"For were one to say that the sexual union is a shameful matter then the sexual organs are shameful things but behold God was the one who created them!"
The above quote does not come from the early 21st century or even the 20th century. Rather it is more than 700 years old and is from the great rabbinic sage, Nahmanides. Judaism, like many traditions spanning many thousands of years, contains a plethora of opinions that span the spectrum on almost any topic. Indeed, for every rabbinic insight that encourages an open sexual relationship with one's spouse one can find opinions that seek to impose a culture of asceticism, of severe self-denial and avoidance of pleasure.
However, the time has long come to embrace the sexually positive messages in tradition. To reach out for the wisdom of Nahmanides and others who teach us to love passionately and, in fact, it is through the power of a sex-positive relationship that a couple, both as individuals and as a unit, can discover the Divine. Nahmanides continued that when a husband and wife sexually unite the Divine presence can be found with them. Holiness, purity and sanctity are usually words we associate with the life of the ascetic or the celibate monk but rather those words find their fullest expression in a rich, passionate and joyous sexual life of husband and wife.
All of this makes the announcement of a new podcast, The Joy of Text, all the more exciting. For the first time a rabbinic authority and scholar is joined by a prominent sex therapist to discuss openly the issues that have remained shrouded in confusion and mystery for too long. Demystifying what is permissible and impermissible and what are the parameters of Jewish legal opinion in conversation with modern day sexual health, medicine and psychology is a huge advancement for traditionally minded Jewish couples.
When I served as a congregational rabbi I created an open forum, in partnership with a therapist, where people could bring their challenges and questions in a safe space. People could either speak publicly or submit questions confidentially and anonymously in advance. These meetings revealed the truth that for large segments of the traditional Jewish community questions about intimacy and sexual health remain unanswered for too long contributing to issues of mental, physical, spiritual and emotional health.
In a time where opinions around sexual thoughts and feelings are getting more and more extreme the introduction of this new podcast is a welcome step in the right direction. God commands humanity to be fruitful and multiply and through the lens of rabbinic Jewish tradition we are also commanded to enjoy each other as well.