I was giving a lecture in New York and I used the word sex – one of the women came over to me afterwards and said “marital intimacy” is a nicer word.
Now that you know what I am talking about, you are probably wondering why a Rabbi is writing a booklet on marital intimacy.
The truth is, Reishis Chochmah, one of the foremost books of Kabbalah related to the practical side of applying Kabbalah in one’s life, states, that in fact this is the great goal of mankind! [In fact, the disciples of the great Rabbi Schnuer Zalman of Liadi needed to know this book by-heart before they would come to study from him.]
You know, one can tell how important something is by the challenges that are placed by the Satan – an angel created by The Creator, to challenge our sincerity and devotion to The Creator, goodness and kindness – and if there ever has been a challenge, there is no greater challenge than to have, as the title of Rabbi Boteach’s book, “Kosher Sex.”
I recall reading an article – a review on his book – where the writer wrote, that people used to ask their Rabbis about intimacy in the olden days, and it appears we should do it today as well.
Here is a fact: most couples stop having marital intimacy a few years after they are married!
Now the reason why this is so devastating, can be traced to the fact, that more than fifty percent of marriages end in divorce.
There is no doubt in my mind, that the key to marriage is good marital intimacy.
When there is good marital intimacy [and we will define good later] unity of mind and body follow and the key to a marriage is unity of spirits [i.e. when husband and wife are on the same wavelength.]
In fact the Bible begins, as the primary reason for marriage, “It is not good for man to be alone….and therefore man should leave his [attachments to] his father and mother and should unite with his wife and they should become one.”
In other words, the very source for the perception that marital intimacy is not a good act in many people’s minds – for Christian’s and specifically the Catholic-Church created the illusion, that only due to the weakness of man should people have marital intimacy [whereas their so called priests “abstained”] is in fact, advocating, as the primary purpose for marriage – or at least the primary mechanism to create harmony in marriage – marital intimacy!
Rabbi Boteach points out in his book, there can be three reasons why the Bible is advocating marital intimacy, either: 1. Procreation 2. Pleasure 3. Unity and Harmony. He claims that it is obvious that it is the third reason, and he adds as an obvious proof that one of the primary responsibilities a husband has to his wife, even after she can no longer procreate, is intimacy. In other words, The Creator of mankind desired harmony, and in order to do this he created a pleasure system whereby two lovers would both gratify each other and thereby, just like two people who give one another pleasurable presents would deepen their bond, similarly, the bond between these two people would be deepened as a result of their pleasurable act for one another.
Now the great mistake made by the church as well as most other faiths is that they see reality divided into two realms: 1. moral, spiritual, and devoid of pleasure, and the other, 2. pleasurable, decadent, and sinfully delicious. Thus they assume, that the greatest act of pleasure must also be the greatest sin and hence we find the obsession in the media with sex, almost as they are exposing a taboo. The truth is, that the common human mistake of associating pleasure with sin, and morality with serious hardnosed self-discipline is wrong. Morality is when humans unite with one another, for morality is defined by The Creator and this is what The Creator desires; as the most important commandment of the Bible which is to “Love your friend as much as you love yourself” is really not about the love in your heart, but the unity that the love in your heart will create.
Now there is no better technique to unite two people then marital intimacy. I recall watching an Oprah show which was all about marital intimacy in the bedroom – or should I say the lack thereof – and one woman spoke how she had marital intimacy, as often as possible with her husband to maintain a good relationship and when they don’t have it, their relationship with each other is not as good. The whole audience applauded her, and the expert said, that what was right in what she was doing, was giving her attention to what was most important in her life – her relationship – which obviously affects her children etc.
What I find so funny, is that the very culture that has so idolized sex, has none of it.
In fact in the famous Kinsey surveys on sexual predilections when the subject was quite a taboo in the 1940s they discovered, that the group that has the most marital intimacy experiences in a lifetime [obviously with the same partner] were Orthodox Jewish men and women! Now the very group, which the secular Jews laughed at, for being too prude, were in fact having the most, again the most, marital intimacy; more than any other group in America, which is as ironic as it gets.
The secret to Jewish intimacy is quite simple – many psychologists have discovered that the primary reason that couples stop having marital intimacy is boredom. The Talmud describes it – as usual – best: There is a little limb in man, that the more you satisfy it, the less satisfied it gets, but the less you satisfy it, the more satisfied it gets. Now the Bible – The Creator’s wisdom and instructions for living both a happy and harmonious life – states categorically, that from the onset of menstruation for five days, and then seven days following the cessation of blood, husband and wife should not have marital intimacy. [The Rabbis who were given the authority in the Bible to further enhance the Biblical laws by preventing their destruction, enacted binding ruling on all Jews that husband and wife should not do anything intimate, including holding hands or sharing the same drink during these app. two weeks, for the simple reason that they did not want the intimacy, to lead to marital intimacy.] Now what follows is indeed very simple; because a religious Jew follows The Creator religiously, therefore both husband and wife are ”forced” to physically separate [i.e. from intimacy] during these two weeks. In those two weeks, their innate desire for one another is rekindled and hence so many husbands and wives report, they feel like newlyweds at the Mikvah night! [The Mikvah is a body of water connected to original rain or natural spring water that spiritually cleanses the woman and allows the marital intimacy to resume.] There are many many books that deal both with the beauty and practicality of these rules, my booklet is more of a general nature.
