The fall of the Temple is the mythic expression of the exile of the erotic, not only into the sexual, but specifically into boundary-breaking sexuality102. Listen in on a strange and wonderfully mythic Talmudic discussion!
A man is struck by the beauty of a particular woman.
His heart becomes sick. He falls deathly ill. Doctors are consulted.
Their response: “He cannot be healed unless he has sexual intercourse with her.”
The Sages’ succinct reply: “Let him die and not sleep with her!”
“So let her stand naked before him,” urge the doctors.
“Let him die and she should not stand naked before him!” the sages respond.
“Let her talk to him from behind the fence (erotic conversation),” press the doctors. Reply the sages, “Let him die and not be engaged by her in erotic conversation.”
This striking case becomes a locus classicus in the debates of the academy for many generations to come. One of the central issues debated and recorded in the Talmud was the identity of the beautiful woman. One school held that she was married, a second school held that she was single. According to the school that said she was married, it is understandable why there would be opposition to a sexual encounter between our lovesick client and a married woman.
“And if she were single?” queries a voice in the Talmud. “Surely we should allow her to save his life through some sort of minimal sexual engagement, verbal, visual or otherwise?’
“No!” roars a second voice from the pages, “For if we did so it would undermine the personal integrity of women.”
“Well then,” offers a third voice, “If she is single and he is single…Let them marry!” “No, for if he married her,” responds the same voice to its own query, “she would not settle his spirit (she would not satisfy his erotic need), for it is written, ‘Stolen waters are sweet.’”105
“Stolen waters are sweet.”
This terse epigram means quite simply that once married the sexual excitement will recede and he will not be fulfilled. Only in the context of ‘stolen waters’- the thrill of illicit relations – could this man be sated. He is only interested in her as an already married or unavailable woman; once she is available he will quickly lose his lust.
This is not viewed as the peculiar weakness of the man in the story. Rather, the man is a symbol of the times. And here we get to the essence of the text, where the wisdom masters draw a most provocative conclusion:
“From the day the Temple was destroyed the taste of sex has been taken away and given to sinners.”
That is to say, the “taste of sex” is experienced only in illicit relationship! On the face of it the passage makes little sense. What could the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem possible have to do with varieties of sexual satisfaction?
This begins to place within the hidden mysteries of the temple. With God’s help more tomorrow..
posted on marcgafni.com
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