Reviews for “I Am for My Beloved: A Guide to Enhanced Intimacy for Married Couples” by David Ribner and Talli Rosenbaum
Review by RABANIT NECHAMA GOLDMAN BARASH
During the COVID -19 pandemic, synagogues around the world have been closed, reopened and closed again for public safety, but there has been a concerted effort to ensure that the women’s mikve stay open. There is legitimate concern for mikve safety given the contagion of the virus. Some women have not been able to immerse for weeks, and in some cases months, for fear of contagion, leading to demands that rabbis find halakhic solutions. If mikves would become unsafe, what alternatives could be offered to the myriad couples who would be left in sexual limbo? How could we assist couples in need of mikva as part of their efforts to conceive, some of them desperate to become pregnant and unable to consider further delay? On the other end of the spectrum, the panic over enforced, ongoing abstinence has led to illegal, “pirate” mikves operating in some ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods which allow women immerse, whether they are in protective quarantine or even actually diagnosed in violation of health regulations and imperiling the health and lives of others.
The pandemic has brought many underlying issues to the forefront, and the rise in sexual awareness on the part of women is no exception. It has led to diversity of voices demanding a reevaluation of traditional sources that speak about women’s bodies, nidda, sexuality, fertility, and more. The last few years have seen a steady rise in resources having to do with sexuality geared towards the Orthodox population. Read more here.
Review by STEPHEN G. DONSHIK
I Am for My Beloved, which focuses on married couples within the religiously observant community, is a book that is larger than itself. David Ribner and Talli Rosenbaum have found a way to discuss subjects that were once taboo and present them in a clear, direct and sensitive way to couples of all ages and religious orientations who want to enhance their intimate sexual relationships.
The authors of I Am for My Beloved make a wonderful contribution to the literature on the meaning of the sexual relationship in marriage. They begin with a discussion of the meaning of intimacy and how it is understood within the marriage relationship. They also suggest ways to achieve intimacy in the context of a healthy sexual relationship.
Yet, even though the book is titled a “guide,” it is more than a how-to manual, providing discussion of the concepts underlying the suggestions offered for developing an intimate physical relationship with a spouse.
For example, the authors address the meaning of sexual communication, as well as what is involved in touching intimately. This is followed by a clear description of the physiology and anatomy of female and male sexual functioning. The clarity of their presentation enables the reader to feel comfortable with the subject and better understand the differences between male and female sexual functioning.
Following the discussion of the human body, the authors present a number of approaches to enhancing the sexual relationship, in the hopes that couples will achieve a high degree of intimacy. In a very sensitive way, they discuss sexual accessories, sexual positions, sexual fantasies and oral lovemaking – topics that are generally not addressed in the religious sector, even in the context of marriage. By discussing these issues, they are legitimating an open discussion of aspects of intimacy between a husband and wife within the observant community.
In a later section of the book, they explore issues related to intimacy when partners experience sickness and ill health. Many people may feel too embarrassed to ask questions about their sex lives with their healthcare professionals. By raising these issues and exploring their implications, the authors let readers know that these concerns should be taken into consideration when they may incur health challenges.
In addition to the presentation and discussion of intimacy, the authors offer a number of personal vignettes – drawn from their professional practice and presented anonymously – that are very moving and illustrative of the challenges couples of all ages and life situations confront in their effort to build strong and meaningful intimate relationships.
Although the book was written for an observant Jewish population, it has implications for a wider audience and should not be limited to religious Jews. I would also recommend that it not be labeled as “self-help” literature, and that medical and mental health professionals read it so they can become more informed and better sources of information and guidance to patients seeking their counsel. This is a book worth reading by everyone who is interested in building a satisfying and meaningful intimate relationship in marriage.
The writer is a retired lecturer from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s School of Social Work’s MA program in non-profit management.
Review by RABBI SIMCHA FEURMAN
Imagine one day, on the eve of the Pesach Seder, Eliyahu HaNavi issued a special hora’at Sha’ah, commanding all the Jews to eat a Ham and Cheese sandwich while reclining at the Seder instead of the usual Matzah and Maror. Even the most devout believers would have great difficulty fulfilling this unusual directive without choking on their food. This is what marital intimacy can be like for a newlywed religious couple. All of the sudden, that which is taboo, is now permitted and even an obligation!
Drs. Ribner and Rosenbaum’s guide for marital intimacy is an important countermeasure to forestall and assist religious in their journey toward intimacy and sexuality. Ribner and Rosenbaum offer clear, no-nonsense instruction and education on the basics of emotional intimacy, physiological and anatomical facts, communication in the bedroom, common challenges, sexual dysfunctions, and life cycle concerns such as pregnancy, post-partum, illness, and aging for married couples. Read more here.