Torah for Today! This week.. taking a Concubine

Torah for Today! This week.. taking a Concubine

This week, by Rabbi Ariel Abel reflects on the Torah's view on .. taking a Concubine

Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

Saira Khan, a former contestant on Alan Sugar’s The Apprentice and now a panellist on Loose Women, recently revealed that she has given permission to her husband to sleep with another woman, as she has lost her sex drive.

What does the Torah say about this?

Our great ancestor Abraham nearly lost his wife Sarah to the Philistine king, who was forced to return her untouched by divine intervention. Abraham did not discover his wife Sarah’s beauty until they approached Egypt, a country which prized foreign looks.

For her part, our holy matriarch Sarah at first doubted even a divinely delivered message that she would bear a child from her husband.

She suggested that he marry Hagar, her handmaid, rather than continue childless.

Our ancestors’ personal lives were laden with challenges of the most intimate nature.

Essentially, they did all they could to stay united and work on their marriage to the point they could express themselves intimately without inhibition.

Learning from the struggles of the previous generation, Abraham and Sarah’s son, Isaac expressed his love for Rebecca, from the first day he saw her.

As a result, in spite of trying to hide her identity, the Philistine king could not fail to discover his passion for her.

Their son, Jacob had a hard time trying to avoid domestic strife. However, he insisted on paying due attention to each of his wives.

For him, the fact of being married to two sisters and their handmaids was not an attempt to love elsewhere – he only ever wanted the love of one woman, Rachel.

Relationships are much more than the institution of marriage itself. For a marriage to mean something, it needs to find expression in shared intimacy. Farming out intimacy to another bedroom renders the home no longer worthy.

Problems at the office resulting in a lost sex drive are not a valid reason in a spiritual home to replace spousal intimacy with the attentions either of a concubine or a prostitute.

It may seem magnanimous of Saira to have accorded this leeway to her husband, but even if her husband were never to fall in love with any other woman, he’d have to demonstrate the passion of his love to someone he doesn’t love.

That is the tragedy of a dead marriage, one where spouses begin to avoid each other consistently, either emotionally or sexually.

Men and women are lifelong apprentices in marriage, and delegating away responsibility to seek intimacy is equivalent to telling one’s spouse that they are, in the words of the Apprentice seeker – fired!

• Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

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