Why another sex book?
I have nine kids to feed, and only two kidneys.
By the way, as of last Friday, the book was the number 2 relationship book in the country on Amazon. It just shows you how badly people want books that merge spirituality and sex.
More importantly, in hosting my TV show on TLC, Shalom in the Home, and in counseling couples on an everyday basis, I was struck by how much marital strife results from a simple loss of desire. Kosher Sex dealt with the loss of intimacy in marriage. The Kosher Sutra deals with the loss of lust and desire.
You write that your emphasis is on eroticism, not sex. What's the difference?
Eroticism need not be something sexual. Eroticism is, rather, an electric curiosity for life. It is a desire to pull back the hood of existence and uncover its engine. To live erotically is to peel back the superficial layers and discover the essence in all that we experience. It is to rise above boredom and to always be engaged by life.
We has so vulgarized the erotic today that cheap, flimsy, boring porn passes for the erotic. Nothing could be further from the truth. The erotic is a magnetic desire to know our spouse in the deepest possible way. Superficial, fleshy knowledge is the most unsatisfying substitute.
In yeshiva you learned to be Dr. Ruth?
No, she learned to be Rabbi Shmuley.
Look, Judaism has the most profound teachings regarding relationships in general, and marriage and sexuality in particular. Rather than being known for Wall Street and finance, I believe that the Jewish community should be known first and foremost for relationships. For 3000 years we Jews have perfected the art of relationships, and it's time we shared that wisdom with the wider world. Nothing wrong with the Yeshivas sharing the profound wisdom found in the Torah and especially the Talmud that pertains to marriage, sexuality, and romance. Heck, if we taught more stuff like this, Yeshiva enrollment would quadruple.
There's a growing divorce rate in the Jewish community -- even in Orthodox circles. How do books like yours help stem that problem?
Look, I'm flogging my books to every community that will read them (have you bought one yet? How about your mother?). And that means Jewish and non-Jewish alike. To be sure, everything I write is based on Jewish wisdom, but it is universal in nature. It is my fervent hope, as a child of divorce myself, that it help stem the tide of divorce in every community, especially our own. And yes, the orthodox community is seeing a penetration of toxic, secular mores into marriage and dating which is leading to an increased divorced rate.
The mikveh -- two weeks of forced separation, then a "honeymoon" once a month -- is lauded in the Orthodox community as a way to keep a marriage fresh. Does this still work?
What the laws of mikveh and Jewish family purity introduce is the concept of the forbidden and the sinful into a marriage. The forbidden is what creates erotic excitement. The problem is that marriage is all too legal. One of the reasons that people have affairs is the excitement of the sinful. Therefore, the idea that a husband and wife become forbidden to each other for a few days of each month is one of the most revolutionary ideas in the history of relationships, and demonstrates ingenious insight into the psychology of the erotic on the part of the Torah.
When does G-d enter into the equation about sex and relationships?
I think America wants us to return to a more sacred sexuality. One based on sex as the union of souls, the rendering of two strangers into bone of one bone and flesh of one flesh. In that sense, G-d and spirituality are essential to the orchestration of two halves as one indivisible whole. The casual sexual culture we have created has actually killed off sex. The vulgarization and instant availability of sex has paradoxically led to a loss of desire. One of out of three marriages is platonic. The rest of the married couples who have sex do so, on average, for seven minutes at a time, which includes the time he spends begging. Clearly, for sex to regain its potency it must first regain its sacredness.
How many more books like this before the Orthodox community excommunicates you?
If they've put up with me for this long, chances are they're stuck with me. Besides, your question suggests there is someone else willing to take me. But seriously, I have been invited to lecture on these subjects in orthodox Synagogues in every part of the world and I am even typing these responses en route to Australia where I am lecturing on The Kosher Sutra at one of Sydney's largest orthodox Shules. The thin air would explain some of my more outlandish responses. And 'Kosher Sex' is to be found in hundreds of thousands of orthodox homes.
Do you let the Boteach children read your sex books?
It's a family rule that they have to use their allowance to buy a copy to help put the book on the best-seller lists. But no, they cannot read them. When they are of marriageable age it will be time. I have a daughter hitting that age now.
Page 36: "Even Sigmund Freud ... was unable to answer the simple question of what it is that a woman wants." You can answer this?
Yes, I am a man deeply in touch with his feminine side. A woman wants to be the one and only, she wants priority and exclusivity in the life of her man. She wants to feel unique, distinguished, and special in a relationship. And any man who makes her feel that way is a man who will win her heart.
I wrote this in The Kosher Sutra, only to see it corroborated in this week's New York Times Magazine cover story about female sexuality. It reinforces the main points of The Kosher Sutra and is a remarkable corroboration of the book's entire approach to sexuality. The essence of the article is that female sexuality is triggered not by the body but the mind, particularly by demonstrations of desire on the part of a man. The book charts the principal mental conditions that stimulate erotic desire in women and men and which the article says have been corroborated in clinical tests.
You apparently have many non-Jews who come to you for counseling about the physical parts of marriage. They feel comfortable talking about intimacy with a bearded, Chasidic-trained rabbi?
They are looking for help. People are in a lot of personal anguish. They will take it from whatever wise source they can find. And Judaism has the wisest advice to offer on relationships, even if it comes in the form of a bearded, yarmulke wearing, tzitzis-twirling Rabbi. In any event, I am no ordinary Rabbi. I am the Love Prophet.
From your stories, you sound like the perfect husband -- wise, sensitive, passionate. Would Mrs. Boteach agree?
Most definitely not. She is good, wise, beautiful, and, above all else, long-suffering.
Buy Rabbi Shmuley's newest book The Kosher Sutra! Join the national "Turn Friday Night Into Family Night" initiative. Go to Fridayisfamily.com. See Shmuley on the web at Shmuley.com. Friend Shmuley on Facebook.