Our Jewish Roots: Theology of the Body

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.

adameve2.jpgMaimonides, 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.

Cheryl Dickow


Cheryl Dickow is a Catholic wife, mother, author and speaker. Cheryl’s newest book is Wrapped Up: God’s Ten Gifts for Womenwhich is co-authored with Teresa Tomeo and is published by Servant (a division of Franciscan Media); there is also a companion journal that accompanies the book and an audio version intended for women’s studies or for individual reflection. Cheryl’s titles also include the woman’s inspirational fiction book Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage. Elizabeth is available in paperback or Kindle format. Her company is Bezalel Books where her goal is to publish great Catholic books for families and classrooms that entertain while uplifting the Catholic faith and is located at www.BezalelBooks.com. To invite Cheryl to speak at your event, write her at Cheryl@BezalelBooks.com.

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  • Lucky Mom of 7

    Thanks for this short, understandable piece. So many are too long and too involved for a busy mom like me to read.

    Well done.


  • Cheryl Dickow

    That’s so kind of you to say. Thank you!

  • magalabastro

    I saw some blog posts somewhere comparing the Hebrew words Dalet-Ayin-Tav and Yada. I find this interesting because in Genesis 4:1 where Adam knew Eve, the term used is Yada.

    My interest lies in meditating upon Jeremiah 1:5a which goes “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” using Yada.

    Even before we were created, God was already intimate– very very intimate– with us– so intimate, in fact, that the sacred intimacy between a husband and wife pales in comparison!

    Even before we were created, He already saw how we would fall, betray, and hurt Him. Yet in Genesis 1:31 He found everything VERY good. (When the Perfect One says VERY good, imagine just how good it really is!)

    And He found it very good because despite all our faults and unfaithfulness, He would not hesitate to redeem us. He found it very good because of what Christ would do later on. He found it very good because one day, those of us who have fallen, will one day fall in love with Him.

    He died out of love for us, that we too might one day love Him in return– and know Him intimately too– much much more that what a holy husband and wife will ever have for each other.

    Thank you for the article!

    –Michael Alabastro

  • Grace Harman

    God’s “Commandments” tell us how to be safe and happy here, and later to get to Heaven. He always wants the best for us and he has set down the guidelines to help us.
    Unfortunately many mistake the truth for just a set of rather difficult “rules”. God does love us and has tried to warn us. We need to listen before we destroy ourselves. Children need purity – NOT “safe sex”. Families need to be fruitful and multiply – not take the “pill” which pollutes our water supply to the point that it hurts fish and anphibians and may be making human males sterile or less “Male”.

  • elkabrikir

    Great article, Cheryl.

    I just got to read it this evening. Funny enough, my mantra for the day is that our American Experiment would be brought down by “sex”. That’s it. And then you talk about Sodom and Gomorrah! Amazing! There is one Spirit of Truth.

    Sadly, sadly, I read this article and thought of the words of Fr Cantalamessa from a CE article yesterday. He said common sense must prevail along with the “desire” for the other, and the need to procreate in order to regain some sanity vis-a-vis hetero/homosexual relationships.

    The Truth is unspeakably beautiful. How blessed are those who live it.

    Thanks again.