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From the period of the Talmud onward, Biale says, Jewish culture continually struggled with sexual abstinence, attempting to incorporate the virtues of celibacy, as it absorbed them from Greco-Roman and Christian cultures, within a theology of procreation. He explores both the canonical writings of male authorities and the alternative voices of women, drawing from a fascinating range of sources that includes the Book of Ruth, Yiddish literature, the memoirs of the founders of Zionism, and the films of Woody Allen.
Biale's historical reconstruction of Jewish sexuality sees the present through the past and the past through the present. He discovers an erotic tradition that is not dogmatic, but a record of real people struggling with questions that have challenged every human culture, and that have relevance for the dilemmas of both Jews and non-Jews today.
|Introduction: Dilemmas of Desire||1|
|Ch. 1||Sexual Subversions in the Bible||11|
|Ch. 2||Law and Desire in the Talmud||33|
|Ch. 3||Rabbinic Authority and Popular Culture in Medieval Europe||60|
|Ch. 4||Sensuality, Asceticism, and Medieval Jewish Philosophy||86|
|Ch. 5||Sexuality and Spirituality in the Kabbalah||101|
|Ch. 6||The Displacement of Desire in Eighteenth-Century Hasidism||121|
|Ch. 7||Eros and Enlightenment||149|
|Ch. 8||Zionism as an Erotic Revolution||176|
|Ch. 9||Sexual Stereotypes in American Jewish Culture||204|
|Epilogue: Creating Desire||228|
|Bibliography of Selected Secondary Works||295|