*yawn*

You may:
– sunbathe topless on your own property or in the complete nude, but the latter only if nobody can see you.
– sunbathe topless on public beaches.
– be in the nude on nude beaches or at nude holiday resorts / camping sites.
– take pics of your children on the beach or in the tub if this clearly happens in all decency.
– display and view nipples and behinds on TV, in newspapers and on billboards.

You may not:
– completely expose yourself to unsuspecting strangers in person as well as through images.
– completely expose yourself to minors in person as well as through images.
– go streaking.
– (women) be topless at beach bars etc. unless it’s a clothing-optional place.
– enable minors to get hands on or watch pornography.

The aversion to public nudity, displays of affection and sexuality in the US that has found its extreme reflection in endless rules on tznius clothing and behaviour among Orthodox Jews is greatly influenced by Puritanism. Puritans in Europe would not have curtains in their windows so anybody could see they weren’t doing anything improper. Jokingly, people later assumed that this was so because Napoleon had levied a tax on curtains, but that is nothing but an urban legend. Judaism in Europe used to be pretty lax about nudity until it saw a need to cover up so not to provoke the increasingly prudish Christian environments, Protestant ascetics in particular. Nudes have always been a popular topic among Jewish artists, which in the early twentieth century CE resulted in the prejudice of Jews spreading pornography or being immoral. BTW, since I hear and read lots of incorrect assumptions about them, Catholic sexual morals are pretty much the same as Jewish ones and are even lenient on sexual intercourse during and after a woman’s period since it’s an expression of bonding in a relationship. So it may come as little surprise that particularly in those areas and cities were predominantly Jews and Catholics dwell, studies on sexuality frequently determine the highest rate of intercourse as well as the highest rate of people’s contentedness with their sex lives.

But we shouldn’t be bragging.

About the author

froylein

45 Comments

  • “Judaism in Europe used to be pretty lax about nudity until it saw a need to cover up so not to provoke the increasingly prudish Christian environments, Protestant ascetics in particular.”

    Source, please?

    Yehuda

  • Aplenty, Yehuda, how good’s your German? Then I’d suggest the Monumenta Judaica. But you should also be able to find something in the works by Nicholas DeLange.

  • Every now and then, I’ll see a naked person walking the streets of Boston. I’ll now assume he or she is Jewish.

  • Seriously, I wouldn’t attribute US attitudes about this to puritanism. Until fairly recently, the US was trending Europe’s way in terms of topless/nakedness, albeit slowly. Two things seem to have caused that to change: (1) the web, which has eroded privacy so that naked on the beach today, naked worldwide tomorrow; and (2) the pedophilia scare. Logically or not, town and other authorities connect full-on adult exposure with improper conduct with/around children.

    Still another explanation a friend of mine makes: younger folks are inured to a highly sexualized culture which casts public nakedness as a sexual gesture, not hippy-esque eccentricity or strength-through-joy character-building.

  • You’re the one who brought up the subject, froylein. I think it’s reasonable to ask you for a cite. How hard could a link be? I’m not planning on researching Jewish attitudes to nudity in a scholarly way.

    You said, basically, that the Jews became prudes because of the Protestants, giving the impression that Jews and Catholics were happily sunbathing in the nude and boinking their brains out until Marin Luther screwed things up. That’s a pretty big statement. It shouldn’t surpise you if people say “Huh? Show me where you read that”.

    The Muslims, with their screwed-up attitudes towards sex, obviously put the kibosh on all those free-wheeling Jewish Yemenite nudist colonies, Amir.

    As for discussions of sex and nudity in Tanach, to what precisely are you referring, froylein? Shir ha Shirim, f’rexample, has traditionally been interpreted allegorically. Frank discussions of sex don’t automatically mean people were wandering around with their clothes off.

    Or are you talking about the Frankists?

  • Martin Luther was a very bad apple, but he alone isn’t responsible for our problems, I’ll admit that. Still, maybe Jews and Catholics should gang up on Protestants.

