Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sex and the Deity


[stars of “Sex and the City” ]

People don’t usually associate God with sex, however interestingly Judaism does.

The Song of Songs is a dialogue of passionate love between a man and a woman, which appears superficially to be entirely secular. God is unmentioned in it.

Nevertheless, in the Mishnah Tractate Yadaim 3:5, Rabbi Akiva states “all of the [inspired] writings are holy, however the Song of Songs is the holy of holies”. This is because, according to the Midrash, the Song of Songs is an allegory of the love between God and the Jewish people.

Therefore, according to Judaism, the love between God and man can be compared to the intense, passionate love between and a man and a woman. In fact, Maimonides in the Laws of Repentance 10:5 writes “What type of love should one have for God? One should love God with a tremendously powerful and fierce love, to the point of being constantly obsessed with it, like a man who is in love with a woman and thinks of her constantly, whether active, resting, eating or drinking. In fact, man’s love for God should be even greater than this as it is stated in Deut. 6:5 ‘with all ones heart and soul’ and as Solomon wrote in the Song of Songs 2:5 ‘I am sick with love’. The entire Song of Songs is an allegory for this.”

Based upon this concept, I think it becomes easier to understand why God has implanted in man a preoccupation with sex. In animals, the female goes into “heat” when she ovulates, the male and female copulate and it’s over. Purely business. Humans, on the contrary, are constantly active in this area. This is because the obsession with sex is actually an allegory for the obsession that we should have with the love of God. Just like a geography teacher will point to a globe and say, “This is a miniature model of the earth”, so God has given us sexual passion and, in the Song of Songs, He inspired Solomon to say “This is a miniature model of the love which should be between us.”

13 comments:

joe said...

interesting.

but those pictures are not tzniusdik.

avrum68 said...

"like a man who is in love with a woman and thinks of her constantly, whether active, resting, eating or drinking."

Sometimes the rabbis are bang-on, other times they're utterly confused. The above undertanding of "love" is infatuation, which often wanes and disappears. Oddly enough, the rabbis of our generation berate young folks about not confusing love and infatuation while choosing a life partner.

It would be apropos to state that the Song of Songs is more reminiscent of a married man cheating on his wife, that how a married man feels for his wife. Don't believe me...ask any marital therapist, or take a glance at a "relationship" section in your local bookstore.

jewish philosopher said...

Let's hope we are all lucky enough to be crazy about our spouses. It happens sometimes.

Cameron said...

Just another case of the priest class co-opting the best available pornography of the day for their own purposes.

And I find it amusing that a strict literalist like you Jacob would accept an allegorical reading of the poem, when it is so obviously secular lust poetry.

Kylopod said...

Cameron, the nonliteral reading of Song of Songs is the traditional interpretation in Judaism. You seem to be confusing "literalism" with "fundamentalism." Jacob is a fundamentalist, but not necessarily a literalist. In Judaism, the two diverge because the Jewish tradition puts a nonliteral interpretation on many Scriptural verses and, in this case, an entire book.

yitz.. said...

@JP

this is my all-time favorite post of yours.

I think it is a chidush to tie the aspect of sexual attraction being 'always-on' to the way we are supposed to be 'always-on' with HaShem.

the only problem is that it shouldn't trip people up if they aren't there yet.

jewish philosopher said...

Cameron, Orthodox Jews are not Biblical literalists.

For example, the Talmud Bava Kama 84a interprets the lex talionis in Exodus 21:23 ("an eye for an eye") to mean that one may sue the damager in court for financial compensation. The victim may not literally cut the damager's eye out.

Of course, then people complain "The rabbis are not following the Bible literally; they are just making things up." So we can't win.

I don't agree with non-literal interpretations which are made on an ad hoc basis to answer modern critics. I don't think that's honest.

Kylopod said...

"I don't agree with non-literal interpretations which are made on an ad hoc basis to answer modern critics. I don't think that's honest."

While that's a fair viewpoint, there's a case for saying Rambam did exactly that. He wrote that if he were convinced by Plato's arguments for an eternal universe, he would reinterpret the Torah to fit this theory.

Izgad said...

An interesting spin on the argument from design, :)
To take your argument a step further we can understand why it becomes such a sin to violate a sexual taboo. It becomes an act of blasphemy. Sex is a ritual no different then the ritual service in the temple. As such it has to be done in very specific ways.

Joebaum said...

JP i have one question you could answer me (maby in a post),
In the time of the bible what would be the diffrens between the jewish god and all the other gods from the other nations at that time? didn't they have thair own miricels ("kishuf") why whould we choose this god of all the others?

jewish philosopher said...

Jews had the revelation at Mt. Sinai and that was unique.

Cameron said...

Kylopod said: Cameron, the nonliteral reading of Song of Songs is the traditional interpretation in Judaism. You seem to be confusing "literalism" with "fundamentalism." Jacob is a fundamentalist, but not necessarily a literalist. In Judaism, the two diverge because the Jewish tradition puts a nonliteral interpretation on many Scriptural verses and, in this case, an entire book.

CH: I stand corrected - I was indeed conflating the two. That said I remain amused at secular poetry being reinterpreted so casually.

JP said (on another topic): Jews had the revelation at Mt. Sinai and that was unique.

CH: Does the uniqueness of the Sinai miracle (whatever that uniqueness claim is) mean that all other religions and their miracles are necessarily false?

jewish philosopher said...

The Sinai revelation was a unique public revelation of God's identity. It supersedes any other claims by other religions.