"Kadosh" – The Real Story
by Susanne Kest
Am Echad Resources
March 6, 2000
Though I haven’t seen the film "Kadosh", and do not plan to, publicity about the movie has made it clear to me that it contains much misinformation about Jewish women.
I am a Jewish woman, and one who could be called by that favorite ever-so-subtle pejorative used by much of the media – "ultra-Orthodox". I am a wife, too, a mother of children ranging in age at present from twenty to two, and a teacher – of high school chemistry and adult Jewish studies. Mainly, I teach women the laws and philosophy of Jewish marriage. And so the issue of Jewish women is of deep concern to me.
I am not interested in taking any particular reviewer to task for his or her ignorant slurs of a community. Suffice it to say that negative falsehoods of the sort that has appeared in "Kadosh"’s wake would scarcely be tolerated were they directed at most any other ethnic group, and stray far indeed from any model of responsible reporting. Nor do I wish to challenge those responsible for the production of this film. They, like the proverbial light bulb that needs but one psychologist, would have to really want to change; not very likely. These are people with powerful personal agendas, determined to fight what threatens their spiritual complacency.
It is rather sincere, searching Jewish women whom I address. Because it pains me no end to think that someone might actually believe the film’s producer’s bad dream presented as a portrayal of women and marriage in the "ultra-Orthodox" Jewish world. What movie reviewer Stephen Holden of the New York Times (February 16) characterized as Orthodox "mysogyny" and the Orthodox "fear and loathing of sex that originates largely from a primitive notion of women’s bodies as essentially unclean" is ultra-asinine. He, sadly, hasn’t a clue about his subject.
Judaism views the physical relationship between husband and wife as an intensely private domain of sanctity. Far from fear and loathing, Judaism strongly encourages intensity of the physical pleasure shared between husband and wife. The subtle concept of ritual purity relates as well to men and has alludes at its root to the difficult state humanity finds itself in, where the second law of thermodynamics reigns; where, unfortunately, we are still all subject to death and decay. It isn’t a male/female thing, but a human thing.
The monthly separation and reunion of husband and wife that is necessitated as a result creates an astounding phenomenon. In stark contrast to the reality of life in the secular world, Torah-observant couples enjoy healthy, vigorous and intensely pleasurable relationships for not months or years but decades into a marriage. Highly educated and successful secular women have told me that this was the very driving force that brought them to seek out information on becoming observant, that resulted in their adoption of the committed life of an Orthodox Jew.
The ebb and flow of the physical component of husband-wife relationships is intuitive to many women, and is what lies at the heart of Jewish religious law.
Even at the most simple level, self-respecting women want a relationship in which trust and respect abounds. They want to be adored for their physical selves but above all for their inner selves. They want a mate that only has eyes for his wife and is committed to sharing his life with her. Someone with a deep sense of responsibility to her and to the family they hope to raise together. Where might one find such a thing? On the casting couches of Hollywood (or Tel Aviv)? At Beverly Hills plastic surgeons? On "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?"?
It can be found in the "ultra-Orthodox" community, where men, women and children work together toward a common higher purpose.
For thousands of years, while the rest of the "enlightened" world kept itself busy with unspeakable horrors, the sages of the Torah have been sensitive to and protective of women’s concerns and needs. They laid the obligation to provide physical satisfaction at the feet of the husband in the marriage bond. In what other society is that the case?
Why is this so surprising to so many? Because we Orthodox Jews still cling to a concept called modesty. In the age of webcam, we attempt to lead lives inwardly. When you see us from the outside, you see separation between the sexes and restraint in behavior and dress. Nothing, though, more effectively focuses the intensity of human love and passion on its rightful place, the ultimate human relationship which is a marriage.
As a mentor of mine often says, rarely if ever has there been a generation as highly intelligent and highly educated as ours, yet as highly confused. I pray that my fellow Jews, whatever their affiliations or levels of observance, will not be misled by what so much of the media spews out for its own ends. I pray we all have the objectivity and courage to search for the truth.
AM ECHAD RESOURCES
[Susanne Kest writes from Los Angeles.]
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