  • Ephraim, by far not all information published in scientific books is available on the net, but if I find a netsource, I’ll link to it. Again, the internet is a research toy, not a tool. The books respectively author I mentioned above are high quality though and worth investing in. From a scholarly point of view, it’s not reasonable to ask for internet sources – many university departments fail students that cite internet sources, for good reason at that.

    Also, I didn’t say that Catholics and Jews were naturally always in the nude, but if you look at images and also texts from the late Antiquity as well as early Middle Ages, you’ll see that nudity, sexuality and even crude sexualized language were pretty common; ascetic Protestant theology, like e.g. Puritan theology, is indeed opposed to nudity and anything frivolous (read up on Oliver Cromwell for instance).

    King David watched Batsebah bathing in the nude; there’s no concern about indecency mentioned, no scorn, no chiding. It was considered most natural, which also reflects in that during his reign and the reign of King Solomon sexual intercourse alone constituted as a wedding, so people must have been open about their sexuality. Also, as for the Song of Solomon, I suggest you take a look at EV’s comic. There’s a definite clash between critical, scholarly, scientific exegesis and Diaspora rabbinical interpretation. If it were a metaphor, by any means of stylistics, it wouldn’t be so explicitly sexual.

    Tom, former American openness about nudity and sexuality has always rung me as inauthentic, forced and somewhat pretentious. As a friend of mine from Oregon likes to put it, “Keep in mind, not all of the US is NYC.”

  • Jesus for His part was entirely silent about toplessness; ergo it is surely permitted.

  • The rabbis lurking on this thread can correct me if I’m wrong, but AFAIK, halchically speaking, having sexual intercourse has always been one way of establishing a marriage. That doesn’t mean that Jews believed in what we would call today “free love”. It meant that if you had sex with a woman you were married to her.

    Explicit sexual imagery is as old as man. Everybody knows that ancient Greeks, Romans, etc. loved their pornography. What has that to do with the Jews? Are you saying that the Jews created porn in the way everybody else did?

    And who said Jews think that sexual intercourse is unnatural? Halacha simply puts restrictions on its expression, just like it does with everything else (e.g., eating). Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean that you can indulge your sexual urge in any way you want and that any such indulgence is by definition good since sex is “natural”. People sometimes have a “natural” urge to muder other people, but nobody says in this case “If it feels good, do it”.

    Are you saying that it is only galut rabbis who were so stupid that they couldn’t see that Shir ha Shirim was obviously about real, not allegorical, sex?

  • There’s little mentioning of sexuality in the gospels as far as I can recall, Tom. I think this is connected to the eschatological message that seems to be the gospels’ main concern. Later theologians then largely determined what immanent life had to be like to get rewarded “on the other side”. (That’s what I recall from a conversation with a Catholic professor of Second Testament exegesis.) But during Jesus’ of Nazareth lifetime, people believed the end of the world was imminent.

  • Also:

    You actually think that comic has something valuable to say? You must be joking.

  • This may be a matter covered by Jesus’s admonition that the law of Moses remained binding. Now, I’ll have to parse Ephraim carefully. Hmm.

  • Ephraim, firstly, “rabbis” are a Diaspora thing that only came up due to the diaspora situation and the lack of the temple. And it took many centuries to have some standardized formal training and ordination. Many a shtetl rabbi simply was rabbi because he was the wisest or most experienced person. Rabbis were first mentioned in the Mishnah (codified aprrox. 200CE). If you’re lenient, you could label all sages, prophets etc. of old as rabbis, but that would mess with the understanding of the changes Judaism has taken during the rabbinical period. The use of the word “rabbi” in the gospels is considered a later addition anachronism by exegetes (Jewish ones, too).

    Sexual intercourse has been a way to consumate as in manifest the marriage, but in the times of King Solomon, it also constituted as the wedding (lots of shocking material to be found if you care to read up on the evolvement of Jewish wedding customs). If sexual intercourse alone gets you married, needless to say you need to admit to it in some public way for people to consider you married.

