Sexual Pleasure in Judaism: Who's giving it, Who's getting it & Why it's so important


(לא) וַיַּ֤רְא אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֔ה וְהִנֵּה־ט֖וֹב מְאֹ֑ד וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם הַשִּׁשִּֽׁי׃ (פ)

And God saw all that God had made, and found it very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

All of creation, including the human body, is deemed "good". Our bodies are not unpleasing to God.

Neither sexual organs nor sexual intercourse are obscene, for how could God create something that contains an obscenity? God created man and woman, and all their organs and functions, with nothing obscene in them. We believe that God created nothing containing either ugliness or obscenity.

-Iggeret ha-Kodesh, 13 C.

Sexual intercourse is an action that is important, good and valuable to the soul also, and there is no act of flesh and blood that compares with it – if it is done with pure intention and a pure, clean mind, then it is called holy.Sefer Mor v’Ketziyah


(ה) כִּֽי־יִקַּ֥ח אִישׁ֙ אִשָּׁ֣ה חֲדָשָׁ֔ה לֹ֤א יֵצֵא֙ בַּצָּבָ֔א וְלֹא־יַעֲבֹ֥ר עָלָ֖יו לְכָל־דָּבָ֑ר נָקִ֞י יִהְיֶ֤ה לְבֵיתוֹ֙ שָׁנָ֣ה אֶחָ֔ת וְשִׂמַּ֖ח אֶת־אִשְׁתּ֥וֹ אֲשֶׁר־לָקָֽח׃ (ס)

When a man has taken a bride, he shall not go out with the army or be assigned to it for any purpose; he shall be exempt one year for the sake of his household, to give happiness to the woman he has married.

"to give happiness" - sex not for purpose of procreation but rather for pleasure.

(יד) תַּשְׁמִישׁ הַמִּטָּה מֵעֹנֶג שַׁבָּת הוּא. לְפִיכָךְ עוֹנַת תַּלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים הַבְּרִיאִים מְשַׁמְּשִׁין מִלֵּילֵי שַׁבָּת לְלֵילֵי שַׁבָּת.

Sexual relations are considered a dimension of Sabbath pleasure. Therefore Torah scholars fulfill their marital obligations once a week, on the Shabbat.

A man is forbidden to compel his wife to have marital relations…Rabbi Joshua ben Levi similarly stated: Whosoever compels his wife to have marital relations will have unworthy children. - Babylonian Talmud, Eruvin 100b

(ו) התלמידים יוצאין לתלמוד תורה שלא ברשות. שלשים יום. הפועלים שבת אחת. העונה האמורה בתורה. הטיילין בכל יום. הפועלים שתים בשבת. החמרים אחת בשבת. הגמלים. אחת לשלשים יום. הספנים אחת לששה חדשים. דברי רבי אליעזר:

(6) Students who leave for the purpose of studying Torah without the consent of their wives [have] thirty days; laborers, one week. [The law of providing sexual] pleasure [to one's wife] that is stated in the Torah [is as follows]: one at leisure, daily; laborers, twice a week; donkey drivers, once a week; camel drivers, once every thirty days; navigators every six months; these are the words of Rabbi Eliezer.


When you and your wife are engaged in sexual union do not behave lightheartedly and regard this act as vain, idle, improper. Therefore, first introduce her into the mood with gentle words that excite her emotion, appease her mind and delight her with joy. Thus you unite your mind and intention with hers. Say to her words which in part arouse in her passion, closeness, love, will, and erotic desire, and in part evoke in her reverence for God, piety and modesty...Never impose yourself upon her nor force her. For any sexual union without an abundance of passion, love and will, is without the Divine Presence. Do not quarrel with her nor act violently whenever coitus is involved. The Talmud says, "A lion ravishes and then eats and has no shame. So acts the brute: He hits and then cohabits and has no shame." Rather, court and attract her to you first with gracious and seductive, as well as refined and gentle words, so that both your intentions be for the sake of God...Do not hurry in arousing passion. Prolong till she is ready and in a passionate mood. Approach her lovintly and passionately, so that she reaches her orgasm first. - Iggeret Hakodesh, 13th C.

תני רב יוסף שארה זו קרוב בשר שלא ינהג בה מנהג פרסיים שמשמשין מטותיהן בלבושיהן מסייע ליה לרב הונא דאמר רב הונא האומר אי אפשי אלא אני בבגדי והיא בבגדה יוציא ונותן כתובה:

Rav Yosef taught There must be close bodily contact during sex, unlike the custom of the Persians who preform their marital duties in clothes. This supports the ruling of Rav Huna. As Rav Huna said: A husband who says, "I will not perform [my marital duties] unless I wear my clothes and she wears hers, must [divorce her] and giver her the ketubah [settlement].

