Nishmat's Women’s Health and HalachaIn memory of Chaya Mirel bat R' Avraham

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Initiating intimacy

28 January, 2007


I remember learning that a wife cannot directly ask her husband to have marital relationships with her. However she can ask indirectly or hint at it. Can you please clarify this for me and maybe give me an example. Thank you so much in advance.


Two conflicting opinions in the gemara exist about this issue: the gemara in Eruvin 100b tells us that a woman is encouraged to ask her husband for relations; another opinion on the same page tells us that this is a negative quality.  The conclusion of the gemara, which is adopted by most interpretations as well, is that a woman should hint at, rather than explicitly state, that she is interested in relations.

The way we should approach such gemarot is debated among halachic authorities.  Many stories, discussions and ideas in the gemara are not halachic in nature.  Some are meant as good advice, which must be taken in context of factors such as the time period in which they were written.  Others are purely theoretical. 

The Shulchan Aruch adopts this idea as a "midah tovah" (positive quality).  Here too, his words are not necessarily to be understood as mandatory, but rather as suggestions for a higher spiritual level of relations.  It is of utmost importance that the couple take its own desires and needs into account when it comes to their sexual relationship.  If they feel they are interested in adopting this suggestion, and it indeed heightens their relationship rather than disrupting it, the wife can do everything short of explicitly stating she is interested in relations: she can do this by wearing a provocative nightgown, speaking about relations in an indirect way, or acting enticing without actually saying she wants to have relations.  However, if this in any way interferes with their normal relationship and causes awkward situations, it may not be the best advice for them.

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