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The Torah restricts AoM

One of the strongest human drives is the Act of Marriage, but the Torah places many restrictions on that. Why?

What are the restrictions the Torah places on the AoM?

Forbidden AoM

The Torah forbids AoM in the following instances:

  • Not with immediate family members: Mother, father’s wife (step-mother), sister

  • Not with another’s wife

  • Not with another male

  • Not with an animal

  • Not wasting seed (Masterbation)

Additional restrictions for Jews

  • Not with extended family members

  • Additional restrictions involving a cohen, convert, mamzer, Jew with Gentile

  • Not without official Jewish marriage

  • Not with an ex-wife if she ever remarried

  • Not before one's wife immerses in a Mikvah

  • Not during menstruation, seven days after, and dates menstruation is expected

  • Not if she's not in the mood for it, upset, drunk, or sleeping

In summarizing the Torah restrictions on AoM, we see:

  • Relationships that have no potential of being productive. 

  • For Jews, there are more of these non-productive relationships. 

  • Even within a permitted marriage, there are more restrictions (so it's not only about the type of relationship)

AoM Obligations

Aside from all the above restrictions, there are also active obligations:

  • It is incumbent upon men to reproduce, and

  • Not to detract from the minimum frequency of AoM with one's wife. 

The Origin of AoM Drive

Human propensities are not random. 

Each natural propensity is a specific area that needs to be adjusted. 

The drive for AoM that people naturally have is one of the prime propensities and is hardest to change. That's because it is the prime consequence (on a mental level) for Adam's sin: 

Because he sinned with a woman, that's where G-d has given him his evil inclination. A natural attraction to women. All women. All the time. 

By exerting control over this impulse, we fix up the lack of control in the beginning of Creation.  

Why all these restrictions?

What is the Torah telling us with all these restrictions:

The purpose of the AoM is reproduction and satisfying the wife’s needs, not really the husband’s needs. 

But wait! What about man’s needs?! And his needs are more powerful than women’s…!

But really:

  • The more material the person is – the more his physical needs, including AoM. There is, however, room for materialism in the AoM within the Torah's restrictions...

  • The more spiritual the person is – the less his physical needs, including AoM. That's where the Torah wants you to go.

  • Jews are expected to be more spiritual. Hence there are more restrictions for them.

Ok, so how to do it?

  • Limit (starve) the drive for AoM. Disengage, stop thinking in that direction.  Even a material person is obliged to (and he can) starve his AoM. Because the nature of a human being is such that his mind can always control his heart.

  • Engage with (not only learn, but delve into) intellectual pursuits (don't be void of wisdom), and Torah in particular.

What does the Torah expect from LG(BT)?

We mentioned above that the Torah provides room for physical enjoyment in the AoM, albeit restrictive. 

And the average person needs that room, at least in the beginning of his spiritual journey. So that works (just). 

But what about LGBT, especially Gays and Lesbians? On one hand he/she is forbidden to engage with those AoM that are enjoyable for them (SSM). And on the other hand, they are expected to engage with (normal) AoM that are devoid of pleasure for them, leaving them with absolutely no enjoyment or satisfaction from this most powerful desire...!

The next article addresses this huge dilemma, G-d willing. 


The Torah forbids the following actions: 

  • To destroy his/her reproductive organs

  • For a man to look like a woman. For example, dress-wise, by removing hair from his body or coloring his hair like women do

  • For a woman to look like a man. 



Are Gentiles commanded to have children? According to some Halachic Authorities, Gentiles are obligated to have children (Tosafot on Talmud Chagiga 2b, Rashi and Meiri on Talmud Yevamot 62a, and Sheiltot p165). However, from the simple meaning of the Talmud Sanhedrin 59b, they do not have this obligation. (Also Tosafot in Yevamot ibid.) However even so, Gentiles have a connection to this Commandment (Aruch Hashulchan 1, 5). 

Masterbation is forbidden for all humans. According to some Halachic Authorities, the prohibition of masterbation is directly linked to the obligation of having children (if commanded to have children – commanded not to masterbate). Nevertheless, The Talmud (Sanhedrin 108b) discusses the sins of the Generation of Noah's Flood, one of which was hot semen (refering to materbation – Chayim VeShalom p16, Tzafnat Paaneah p30). And according to other Authorities, there is no link between the two commandments (Ramban, Rashba), and hence Masterbation would be forbidden even if not obligated to have children. 

Each natural propensity is an area that requires adjustment. Rambam, Deot, 2.

Because Adam sinned with a woman, that's where G-d has given him his evil inclination. Tikunei Zohar, Tikun 22. 

The purpose of AoM is not really to satisfy man's physical needs. Refer the “emergency” purpose of AoM (ראב”ד בעלי הנפש שער הקדושה; טור או”ח רמ, א) – to save man from sinning in forbidden relationships. However if the wife doesn’t want (less than the minimum – המהרי"ט) than that’s forbidden (Rabbinically) and her marriage privileges are affected etc.

AoM should be done as little as possible (but not below the minimum). The higher the frequency of emitting semen (via AoM or (especially) masterbation), the more likely that the following adversities will happen to the person (Rambam, Laws of Dispositions 4:19):

"Semen is the vigor of the body, its very life, and the light of the eyes.

Its too frequent emission sets decay in the body, wastes its strength, and ends life itself. King Solomon in his wisdom said: "Don't give your vigor to women" (Prov. 31.3). 

Whoever indulges in AoM 

  • ages before his time, 

  • his strength fails him, 

  • his eyes become dim, 

  • a foul odor issues from his mouth and from underneath his arms, 

  • the hair of his head, eye-brows, and eye-lids fall out, 

  • the hair of his beard, under his arms and his feet grow heavier, 

  • his teeth fall out, 

  • and many more ailments besides these come upon him. 

Doctors of medicine said: "One in a thousand die of other diseases, and the rest of the thousand from overindulgence of sex."

Starve the drive for AoM. Talmud Sanhedrin 107a: "Man has a small organ: If he satiates it, it starves. If he starves it, it is satiated". Meaning, the less one does AoM, the weaker the drive for it becomes. And vice versa... Rashi. Also see Mesilat Yesharim Ch. 13.

Even a material person is obliged to starve his AoM drive. This is actually one of the 613 commandments:ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם" "אשר אתם זונים אחריהם – "And you shall not follow after your hearts and after your eyes, after-which you are led astray" (Numbers 15:39). The material man ("you are led astray") is commanded to starve his AoM drive ("you shall not follow after your hearts and after your eyes"). Talmud Berachot 12b, Sifri Bamidbar 15:39, Talmud Yerushalmi Brachot 1:5.

The mind controls the heart by nature. Tanya Ch. 14.

Thoughts of forbidden AoM only come into hearts which are void of wisdom. Rambam Laws of Forbidden Intercourse, end of Ch. 22.

Not allowed to destroy the reproductive organs. Rambam Laws of Forbidden Intercourse, 16:10.

A woman is forbidden to dress like a man and a man is forbidden to dress like a woman. Deuteronomy 22:5, Talmud Nazir 59a, Rambam Laws of Idol-worship 12:10.

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