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  • Writer's pictureDaniela Weiss-Bronstein

The Yes

A large red heart and a large blue heart floating together in a sea of clear heart bubbles

In the winter of 2018, I started certification as a Kallah teacher through Nishmat, the RCA, and the OU in a joint effort to establish credentials for rebbetzins. The program had started the year before for JLIC rebbetzins who have many students on their campuses getting married. My cohort was the first group of community rebbetzins, with a variety of ages, experience, and backgrounds in Jewish learning.

This program is quite rigorous. Over 16 sessions, 2 hours each week, we learned הלכות נידה at a more intense level than I'd learned it ever before. We were primarily trained under יועצת הלכה Shoshana Samuels who did a masterful job. Shoshana managed to explain primary sources to women who'd never seen them before while keeping the class engaging for those of us who had learned גמרא before. We were tested weekly, with a minimum of a 90 required to get us to the final oral test with יועצת הלכה Atara Eis.

With all that I learned one of the most instructive things Shoshana taught us was this simple phrase: "Teach the yeses". When learning halacha we tend to focus on the what and the how of הרחקות, נידה, בדיקות, and טהרה. Even in the realm of sexual relationships, we discuss what can be done, when, and according to whom. This can present sexuality as a dry and restrictive part of life rather than how Judaism sees it - a way for a couple to connect and enjoy the physicality HaShem built into the relationship.

We teach the nos. But we also need to emphasize the yeses, teaching couples how to build intimacy through their relationship. We need to teach how to become true partners, how to invest in each other, and how to embrace all the space that is a YES. Shoshana's take on preparing כלות has been a mantra in my head as I've been training as a sexologist. When we teach the yes we emphasize the healthy sexuality inherent to Judaism instead of leaving it to be assumed.

We could have had a world where our needs were simply met without our enjoying the experience, but that's not what HaShem wanted for us. HaShem created beautiful vistas, luscious food, and bodies that feel pleasure. Enjoying a sexual relationship is fully in keeping with הלכה, and your educators must teach that.

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