Mike Feder: Good evening, this is Mike Feder and welcome to another edition of Toward a Meaningful Life with Simon Jacobson. Tonight our topic is sexuality. I’m going to plunge right into the subject if you don’t mind the expression. I never just say hello. I just barge right into the subject. Hi, how are you?
Simon Jacobson: You always seem to be plunging. It’s a metaphor for life. Try to swim once in a while…
Feder: Instead of just jumping…. Okay. Here we go. So tonight’s subject is sexuality, which is something I presume is going to interest everybody listening. Let’s start off with a simple question. What would you say is, in your opinion, the origin of sexuality?
Jacobson: Okay. Well I should preface this by saying that everyone comes with his or her axioms or points of reference. This show, Toward a Meaningful Life, which has been very gratifying to myself and I know to you, Mike, and to many of our listeners who have written and called us, is essentially based on Torah wisdom. A scholarship, a body of knowledge and experience, that goes back thousands of years—time-tested—and I think it’s important at the outset to state from which perspective I’m coming from.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion and everyone has their approach, based on life experiences, trial and error, education, schooling, home, or just whatever they pick up. This show comes from a body of information and knowledge called the Torah, which is considered and believed to be Divine in nature, but not in any form of presentation that is dogmatic: that this is what you must believe or this is what you must accept.
Our show is meant, as the name implies (Toward a Meaningful Life) to offer an option, or to offer a life approach that for me has been personally transformative, and I feel it is my responsibility and obligation, as it is for everyone to share the knowledge that you’ve learned.
I particularly elaborate here because we are dealing with a topic (sexuality) which is by no means one that anyone is neutral about. Everyone has a sexual nature, everyone has a need for sexuality, everyone has a sexual personality, so to speak, and everyone has been shaped, in one way or another, in their sexual preferences, in how they express and experience it, whether inside or out of marriage today, and I’m sure everyone listening will have a very strong opinion in the matter, so I feel it is very important to preface that I’m coming from a perspective that is very defined, yet extremely flexible and surprisingly, extremely free-spirited.
I specifically use that word because most people would attribute religion or Torah to a very inhibited and narrow definition of sexuality. Especially in our generation called the Sexual Revolution, a generation of free-spiritedness: non-conformist, even marriage, should not be seen as “just because everyone’s doing it” type of thing. And it became a much freer approach to it.
Now, what I intend to discuss, and I hope we cover it extensively enough, is to describe what actually is sexual freedom? What does it mean to be free, to be a free spirit? How does sexuality play into that and what happens when sexuality enslaves you to your obsessions, as we see people sometimes can become completely irrational…
I’m sure, Mike, you have some of these questions, but I’m just expressing from my own mind some of my own terms.
So let’s begin with the question you asked which is the foundation of it all, “What is sexuality?” Where does it originate from, where does it come from?
Now, I think for contrasting purposes, I think it’s wise to use two models or two approaches to sexuality. One, the prevalent, contemporary, scientific approach. I don’t even know if the word scientific is right; let’s call it a theory, a biological theory: the evolutionary theory of sexuality. And then I’ll contrast it with the biblical one.
I’m sure there are many others and I don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves.
Feder: I think those two will cover a lot of ground.
Jacobson: But even within the secular world, I’m sure there are many approaches. I’ll just take one as an example, and that’s the evolutionary theory which is essentially based on the idea that perpetuation of the species, survival of the fittest, is the primary force in nature, in all species.
Feder: From single cells right up through the chain…
Jacobson: Exactly. Through animals and humans. So perpetuation of the species is the result of a sexual relationship between a male and a female and the case of human beings as well as animals, from this perspective, (I’m just presenting this briefly) the key is perpetuation of the species.
Based on this theory, the male will search for the female that is most fertile, that will bear the healthiest offspring, and the female will search for a male that provides the healthiest seed, that is the most virile and that will protect the young. This is a theory—without discussing the virtues or the vices—which explains quite a few reasons how people mate or search for each other. Why certain features in the woman or in the man are extremely enticing or attractive to the opposite sex because they reflect on elements of fertility or signs of health that are important for the perpetuation of the species. This objective is the underlying force behind all courtship, behind the beauty, and the romance, and behind the sensuality
Feder: Or mysticism…
Jacobson: Right. Behind it all lies really a primal force. Existence, and perpetuation of that existence. Since human beings do have some sophistication, this theory states that human sophistication has evolved. People are not ready to think of themselves merely as production machines to bear children, so in order to justify, or to entice, two people into a union, evolution and biology have evolved to the point where it creates pleasure in sexuality; it creates interest, mystique as you put it, Mike, a mystery that attracts you, an elusiveness, and all that results in the romantic journey.
Feder: So now we’re one step above survival of the fittest. We’re rising higher.
