"Kosher Lust" book cover photo courtesy of RubensteinPR

“Kosher Lust” book cover photo courtesy of Rubenstein PR


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

(RNS) Celebrity Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, spiritual counselor to Michael Jackson, onetime Republican candidate for Congress and author of the best-selling “Kosher Sex” and “Kosher Jesus,” has a new book for Jews and non-Jews alike: “Kosher Lust.”

Its provocative subtitle: “Love Is Not the Answer.”

The answer, Boteach says, is lust, the God-given fuel for a healthy marriage. Love, he argues, cannot sustain marriage, but lust — what he calls the unfairly maligned member of the Seven Deadly Sins — can.

Boteach, an Orthodox rabbi married to his wife for 26 years, writes in the context of heterosexual marriage, rooting lust in the attraction of opposites. Gay spouses, however, may nonetheless find the rabbi’s advice relevant.

RNS asked Boteach to explain his lusty theology. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: You say lust is a stronger foundation for marriage than love. Isn’t that a sad statement?

A: I’m not saying there shouldn’t be love in marriage. I’m saying that love should be subordinate to lust in marriage. People love their cars. People love their pets. People have love from their parents, and yet we all leave the cocoon of parental affection because we don’t want just love in life, we want — women especially — to be chosen.

Marriage for women is a profound risk. They take someone else’s name. They’re the ones having babies. Very often women are saddled with two jobs, one at work and one at home. Why would they do this if they already have love from their parents? There’s one thing that their parents cannot give them, and that’s what they crave most: to be desired.

Q: How do we know if we’re lustful enough? How often should a couple be having sex?

A: Let’s not make the mistake of making sex about quantity or about quality. Couples who have an amazing sexual encounter, but only every six months, that’s woefully inadequate. Couples who have sex every single night, but it’s for the national average of four minutes — inadequate. It’s the degree of passion and the degree of connection that counts.

Sexuality is the soul of relationship. But our definition of sex is so goal-oriented today that I don’t want to answer the question with a number. We treat sex as a scratch that has to be itched, and it’s one of the reasons we have really bad sex. The answer to what constitutes a normal healthy sex life comes down to the degree that we really feel desirous of the other person. Is a husband really fixated on his wife? When he fantasizes erotically about a woman, is he fantasizing about his wife?

Shmuley Boteach photo courtesy of RubensteinPR

Celebrity Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, spiritual counselor to Michael Jackson, onetime candidate for Congress and author of the best-selling “Kosher Sex” and “Kosher Jesus,” has just published “Kosher Lust” for Jews and non-Jews alike. Photo courtesy of Rubenstein PR


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Q: So, Rabbi, what are your thoughts on orgasm?

For most people it’s sad. It’s “did it produce pleasure or not?” Maybe the pleasure is more intense than a great doughnut, but once you put it merely in the realm of pleasure it can be a solitary experience. And for a lot of people it is a solitary experience, even if it’s not masturbation. A lot of men have sex with their wives and it’s about their own pleasure. Women complain about this all the time.

But the moment you see orgasm as a transcendent experience and one that can lead to mystical union, it’s truly transformative. We don’t know how to deal with orgasm in American sexuality. For us, it’s just something that proves that the sexual encounter is over. The whole experience of sex is a means to an end. It leads to bad sex and short sex.

Q: What do Christians misunderstand about lust?

A: Christian theology is much more about transcending lust, and I can’t embrace that theology. I don’t think it’s a real understanding of Christianity because every religion is about a lust for life. It’s about a lust for God. When you denigrate lust and you say it is of the devil, I think you’re condemning couples to marriages that do not provide for their core needs.

I don’t believe in lust for lust’s sake. I believe in lust for the sake of oneness, unity and connection. There’s a spiritual dimension to that lust.

Q: “Lust for God” — that idea is going to make some people uncomfortable.

A: I don’t think we should define lust so narrowly. Lust is intense desire. I think one of the reasons that Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) is becoming so successful and that Judaism as a system of faith is not growing is that Judaism teaches you to love God. Kabbalah teaches you to lust after God.

If you look at translations of the Song of Solomon, they’re often not literal because it’s just considered inappropriate. It’s a biblical book speaking about women’s breasts. But Kabbalah has never shied away from speaking of God in lustful terms. Kabbalah actually utilizes sexual imagery to connote and capture the intensity of the God-man experience. Maybe we have to overcome that uneasiness. But we’re not attempting to sexualize the relationship with God. That’s ridiculous.

