Sex, Love, & Romance: Toward a Post-Modern Jewish Ethic
Thursday nights, 6:15 - 7:45 PM

For many of us, sexuality and intimacy are some of the issues that matter most, but around which we receive the least guidance. This seminar will explore the ethics of gender, sexuality and intimacy in the Jewish tradition. The richness of this conversation has analogues in countless other topics and themes of human experience. We hope to explore the ideas of gender, sexuality, intimacy and sexual ethics in a broad range of sources in Jewish thought. This semester, we will aim to explore sexual ethics and the ever-elusive notion of intimacy in a way that honors our minds and bodies and respects our position as modern, thoughtful adults. Our approach is open-minded and non-judgmental.






Week 1 - What’s Sex Got to Do with It? 

How should we think about sex? Are sexual acts purely biological? Should they be treated as such?  Is there anything unique about human sexuality?  Can we speak of a function sex should or should not have? What would that be?  Should there be such a thing as sexual ethics? Is there—or should there be—such a thing as a Jewish sexual ethic?

Week 2 - Intimacy and the Image of God

This week we will be discussing the notion of intimacy and sexuality. We will be trying to cultivate a post-modern sexual ethic that is at once deeply rooted in Jewish law and tradition, but innovative and capacious enough to encompass the different configurations of sexuality in our lives.

Week 3 - Male and Female [He] Created Them?  

So much of modern sexuality is predicated on the idea that there are two (and only two) sexes. Can we imagine (or do some of us already live in) a world with more than two sexes and two genders? Can the Jewish tradition? What might that look like? What would it mean?

Week 4 - Setting Aside: Jewish Marriage and the Sabbath

Week 5 - Tzniut and Modesty

What are humility and modesty?  What does it mean to behave in a modest way?  Can one be ambitious and modest? What is modesty in the context of human sexuality?  What is immodesty? How might modesty differ for men and for women? Should it differ?

Week 6 - Ona'ah: Pleasure and Frequency

How often should a person have sex?  Does frequency make a difference?  What is the role of pleasure in sex? How important is pleasure?  Is pleasure a physical sensation or something else?  Should pleasure for its own sake be encouraged or discouraged when developing a sexual ethic?

Week 7 - Niddah: A Time to Embrace, a Time not to Embrace

What is Niddah, or Jewish laws of family purity? What is the theology behind it? What is a mikveh and how is it used? Can these laws be relevant to a contemporary couple?

Week 8 - Sex Without Marriage

Week 9 - Queerness: Non-Heterosexual Relationships in the Jewish Tradition

How are non-heterosexual relationships understood in the Jewish tradition? Is there a place for them today? What are some of the ways Judaism has confronted this human reality?

Week 10 - Infrequently Asked Questions