Jacobson: No. Our rising higher is essentially just a way of nature packaging that attraction. So in a sense, it is like two bees searching for each other. So one bee will buzz a certain way or give off a certain scent because it’s attracted to the other, but essentially what it comes down to is that these are tactics that get them together to mate and bear offspring.
Human beings are sophisticated, so they need to have some type of—I don’t want to call it an excuse—but it’s a means to another end. The attraction, the chase, the romance, the flowers, the music, the moonlight, are really essentially just nature’s way of getting two people together.
Feder: Here’s our scientific view here!
Jacobson: It’s a view which basically means that all the mystique and the romance and the beauty that we so attribute to love, is essentially to get people together to mate and perpetuate the species.
Remember, nature is merciless. Nature must prevail. And that’s how people establish a relationship.
Now, I’m not minimizing the extent to which people will pursue love in that fashion, I just wanted to give you that approach.
Now, let’s contrast it with the Torah approach.
The Torah approach is stated specifically in Genesis, in the Bible, right in the beginning, that sexual attraction—meaning the attraction of the sexes to each other—man to woman, woman to man, is driven by a completely different force. Not perpetuation of the species, but the search for their divine image; for their quintessential self.
The way the Bible puts it, that G-d created male and female He created them, G-d, split them into two, and they search for each other.
They’re not half individuals, obviously, man is a complete personality and woman is a complete personality, but there are elements in their transcendental search, in their completeness, that remain incomplete if they don’t find each other. Because there’s something missing in each of them; they were once part of a greater whole.
To put it in more mystical, or more divine terms, they’re really searching to become one with G-d.
The human race is really one entity; male/female. The male and female are split into two. When these two come together, unite in a marital union, mate, they together reflect the divine image in which they were both created as one.
Feder: I assume part of this plan, that there is a particular female and a particular male searching for each other, to unite. It’s not just any male or female…
Jacobson: Right, but before we get into specifics, let’s talk about Adam and Eve. There were no other human beings, so it’s only Adam and Eve who represent the human race…before we break it into millions or billions of people. We’re talking about the male species and the female species.
Male and female are really two forms of energy that are complete only when they’re together. When I say complete, I don’t mean to minimize any individual personality, but complete in a more divine, more cosmic sense. Like a positive and a negative charge. Interestingly, the Kabbalah, which is the mystical area of Torah thought, discusses male and female not just among humans. It sees it as two forms of energy that, in the most abstract form, one can be called an internal energy and the other a projective energy. Feminine energy and masculine energy that exists in each man and in each woman for that matter and in every part of nature.
In the most tangible, physical sense, it’s a man and a woman, but on a subtle and sublime level, male and female are two forms of energy that essentially—even G-dliness is sometimes described in the feminine and sometimes in the masculine.
Feder: In Torah? It’s not always just the paternalistic G-d?
Jacobson: No, not at all. On the contrary. Many of the spiritual terms are all feminine. One of the names for G-d is, for example, the Shechinah, which is the feminine dimension of G-dliness.
What you usually find is that the masculine is more of a projective energy and the feminine is much more of a regal, majestic, internal type of energy. But it’s just really two types of forms that together create one whole, one entirety.
So “male and female He created them” combine both male and female energies, which ultimately evolve into what we call the biological man and the biological woman. But their biology and their anatomy is simply the tip of the iceberg. They only express a much deeper, more profound psychological, spiritual distinct energy.
This doesn’t mean that they’re completely different. Man and woman can be 90% similar, as we know in the chromosomes, but there are elements which are primarily male and others which are primarily female—I should add that there are men who have more feminine energy than do some women, and there are some woman who have more masculine energy. But essentially, there is a general balance. The gentle character of a woman, as opposed to a man, meaning, the man can be more brutal, physical stronger, more dominant…
Feder: More aggressive…
Jacobson: More ego, you know, the male ego. All this is essentially reflective of masculine energy. And I want to qualify this and say to all the listeners, do not apply this to every man and woman you meet, because we are talking somewhat about a quintessential man and woman.
Remember, when you look at yourself in the mirror, you have to remember that you’ve been shaped not just by the way G-d created you, but also by social forces, work force, home, schooling, education—so much of it is social programming. Let’s not consider that everything that has been socially programmed into the feminine consciousness or male consciousness is divine.
Feder: Let me just bring it back to a question you said before. These energies were split and became men and women on earth, presumably G-d, the Divine presence, split these energies and they come together and rejoin with G-d, or become not one with G-d—that’s more like an Eastern way of looking at it—but my question is: a) why were they split in the first place? But really, we’re all struggling towards each other, why the need for the struggle, or is that a whole other program?
Jacobson: It’s definitely another program, but, it’s in context and I’ll incorporate it into my final sentence as we proceed here.
So what we have is as follows. A split of two energies, and a yearning and inclination to become one whole. The human race is created in the Divine image, but that human race is half male and half female, and through their union they become that larger whole, that Divine image that unites or searches for union with G-d, for a higher reality.
