No longer a taboo: Bedroom affairs and marital problems are now open for discussion in the Orthodox sector. A newly launched course trains rabbis to engage in family and marital counseling and give advice on sex-related matters in order to help the religious sector deal with these rather sensitive issues.
“The course focuses on psychological aspects, family relationships and sexuality,” said Rina Wasserman, Vice Chairperson of Emunah (Religious Women’s Organization) Israel, which has initiated the course.
“Many people have no authority to give answers on those issues, yet they do, and this may harm the person seeking the advice. Sometimes they (the advice givers) themselves aren’t familiar with the subject. We must extend the limits of Halacha and those fluent in it to intimate matters too. The goal is to provide an immediate response to the religious community’s problems.”
The first course in training rabbis to become marriage counselors has recently ended, equipping 25 Orthodox rabbis with professional tools to offer couples' therapy and counseling. During the course, the rabbis took a couples' workshop with their wives, acquiring techniques related to sexual counseling and learning how to handle questions in this field.
“The objective is to provide rabbis with information that is beyond the Halachic aspect,” said Rabbi Daniel Nikritin, who was trained to conduct couples' workshops.
Wasserman, who handles Emunah’s family services and is in charge of running the course, explained that many religious couples rely on their rabbis to answer their intimacy problems, and therefore their advice must be extensive: “We would like to have the rabbis acknowledge the professional, counseling and academic systems so that they can refer people to get professional help when the problem requires a more profound intervention.”
It seems that the subject matter of sexuality in general has been playing a larger role in the haredi community. Six months ago, Emunah and Bar-Ilan University held a conference on sexuality, attended by some 100 rabbis.
“We are no longer living in an era where problems are kept at home,” Wasserman concludes. “The communities’ rabbis are catalysts for change within the family, and one should praise rabbis who are willing to take up such sensitive matters.”