Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Baruch Hashem: Let's Get It On

As Julie and I were talking this evening, it occurred to us that there is no brachah (blessing) for sex. Neither before nor afterward. Or in any case, if there is such a brachah, neither of us ever encountered it (I know they sure didn't teach us that one for the brachah bee we held at the frum day school I attended, though in retrospect I would've loved to see those rabbis try to teach that).

Which is strange. Because everything has brachot. Eating. Drinking. Seeing different people. Seeing natural phenomena of every variety. Scents. Rituals. Lifecycle events. Learning Torah. Even going to the bathroom has a brachah (a great one, too). Why not sex? Sex is awesome. It's crazy that something that awesome has no brachah attached to it-- the whole point of brachot is to remind ourselves every experience we have is something we should thank God for, since He made this amazing universe. Why should sex be different?

And on further reflection, sex really needs a brachah-- much more so, than, say, thunder and lightning. Nobody takes thunder and lightning lightly (if you'll forgive the expression): it's a stark reminder of the power of nature, and we know Who's responsible for it. I'm not saying we shouldn't bentsch (say the blessing) sheko'cho u'gevurato malei olam ("...Whose power and might fill the world") the next rainstorm, but that if something so seemingly superfluous gets a brachah (and, again, a good one), why not sex, which people are constantly taking lightly?! A brachah over sex could really help people refocus their kavanah (intention), and remember that sex is more than just fun with moving parts.

Plus, even for those old married folks like us, who may not necessarily be taking sex as lightly as some swingin' singles out there, a sex brachah would still be nice: it would help us be reminded of what a miracle and joy it is that we found a partner we can enjoy not just ritual and lifecycle occasions with, but the same delights that caused the creation of the Song of Songs (although usually with a little less sheep and goat imagery).

And, let's not forget, sex and spirituality are not mutually exclusive. Sex is intimacy, no matter how you look at it. And any intimacy is a chance for people to glimpse in one another the spark of the divine. That's just got to deserve a brachah.

I suppose one could say asher yatzar, since sex is a physical act of release. But that just seems so...clinical. And I guess one could say shehecheyanu, but that's really supposed to be for infrequent occasions, first times, or things one has not experienced in a long time. I don't think I'd want to hold out long enough for shehecheyanu to be applicable. Besides, it's over-used: shehecheyanu is kind of the shehakol (the brachah recited over food or drink for which one does not know the proper brachah, or which do not fit other brachot) of experiential brachot. Some of the sheva brachot (the brachot recited for marriage) seem likely candidates, content-wise, but I rebel at the idea of appropriating them, since they are so locked into their context. Besides, there could be halachic issues for single people reciting one or more of them before sex, since it could appear then that the sex is bi'ah l'shem kiddushin (sex for the purposes of effecting marriage), and that could cause problems. I think new brachot, just for sex, are needed.

So I'm throwing this project out there to the Jewish world. Brachot for sex.

Just to be fair, I have drafted my own suggestions. These are just a first draft, nothing more. And, yes, before anyone points it out to me, I am aware that the second part is hetero-oriented. I could try to come up with another one for gay sex, but I feel like maybe some nice GLBT rabbi might want to take a crack at it, and might well be better at it than I, since they'll have a better idea of what it's like to thank God for gay sex than I would. I know some might suggest uniform, orientation-free formulations so all say the same brachot, but I just don't think it's necessary: I don't think there's anything wrong with people saying different brachot for very different experiences. After all, we say a different brachah for smelling a fragrant spice, a fragrant herb, or a fragrant tree. And I think different kinds of sex are way more different than variations in fragrant scents.

So here goes:

לפני שמתחילים:

ברוך אתה ה' אלוהינו מלך העולם אשר ברא את האדם ונטע בו יצר לחפס רעים אהובים.

Before sex (this one should be short, or no one will take the time to say it):
You are blessed, Hashem, sovereign of the universe, who created humanity, and implanted within them a desire to seek out loving companions.

אחרי שגומרים:

ברוך אתה ה' אלוהינו מלך העולם אשר ברא את האדם בחכמה ובחמלה במינים שונים, ונתן בהם אהבה ותאבה, לחפס ולמצוא כל אחד בשני את צלם יוצרם וטעם גן עדן ופרדס. ברוך אתה ה' יוצר האדם לשמחה.

After sex (yes, sex should have a brachah acharonah. But let's not even get into a brachah me'ein shalosh for sex...):

You are blessed, Hashem, sovereign of the universe, who, with wisdom and mercy, created humanity in different genders, and put into them love and desirous appetites, that they seek and find within one another the image of God and a taste of Eden and Paradise. You are blessed, Hashem, who makes people for joyfulness.

Nu? It's a start.



  1. Maybe there's no bracha so that people will spend the time before and after paying attention to their partner rather than bentching...

  2. I hear you, Meir. But I don't think one quick sentence beforehand, and one longer sentence (plus a clause) afterward is unduly mood-killing-- especially since you could totally say the brachah acharonah after cuddling. It's not like I'm suggesting sexy time be heralded with a full Hallel and musaf.


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