REVIEW by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
Kosher Lust (Love is Not the Answer), by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, 227 pages – hardcover, Gefen Publishers.
“Kosher Lust”, a controversial title to say the least. Not one you expect from a “real” Jewish orthodox seriously religious rabbi. Yet, while Rabbi Boteach has become controversial specifically for publishing such titles and showing up in the mass media, he not only is a real orthodox rabbi, he is a real chassidic rabbi.
As for the controversial title, he’s clearly trying to reach a wide audience and using the shock value to do so. It’s certainly not a traditional technique, but it worked well enough that the book caught one of my children’s attention and had them make a purchase.
This book is NOT a frum Jewish community sefer. It IS perfectly acceptable for such an audience, presenting it’s ideas in a clean and modest way, and has a message of equal value for religious and secular readers. But the concepts are all phrased in general moral terminology as opposed to the specific Torah terminology used in Jewish religious books. That’s good, it means people of all and no religious faith can benefit. But don’t pick it up expecting to be reading a sefer (Jewish religious book).
The author starts with a startling and frightening premise… Houston, we have a problem with marriage:
- Divorce rates have been at 50% for 50 years!
- Married couples are now less that 45% of all households!
- There are more help books for marriage, marriage advice TV shows, marriage therapy, etc, available now than any time in history… yet marriage isn’t working to the point that marital success is now a minority situation.
- The average duration of a marriage today is 8 years!
- 53% of children are now born to unmarried parents (averaged across all communities)!
These are all US statistics, which turn out to be some of the best in the world! In many other places the statistics are WORSE. In Norway and Finland, it’s 30% worse. In some South American countries, it’s 50% worse!
As the author says, it seems the only people who want to get married nowadays are same-gender oriented.
So the author successfully identifies his problem: Marriage has failed in the modern world. He then moves on to his primary theses… Too much “love”, warm – friendly – comfortable, too little “lust”, yearning – desire – striving to connect.
The rabbi points out that lust is discussed in the bible, it’s yearning for G-d, it’s thirsting to be connected, it’s the drive to be with G-d, and quotes biblical quotes supporting this.
He then discusses counseling sessions he’s had with people who cheat on their marriages. They often sit and tell how they love their spouse even though they were drawn to another. He uses a number of such stories to demonstrate that lust is strongly than love – though never sustaining. Just as it blows up in a big flame, it dies away. He follows this up with how lust fades away in a modern marriage.
He gets there with anecdotes, statistics, stories, and repetitiveness. The statistics and stories are good, the anecdotes tolerable, the repetitiveness – not so much.
Then he gets into understanding lust. “The three principles of lust… unavailability, mystery, forbiddenness.”
Finally he gets into how to infuse lust into your marriage, directing it appropriately at your spouse and thereby energizing a marriage for life. Naturally because lust is a “it blows up and dies down”, it’s a process that ebbs and flows. This section gets more graphic, discussing maximizing the marital relationship and biblical guidance for doing so.
For those who have spent a lifetime hearing about love and maintaining a warm loving relationship, the discussion is somewhat bizarre. But the author makes his point… marriage and the marital techniques being represented today aren’t cutting it (perhaps with the exception of various serious religious communities – where communal mores either focus or prevent the interfering issues of modern society).
I buy the argument and make it a suggested read for anyone who’s marriage is cooling off or worried it might head there in the future.