Volume 15 Number 29
                       Produced: Fri Sep 23  0:09:09 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Marriage - Part 1
         [Shaul Wallach]
Yeshiva Sex Education or Not
         [Sam Juni]


From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
Date: Thu, 1 Sep 1994 09:32:08 -0400
Subject: Marriage - Part 1

     The continued flow of responses on the subject of the Jewish
marriage is very encouraging, and like others has given me an occasion
for reconsideration of this vital issue. With few exceptions I agree
with both the tone and the content of the postings, which in my mind
point to at least a partial consensus. In this posting (Part 1) I reply
to Dr. Juni and to Sam Saal. Part 2 is devoted to some remarks by Leah
Gordon and Conni (Chana) Stillinger which I found quite disturbing and
could not leave unanswered in this halachic forum. Finally, in Part 3
I have attempted to give a brief overview of the Torah perspective on
marriage, based on our Talmudic and Rabbinic sources.

                                *  *  *

     I more or less agree with Dr. Sam Juni's observations and analyses
(V. 14, No. 87 and No. 97). The older Jewish sources indeed have nothing
to say about "marital communication" as we know it today. The Mishna
that Dr. Juni quotes ("Don't speak a lot with the wife") goes on to
say: "They said this about one's own wife, all the more with one's
fellow's wife." The Rambam rules only that one should speak gently with
one's wife and that she should speak to him with respect.

     While opinions are agreed that people demand more intimacy in
marriage today, it is still unclear to me why this is so. It could well
be, as Dr. Juni points out, that the greater leisure time available
creates a greater need for shared experiences. But I think there is
more to it than that. This century has seen the unprecedented quest
by women for equal rights, something they have attained in large
degree, at least in Western society. The single most important
expression of the change in her position in society is the fact that
today's woman has a formal education, just as the men do. Another
enormous change has been the emergence of the mass media - newspapers,
radio, and television - which have enabled women to become more
informed of their environment today than at any previous point in
history. As a result, both the woman and her husband see her more as
an equal partner in marriage, someone to whom more and more authority
and responsibilities can be entrusted, and with whom more and more
experiences can be shared. This, together with the overlapping of
marital roles, creates the potential for greater disagreement and

     A simple example of this can be found even in Haredi circles,
among whom women often are more knowledgeable in practical halacha
than the men, who devote themselves almost wholly to the fine points
of the Talmud. As a result, it will sometimes happen that in everyday
problems the wife will feel she is correct against her husband, while
the husband will feel that she is usurping his traditional position as
the Rav in the house.

     Dr. Juni argues that this greater degree of intimacy is what
justifies the need for a longer premarital acquaintance. Although this
is certainly quite logical, I doubt whether it is necessary to solve
the problems of modern marriage, as others have already pointed out.
The reason is that it is virtually impossible to foresee all the kinds
of marital interaction in advance. Courtship and marriage are different
in kind, the former carrying none of the obligations of the latter.

     Moreover, all the modern talk about "equal rights" seems to have
brushed over the fact that man and woman are still very different -
physically, intellectually and emotionally. No amount of advance
preparation can prevent the appearance of the polar differences in
the ways they interact with each other. This concept of the basic
differences between men and women is stressed constantly in all the
Haredi guides for married men that I have seen.

     Thus, for example, I remember some years ago seeing a survey quoted
according to which some 57% of Israeli married couples felt they were
not "compatible", despite the fact that the survey was conducted among
the general population which presumably observes the extended courtship
before marriage. The reason is, of course, that man and woman are
inherently incompatible, and no amount of dating is going to change it.
It was left only for our generation with its greater marital interaction
to rediscover this inalienable fact of life.

     It is not clear from Dr. Juni's posts just how much the demands
of modern marriage apply to the Haredi-Yeshiva world and how much
this particular society would stand to benefit from his advice. As
Eli Turkel has commented, there are no concrete data from which to
judge how much Haredi society has been affected by these universal
trends. My personal bias is that even today, Haredim have managed
to preserve some delineation within marriage which serves to minimize
conflict, at least in comparison with other cultures. It is true,
however, that Shalom Bayit - family peace - receives far more attention
today that ever before, and that among Haredim there are rabbanim who
devote themselves to counselling couples. And in at least some yeshivot
there are Mashgihim ("overseers") whose job it is to provide guidance to
Hatanim (grooms) before their marriages. From the content of the books I
have seen and the cassettes I have heard, it is clear that in the Haredi
world the accent is far greater on the couple's education after marriage
than on their preparation before marriage.

     In conclusion, my opinion is that extended dating is not going to
do much to solve our marriage problems. Rather, I think men and women
should relearn the marital roles that the Jewish tradition has assigned
to man and wife and readapt them to modern life.