Now, this is, in essence, the soul of sexual attraction. This attraction, which manifests itself in many physical sensations, from a faster heartbeat to a physical attraction to another person, is essentially the attraction of male to female and female to male to become a complete whole or a complete unit. Connecting to their “higher reality,” not that they’ve ever been completely disconnected, but consciously, people can go off on their own individual narcissistic, even selfish, path. And here, there’s a voice in you saying, I yearn for something greater. So it’s interesting, when a man is attracted to a woman physically, it may sound like a very biological thing, but from a Jewish, Torah perspective, it’s just a physical manifestation of a very deep spiritual attraction.
Feder: In both directions…
Jacobson: Right. Male to female, female to male. Now, your question must be answered. The reason for this split is precisely the same reason why we exist. You can ask the question: who needs this whole thing? Because G-d wanted us to be partners with Him in creation, in existence. And in order for that to occur, there has to be a split, which we overcome. In other words, existence is, in essence, also a split-off from G-d in a conscious level.
Like the analogy given of a wise parent who wants his or her child to earn something on their own, the parent will hide his or her presence; they will make sure that they are not impeding by influencing the child, they won’t hold his hand. But they’re watching, and they want the child to be wise.
In other words, the split is almost most like an obscuring, a shrouding, so we can deceive ourselves into thinking that all there is is myself.
There is a famous analogy (you see it on greeting cards, it’s already turned into a cliché but it doesn’t take away from its truth) where you see a picture of your life as captured by two sets of footprints in the sand walking along a beach. And then suddenly it turns into one set of footprints, which represents a time of deep personal pain and was loss.
So he says to G-d, “Why did you forsake me? You walked side by side with me my entire life, but then in my most difficult times of loss, there’s only one set of footprints there. You left me.” So G-d responds, “Well, that was when I was carrying you.”
Feder: I heard this put another way in a Buddhist book once, where someone was explaining what this is all about and he said, “Think of a waterfall and we’re all on one stream together. It hits a cliff and all the individual droplets and streams drop and fall off, but at the bottom, what they’re all yearning for is to join in that pool again.
Jacobson: I think that’s a beautiful analogy and I would parallel it with a Kabbalistic one which does the same with sparks. You take, for example, two stones and you crash them against each other, they do not fuse into one. However, when one unit of fire begins crackling, the sparks go off into the dark. But essentially, if you’re able to bring two sparks together, they melt and fuse into one indistinguishable unit. Fire, similar to water, has that magnetic attraction. Bring two flames together and they become one, you can’t distinguish, as it is with two drops of water. So actually, water and fire are two very good analogies, and the one with the sparks is an analogy for the soul, because every soul is compared to a flame, and flames—your flame inside of you, Mike, and mine inside of me, and everyone listening, everyone in this world, has a small flame. And when you open your flame up, it draws another flame closer. That’s really what love is all about. It’s like two flames coming together, and when they do, they both melt into one without one becoming less than the other, because they now equally contribute to the larger whole.
And the split is necessary, because that’s what gives life purpose.
Feder: Speaking of contributing to a larger whole, it is time for us to reidentify ourselves. You’re listening to Toward a Meaningful Life with Simon Jacobson, and I’m Mike Feder. This is WEVD 1050 AM in New York. We are here every week from 6-7pm on Sunday evening.
Rabbi Jacobson is the director of the Meaningful Life Center in Brooklyn out of which a lot of things flow, and one of the main things that we talk about, that’s a blueprint for the program is the Rabbi’s book, Toward a Meaningful Life, published by William Morrow. Virtually every subject that we cover on this show, no matter how specific, general, or newsworthy, is covered in this book.
Let me give you some of the ways in which you can contact us or send us questions on the various topics you are listening to, anything that you have to direct towards us. The most important thing is the telephone number: 1-800-3MEANING or 1-800-363-2646. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can always write to us at: The Meaningful Life Center, 788 Eastern Parkway, Suite 303, Brooklyn, NY 11213.
I’d like to also tell you that we have a new website where you can download transcripts of this program, and previous and future programs. It’s www.meaningfullife.com.
Okay, so let’s sort of split up a little bit so we can reunite at the end of the show. Let me ask you some questions here. So then, since we have these descriptions, both scientific and Torah knowledge about this, is the main purpose of sexuality to unite and find a higher power and higher meaning.
Is there any other kind of sexuality besides marital sex—I guess what I’m struggling to say is —is that the highest kind of sexuality? I wouldn’t want to say that it’s the only kind, but is that the higher goal of sexuality, then, is to unite in marriage? I mean, after all, this is a religious perspective and a lot of people would probably say that’s what he’s driving at.
Jacobson: Well, actually, what I’m driving at is something much more profound than marriage, and maybe then, let’s give a more profound definition of what marriage really is.
