Commanded to have sex

Q:Do your religious beliefs exalt or stigmatize sex (or both)? Is religion a useful tool for helping young people navigate … Continued

Q:Do your religious beliefs exalt or stigmatize sex (or both)? Is religion a useful tool for helping young people navigate the treacherous world of sex, love and relationships? Does religion present an alternative view of sex and sexual relationships to the culture at large? Should it?

The very first commandment in the Torah is to have sex.

Ok, so you might not have heard it said that way, but it is true. “Be fruitful and multiply.” In biblical times, there was only one way to have children. Jewish tradition understood that sexuality, eating, all the functions of the body, are potentially beautiful, elevating, pure.

The body is extraordinarily powerful. Try an experiment: imagine what it is like to have another touch your hand. Then, have someone touch your hand. The actual sensation far surpasses even the most urgent imaginings. We have – indeed we are – bodies. Yet.

Bodies can also be degraded, exploited, trivialized, and unmoored from sanctity. As masters of self-deception, we can imagine that we are using our body to express love when we are using it to exercise power. Judaism is not anti-body. It rather enjoins us to understand the body. Judaism teaches us to shepherd our urges; to express them in ways that are kind to others, and enhancing to our own spirit.

Sexuality is a powerful way of recognizing the image of God in another. For it is a kind of human devekut – clinging, the same word the mystics use for clinging to God. It is the word used in the bible to describe the relationship between a man and woman – v’davak b’ishto – a man will cling to his wife. This is what sex ought to be; it is not something that can be realized by a high school student. Religion at its best restores the power of sexuality to public consciousness. Sexuality without restrains, without taboos, is not a free sexuality, but one enslaved to sensation; and sensation alone will never raise us above instinct. We are – we should be – better than that.

Human beings are the only animals who make love face to face. It requires maturity and thoughtfulness to see another human being face to face. Judaism demands that of us. Do we really want a society in which we approve of less? Do we want to teach our children that choosing to have sex is no more spiritually urgent than choosing to have ice cream?

We are bodies. But we are not only bodies. Sex divorced from spirit is ultimately destructive. Loving sex is the highest expression of the human yearning for connection. Devekut, clinging; to God and to one another – that state is the summit of human attainment.

David Wolpe
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  • ZZim

    Man, I want to be commanded by God to have sex. That would rock. I can see it now: “But honey, you have a headache, fine, I respect that, but I am on A Mission From God, so can I just get some loving here?”

  • YEAL9

    Although most religions warn us about the dangers of pre/extra-marital sex, it is obvious we are not paying attention as pre/extra-marital intercourse and other pre/extra-marital sexual activities are out of control with over one million abortions and 19 million cases of STDs per year in the USA alone. from the CDC-2006″Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain STDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psychological consequences of STDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs associated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars.”How in the world do we get this situation under control? A pill to temporarily eliminate the sex drive would be a good start. (Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes calls it an anti-desire pill – 4/18/2010). And teenagers and young adults must be constantly reminded of the dangers of sexual activity and that oral sex, birth control pills, condoms and chastity belts are no protection against STDs. Might a list of those having an STD posted on the Internet help? Sounds good to me!!!! Said names would remain until the STD has been eliminated with verification by a doctor. Lists of sexual predators are on-line. Is there a difference between these individuals and those having a STD having sexual relations while infected???And the following data need to promulgated so everyone is aware that today’s contraceptives don’t always work to the degree advertised:Percentage of women (men) experiencing an unintended pregnancy (a few examples)Periodic abstinence – 25.3 (Masturbation) 0

  • FloridaChick

    beautifully stated, esp. for this wedding season. I hope someone who thinks this way marries my daughter someday.