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Doing God’s Work in the Bedroom

While the NY Times’s article about a prominent Orthodox sex therapist Bat Sheva Marcus,”The Orthodox Sex Guru” 1/22/15, neglects to include what the Sages of the Talmud really say about women and sexual pleasure (extremely sex-positive, promising women sexual satisfaction in marriage, only permitting consensual sex, etc…), the article is worth reading. Marcus is helping many couples find happiness and closeness after years of marriage. She’s doing God’s work, so these people can work for God.

The fact that men and women in chareidi communities are denied proper sex-education, and that in the name of preserving sex’s holiness, sex became taboo to discuss or enjoy, means that something is broken and needs to be fixed. Hopefully, we can have more of Marcus spreading the good news that God wants men and women to enjoy sex – and she can help teach them how.

Below her brown bangs, Marcus’s eyes fill with tears sometimes when she talks about how Orthodox Judaism — and above all the most restrictive branches of Haredi Orthodoxy — can quash female eros by imbuing a physical shame and a nearly apocalyptic sexual terror, by teaching that if the laws of tzniut, of modesty, are broken, calamity will come. One Haredi rabbi I met likened eros to “nuclear energy”: Sex could bring disaster to the world, but, he said, “the careful regulation” of it can connect a couple to God and beckon “transcendent experience.”…Marcus, though, sees more repression than transcendence….

Let My People Eat Quinoa

Quinoa Real grown near Uyuni on the Bolivian Altiplano (3653 m). Mt. Tunupa in the background.

The NY Times just picked up on the debate about quinoa on Passover – and if this mushy stuff from the Andes is fit for consumption on Pesach.

The article missed the major point of contention about the entire quinoa issue. There is no scholarly rabbinic dispute about whether or not quinoa is a grain (in halachic terms) and hence chametz, and totally forbidden for consumption, possession, and benefit on Passover. The only question is whether it is KITNIOT (pronounced kit-ne-ot) or not, i.e. grain type foods that Ashkenazi and some Sephardic Jews do not consume on Passover.

The Oral Torah, codified in the Mishna, specifies that only five types of grain can become chametz: wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and oats. These items and food made from them with the exception of matzah, are forbidden the entire holiday. The question is really whether this quinoa grain-type food is classified along with rice.

A legitimate and significant concern that the NY Times did pick-up, is about the factories that process quinoa. These processing plants, generally in rural areas, also process other grains, and there is the problem of contamination of the quinoa with wheat and other grains.

One does not need to be a certified rabbinic authority from Chicago or New York to be concerned about contamination of bagged dry products. It is common practice among many people who run a kosher kitchen —or any careful chef — that you always check grains, rice, beans and even flour for hitchhikers.

The problem is that during the rest of the year, if someone comes across a rock in a batch of rice, or an odd object in a bag of barley, its no big deal. On Passover however, that grain of barley becomes kryptonite.

The Chicago based CRC certifies quinoa based on the places where it is processed, the OU doesn’t according to and Baltimore’s Star-K says that it fine, according to the NY Times article.

CalKosher (the certifying body that I supervise) after consultation with one of the leading halachic authorities in the world, is of the opinion that quinoa is not kitniot and hence OK for consumption on Passover by Ashekanazi and Sephardic Jews alike.

One doesn’t need a trip to the remote Andes to know that quinoa is a great substitute for rice in sushi, and a carb-neutral alternative to barley in tabouli. Vegans absolutely worship quinoa because it is a complete protein.

So enjoy your quinoa. Make sure to check it before Passover to eliminate any wheat-type grain that got in there and have a joyous and festive Festival of Freedom.