Q: You say the 10th Commandment, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife,” helps prove your pro-lust point?

A: If it was a condemnation of lust, it would have said, “Do not covet any woman.” By direct implication, you ought to be coveting your own wife.

KRE/MG END MARKOE

20 Comments

  1. As Christopher Hitchens said
    in a debate about God with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach about 7 years ago,
    “You never know what the religious people will say next.”

    Here is a preacher saying some sins aren’t really sins.

    Great! So what justifies your job, exactly?

    • The Great God Pan

      Money justifies his job. An orthodox rabbi who “spiritually counseled” Michael Jackson? Aside from being a child molester who used his riches to evade justice, Jackson was not even Jewish, either by birth or conversion.

      Boteach goes where the money is. “Kosher Lust” is a juicy title that will move a lot of units. “Kosher Love,” not so much.

    • From his perspective, lust is not a sin, only inappropriate lust. And he clarifies that lust means intense desire, not sexual compulsion. If you feel that your religion frowns on all lust, you may want to ponder why God imbued all humans with the capacity for it. It’s all about healthy channeling.

      • @Dov W.
        That is my problem with this Rabbi!
        Good lust is this – but it isn’t that….unless…

        This is abject nonsense. Religion is so insulting and foolish.
        We are all grown ups and we KNOW what lust is. And furthermore, UNLESS YOU ARE RAPIST YOU ALREADY KNOW WHAT BAD LUST IS!

        For goodness sake !
        What could be more childish than to defer to this self-limited, self-denying, delusional cleric?

        If you want a great sex life quit religion already.

  2. “After the Pharisees heard that he (Jesus) had put the Sadducees to silence, they came together in one group. And one of them, versed in the law, asked, testing him, Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” He said to him. You must love Yahweh your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second like it, is this. “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments the whole Law hangs.” (Matthew 22:34-40) The apostle Paul was also inspired to write about love, after giving a definition of love at 1 Corinthians 13:4-6, sharing these words: “Now, however, there remain faith, hope, love, but the greatest of these is love (verse 13). Leviticus 19:18 also shares this: “You must not take vengeance nor have a grudge against the sons of your people; and you must your fellowman as yourself. I am Yahweh.” Love is evidently the most important quality we should show to God and our fellowman. As to lust, on the other hand, Peter wrote the following: “Through these things, he has freely given us the very precious and very grand promises, that through him, you may become sharers in divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world through LUST.” (2 Peter 1:4). Paul also added: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these. As to these things, I am forewarning you, the same way as I did forewarn you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.” (Galatians 5:19-21). Since lust can be an over mastering desire seeking unrestrained gratification for sex and/or power, it would fit in with Paul’s advice against it. LOVE should be foremost in our lives.

    • @Fran,
      Okay – so…Without lust there would be no sex.
      ‘Love’ is not sex.
      So how do propose to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ as God commands?
      A box of chocolates?

      You do, get how this works, right?

      • Rather than prohibit sexual pleasure, the Bible shows it is a gift from God to married persons. He created “male and female” and viewed what he made as “very good.” (Genesis 1:27,31). When he brought the first man and woman together in marriage, he said that they should become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). This bond included the pleasure of sexual intimacy along with a close emotional connection, including love.

        The Bible describes the pleasure that husbands find in marriage with these words: “Rejoice with the wife of your youth . . . Let her own breasts intoxicate you at all times. With her love may you be in ecstacy constantly.” (Proverbs 5:18,19). God also intends for wives to enjoy sex. Husbands and wives should satisfy each other’s sexual needs. As 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 brings out: “Let the husband render to his wife her due; but let the wife also do likewise to her husband. The wife does not exercise authority over her own body, but her husband does; likewise, also, the husband does not exercise authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not be depriving each ofther of it, EXCEPT BY MUTUAL CONSENT for an appointed time, that you may devote time to prayer and may come together again, that Satan may not keep tempting you for your lack of self-regulation.” There are definite cases where husbands have literally ‘raped’ their wives, even though they did not consent to that action at all, for whatever reason. Would that be showing true love, respect and consideration to one’s mate? Or indicate overwhelming lust that illicits sexual pleasure by misusing sexual desires?

