Sukkot: The Fun & Fertile Festival

Sex With Jewrotica

Written by Mara Yacobi. Mara, a certified sexuality educator and licensed social worker, is Jewrotica’s resident sex educator. Check out Mara’s latest posts on Summer and Sex, Getting in Touch, Resources for the Curious and The Many Flavors of Pleasure.

(Please note that this post was pre-scheduled prior to the start of Sukkot.)

Rated PG-13As a sexuality educator, I must admit that Sukkot is one of my favorite holidays, mostly because of its suggestive symbolism. Traditionally, Sukkot is known as the harvest holiday, as nature’s bounty is enjoyed under a temporary roof to remind us of the fragile homes in which the Israelites lived during their forty years of travel in the desert. While it is customary to “live” inside the sukkah for seven days, most people simply eat their meals within its impermanent walls. This year, I suggest taking advantage of the early timing in which the holiday falls and sleeping inside the sukkah as well. I will have more to say on that later in the post. For now, let’s take a look at Sukkot‘s symbolism.

Consider first the lulav. The lulav (a closed frond from the date palm tree) is bound by willow, palm, and myrtle branches into a long phallic shape. And the etrog (a full and sweet-smelling fruit) with its small pitom, or stem, is suggestive of a breast and nipple. Shaking the lulav and etrog together six times is exquisitely symbolic of G-d’s gift of fertility of the land, the nourishing product of which we enjoy under a beautifully decorated dwelling. Combine this message of fertility with the commandment V’samachta b’hagekha (“rejoice in your festival”; Deut 16:14), and we have a great recipe for “being fruitful and multiplying.”

Fertility may be the furthest thing from your mind right now. In fact, perhaps you’ve made every effort to prevent pregnancy or you haven’t found a lifelong partner yet. Or maybe starting a family is on hold for a few more years. If you fall into any of these categories, please bear with me, as I’d like to address readers who wish to seize the moment during this “fertile holiday” and increase their best chances at creating a new life. Of course, whatever your plan is, Sukkot is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate sexuality with your partner or by yourself.

Fertility can be a sensitive topic for anyone who has been trying to have a child naturally without success. It takes most couples an average of six months to conceive. If it’s taking longer than that, it’s important to speak with a doctor. It is with the utmost respect that I share my helpful hints below to couples who are just beginning their baby-making journey.

My greatest hope is for couples to recognize that having sex for pleasure and having sex for conception can often become two distinct acts. Enjoying sexual intercourse and outercourse is usually spontaneous, joyful, and stress free. However, sexual intercourse with the intention of creating a life can start to feel like work: getting the timing right and/or getting results after all that timed sex can create stress. Since baby-making may mean more pressure on a couple, it’s especially important to find the right balance between pleasure and procreating so that you can relax and “rejoice in your festival.” Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Fertile foods: Eat foods that are natural fertility boosters such as fish, pomegranates, and chickpeas. According to Jewish superstition, consuming etrog jelly helps boost fertility, so give it a try. It’s also especially important for a woman to begin taking prenatal vitamins, including folic acid, to ensure her body is getting all the nutrients it needs.
  2. Know your mucus: Throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle, the consistency of the mucus will change. Cervical mucus typically appears in the following categories: sticky, creamy, wet, watery, and egg-white consistency. Checking the cervical mucus for the right consistency is one of the easiest and most helpful ways to improve chances of conception. An egg-white consistency (which can often stretch about an inch from finger to finger) is an indication of a woman’s most fertile time. Sperm love this type of mucus. To check her mucus, a woman should wash her hands thoroughly. Next, sitting in a comfortable position, she should gently insert her finger deep into the vagina so that it comes close to the cervix. After she removes her finger, she examines the consistency of the mucus. And if the consistency is right . . . well, you know what to do.
  3. Sperm need things to be just right inside: When trying to conceive via sexual intercourse, sperm require just the right pH environment to survive. Most lubricants sold over the counter may be too acidic for sperm to survive or can impair their motility. However, one sperm-friendly lubricant called Pre-Seed allows sperm to move freely and mimics a woman’s natural vaginal secretions.
  4. The big O: Ovulation predictor kits (OPK) can be really helpful in detecting a rise in a luteinizing hormone (LH), which occurs about thirty-six hours before ovulation. You can learn more about using ovulation test strips and other tools that can be used to track a menstrual cycle by heading to the Countrywide Testing website. By using an OPK, couples may increase their timing for intercourse since a woman should theoretically ovulate shortly after the surge. However, the OPK only detects the rise in the LH and cannot tell a woman if she has actually ovulated. The best times to have intercourse are the five days prior to ovulation and twelve hours following ovulation.
  5. Prop up: While the research varies on the best sexual position for baby-making, the closer the sperm is to the cervix, the faster it can swim to the egg! Therefore, try propping a few pillows under the woman’s back and tilt the pelvis and hips upward for about twenty minutes, so the sperm can continue their swim upward, rather than down and out.
  6. Avoid hot tubs, drinking, and smoking. Each of these activities can increase risk of miscarriage or harm the growing baby and/or cause birth defects.

Fertility aside, Sukkot has given us a wonderful backdrop for an intimate evening under the stars. Enjoy this romantic setting together as a great way to connect with your partner (or meet a partner!) and share in a unique experience.

So why not stick around after the meal and sleep inside the sukkah? Grab some pillows and blankets (lots of them to pad the hard ground), get comfortable, and start shaking your lulav and inhaling the sweet fragrance of the etrog.


Mara Yacobi is a Certified Sexuality Educator, Licensed Social Worker and Founder of JLove and Values. Mara lives in New Jersey with her family and dreams of becoming a talk show host and finding more hours in the day.