Judaism and Sexuality: Myths and Realities

This past March 2022, I participated (virtually) in a symposium at the conference of ISSWSH- The International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health in Dallas, Texas.  The symposium consisted of four speakers, each representing one of the following religions: Islam, Mormonism, Catholicism and Judaism. I was given 15 minutes to present the highlights of both the myths and the realities of Judaism and sexuality. 

Below is an excerpt from the talk with a link to a video of the presentation:

“Judaism highly values sexuality  regarding it as a divine gift and a holy obligation — both for the purposes of procreation and for pleasure and intimacy, *but* only in the framework of a committed and monogamous marriage. Judaism is very relational and rejects celibacy  as “It is not good for man to be alone.” The development of Judaism as the oldest monotheistic religion close to 4000 years ago began as a relationship,  with recognition of the patriarch Abraham that there is only one God, and that worshipping other Gods is a form of betrayal. 

Responsibilities, obligations and commitments are key components of Judaism. The relationship or covenant between God and the Jewish people is based on mutual commitment and obligation. Exclusive devotion to one God, adherence to the positive and negative commandments, such as prayer, Sabbath observance, and giving charity, are expected in return for God’s protection, love, and compassion. Jewish marriage, which is meant to include mutual love and commitment, mirrors this relationship, as is described passionately in King Solomon’s Song of Songs in the verse, “I am for my Beloved, and My Beloved is for me.”

Under the chuppah,  bridal canopy, the ketuba, or marital contract,  assures the woman her shelter, clothing and her “onah” which is her sexual pleasure. That’s part of the legal portion of the ceremony, which also speaks to the core value of exclusivity and sanctity of marriage, with the words “You are Betrothed to Me.”  The blessings under the chuppah speak to the emotional component. The seven blessings wish for the bride and groom to delight in one another emotionally and physically and that speaks to the value of marital intimacy.”

To watch the 15 minute presentation, click here.

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