                               *  *  *

      In Vol. 15, No. 5, Sam Saal has some helpful comments to which I
would like to respond in part:

>>     Some of the most popular Jewish books on ethics, such as Menorat
>>Ha-Ma'or, Reshit Hokhma, Shevet Musar and Pele Yo`ez, have chapters or
>>sections that deal with a man and his wife.
>>     However, it does not follow that the large number of detailed
>>Jewish marriage manuals in our generation fills a need that always
>>existed in the past. Former generations were just as human as we are,
>>but they had different standards and priorities in life. Furthermore,
>Your list of sources is a demonstration (proof?) that the need always

      The books mentioned above are far different from the books of our
generation. They assume, first of all, that both the man and his wife
accept the traditional Jewish marital roles. The appeal to the honor
of the family and to "Fear of Heaven" is also very strong. The books
likewise all address male dominant societies in which many modern
conflicts do not arise. Moreover, as mentioned above, there is no
treatment at all of what we call "communication" or "intimacy". There
is also very little "conceptual" development of the topic, but rather
just practical instructions designed to meet typical real life

>>they were able to suffer more and tolerate a greater degree of
>>imperfection in their lives. In other words, people were content with a
>>lesser amount of perfection in their marriages, and couples were better
>>able to adjust to each other.
>>      It is my impression that the affluence of the postwar generation
>>is the single most important factor that has led to the breakdown of the
>>family. Thus it was found, for example, that college students of the
>I like Shaul's analysis and would like to add one more possibility. I wonder
>if the average Jew has access to these sources. Is Jewish literacy high
> enough to read, understand, and appreciate them or do we need Rabbis and
>other learned folk to distill, organize, and present these disparate sources
>to today's audience? Finding all these sources and the relevant sections
>within them and understanding the context of the rest of the book takes a
>significant effort. Is that much time available when you're also trying to
>spend time working on mending a relationship? Is that much time available if
>you'd also like to be learning other things?

     In general, the modern audience would do better to seek assistance
from the modern books, cassettes and Rabbanim, rather than to look for
and study the older materials (unless, of course, we are willing to
repent of our modern ways and re-educate ourselves from the very start,
something which I would warmly applaud :-) ). Some of them, however,
are available in the book "Shalom Bayit" by R. Zvi Kaufman (see below).
There is, in fact, a very large number of Torah Jewish books and
cassettes on marriage, both in English and Hebrew, by talented scholars
with practical experience in the field. I have a limited book list with
annotations and would be glad to post or send it to anyone interested,
BL"N. Some of them are included in the Judaism Reading List of the
soc.culture.jewish news group on Usenet (Subject II.6 - Life, Death and
In Between).

     One book that perhaps deserves special mention is "Shalom Bayit"
by R. Zvi Kaufman (Brooklyn, 5748), translated from Yiddish into
Hebrew with additions. The book has the approbations of the Satmar
Rebbe and the Beit Din Zedeq of the `Eda Haredit in Jerusalem. The
first part (only 21 pages out of nearly 300 in all) is a collection
of selections from the older books mentioned above - Menorat Ha-Maor,
Reshit Hokhma, Shevet Musar and Pele Yo`ez. The second part consists
of 67 questions and answers taken from real life problems of married
life. The nature of the problems bears out the introductory remarks
that family peace is a serious problem today in Torah Jewry, and the
solutions proposed are very instructive, sometimes quite surprising.

>> ...
>>     It would be folly to deny that wife-beating has happened among
>>Jews. In Israel today, for example, there are centers for beaten women,
>>and it is estimated that about one sixth of all Jewish women are beaten
>>by their husbands (The proportion among Palestinians was reported to be
>>much higher).
>I'm a little nervous about this marginally relevant comment about the
>Palestinians cropping up in this post. I think we should be worrying about
>ourselves here. Quite frankly, there's not all that much I want to compare
>in Judaism with the Palestinians.

      On the other hand, we cannot avoid comparing ourselves with the
Americans and the Europeans, since we have learned a lot from them,
for better or worse. Oriental Jewry was strongly influenced by the
surrounding Arab society, which for us in Israel today is best
represented by the Palestinians. Although the Arab influence is wearing
off with the years and yielding to Western influences, I thought such a
comparison would still not be completely irrelevant.

