JUDAISM AND SEXUALITY

Notes provided by Rabbi Dr. Margaret Jacobi on her address given at the CSCS Annual

Conference, 10 February 2007

Biblical
Adam and Eve – Eden seen as ideal, referred to in wedding ceremony
– companionship, Woman created to be a companion to Man.
– first commandment: be fruitful and multiply
BUT – men seen as being dominant after Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of
knowledge.
Sodom – story is not so much about sexuality but more about not welcoming strangers
Positive view of sexuality – Song of Songs erotic love poetry. Interpreted as love of God
for Israel.
Ex. 21:10 ‘If take second wife, shall not diminish conjugal rights of first.’
Sexual intercourse not just for procreation.
Forbidden sexual relationships – Lev. 18. Lev. 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as you lie with a woman – it is a ‘to’evah’” – note words used – ‘male’ not man, but I don’t know what the significance of this is. ‘To’evah’ difficult to translate, though does indicate something unacceptable. May mean there should not be a relationship of domination – and there have been many other interpretations
Sexuality both holy and dangerous – Kedeshah, from Hebrew root KDSh meaning holy, something set apart, meant a Temple prostitute. Kiddushin from same Hebrew root came
to mean marriage.

Post-Bibilical

Yetzer haRa – impulse to evil, understood as sexual urge, but not seen as necessarily evil
– ‘Were it not for the impulse to evil, a man would not build a house or procreate.’ (Talmud)
Women were entitled to sexual relations – the Talmud set out how often.
Not just for procreation – can marry older woman or someone known to be infertile.
Marriage thought of as desirable, monastic life not favoured.
Niddah – prohibition of sexual relations during and for seven days after a woman’s period – limits sexual activity.

A Liberal View

Women’s equal status is emphasised. Therefore marriage is not, as in Orthodox Judaism, the acquisition of a woman, but rather the creation of a partnership.
Sex seen as positive
Like traditional view, we emphasise that sexual relations should take place within a loving relationships, and not be casual, promiscuous or exploitative.
We would apply our view equally to gay and lesbian relationships – we recognise that sexual orientation is innate and therefore not a sin, rather it is how we use our sexuality.
Pre-marital sex – we recognise it as a reality. Biblical precedents, e.g. concubinage, though not necessarily helpful as concubines had inferior status. Sexual act leads to marriage de facto in Jewish law.
Again would emphasise that sexuality is positive but precious and should take place within the context of a loving relationship.

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