ISSUE 70
OCTOBER 1998
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Sex as Sport

How come Religion and the Law became involved in sex? In any case, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach was brave enough to deal with the subject of sexual activities in his recent book which is reviewed here.

Reviewed by Linda Dangoor-Khalastchi

Kosher Sex

by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Duckworth

Paperback. 218 pp. 9.95

Is "Kosher Sex" a clever title or food for thought? When I asked a good friend of mine (who is a learned and devout Jew), this question, his prompt answer was "a clever title! Now, whether his opinion has been slightly coloured by the controversies surrounding Shmuley Boteach, I really do not know, but he proceeded to say that the book was too superficial and that each subject that Boteach deals with deserves to be a book in its own right.

Well, perhaps. But, politics apart, Shmuley Boteach who is a director of the L'Chaim Society, an educational organisation in Oxford, Cambridge and London, has succeeded in producing a very dynamic and informative book and... a lot of publicity. Drawing on Jewish wisdom and common sense, his book which took him a year to write, breaks down sexual taboos and superstitions by the use of a good dose of psychology and humour.

Kosher Sex consists of five chapters each with very direct, if slightly sensational, subheadings (or slogans in some cases) such as: Is Oral Sex Wrong? Is there a Kosher Kama Sutra? Married People and Masturbation. Orthodox Sex, a hole in a sheet? And Does size matter? To name but a few.

A clever way to attract our attention, you might say. And why not? Unlike the shallow Tabloid Press which uses the same techniques, Boteach delivers. He deals with all the possible permutations of thoughts and feelings that one might have concerning the subject. And, although I do not necessarily agree with everything he writes, I must hand it to him for trying to answer some very tricky questions.

On Love and Lust he says "Whereas love is about wanting to draw closer to someone, lust is about wanting to possess someone.... Love is about sharing, while lust is about taking."

On the subject of the Orthodox Jewish (perhaps Ashkenazi) way of making love with a sheet separating the couple, save for a small hole in the middle, Boteach clarifies that Jewish Law does not mandate that a sheet be used, "... it even wouldn't allow it if the couple desired it out of a misguided sense of piety. The ancient Rabbis do not allow any articles of clothing to be worn during love making... it must be done without a stitch of clothing so that there is no barrier to the intimacy which the couple achieve.

Regretfully, Boteach does not explain how and from where this "myth" originated. Should he know the answer, the Scribe would be very happy to publish it.

And what about pornography, sex for single people, making love in the dark, marrying early in life, becoming desirable again, marriage and divorce? You have to read the book....

On the sensitive subject of divorce, he writes "In this respect, I treat divorce like the decision not to resuscitate a dying patient because their quality of life has deteriorated too far amidst incessant pain." For Boteach, this is a thorny subject, being himself, the product of a broken home which "heightened my insecurities and left me feeling that nothing in life really works. Strong words. Such open and direct descriptions of his vulnerable side is very touching and that a rabbi should be courageous enough to talk so freely about his feelings makes the book compelling. Boteach does not preach. He talks like a therapist of counsellor and uses the language of today and the techniques of the media to reach his audience.

Those who think that Kosher Sex only concerns Judaism or Jews are wrong. It is for everyone. Boteach explains: "While I am a Rabbi and this book does contain the word 'Kosher' in its title, it is not a book that draws only on Jewish sources and wisdom. Less so is it a book meant only for Jews. Rather, the essentially Jewish grounding of the book derives from Judaism's unique qualifications to discuss both sex and relationships."

A book to read.

Scribe: Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait. (If only the young had the knowledge, if only the old had the ability). Nowadays, knowledge is well within the reach of the young, and Viagra is giving ability to men of all ages.

 


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