Three things enfeeble a man’s body, namely, to eat standing, to drink standing, and to have marital intercourse in a standing position. - Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 70a

Judaism insists on a holistic approach to human love and sexuality whereby they are one and the same and cannot be separated. Carnal love must be accompanied by heartfelt love, and attraction to the body must engender attraction to the soul. - Shmuley Boteach, Dating Secrets of the 10 Commandments, p189


A woman once came before Rabbi and said, 'Rabbi! I set a table before my husband [i.e. I prepared to make love with him], but he overturned it [i.e. wanted to engage in anal intercourse].' Rabbi replied: 'My daughter! The Torah has permitted you to him — what then can I do for you?' - Babylonian Talmud, Nadarim 20b

Since a man’s wife is permitted to him, he may act with her in any manner whatsoever. He may have intercourse with her whenever he so desires and kiss any organ of her body he wishes, and he may have intercourse with her naturally or unnaturally, provided that he does not expend semen to no purpose. Nevertheless, it is a sign of piety not to show too much levity but to sanctify himself at the time of intercourse. (Mishnah Torah Issurei Biah 21:9)

Once a woman came to Rabbi [Judah I] and said to him, "I have been raped." R. Judah: "But did you not find the experience pleasing?" [If you were a willing partner you are forbidden to your husband] The woman: "Suppose someone dipped his finger in honey and stuck it in your mouth on Yom Kippur, would not the experience distress you at first, but after a while please you?" So R. Judah accepted what she had to say." [He declared her permitted to her husband] - Bamidbar Rabbah 9:10

The intent of sexual relations is the preservation of the species and not only pleasure. The aspect of pleasure was introduced only to motivate the created beings toward that ultimate goal...The proof of this is that desire and pleasure cease after ejaculation; this was the entire goal for which our instincts were aroused. If the goal were pleasure, satisfaction would continue as long as man desired. - Rambam's commentary of Mishnah Sanhedrin 7:3

The sages said" [During intercourse], a man may do with his wife whatever he pleases. An analogy suggests itself with mean that comes from the slaughterhouse: a man may eat it any way he wishes: [raw] with salt, roasted, or stewed. -Babylonian Talmud, Nedarim 20b


(א) כָּל הַבָּא עַל עֶרְוָה מִן הָעֲרָיוֹת דֶּרֶךְ אֵיבָרִים אוֹ שֶׁחִבֵּק וְנִשֵּׁק דֶּרֶךְ תַּאֲוָה וְנֶהֱנָה בְּקֵרוּב בָּשָׂר הֲרֵי זֶה לוֹקֶה מִן הַתּוֹרָה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא יח-ל) "לְבִלְתִּי עֲשׂוֹת מֵחֻקּוֹת הַתּוֹעֵבֹת" וְגוֹ'. וְנֶאֱמַר (ויקרא יח-ו) "לֹא תִקְרְבוּ לְגַלּוֹת עֶרְוָה". כְּלוֹמַר לֹא תִּקְרְבוּ לִדְבָרִים הַמְּבִיאִין לִידֵי גִּלּוּי עֶרְוָה:

(ב) הָעוֹשֶׂה דָּבָר מֵחֻקּוֹת אֵלּוּ הֲרֵי הוּא חָשׁוּד עַל הָעֲרָיוֹת. וְאָסוּר לָאָדָם לִקְרֹץ בְּיָדָיו וּבְרַגְלָיו אוֹ לִרְמֹז בְּעֵינָיו לְאַחַת מִן הָעֲרָיוֹת אוֹ לִשְׂחֹק עִמָּהּ אוֹ לְהָקֵל רֹאשׁ. וַאֲפִלּוּ לְהָרִיחַ בְּשָׂמִים שֶׁעָלֶיהָ אוֹ לְהַבִּיט בְּיָפְיָהּ אָסוּר. וּמַכִּין לַמִּתְכַּוֵּן לְדָבָר זֶה מַכַּת מַרְדּוּת. וְהַמִּסְתַּכֵּל אֲפִלּוּ בְּאֶצְבַּע קְטַנָּה שֶׁל אִשָּׁה וְנִתְכַּוֵּן לֵהָנוֹת כְּמִי שֶׁנִּסְתַּכֵּל בִּמְקוֹם הַתֹּרֶף. וַאֲפִלּוּ לִשְׁמֹעַ קוֹל הָעֶרְוָה אוֹ לִרְאוֹת שְׂעָרָהּ אָסוּר:

(יב) וְכֵן אָסְרוּ חֲכָמִים שֶׁלֹּא יְשַׁמֵּשׁ אָדָם מִטָּתוֹ וְלִבּוֹ מְחַשֵּׁב בְּאִשָּׁה אַחֶרֶת. וְלֹא יִבְעל מִתּוֹךְ שִׁכְרוּת וְלֹא מִתּוֹךְ מְרִיבָה וְלֹא מִתּוֹךְ שִׂנְאָה וְלֹא יָבוֹא עָלֶיהָ עַל כָּרְחָהּ וְהִיא יְרֵאָה מִמֶּנּוּ. וְלֹא כְּשֶׁיִּהְיֶה אֶחָד מֵהֶן מְנֻדֶּה. וְלֹא יָבוֹא עָלֶיהָ אַחַר שֶׁגָּמַר בְּלִבּוֹ לְגָרְשָׁהּ. וְאִם עָשָׂה כֵּן הַבָּנִים אֵינָן הֲגוּנִים אֶלָּא מֵהֶן עַזֵּי פָּנִים וּמֵהֶן מוֹרְדִים וּפוֹשְׁעִים:

(1) Anyone who sleeps with one of the forbidden relationships "by way of limbs", or who hugs and kisses in a sexual way and takes pleasure in physical intimacy, receives lashes for a d'Oraita transgression, as it says (Leviticus 18:30) "do not do any of these abominable customs etc" and it says (Leviticus 18:6) "do not approach to uncover nakedness", which is to say do not approach things which will bring you to transgressing Arayot.

(2) One who engages in these behaviours is suspected of committing Arayot. And it's forbidden for a person to intimate with his hands or feet or to hint with his eyes to any of the Arayot or to laugh with her or to engage in light-headedness. And even to smell her perfume or to gaze at her beauty is forbidden. And one who engages in this deliberately receives lashes of rebelliousness. And one who gazes even at the little finger of a woman intending to derive sexual pleasure is comparable to one who looks at her genitalia. And even to hear the voice of the nakedness or to look at her hair is forbidden.

(12) Similarly, the sages forbade a man to have marital relations while thinking of another woman. Nor may he initiate sex while drunk, nor out of spite or hatred, nor may he rape her or initiate sex while she is afraid. Nor may they have sex while either of them are excommunicated nor after he has decided to divorce her. If [the husband] does any of those things, the children will not be proper [citizens] but brazen, rebellious [people] and criminals.

ARAYOT = sexual prohibitions (those listed in Leviticus 18) are considered such a serious transgression of Jewish law that one must give up one's life rather than transgress one of them.

You should know that just like the blind man does not grasp appearance of colors and the deaf man does not grasp the sound of voices and the eunuch sexual desire, so too bodies do not grasp spiritual pleasures. And just like the fish do not know the element of fire, since they are in the element of water, which is its opposite; so too, in this physical world, pleasures of the spiritual world are not known. Rather we do not have among us any of this pleasure, but only pleasures of the body and that which is grasped by the senses [regrading] food and drink and sex. And anything besides these is non-existent for us and we do not recognize it. [Neither] do we grasp it at first thought, but only after great analysis. And it is fitting that it is like this, since we are in the physical world, and that is why we only grasp the lower temporary pleasures. But the spiritual pleasures are permanent, lasting forever, without end. And there is no connection or similarity in any way between these [two types] of pleasures. And it is not fit for us, the masters of Torah, and not for the Godly of the philosophers that we should say that the angels or the stars or the spheres do not have any pleasure; but rather they truly have great pleasure in that they know and grasp the truth of the Creator. And so [too], when the one that will be purified is purified and he goes up to that level after his death, he does not grasp the physical pleasures and does not want them. - Rambam on Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:1:1

