Kosher Sex

Marnia's picture
Submitted by Marnia on
Printer-friendly version

kosher sexOne of the goals of this website is to share wisdom from various traditions about the benefits of controlled intercourse. Because fertilization-driven sex is driven by the reward circuitry of the brain, it has the potential to become addictive. Somewhat paradoxically, that can drive an emotional wedge between partners for reasons explained elsewhere.

Usually we share insights from traditions that recommend avoiding orgasm. Lovemaking with the emphasis on gentleness and giving, that is, without the emphasis on "getting to climax," is a reliable way to balance the reward circuitry of the brain. The result is increased harmony between lovers.

However, here's a tradition that recommends a different version of moderation: two weeks of abstinence per month, followed by conventional sex. The two weeks begin with the woman's period and end 7 days after her period ends. During that time the lovers do not touch each other or sleep in the same bed. This, of course, leaves the couple "rearing to go" just at the time when the woman is most fertile.

It has also been suggested that this practice protects women's health by discouraging intercourse at a time when the vagina, cervix and uterine walls are more susceptible to damage and infection. Some have theorized that this practice may therefore decrease the incidence of cervical cancer.

Jewish, Moslem and Amish women all have extremely low rates of cervical cancer. Women of high socioeconomic status have much less cervical cancer than women of low socioeconomic status. … Negroes, as well as women of Puerto Rican, Mexican and other Latin American origins are all extremely high-risk groups for cancer of the cervix. Recent surveys show correlations of cervical cancer rates with early intercourse and promiscuity. The rates of cervical cancer among venereal disease clinic patients and in prison inmates are among the highest known. 1

However, as authors Doron and Sarah Tikvah Kornbluth explain,2 a prime target of this practice is warding off the flatness that creeps into most marriages. They cite Dr. Domeena Renshow, head of the Sexual Dysfunction Clinic of Loyola University, who suggests that 80 percent of Western divorces are due to tension in couples’ sex lives, and that 50 percent of couples who stay married also have problems in this area. It seems that "familiarity breeds contempt." We have discussed the evolutionary pressure that may produce this result elsewhere. Here are some excerpts from the article by the Kornbluths:

The most natural solution to such a situation, in order to invigorate the relationship, is a temporary cessation of physical contact. (This does not mean emotional distance). Researchers experimented with this concept and found that it worked beautifully — in the lab. As soon as the couple went home, though, their self-imposed separation agreement didn't work. They began to find exceptions to the rules they'd created, which brought about confusion, tension, and misunderstanding. [Using the menstrual cycle as a timing devise prevents this pressure to fudge the traditional wisdom.] …

The goal of this system is to increase awareness and appreciation of physical expressions, making every touch count. Even a goodnight kiss should not be a perfunctory ritual, but an expression of love and desire. Too often, a couple uses a physical expression to hide the lack of emotional connection underneath. The physical distance mandated by taharat hamispachah [kosher sex] enables the couple to focus on other methods of interaction. The distance gives them space to communicate on a different level and to be friends with each other. This emphasis on communication then carries over into the time when there is no separation, creating emotional intimacy.

The goal is to build emotional closeness. Then, as the couple rediscover each other and express their feelings, their reunion is intended to be the wedding night all over again.

This advice unwittingly addresses another factor that pushes couples apart. In our experience, it takes up to two weeks after a passionate encounter to restore one's perception. This may correspond to the time it takes for the neurochemical shifts that accompany orgasm to return to equilibrium.

Kosher sex allows time for this process of homeostasis so that when a couple makes love again, they see each other more clearly than couples who make love more often. This clarity of perception makes it easier to remember what they love about each other, which also helps to sustain harmony.

Consider this beautiful Chassidic passage about the importance of union between the sexes:

Man and Woman menoraIt is a mistake to consider man and woman two separate beings. They are no more than two halves of a single form, two converse hemispheres that fit tightly together to make a perfect whole. They are heaven and earth encapsulated in flesh and blood. It is only that on its way to enter this world, this sphere was shattered apart. What was once the infinity of a perfect globe became two finite surfaces.

What was once a duet of sublime harmony became two bizarre solos of unfinished motions, of unresolved discord. So much so, that each one hears in itself only half a melody, and so too it hears in the other. Each sees the other and says, "That is broken." Feigning wholeness, the two halves wander aimlessly in space alone. Until each fragment allows itself to surrender, to admit that it too is broken. Only then can it search for the warmth it is missing. For the depth of its own self that was ripped away. For the harmony that will make sense of its song. And in perfect union, two finite beings find in one another infinite beauty. 3

While we believe that the practice of kosher sex can definitely contribute to domestic harmony, we think it increases the hungry sexual polarity of the couple. Sleeping with each other throughout the month, even when not having intercourse, can nourish both partners in a way that creates a deep sense of balance and wholeness. Kosher sex may also leave lovers vulnerable to feelings of lack or depletion triggered during the two weeks of conventional sex.

gods heartProjections are perhaps less likely to be pasted onto one’s lover with this approach. However, post-passion projections can unwittingly be directed elsewhere in one’s life. For example, subconscious feelings of scarcity can still produce mood swings, uneasiness, irritability, a desire to “keep up with the Joneses,” or even the sense that one, or one’s ethnic group, is somehow very different from others.

If recognition of our oneness with all is, in fact, a key element of our spiritual awakening, then it may be important to stabilize our reward circuitry without compromise. Even as a partial solution, however, kosher sex encompasses great wisdom compared with mainstream advice on sex.

More on kosher sex

  • 1. From CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians
  • 2. See "Jewish Women Speak about Jewish Matters," Doron & Sarah Tikvah Kornbluth. Targum Press, Inc. (2000): 69-71
  • 3. Lubavitcher Rebbe (Words and condensation by Tzvi Freeman)