The Torah does indeed focus a lot on sex. Even the very first commandment in the Book of Genesis is "Be fruitful and multiply" (1:28). A subtle euphemism, but I think we all know what God means... And as the Torah goes along, we don't just
read about marriage and reproduction, but also infatuation, seduction, adultery, and casual sex. I am a religious professional; I am not striving to add sex therapist or relationship expert to my resume, I assure you. But it saddens me when people assume that AS a rabbi, I must be the keeper of puritanical, prudish morals. That's not what I see in the Torah, and definitely NOT how I want religion or Judaism to be perceived. It is true that our parashah offers an exhaustive list of nakednesses that should remain covered. But the Torah was dealing with a reality that condoned incest, bestiality, and idolatrous practices involving cult prostitution. So yeah, they needed to be firm and unequivocal about CERTAIN things. But does that mean the Torah was being sex-negative in general? I really don't think so.
Our Torah reading also includes the very famous verse, known as the Golden Rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev. 19:18). And it's referred to as the Golden Rule because it is meant to guide ALL our interactions with other people. Another variation on this same idea is "Do no harm."
But I am NOT opposed to these things. I do not judge other people's relationships or sexual orientations. I want to especially make it clear that I disagree with that
infamous verse about homosexuals, Lev. 18:22. As with stoning people to death, owning slaves, the subservience of women, and various other laws in the Torah, some things are outdated and do not reflect our values today. The discomfort of this subject leads many religious professionals to just stay silent on the subject, but I think it does us harm. Organized religions appear shaming and judgmental, and congregants feel they can't bring their lives, their relationships, or their issues to the office of their rabbi/priest/imam. So let's acknowledge that it IS an uncomfortable subject... at least at first. But then let's talk, and maybe work through the awkwardness. Because sex and relationships are topics that permeate our lives, and shouldn't be filled with judgment and shame. Especially not from our rabbis. But how are we going to arrive at that realization if we don't start by talking? I'm ready when you are...
Photos in this blog post:
2. CC image of Horace Vernet's "Juda et Thamar" (Judah and Tamar, based on Genesis, 38:15-18) courtesy of Rsberzerker on Wikimedia Commons