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Written by Sender Rozesz. Sender Rozesz is a practicing attorney with a background in Jewish pluralistic education for adults. The views reflected in his columns represent his own personal views, and are not intended to reflect the views of any organizations, institutes or associations with whom he may be affiliated. For more Double Mitzvahs by Sender Rozesz, check out A Woman’s Vow, Sexual Motive, Choose Your Own Spouse, The Post-Honeymoon Journey, A Wise and Understanding People, The Blessing of Fertility, Abominations, Coitus Interruptus, Sexual Struggles,The Unspeakable Language of Passion, Cut vs. Uncut, The Silence of Bitterness, Sex and the Holiest Day of the Year, Shifting Beds and Sex in the Sukkah,Sex…In the Beginning, A Sexual Reboot, She’s My Beautiful Sister,Kosher Incest?, How They Met, Male-Female Intercourse, The First Kiss, The Power to Transform, Onanism, Daughters-in-Law and Moshiach, Issues with the In-Laws?, The Undoing of Captivity, Shift Beds – Part II, Pharaoh’s Assimilation Policy, Passion vs. Pleasure, Loving in Reverse, Music is Female, Fecund Fluids and Revelation, Sexism in the Commandments, Divine Lust, Name Calling, Mismatched Lovers, Sex and Mirrors, The Challenge of Real Loving,Getting Undressed, The Strangers Among Us, Wet, Moist Matzah, The Anatomy of an Anchor,Blood and Birth, Menstruation and Circumcision,Incest, and Adultery, and Homosexuality, Oh My!, and Beauty is in the Eye of…?, and Does G-d Have a Vagina?
Sex is one of the most powerful and intimate phenomena that human beings are capable of experiencing. The orgasm counts among our most intense moments, in which our mind, body and soul unite in a sensation that grips them all. Indeed, it can sometimes seem like an otherworldly experience; almost as though it is one that humans are permitted to taste, without fully comprehending.
The the almost-magical character of sex manifests most clearly in the male orgasm. When a male penetrates a female, he penetrates in such a way that he has a clear path to her center, to her feminine core. This is not just her center geographically – it is the part of her body that is capable of growing and nurturing the next generation of human beings. A woman’s womb is truly the center of all of humanity.
Into that center, the male ejaculates his semen. Science explains that semen is manufactured in the testes. Then, when a male is aroused, the penis fills with blood and becomes erect, beginning the ejaculatory process. However, this crude explanation leaves so much out with respect to the dynamic link between the male brain and the male genitals. How does mental activity result in both a hardening of the penis and an increase in semen? For simply stimulating the penis without any mental involvement will not produce the same results. As the Talmud states: “One cannot have an erection unless he is a willing participant,” See Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot, 53b. Much more importantly, the semen contains the seed that, in conjunction with the female egg, will grow into a full human being with the full set of genes from his or her parents. In other words, the father’s very essence has been transmitted via his semen. Is a man’s essence in his testes?
No, as Kabbalah explains, the seed that will later grow into a child is derived from his/her father’s brain. Not from the intellectual faculties of the brain, per se, but from the essence of the brain. The brain is the center for all of a person’s physical, sensory and intellectual activities; semen contains a distilled form of the brain’s essence, which then reproduces and becomes the child’s brain, and the center and essence of all that the child will become. See Tanya, Likutei Amarim, Chapter 2.
Thus, far from fulfilling a mere plumbing function, the penis and the testes are actually the delivery system for the essence of the male brain and all that he is, and deposits it into the female’s core. The intense toe-curling-eyes-rolling-to-the-back-of-the-head pleasure that accompanies sexual intercourse is what we feel when this transmission of pure essence takes place.
In the context of a Jewish marriage, this extraordinary and sublime experience is the consummation of the second step in a two-step process. The first step in a Jewish marriage is called “Kiddushin,” loosely translated as “betrothal.” According to Jewish law, this is where a man gives a woman something of sufficient value for her to be able to purchase the basics of living, and says the words “Harei At Mekudeshet Li“: “You are hereby consecrated to me.” As the words themselves suggest, the impact of Kiddushin is that she is now a betrothed woman, and consecrated to her future husband. She is, for almost all intents and purposes, treated as a married woman, and forbidden to all other men.
After Kiddushin comes the second step: Nisuin. This is the actual marriage. Accordingly to Jewish law, Nisuin includes many components. The chuppah, the wedding canopy, is one, where the bride and groom stand under a single roof. The subsequent yichud, where the bride and groom are alone for for the first time, is another. However, Nisuin is not fully consummated until the bride and groom have sexual intercourse, and he “cleaves to his wife, and they…become one flesh.” Genesis, 2:24.
The beauty, pleasure and intensity in human sexuality and marriage is of course a poor and bland imitation of divine sexuality and marriage. After all, the fact that we can barely hold it together during orgasm suggests that G-d limited our sexual experience to what we could physically handle. One can only imagine what G-d’s own sexuality is like, without any physical, emotional or mental limitations. Our own marriages and sexual relationships are like a microcosmic model of G-d’s.
As we have discussed on many prior occasions. G-d, too, is married. His wife is the Jewish nation. And as He instructed us, our marriage to G-d, too, follows the two-step process of Kiddushin and Nisuin.
You may recognize the words “Kadsheinu B’Mitzvotecha V’Ten Chelkeinu B’Toratecha” from the text of the Shabbat prayers. Translated literally, the words mean “sanctify us with Your commandments, and give our share in Your Torah.”
However, you may have noticed that the word “Kadsheinu” is of the same root as the word Kiddushin – and the import is similarly the same. What we are really asking of G-d is to betroth us, to consecrate us, to take us off of the market, and to designate us as His own. And how is that divine Kiddushin accomplished? With His mitzvot, his commandments. The mitzvot are what redirect our focus and our energies from the many distractions and temptations that compete for our attention, to devote and reserve ourselves for our Groom. And just as a mortal groom gives his betrothed a gift of life-sustaining value, so too do the mitzvot imbue us with a spiritual life that lifts us out of the morass and sets us upon a higher footing. That is our betrothal, our Kiddushin.
Our Nisuin is reflected in the second clause: “V’Ten Chelkeinu B’Toratecha” – “and give our share in Your Torah.” This is sexual intercourse; Divine penetration. Kabbalah teaches that the Torah is not merely a book of rules and stories. It is not even a book of Divine wisdom. Rather, the Torah is the essence of G-d’s brain, as it were, from which all other facets, attributes and revelations flow. However, just as the human essence is distilled, packaged and delivered via an ejaculation of physical semen, so too is G-d’s essence delivered through the physical laws and anecdotes of which the Torah is comprised. These, however, are merely the vehicle through which G-d’s essence is delivered into our core; Torah’s true character, however, remains the essence of the Divine. Thus has G-d packaged His Torah in away that we can learn it, understand it, imbibe it and absorb it deep within ourselves, to the point that it becomes a part of us, and creates new spiritual life inside of us.
As we approach the holiday of Shavuot this Sunday and Monday, on which we celebrate the giving of the Torah, let us stop and reflect on the true significance of the day. It is not merely the day on which we received our religious instructions. Rather, it is the day on which we – amidst a toe-curling explosion of thunder and lightning – accepted G-d’s very essence inside of us, and bonded with Him at the highest of levels in true spiritual orgasmic bliss. It is the day on which “He cleaved to His wife, and they became one flesh.”