I doubt very much that Flesh of my Flesh, an article that appeared in the New York Times Magazine last weekend created a stir among “Black Hats”, especially Satmar. For one thing, the audience it desperately needed to reach does not read “goyish” publications. For another thing, why read, when you will end up asking your Rabbi. And what he says, that’s what you will do.
Bat Sheva Marcus, who was featured in the magazine article, is an Orthodox Jewish sex counselor. Among her clients are those who are from the Satmar Hassidic sect in Brooklyn. They come, because their Rabbi, who insists on anonymity, sends them to Bat Sheva for therapy. My yarmulke goes off to their Rabbi.
Satmar, a Hassidic sect that I hold in the highest esteem, is being led by Rabbis, who because of their rulings, are in my opinion severely depriving as well as starving its people with regard to what ought to be “magic moments” between husband and wife. Satmar Rabbis permit an entire litany of “thou shalt not’s” to banish any and all sexuality, let alone sensuality from the bedroom. As revered and holy as a Rabbi may be, as authoritative as his teachings may be regarded by his adherents, one must take into consideration the time and place of his writings. Just as Rabbi Shmueli Boteach broke down any number of sexual taboos, and debunked many a long held myth when he wrote Kosher Sex a decade and a half ago, so too did Rabbinic greats of the 18th and 19th centuries, those whom contemporary Satmar Rabbis cite, create many sexual taboos and give rise to any number of myths, when they wrote about sexual intimacy, given the repressive atmosphere in which they lived.
Halacha (Jewish law) has always been greatly concerned that sex between husband and wife not become vulgar or cheap. Halacha has always been concerned, that the husband (I’m being sexist) not become too creative (I’m being kind) and force the wife into something that is against her sensibilities and comfort zone. Yet, nowhere does Halacha, unless it the product of some Rabbininc authority with repressive tendencies or sexual hang-ups, ask that husband and wife sink to the level of animals, where intimate relations are synonymous with satisfying a biological urge and nothing more. The fact that we are blessed with a human soul that hungers for intimacy, the fact that we are equipped with erogenous zones that respond to the human touch, the fact that the human mind can be very sensuous to say the least, ought to tell us that HaShem expects us to make use of all three gifts bestowed upon us at the right time, in the appropriate setting, with one’s husband or wife. When Satmar women, as the New York Times Magazine article reports, have no idea that there is such a thing as receiving “pleasure”, something is terribly wrong.
Meaning no disrespect, but I feel it’s highly questionable just how much Rabbinic involvement should be in one’s bedroom, unless of course asked. Before asking one’s Rabbi however, one would do well to keep in mind the Yiddish teaching: az meh freggt, vert ess treif – the moment one asks (an authority), the ruling is, that it’s treif, or prohibited. Somehow I find it hard to believe that the same people who are so scrupulous when it comes to their spouse during special time together, leading them to ask their Rabbis about various do’s and don’ts, are equally as scrupulous when it comes to business dealings or filing income tax. Do these same individuals involve their Rabbis to the same extent in these areas as they do concerning marital relations?
Judaism sees mitzvot in the realm of Kiddush HaShem, or sanctifying G-d. This includes the mitzvah of husband-wife relations. Rather than be so concerned whether their Rabbi would approve or better yet shep naches (derive pride and joy), perhaps Satmar…and others, Jew and non-Jew alike should consider the following: When a husband and wife are extremely satisfied and more than content after sharing “special time”, it’s very much appropriate to thank G-d for one’s spouse, as well as the opportunity along with the ability to have been able to participate. When this happens, I can only believe that there is the widest of smiles on HaShem’s face for the unity, harmony, sharing, caring and love. After all, HaShem’s children have just experienced a
magic moment!