Pornography, prostitution, “good sex” from a Jewish feminist perspective, gay sex, and sex between Jews and non-Jews are just a few of the topics of the articles compiled by Rabbi Dr. Danya Ruttenberg in her anthology, The Passionate Torah: Sex and Judaism. These provocative articles are not meant to be titillating but to shed light on topics often not viewed from a variety of perspectives. The precept underpinning all of the articles is that “sexuality itself is a societal construct worthy of examination.” This belief, argues Ruttenberg, enables us to explore “a whole new set of questions” about “our time-honored traditions” which will speak to our “ever-evolving understanding of human potential.”
The 18 articles are organized within the Martin Buber paradigm of relationships: “I‑It” relationships and “I‑Thou” and a new category “We-Thou” relationships. The first articles focus on those issues in Jewish learning in which the other person is treated as an “It,” such as in pornography and prostitution. The second group of articles focuses on issues of “IThou” relationships in which mutual love and respect prevails, such as discussions of marital and non-marital sex. The last group of articles, “We-Thou Visions,” offers a new non-Buber model, which helps the reader “think about ways in which the community as a whole might imagine a shared future” through a discussion of such topics as new ethics around homosexuality, androgyny, sexual desire, and Tzniut, or the Rabbinic view of modesty.
The authors of the articles are a diverse group: men and women, gays and straights, rabbis (Reform, Conservative, Jewish Renewal, Traditional), and academics in the United States, Israel, Canada, and Australia. Many of the authors are leading critical theorists on gender and sexuality and Judaism. The thread that connects all their work is a commitment to social activism and humanist and feminist views of sexuality and gender.
This book offers the rabbi, the scholar, and the activist important analytical articles. It also provides the average reader with an opportunity to read short, interesting cutting- edge essays written in the language of feminist scholars who extensively cite biblical, rabbinic, Talmudic, cultural, feminist, and queer studies.
Ruttenberg is the author of the 2010 Sami Rohr Prize finalist, Surprised by God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion, and editor of the anthology Yentl’s Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism. She is also a contributing editor to both Lilith and Women in Judaism. She was ordained as a Conservative rabbi by the Ziegler School of the American Jewish University. Glossary, index of sources and subject index, notes.