Feder: I’m also talking about pre- and extra-marital relations…
Jacobson: I understand. Let us now compare these two schools of thought, and I’ll carry that into your question—because I think that preface will help greatly—one is driven by biological needs of perpetuation of species. Contrast that with two souls in search for a greater whole and, as I often say on this program, we don’t draw any conclusions here, I just try to present this objectively to the audience, and see what resonates in your heart. Which approach do you prefer in defining love, which approach resonates more: a love that is simply nature’s way of getting you to mate with someone so that the species can perpetuate itself, or perhaps, the attraction is more sublime, as an end in itself, to achieving a greater unity. Frankly, I know what resonates for me. When I first studied this, I found it amazing that the Torah’s view is much more romantic than the secular view.
I should add, that the sacred marital union also has the effect of creating new life. Indeed, it is as a result of the powerful divine nature of a marital sexual relationship that it gives us the ability to actually create as G-d creates. And bearing children enhances and actualizes the manifestation of the divine unity achieved in the relationship. However, this does not mean that perpetuation of the species is the only end in itself. On the contrary: the unity of two people becoming part of the divine image gives them the power to bring life into the world. So it’s really a completely different direction.
Feder: So the point of getting together is not specifically or exclusively just to produce a child?
Jacobson: Exactly. There is something divine about that in itself. That is why you find the sanctity of mating and marriage, which we’ll soon discuss, even with people who are older, beyond childbearing age, and even people, whom doctors say cannot have a child. So one would argue, according to the Torah view, “Hey, no perpetuation of the species, what’s the point of marriage and sexuality? Just a selfish pleasure?” The answer is no. Male and female uniting is a divine act, a divine experience.
Now this leads me directly into the question you asked. I ask everyone to listen to this objectively, as if it’s not ourselves, because as soon as you think about it in relation to yourself, you get emotional, subjective, and I don’t necessarily mean you Mike, I mean everyone in general, including myself.
We live in a society, a community, that’s strongly influenced by different sexual attitudes. Sexuality is a real part of our lives. That’s why it is critical to attempt to discuss this issue somewhat dispassionately. And then we’ll bring it back to a personal situation.
Based on this principle, sexuality, according to the Torah view, is essentially a sacred experience.
Even the attraction of male and female to each other, every element of it, is inherently sacred. That is why, in my book, Toward a Meaningful Life (that you mentioned earlier, Mike) I named the chapter on sexuality — “Intimacy.”
And I make the point there that there’s sexuality and there’s intimacy. I would say sexuality is, let’s call it, the physical part of the union; intimacy we’ll call the spiritual part of the union. Sexuality without intimacy is essentially somewhat animalistic and primitive. It is missing a crucial ingredient if it remains merely a physical thing, as mundane, say as consuming food.
Now I’m not saying that sexuality is not pleasurable, even divorced of intimacy, but it’s by no means fulfilling its potential, and I would even say it has many destructive elements if it’s lacking intimacy.
We live today in a crisis of intimacy. People are very sexual, but ask them if they’re intimate. Let me define intimacy. Intimacy is not just a sexual act. It’s not just about technique, and it’s not just in the bedroom. Intimacy is even at the kitchen table. I don’t mean sexuality at the kitchen table, I mean, even at work, it’s the ability to celebrate your vulnerability. To be with someone in an intimate way means that you can share, your defenses are down, you don’t feel the need to protect yourself as you do when you’re in the street, or at work, or when we’re with people who are like sharks and we need to protect ourselves.
Feder: It’s apropos. Because where are people more defenseless than in a sexual setting.
Jacobson: They are, but I must say that people have brought their tools of defenses into the bedroom as well. So sexuality is perceived like an intimate act, but it not always is. In most cases, people are protecting themselves and that’s why you find that there’s a certain kind of frivolousness in sexuality as well.
People, especially you hear it from the male side, and women are trying to emulate that somewhat, a certain depersonalization which people are proud of. “I’m not committed to you, but I’ll have sex with you,” that kind of thing.
That is sexuality without commitment.
Now commitment is sometimes seen by some as the price you pay for getting your sexual needs met. It’s not seen as something to celebrate. Because commitment means, “Oh, that means I also have to provide for her, or she for me, it means taking out the garbage, there are inconveniences.
Feder: This is what I have to do if I want regular sex.
Jacobson: Right. That type of approach. And unfortunately, that has seeped into our culture, where sexuality has become an end in itself, that the act in itself has become an end. What’s missing is that, no, this is a male and female energy that’s uniting in a divine way, and therefore in a sacred way. And part of sexuality is intimacy. Therefore, sexuality is not just about technique and physical preparation, but also communication is an integral part of the intimate experience of a male and female uniting. THIS is what the Torah calls marriage. The intimate committed part of the relationship. The vulnerability that you celebrate. The sanctity that you embrace.
