This post introduces the first shiur in a series of classes inspired by Rabbi Yehoshua Lewis, founder of Olami affiliate Mesorah NJ, addressing myths held by outsiders of Judaism. Rabbi Lewis prepared a class on the Top Five Myths in Judaism including a source sheet and shiur outline.
The Olami Resources Chaburah, using materials from the Morasha Syllabus, is working together with Rabbi Lewis to expand each myth into a separate shiur. In the coming weeks, BE”H, we will address several Jewish myths, suggest why they may have arisen, and explain the actual Jewish approach to the topic.
Due to the sensitive content and importance of properly addressing this week’s topic, we recommend teaching this class separately to men and women to allow the full expression and exchange of ideas. Judaism advocates dedicating considerable time to prepare engaged couples for marital intimacy and learn the laws of Taharat HaMishpachah (family purity) by one to one mentors. It is a most private and personal affair. In fact, the Talmud (Ketubot 8b) strongly comments, “Everyone knows why the bride enters the bridal canopy, yet anyone who [explicitly] says so speaks most crudely…” We therefore treat this topic with utmost respect and sensitivity.
Invariably, when polling rabbis and educators about the top myths in Judaism, the “hole in the sheet” is way up there. The goal of this class is to show: 1) there is absolutely no basis to this myth, 2) a theory of what might have led to this misconception, and 3) and a deeper exploration of the Jewish approach to love and intimacy.
Part One. No Basis to the Myth
There is absolutely no basis to the myth of having something intervening during the union of a husband and wife. The Talmud clearly teaches that there must not be anything interfering during intimacy of a husband and wife. Moreover, such interference is viewed as so detrimental and foreign to a healthy Jewish marriage that a spouse who requests to wear clothes during relations must divorce:
Rav Huna ruled that a husband who says, “I will not perform my marital duties unless she wears her clothes and I mine,” must divorce her and also give her the ketubah settlement [the monetary settlement agreed to in the marriage contract]. (Talmud Bavli, Ketubot 48a)
Judaism understands that intimacy is not only integral to marriage, it is essential to guarantee the very future of the Jewish people. This is illustrated by a striking episode during the oppressive Egyptian enslavement when the exhausting labor caused the men to lose interest in their wives. The wives responded by using mirrors to seduce their husbands. After their liberation from Egypt, the mirrors were donated by the wives to cover one of the holy vessels in the Tabernacle.