Does the Bible approve of a platonic relationship
The Hebrew Bible recommends building a marriage on the basis of sensual desire, unlike the New Testament, which emphasizes the role of love. In our writings, however, sensual pleasure is not just a recommendation, but a command. They do not believe me? Look it up. Twice in the Torah, in Exodus 20:14 and in Deuteronomy 5:18, it says in the last of the Ten Commandments: "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife".
Think about it for a minute. The logical conclusion is: You should covet your own wife! Because if lust and desire were wrong, the commandment would be: You should not covet a woman at all. But that's not what the text says.
Song of Songs Of course it's not about forbidden pleasure. The Bible calls lust sacred, and a man's lust for his wife is dear to God. The most vivid proof of the lofty place of sexuality in Judaism is the beautiful love poem Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs). There are 24 books in the Hebrew Bible - and the Talmud says that the Song of Songs is the most sacred of them. In the Talmud it is even referred to as Kodesh Hakodaschim, the "Most Holy".
If you read the Song of Songs, you may be confused - because the entire book is about a man and a woman devouring one another with lust. At first glance, the song seems completely unbiblical. You may even wonder what it is doing in the biblical canon. Read some of the verses - you will be outraged.
Here are a few examples: “He kissed me with the kiss of his mouth; for your love is sweeter than wine "(2.1); "Your two breasts are like twins of gazelles that graze among the lilies" (4,5); “You are tall as a palm tree. (...) I said: I will climb the palm tree and take its branches. Let your breasts be like grapes on a vine and the scent of your breath like apples; let your mouth be like good wine ”(7: 7-10).
erotic The erotic nature of the Song of Songs has led many scholars to interpret it allegorically. Maimonides, the Rambam, whom many consider the greatest rabbi of all time, understood the Song of Songs in the 12th century as an expanded metaphor for the love between the individual pious soul and God. The allegorical interpretations are valid, and there is no doubt that the Song of Songs is filled with deep spiritual and mystical significance.
But neither can it be denied that this writing is a highly erotic story in verse that celebrates a relationship between a man and a woman. To deny this is to miss the central message of the Song of Songs. Rabbinical tradition teaches that no biblical verse ever loses its literal meaning. So we need to find out why the Song of Songs is so sacred in the Bible.
Passion And here is the secret of this text - and many other things in life: God is a conflagration, a raging inferno, the shock itself. Moshe met God in a burning bush. God appeared to the Israelites as a pillar of fire as he led them through the Sinai desert. So in our relationship with God, and also in our relationship with everything that surrounds us, we have to find passion.
And therein lies the hidden secret of the Song of Songs and the basis of Eros: lovers never indulge in their lust for one another. They live in an eternal state of hunger. They never meet. Your lust will never take place. They are constantly searching for and missing one another, but they are unavailable to each other. In the Song of Songs, the loving couple is never referred to as married. Rather, it seems that man and woman are sinful and forbidden, but ultimately platonic lovers.
Boredom One of the reasons a marriage gets so boring at times is because it's so legal. Sexuality is allowed and expected, it is even considered mandatory. So how can contract and exclusivity marriage benefit from the joys of sin and eros at the same time?
The answer is that life in general, and marriage in particular, must become more sinful. As strange as it sounds, there must be room within the marriage for a sinful underbody, a kind of forbidden contract that creates the erotic spark.
I once advised a married man who said he was having an affair because his mistress made him feel more than a breadwinner. With his wife he had the feeling that the only thing that mattered to her was his role as a bread maker, a reliable partner and a good father. But the other woman penetrated his heart, he claimed: She wanted to know his feelings, wanted to know what really tormented him. His own wife, he said, loved him, but she didn't really want to know and experience him.
Of course, we can dismiss these words as rationalization and excuse. The man in question wanted to justify his immoral behavior. But there is no justification for adultery. It is a terrible sin that can cause unimaginable pain. Still, I meet many husbands who believe they are loved for what they deliver, not for who they are.
Mystery The same is, of course, true of women. Every woman is, to borrow a saying from Winston Churchill, "a riddle within a secret, surrounded by a mystery." Every secret wants to be revealed, just as every dark night is ended by the rays of the morning sun. A woman wants a man to know her secret. She doesn't want her clothes to be taken off as much as she wants to be helped to remove her inner layers. Most men are only good at the first. With the second, many, and especially husbands, tend to be horrific.
Back to the Bible: There are two types of marriages, the "friendship marriage" and the "lust marriage". If you expect the Bible to promote collegial, friendly, and peaceful marriage, you will find that marriages in the Torah are much more about lust than love or friendship.
Patriarchs The stories of all three patriarchs, Avraham, Yitzchak and Jakow, show that the archetype of marriage in the Torah is based on ardent passion. The »love marriage«, on the other hand, in contrast to the cozy »friendship marriage«, is partly based on distance.
Avraham and Sarah did not spend every hour together. They made sure to keep a certain distance. In Genesis 8: 9, Avraham is asked by three mysterious visitors: "Where is your wife Sarah?" He said, "There, in the tent."
Rashi explains that Avraham used this to praise his wife's virtues: she was humble and was careful not to flaunt herself to the male guests. But beyond that, it had its own area. She had her domain and he had his. A couple with separate interests and activities can give each other more when they get back together afterward. The separation makes the community even better.
In the "friendship marriage" a man says of a woman: "She is my best friend". I never understood this expression and always found it a bit offensive. What do you do with your "best friend" - do you watch football together? Are you not lovers, but do you live in a shared flat? When you think about the term "best friend" it is about a very family relationship that is not based on deep desire. And I promise you, you will not marry your best friend.
I'm not saying that a married couple shouldn't consider each other friends too. Friendship is an essential and fundamental part of any happy marriage. But when a man and woman see themselves primarily as friends, then they are missing out on an important aspect of their relationship.
Joy of life To live without eros, to exist in ignorance, without the desire for deeper knowledge: this is a life in darkness. To live with "Dvekut", with strong attachment to God and to one's own spouse - that is a life full of passion, excitement and shock: a life that is worth living!
The American Orthodox Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is considered one of the most prominent rabbis in the world. He is the author of numerous bestsellers such as "Kosher Sex" and "Kosher Jesus". His new book "Kosher Lust - Love is not the Answer" was published in May by Gefen, Jerusalem / New York. Translation and reprint of excerpts from the book with the kind permission of the author.
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