Adultery - Jewish Perspective
What is so bad about adultery that it is prohibited in the 10 commandments?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
To paraphrase Dennis Prager, Judaism has a sexual ideal: marital sex. Judaism placed controls on sexual activity, demanding that it be channeled into marriage. This quite simply changed the world and made the creation of Western civilization possible. Societies that did not place boundaries around sexuality were stymied in their development. The subsequent dominance of the Western world can largely be attributed to the sexual revolution initiated by Judaism, and later carried forward by Christianity.
This revolution began the arduous task of elevating the status of women. It is probably impossible for us, who live thousands of years after Judaism began this process, to perceive the extent to which undisciplined sex can dominate society. (Although we are perhaps seeing the ill effects of unrestrained sexualization in some aspects of Western society today.)
The bedrock of Western civilization, and of Jewish life, has been the centrality and purity of family life. Children need the stability to grow and develop in a family unit with a mother and father, each giving their appropriate influences. Adultery attacks the family unit at its core. Once adultery enters into the marriage, the chances of divorce increase, and at the very least the closeness and unity of the couple - and subsequently the entire family - breaks down. At stake is our civilization.
On a deeper level, if one has formed a solid relationship with his spouse, this will help develop his fidelity to God as well. The converse is also true: One who is disloyal to his spouse will most likely be disloyal to God.
The Midrash says this idea is alluded to by the placement of different commandments on the two tablets. The seventh commandment, the prohibition against adultery, appears opposite the second commandment, "Do not have other gods before me." This positioning is not accidental, but rather hints that loyalty to spouse and loyalty to God go hand-in-hand.
Adultery is much worse than just cheating on one's partner. It corrupts the entire basis of how we act in this world - and that demands strong counter-measures.