Sex Outside Marriage: Modern Rabbinic Views

A selection of statements from rabbis of various denominations.

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“Why does Judaism posit marriage as the appropriate context for sexual intercourse? It does so because in that setting the couple can attain the three-fold purpose for marital sex described above—namely, companionship, procreation and the education for the next generation. While non-marital sex can provide companionship as well as physical release, especially in the context of a long-term relationship, unmarried couples generally do not want to undertake the responsibilities of having and educating children. They may care deeply for each other, especially in a long-term relationship, but their unwill­ingness to get married usually signifies that they are not ready to make a life-long commitment to each other” (This is My Beloved, This is My Friend: A Rabbinic Letter on Intimate Relations).

5. Rabbis Samuel Dresner and Byron Sherwin, Con­servative authorities, write:

“Love is an art. Love takes time to develop, to actualize, to perfect. It is not infatuation. It is not physical possession. It is not the satisfaction of an impulse. It is total involvement and concern with another’s present; it is sharing a mutual future. It is a commitment of all of me for all my life” (Judaism: The Way of Sanctification).

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Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs

Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs is the spiritual leader of Temple Sholom in Bridgewater, New Jersey. He has served as the publications committee chairperson of the Rabbinical Assembly.