Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tzohar Conference: What Happens to Sexually Active Orthodox Singles?

Forward    When it comes to singles and sex in the Jewish community, Orthodox spiritual leaders have a dilemma. They can pretend it’s not happening, or they can open a difficult dialogue with their constituents.

Last week, the Israeli rabbinic organization Tzohar attempted to address this issue in a groundbreaking conference, “In the First Person: Sexuality within the Family and Religious Society.” Tzohar trains rabbis to perform participant-friendly wedding ceremonies at no charge. Its female volunteers teach Jewish and secular brides the Jewish laws surrounding immersion in the mikveh (ritual bath) before and after marriage. The event was attended by the female volunteers, and the wives of Tzohar rabbis.

“Many singles today feel that it’s their right to express their sexuality,” said panelist Rabbanit Chana Henkin, director of the Nishmat seminary for women, calling sexuality among Orthodox singles the elephant in the room. “Despite our discomfort with the topic, educators and community leaders must be prepared to discuss these issues openly.”[...]

“The problem is only going to become more acute,” says Dr. Naomi Grumet of Jerusalem’s Eden Center, an initiative that hopes to “transform” the mikveh. “People have higher expectations and want to accomplish things, like travel and education, before they settle down. Also, when they have done these pursuits, they aren’t necessarily willing to come back and marry the boy or girl next door. It is likely to take more time to find someone.”

Like Henkin, Grumet doesn’t want to see sexually active singles ostracized. “Singles who are sexually active may feel they don’t have a place in the community. Yes, it’s happening, and it’s forbidden by Jewish law. But a lot of people transgress in other areas of religious practice, yet still feel welcome within the community.” [...]


  1. Like Henkin, Grumet doesn’t want to see sexually active singles
    ostracized. “Singles who are sexually active may feel they don’t have a
    place in the community. Yes, it’s happening, and it’s forbidden by
    Jewish law. But a lot of people transgress in other areas of religious
    practice, yet still feel welcome within the community.”

    I have to wonder. Is there any area of deliberate sin for which these people would ostracize someone from the community? Maybe racism.

  2. These people want to promote Ma'a'seh Zimri and get S'char Pinchas.

  3. If the Shulchan Aruch says we should be married at twenty, and people are busy with other things, what will happen? This will happen. And the only way to fix it is to follow the Shulchan Aruch based upon chazal that people need to follow the laws of the Torah and marry at twenty. And how can people marry at the age of twenty without a secure income? We have to go back to the Rambam the gemora and the Zohar that it is wrong to marry without buying a house and having a steady income. And how does a young man have such money? Obviously, he got it by working before he was twenty. Most of his time was spent in school learning but a few hours a day or so he was earning. So when he turned twenty he bought a house and head a steady income. We find that Rovo instruced his students to seek wealth, and Rov himself was wealthy. How could he be wealthy and Rovo? Because from earlier youth he was trained to learn and earn. Maybe we should go back to the way Rovo did it. At least, it beats these above discussions that have no solutions. Now the issue is not solutions but whether to openly embrace people who are not married but are together. Me, I prefer Rovo. Now I know that the Yeshiva of the Gro and Reb Chaim Vollozhner did away with all of this. But they accepted only those few who were ready for incredible mesiras nefesh and Torah learning and holiness. And in those days a good student had a good chance of marrying a rich girl and finding a good rabbinic position. But today, the millions of "gedolim" in our Yeshivas don't marry rich girls, and if they do, and the girl wants wealth, that is the end of his learning. Anyway, let's go back to Rovo. This way we have money and Torah. And we don't have these discussions, rachmono litslon.

  4. Reb Dovid,

    I understand that you have an axe to grind with the yeshiva system of today. However, in all fairness, I am sure that the subjects of this article were not Lakewood yeshiva bochurim who did not get married at 20 due to a lack of funding. Please insert your points where they are relevant or write an independent guest post on this subject.

  5. R' Dovid,

    In general I find a lot of Hochma in your words, especially when you care enough to point to realities that people face and that you are not just fixated on black and white yes/no halacha.
    However, I do not understand your comments above. How exactly do you propose people to control their wealth before the age of 20? If your parents have money then perhaps by that age you can afford everything. But we cannot choose our parents or to have rich ones.
    Next, Shulchan Aruch and Chazal were written hundreds and thousands of years ago, respectively. They did not know what would be happening today. As far as i know, the Neviim made some prophecies about the future, for example Yeshayahu said people will live to 100 in Messianic times. But Chazal and Shulchan Aruch were not in the business of prophecy.
    In any case, yeshivas use their students as commodities - they have the big learners , who they will promote, and the rich kids, whom they will honor (to get their contributions in a future time).
    If people do not fit into either of these categories, they are treated like dreck.