That’s why I wanted to give a preface. You hear the word marriage—I’ll ask the question as a skeptic would, as I do in my book the other way around—”Why should two people get married altogether? Why go through the formality, and the marriage contracts, and marriage licenses and all that stuff, prenuptial agreements…?”
Feder: Well, I wanted to do a whole radio program on marriage sometime…
Jacobson: We will. But I wanted to just state it here. People argue, “Why not just live together?” Some may answer: Well, the families want a party. — I’m just being a little facetious. Others will say, there’s more of a commitment when there’s a contract. And I’ll say, Oh really? In other words, it’s like a business contract.
But remember, when two people don’t love each other, no piece of paper will help then remain truly committed.
Feder: It said in the paper that Marla Maples got cast off because she signed a pre-nuptial agreement, so it was a business deal they made.
Jacobson: Well, yes. Because what’s happening is that intimacy is becoming more and more compromised, and what’s happening is that sexuality is turning into nothing more than another human need. You want to have someone on your arm to go to a party with—there are certain conveniences and my needs need to be met, in other words, sexuality is seen as a need. And a very powerful need, but nothing more.
What I’m trying to suggest is that by taking the approach that you understand this as being a divine experience, what you give is more important as what you get. It’s not as much about your needs as much as it’s about what you give.
Feder: Maybe this is an interesting point to ask as the next question, which flows into this, which is, if all these things which seem to be very subtle, and some things that you have to live with a lot of experience to understand, then let’s talk about teenage sex, which is rampant.
Jacobson: I think it’s important to address this in terms of preventive medicine, from the root, so to speak.
We will get into this a little later, when we discuss what can be done today, under the circumstances, about our sexual/intimacy crisis.
But, you see, I don’t want to shape the thoughts and philosophy based on a crisis, or based on a certain distorted attitude toward sexuality. To put it bluntly, and I don’t like to speak this way, because I don’t want to appear like an evangelist or a preacher, which I’m not, and this show is not meant to be that…we live in a time of crisis in understanding our sexual personalities. We live in a time where we do not fully relate to our intimate personalities. Sexuality becomes increasingly technique, method, conquest, bedroom politics. It’s what we see in the newspapers, it’s how men treat women, how women in turn treat men.
Now there’s much beauty, and I’m not suggesting that there is no great joy out there, but there’s a lot of pain. And personally, I’ve seen much, much pain in this particular area, to the point where many, many people are wondering whether it’s worth it. Or, it’s worth it to some extent but I’m not going to put myself on the line too much.
Feder: There’s a whole movement out there of people choosing celibacy as the way to go.
Jacobson: Okay. That’s one extreme. Or, which I think is even worse, is those that are choosing sexuality but not allowing their intimate selves to emerge. They don’t want to be hurt. So they’re not becoming vulnerable. They’re coming with their tools, but they’ve learned, we’ve learned in a way to be sexual without being personal. It’s almost considered to be a virtue. And some people feel that they just can’t do it. They don’t know why. I would say it’s very healthy that they can’t do it. And those who could, have, in a sense, numbed part of their personalities.
Feder: We’re going to get to the part of the program soon where we’re going to discuss what you think we can do about this, or how to address this, but let me ask you one or two other questions which fit into this whole subject.
One that inevitably comes up is, you were talking the whole program about men and women, then what about homosexuality. There are hundreds of thousands, maybe a couple of million people in this country who identify themselves as homosexual, and maybe even more that don’t identify themselves publicly. This is a big question in this country. And if it’s man and woman struggling towards each other to reach a higher level, then how is it possible that anyone who is a homosexual could be engaging in even legitimate sex from that point of view, from either point of view, the scientific or the Torah. Hard questions but they need to be asked.
Jacobson: It’s important to ask because they’re very relevant today and I embrace the questions. I hope you embrace my answers as well as I embrace your questions!
Feder: I’m listening. I’m sitting here listening…
Jacobson: I’ll say this and I want to address it in context of what you asked earlier about pre-marital sex and so on. I think that there is a very distorted definition of marriage in people’s minds, and that is, that it’s seen as an institution, similar to other institutions in our society. What I was trying to present here is that from a Torah point of view, marriage—let’s not call it marriage, let’s call it sacred union or the sanctity of intimacy and sexuality—the marriage between intimacy and sexuality. That’s what marriage is about. Where two people love each other and that love permeates not just the bedroom, and not just their bodies, but it permeates their psyches, their minds and their hearts, and above all, their souls. They share a common vision, they want to build something greater than the sum of the parts, and sexuality is part of that bigger whole.
When two people like that come together, their sexuality is not just a temporary one-night stand, and it’s not just pleasure-oriented for the moment. Which is good litmus test, by the way. Any sexuality which does not spill over into your daily life, into your work in a healthy way, that makes your life more harmonious, means that it’s sexuality and not intimacy. If it was intimacy, your next day will be a better day, too.
