There is no greater mystery, philosopher Leon Kass has written, than the way God has joined "the pleasure of sex, the inarticulate longing for union, the communication of the loving embrace, and the deep-seated and only partly articulate desire for children in the very activity by which we continue the chain of human existence and participate in the renewal of human possibility."
That mystery is in short supply in the clubs favored by Israeli youth and described in graphic detail in a recent Jerusalem Post editorial ("Are We Decadent?"). As the external physical level, the "hook-ups" in the clubs resemble marital relations between husband and wife. Yet the two could not be more diametrically opposed.
The Torah refers to relations between husband and wife in terms of daat - knowing another human being in the deepest sense possible. Such relations are, by nature, giving.
The semi-anonymous couplings in the clubs are, by contrast, self-centered. The term "hook-up" perfectly captures the act. The other party becomes an object, a plumbing fixture, no more, no less.
Between husband and wife, marital relations are the ultimate glue, through which they become, in the Torah's terms, "one flesh." They recreate the primal unity of Adam and Eve, whom our sages tell us were originally created as one.
The encounters between strangers in clubs create no such bond. Lust does not give way to love. Once the moment of pleasure has passed, the more typical response is the revulsion Amnon felt for Tamar: "Afterwards Amnon despised her with a great hatred; his hatred was even greater than the love that he had felt for her. So Amnon said to her, 'Get up and go away'" (Samuel II 13:15).
The cumulative impact of many such pairings is to create the deep distrust, bordering on outright hostility, between the sexes, of which columnist Ruthie Blum has become our modern chronicler.
Marital relations conducted in private reinforce the intimacy between husband and wife; they emphasize the existence of a private realm that is theirs alone. Not so hook-ups between strangers in public toilets or on mattresses arrayed around public rooms.
Procreative relations make husband and wife aware of one another as partners in life's greatest project, the creation and raising of children. Even where the wife has passed childbearing age, relations recall all that they have shared and continue to share. All that is absent from pairings in the clubs, which exist only in the moment, apart from any larger context or ongoing relationship.
FROM THE point of view of the Torah, the decadence of Israel's club scene is not just a tragedy for the participants but a recipe for societal disaster. The Flood itself was a response to the corruption of all flesh of "its way upon the earth," which our sages understood as a breakdown of all sexual barriers. According to one midrash, the Flood only came when that generation began writing marriage contracts for homosexuality and bestiality.
We were warned prior to entering the Land not to emulate the practices of the inhabitants of Egypt, in whose midst we dwelt, or of Canaan, into which God was bringing us (Leviticus 18:3). Those practices primarily involved sexual promiscuity, as indicated by the subsequent enumeration of the prohibited sexual relations. Failure to heed this warning, we are told a few verses later, could lead to our being spit out, as were the Canaanite nations that preceded us (Leviticus 18:28).
Is the Torah's connection between the bacchanalia of our club scene and societal breakdown credible? I think so.
The ancient Dionysian rites induced a frenzy, in which all inhibitions were shed. The pulsing beat of the clubs provokes a similar state. As one young trance devotee commented, "Trance helps people erase their brains, to lose their ability to think - that's its purpose."
Greater mindlessness is not a much-needed commodity in Israel today.
Those habituated to view sexual relations primarily in terms of self-gratification will have to do a great deal of unlearning if they are to form loving, monogamous relationships later in life. Until now, partners have been primarily players in one's own fantasies. Suddenly one must learn to view relations as a means of building love and communicating it to a real person. Our rate of failed marriages indicates that turning off the fantasies is no easy matter.
Most fundamentally, the club scene instills an instant gratification approach to life. An angry person will find many outlets for his anger. And similarly, one trained to see life primarily in terms of pleasuring oneself will carry that attitude into every aspect of life - business dealings, friendships, and relationship to the larger community. Not everyone who cheats in marriage cheats in business, or vice versa, but the two are not so unrelated as we would like to think.
Without loving relationships between husbands and wives, there will be no glue to hold society together, either.