Clinton-era email suggests Talmudic defense in Lewinsky affair


(JTA) — An email passed around the Clinton White House in 1999 argued that under Talmudic law President Bill Clinton’s infamous encounter with intern Monica Lewinsky did not constitute adultery.

The email was sent on Jan. 27, 1999 to Hillary Clinton’s domestic policy adviser, Ruby Shamir, by Linda Commodore of Long Island. Commodore was forwarding a Jewish legal analysis of Clinton’s actions by Susannah Heschel, a professor of Jewish studies at Dartmouth and the daughter of theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel.

The email ended up with White House adviser Sidney Blumenthal, according to the New York Post.

“According to classical Jewish law, President Clinton did not commit adultery; adultery is defined as a married man having intercourse with a married woman, and Monica Lewinsky is single,” the email said. “At worst, President Clinton is guilty of the common sin of onanism [masturbation], a sin that probably afflicts the consciences of most Jewish men at one time or another.”

The document was one of about 10,000 previously unreleased records that was released publicly last Friday by the Clinton Presidential Library.

“From the perspective of Jewish history, we have to ask how Jews can condemn President Clinton’s behavior as immoral, when we exalt King David?” Susannah Heschel wrote. “King David had Batsheva’s husband, Uriah, murdered.

“While David was condemned and punished, he was never thrown off the throne of Israel. On the contrary, he is exalted in our Jewish memory as the unifier of Israel.”

It’s not clear whether White House officials considered deploying the Talmudic analysis in defending Clinton’s actions with the White House intern.

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