Sex…Kosher Style

When a Jewish man marries a Jewish woman, he is obligated to “provide” her with – and she is entitled to receive – sex. And, not the “hop-on-hop-off” or “she’s responsible for her own orgasm” kind.

As a matter of fact, the “Torah’s standards regarding [the expectation and satisfaction of a wife’s] sexual needs [are as follows, according to her husband’s occupation:]

  • Men of leisure = every day
  • Regular laborers = twice a week
  • Donkey drivers [who travel to nearby towns on business] = once a week
  • Camel drivers [who travel to distant places on business] = once in thirty days
  • Sailors = once in six months

[The above is] the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer.”[1] In addition, the Gemara[2] claims, “How often are Torah scholars required to satisfy their wives? Rav Yehuda, quoting Shemuel, said: Every Sabbath eve.” It also is interesting to note that a wife has a say-so if her husband changes jobs. For example, if she married a man of leisure and expected to be sexually satisfied on a daily basis, she does not have to tolerate a change or stay married to him if he chooses to become a sailor instead.

A particularly poignant tale in the Talmud warns couples by telling of Rav Hiyya bar Ashi who abstained from sex with his wife to study Torah (a noble endeavor). She, in turn, seduced him into having sex with her by disguising herself as a mysterious and alluring prostitute. Upon confessing their “sins” to each other, his despair over not fulfilling his obligations to her – which caused her desperate act of deception – led him to commit suicide.

I admit that I was shocked upon learning all of this. After all, I grew up hearing that it was the wife’s duty to satisfy her husband, lest he stray and find “it” somewhere else. On top of that (no pun intended), it seemed that women of my mother’s and grandmother’s generations didn’t even like or want sex from their husbands, much less enjoy or demand it. But, as it turns out, almost 2,000 years ago the rabbinic sages were all for a woman’s right to sexual satisfaction. Who knew?!?!

Ladies and gentlemen, the Jewish view of sex in marriage is a positive one. It’s a healthy, natural, and expected part of the relationship that should be mutually beneficial – to the wife first and then the husband. So, since it’s a double mitzvah to have sex on the Sabbath…

[1] Talmud Bavli, Tractate Ketuvot 61b, 62b [a compilation of teachings of 3rd century BCE – 3rd century CE scholars in Eretz Yisrael; compiled and edited by Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi.]

[2] A compilation of teachings of 3-6th century scholars in Babylonia; final redaction of which was in the 6-7th centuries.

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