Let’s Talk About Sex
A New Anthology Explores What the Torah Has To Say By Rachel Barenblat Published July 29, 2009, issue of August 07, 2009
The Passionate Torah: Sex and Judaism Edited By Danya Ruttenberg New York University Press, 320 pages, $19.95.
Jewish attitudes about sex and sexuality span a wide spectrum. For liberal Jews, sex and religion may seem unrelated; for those who follow the family-purity laws, the relationship between sex and Jewish tradition may seem set in stone. But neither of these stances takes the whole picture into account. Judaism, as Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg writes in the introduction to “Passionate Torah,” is both an earthy religion of the body and a distressingly patriarchal institution. “Jewish sexuality,” she writes, “is nothing if not complex.”
In the past few decades, postmodernism, feminism and queer liberation have changed the way sexuality is understood and discussed across the board. “Passionate Torah” brings all these to bear on the Jewish conversation about sex.
Taking a page from Martin Buber, Ruttenberg organizes the anthology into three sections: “I-It: Challenges,” “I-Thou: Relationships” and “We-Thou: Visions.” The essays focus first on problems, then on connections and finally on visions of the future.