Sex & Jewish Tradition

Dear Rabbi Hyim,

I am Jewish but not very knowledgeable.  My next door neighbor and I were talking about Judaism and she told me that observant Jews have sex with a sheet between the partners which has a hole in it to accommodate the man’s penis but no actual touching is allowed.  Is this true?  Sounds like a recipe for marital disaster.

Jenna P.
Little Rock, AK

Dear Jenna,
Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Judaism and Jewish law consider sex between husband and wife as something very holy even when not solely for procreation.  In fact if a man says he will only have sex with his wife while they are separated by clothes or a sheet this is considered grounds for divorce in Judaism.

The Talmud puts it this way (Ketubot 48a): “There must be close bodily contact during sex. This means that a husband must not treat his wife in the manner of the Persians, who perform their marital duties in their clothes. This provides support for the ruling of Rabbi Huna who ruled that a husband who says, ‘I will not perform my marital duties unless she wears her clothes and I mine,’ must divorce her and give her also her ketubah settlement [the monetary settlement agreed to in the marriage contract].”

Jewish law dictates that a man may not force his wife to have sex but that he must be available regularly to please her.  The Talmud, Judaism’s most ancient book of Jewish law, even proscribes how often a man must be sexually available to his wife depending on his job and his availability, for men with time and easy jobs, according to the Talmud, this amounts to every day.

Though modesty is an important virtue in Judaism and according to some authorities may apply to aspects of sex even within marriage such as not having sex in the light, or in certain positions, the sexual pleasure which binds two people together is of utmost importance.

As Maimonides (11th century) in his book of law puts it:
“Since a man’s wife is permitted to him, he may act with her in any manner whatsoever. He may have intercourse with her whenever he so desires (as long as she also does) and kiss any organ of her body he wishes, and he may have intercourse with her naturally or unnaturally [vaginally or anally], provided that he does not expend semen for no purpose. Nevertheless, it is an attribute of piety that a man should not act in this matter with levity and that he should sanctify himself at the time of intercourse…”“

1 Comment

  1. Matisse

    i need help because my friend dosent went to show off his jewish

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