In an interview that feels as awkward as watching your parents discuss their favorite Kama Sutra positions, Senator Joe Lieberman and Sally Quinn discuss the mitzvah to have “intimate sexual relations” on the “Sabbath.” Sally was so excited to discuss the topic that she quotes the page number in Lieberman’s book with the same enthusiasm the girls I knew in middle school whispered to each other about page 72 of Judy Blume’s Forever.
The interview, which is part of the Washington Post’s On Faith series is centered around Lieberman’s new book The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath. Ignoring for a moment this call to the erotic from a politician whose charisma has been compared to that of Droopy Dog, this truly is one of the most awesome selling points of Judaism in-general and Shabbat in-particular. One wonders why some sophisticated Jewish outreach organization hasn’t made more hay out of the ole double-mitzvah.
Religion, as too many of us learn it, often feels like a collection of thou-shall-nots and the traditional observance of Shabbat is chock-full of them. In our modern, individualist age, many of us, when confronted with a list of “forbidden activities” such as we find on Shabbat, instinctively recoil. The emphasis on a commandment that compels us to experience pleasure and intimacy confounds those prejudices.
Of course, the mitzvah in its traditional interpretation is intended only for married couples — and while Joe Lieberman was a co-sponsor of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” he remains opposed to legalized gay-marriage. But I don’t feel like I need to be constrained by the traditionalist messenger from embracing a more inclusive message.
Pirkei Avot tells us “mitzvah goreret mitzvah” — that one mitzvah leads to another. It doesn’t say with which mitzvah you need to begin. JCCs are built on the belief that there are multiple avenues that lead to a committed Jewish life — social action, the arts, study, camp even fitness can beget (no pun intended) a deeper involvement in Jewish life and community. Where you begin is up to you.
So, this Friday night, if you are in a committed, monogamous relationship and find yourselves so inclined, take pride in observing the kinkiest commandment.