Monday, November 12, 2007

Modesty and Openness

I am sure that there are some people out there who have been following the discussion in which I have made the point that modesty is necessary even when discussing adult topics. As it seems that many have misunderstood my point of view, and feel that I am trying to 'police' other blogs, I will clarify my position here.

First of all, let me begin with the good. I think it is great that people want to know the halachik view of matters between husband and wife. It speaks of the holiness that an authentic Jewish life can engender, when bloggers ask important questions regarding intimacy within the framework of Jewish law. It happens far too often that both women and men, when meeting their 'marriage teachers' (חתן or כלה teachers), are too embarrassed (or too naiive) to ask detail-oriented questions. Teachers should be bringing up these issues if the prospective bride or groom do not mention them. All to often, tragically, these classes are the first and last exposure the couple has to a religious figure that invites them to ask anything they need. I believe that people require open relationships with honest, trustworthy clergy, so that questions can be posed and answered in a professional and private manner.

It is inevitable that many people will not be exposed to this kind of support system. In this day and age, people turn to the internet, and lately, blogs, to find answers and camaraderie in their quest for fulfilling relationships and lives. This is fine, and there are many sites where rabbis answer anonymous questions in a respectful and halachik way. (Without endorsing any, here are some links: askmoses, kippah, and shoresh.)

When we find out about the details of what is permitted, we fulfill our responsibility to build a healthy relationship with our spouse, while attending our duty to act within the framework of the Torah. However, the danger that lurks at the edges of this important exploration is that a public discussion of these issues, innocently begun with the best of intentions, can quickly degenerate into the presentation of salacious details for the voyeuristic excitement of the audience. This is what happened on one of the threads in the blogosphere, and it is the inherent danger of any public discussion of what traditionally was the most private of issues, discussed between man, woman and respected halachik authority.

The Shulchan Aruch (Even Haezer 21:1-15) and Yad Hachazaka (Hil. Issurei Biah 21) make it clear that experiences which cause a person improper thoughts for unacceptable reasons is against the law. We are a holy nation. When we learn about what is permitted and what is forbidden, we do it with seriousness. We do not do it in a forum where the discussion will turn into the lowest talk of pubs and beer-halls.

I applaud the desire to know more about how we treat intimacy in halacha. I think the internet can be a good source of information. However, everyone who takes part in such discussions is responsible to make sure that the information is in keeping with the halachik standards of tzniut, and cut off any wandering from the goal honest and serious study of issues between man and woman.

May we merit our Nation שוכן לשבטיו, with love and happiness in abundance, within the bounds of our holy Torah.