Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sex in the Synagogue

The first episode of Good Shabbos Nebraska turned out to be a bit controversial.

As a guest we had America's Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.  Shmuley is used to being on Talk Shows, and he knows what to say to get the audience excited.

I asked him about the book that he wrote about one of the most famous people in history, who billions of people around the world consider to be God!  So he spoke about his book "The Michael Jackson Tapes." He also spoke about his book "Kosher Jesus."
With every guest on Good Shabbos Nebraska the main topic of conversation is always the weekly Torah portion.  So we spent some time talking about The global destruction that occurred in parshat Noach.  God told Noach that he was going to bring about a flood that would destroy the entire world, millions of people, and Noach does not voice a single word of protest.  Noach seems to accept the oncoming disaster as God's will and only wants to know what he can do to save himself and his family.

Shmuley said this is why Noach is not chosen to be the father of the Jewish people.  Our father is Avraham.  When he was told that the wicked people of Sodom would be killed he challenged God's decision and demanded justice.  This concept of the Jewish view of challenging God is the subject of Shmuley's latest book "Fed Up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering."  (after Shabbat he did a book signing and we still have a few autographed copies on sale at the Shul.  Call the shul and order yours today. This offer expiers October 15, 2013)

The parshah also discusses Noach's aftermath.  The Torah says that he got drunk and was involved in some type of sexual misconduct.  Shmuley used this as an opportunity to talk about his books on Sex, particularly his 1999 international best seller "Kosher Sex" and a preview of his upcoming book "Kosher Lust."
Shmuley had a lot to say about the sex stuff, and the conversation got pretty graphic.  The audience loved it, but I could tell that there were some in the audience who were getting uncomfortable.  When Shmuley finished I made a point.
"There are many Rabbis who would be squirming in their seats during that discussion.  Some people might feel that the synagogue is not an appropriate venue to discuss sex.  But the Torah tells us differently.  In the parshah we just read, there was a graphic nude scene, and the midrash on that episode speaks about Noach being raped by his son.  On Yom Kippur we read all about illicit sexual relationships.  Everyone here is constantly exposed to unkosher sex outside of shul through movies and television.  It is about time we had an open discussion about kosher sex from a Rabbi inside shul."
Good Shabbos Nebraska received a lot of positive feedback, but for me the most important feedback was from parents who thanked me for bringing Shmuley because they felt that their kids benefited from hearing a Rabbi speak so openly about the Jewish perspective on sex.

The first week was great, but the real barometer for success will be how many people come back this week, and next week, and the week after, and a month from now, and a year from now.  We are trying to change the culture of shul and ensure that when the next Pew study comes out the American Jewish community gets an A+ on our report card.

Every week on GSN will be a fresh and engaging discussion with contemporary Judaism's most exciting personalities.  This week we are hosting Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Rosenbaum, renowned scholar and archaeologist.  The Torah portion talks about Abraham and we are going to discuss exactly how much evidence is there that there even was an Abraham?

Good Shabbos Nebraska is every week at 10am ONLY at Beth Israel Synagogue.  Where every Shabbos is  Shabbaton!


  1. How could it possibly be acceptable to make money off of—and publicize and publish—the intimate conversations a rabbi had with someone else?

  2. If you read the book you will see that it was MJ express wishes that the conversations be recorded and made into a book.