I would go even a step beyond that and say that sexuality divorced of intimacy will not only not spill over into harmony, it will create havoc with the rest of your day. Because either you’re searching for your next mate, or you’re having your politics with this one. It becomes a very embattled state.
Feder: As they say in debates, the question is still sitting on the table.
Jacobson: I’m getting there. I’m not avoiding the question, I’m just articulating what my understanding is, from a Torah perspective, of what a full, complete union is. And therefore, pre-marital sex is a symptom of other underlying problems. So I’m not going to point my finger that that’s the problem.
That’s a result of other problems. That’s a result of young people in a generation like ours that don’t know what sexuality is. What is the reason that we don’t find it acceptable for infants to have sex. Even the concept is repulsive. Why? Because they are not ready for such an experience. They don’t know anything. What do they know about that part of their personalities.
So at what age, I would ask the secular scholar, or the government for that matter, or any parent, at what age exactly is the age of maturity. Is the answer, when they know how to inhale? When they can smoke? When they can drive? Because they become more mature chronologically, or is it because you’re not in control of them, does that make them no longer infants?
Now I’m not suggesting that everyone’s an infant, but I believe that sexuality and spirituality and intimacy are very much interlinked, and you can be 40 years old and still be five years old on a sexual level. Not in sexual experience, mind you, I don’t mean that. But on an understanding of what’s happening when two people come together. Do we even know? Is it anything more than pleasure? Is anything deeper going on?
And what happens when it creates havoc in our lives. And we realize that we have to go to therapy…
So what I’m suggesting is that we’re living in a time, and now I’m leading up to homosexual issue, where our entire sexual identity is completely unknown to most of us, and it’s completely trial and error. People get involved, the dating process, teenagers, experimenting, and with all the confusion of adolescence intertwined with drugs and rock and roll and everything else. And what happens is that once you have the experience, it just contributes to divorcing it from intimacy, from true communication.
The essential problem with pornography has always been stated as being depersonalized sexuality. And pornography doesn’t always mean very overt pornography. There is pornography in spirit. A general attitude to sexuality. Many of the exposé shows on television…
Feder: And every magazine cover you see on a rack.
Jacobson: Exactly. And I’m not from the fire and brimstone point of view. I think those are all symptoms. When you talk to a person individually, as I’m talking to you, and we’re trying to talk to our audience, we’re trying to say to you, look, you have a divine calling, a higher calling to live up to. You have a soul. That is part of your intimacy and part of your sexuality. It’s not divorced. Don’t think that sexuality is a compartmentalized thing and my spiritual search and my transcendental search is another thing.
There’s a soul to your sexuality and there’s a sexuality to your soul.
Feder: Are you calling homosexuality a symptom, then?
Jacobson: Exactly. That’s exactly what I’m leading to. From my point of view, I don’t want to use the word “corrupt,” so I’ll say distorted sexuality can be distorted heterosexuality, which is in many ways similar to a distorted view that ultimately can lead also to homosexuality.
If two men say to me, hey, we love each other and it’s a love no different from any one between a man and a woman, why are you delegitimizing it?
My job is not to delegitimize anything. That’s not my responsibility. And once people are emotionally involved, it’s very difficult to say anything. But my approach would be, and I know many people that I have discussed this with, who do consider themselves to be homosexuals, I don’t attack, so to speak, or directly discuss their homosexual natures. I will discuss what is sexuality? What is intimacy? And divorced of male/female, let’s just talk about the concept.
There may be disagreements, but the presentation I would make is that yes, there is such a thing as a distorted view of sexuality. There are sexual aberrations and I’m not ashamed to say that homosexuality is prohibited in the Torah, not because of some taboo or something of other nature, it’s because it doesn’t fit into, let’s call it, the intimate experience that G-d intended for human beings.
Feder: I don’t understand why it wouldn’t. Let’s just say if two men live together for 25 years, forget about the fact that they want to get married, but let’s say that they live together for 25 years and there is a beauty to their love, maybe other people can see it, what in any way is different about that than the people who live next door who are man and woman?
Jacobson: Because healthy sexuality, like any healthy behavior, cannot be based solely on people’s subjective feelings. Let me give you an example.
There’s a man and woman living with each other, not in marriage, they’re just living with each other, and it’s very beautiful. Their union may be more beautiful than a couple married in a court of law in a religious ceremony, and they’re just bickering with each other and their relationship continues to erode.
Let’s just use that as an example.
So the same argument can be made. Here two people are living with each other and there’s no marriage. Their relationship is healthy, secure, and wholesome.
And here are people who are married, and they just don’t get along with each other. As we see so often today. My approach to all these scenarios would be the same: that all of them are not necessarily living up to the Torah standards for a true marriage. The unhappy marriage I described may be a marriage in the technical sense, but they’re not truly married in the spiritual sense of it. Marriage is much, much more than technical. They went through a ceremony. Human beings are human beings, and they can mess it up.
