Marriage and long-term relationships are on the decline throughout the world, as
is marital sex, which has been reduced, in the United States, to about once a
week for seven minutes at a time (which includes the time he spends
Why is marriage dying and why is sex evaporating? Because it is
based today on the Christian concept of love rather than the Jewish concept of
lust. The New Testament condemns lust: “For everything in the world – the lust
of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the
Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16). Love, by contrast, was
St. Paul famously argued that “God is love” and that all marriages
should be based on the comforts of compatibility, friendship, and shared
Judaism rejects this and believes that marriage must be built
on deep desire and covetousness. The holiest book of the Bible, the Song of
Solomon, is an erotic poem that describes the burning yearning between a man and
a woman: “Your breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that
browse among the lilies. (4:5)” “Your stature is like that of the palm, and your
breasts like clusters of fruit. I said, ‘I will climb the palm tree; I will take
hold of its fruit.’” (7:7-9) For us, lust is hot, sexy and holy.
tenth commandment is clear: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife,” which
means, by direct implication, you ought to be coveting your own.
percent of husbands who cheat on their wives claim to love their wives, but lust
for another woman has trumped that love. Lust is, quite simply, much stronger
than love. So why aren’t we using this powerful tool in our marital arsenal? And
this is true for women as well as men, as is exemplified by the phenomenal
success of Fifty Shades of Grey. Why are liberated, educated women reading a
book about a woman who voluntarily submits to being a “dominant” billionaire’s
“submissive?” Because the essence of the novel is a man who lusts after a woman
so mightily that he wants to have her above all else. Utterly smitten, he cannot
live without her. And for most married women who feel loved but not desired, the
novel became a form of wish fulfillment.
How do we recapture erotic lust?
By focusing on its three laws, which I present here and which are the subject of
my upcoming book Kosher Lust
The first is frustrated desire and erotic
Lust is enhanced through an inability to attain the object of
your longing, the failure to satiate human yearning. It’s the reason why Plato
argued for unconsummated, “Platonic” relationships, so that desire would never
wane. And it’s the reason why the Torah makes a wife sexually unavailable to her
husband for 12 days out of every month (laws of Niddah). But it’s also true of
every other area of life. The fare in every fast-food restaurant always tastes
bad. The reason: nobody made you wait for it. But in an upscale restaurant they
purposely delay your food, even if you ordered the ready-made special of the
day, because appetite is enhanced through denial.
The second law of lust
is mystery. Lust is enhanced in darkness and shadows. Ironically, the more the
body is covered the more one lusts after it. The most boring place on earth is a
nudist colony (er... so my friends tell me) because it leaves nothing to the
When a wife came to me once for advice as to how to entice
her newly-wed husband into having more sex, I told her to undress in the
bathroom rather than in in the bedroom. She accused me of prudishness. I
responded, “Disregard my advice if you wish. But then you face the nightmare
scenario: You and your husband are married for four years. You come into the
bedroom. You take all your clothes off... And he continues to watch
The third law of erotic lust is sinfulness. You’re walking
along a beach. You see beautiful women in bikinis. Is that sexy? Perhaps. Is it
erotic? Definitely not. What do most men do at a beach? Either fall asleep, or
But now you’re walking home from the beach. A woman has
accidentally left the blinds to her bedroom open and she’s walking around in her
Same amount of clothing as a beach, exposing the same
amount of flesh. Except this time it’s not a bathing suit, it’s her underwear.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Where’s my Frisbee? Now why is the
second scenario so much more erotic than the first? At the beach you are seeing
something designed for public consumption. But peering into the privacy of a
woman’s bedroom you are witnessing something you’re not supposed to
It’s forbidden. It’s sinful. It’s erotic.
A cursory glance of
world classics demonstrates that it is not the righteous, loyal wife who fires
the literary imagination but the unfaithful, sinful wife, like Anna Karenina,
Madame Bovary, Tess and Lady Chatterley, which explains why some women
intentionally use other men to make their husbands jealous. To be sure, adultery
is the most painful transgression of marriage and men who target married women
because of their attraction to the sinful aspect are pathetic, desperate
failures incapable of sustaining erotic excitement in a committed relationship.
Still, this debauched mindset reveals the enticing nature of sin.
you know why the Torah made a wife sexually forbidden to her husband for a
portion of every month, thereby injecting erotic sinfulness into a
It’s specifically the person who is off limits to you that
you lust after. That’s why Sir James Goldsmith famously said that when a man
marries his mistress he leaves a vacancy.
The many who complain that
religion creates sexual taboos in relationships forget that such taboos can
often enhance lust, while a permissive society that makes sex so available turns
it from chocolate to vanilla.
Unlike the “love marriage,” which is based
on closeness and constant intimacy, the “lust marriage” is based on separation,
renewal, and a measure of distance.
When Abraham is descending into Egypt
with Sarah, he says, “I now know that you are a woman of exquisite beauty.” I
now know. Obviously, married to her for decades, he knew before. But not
Sarah always maintained some mystery, some barriers in their
When Rebecca meets Isaac for the first time, she “took the
veil and covered herself.” Her first action was to create mystery and ensure she
never become fully revealed to her husband.
Why don’t porn magazines save
money by doing a package deal that would pay one centerfold for all twelve
months of the year rather than switching monthly? Because were it to do that no
one would buy the magazine. Once a woman is overexposed men lose interest and
require someone new.
The success of applying the Torah’s laws of lust to
one’s marriage and intimate life leads to a relationship suffused with passion
The writer, “America’s Rabbi,” is one of the world’s most
celebrated relationships experts and is the international best-selling author of
29 books. He was the host of The Shmuley Show on the Oprah and Friends’ Radio
Network and his national TV show, Shalom in the Home, won the National
Fatherhood Award. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.