    And why would Jews not produce pornography? Just because the destruction of the ancient state leaves us pretty much sourceless doesn’t mean they didn’t enjoy pornography just as other cultures of their time did. I’d assume this particularly for the period of cultural Hellenization, when the common language even had become Greek and Hebrew was merely spoken by those associated with Temple duties. (That’s also the reasons why the gospels, besides John, were written in Greek. They were written for the common people, and those, from sometime around the ’40s till ’70, spoke Greek, not Hebrew.) There were prostitutes, that we know for sure.

  • Prophets, sages, elders, Men of the Great Assembly, whatever you want to call them.

    I am perfectly aware that the Judaism we have today is the culmination of a long evolution. What is your point?

    And what do you mean by “shocking” material? That marriage was a crass sommercial transaction and that a man could “buy” a woman and make her his wife by giving her something worth a couple of zuzim? And why would you think I would be shocked to find out that having sex constituted a mariage? I just said that it did, so I can’t imagine why you would think that would surprise me.

    I’m prety sure that ancient Jews liked their pron. Who is not interested in sex? I asked you if there are records of Jews producng the kind of explicit stuff the greeks and the Romansd are famous for.

    Also, just because Jews do it doesn’t mean that it has religious sanction. Saying that the ancient Jews liked to look at dirty pictures just like everyone else doesn’t mean much of anything. That’s sort of like using Heeb or Jewcy as a standard by which to judge what Orthodoxy has to say about things.

  • Oh yeah, I forgot:

    Since when haven’t there been prostitutes? What is the existence of prostitution supposed to prove? Does the fact that there were prostitutes in Rome in, say, 1500 mean that Catholicism has always approved of whores?

    No cheap jokes, please. 😉

  • Ephraim, I’m currently on a slow connection, so I hope this’ll go through. I’d read your line of a man and a woman having sex being married as conditional, not consecutive, so that was some ambiguity in my understanding. Sorry for that.

    I’ll try to get in touch with some acquaintance in Israel that teaches Jewish history / archaeology at some university; he might know about Ancient Jewish pornography, but as I’ve mentioned before, sources from that time are scarce.

    I’ve pointed out the developments in Judaism to emphasize the multitude of changes brought about during the rabbinical period compared to the biblical (& settlement) period, which largely affected the reading of biblical texts under the influence of Greek philosophy first and Enlightment philosophy later on, often grossly neglecting the socio-cultural contexts of the Oriental Environment the texts were written in.

    Really, read up on Cromwell. He represents about anything Puritans feel about sexuality.

    Rome around 1500. Wasn’t that Sixtus V.? That pope was such a crook that no later pope named himself Sixtus because of him, but earlier (e.g. Borgia) popes not all were celibate – nor were they exactly expected to, but that’s a different issue altogether.

    Anyhow, my connection’s lame here, so I’ll try to answer everything sometime soon.

  • if the jews and catholics ganged up on the prostants, does that mean we forget the progams in europe by the catholics, by the way a jew that was the brother of the son of joseph, called the catholics and martin luthur one of the same, dogs. which the martin luthur was given the proverb of having the horns like a ram but speaks like a dog. history will already prove johns words, they still are dogs. ridden by an occasional whore.

  • Actually, I want to hear more about these programs for ganging up on the prostates that winter is talking about.

    And I hope he can tell us what words Lex Luthur and the johns said to the whores, too. Especially if they had something to do with rams and dogs.

    Sounds quite kinky.

  • Shocking material regarding weddings, part 1: look at the customs of bridal clothing for instance. Whenever I point out to Jewesses of Hungarian descendence who want a traditional Jewish wedding that traditional garb for Hungarian Jewish brides were yellow & red dresses, they tend to get hysterically upset. The breaking of glasses, as I’ve mentioned before, is a custom picked up in the Rhineland and hadn’t been documented before the 13th century CE. The much incorrectly cited line from the Talmud merely states that at joyous occasions, people should remember not to enjoy too much for the temple being gone and the resulting situation. There’s no mention of breaking anything in there; I’ve been pointed to online editions though that added that kind of info matter of factly – by my standards, that’s forgery and deceitful. So, you need not waste a perfectly good glass. You could also break a pencil for all the symbolicism you may need. Or have my sis cater to the occasion. I guarantee her couscous-asparagus combo will leave you not enjoying too much.