>>      Moreover, R. Qafeh comments on it in his book, and said roughly
>>that it was unheard of among Yemenite Jews, and if it did happen, then
>>it was condemned. From this language it seems that it did occasionally
>>happen. But he adds in this context that the woman was regarded as
>>defenseless, and for her husband to turn into her enemy was most
>I am also a little uncomfortable with this paragraph. It sounds too much
>like the old joke: "I wasn't there, I didn't do it, and you can't prove

     Somehow I fail to see how this comment fits in here. By way of
correction, however, R. Qafeh's comment is taken from his article in
the Army Rabbinate's journal Mahanayyim, Vol. 98, pp. 68-71 (5725),
on the position of the woman in Yemen. I recommend this article as an
important source material for our discussion, as well as the other
articles in the volume, which is devoted to the subject of the woman
in the Jewish sources. Rabbi Qafeh is one of the most outstanding
authorities on the Rambam and Yemen Jewry today. His monumental work is
his comprehensive commentary on the Mishne Torah, of which 17 volumes
(up to Sefer Neziqin) have been published so far since 1984.

                               *  *  *

     In Vol. 14, No. 90, Leah Gordon and Conny (Chana) Stillinger take
offense to what I wrote, in a way that I believe betrays values that
are quite foreign to the Torah perspective on marriage. Since these
values are themselves part of the modern frame of mind which so often
accompanies marital discord, I think it would be worth devoting a
separate post to this ideological conflict. Thus, Part 2 will take up
their comments, and Part 3 will attempt to give a brief presentation
of the Rabbinic perspective on marriage.




From: Sam Juni <JUNI@...>
Date: Fri, 2 Sep 1994 18:12:15 -0400
Subject: Yeshiva Sex Education or Not

  The recent discussion about dating in the frum community brought up the
  question of the adequacy of the socialization of our youth toward
  ultimate marital adjustment.  While the primary issue here is basically
  one of interpersonal behavior, there seems to be an undercurrent
  question of sexuality as well.  I just met a prominent Yeshivish
  Psychologist/ educator, who told me that he had brought up the proposal
  of having formal sex education to the brass of Torah U'Mesorah years
  ago.  The response he got: "If looks could kill...."  I ran the issue by
  several colleagues, and I summarize the comments:

  It seems clear that we do not want our children to acquire sexual infor-
  mation from the "street" or from much of the published literature avail-
  able to youngsters today, as these sources come with an alien value
  system.  The question is: Are we providing an alternative?

   Is the lack of systematic sex education in contemporary Yeshivos
  affecting the adjustment of students, as well as adolescent / adult
  graduates, as compared with the public school educated population?
  Yeshiva students are left to fend for themselves in accumulating
  information in this realm, much as American youngsters did several
  decades ago.

     Do our youngsters do worse in their quest for information than did
  American youth before sex education appeared in the Public School
  curricullum?  Some related ideas:
    a) The available literature in the frum community is deficient. More-
       over, the religious literature is often limited to tidbits about
       perversions and prohibitions.
    b) Our own (sub)culture's norms of Tznius (modesty) augments the
       social taboo to the point that misinformation is more likely,
       possibly increasing the chance for dysfunction to occur.

      What is the quality of sex education which IS offered to students
  who are engaged to be married? Are these run professionally?  Are there
  standards for credentialing the instructors and the curricullum?  Some
  conversants deplored: a) the closed (vs. open) class formats, b) the
  reports that the instuctors in these Choson/Kallah classes often blend
  Hallachos, "common sense", and personal attitudes, but students
  interpret the whole package as THE Torah approach erroneously, One
  fellow describes these classes as "too little, too late."  c) The lack
  of alternate classes for student who are not engaged.  From what I
  gathered from those professionals who work most with children (normal
  ones, not the maladjusted), the lack of sex education for frum children
  (as contrasted with the public school population) is felt not so much in
  the lack of information, but in the lack of opportunity of youngsters to
  discuss sexual issues, anxieties, and questions openly in a healthy

    While it can be argued that the home is the appropriate forum for such
  education, this approach is questionable for the general population.
  Our community, with its additional taboos, hardly can be expected to be
  more forthcoming with our children than the more "liberal" folks out

    Statistics? There are none.  The taboo in this area extends to
  responding to surveys or to casual information sharing.  One therapist
  argued that there is significant sexual maladjustment among our
  community.  More troubling, sexuality remains taboo throughout life for
  a large number, often stilting marital life even if no "problem" is

    On the positive side, I have found in my practice that it is rare that
  Yeshiva couples ever present sexual compatibility as THE problem in
  marital disputes.  The flip side of this could be, however, that sexual
  satisfaction is not an acceptable goal to begin with, and is thus not a
  source of major complaints.

  One kibbitzer found it curious that Hebrew is non-specialized in sexual
  terms.  Perhaps it is a corrolary of the culture to leave these matters
  to the implicit realm, rather than engage them overtly.  There is also
  the notion that the topic may be inappropriate for a class or public
  forum (Cf. "Ein Dorshin" in Talmud Chagigah).


End of Volume 15 Issue 29