FOR MORE THAN 30 years, people have spent millions of dollars on self-help books advising readers how to have good relationships. In his new book, “The Joy of Intimacy,” Rabbi Manis Freidman also addresses the subject by focusing on our longing and need for intimacy.
His first book, “Doesn’t Anybody Blush Anymore?” published in 1990, was widely praised by the media and is currently in its fourth printing. “Friedman uses ancient wisdom and modern wit along with practical wisdom from Jewish tradition’s insights that anyone can use to recapture passion, save their relationship, and tap into the essence of the true intimate experience,” cites his website http://www.itsgoodtoknow.org.
“There is literally a crisis of intimacy in the world,” commented Freidman. He describes the “functional marriage” where the relationship is good yet there is still that feeling of being alone. “It is functional not intimate,” he continues. “Once you are married you should never again feel alone – that’s part of being married. In counseling people who have painful, difficult relationships, the ideas in the book are really sensible and essential,” he continues.
Freidman sees this lack of intimacy more and more. “We have become very materialistic,” says Freidman. “We think in terms of things – we use the term ‘have love’ and ‘make love’ as if it were a commodity. It has become an object rather than a feeling; sex, too, has become an object and the person you are with has also become an object.” And how can one be intimate with an object?
According to Friedman, the love between spouses must overcome the differences between the two individuals, thereby generating greater intensity in the relationship. Additionally the love between other family members is predicated upon the commonness the two parties share.
“Without intimacy, people lose interest in sex, in family, and having children which can lead to extinction,” adds Freidman. “This has started to show up even in the more traditional families. And because traditionally we don’t talk about intimacy or sexuality, we seek secular sources, but those sources don’t address the soul.”
The focus in our society is on the self; but for intimacy to be present in a relationship one must move past the self and be able to communicate one’s self to the other—it involves getting past yourself and being vulnerable. “To be intimate means to go into a place that is private, that is sacred, that is set aside,” adds Freidman.
In 1971, Freidman founded Bais Chana Institute of Jewish Studies in Minnesota, the world’s first yeshiva exclusively for women, where he continues to serve as dean. After 45 years introducing Judaism to women of all ages, questions about marriage and intimacy have invariably come up. “The common reaction to this subject is, ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me this?’” says Freidman. “People are craving something bigger than self—but often they don’t know what it is.” His book attempts to explain that “something” and help readers incorporate it into their relationships.
Rabbi Florence L. Dann, Beit Sefer Director of Temple Beth Israel of Pomona and is a contributing writer for Jlife Magazine.