I understand that Torah law forbids all physical contact between a man and a
woman -- or even for them to be alone in a room together -- unless they are
first-degree relatives or married to each other. This applies to any man and any
woman, regardless of their ages or whether or not they are sexually attracted
to each other. And then there are all those rules about "modest" dress. Isn't
that carrying it a bit far? Are we really such animals?
When a man and woman are together in a room, and the door closes, that is a
sexual event. Not because of what is going to happen, but what has already
happened. It may not be something to make novels of, but it is a sexual
occurrence, because male and female is what sexuality used to be all about.
It is true that in our world today, in the "free world" certainly, people
have, on the whole, stopped thinking in these terms. What happened was that we
started putting up all these defenses, getting steeled, inured, against the
constant exposure and stimulation of men and women sharing all sorts of
activities -- co-educational school, camps, gyms -- is that we started blocking
out groups of people. We can't be as naturally sexual as G-d created us to be.
When a man says, "I have a woman friend, but we're just friends, nothing more,
I'm not attracted to her in any sexual way, she's not my type," you've got to
ask yourself what is really going on here. Is this a disciplined person? Or is
this a person who has died a little bit?
What does he mean "she's not my type?" When did all this typing come into
existence? It's all artificial. It's not true to human sexuality. And it really
isn't even true in this particular context because given a slight change of
circumstance, you could very easily be attracted. After all, you are a male,
she's a female. How many times does a relationship begin that is casual,
neighborly, and then suddenly becomes intimate? The great awakening of this boy
and girl who are running around, doing all sorts of things, sharing all sorts of
activities, and lo and behold, they realize -- what drama, what drama -- that
they are attracted to each other. These are grown-ups, intelligent human beings,
and it caught them by surprise. It's kind of silly.
So closing a door should be recognized as a sexual event. And you need to ask
yourself: Are you prepared for this? Is it permissible? Is it proper? If not,
leave the door open. Should men and women shake hands? Should it be seen as an
intimate gesture? Should any physical contact that is friendly be considered
intimate? Hopefully, it should.
These laws are not guarantees against sin. They have never completely
prevented it. There are people who dress very modestly. They cover everything.
They sin. It's a little more cumbersome but they manage. All these laws are not
just there to lessen the possibility of someone doing something wrong. They also
preserve sexuality -- because human sexuality is what G-d wants. He gave us
these laws to preserve it, to enhance it -- and makes sure it's focused to the
right places and circumstances -- not to stifle it.
We have become callous about our sexuality. Even in marriage, a kiss on the
run cheapens it, makes it callous -- then we run to the therapist for advice.
And do you know what the therapist who charges $200 an hour for his advice says?
He tells the couple not to touch each other for two weeks. Judaism tells you
that free of charge. Yes, there are two weeks each month during which a husband
and wife don't touch. This therapy has been around for 3000 years. And it still
works. It's a wonderful idea.
When you don't close the door on yourself and that other person, you are
recognizing your own sexuality. You are acknowledging the sexuality of the other
person. Being modest, recognizing our borders, knowing where intimacy begins and
not waiting until it is so intimate that we're too far gone, is a very healthy
way of living. It doesn't change your lifestyle dramatically, but enhances it
dramatically, and you come away more capable of relaxing, better able to be
spontaneous, because you know that you can trust yourself. You've defined your
borders. Now you can be free. It takes a load off your mind and it makes you a
much more lovable person.