    Chutzpah, no worries, the next few sequels likely will be not as heavily commented on.

    Though I still wonder what winter’s trying to tell us. There used to be a lot of cultural exchange during the relatively peaceful times of living together in between the progromes, which only just adds to the perfidity of those. I once went to a talk Prof.em. Meier Schwartz from HUJI (Does anybody know whether he’s still around?) was giving here on Jewish life in this area, and he said that whenever Jewish parents in the rural areas had to decide between sending their kids to a Protestant or a Catholic school for the lack of Jewish schools, they’d choose the Catholic school as there “the children would at least not learn anything wrong”.

  • Ephraim Says…”It meant that if you had sex with a woman you were married to her.”

    No, Ephraim, that’s clearly not correct. If every person, every time they had sex, was married, every subsequent sex act with a different partner would be infidelity, and virtually everybody, by now, would be a mamzer.

    Rather, having relations with someone in the context of a marriage meant that they could declare themselves married based on that instead of based on a public ceremony with a ketuba and with witnesses. Long ago, though, the rabbis banned creating a marriage through the sex act, as the Mishna records.

    froylein Says: Ephraim, firstly, “rabbis” are a Diaspora thing that only came up due to the diaspora situation and the lack of the temple. And it took many centuries to have some standardized formal training and ordination. Many a shtetl rabbi simply was rabbi because he was the wisest or most experienced person. Rabbis were first mentioned in the Mishnah (codified aprrox. 200CE). If you’re lenient, you could label all sages, prophets etc. of old as rabbis, but that would mess with the understanding of the changes Judaism has taken during the rabbinical period.
    Sorry, Froylein, that’s a dramatic oversimplification that mixes facts with fictions. The Pharisee/ Sadducee fights were based on disputes over rabbinic interpretations of the Torah, and dated to the second temple, so how could rabbis be a “diaspora thing”?! Clearly, rabbis predated even the first temple, and were referred to often in the books of the Prophets. Plus of course, who wrote the mishna, if there were no rabbis?
    Yes, shtetl rabbis were sometimes the best of a poor choice, So?

    froylein also says: The breaking of glasses, as I’ve mentioned before, is a custom picked up in the Rhineland and hadn’t been documented before the 13th century CE. The much incorrectly cited line from the Talmud merely states that at joyous occasions, people should remember not to enjoy too much for the temple being gone and the resulting situation.

    You are basically correct with this, and indeed far too much meaning has been invested into the glass-breaking. It was simply an attempt to prevent the family from getting too carried away with the joy of the moment, fueled by the wine and the emotion, and the loss of an expensive (in those days) glass accomplished that. So?

    You seem to have conflated all the laws, rules, and customs into one big stew where everything has the same value and proving that one over-emphasized custom is inane in our century disproves the validity of everything else, too. That’s not a fair way of dealing with a very beautiful and meaningful religious system, nor is it intellectually honest.

    It’s the equivalent of “disproving” the value of democracy by pointing out how some redneck southern county violates the some human rights of certain ethnics. Our religion deserves better.

  • Yossi, that doesn’t change anything about that rabbis were first mentioned in the Mishnah and that there’s been a rabbinical period which refers to the post-Temple II times in which rabbis, not the priests, constituted as the religious authorities, in which the individual congregation was the centre of faith, not the Temple etc. You call this an oversimplification, but I think it’s an oversimplification to just refer to any sage of old as a rabbi and to deduce from that that rabbis have been around for much longer than they actually have.
    It’s exactly those best-of-a-poor-choice shtetl rabbis that made for a conflation of customs, laws and personal views.

