Sex Ethics in the Writings of Moses Maimonides
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Clearly, the scene hints that the Iggeret is a text for men, although women might very well benefit if men would meticulously follow its instructions. It is interesting that Nahmanides is evoked as the author of the text. Be calm, and as you enter the path of love and will, let her insemination come first …17 The cinematic rendering of the text in Yentl seems to be more or less reliable. The efforts made by Streisand and her collaborators to present Jewish sexuality in a positive way in Yentl are most obvious when one compares the movie to the play written by Singer and Napolin.
In the play, Avigdor, the parents of Hadass, and other community members explain to Anshel and Hadass, the newlyweds, that pain and sometimes even the use of force are a legitimate part of the sexual act. This is how Avigdor explains to Anshel what will happen on the wedding night: Anshel, tomorrow night, get ready to taste Paradise! Be firm! Even if she weeps and begs you not to, you must take her and have your pleasure.
Avigdor might not necessarily be the best instructor on the matter.
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Everything your husband asks you to do, do it gladly … [Other women:] Even if it hurts, do it gladly! Streisand was, understandably, not happy with some of these notions. Quoted in the midst of a noisy wedding, and being only one of countless rabbinic quotations mentioned in the film, the text is probably hardly noticed by the average viewer. Luckily for it, this medieval work was given another chance on the silver screen. For many, it seemed to be an attempt to repeat the earlier success of 's Witness. Witness, directed by Peter Weir, won two Oscars, and thus was clearly worth emulating.
The similarities are indeed obvious. Witness starred Harrison Ford playing John, a policeman living undercover in an austere Amish community, gradually falling in love with his Amish host, Rachel, played by Kelly McGillis. Avrech, a Los Angeles screenwriter who describes himself on his website as an observant Jew. Avrech very kindly answered many of my questions regarding this scene in a phone call we had on 7 May, It probably became even more meaningful some years later, when Ariel died of cancer.
Emily, after hearing some noises, comes out wearing a nightgown and a gun , only to discover that Ariel is sitting in the courtyard. As Emily is already awake, Ariel, in a very gentlemanly way, takes off his coat and covers her to protect her from the cold. I like to keep it close to my heart. You need a lifetime of study.
You know Evelyn Wood?
Read… more. Most of it is theoretical. They do it through a sheet! Emily finds it very disturbing. Sex is sacred, it is a Mitzvah, one of the positive commandments. Well I have a hot flash for you: sex is nice! How would you know? I mean outside of your little Jewish Kamasutra?
The answer is complex. We have an erotically charged scene with a perfectly dressed, smart Hasidic man and a relatively covered non-Jewish and very charming policewoman, and they talk, in the middle of the night, about sex. With such a start, things can hardly become boring, and, indeed, they do not.
Griffith discovers that very observant Jews are no different from other people in their desire to know more about sex. As problematic and barely believable as it is,28 the scene evokes, in a superficial yet concise manner, many interesting topics: 1. A mention of Jewish guides to sexuality in general, and kabbalistic ones,29 in particular; 2. The fact that books with such content are considered a part of Jewish traditional literature; 3.
Sex Ethics in the Writings of Moses Maimonides - eBook
Myths30 about Jewish sexual practices; 4. Interestingly enough, most critics of the film I have found were interested in the general plot of the film and did not speak about this scene. Things get a little iffy when one night at the rebbe's she responds to a prowler in her robe and the son reads to her from the cabala a passage on vaginal lubrication. Yes, really.
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It is even possible they happen to casually touch one another for split seconds. Such behavior is something that, certainly in a relatively public space, a Hasid in good standing would unquestionably avoid. It is also not clear if Ariel is supposedly reading from a Hebrew version and translating it on the fly or, surprisingly for a smart Hasid, from an English translation. Avrech told me that obviously, in his mind, Ariel reads from a Hebrew text.
I plan to explore, in a later study, the notion that observant Jews use a perforated sheet while having marital relations. The notion that marital relations are considered good and holy in Judaism. As readers of this paper can imagine, the text read by Ariel comes from the Holy Letter.
Thus your minds will be bound upon one another as one, and your intention will unite with hers. Speak to her so that your words will provoke desire, love, will, and passion, as well as words leading to reverence for God, piety, and modesty. Tell her how pious and modest women are blessed with, honorable, and worthy sons, worthy of the highest crown, masters of the Torah, and having the fear of God and the ability to teach … [A husband should speak with his wife with the appropriate words, some of love, some of erotic passion, some words of fear of Heaven] And when you cleave to her do not hurry to arouse, so that her spirit calms.
Interestingly, Ariel pauses before pronouncing it, reflecting the unique weight of such a term.