In this week’s Forward, Rabbi Richard Address says we need “to reinterpret the concept of adultery.” A surprising statement, particularly when you consider that Address is director of the Union for Reform Judaismâs Department of Jewish Family Concerns.
Here’s the scenario from which he argues that religious leaders need to decide whether medical advancements that keep people alive long past their ability to fully function change the rules of the game:
Take, for example, the dilemma of a healthy spouse â letâs call her Sarah â caring for her husband, who is restricted to an Alzheimerâs facility. Sarah must deal with the extended institutionalization of her spouse. She cares for him with love and dignity, but also feels that he is not really her spouse. How does Sarah handle the reality that, while on a brief respite from the demands of care giving, she met someone with whom she became friendly and intimate? She cannot discuss this with her children, or even with her circle of friends. So Sarah asks her rabbi, âTell me, rabbi, am I doing something wrong? I love and care for my husband. But I am a healthy 70-year-old woman, who goes to work, enjoys life and has needs. Is it wrong? Am I supposed to just put my needs on hold?â Such a scenario is not at all fiction. I have heard versions of this story over and over again, across the country. These real-life situations should prompt us to reinterpret the concept of adultery.