Limmud NY 2010: Drinking, Sex, and Megillat Esther

By | Tagged: beliefs, Practices, texts

Shabbat is over at Limmud NY, and once again I’m skipping the big havdalah event to write up some quick thoughts on the past few hours.

The Shabbat sessions at Limmud are interesting because there’s no writing (at least in theory–I did see some people breaking the rules) and no AV help. This means you’re likely to have the more traditional text reading discussions on Shabbat, and indeed I went to two traditional text classes today, and both were fabulous (also a Limmud tradition).

The first was a new Jewish sex ethic, taught by Mahara’t Sara Hurwitz. The class was a late addition to the schedule, and didn’t come with any kind of description, but to no one’s surprise, there were lots of people crowded into the room where she spoke, listening to Hurwitz examine a number of traditional sources about the Jewish approach to sex. I didn’t hear anything that was especially new to me–she was only talking about sex within marriage, and her point was essentially that sex is a vital piece of marriage, and then when a marriage is encountering problems more often than not one of the keys to fixing the problems is reviving the sex–but I did notice that all of the texts we looked at, and all of the texts I know of on this subject really focus on the woman’s enjoyment of sex, and not on the man’s. As a woman, of course, this appeals to me, but I wonder what it means for marriages where women become uninterested in sex.

Halakhah basically says that whenever a woman wants to have sex with her husband he has to go along with it, even if she only hints at it (assuming she’s not in niddah, of course). The same does not hold true for men. There’s nothing that says that if a man wants sex his wife should just close her eyes and think of England. Again, I can see how if I was married I might find this to be a great policy. But if I was a man, I can being very frustrated by it. It’s almost like a man’s desire is simply too basic to be a part of the equation at all, and that’s weird (and somewhat depressing). I don’t think it’s really likely to be a big problem in most marriages, but I was definitely interested, and the session was fabulous.

Posted on January 16, 2010

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