Rav Judah said in Rav's name: A man once conceived a passion for a certain woman, and his heart was consumed by his burning desire [his life being endangered thereby]. When the doctors were consulted, they said, 'His only cure is that she shall submit.' Thereupon the Sages said: 'Let him die rather than that she should yield.' Then [said the doctors]; 'let her stand nude before him;' [they answered] 'sooner let him die'. 'Then', said the doctors, 'let her converse with him from behind a fence'. 'Let him die,' the Sages replied 'rather than she should converse with him from behind a fence.' Now R. Jacob b. Idi and R. Samuel b. Nahmani dispute therein. One said that she was a married woman; the other that she was unmarried. Now, this is intelligible on the view, that she was a married woman, but on the latter, that she was unmarried, why such severity? — R. Papa said: Because of the disgrace to her family. R. Aha the son of R. Ika said: That the daughters of Israel may not be immorally dissolute. Then why not marry her? — Marriage would not assuage his passion, even as R. Isaac said: Since the destruction of the Temple, sexual pleasure has been taken [from those who practice it lawfully] and given to sinners, as it is written, Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. (Proverbs 9:17) -Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 75a

Our master taught: If a wife is alone with her husband and is engaged in intercourse with him, while her heart is with another man who she met on the road, no act of adultery is greater, for it is said, "The wife that commits adultery, takes strangers while under her husband" (Ezekiel 16:32). But how can a wife who is under her husband commit adultery? Here, however, the verse refers to a woman who has met another man and set her eyes on him, and while she is engaged in intercourse with her husband, her heart is with that man." - Bamidbar Rabbah 9:34

רב כהנא על גנא תותיה פורייה דרב שמעיה דשח ושחק ועשה צרכיו אמר ליה דמי פומיה דאבא כדלא שריף תבשילא א"ל כהנא הכא את פוק דלאו אורח ארעא אמר לו תורה היא וללמוד אני צריך

Rab Kahana went and hid himself under Rab's bed and heard him converse [with his wife] and laugh and have intercourse. Rab Kahana said to him, "Abba's mouth is like that of one who has never sipped a dish." Rab exclaimed, "Kahana, art thou here? Go out ; for it is not proper!" He replied, "It is a matter of Torah and I wished to learn."

Rav Hisda ruled: A man is forbidden to perform his marital duty in the daytime, for it is said, ‘And you shall love your neighbour as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18).But what is the proof? Abaye replied: He might observe something repulsive in her, and she would thereby become loathsome to him. - Babylonian Talmud, Niddah 17a

“When in the course of cohabitation [the husbands] will hold your pearl in one and the kiln in one hand. You, however, should offer them the pearl, but the kiln you should not offer them until they are tormented, and only then should you offer it to them.”- Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 140

Here is how Rashi explains it. “When your husband caresses you to arouse your desire for intercourse and holds the breasts with one hand and “that place” with the other give the breasts [at first] to increase his passion and do not give him the place of intercourse too soon until his passion increases and he is in pain with desire.” [Rashi to Shabbat 140b].


And God saw all that God had made, and found it very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” Nahman said in R. Samuel’s name: “Very good” refers to the Good Desire [Yeitzer Hatov]; and “very good” refers to the Evil Desire [Yeitzer Hara]. Can then the Evil Desire be very good? That would be extraordinary! But without the Evil Desire, however, one would not build a house, marry, beget children, or engage in business. - Bereishit Rabbah 9:7

“When a man has had sexual intercourse ‎with a woman, both of them have to ritually cleanse ‎themselves in a ritual bath, after which they remain ritually ‎impure until evening” (Exodus 16:18). We must therefore conclude that it is not the act of engaging ‎in marital relations which causes the ritual defilement. The ‎problem is that the urge to engage in sexual relations is aroused ‎by the evil urge [Yeitzer], and this being so, even when the act is ‎performed in order to fulfill the commandment to have children, ‎it is impossible not to derive some physical pleasure from ‎performing this act, and this part of performing the ‎commandment is what accounts for the need to purify oneself ‎subsequently and thus atone for impure thoughts entertained ‎during performance of the commandment, i.e. the act of ‎impregnating one’s partner with one’s sperm.‎ The same distinction applies to husbands who perform the ‎act of marital intercourse with their respective wives, knowing ‎that they thereby fulfill their Creator’s command. A husband who ‎uses the opportunity of marital intercourse with his wife in order ‎to satisfy his sexual urges, cannot lay claim to have done so as a ‎way of “enthroning,” i.e. confirming that he recognizes God as his ‎Master. - Kedushat Levi, Vayikra, Metzora 2

If a man sees that his evil inclination (Yeitzer) is conquering him, let him go to a place where he is unknown, cloak himself with black, and do as his heart desires...but let him not publicly profane God's name. - Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 40a

(א) והמלאכים עובדים את בוראם ואין להם יצר הרע, והבהמות יש להם יצר הרע ואין להם דעת. וממילא דלהמלאכים אינו מגיע שכר בעד עבודתם, אחרי שאין להם יצר הרע, ולבהמות לא שייך עונש אחרי שאין להם דעת.