        There are limits on sexual pleasure. God reserves sexual relations for marriage mates only, as Hebrews 13:4 shows: “Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” Married couples must be faithful and maintain their commitment to each other. They find the greatest delight, not by pursuing “SELFISH GRATIFICATION”, but by applying the Bible principle: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving (Acts 20:35). So we would want to avoid wrongfully directed sexual desires.

        In addition, Romans 1:27 brings out: “Likewise also the males left the natural use of the female and became violently inflamed in their LUST toward one another, males with males, working what is obscene and receiving in themselves the full penalty, which was due for their error.”

        Let’s face it: We are constantly exposed to sexual stimulation by way of TV shows, videos, movies, magazines, books, viewing pornograph on the internet, etc. etc. etc. We therefore do not want to allow ourseves to improperly dwell on such things, but instead, dwell on things that are positive, encouraging, peaceful and loving. Lust can be abused just as the use of alcohol or drugs or anything else, leading to addiction. It should be our goal to avoid any of these ‘abuses’ at all costs.

        • @Fran,

          You do like to look in the Bible for all of your answers.

          Okay then:

          “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Jesus (Matt. 5:28)

          So I guess I need to be stoned to death
          ALONG WITH THE BEAUTIFUL WOMAN I LOOKED AT:

          “the man that committeth adultery…the adulterer AND THE ADULTERESS shall surely be put to death.” (Leviticus 20:10)

          Lots of good morality right there. (?)

          • Laurence Charles Ringo

            Wow,”Atheist Max”! Every time I read one of your posts I am freshly astounded at how ill-informed you are; your surface reading of Scripture is down right embarrassing! What’s wrong with you? You are the most sorriest so-called “atheist”I’ve run across on these websites; on CNN’S “Belief Blog”they’ve got some serious thinkers among the atheist bloggers, men and women who are challenging, worthy opponents if you will, people I enjoy sparring with who make me ponder deeply my faith and who keep me from being complacent. But you…Well.I actually feel sorry for you in a way; you’re like some dumb kid trying to score pseudo – theological points off people who actually know what they believe. GET A CLUE AND GROW UP, MAX!!!!

          • @Laurence Charles Ringo,

            It appears the joke is on you.
            Where is the Bible’s instruction manual? The one that God wants us to use to interpret it properly? I would love to know.

            Where is the instruction manual which tells us
            “He is Risen” is literal
            but that “Many saints rose from the dead” IS NOT literal?

            Oh, right. The Bible claims to BE the instruction manual.
            So we are compelled to read it ourselves and make decisions.
            By what power THEN does the Bible speak from AUTHORITY, if it is up to you and me to make these decisions on our own?

            By the way, there is no such thing as ‘serious Theology.’
            There is no way to talk “seriously” about the Trinity or Blood Sacrifice, just as there is no way to seriously talk about the color of a leprechaun’s pipe. I have too much respect for myself for that.

          • Max, I will be replying to you soon…been very busy (and tired!) at work, but my weekend starts tomorrow! :-)

