Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Lust Is the Answer

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Lust Is the Answer

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is no stranger to controversy. His breakout advice book, Kosher Sex, provoked criticism from the religious community–and added new depth to many relationships. Now, Boteach–an occasional Breitbart News contributor–is launching a sequel, Kosher Lust: Love Is Not the Answer, that will push the boundaries further. And it ought to, for lust is too often dismissed as sin, when it can also be a positive force.

Kosher Lust makes two basic arguments: first, that love alone is not enough to sustain long-term relationships; and second, that married couples ought to cultivate lust, primarily through becoming more unavailable to each other. 

Both points seem counterintuitive, yet Rabbi Shmuley argues them persuasively, drawing on Biblical teachings as well as on his extensive experience in counseling couples through their marital difficulties.

Rabbi Shmuley begins rather provocatively, by making the case that women need sex and eroticism even more than men do, because they want to be desired. He follows by arguing that men need intimacy more than might be expected, because they have a fundamental need not to be alone. 

In other words, Rabbi Shmuley says, not only are men and women fundamentally different, but their needs may be the opposite of what we may expect.

It follows, he says, that men ought to pursue their wives as they did when they were still courting them. And if the emotional connection is hard to rekindle, he says, the physical is the path to follow. But lust is no shortcut: it requires patience and listening (not to mention a lot of foreplay). The goal is to move beyond the mere physical union, though that is essential, to a lust that is emotional and spiritual as well–and then to do it all over again.

Along the way, Rabbi Shmuley makes some unusual points. He argues, for example, that the Christian concepts of love as the essence of God, and of celibacy as the moral ideal, are incomplete. Despite encouraging couples to add eroticism and fantasy to their intimate lives, he advises against pornography and masturbation–though he is not entirely clear why the boundaries should be drawn there, other than conventions of religious prohibition. 

He also stumbles occasionally: in attacking the philosophical roots of prejudice against lust, Rabbi Shmuley seems to knock Aristotle unfairly, for example. Yet these are mere details: the overall thrust is compelling.

The great virtue of Kosher Lust is that it will push readers to re-evaluate their relationships in a constructive way, allowing couples to explore the positive role lust can play in their lives. It is Rabbi Shmuley at his best.


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