    In all intellectual honesty, I’ve merely described one aspect of Jewish culture in the Old World that has suffered drastic changes over here as well as overseas due to its surroundings. I have not, however, challenged the entire history and the validity of the laws of Judaism, rather the somewhat revisionist approach that has obviously been going on mostly in American communities, whether intended or, as I assume, rather due to lack of better knowledge. Also, I have been talking about customs, not laws; those pseudo-laws which basically are customs, many stemming from Europe, others from post-WW2 America, were not made by me, so if you feel like complaining to anybody about the conflation of laws, customs, traditions, external cultural influences etc. into one huge intellectually dishonest stew, there are others to be addressed.

  • Yossi:

    Tha’s actually more what I meant. Thanks for the clarification. In any case, witnesses are needed to validate a marriage, so having sexual relations in private without witnesses present wouldn’t constitue a mariage anyway.

    I still just don’t accept the picture that froylein seems to be puishing, that traditional Jewish attitudes towards nudity and sexual relations were somehow more like modern “free love” until the Puritans messed everything up.

    So King David caught a glimpse of Batsheva bathing and desired her. I mean, so what? The fact that Jewish sources talk in a fairly frank manner about such things doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody was sleeping around. I am sure that back in the day Jews had a much more normal attitude towards sex than the Christians, simply because Christianity teaches that sexual relaitons, in and of themselves, are sinful. Since Judaism doesn’t hold that way, it is inevitable that traditional Jews, while prudes by modern “liberated” standards, had, and still have, a saner approach to these things.

  • Ephraim, I was talking about lax views on nudity and non-hostility towards sexuality, not “free love”. I’m not into that STD-spreading hippie nonsense, mind you. (I’ll try to retrieve an interesting essay one of these days on Jews and hippies and why affiliated Jews had better things to do than being hippies back then and how all that neo-hippie stuff is pretty fake at that.) That’s all I said. Sexuality is not a sin per se in Christianity, but in some denominations, the extreme Protestant ones to which Puritanism belongs, there’s a theological hostility towards sexuality and nudity, and this pretty much reflects in American Orthodoxy’s (by Orthodoxy I mean what others call ultra-Orthodoxy as it doesn’t make much sense to me to label deliberately only partly mitzvot-observant people as Orthodox, well-aware that not even all ultra-Orthodox keep all mitzvot at all times) behaviour towards displays of nudity, affection and also sexuality, which reach their most absurd peeks in bans on women swinging their arms while walking (a natural reflex to keep balance!) lest they might incite lust. And as far as I can recall, you also weren’t supportive of such extremism, but this kind of extremism is unthinkable in communities over here (Orthodox ones generally are highly observant) as the respective environments simply aren’t supportive of such crazes. BTW, Luther kick-started the Reformation, but Calvin, Zwingli etc. were far more extreme than him. In comparison to Calvinism (the basis of Puritanism), Lutherans appear like mildly altered Catholics (also shows in the church buildings; Lutheran churches look more like Catholic churches).

  • Froylein:
    Sorry to disagree again, but that’s simply incorrect. For all of recorded history, it was the rabbis and not the priests that were the rule-makers. One of the famous dicta was “a mamzer Torah scholar has precedence over a priest”. Rabbis made the rules for Judaism for as far back as is recorded, and virtually every source confirms that, including mishna, Talmud, and all midrashim. The very beginning of the Ethics of the Fathers starts with the transmission of Torah from Moses to the “men of the Great assembly”, who were the “inventors” of the smicha ordination process for rabbis!

    Calling “any old sage” a rabbi is also a false accusation, even were the above not true. Would you say that Maimonides wasn’t a doctor because he had no M.D. degree? Was Rembrandt not an artist because he had no B.f.a.?

    Perhaps the shtetl rabbis were responsible for the ignorant confusing customs with laws, perhaps it was the lack of available education or the lack of interest. What’s the difference?

    We, living here with access to leisure time, education, and unlimited books, cannot/ should not perpetuate the ignorance. Just like everyone knows that there are vast differences in morality and penalty between double-parking and bank robbery, everyone should be aware of the vast spread between Jewish custom and law, and thus know how, where and when they may be altered to meet circumstances.

