February 22, 2019

What Should Happen Behind Closed Doors — a Jewish View

Goldie Plotkin

Goldie Plotkin knows a bit about Jewish marriage. The rebbetzin, who lives in Toronto and runs the women’s programming at her local Chabad, has been married to Rabbi Avraham Plotkin for 34 years. 

Earlier this month, she visited Adas Torah synagogue in Pico-Robertson to speak about marriage intimacy and the laws of family purity (taharat ha-mishpachah), to more than 100 women. 

Her class, “Behind Closed Doors: The Jewish Perspective on Passionate Intimacy,” covered everything from when and how it’s appropriate to have marital relations, to why it’s important to stop trying to control your spouse and the importance of going to the mikveh.

“We’re living in a very rushed world where people are focused on making a living. Technology has invaded our homes. We are very tech-oriented and marriage is suffering as a result,” Plotkin said in a phone interview with the Journal.

In her class, Plotkin told the attendees that the Torah offers help through the non-touching (niddah) laws, which forbid a husband and wife from touching until seven days after the woman’s menstrual cycle has ceased and she has immersed herself in the mikveh. 

“The couple is so excited when the wife comes back that they spend more time together and they are intimate because it’s a limited time each month,” Plotkin said. “It’s very heightened. The sensitivity of the marriage is never taken for granted.”

“Judaism says intimacy is the holiest act and the closest way you can get to God. We need to protect it.” — Rebbetzin Geula Newman

The commandment to be intimate is found in the ketubah, the marriage contract. “What’s the mitzvah of marriage?” Plotkin asked. “It’s not to have children and buy a house and pay a mortgage or get into a business relationship. The ketubah says to have pleasure and intimacy.”

Plotkin’s two-hour class was part of a series created by the West Coast Taharas Hamishpacha Committee, a group of Chabad rebbetzins that holds annual courses on family purity. This year the group held five classes in homes in the La Brea and Pico-Robertson neighborhoods.  

Rebbetzin Geula Newman of Chabad of Beverlywood told the Journal in a phone interview the tradition of the annual classes started 37 years ago when her mother, Rebbetzin Miriam Cunin, wrote to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Cunin asked Schneerson for help concerning a few women she knew who had suffered miscarriages. Schneerson suggested she start a family purity program. Cunin did so and women began having healthier pregnancies, she said.  

Holding the classes, Newman said, brings “a heightened level of holiness in the community, even if everyone brings home one halacha (law) they didn’t know before. Everyone’s homes are uplifted. It’s a very special thing.” 

In coming years, Newman said she hopes to expand the program and bring it to more women’s homes, since it’s such a vital part of Jewish life. 

“Judaism says intimacy is the holiest act and the closest way you can get to God,” she said. “It’s compared to the service of the priest in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. We need to protect it. It provides a protection around the passion, love, peace and joy in a marriage. Hashem is the third partner in our marriage, and by fulfilling his will and keeping these laws meticulously, we ensure his blessings will pour down on our marriages.”