I would say that marriage, as I understand it, is a divine union. If these two people that are living with each other would actually get married in the spiritual sense, in a true ceremony, their union would be even more wholesome than it is now, they would access their deepest intimate potential. It’s like the argument where people say, “Here’s a religious person who’s following Torah law and he’s a crook. And here’s a person who doesn’t follow Torah law and he’s an ethical, kind person.”
My answer is, don’t throw out the baby with the bath water; meaning, do not confuse people with the system. So what I’m discussing here is the system. My argument would be that the question is not what two people say about their relationship. The question is, what is the spiritual perspective on that relationship.
Feder: From whose point of view?
Jacobson: Well, that’s why I began this whole program saying that I am coming from a Torah point of view. That there is a system, and again, I’m not trying to force this system onto anyone, I’m presenting it. But I have the right to present a system that has a very clear and distinct approach. And the approach would be that you two men may love each other, but there may be distortions in what you call love. There may be distortions in what is true intimacy.
The fact that you both are happy with each other isn’t the only criteria for what makes a relationship work. How would I approach it? I’d tell them, you need to study more about what sexuality is. What male energy is, what female energy is. Now, I know it’s difficult, because people who are in such relationships like that say, “This is my natural place. I’ve tried to be married.” I know. I have people that I’ve studied with who say, “I was married and I tried it. But it kept going against the grain of my nature.”
So what did I say to a person like that? I don’t reject anyone with that nature. I don’t throw them out…I will say to them, as a friend, and we remain friends—gay people come to my classes; some openly, some not openly, but I know of it because some of them have shared with me—and they’ll come to a class where I’ll say very clearly: we live in a time of a crisis in sexuality. Part of the symptoms is the homosexuality in our times. And I’ll say it very clearly.
Many people in society think they’re happy. Just because they think they’re happy doesn’t mean they’re happy. Am I here to take away their happiness? No. G-d forbid. But I am here to present a perspective. Do with it what you wish. And that’s how I’d present it, as I do right now. And I would say as follows:
That two human beings can love each other, male/male, female/female, male/female. Love has many forms. But when we’re talking about the sexual, intimate side, we’re dealing with forces that are not completely known to us. There’s a mystique. No one really understands sexuality.
What I will say, as I write in my book, that sexuality is Divine energy. It is like entering into the Holy of Holies with G-d. There are forces that are unleashed at that moment that many of us do not have a conscious understanding of.
We do have the pleasure element that we sense. We feel the closeness. Something gratifies us. But that’s a very small part of what sexuality is. So the fact that many, many people are having sex in a very frivolous way, in uncommitted ways, or even committed but in what Torah considers as an aberration, not in synch with our spiritual personalities, or in homosexual relationships or others, that still does not faze me from saying that sexuality is much more than that, and I would, as a friend of yours, suggest that I’ll study with you, what is the soul? What is intimacy? Are you living up to your highest potential?
It’s the same as if I’d met someone who said to me, “I’m happy! I don’t need G-d. I don’t need morality. I’m living my life and I’m happy. What do you want from me? Do you want to make my life miserable?”
G-d forbid I don’t want to make anyone’s life miserable. But I will say to the person, you know, you have 90% potential that you haven’t even touched. I’m a friend of yours. I don’t want you to be 90 years old and it will be too late for you to access your potential.
The person will say, yes, but that’s not your business. That’s my business.
If someone does say that to me, I’ll still persist and say look, as a friend, I’ll remind you once in a while.
Listen, Mike, someone came to my class, and came every Wednesday night for two years, and after two years he stopped coming. A few months passed and I hadn’t heard from him, so I thought, I don’t know what it is. You know, everyone has their journey.
He calls me up and says to me after two months, “I want you to know that I stopped coming to your class not because you said anything wrong. You didn’t offend me in any way and I think your classes are great. I stopped coming because you’re making my life miserable. Why? Because I’m still young and I want to have some fun. You’re making me too aware. I don’t want to know all this. It’s too much. It’s making me feel guilty. It makes me feel that I have to live up to something greater. I still have a few years, and I want to be a party animal.
Feder: So when he gets around to it, when the pupil is ready, the master appears…
Jacobson: So he did appear a few weeks later, and I didn’t mention any names, I said, “I just want you to know that there’s a person sitting here in this class who has brought me to make the following statement: I wish I made more people’s lives miserable.”
G-d forbid I don’t want to make anyone’s life miserable. I think, more knowledge, more pain, including myself. You don’t always want to know everything. But I do want to say this. I think that at the end of the day most of us would like to live with some integrity, to be true to ourselves. If someone believes that he or she is happy, let them live with that, and I’m not here to disrupt that. But that in itself is not enough reason to say that they’ve reached their zenith, their goals. Happiness is very relative. I’ve seen people who have become happy with the worst of circumstances. Like women who have been battered in a relationship. They’re happy. Because to go out into the street is worse. So they choose the worst of two evils.
