|Relationship & Marriage|
“The beauty of sex, as opposed to every other human activity, is that it is entirely instinctual. In sex, certainly unlike any public activity, people just let go. …[W]hen we can just totally let go in sex, surrendering ourselves to a person we love and trust, we come to know true ecstasy and pleasure…We are just being, not acting or behaving. It is the greatest joy of life, but it can be achieved only when we are least on our guard and at our most vulnerable.”
Kosher Sex: A Recipe for Passion and Intimacy, is a title guaranteed to generate buzz. According to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, kosher sex is an activity that “sews two souls together;” what people really crave is emotional, rather than simply physical, intimacy; and this is why, in a generation where sex is constantly before us, and more people seem to doing it, so many people remain unhappy and unsatisfied by it.
Rabbi Boteach admits that one of the reasons behind this book is to heal wounds inflicted by his parents’ traumatic divorce, and that healing underlies everything he tries to do. This sets the general tone of the book, which, far from being preachy or hortatory, is gentle, reasoned, warm, and full of anecdotes. His acknowledgments are hilarious.
The language is simple, but the ideas are complex. Rabbi Boteach examines sex outside of marriage in the age of birth control and AIDS, demonstrating an understanding of popular culture one might not expect from an orthodox rabbi. He discusses masturbation, the myth of sexual compatibility, physical attraction as the basis of a marriage, pornography, and whether a couple should have a television in their bedroom. In one section, he discusses his initial decision not to marry the woman who eventually became his wife. He recounts the story with such affecting simplicity that one feels her shock and sadness as she tells him she was mistaken about his level of maturity and walks away. About the reluctance of modern young people to commit to one another, he points out that “Marriage is only partly rational.”
The book– fewer than 300 pages including appendixes and footnotes – is a summer Shabbat afternoon read, and would appeal to adults across the age, religious, and experience spectra.
(Reviewed in JTA Issue May 2006)
THE COMMITTED MARRIAGE
“Unfortunately, the script doesn’t always play out as we anticipate…Only in fairy tales do couples live happily ever after. In real life, maintaining a good marriage takes hard work and sacrifice.”
Rebbitzin Esther Jungreis is possibly the most well-known Orthodox Jewish woman in the United States, if not on the planet.
Her Hineni Center, which offers programs on every aspect of traditional Jewish life and thought, has reached thousands of people.Rebbetzin Jungreis organizes the book around the five qualities Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai’s students settled on as the most important qualities a person can strive to attain: a good eye, being (and finding) a good friend, being a good neighbor, seeing the future, and developing a good heart.
In the final chapter, the Rebbetzin mentions her editor saying: “All your stories convey success. Haven’t you ever had any failures?” And Rebbetzin Jungreis answered that she only sees couples after a Torah class at her Hineni Center, and that the class does most of the work. Her approach to a healthy marriage is based on a traditional Torah framework, so the focus is on keeping a marriage together, not simply for the sake of the children, but to concentrate people’s minds on solving problems rather than simply escaping them.
The 270 pages are filled with anecdotes from the Rebbetzin’s lifelong work of making matches and helping married people deal with their lives and with each other. Her writing style is at times breathless, but always focused.
(Reviewed in JTA Issue May 2006)
What do you like to read?