          • Max, in 1513 B.C.E., God concluded a covenant with Adam’s descendants, the nation of Israel, called the Mosaic Law. This covenant is no longer in force (to be explained later). The Mosaic law covenant was an essential part of God’s purpose to bring about the promised seed (Jesus, the Messiah), who would bless all nations. First, that law was like a protective wall (Ephesians 2:14) and its righteous statutes acted as a barrier between Jew and Gentile. It helped to preserve the line of the seed of promise. The nation of Israel still existed when God’s due time arrived for the Messiah to be born into the tribe of Judah. Second, the Law thoroughly demonstrated mankind’s need for a ransom (we’re all imperfect). A perfect law, it exposed the inability of humans to adhere to it fully. It thus served “to make transgressions manifest, until the seed should arrive to whom the promise had been made”(Galatians 3:19). By means of animal sacrifices, the Law provided atonement for sins. But since, as Paul wrote. “It is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take sins away” (Hebrews 10:1-4), these sacrifices only foreshadowed Christ’s ransom sacrifice. For faithful Jews, that covenant became a ” tutor leading to Christ.” (Galatians 3:24). Third, the Law covenant offered the nation of Israel a glorious aspect! God told them they would become a”kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5,6). Fleshly Israel did eventually provide the first members of a heavenly kingdom of priests (God’s kingdom). However, as a whole, Israel rebelled against the law covenant, rejected the Messianic seed, Jesus, and even today, the majority of Jews do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah! They lost out on that marvelous prospect. It is interesting to note that Jews tried to stone Jesus on several occasions (John 10:30-38; John 8:59), but he was able to get away both times.
            There is much information on other covenants regarding the Davidic Kingdom covenant as well as the New Covenant Jesus instituted with his disciples the night before his death. If you would like this information, let me know.
            It’s interesting to note that Jesus said the whole Law hung upon 2 commandments, to love God and also one’s neighbor (Matthew 22:34-40). But the fact is, that Mosaic law is no longer in effect since Jesus FULFILLED the LAW, through his death as a ransom sacrifice for all mankind (Matthew 5:17; Matthew 20:28).
            As to whether Jews today use stoning as a legal form of judicial punishment today, I am still trying to find the answer. However, it is used in these following countries today: Iraq, Mauritania, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Northen, Aceh in Indonesia, and Pakistan. Several other countries practice extrajudicial stoning, while others have sentenced people to death by stoning but have not carried out the sentences (www.bibleprobe.com/Islam apostates.htm). People can be so barbaric in this regard!
            There is a very comforting account about stoning in the Bible, which I think you will appreciate. It is found at John 7:53 through 8:11. Basically, an adulteress was brought to Jesus by the Scribes and Pharisees (religious leaders in Jesus’ day.) They told him that in the Law, Moses prescribed for them to stone her. They asked Jesus “what do you say?” (They were always trying to test him on different issues!). Jesus said to them, “Let the one of you that is sinless be the first to throw the stone at her.” Those there eventually began to leave, and he was eventually left with the woman alone. Jesus asked her, “where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She replied, “no one, sir.” Jesus said to her, ” Neither do I condemn you. Go your way; from now on, practice sin no more.” What an example of mercy and justice Jesus showed to her, and he reflects his Father, Almighty God (unlike the religious leaders of his day).
            As to your comment on committing adultery in one’s heart, Christians, though not under the Mosaic Law, must refrain from adultery. “For the Law code, you must not commit adultery, …. is summed up in this word, namely, ‘you must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:9; 2:22). There can be no hypocrisy in this matter. In teaching Bible principles, Jesus raised the moral standard still higher for Christians. He broadened out the matter of adultery, saying it was not limited to sexual contact a man might have with a woman not his mate: “Everyone that keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27,28; 2 Peter 2:14). A good example of this would be a married man who ignores his wife most of the time and spends most of his time viewing pornography instead.
            I sincerely doubt you have to worry about being stoned here in the US; however, you are more likely to be shot by a criminal with a gun.

  3. “So, Rabbi, what are your thoughts on orgasm?” I’ve been a journalist for 25 years and never had the opportunity — or the verve, or the confidence — to write such a gem.

  4. The Great God Pan

    “I think one of the reasons that Kabbalah … is becoming so successful and that Judaism as a system of faith is not growing is that Judaism teaches you to love God. Kabbalah teaches you to lust after God.”

    Judaism as a system of faith is not growing because it is generally a non-proselytizing religion whose adherents do not go around trying to convert as many people as possible. Converting to Judaism is a process that is to be undertaken seriously and is not accomplished by writing a check or letting someone sprinkle water on your head.

    Kabbalah, in the commercialized sense popularized by the Kabbalah Centre and practiced by the likes of Madonna, is successful because it is a faddish, New Age money-making scheme in the vein of “The Secret.”

    • @Frank,
      You agree that he’s foolish? He’s only doing what you do!
      I’ve seen you attack homosexuality with exactly the same logic!
      Religion is truly a joke on everyone.

  5. Lust is sin, it is not just intense desire.

    Sexual lust—the illicit sexual buzz—is a willfully allowed pleasurable gratification of wrongfully directed sexual desire that takes place deep inside Sexual lust is intense desire and internal gratification of forbidden for that which is not yours.

    It is adultery in the heart. Jesus blended the seventh and tenth commandments in a way that cuts through the cutesy, clutter of this Rabbi’s imagination. http://www.overcoming-lust.com/

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