August Episode of “The Joy of Text” Goes “Mini” in Focussing on a Talmudic Text [Talmud Tuesday]
Last month’s episode of “The Joy of Text” switched up its format for what it’s calling a mini-episode. In this mini-episode, in lieu of its typical format of a main topic, a guest interview, and then Q & A all within roughly an hour, “The Joy of Text”‘s August episode lasted about ten minutes and focussed on one Talmudic text. “At the request of many listeners,” announces MaHaRaT Ramie Smith, who moderates the discussion, at the top of the show, that “we have decided to really bring home the ‘text’ in ‘The Joy of Text’.”
Rabbi Dov Linzer, one of the hosts of the show introduced the text in question, which occurs at bHagigah 5b (with a parallel at bBerakhot 62a), wherein Rav states that one shouldn’t speak excessively with one’s wife, yet there’s a story of Rav Kahana hiding underneath his bed, where he is shocked at Rav’s speech with Rav’s wife in bed, as if he hadn’t enjoyed this dish before.
While the conversation was started by Rabbi Linzer as offering apologetics for how androcentric the text is, both MaHaRaT Smith and Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus, who also hosts, both did not mind it. In fact, Dr. Marcus had the following brilliant insight:
I think what’s fascinating to me is that, obviously, his wife likes it when he talks to her. When we talk about using street language, or people say “talk dirty” (but I don’t like that term), but talking sort of more street language or more sexually to somebody, clearly, his wife likes it, so…I think that’s really important. And also, maybe not saying extra things, things that your spouse doesn’t like, doesn’t enjoy, doesn’t want, that maybe…there’s something to be sensitive to what kind of banter is enjoyable to both of you and what isn’t.
Going along with this line of thinking, Rabbi Linzer opined that “It sounds like Rav actually was allowing himself, with his wife, to actually express a part of his personhood and humanity, and that maybe can’t get expressed in other contexts. I think there’s something very powerful about that.”
Moreover, as Dr. Marcus observed
I think we live in a society where men sort of, you know, in our communities, at least, pull back some of their little more aggressiveness, which, often, you need when you’re having sex. And so I think that, sometimes, you know, being a man, getting what you want, those kinds of things we tend to tamp down. And sometimes, they can work quite well when you’re having sex.
Pointing out the lack of education on this topic, MaHaRaT Smith noted that “It’s really an important part of the story that the student was so eager to learn about sex that he took, probably, the most inappropriate route for doing that. And that, you know, maybe better to have a conversation before you find a student under your bed….” Indeed, as Dr. Marcus continued her thought, “Rav could have short-cutted this all the way through by having classes….”
It was interesting to have “The Joy of Text”, which is published by Jewish Public Media and made in collaboration with Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance and Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, switch up its format and stick with one particular text.