    What you refer to as pseudo-laws, those customs that have taken on the importance of laws to the unschooled, are in fact a huge problem- On this point, I agree with you. But the answer is education in Judaism, not half-truths in an online forum that will perpetuate ignorance.

    What percentage of people reading your original post, do you think, walked away thinking, “I should study that issue”, versus the percent that walked away thinking, “wow, so rabbis are a new invention, so I can ignore them”?

  • Re the nudity and sexual puritanism issue: I hesitate to get involved for a variety of reasons, but I do have to point out that in the original sources (i.e. Torah, Talmud, et al) there is a lot of frank discussion of the subject, with no “baggage” about it being a “bad” thing. In fact, the ketuba used even today requires a husband to sexually satisfy his wife, and his failure to fulfill that is grounds for her to demand a divorce.

    AIUI, the whole “sex is bad” thing is of Christian origin, and stems from the problem of the virgin birth. After all, if one is to claim that God had sex with Mary, she’s being unfaithful, so let’s say it was without sex. This jump-starts celibacy, since man is to emulate God, and sets off a chain-reaction against sex.

    All of this is irrelevant to Judaism, which has a healthy attitude towards sex, but requires that it be in loving context. Hence, a rapist or seducer marries the victim ONLY if she wants it. Likewise, a husband can never force himself on his wife, and can be punished if he does (obviously, only in a Jewish religious state).

  • I don’t consider this sort of ultra-hareidi craziness normal, so that’s a strawman, at least as far as I’m concerned.

    We have a kollel out here, a bunch of really serious Orthodox guys, and their wives all swing their arms when they walk. Their daughters even skip and run sometimes, chas v’shalom. So I guess they’re not really Orthodox.

    I still don’t understand what you mean by “displays of nudity and sexuality”. Do you mean in public, like public co-ed nude beaches or something like that? If so, I dare you to show me anything that indicates that this sort of thing was ever acceptable in any religious Jewish society. If it was, everybody would be all over it.

    If, on the other hand, you’re talking about what a husband and wife do together in private, that’s a different matter, although by its very nature private sexual behavior can’t really be quantified.

    In any case, judging by the hordes of kids the kollel rabbis have, I assume that there is a certain amouint of schtupping going on. And their wives seem to be happy.

  • Alright, I need to re-type this as my original comment got lost.

    Fact is that the Mishnah first referred to rabbis. Fact is that outstanding Jewish exegetes and historians (e.g. Graetz, Ben-Chorin) determined referring to earlier characters on the Jewish scene to be anachronisms and neither historically nor culturally accurate. How one can conclude from that that people should not listen to their rabbis is beyond me.

    Also, Maimonides was a physician, but didn’t hold a doctorate, hence he wasn’t a doctor. Likewise, physicians today not necessarily are doctors. In a cultural sphere where “doctor” refers to a post-graduate academic degree, it’s inaccurate to refer to Maimonides as a doctor. One of my brothers is just working towards his Dr.rer.nat., but he isn’t a physician. In a cultural sphere, however, where doctor only denotes a physician and not a post-graduate degree, it’s appropriate to label Maimonides a doctor.

    Also, I’ve never denied that Judaism of the past as well as the scriptures have been open about sexuality. I don’t think I need to explain when “post WW2” is…

    Also, “virgin birth” is forgotten Jewish terminology at best. If you get into Jewish reading of the gospels (e.g. Pinchas Lapide), you’ll see that in Jewish understanding of that time “virgin birth” meant the birth of the firstborn. This concept even in Christianity is not about hostility towards sexuality. As I stated in the post, sexual morales of Catholicism and Judaism are pretty close, with Catholicism being even more lenient when it comes to sexual intercourse during women’s definitely infertile days.

