Dalet-Ayin-Tav, means “to know.” It is the basis of a sexual relationship between and man and woman as prescribed in the Torah. Dalet-Ayin-Tav is not just the physical aspects of the marital relationship; but, as JPII points out in Theology of the Body, it is the giving of self that involves a depth of personal and mutual commitment and responsibility of one spouse to another. It is meant for marriage and can only be achieved, as God intended, in marriage.
The Torah teaches that the physical aspect of the marital union, which JPII refers to as “nuptial,” is really a reflection of the ultimate male-female Love that exists within the union. So, while the sexual urge is something that can and does exist whether or not a person is married, it is not intended to be an end in and of itself. It, this “urge,” is what will allow a husband and a wife to “know” one another in an exclusive way. Their knowing of one another is expected to extend beyond the physical knowing and well into the emotional knowing in such a way that this intimacy brings about the “whole” person. This is the becoming “one flesh” in Genesis 2:24.
Acknowledging the potentially destructive “urges” to which man (male and female) may succumb, Jewish law teaches the need for self-control in these matters. Indeed, Jewish teachings on modesty and chastity are very much at the root of Catholicism’s teachings on the same subjects. So while the libido can take on one form in which it will propel a man and a woman to the greater union of marriage, setting up house, and building a family together, that same libido can be the destruction of whole civilizations when pursued for its own sake — think Sodom and Gomorrah.
Maimonides, a great 12th century Jewish sage, writes: “No prohibition in all the Torah is as difficult to keep as that of forbidden unions and illicit sexual relations.” An argument could easily be made that Christianity’s puritanical views of human sexuality were promulgated more than anything else as a way to help man overcome this urge and not condemn himself to eternal damnation.
Consider the fact that a recovering alcoholic must forbid himself from even one drink lest he binge; so, too, might man be unable to rein himself in once he gives in to his urges outside of their original intentions. Has our current society not already given in to those urges? Are we not seeing the consequences of immoral and highly suspect behavior in all walks of life? As a new definition of marriage is being sought around the country, and already embraced around the world, will we see the final destruction of our country as it falls into moral decay?
The Catholic Church has long taught that the home was the first and foremost cornerstone of a society. This is very much rooted in the teachings of Judaism in which the first marriage of Adam and Eve is meant to become a role model for man, until the end of time. Yes, even the deceptions that took place within that first marriage are meant to shed light on how highly susceptible we are to one another within our marriages. The influential power that exists within a home must be acknowledged, that home being mirrored in society. A home that has fallen in upon itself can be be found in a society that will eventually do the same.
Throughout Theology of the Body, JPII brings in the first book of Torah — Genesis — because it is the very foundation upon which man’s relationship with, and meager understanding of, his Creator must begin. It is in Torah that man understands his vocation of, and in, marriage. Jewish law has always taught that it was evil to pursue sex for personal gratification. Hence, the pursuit of sexual relations outside of marriage is wrong. In fact, it is deemed wrong and sinful. Marriage has been set up in Torah as the way in which a man and a woman become complete and most mirror God’s plan for humankind.
Can we see the connection between pursuing sex outside of marriage, for personal gain and gratification, as perpetuating the objectification of women? Of course we can. Do we see the connection between the birth control pill, and the subsequent “sex” for “sex’s” sake as contributing to the objectification of women? Of course we do. How ironic that the very passionate claims that such things as sexual freedom and “control” over reproduction were necessary for the liberation of women have instead led to the very serious degradation of women. This is what our beloved Church has always tried to make clear in its teachings and writings about marriage and home and family; the family is sacred and reproduction a sacred right.
Jewish teaching considers having a family the way to freely participating with God in creation. Indeed, it considers the most selfless act that two people can participate in is to have children. And rightly so because whether it is in biological form, adoptive form, or in spiritual form, being a parent is a demanding and all-consuming role. A selfish person opts out to pursue his or her own desires while a selfless person makes a commitment to become a parent (in any of the ways mentioned).
In writing Theology of the Body, JPII brought it all home, so to speak. He was making a bold statement that it wasn’t just what God “wants” but it is about what God wants for us. Reading Theology of the Body, we can confidently say that God wants us to enjoy ourselves within our marriage and that joy comes from the physical and emotional connection that can only come from within that union. This is Jewish teaching at its very core.
When JPII speaks of unity as existing in “communion of persons,” he is revealing that man was a solitary being until woman made him complete and whole. Together, they share a physical intimacy that transcends the physical and becomes an emotional and spiritual union as well. Without it, man is incomplete, he is alone. With it, he is completed; he is no longer alone as he now exists in “communion” with another. This other is the one to whom he is able to give all of himself. Jewish teaching speaks of the “mitzvah,” or good deed, of a man satisfying his wife. There are many levels to this, just as JPII speaks about the many levels of intimacy that exist in the union of a man and a woman. In other words, sex within marriage is anointed and a blessing to both spouses.