How to Be a Good Jewish Lover
Updated: May 10
My grandma used to tell me that it didn't matter what you knew as much as it mattered who you knew.
Oh, but grandma, there are a lot of ways of knowing someone. I know my mechanic, I know my friends and I know my wife, all in very different ways.
In Biblical Hebrew, the word יָדַ֖ע (yadah) can mean to "know" someone, just as we use it in English. For instance, a biblical character named Manoah "knew (יָדַ֣ע) that it had been an angel."
However, that same word can also mean "to have sex with," as in "Now the man knew (יָדַ֖ע) his wife Eve, and she conceived."
This might seem like a joke, but the same practices that make a good lover in bed are the same practices that make a good lover out of bed, namely:
A willingness to get naked - to get vulnerable, to let your partner see you fully, in your insecurity and perceived flaws. As Hercules Mulligan famously put it in Hamilton, "its hard to have intercourse over four sets of corsets," and you can't really know or be known if your true self is always buttoned up and protected
A commitment to tenderness - It takes a lot of courage to let our guard down and be vulnerable. This is true with our bodies in bed, and even more so, with our souls in conversation. We honor our partner, and the connection we share with them, by being gentle and loving with their most sensitive and vulnerable parts.
A sense of curiosity - what does my partner need ? What are they looking for? There really are different strokes for different folks, and a good lover doesn't assume that what turns them on will necessarily turn their partner on.
Our partners are constantly growing and changing, as are we. A strong relationship rests on knowing our partners - not as they used to be, not as we think they should be, but as they are now.
We can have healthy, legitimate and yet different needs from each other, both in bed and in conversation. Sometimes, our partner wants something slow and romantic, and sometimes they want something fast and spontaneous; sometimes they need our help in solving a problem, and sometimes they need our support while they solve the problem. A good lover is attuned to those differences.
Pioneering relationship therapists John and Julie Gottman write that knowledge of our partners, as they are now, is the foundation not only of love, but of fortitude to weather the storms all couples inevitably face.
Sometimes, it can be easier to know our partner's body than it is to know their soul. A good lover cultivates knowledge of both by getting naked, getting tender and getting curious.