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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3


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GENESIS — 1:26 image

The defining principles that govern all interpersonal interactions, especially sexual ones, include tzeniu’t (modesty), kedushah (holiness), derekh Eretz (decency), kevod ha-beriyot (dignity), tzelem Elohim (the image of G-d in which all humans are created), hesed (kindness), and ahavat re’im (neighborly love).  These values are especially important in matters of love and sex.  True love enhances the other’s self-esteem, dignity and feeling of self-worth, and sex is a significant expression of that love.  In fact, these values complete the physical pleasures and satisfaction enjoyed through sexual intimacy, not only elevating them, but making them enduring.  Our rabbis explained that the dignity of kevot ha-beriyot is due to everyone because of the tzelem Elohim (image of G-d) in which each of us was created [this verse].  By grounding human dignity in Divine dignity, any slight or act of disrespect to a human being becomes an affront to G-d.  By respecting others, our relationship with them becomes holy.   DORSEX 134-5

GENESIS — 2:7 formed

The Garden of Eden Story in the Book of Genesis provides us with a working philosophy of sex and love.  [This verse] states, “…the Lord formed [Hebrew, yatzar] man [Hebrew, adam] from the dust of the earth. He blew into his nostrils the breath [nishmat] of life, and man became a living being [nefesh hayah].” The Hebrew roots each have a dual meaning.  Yatzar literally means “create,” but its root has been interpreted in the rabbinic tradition to mean the human desire to create, including sexual desire.  N’shamah means “soul,” but with the addition of one letter, it also means “breath.”  From this, we understand that the combination of desire and soul makes us human.  In the rabbinic tradition, desire is divided into two distinct components: the good or transcendent desire and the bad, or survival- and ego-oriented desire.  Both are required to create the wholeness of desire. With the integrated brain, we have the integration of differentiated states depicted as lower and higher.  If we conceive of the bad and good desire as an image, it perfectly matches the tri-level sexual brain.  Our self-centered desire (consisting of greed, lust, desire for instant gratification, and attraction) represents the reptilian and mammalian parts of our brain, while the transcendent desire, which allows us to connect to others in a deeper way, represents our human brain.  When we add n’shamah (soul) into the equation, we bring the Divine element into our sexual interactions.  DORSEX 129

GENESIS — 4:1 knew

In the work that I do, I am often dismayed by the fact that many young people do not believe the religion has important things to say about sexuality.  Frequently, they identify religious doctrine as “sex-negative” – as teaching only that sex is essentially bad unless it occurs, or is redeemed, under very specific circumstances.  Interesting, I find it is often students from a fundamentalist or evangelical tradition who speak most favorably, and certainly most clearly and authoritatively, about the religious guidance they have received about sex.  My Jewish students typically know that sex is considered a mitzvah, but often cannot quite put that together with all of the various sexual prohibitions they know exist in Torah (that is, unless sexuality has been addressed very specifically in their religious education).  Even in secular settings, I like to share my understanding of Jewish teaching about sexuality.  I start with the biblical verb for sex—“to know”—as a means to introduce the idea of sex as a form of human intimacy and to make the point that just as emotional intimacy involves deep knowledge of another person, so does sexual intimacy.  I often simply ask my students what they think the verb “to know” might mean in relation to sex, and it is amazing how quickly they can begin to think about sex in a deeper, more philosophical context.  Indeed, my older students can easily grasp a profound understanding of sex, and other forms of human intimacy, as a means of diminishing the existential aloneness that we all experience as part of human life.  I also like to share how intriguing I find the Creation myth in in the Book of Genesis.  Once Adam and Eve disobey G-d and eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, an immediate consequence is the sudden realization of their own nakedness.  I think of their covering up as an acknowledgment of the boundaries that exist between us and other people in an imperfect world.  In such a world, it becomes safe, as well as a safe haven, to share all of ourselves only within the confines of an intimate, trusting relationship.  DORSEX 56

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