  6. “People have higher expectations and want to accomplish things, like travel and education, before they settle down. Also, when they have done these pursuits, they aren’t necessarily willing to come back and marry the boy or girl next door. It is likely to take more time to find someone.”
    "...But a lot of people transgress in other areas of religious practice, yet still feel welcome within the community.”

    It is interesting conceptually that she is not critical at all of the side she likes, and she is implicitly critical of the side she doesn't. Yes, people have "higher" expectations (unclear how to tell if expectations are "higher") and want to travel and educate themselves before getting married. That is not a justification. It's adding insult to injury. It's not an accident that premarital sex is forbidden; it was forbidden as part of a greater ethos that involves prioritizing marriage.
    Meanwhile, she is critical of the marginalization of premarital-sex-havers because it's no different from other transgressions. But the difference is obvious - no one is holding panels to justify loshon hora on grounds that nowadays, people expect to be able to hate others.

  7. @Dovid Eidensohn: You are in favor of living together without being married (pilegesh), at least this is what you claim on your blog.

    So what's your issue, all of a sudden?

  8. Nat,
    I want to respond to you but I don't understand what you are saying. Sorry. Please explain this more.

  9. Discuss Name,
    As I recall my posting about Pilegesh, I limit it to somebody who is forbidden to make Kiddushin, because they refuse to submit to the laws of coercing a GET or other refusals. Today, a large percentage of Orthodox people including prominent rabbis Roshei Yeshiva and Dayanim write letters telling people to coerce a GET whenever a woman wants it and breaks the marriage, even if she has children with her husband. Such people may not have Kiddushin, because they will violate it. On the other hand, if they don't marry at all, their biology will lead them to sin. For such people the only solution is Pilegesh.

    When I go to great efforts to present a sensitive matter, and you don't bother to read what I very clearly stated, but instead invent something that "you are in favor of living together without being marriied" you are motsi shem ra on me. And you did this on a blog which is motsi shem ra borabim. And if I was insulted and hurt and embarrassed, each of these have their own sin. Some people just have a blog mouth that just says whatever may garnish attention. I worked hard on Pilegesh, and I backed up my teaching. But you had no time to read it carefully, because you were too busy making up lies.

  10. Eddie,
    You said a lot of things here that have nothing to do with my post. You have one important point, how could people amass wealth by the age of twenty. And I explained that according to Rambam and based on other sources earning began with childhood.

    That is, a child imitates a parent. A parent is supposed to learn most of the day and work part time. The child does this, from the tender age of say five. Of course the parents help out and guide the child. He is taught to take something here and there and sell it. As time goes on, he understands the basics of being a salesman, he understands being cheated and how to cheat others, he understands how to recognize a good deal and how to avoid a bad deal. He knows business. And his parents are pushing him to various enterprises according to his skills. The five year old in five years has some kind of income, and in ten years, a lot more. In fifteen years he is able to buy a house and has an established income. Rovo wantec more, wealth, which comes when a Torah scholar has real estate that is rented out and perhaps protected by a foreman. This explains how so many great scholars were very wealth, and how Rovo demanded this from his students. It all began very early.

  11. Well, which woman would knowingly submit to the eventuality that an abusive husband continues his abuse by refusing a get? So every woman is in the category you name.

    I agree with you that not solving the get extortion problem will destroy jewish marriage. Pilegesh might be the way to go.

    But I suspect that you propulsed yourself outside of the realm of orthodoxy with your proposition.

  12. R' Dovid,
    I think you are living in a fantasy world, out of touch with reality. This is a problem when you live from a book, and have no real world empirical evidence for your claims.
    The rambam for example says that everything is made of 4 elements. This was an ancient belief, but it is nonsense. It doesn't matter whether the Zohar repeats this , it is still a falsehood. You wouldn't be able to use you computer, phone, car, aspirins or anything else based on this old "hochma".
    Unless I am seriously mistaken and you are really the next Nobel prize winner in economics, then I cannot accept your comments. If in fact what you are saying is correct, why is there such dire poverty in the Yeshivas in Israel, who complain about lack of funding? Why arent the 5 and 10 year olds becoming millionaires? And why do the yeshivas have so many funders?
    Show me a model of 15 year olds buying houses? I don't mean a mud hut in africa or an igloo in the north pole.