    Ephraim, I mean anything starting from the more than less ban of co-ed schooling after primary school (even though it’s been proved that co-ed scores higher academic outcome and results in better social competences) over the gross neglect of the importance of proper sex-ed at religious schools to banning concerts where women might attend lest men and women might accidentally bump into each other. Try to find bans on those in the Old World. (Even my great-grandmother, born 1895, who grew up in an Orthodox community went to a co-ed school and had basic sex-ed there. She was an actress on stage till she got married, even starring in what now would be called musicals and travesty – and all that in an Orthodox community.) And that’s not only Chasisdishe but also Yeshivishe folks.

    As for the rabbis offspring, while this may not be representative, but out of the half a dozen Chasidishe rabbis I’m good friends with, only one has got a satisfactory sex life (I asked). They do abide by performing on mitzva night though, do not use contraceptives, and since on average a woman’s got her ovulation fourteen days after the first day of her period, hence is most likely to get pregnant then, it’s no surprise that there are a lot of kids if unprotected sex is performed on the night of the ovulation because it’s considered a mitzva. There even is a joke in Yiddish about it which translates as follows.

    Two Yidn are talking about their rebbes. One tells the other, “My rebbe is a true saint! Every mitzva night, as he lies in bed next to his wife, twelve cherubim and six seraphim come down from the heavens above, lift him up from his bed, and put him on top of the rebbetzin. There the rebbe performs his mitzva, and then two cherubim come, pick him up, and carry him back to his side of the bed!”
    The other replies, “What? Should it only take two cherubim to put the rebbe back on his side of the bed but take twelve cherubim and six seraphim for to put the rebbe on top of the rebbetzin?”
    The first one answers, “Nu, does he want to?”

  • Not too good on side dishes, froylein, although I have a few, unless you mean salads, of which I have many.

    Got a kick-ass recipe for Rhodian barbecued chicken, though. And my grandfather made the best, and I mean the BEST, lamb shisk kabob in the world.

  • Yep, I mean salads as, I think, those go best with grilled meat. But if you’ve got good meat recipes to share, that would be great, too. I’m not savvy on grilled deserts (I prefer to reserve the grill for the meat) some pride themselves in, so if anybody knows of anything better than grilled bananas or melon shashlik, that would be nice.

  • WHOOOO AAAAA – hold it just one minute.

    There is an enormous distance between “sex is good” and “public nudity is good”.

    Sorry – as far back as the Torah we have the High Priest revealing a married woman’s hair – and that being taken as a sign of suspected wantonness.

    The Mishna and Talmud may discuss sex like grownups, but the standards of male and female modesty in public were very clear – and very restrictive.

    And s far as sex=marriage, well yes – having sex with a woman obligated you to support her. It was marriage in every way – and intended to discourage promiscuity (obviously).

    Oh, and Froylein – as someone who has studied Jewish art, I’ll be happy to see if you can come up with more than 3 examples of nudity in the entire heritage.

    There is nothing at all like, for example, the ancient Greek use of images of the body – to the point of pottery winejugs shaped like male genitalia. The difference is so stark – and consistent – that it is used by Israeli archaeologists to determine if ancient relics are local or imported ware.

    I’m calling an enormous BS on this whole “we used to be swingers until the Xtians came along” thing.

  • I’m calling an enormous BS on this whole “we used to be swingers until the Xtians came along” thing.

    And yet another commenter puts a statement into my claims that is nowhere to be found there.

    Views on nudity used to be more lax in Judaism. Mikvot in Europe only became common when Jewish leaders realized that using rivers etc. was offensive towards the Christian take on nudity. I’ve never even claimed that Judaism promoted promiscuity (but in that light you’d still have trouble explaining King Solomon’s promiscuity as well as the ban on polygamy among Ashkenazim).

    Also, I spoke about Jewish artists above; in arts theory, it’s still highly debated whether there is anything like “Jewish art” (other than the production of Judaica) as there is no uniform, “Jewish” style of expression in art. So, indeed, there have been Jewish artists, religious ones, too, that have displayed nudity, Chagall being one of them, and one of his depictions of nudity hanging on my living-room wall. While there may not have been cult objects displaying genitalia, particularly male genitals do play a certain role in Jewish cult / liturgy / ceremony (take your pick) at some point, don’t they?
    Also, you need to consider the ban on depictions of humans in general for a long while, but nudity and sexuality have without a doubt been a re-curring topic in Yiddish jokes, and we can even find references to sexuality in Yiddish music (got a great anthology a while back of Yiddish songs that have almost been forgotten as Yiddish speakers have prudished up since WW2).

