Double Mitzvah – Shmini

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by David Bookbinder. David is an educator and part of the amazing Leadership Team of Jewrotica. Check out David’s premiere column, Double Mitzvah-Tzav.

Rated PG-13

The two lovers madly embrace, passionately kiss, and have seemingly mind-blowing sex in total silence, perfectly in touch with each other’s every whim and fancy.

This is almost every sex scene we see in television and movies. Regardless of genre and situation, most sex scenes we encounter on the big or small screen take place in total silence. While this isn’t quite the case for most sex scenes you can see on fuckedtube, a lot of mainstream film and TV seem to have a twisted idea of intercourse. Both partners seem to be telepathically linked since, without uttering a word, the sex is usually fantastic. But like most depictions of sex in the media, this is more fantasy than reality. Luckily this week’s parsha, Shmini, is here to give us a reality check.

Shmini follows the cliffhanger ending of last week’s Tzav where Aharon and his sons begin a seven-day induction ceremony to inaugurate the priesthood and declare the Mishkan, Tabernacle, open for business for daily sacrifices. The eighth day arrives – Aharon and his sons take the stage and the first official Temple/Tabernacle Service has begun. A fire comes forth from before God to light the altar signaling God’s approval. Immediately after, two of Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, offer a “foreign fire” to God and are struck down by another divine fire. Finally, there are more laws on the sacrifices, followed by the introduction of the laws of kashrut.

As you can see there is a lot going on this week, but I want to focus on the particularly troubling tale of Nadav and Avihu’s deaths.

The sons of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, each took his fire pan; they put fire in them; they placed on it incense; they brought near before God strange fire, which God did not command them. A fire came forth from before God; it consumed them; they died before God (Lev. 10.1-2)

There are two key details which make this offering unique. First, the offering of burning incense is described not just as an aish (fire), as previously done, but an aish zara (strange or foreign fire). Second, unlike the previous offerings in the Mishkan, God did not command this one.

Let’s break down and understand the concepts at play here. Offerings are our way of connecting intimately with God (see last week’s post). Nadav and Avihu attempt this connection, but since there was no mention of what God wanted from them, their attempt is zara (foreign/unknown) to God and they fail. Even more abstractly: Nadav and Avihu want to please God but don’t know how, since God does not say what God wants, which makes their offering strange, zara, to God who immediately gets upset.

So…sex. For many of us, talking about sex and communicating our sexual needs to a partner can be awkward and uncomfortable. All the more so if that communication is during sex. We live in a culture surrounded by messages telling us that good sex happens without communication and we should instinctively know what our partner wants. However, when we check-in with reality we see a different story.

In a recent study, researchers Hatfield and Rapson interviewed a large number of married couples about sexual intimacy and found that while both men and women wished their partner would be more brave and tell them exactly what they wanted sexually, these same men and women were reluctant to tell their partners what they wanted.(1)

Website after website will tell you that like any part of a successful relationship, whether one night or one lifetime, good sex requires good communication that is both open and honest. How can I satisfy my partner if I don’t ask them what they want? How can I be satisfied if I don’t tell my partner what I want?

“Imagine going to a restaurant where the chef served you whatever he or she felt like fixing instead of giving you a choice. Imagine a gardener who never asked, ‘How do you like your bushes trimmed?’ Yet when it comes to sex many of us assume that we know what our partner wants, or we clam up instead of giving feedback.”
— Paul Joannides, Psy.D., The Guide to Getting It On (6th ed.)

Communicating with your partner is a great way to ensure a healthy and happy sex life. No one is a mind reader and your partner can’t know what you like if you don’t tell them. Knowing each other’s desires, and acting on them, can lead to an exhilarating experience for both giver and receiver. Talking during sex can create a powerful emotional connection between partners. If we focus on that emotional connection we can ensure an amazing physical connection as well.

Nadav and Avihu did not focus on their emotional connection with God and vice-versa. Nadav and Avihu could have asked what God wanted but did not. God could have told them what God wanted but did not, nor did God correct them after they erred. Both the brothers and God are at fault here. And in this case, the lack of communication was so significant that it didn’t just harm the relationship, it ended it.

Sexual communication “is a skill […] [a]nd we’re not all well-trained in that skill.”(2)

Hopefully, and with a lot of practice, you and your partner can be open and comfortable talking about sex – especially during sex. Even if it’s awkward at first, just grit your teeth and talk about what you want. After you have experienced the benefits, pop in your favorite romantic movie and have a laugh at how ridiculous and awkward it is when –

The two lovers madly embrace, passionately kiss, and have seemingly mind-blowing sex in total silence, perfectly in touch with each other’s every whim and fancy.

You might even want to consider comparing a clip from a romantic film to the kind of movie that you can find on an adult website such as just to see how different these styles of representing sexuality are. We can almost guarantee you will notice some big differences.

Here are a few of the great resources to check out to get you talking during sex:

1. Sara & Albert Reuben Partners in Health Education, Awkward Moments in Sexual Communication

2. American Sexual Health Association, Talking About Sex (and Sexual Health)

3. livescience, Talking About Sex During Sex is Good for Sex

4. The Gottman Institute Relationship Blog, Continuing the Conversation: Talking During Sex

5. expressmilwaukee, Overcoming the Awkward: Talking About Sex With a Partner




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