(ב) ולזה ברא הקדוש ברוך הוא ביום הששי את האדם. ובראו משני הקצוות: נתן בו את הנשמה שמאירה לאדם לדעת את הבורא יתברך כמלאך, כמו שנאמר: "כי נר ה' נשמת אדם". ויצר אותו בגוף שהוא חומר עב כבהמה, לאכול ולשתות ולישן. ולזה יתעוררו מלחמות גדולות בהאדם כל ימי חייו, שהנפש הבהמי מסיתו לתאוות עולם הזה כבהמה, והנשמה הטהורה נלחמת כנגדו ומראה לו שלא לכך נברא אלא לעבוד את הבורא כמלאך. ואף הדברים הגשמיים שמוכרח לעשות כאכילה ושתייה ושינה – תהיה הכוונה כדי שיוכל לעבוד את בוראו.

(1) Angels [have intelligence and] serve their creator, and do not have a yeitzer hara. Animals, on the other hand, have yeitzer hara, but lack intelligence. The result is that angels cannot receive reward for their service, as they have no yeitzer hara to overcome, and animals cannot be punished for their actions, as they do not have the intelligence necessary to overcome their drives.

(2) Therefore God found it necessary to create the human on the sixth day, and God created the human with both sides: God gave him a spiritual soul that enables him to recognize the Creator as does an angel, as the verse states: “God's candle is the human soul...” (Mishlei 27:20). And God created him in a body which is thick material, like a beast, to eat, drink, and sleep. This state of affairs gives rise to a constant struggle within a person all the days of his life. His animal nature incites him to desire this world like an animal, and the pure soul battles against him and shows him that he was not born for this, but to serve God like an angel. His soul further insists that even necessary physical needs, such as eating, drinking, and sleeping, should be done with intent to better serve God.


People are born lame because they [i.e.. their parents] overturned their table; dumb, because they kiss 'that place'; deaf, because they converse during intercourse; blind, because they look at 'that place'. - Babylonian Talmud, Nedarim 20a

For by following entirely the guidance of lust, in the manner of fools, one loses one’s intellectual energy, injures one’s body, and perishes before one’s natural time; sights and cares multiply; there is an increase of envy, hatred and warfare, for the purpose of taking what another possesses. The cause of all of this is the circumstance that the ignorant considers physical enjoyment as an object to be sought for its own sake.

- Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, Chapter 33


Life loses its magic when it loses its eroticism. That thirsty desire to uncover the mystery of all life has to teach us is noticeably absent from our being. It isundeniable that the metaphor chosen by the Bible (in Song of Songs) to convey these religious insights is that of a highly erotically charged relationship between two people.

God is a burning, raging vibrant inferno. Moses encounters God in a burning bush. The Jews are led through the wilderness of Sinai by a pillar of fire. And in our relationship with God, and with all things outside us, we need to find passion! The Song of Songs challenges us to feel for God and life what two people feel for each other in the heat of passion.

Great sex has you focused entirely on the body of your partner; kosher sex has you bound with the soul of your lover.

Great sex promotes physical exhilaration; kosher sex leads to spiritual integration.

Great sex satisfies a hormonal urge for sexual release; kosher sex caters to a spiritual need for human fusion with another soul.

Great sex consists entirely of motions; kosher sex consists of motions that elicit lasting emotions.

Great sex is making friction; kosher sex is making love.

Great sex is measured while you’re in bed together with your partner; kosher sex is measured in the period thereafter, when you are physically apart but emotionally close.

Great sex can be had even while all one’s barriers and inhibitions are still up; kosher sex is humans at their most vulnerable, when their defenses are down and their heart exposed.

Great sex is an end to an encounter; kosher sex is the beginning of a relationship.


אמר רבי יוחנן אבר קטן יש לו לאדם מרעיבו שבע משביעו רעב שנאמר (הושע יג, ו)

R. Yohanan said: There is a small organ in man. When he starves it, it is satisfied, when he satisfies it, it is starving, as it is said, “When they were starved they became full…” (Hosea 13:6).

It was taught at the school of Rabbi Ishmael, ‘Thou shall not commit adultery’ implies, Thou shall not practice masturbation either with hand or with foot. - Babylonian Talmud, Niddah 13b

The sexual organs are the most sensitive organs of the human being. They are not diplomats. They tell the truth. - Isaac Bashevis Singer