    Again, I’m not claiming Judaism promotes promiscuity. Reading that into my lines only is worth considering from a Freudian perspective. All I’ve said, and I stand by my claim as I’m not willing to buy into pseudo-Orthodox revisionism, is that views on nudity in Judaism used to be more lax than among Christians, Protestants in particular, and that the Puritan influence on American Jewish Orthododxy since WW2 in regards to such issues has been noticeable. As for “public decency”, if you look into books on Jewish history that depict Jews in different cultural backgrounds in their everyday garb, you’ll easily see that Jews used to dress in accordance with their respective surroundings. And that last statement, lest somebody starts whining again, is in no way meant to mock Ashkenazic Orthodoxy’s choice to (more or less, depending on the specific group / Chasidus) dress according to fashions of 18th century CE Polish merchants.

  • This whole nudity thing in central Europe would be quite pleasant if people who are inclined to take their clothes off on random occasion wouldn’t look like .. ehem .. white turds?
    This seems to be a general phenomenon. So on the other hand, considering all factors, it is actually a good thing that public nudity is restricted in North America.

  • Froylein:
    Mikvot in Europe only became common when Jewish leaders realized that using rivers etc. was offensive towards the Christian take on nudity.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Source?
    In fact, the Talmud already records use of enclosed mikv’aot in Babylon – despite the fact that the entire region was full of irrigation levees that were kosher mikva’ot.

    And the Mishna before it testifies to the use/adaptation of elements of the Greco-Roman public bath in mikva building design.

    Further:
    I’ve never even claimed that Judaism promoted promiscuity (but in that light you’d still have trouble explaining King Solomon’s promiscuity
    – – – – – – – – – – –
    And what exactly is the Bible’s attitude/purpose in reporting King Solomon’s promiscuity – and the David/Bathsheba incident?

    David and his house suffer deeply for what is clearly considered an impropriety with Bathsheba. That’s obvious to anyone who has actually read the story in the book – you seem to like books, you should try that one.

    ….See, Fro, this is just the sort of sloppy statement that leads you to later complain that we’re putting words in your mouth.

    You have still not cited any evidence – other than the existence of earthy Yiddish jokes! – to support the assertion that Jews were more OK with public nudity than Christians.

    The overwhelming evidence is that Judaism is, on its own, not OK with public nudity, at least as much as Christianity.

    That has nothing to do with being hung up over sex, or thinking it dirty.

    Judaism views sex as healthy – even transcendent – but something to be kept private.

    It views the power of sexual attraction as dangerous if misused, and enacted – all by itself – a series of halachic and cultural rules that severely limited public displays that could trigger sexual arousal and/or objectification of women.

  • Source: several books by (Rabbi Prof.) Nicholas deLange, (Rabbi Dr) Michael Hilton as well as the Monumenta Judaica.

    Funny that you mention it as one of my former professors of exegesis devoted quite some time to that very pericope, but had you read the biblical account of David / Batsebah closely yourself, you’d have seen that the house of David does neither get admonished by the prophet for promiscuity nor Batsebah’s nude bathing nor her more than obscure background but solely for David approaching a married woman and having her husband killed.
    I suggest you read up on King Solomon again and maybe also look up when polygamy was banned in Ashkenazic Judaism.

    So far I haven’t seen any evidence for Judaism’s stringent views on nudity; your or American Orthodoxy’s personal likes and dislikes hardly constitute as a piece of evidence, particularly considering accounts given by Jewish historians (the ones mentioned above and numerous times before; I can hardly be blamed if people don’t bother purchasing academic books) and Orthodox Jews of my great-grandmother’s generation that grew up in pre-WW2 Europe.

    Dave, whoever said nudists are considerate? 🙂

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