As a liberal, single Jewish woman, it would be very tempting to brush off Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s teachings. After all, he is a Hassidic rabbi—what could he possibly have to say to me about my life? About five years ago, I found that Rabbi Boteach had a lot to say to me. And rereading Kosher Sex in honor of the sex issue of Shebrew, I’ve found that he still speaks to me.
Shmuley Boteach is getting plenty of headlines lately with his new reality show on TLC, Shalom in the Home. And regularly, the writer or reporter will mention Kosher Sex. Mainly because the title is a little shocking. “A rabbi with a beard who writes about sex!”
Rabbis with beards have written about sex for centuries and Boteach is just bringing our traditional teachings into the 21st century. I have not found it difficult to make connections from a book about sex and marriage to my single life. In fact I would suggest that you read Kosher Sex instead of Shmuley’s latest book, Dating and the Ten Commandments. D&TC is just a watered down version of Kosher Sex and any smart, single woman can get what she needs from Kosher Sex.
A cursory glance at the customer reviews on Amazon.com will tell you more poetically than I can about the benefits of the book. He advises the reader that sex is holy, that marriage is the ultimate compliment, how sex can mend a bridge, how relationships do take real work, and how Judaism can offer tools to make life in and out of the bedroom work.
For me, Kosher Sex was my first window into Jewish life. I was introduced to the book by Dr. Drew from Loveline. I read it and read it again. For the first time, I felt that my sexual choices were valid. I found an explanation of holiness and sacred sex that made it okay that I wasn’t having sex. It made me see that maybe marriage is something I could start looking into, that it wasn’t an outdated symbol of a patriarchal system.
I passed the book to a friend in an open relationship. Her boyfriend was at my door a week later. “What did you do to her? What was that book you gave her? She wants to be monogamous.” Um, yeah, maybe that isn’t such a bad idea? In the end, they got married—but the conversations the book started shifted the entire relationship.
Now, five years after first reading the book, I bought a new copy and reread it. Yes, there is still some good stuff. This time I’m focusing more on the “marriage is hard work” theme than the “sex is holy” theme. At 29, I’m a lot more worried about dating for marriage and then staying married than I was when I first read it. I think Kosher Sex offers any couple—Jewish or not, straight or not, married or not—great tools for making a relationship successful.
Boteach offers honest advice that is steeped in centuries of practice and he doesn’t ignore the true society we live in. Let me encourage you to pick up this book before you go on your next date. This is one Hasidic rabbi worth curling up on the couch with for a few hours.
Originally published in 2007 on Shebrew.com