I’m not suggesting that every relationship is that way. But I think that we’re quite subjective and we’re quite resilient, meaning, that we accommodate, we work with what we have, and unfortunately, most young people today are getting on their platter a sexual identity, or a sexual approach, that’s far, far from giving them really healthy options, far, far for allowing them to actualize their greatest potential.
Feder: Okay, let’s just take a moment to thank the person responsible for bringing tonight’s show to you. Tonight’s show has been underwritten by Ivan Stux, whom we applaud for helping us bring this kind of programming to people.
Jacobson: Yes, Ivan Stux has been a close friend and a great benefactor, and has also motivated many others. I want to personally thank him myself.
Feder: All right, so we have only a few minutes left and I’ll put it to you this way. There is teenage sex everywhere. There is irresponsibility: children being born everywhere. There’s sexuality everywhere you look. We’re overwhelmed by it. There are things which you called symptoms, as you called it, everywhere. You say that the lack of intimacy is a kind of tidal wave in this country, it’s everywhere. It’s something that needs to be addressed. There is, in fact, even the subject of sex education in schools and people don’t quite know what to do about that, but the point of it all is, as you said yourself during the course of the program, intimacy and sexuality seem to be divorced, and there’s a big problem in the country, and we’d like to end the program with addressing ways in which you see that people can prevent this and to help it out.
Jacobson: Well, much that’s being addressed is, as you said, on a symptomatic level. You hear a lot about “safe sex,” not to pass along disease, and so on, which is, literally, the very tip of the iceberg. I believe that this is a result of a resignation that has settled in, many have resigned themselves to the fact that we cannot do much about the prevalent attitudes to sexuality, and that’s just the way it is, that’s the way it’s going to stay, so at least keep it as safe as possible.
Fine. Anything that keeps people healthy is good. Short term. But on a deeper level, with an issue like this, it’s hard to make quick suggestions, but I will say this: that the younger age you begin with this type of sensitivity to healthy intimacy, the better it is. We start developing our sexual attitudes at a very young age, by example, in our homes, in schools, what we see on TV. So the younger the better, as they say: When we are young we are like warm wax, where every experience is etched and engraved into our personalities, shaping and hardening as we grow and the wax hardens, thus bearing fruit that has such a profound impact much later in life.
I think as far as speaking to parents and educators, particularly of the young, it doesn’t mean to give overt sexual education to a 3-year-old, but you can teach healthy intimacy to a 3-year-old. What I mean is you can teach a 3-year-old how to communicate in a trusting way.
Feder: Or how to let your defenses down.
Jacobson: Right. That even as you develop your defenses, always be in touch with your vulnerability, be in touch with your child. It’s a nurturing environment that just allows you to trust your voices as you grow older. Because one of the single, most important challenges in life are the disappointments. We grow older and we get disappointed, so we protect ourselves. It’s like we go into a deeper shell. So my shell’s hardened. When your shell’s hardened, your sexuality is going to get more and more divorced of your intimacy. Because you still remain sexual. We’re not talking about someone who chooses celibacy. We’re talking about someone who chooses sexuality, but their sexuality is in a shell. The person remains in a shell, and they allow their sexuality out for a night, for a few years…
The education process must contain teaching young people, and I include older people as well, what it means to be a sensitive human being. And essentially it comes down to the fact that you have a soul. A soul that was created in the divine image. You are, in a way, half a soul, and there’s someone out there who’s like a long lost friend, to your soul. And that’s your counterpart. Male and female.
We must tell ourselves, our children, each other: You are responsible for your divine image, for your soul, for your intimacy. Let us make it a call for our times to sanctify our attraction to the opposite sex. How many people actually think about this attraction in a sacred way? For many people, attraction is about leering or flirting, but there’s something sacred there. The sanctity is that there’s a divine calling. A divine calling that takes the shape of male/female attraction, but there’s much more there than just whistling. It’s much more than just trivial experience. There’s a certain sanctity to it. And the sanctity is very much linked in how you treat human beings. Because ultimately, we hear this constantly, it’s a matter of respect. Is there really respect from one sex to the other? Do most men really have true respect for a woman? Or is she just an object? And respect for a woman means that you respect the divine image in that woman, and vice versa.
There’s the rebound effect of a woman treating a man in kind. So it becomes a vicious cycle. Remember, it’s not just a question of respecting the opposite sex, it’s a question of respecting all human beings. It’s a sensitivity that a person is special not because you’re attracted to him or her, it’s respect because there’s a divine image in every human being.
This requires a new emphasis in our education, because our current education system doesn’t teach us that. It teaches everything that’s the opposite: to value people for their looks (just look at any glamour magazine) and so, on a final note, it’s recognizing the divine image in yourself and in other people, and remembering that life is much more than just a nice, entertaining ride for a few minutes. It has a divine and higher destiny to it.
Feder: Thank you.