Amy Ariel writes for TC Jewfolk and is so well-known for her Jewish sexuality and youth work that three different Jewish Bostonians have connected me to her over the years. I was thrilled when she offered to share her thoughts on sex in relation to this week’s Jewish holiday, in which we celebrate the completion of the past year’s cycle of Torah readings and begin reading it all over again.
I am 38 ½ years old, and I’m pretty excited about getting older. After a diagnosis of Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, many rounds of chemo, a bone marrow transplant, graft-versus-host disease, 28 official cancer-free months, and continued recovery, I am back to counting half-birthdays. I know much of majority culture revels in staying young, but because we Jews are counter-cultural in so many ways, I feel well prepared to go against the grain on this one. I’m looking forward to 40 and have fantasies about being 80.
That’s why Simchat Torah is my favorite holiday.
Contrary to the American propensity for dissatisfaction with anything we’ve had for long, once we complete the reading of the Torah, we roll back to the beginning and start again. We don’t start the New Year with a new book. We start the New Year going back to the beginning of the oldest book we have. As of this year, I’ve been reading the Torah throughout the year for 20 years. Twenty years is a pretty long relationship. For me, Simchat Torah is about the possibility of discovering something new in something familiar, something I have explored several times before.
Which is also like sex.
At least, as a nearly 40-year-old adult in a long-term, committed relationship, I think it’s like sex.
From what I see in popular culture, I might think that a long-term, committed relationship is as bad for one’s sex life as aging is. After all, how can sex be interesting with the same person year after year after year? How can sex be fun as we age?
I love that Simchat Torah inspires me to think about what it could mean to have sex with the same person year after year after year and not only enjoy it, but revel in it. Judaism challenges us to think deeply and live ethically. It also commands us to be open to opportunities for joy and pleasure. We study the Torah, and we dance with it. We kiss each other in the same places and share and delight in new responses. In a long-term relationship, we touch the same body, and we touch with the same body. We read the same Torah portions and the same words and discover new insights. We gain experience and maturity. We grow older, our partner grows older, and so does our tradition.
In Simchat Torah I find the counter-cultural idea that just like reading the Torah again and again year after year after year, sex with the same person over and over and over again can continue to be playful, meaningful, and something to celebrate.