Susan Barth
Marriage Education, Enrichment / Enhancement & Advocacy

What Noah and Na’amah Taught Us about Intimacy

One of the most poignant marital challenges given to Noah and his wife Na’amah upon entering the ark and during the yearlong deluge of the flood and the confinement in the ark was G-d’s commandment prohibiting intimacy.

Imagine what it was like for Noah and Na’amah to be charged with the enormous responsibility for the health and welfare for a solid year of all the inhabitants of the ark and on a personal level being prohibited from physical intimacy?

The answer to Noah and Na’amah and to couples has been the subject of considerable analysis by both the rabbinical world and mental health professionals – and it goes back to the veracity of the adage that “abstinence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.”

This issue concerning abstinence often comes up in a modern day context in terms of the observance of the laws of marital purity  – taharat hamispacha – and particularly those laws which require abstinence from physical intimacy for couples for a period that is called the period of niddah and could be a minimum 12 days.

Rather than thinking of the days of abstinence as a hardship, in the book Total Immersion, by Rivkah Slonim, the laws of family purity are depicted as providing a haven for couples to appreciate themselves in all areas of expression. She takes the position that the period of abstinence:

“Often gives couples reason and opportunity to consider each other anew. In this “removed” span of time, from this new vantage point, they view and approach each other with enhanced appreciation. The Taharat Hamishpachah discipline is helpful in other ways as well: fluctuation and disparity in sexual desire can never be completely alleviated. Yet the regulation in the mikvah system serves to assuage tensions that arise from this source. For couples who must abstain for a minimum of twelve days a month, the time they have together is peak time for both, a time they cherish and savor.

While a physical distancing is mandated, emotional intimacy is encouraged and indeed nurtured. Meaningful communication – that precious and increasingly rare form of art – is given full expression as couples must learn to embrace and hug, comfort and rejoice, all without touching skins. A new strata is uncovered in their relationship, a new possibility emerges: friendship.”

Friendship has to be the base for marriage and at its core. However, the manner in which friendship may be expressed may depend on understanding the language of your spouse.

Rabbi Avraham and Goldie Plotkin, who are emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and co-directors of Chabad of Markham in Thornhill, Ontario, gave a presentation depicting the Torah view of the 5 Love languages (based on the bestselling book by Dr. Gary Chapman).[1]

The Five Love Languages include:

Love Language Number 1: Words of Affirmation

Love Language Number 2: Quality Time

Love Language Number 3: Receiving Gifts

Love Language Number 4: Acts of Service

Love Language Number 5: Physical Touch

What Noah and Na’amah must have discovered is that to have dealt with the demands of the ark they had to understand each other’s love language. By their dedication and partnership they were able to communicate without physical intimacy and ensure the perpetuation of the human race.

It should be noted that G-d rewarded their abstinence through the first commandment upon leaving the ark – to renew their physical intimacy and to multiply and replenish the world.

Imagine how much we can each contribute to our own relationships if we take the time to discover the love language of those special and significant persons in our lives. And for married couples, the observance of the laws of taharat hamispacha can and has been proven to represent the most harmonious way for couples to continually renew their devotion and dedication to one another through the adherence to the cycle of intimacy in all its forms of expression.

[1] Chapman, Gary D. 1995. The five love languages: how to express heartfelt commitment to your mate. Chicago: Northfield Pub.

About the Author
Susan (Sarah) Barth is founder and director of Israeli non profit Together in Happiness/B'Yachad B'Osher, promoting stronger, healthier marriages impacting Israeli and English speaking countries' societies. A Project Management Professional (PMP) and businesswoman from the US, Susan sponsored and chaired the First International Conference on Marriage Education in Israel (attended by over 360 professionals) in Jerusalem in memory of her parents and launched I-PREP, an innovative marriage education curriculum. On November 8, 2017, Together in Happiness co-hosted a historic Knesset seminar promoting government support for pre-marriage education