Sex is not the Garden of Eden's forbidden fruit
The conflict over sex occurs later in the history of Judeo-Christian interpretations of the biblical text. For Christians who were influenced by the Greek world, matter (the body) was of lower importance than form (the soul). Since sex is a bodily pleasure it was considered by certain Christian interpreters to be a lower pleasure than the purely spiritual pleasures of the soul. This produced a more favorable view of celibacy in Christianity. Both Judaism and Christianity however in their formative texts maintain the biblical view that the main purpose of sex is procreation and not just physical pleasure.
In sum, we human beings are made in the image of God but we are also animals with animal urges. It is the balance of our spiritual side and our animal side that sets the limits for the journey of our embodied but holy lives.
From the mailbag:
My story about the family who named their child after their dead dog brought a bunch of notes like these:
-- From N: The naming tradition that you mentioned -- naming after a dead person -- is not observed by the Sephardim (Jews from Mediterranean countries as opposed to the Ashkenazim Jews who came from Central and Eastern Europe). I am of mixed heritage. I have an Ashkenazi father and a Sephardic mother. I am named after my (then living) grandfather and my deceased grandmother.
-- And this one from L: Please offer an apology to your readers you misquoted Jewish law about the naming after the living. I am named after my living grandfather as it is the custom of Sephardic Jews. As many learned rabbis have informed me, that it is a custom, not a law, that Jews do not name after the living. I'm a longtime reader of your column and look forward to it every week.
A: Thank you, N and L, for reminding me of the custom that I know well requiring Jews to name babies after deceased relatives. You are correct that the custom is only applicable to European Jews who do, however, represent the vast majority of American Jews. I am still deep into my research about the custom of naming babies after dogs, deceased or living, and will let you know how that research turns out.
(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at email@example.com. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including "Religion for Dummies," co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman.)(c) 2019 THE GOD SQUAD DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.