent, child), he himself does not accept that reason. He suggests there may be "secret" reasons, though he doesn't have any tradition for one, and suggests that all the relationships which were forbidden are either of the type that can't produce children or won't establish successful marriages. But he concludes that it is a Decree of the King which we don't really know the reason for.

  • does he hold that all mitzvot are but decrees?
    – ray
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 19:43
  • @ray I don't think so. It's a Chok.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 20:07
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    not very satisfying to say the least. but thanks
    – ray
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 22:06
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    @ray We already knew God doesn't want us to do it. So, according to RY, one of the categories of sins of the generation preceding the deluge was sexual sins. What are you getting at?
    – Double AA
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 5:52
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    @ray You sure are reading a lot into a translation of a word in Tanakh. Do you have any evidence the verb השחית has the connotations you are assigning to it? You are just making things up. It's your made up Drashas on an English translation vs the Ramban.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 7:05

This question is interesting because the Gemara begins with this issue "אלהיהם של אלו שונא זימה הוא". But if we read each word of the text we find that the main issue is Idolatry. I will quote a Rashi:

Gemara (Sanhedrin 106a) quote a verse in Hosea (9, 10): הֵמָּה בָּאוּ בַעַל-פְּעוֹר, וַיִּנָּזְרוּ לַבֹּשֶׁת, וַיִּהְיוּ שִׁקּוּצִים, כְּאָהֳבָם.‏
but so soon as they came to Baal-peor, they separated themselves unto the shameful thing, and became detestable like that which they loved. {Be careful to the words, "love" is the word}
Rashi in Gemara:
כאהבם. מתוך תאות אהבתם לזנות היו משוקצים שכופרין בהקב''ה:‏
This was in consequence of their love of "love", they are becoming disgusting because they disavowed G_d.

So, the power of love is the cause of the hate of sexual immorality. Because love knows no laws, it is very harmful. Truth does not go hand in hand with an uncontrollable behavior.

Here is a Quotation of the Gemara cited in the OP. Sanhedrin 106a from Talmud Bavli

But he should have said, What thy people shall do to this people - R`Abba B`Kahana said: It is as one who, cursing himself, refers his malediction to others. He [Balaam] said thus to him [Balak].' The God of these hates lewdness, and they are very partial to linen {allusion to beautiful clothes, link between coquetry and arayot}. Come, and I will advise thee. Erect for them tents enclosed by hangings, in which place harlots, old women without, young women within, to sell them linen garments.' So he erected curtained tents from the snowy mountain [Hermon] as far as Beth ha-Yeshimoth [i.e., right from north to south], and placed harlots in them - old women without, young women within. And when an Israelite ate, drank, and was merry, and issued forth for a stroll in the market place, the old woman would say to him, 'Dost thou not desire linen garments? ' The old woman offered it at its current value, but the young one for less. This happened two or three times. After that she would say to him, 'Thou art now like one of the family {friendship, proximity, familiarity}; sit down and choose for thyself.' Gourds of Ammonite wine lay near her, and at that time Ammonite and heathen wine had not yet been forbidden. Said she to him, 'Wouldst thou like to drink a glass of wine? ' Having drunk, [his passion] was inflamed, and he exclaimed to her, 'Yield to me!' Thereupon she brought forth an idol from her bosom and said to him, 'Worship this'! 'But I am a Jew', he protested.' What does that concern thee? ' she rejoined, 'nothing is required but that thou should uncover thyself' - whilst he did not know that such was its worship.' Nay', [said she,] 'I will not leave thee ere thou hast denied the Torah of Moses thy teacher,' as it is written, They went into Baal-peor, and separated themselves unto that shame, and their abominations were according as they loved.

The general prohibition to be in relation with non-Jewish women is linked on verses with Avoda Zara, the problem is the last consequence. See Rambam in Isure Bia. You can see also that the problem with non-Jewish women Min hatora are linked to marriage, not to sexual relations.

G_d hate sexual immorality (of the kind of this mentioned in OP) because it leads to Idolatry

  • Can you include a citation of the Gemara (i.e. Bavli/Yerushalmi, Masekhet, Daf, 'Amud)? Thanks!
    – Lee
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 13:19
  • We do find the opposite by the eigel. They only worshipped A.Z. in order to allow themselves forbidden relations.
    – user6591
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 19:50
  • @user6591 Very beautiful. At the fundamentals it is very understandible. Tora and law represent reality and truth (physic and conceptual reallity) AZ and Arayot represent wishes (phantasmal inner world)
    – kouty
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 20:19
  • @user6591 note that in Egel an other kind of Arayot, not with non-Jewish was the issue. Here the point is the marrital issue. A very important chiluk
    – kouty
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 20:28
  • just idolatry or all other bad stuff such as hedonism, atheism, etc.?
    – ray
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 22:20

The reason that God hates immorality is because it deliquesces the human personality. I.e. after a person becomes involved in immorality their personality begins to unravel and become formless.

This contradicts the God ideal of creating free thinking human beings whose conciousness is able to creatively expand and develop harmonious worlds of meaningfulness.

At a fundamental level, someone who engages in immorality has no moral compass, however much they may try to convince themselves otherwise.

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    How do you know this?
    – Double AA
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 0:57
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    Note the question was about sexual immorality, not immorality in general. You don't seem to address that.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 0:58
  1. THe intimate relations are the most sacred relations in Judaism, as the Shir Hashirim suggests and signifies the closest relations between two entities.

  2. A misconduct in those relations (as prescribed by G-d in the Torah, with or without our understanding) is automatically the most hateful transgression.

In my personal understanding, similarly to Gezel that messes with the pieces of the human souls, sexual transgressions also mess with human souls and require G-d to constantly correct the misdeeds etc.

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