  13. Eddie,
    Slow down. I said something that is definitely not practiced today. So people learn without income. And that is a disaster. I am against that disaster and I want to go back to the way of earning from childhood. I have material on this on my blogspot torahhalacha.blogspot.com. It is in the section called The Four Wealths, Torah, Money, Social Skills and Wordliness. I have spoke to gedolei hador about the present system and here I better keep my mouth shut, for a change. Again, I worked hard on this idea, and I ask only that you read it slowly and realize that I am not claiming that I grew up that way or that I know a single person who ever grew up that way. And that is why there are such terrible problems with money and marriage in the Torah world. If a system doesn't work, should we just continue, or shall we do what Rambam and Chazal tell us?

  14. What I meant was that your reply presented your personal opinion (not that I don't agree with some of your points) that people should get married at an early age and that most people should have a plan to support themselves at that time. This would have been the proper reply to someone who proposes that Yeshiva guys should get married later and should stay in learning after marriage. The subject of the article, however, was not the Yeshiva community. As many problems as there might be, in the Yeshiva community, condoning of premarital sex is somewhere near the bottom of the list. The article was rather directed at a left-wing, MO audience for whom this is a distinct reality. The author was not directing her comments towards the Yeshiva world.

  15. Maybe for failure to acknowledge their authority in these matters!

  16. I'll vote for this to receive comment of the day!

  17. I read through these and some other posts on your blogspot.
    I am talking about reality. If you say Rambam did this or that, then we must look at what he admits to doing. That is, he vioalted his own halacha when he faced financial difficulty, and worked 6 days a week without learning. End of story, His rich brother, was murdered by marauding arabs, and he was no longer able to learn full time.
    Thus, your proposal is in the realm of fiction and not reality. Even Rambam's suggestions are fictitious as is proven by his own life story. That is economic reality.
    I remember reading another of your economic theses, on how to fix the American economy. essentially you wanted to raise trade tarriffs agasint foreign imports, eg cars, computers etc. Such a policy is from communism of the most extreme form. it would turn America into North Korea. America is part of a world free trade treaty, and you want to turn it into an isolated state. That would not work. And your other bright proposal also would not work.
    It is time to realise that there is no such thing as Daas Torah. Rabbonim have no knowledge or expertise on secualr matters. in fact they despsie secualr matters, and are not qualified to comment on them, let alone be an authority. Read the Teshuvos of some of the greatest rabbonim on smoking.
    Unless i am seriously mistaken, and you are the Moshiach, please accept my deepest apologies. But a lot of false movements have been led by pseudo messiahs who thought they had plan for everyone to be rich, and none of them were successful.

  18. Eddie,
    I don't think the Rambam was mistaken or old fashioned and I don't think my ideas are ridiculous. But you are entitled to your opinion on blogs I suppose. I stand by the Rambam and my idea based on his idea. A Jew who talks about the Rambam and great rabbis like you do did not learn as I did from gedolim of the past generation, and I don't think they would say what you did about what you consider great people's fantasies and mistakes. There is a fine line between shooting off your mouth on a blog with a hame nobody recognizes and writing books that Rambam did. But you think you are wiser and smarter than he was.
    With you I can't argue, and I don't feel that arguing with you has an answer other than for me to become an apikoress or you to stop being an apikores. An apikoress is someone who insults a great Rov like the Rambam. But I know that you don't think you are doing anything wrong, because you are smarter than the ancient rabbis who just fumbled along with the past. I have discussed my ideas with some very smart people and they are enthusiastic. But I did not merit to convince you, which is no wonder since you are smarter than the Rambam. At least I am in good company. I hope that in the other world I will sit with the Rambam and the other old fashioned people who lacked your insights into their mistakes. At least when you get there and open your mouth it is going to be very interesting. Please save a seat for me.

  19. @dovid E.
    I think eddy is right in pointing out that your propositions are by no means realistic. And you are not the Rambam, nor any of the other "great sages" behind whose names you like to hide.
    So it is completely legitimate to disagree with you, and this does in no way disrespect the great rabbonim of the past.
    On the contrary, I think that you dishonor great rabbonim of the past, by using them as a shield to protect your own dignity, and by distorting their sayings.

  20. I am not smarter than the Rambam , and i don't even harbor that thought. The issue is not that I disagree with the Rambam, it is that the Rambam himself admits he was unable to keep to what he wrote in his own books. That distinction was apparently lost on you.
    An apikores can be anything you wish to define it as. I think the Rambam himself brings different defitnions from what you bring. In any case, he has several classes of heresy, and these are theological issues, eg those who deny the Torah, those who say G0d has physical body, (which is what Kabbalah says) etc.
    He didn't say that those who criticise his economics or point out that he complained in an Iggeret that he was unable to keep his own hilchot Talmud Torah due to economic duress - is a heretic.
    Regarding the broader question, of secular knowledge of the sages Rambam states accept the truth from any source. But Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi has a discussion (i think in Pesachim) about why hot springs are hot in the morning. he rejects the Jewish sages' explanation, and accepts the more convincing explanation of the Gentile sages. Thus, my position is presumably also in good company. would you also criticise Rebbi for disagreeing with the pseudo science of the Jewish sages?

