Double Mitzvah – Metzora

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by David Bookbinder. David is an educator and part of the amazing Leadership Team of Jewrotica. For more of David’s columns, check out Double Mitzvah – Tzav, Double Mitzvah – Shmini and last week’s Double Mitzvah Double Mitzvah – Tazria.

Rated PG-13

Want more intimacy? Stop having sex.

But wait, you say, aren’t sex and intimacy the same thing? If they aren’t, what is the extreme sentiment above actually saying? No sex does not equal more intimacy, but perhaps focusing a little less on one can help with focusing a little more on the other. To get some insight let’s ask the best sex therapist I know, the Torah.

With Metzora the Torah continues its discussion of tza’ra’at and how to remove this troubling malady, whether from oneself or one’s property and possessions. The end of the parasha discusses four statuses people can have, two for men and two for women, which would prevent them from entering the Mikdash. The most famous, and infamous, of these statuses is nidda, which is applied to women currently having their periods.

(19) When a woman has a discharge, [it can consist] of [any] blood that emerges from her body. For seven days she is then [ritually unclean] because of her menstruation, and anyone touching her shall be unclean until evening. (20) As long as she is in her menstrual state, anything upon which she lies shall be unclean, and anyone sitting on it is [likewise] unclean.
(21) Whoever touches her bed must immerse his clothing and his body in a mikvah, and [then] remain unclean until evening. (22) [Similarly], anyone who sits on any article upon which she has sat must immerse his clothing and his body in a mikvah and [then] remain unclean until evening. (23) Thus, if he is on the bed or any other article upon which she sat, whether he touches it [or not], he is unclean until evening. (24) If a man has intercourse with [such a woman], her menstrual impurity is transferred to him, and he shall be unclean for seven days. Any bed upon which he lies shall be unclean.

Quick review: clean and unclean here refer to the Hebrew words, tahor and tamei, which can also be translated as pure and impure. Although I prefer to see them as psychologically healthy and unhealthy respectively. For more on this, check out last week’s column. So, what’s going on in these verses? A woman gets her period and receives the temporary status of nidda making her tamei to others. This also applies to virtually anything she comes into contact with. In addition, a man can also become tamei through having sex with someone who is in niddah.

Traditionally, these laws, which expanded greatly throughout the rabbinic period, have been known as the laws of taharat ha’mishpacha, family purity. But I like referring to them as the laws of family intimacy. It is the laws of niddah which will help guide us towards a better understanding of sex and intimacy.

So are sex and intimacy two different things? Is it possible to have one without the other? Does one necessarily lead to the other? The answer is yes and no for every question; it all depends on context. It is possible to have sex without intimacy, simply focusing on the physical act of two people coming together. Many would classify one-night stands this way. And many others might see the vulnerability expressed when two people undress and merge their bodies together as a heightened expression of intimacy.

It is also possible to have intimacy without sex. This is the step that can be more difficult to grasp. Jonathan Lenbuck from says it best:

Intimacy can be cultivated in many ways, such as spending quality time together, enjoying physical, non-sexual contact, or enjoying shared interests and listening to each other. Sex is only one way in which people give and receive love, so although it is very important, it is not the only way to develop or express intimacy.

Being intimate with your partner requires you to be open and honest with him or her, and it is from this state of intimacy that great sex grows.(1)

This is what the laws of niddah are all about. Often, the sexual component of any relationship, especially in the media, is equated with intimacy and overemphasized. Taking a week or two off from sex and sexual conduct to focus on all the other vital components can not only lead to a deeper and more intimate relationship, it can lead to some amazing sex too!



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