Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Sex and Blessing

Where is the part of the Talmud that discusses making a blessing before, during or after sex? Maybe it got lost at burnings of Talmud volumes by our enemies? We may have lost whole Tractates. However, in this case that seems unlikely. It should be among the most copied texts.

More likely would be that this was never recorded, to avoid stimulating thoughts and activities that would interrupt men’s Jewish learning — their highest activity. Going to the bathroom does not interrupt in the same way and is a must; breathing, eating and drinking can be done during learning; but learning and praying must be brought to a halt for sex.

Further, it’s much easier to find kosher consumptions than kosher sex. The latter needs a kosher partner, privacy, and often waiting time (getting married, nidah, the other being interested) and many more conditions that when violated can render it not a halachic success, Heaven forbid. Furthermore, overeating is not so good, but G-d gives us generally many chances to repent; He’s not so patient on sexual immoralities.

So maybe also now, there should be no writing about this, not to make learners abandon their learning? Maybe just have men learn this who normally do not learn Jewish stuff? Yet, this should be mostly learned by the holiest of the holiest people, not to defile sexuality’s holiness.

The Sages teach that sexuality should only be taught to a few at the time, not to lead to wrong learning. So could this text be kosher at all? I believe that this restriction is only for teaching details on intimacy, not about something as distant as blessings about it.

So then why no blessing before, during or after sex?

Before?

When it’s time to do a commandment, do it — don’t wait. But we postpone Waving the Lulav by making declarations and a blessing. Even many do that before Counting the Omer, but that is heavily disputed, because why make a declaration on making a declaration? Further, don’t waste time when we need to bless Time. But a blessing is made.

In addition, we may let a lulav wait, but a blessing is for recognizing G-d and He doesn’t really need us, compared to our partner. We don’t make blessings when we are supposed to be cut off from Him (as mourners before the funeral, Heaven forbid) and not when we’re in love with someone else. At that moment, our flesh-and-blood beloved should have priority. Our partner is not a thing that can wait. We also do not invite G-d to the act — He will crash the party and place Himself between the partners at the most holy moment without invitation.

Another question is: blessing before what? Consuming has only two stages: taking in the mouth and swallowing, but sex has many stages: being emotionally close, courting, cuddling, possibly intercourse, possible climaxing.

Also, Jewish sex is not a highly scripted affair. On purpose, the Rabbis let the couple free to work out between them what exactly they want to do for sex. Good luck finding a spot where to insert a blessing.

With food, part of the attention should go to figuring out which of the blessings to make. Rationalizing about a blessing is the last thing that one needs when embarking on sexuality.

We don’t bless before giving charity because executing the commandment depends on two people. The one giving might withhold last minute – the one receiving might not (be able to) collect for whatever reason. We might feel like sex and it still may not happen.

But, we also bless before eating and we might not actually get to drink or eat, so guaranteed success seems not needed for a blessing.

More importantly, we do not want to give recipients of charity the feeling that they are only a nonentity in out fulfillment of a Command, to get our reward and be proper Jews. Rather, we need to show our beneficiaries that we care, that we have them in mind when we give. Similarly, we do not want our partner to get the feeling that we seek intimacy to please G‑d.

A convert after being accepted makes a blessing, not the rabbis who admitted the proselyte, while the commandment to accept new Jews is on them. So which of the two partners in intimacy should bless, or should they both?

But then, there are blessings before: at the wedding ceremony and the Seven Blessings, repeated endlessly in the first week. That should suffice as blessing before.

During?

We don’t interrupt the execution of a commandment to make a blessing. Especially so when we’re not dressed for the occasion.

After?

Blessings should only be made before the act? Well, we bless after use of the bathroom and on having eaten and drunk enough – for gratefulness.

If we should bless afterwards, perhaps best we should only do that after having gone to the ritual bath after intimacy. But after that, we better should focus on learning and praying. Maybe to bless only then is already too late. Or maybe it could be overheard, which would not be good. (The man does make one time a blessing, after the first time – asher yatzar.)

If not done properly, the sex would not feel good, especially not afterwards. If we wolf down food, no blessings are said before or afterwards, and doing so is not even a violation of fasting, as that is not considered eating. There is also no blessing before swallowing bitter medicine, as that is not pleasurable either. So what criterion should tell us if the sex was proper enough to warrant a blessing? Reportedly, many people rush through some acrobatics to get sex over with – that’s not sex and certainly cannot compel a blessing.

Sex is sometimes done in settings, at times or under conditions that make the holy act ill advised or even forbidden, Heaven forefend. Participants then might very well feel regret as soon as it’s over. A blessing then, would erase this important moment of repentance and even enlarge our wickedness and punishment.

Maybe only after success we should bless?

Success?

Beforehand we don’t know if there will be “success.” And what kind of success are we talking about: closeness, climaxing, feeling one flesh, intercourse, pregnancy, birth?

Success depends on the commandment. The man has a holy obligation to give his wife sex that is pleasurable to her and a commandment to produce children. The woman is asked to enable her husband to release with her, to prevent him from illicit sex.

But a man should not bless when his wife feels great. She should. But maybe she faked it. It’s also funny to bless on someone else’s activity.

A woman should not bless when her husband accomplished. He should. Maybe he faked it. It’s also funny to bless on someone else’s activity.

It would be terrible if one partner would bless on feeling good while the other is not happy, as sex is, when properly done, an activity of mutual giving and receiving – yet another antidote against selfishness.

But then, after a child is born, there is enough to do and we make blessings at the circumcision. For girls, everything is more hidden anyway.

Animalistic?

To remove activity from the purely animalistic level and elevate it to a higher holier plane, we bless before and after foods. And to express our gratefulness for the good feelings and sustenance. Perhaps sex is so holy that it does not need elevation?

In fact, blessings are to bring us closer to G-d. Nothing brings us closer to G‑d than the true receiving and giving of relational sex; no blessing is needed there. And any sex that is not like that, does not deserve a blessing.

About the Author
The author is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (DES - Diethylstilbestrol), born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a vegan for 8 years now. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. To see other blog posts by him, a second blog - under construction - can be found by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture.
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