Brian D. Johnson

Brian D. JohnsonCommunity Contributor

Brian D. Johnson is a writer in Madison, Wisconsin and a member of Congregation Shaarei Shamayim.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

Is There A Jewish Blessing For Better Sex?

I’m 60 years old and I’m having the best sex of my life.

Before you think I’m bragging or just a late bloomer, understand that this blessing of great sex comes from the infinite generosity of Hashem and though my beloved (though the wonders of modern pharmaceuticals may have something to do with it, too).

In contrast to many other religions, Judaism views sexual intimacy as divine, and consensual sex between loving partners something to be celebrated. Making love in the context of a healthy loving relationship is a mitzvah, and if we make love on the Sabbath, it counts as a double mitzvah. The joy of making love is one of the greatest blessings Hashem has given to us.

In the kabbalistic understanding, bringing one another together through loving physical intimacy is a manifestation of our sacred task of tikkun olam.

In Judaism, we often recite blessings before or after mundane tasks. We say a short blessing before lighting candles on a Friday night, when embarking on a journey, upon seeing a rainbow, after using the bathroom or before drinking a glass of water.

So why isn’t there a blessing to say before making love or a prayer of gratitude to recite once we’ve finished?

I looked for such a prayer in lots of places: In prayer books from across the Jewish spectrum, from rabbis and teachers across many different denominations, in the Talmud and from “rabbi Google,” of course.

I thought The Song of Songs might contain an answer because it is an explicit, erotic poem. But there is not a blessing to be found there, although reading from the Song of Songs can set the mood and kavanah for making love.

In the end, I played my ace card and contacted Chabad.org because, based on my experience, Chabad has an opinion on absolutely everything. I turned to Chabad’s online service, “Ask the Rabbi,” and received back this answer:

“In addition to reciting the bedtime Shema. It is customary to wash hands and recite Psalms 23 before engaging in marital relations.”

Psalm 23? Really? “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me”?

I don’t know about that. Psalm 23 doesn’t really inspire me towards passionate foreplay; perhaps I’m the exception.

The Chabad rabbi continued:

“The blessing of Asher Yatzar Et Haddam Bchochma is recited after every bathroom visit. Thus if one goes before or after they should have in mind the pleasure of the event. Some authorities suggest drinking a cup of water before or after and recite the blessing of Shehakol with the intention mentioned above.”

Drinking water is always a good idea, as is saying a blessing for it, so I can align myself with that. But to think about making love while I’m using the bathroom seems a bit, well, gross.

Suffice to say that Chabad’s answer didn’t teach me what I wanted to learn.

I was beginning to despair of ever finding the answer. It seemed to me that making love is one of the essential activities for Jews down through countless generations. It’s essentially why we have countless generations. There isn’t a blessing for that? How could that possibly be?

When I asked my rabbi, Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman, about all of this, she said, “Why don’t you write a blessing and post it to Ritual Well,” an online community sponsored by Reconstructionists where people can suggest rituals for events not covered by our traditions.

Originally, I thought this was rather far-fetched. How could I possibly have the chutzpah to stand on the shoulders of generations of rabbis and try to make a contribution such as this? Is Brian D. Johnson in the year 5779 going to write a blessing for making love?

To become better acquainted with the forum, I went to the Ritual Well to see how the community is using it. I saw that there’s a section called “Sanctifying Intimate Relationships,” and my heart skipped a beat. Perhaps I found the blessing. I made a very careful examination of “Sanctifying Intimate Relationships” and saw that a rabbi has written a blessing to say when one loses their virginity. Rabbi Rona Shapiro, a graduate of Harvard and the Jewish Theological Seminary, has posted this blessing to mark that milestone in our life cycle. As a preface to Rabbi Shapiro’s blessing she writes this:

“…nowhere in the tradition is there a blessing for making love, or even for one’s first sexual encounter. The blessing read under the wedding canopy may have served, at one time, to bless that encounter, but for many Jews today that is no longer the case.”

And Rabbi Shapiro writes this:

“…first sex is a joyous, liberating experience, one they might wish to celebrate ritually. What if Jewish parents taught their children that love-making is a holy act, that the first time is a holy moment, one worthy of uttering the Shehechiyanu blessing.”

This seems to me like perfect advice. What better blessing for the moment than Shehechiyanu, a prayer to celebrate a milestone in our lives? Rabbi Shapiro continues:

“Imbued with the idea that sex belongs in a sacred context, young women and men might feel more empowered about their choices in sexual interaction. They might not place themselves in sexually compromising positions, or they might choose to forego sex entirely until they can share an experience that is, in fact, sacred.”

Sex as a sacred experience; that’s exactly what I’ve been thinking! But neither Rabbi Shapiro, nor anyone else on Ritual Well for that matter, has written about the second and subsequent times we make love.

Now, it’s four o’clock on a mid-winter Shabbos afternoon. Soon, the sun will set and three stars will become visible and Shabbos will be over. My beloved and I are folded in each others’ arms. Our breathing and heartbeats gradually return to a normal cadence and my soul is returning to me from a rapturous realm. The moment feels far too brief but more than enough. It is a glimpse of infinite bliss and surely a blessing from the Divine. And for that, I will say, “Baruch Hashem,” blessed be G-d. Someday I may find better words, but for now, this captures what’s in my heart.

This story "Is There A Jewish Blessing For Better Sex?" was written by Brian D. Johnson.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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