  21. A Jew who talks about the Rambam and great rabbis like you do did not learn as I did from gedolim of the past generation

    Nor from gedolim of any generation. Nor from ketanim of any generation.

  22. There is no "Daas Chol" - ie Rabbonim do not have expertise or authority in secular matters. If they are also "gedolim" in secular matters, like the Rambam, they have authority just like any other expert. A few examples:

    Rambam writes in Shemonah Perakim that it is impossible l'chatchila for a metal ship to fly in the air like a bird.
    He writes in Mishnah Torah that the chemical building blocks of the world are only 4.

    If anyone claims that Daas Chol is an ikkar, then you are all apikorsim everytime you take modern pharmaceutical medicine, or fly a plane.

    Economics is not even a hard science, but a social science.

    By using electricity, it is a heresy against Daas Chol, since nuclear energy is a new invention which Rambam was not aware of.

    The interesting thing is, that North Korea has simialr mind control systems to those who are making all sorts of heresy allegations.

  23. @Eddie - sorry but your assertions don't prove anything. Clearly when the Rambam wrote his words it was impossible for for a metal ship to fly.

    Again regarding 4 Elements - that was in fact correct according to the science of that time.

    You are claiming that the Rambam needed to have knowledge of modern physics in order to considered an expert in his time - that is absurd.

    In short for your point to be valid you have to show that the Rambam or other rabbonim are not knowledgeable in the sciences of their day - you clearly have not done so.

    So the bottom line is what is your point.

  24. @NO Fan - you have a choice 1) to explain your credentials as a great authority or 2) point out the specific issues that you disagree with and why.

    An anonymous person on a blog claiming that someone is wrong because of their simple say so is ridiculous. Please supply some substance to your claims

  25. Thank you DT, but some of your assertions are not correct.
    For example, the idea of the Earth being the centre of the Universe was not something that only modern science hold by. Aristarchus of Samos (c. 270 BCE) held this view 1300 years before haRambam. This was a machlokes with their earlier gedolim, Plato and Aristotle.
    What is more interesting to a student of Rambam's works, is that in his Guide he mentions how his observed astronomical data contradicts his own theory of geocentrism - ie the planets do not go around the Earth in the way his model predicts. He writes explicitly that he cannot explain this. So contrary to what you say, rambam needed to have knowledge of science of 1300 earlier. instead he went according to Aristo, who was a "rishon" rather than the Greek "acharonim".
    The 4 elements may have been the view even in his day. But i am not claiming he needed to have knowledge of modern physics or chemistry.

    The underlying question is whether the views on secualr subjects espoused by Gedolei Torah are ikkarim. In other words, if one denies such a view, does that make one an apikorus?
    That is why I cited R' Yehuda Hanasi, who did not include these matters as part of the Torah Sh'b'Al Peh. he made a decision based on what seemed more reasonable to him, and relied on gentile scientists. Thus for soemone today to claim that all statements made by rishonim or Chazal on science are ikkarim, seems to me to be absurd.

    That is why it is possible for us to disagree and even reject Daas chol of Gedolim. If you consider Daas Chol to be Daas Torah, then you have dug yourself a pit of apikorsus, each time you fly a plane, or take a pharmaceutical drug , or use electricity.

  26. @Eddie it seems obvious that the views of the Rambam on secular subjects are not Ikkarim that you are an apikorus if you deny them.

    Rav Moshe Feinstein states specifically that Chazal - not Rishonim - can make statements about things that are beyond humand knowledge.

    Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky seems to say that if the Rambam is talking about something he has from Mesora that he can't be wrong - even if it contradicted by other rishonim. This was in regard to the astronauts landing on the moon which he says refutes the idea that it is a living being. However he concludes that the Rambam's statement about the moon is a philsophical statement and thus does not have to be true.

    In short - statements that are said by rishonim based on the science or secular knowledge of their time can be mistaken.

  27. Reb Dovid,

    I agree with you wholeheartedly that there is a tremendous problem in this regard. Just the other week, I had three different knocks on my door from YOUNG, ABLE-BODIED married men from Israel. One of them tells me, I have two kids and chovos and I need dental work. This is a machlah that needs to be dealt with and that is not being dealt with. Less of a problem in the US than in Israel, but still a problem. I don't know if the solution is to go back to what they did in the days of the Amoraim and the Rambam, but meeting somewhere in the middle would be a good start. I would like to discuss it with you at greater length, but I don't have much time now.


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