Judaism seeks to elevate and sanctify the mundane. Nothing better illustrates this approach than the Jewish attitude toward love and sex.
Judaism accepts and embraces love and sexuality. The Biblical book the Song of Songs portrays the relationship between God and Israel in a beautiful allegory of two lovers.
In a traditional context, sexual relations are permitted only within a marriage. A central part of the marriage ceremony is called “kiddushin,” or sanctification, and the traditional marriage declaration states “You are sanctified unto me according to the laws of Moses and Israel.”
Sexual relations within Jewish marriage are not just encouraged, they are an obligation between husband and wife. To further underscore the uniquely special and holy relations between husband and wife, “Taharat Hamishpacha,” or “family purity” laws, specify when they can occur during a woman’s menstrual cycle, creating times of separation and togetherness.
It is clear that Judaism does not perceive sex itself as dirty, evil, or profane, but a holy and natural act between two committed partners. That is why the rabbis condemned the date rape of Tamar in the Book of Samuel and praised Joseph for avoiding the advances of his employer’s wife in the Book of Genesis.
The Jewish attitude toward sex may be perceived in the philosophy of Martin Buber, the 20th-Century Jewish thinker who synthesized traditional Jewish thought, Chassidism and Western philosophy. Buber believed that the highest and most holy form of a relationship is not one in which individuals exploit one another as objects, “the I-it relationship,” but one in which they appreciate each other for their own unique gifts, the “I-Thou” relationship.
When two individuals truly rise to the level of sacred relationship, kiddushin, they can repeat the words of the Song of Songs: “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.”
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