The point is, that our whole attitude on marital intimacy has been clouded by the Church [and I am not blaming the Church for as mentioned it is a common human error.]
The Mans Role
Now another very important factor is that the Bible places the responsibility – in fact one of the three primary obligations a husband has to his wife – on the husband. In other words, it is the husband’s job to initiate marital intimacy. It is his duty and responsibility whether he is in the mood or not; He must, again must [obviously only if his wife wants it] initiate and please his wife.
Now this is the great challenge The Creator gave man: For “men are dogs.” Why do I say this? Dogs are peculiar creatures; living in South Africa – which is like dog paradise, for everyone has at least three guard dogs – I get to observe their behavior just like a real pro. would. When they are in the heat / mood, boy, they can’t stop barking at you. They are so emotional, they cannot contain their passion and are literally like a chicken without a head. However when they are tired [perhaps hormonal etc.] you can walk past the same dog, that a few hours ago would have been going absolutely ballistic for, or over you, and it is as if, he is dead. Gone are his emotions, passion, excitement; he is just like a lazy lion, doing nothing. [Resonate?]
In other words, men have a double challenge from The Creator. One, is to first of all, not be a dog in terms of not being able to control themselves. So, when they are excited and their wife is also interested, their marital intimacy must be focused on giving her pleasure. I recall, one very clever Jewish lady whom I asked for some advice, before marriage, told me, “If a woman does not receive pleasure during marital intimacy, she feels raped.”
I think, this is again perhaps one of the great ironies and challenges The Creator has given man. On a very simple level, a climax should be the goal that a husband tries to achieve for his wife. As we all know, it takes a lot longer for a woman than a man, and thus it is up to the man to slowly slowly slowly have foreplay [not that I understand what that word means, but effectively an emotional bond, such as telling his wife how important she is to him, or whatever else is important for her to hear] and only then initiate physical contact. Climaxing for a woman, is based on feeling loved by her husband; [obviously with some biology involved, but it is primarily emotional / psychological.] However, for a man, it is obviously primarily biological / biochemical. So the husband cannot be a “dog”. He must have self-control.
[The fact is that self-control is a major subject in its own right and I don’t think it is possible to begin having self-control in bed. A person needs to truly work on delaying gratification to learn how to have self-control. Whenever you want say a chocolate, just put it down for two minutes and this process of delaying gratification will educate yourself, on how to have self-control– and you may be very proud of yourself for it!
Just to motivate you a bit, there was a famous study, where kindergarten children were offered one marshmallow now or two in ten minutes, most children opted for one now, but a few, a precious few, opted for two in ten minutes, and forced themselves – like by sitting on their hands and singing to themselves – to wait the ten minutes. These kids were tracked through their school careers and lo and behold self-control was more important that i.q. or any other factor for success. Not only success in grades, but in relationships, and in everything! Without self-control you really are like an instinctive animal, just running towards what gives you pleasure and recoiling from what you fear / what may harm you. But with self-control, you can become the greatest person in the world!]
Now the second “dog challenge” is when the husband is not in the mood. Here he needs to not be like a dog and figure, “Well, if I’m not in the mood to bark like a nutcase, then my owner doesn’t need protection from criminals either.” He must realize, that his wife [obviously if she wants intimacy] loves him and truly desires this marital intimacy. I think a good example of this would be as follows: imagine someone who is hungry, but because you are too lazy, you don’t feed them.
Now an additional point must be mentioned, which is the importance of one’s thoughts during marital intimacy, particularly if one is trying to conceive a child.
In Reishis Chochmah the story – true story – is told of a queen who gave birth to a black child and the king thought she committed adultery, and wanted to kill her. Now one of his wiseman explained, that if she saw something black while they were conceiving it could be that it caused the child to be black. In fact, the Reishis Chochmah gives the following example [and you should apply this to every part of your life] just like a hose of water – when you pour water in the hose, if it is arched in a semicircle then the water will reach to the point of where the person filled it.
Similarly, our thoughts go into heaven and then become our destiny. They checked in the royal bedroom, and indeed found a black object where the queen was looking at.
In other words, the child that you will give birth to, will be affected by your thoughts; so you should firstly, never think of another woman and I assume I need not tell women of other men [for women are more faithful in relationships etc.] But most importantly, you should picture something holy like a letter from the Jewish Alphabet, or the face of a Tzaddik / completely righteous individual like the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn.
I recall when a friend of mine mentioned this to me, I thought it was a bit strange, but he told me something profound, “It takes away the guilt.”