Sanctified Sex

The Two-Thousand-Year Jewish Debate on Marital Intimacy

Sanctified Sex draws on two thousand years of rabbinic debates addressing competing aspirations for loving intimacy, passionate sexual union, and sanctity in marriage. What can Judaism contribute to our struggles to nurture love relationships? What halakhic precedents are relevant, and how are rulings changing?

The rabbis, of course, seldom agree. Underlying their arguments are perennial debates: What kind of marital sex qualifies as ideal—sacred self-control of sexual desire or the holiness found in emotional and erotic intimacy? Is intercourse degrading in its physicality or the highest act of spiritual/mystical union? And should women or men (or both) wield ultimate say about what transpires in bed?

Noam Sachs Zion guides us chronologically and steadily through fraught terrain: seminal biblical texts and their Talmudic interpretations; Talmud tales of three unusual rabbis and their marital bedrooms; medieval codifiers and mystical commentators; ultra-Orthodox rabbis clashing with one another over radically divergent ideals; and, finally, contemporary rabbis of varied denominations wrestling with modern transformations in erotic lifestyles and values.

Invited into these sanctified and often sexually explicit discussions with our ancestors and contemporaries, we encounter innovative Jewish teachings on marital intimacy, ardent lovemaking techniques, and the art of couple communication vital for matrimonial success.