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I called my friend Nachshon Carmi, a Jerusalem-based clinical sexologist and couples counselor, who is both religious learned on this subject. Before the advent of modern, effective and (mostly) reliable contraception, Carmi explained, “sex outside of a proscribed framework could potentially lead to unwanted offspring,” abandoned or uncared for, who might eventually become a burden on the state.Society, therefore, had an interest in ensuring that children had parents who could provide for them.So the doesn’t change.” In other words, a 45-year-old married father of five, from a purely physiological level, has less testosterone and a more developed frontal lobe (the part of the brain involved with impulse regulation), such that shaking the hand or hearing the singing voice of a woman is not automatically going to turn him into what I’ve described, perhaps too derisively, as a “rapist-in-waiting.” But the ) the same.That 45-year-old man not only must abide by the same rules, he is encouraged by them to think of himself as a teenager, not a mature adult.Why am I spending so much time trying to understand brain function, testosterone and teenagers?The truth is, despite what I do or don’t do personally, I have tremendous regard for tradition.The rabbis of the Talmud were thus acknowledging that normal, healthy individuals are going to have sex, so they created a system of laws that directed that desire into marriage, even if it came at a very early age.Judaism certainly wasn’t alone in pushing marriage in order to address a socio-economic reality; this was a universal problem in the pre-scientific era.
That’s why I appreciate Rosenfeld’s willingness to speak openly about uncomfortable subjects.Nor does Jewish Law ignore the emotional benefits to promoting committed pair-bonds.( mandates that a husband must please his wife sexually, for example.) But, I asked Carmi, in their unique role as formulators of laws that were at once both religiously binding and nation-building for adherents, did the rabbis go too far?“Our tradition [regarding the laws on sex] is really oriented towards adolescent boys,” he says.“At that age, teenagers have a very high level of testosterone, but the part of their brain that controls urges is still underdeveloped, only becoming completely set in the late teens and early twenties.