Forward.com: The Oy of Orthodox Sex

Our current working premise is that Orthodox (mainly Haredi) attitudes and regulations towards women are essential to their Judaism, not accidental. That means that you cannot tell the Haredim to remove or change these components of their religion and more than you could tell them to stop venerating the Torah or observing Yom Kippur.

Elana Sztokman wrote, On Teaching Talmud and Sex Toys, a review interview with Jennie Rosenfeld, co-author of the sex guide,  “The Newlywed’s Guide to Physical Intimacy,” which the Forward reviewed tepidly previously here. Sztokman says that the book, "explores the most intimate topics with no restraint, topics such as female orgasm, masturbation, and varieties of sexual positions." And although we have not seen the book, we are pretty sure that there are plenty of "restraints" in this sex guide. Sexual restraint is part of the essential regulation of Orthodox life. It's not peripheral. It is a governing aspect of Orthodox life.

A brilliant Orthodox colleague of ours wrote an honest summary of halakhic sex principles that we have and hope to publish soon. He's checking out the sources one more time before we can release it.

Meanwhile we point the reader to two items. "Dress in Accordance with the Haochoh" is a guide approved by the most venerated Orthodox rabbis. It was translated 10 years ago. The translator reminded us that the booklet is relevant given the renewed interest in the Laws of Modesty. He cautions that it is stringent or "Machmir." But those who want to observe the strictures want to know the laws. We were told that 15,000 copies of the booklet were printed for distribution by the author (from Bnei Brak) presumably in schools like Beis Yaakovs.

Clearly the New York Times makes no effort to understand the internal views of Haredi Orthodox on modesty and women in their review article from page one on Sunday. "Israelis Facing a Seismic Rift Over Role of Women" describes Haredi Orthodox actions towards women as shocking and Haredi life styles as out of touch with the values of the 21st century.

We think this is mock shock. The 21st century in Israel is comprised of the sum of all of its parts including a lively Orthodox segment. Mock shock and disdain may not be the best attitudes for more liberal segments of Israeli society to evince toward their Haredi neighbors.

By the way, the label Haredi, we are told is to be associated with "trembling" -- the ultra-religious tremble before God. But the Hebrew root HRD in Genesis is prominently associated with anger, not devotion, namely the anger of Isaac when he finds out that Jacob has tricked him and stolen Esau's birthright. (Genesis 27:33 -  וַיֶּחֱרַד יִצְחָק חֲרָדָה, גְּדֹלָה עַד-מְאֹד - Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!")

While they may in some ways be more angry at the world than other Jews, there has been no misrepresentation or trickery on the part of the Haredim. They have always been black and white about what they stand for. So the mock shock of liberals is out of place.

No comments: