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Fulfillment and Contentment in Dating and Marriage
By Soriya Daniels
Renowned Kosher Sex guru Rabbi Shmuely Boteach offers readers the ultimate plan for fulfillment and contentment by applying the timeless wisdom of Torah to modern dating, marriage and romance. Having recently returned from his Chabad outpost and a subsequent directorship at the L'Chaim Society's Oxford branch where he counseled scores of couples, Boteach rapidly recounts the trials and tribulations facing couples today. But, don't despair, urges Boteach, for according to the animated, upbeat rabbi, lasting love is within every person's reach upon developing the ability to turn a date into a meeting of the mind, body, heart and soul.
Motivated to curtail the rampant divorce rate, having lived through his parent's separation at a tender age, Boteach cites the denigration of sex as a leading cause of marriages turning stale. "If there's one thing that Kosher Sex did was that it re-established the romantic ideal of the Bible that's been lost in society that has no respect for love." According to Boteach, the most beautiful thing about sex that has been written in the Bible is that Sex is the highest form of knowledge. "To know someone experientially is far better than to know someone intellectually or even emotionally," he explained.
The rabbi cautions, however, that engaging in pre-marital sex destroys the loving act by removing its emotional base. "When you don't see sex as a romantic act, something is lost," he expounds. "The whole reason you dress modestly until now," Boteach continues, "is to create the excitement for when you take it all off. It safeguards the natural allure and attraction of the human body."
According to Boteach, author of national bestsellers, Dating Secret of the Ten Commandments, and Kosher Sex, among other published works, "there's something incredibly erotic and sexy about a couple whose lust builds up over a period of courtship and they can't kiss and hug and everything else. The floodgates break open and on the wedding night, they are allowed to go the whole way." Asked if this is scary or intimidating for a woman, especially if she is a virgin, Boteach seems to think not.
"Romance is about innocence," said Boteach, "and I think that there is something incredibly erotic about discovering love like that."
Boteach urges men to feel that his partner dresses modestly because of him, but will later respond to his advances because he is so overwhelmingly masculine and sexy. "Men love bringing out the femininity in a woman," explains Boteach, intimating that the death of sexual attraction is instant availability and overexposure.
What about sex as a way of making up? According to Boteach, "women hate to be touched by a man who they are angry with...men, however, like to kiss and make up." Boteach, however, cannot see how it could be productive to talk about a problem while one partner is angry.
"Women love to hug because they view sex as bringing on intimacy," Boteach noticed during his near-decade of counseling couples, Jewish and gentile alike, on and off campus. He explains that the purpose of the sexual union, according to Judaism's tenets, is to become one flesh, to combine passion with intimacy. Boteach stresses the importance of bonding in a way that does not foster a disconnection afterwards. He notes that a man's attraction should be to his wife's face, adding, "You're supposed to know her during sex."
Sex, according to Torah values, is not just about procreation, Boteach teaches. "The mitzveh of Onah, of sexually pleasing your wife," Boteach cites, "is incumbant upon the husband even while the wife is pregnant," standing in sharp contrast to animals who will not even approach their mate during pregnancy.
If the earth does not move for you anymore, then according to Boteach, "reinvent your product line!" Why are people so fascinated by outer space and stars, he asks. Because space is infinite, an inexhaustible source of wonder and mystery. This is the dating paradox, explains Boteach. On the one hand, you continue dating in order to learn more about one another. The risk, however, is that the more you are exposed to each other, the more likely you are to get bored. A problem, according to Boteach, that lies with you and not your date.
Boteach states that it is therefore necessary to look into the soul of your date, and search for a soul mate rather than just a partner; for the soul, unlike the body, represents an infinite dimension. While the body can be seen, touched, tasted, scented and heard, the soul can only be experienced.
Since attraction is the domain of the mind, in the words of Boteach, he urges that mental techniques be used to reaffirm attraction. If your wife is overweight, he explained, then use all of your senses to heighten arousal, such as relishing in the softness of her skin or her intoxicating scent. "It is much more pleasant to make love to soft flesh than it is to a rib cage or bag of bones," says Boteach, although this statement would probably not be well-received by women with slender figures. "But men today," he continued, "don't make love with their hands, but make love only with their eyes."
"And," came the punch line, "because the average man has lost his intuition to make love with his hands, that's why women have become traffic cops in bed. The average woman has to give her husband directions!" exclaims Boteach in appall.
Boteach premises many of his statements on the proposition that men love novelty. That being the case, he advises men to look at their wife through a new pair of eyes.
He once advised a husband in distress over his fleeting attraction for his wife to have her dress in her sexiest dress and go to a bar and just sit down. The husband was to stand yards away and watch. Lo and behold, he burned with jealousy and passion as men approached her. According to Boteach, the husband's problem was solved. He grabbed his wife, pulled her straight home and later told Boteach that it was an evening with more passion than any other evening in ten years!
The number one reaction to a man discovering that his wife is having an affair, according to Boteach, is to take his wife straight to bed, concluding, "attraction is entirely, entirely psychological and we don't use our minds in sex anymore!"
And what of the marital relationship outside the bedroom? According to the rabbi, a man accomplishes nothing if he is a hero to the rest of the world and a failure at home. This is a life-long battle for many men, he continued. "We are raising a generation that is hell-bent on fame and success. This is the first generation where we are even willing to humiliate ourselves for fame," said Boteach, pointing to panelists on the Jerry Springer Show that proclaim their umpteenth affair in exchange for 15 minutes in front of a television camera.
"There's too much [emphasis] on the external and not enough on the inside and that is why we are not building strong relationships," contends Boteach, encouraging married couples to be a celebrity to his or her spouse.
Boteach prides himself most on what he says is one of the foremost messages in Judaism, namely, to do the right thing even if no one is looking because God is always watching. "Only God gives credit for the angry words we did not speak," Boteach remarked.
In child rearing, Boteach advises parents to reserve their highest praise for instances where their children engage in acts of kindness.
"I don't see myself as a leader," says Boteach, adding though that he is attuned to the struggles of every day life and tries to share those with other people. According to Boteach, "God is not looking for perfection. He is looking for struggle." Why? According to the rabbi, because God does not seek complacency but rather wants to be chosen. Once again directing his comments into the sphere of marriage, Boteach adds, "what kind of marriage is it when you both don't fight for each other?"
But, more than the fight when the score's not in favor of your marriage, Boteach hopes that married couples will heed a statement from the Talmud: that one of the greatest merits a person can have is a benevolent eye. A benevolent eye sees the good in all people. Life is unpredictable and we are all, unfortunately, part of the rat race where we have to work, to look good, and until we find our soul mate, be part of the singles cattle market. When finally married, we want to come home to an anchor, a rock. A place where we can be ourselves and always feel that we don't have to perform. The task in dating and marriage, according to Boteach's wisdom deriving from Jewish texts, is to cease being strangers and embrace each other not just physically through marriage, but spiritually, ad infinitum.
from the December 2002 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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