A little while back I mentioned that Rabbi Dr. Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff had cited the Steipler's letter on sex in one of his lectures. As I had never heard of the letter before, I was very curious and wanted to find it. I looked for Rabbi Nathan Drazin's Marriage Made in Heaven only to discover that there was no English translation of the letter in that book. I then realized I had to find the Hebrew version, namely, Zivug Min Ha-Shamayim, and not only that, but the newest edition. Gottesman didn't have it, which was saddening, but then, upon searching WorldCat, we realized that only five libraries worldwide have got this book! Of these five, only one had the second edition (published in 1989.) Thus, it is with a sense of great happiness that I hold Harvard University's copy of Zivug Min Ha-Shamayim in my hands.
To offer context and a preface, the Steipler wrote this letter with the request that it not be published. He desired it only to be circulated so that those who needed to know of it would. However, Rabbi Drazin took it upon himself to quote particular excerpts/ paragraphs from the letter in order to clarify matters to those who were honestly searching. You see, the Jewish tradition seems to allow for different understandings of intimacy, ranging from a more ascetic approach to one that permits and states that one ought to find pleasure in this. A basic introduction to some of these points of view and our common understanding nowadays is provided by my article, "The Jewish Perspective on Sexuality."
The updated version of Zivug Min Ha-Shamayim contains a SH'UT section, namely Shailos u'Teshuvos (Questions and Answers.) It is in this section that someone cites the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch and inquires as to how Rabbi Drazin can claim one ought to take pleasure in intimacy to the extent he does when the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch reads: בשעת הזווג יש לו להרהר בדברי תורה ובשאר דבר שבקדושה... ואף כשהוא אצלה לא יכוין להנאתו אלא כאדם שהוא פורע חובו שהוא חייב בעונתה, ולקיים מצות בוראו שיהיו לו בנים עוסקים בתורה ומקיימים מצות בישראל (Hilchos Tznius, Kaf-Gimmel, Beis through Tes). In answer to this question Rabbi Drazin cited from a "michtav aroch m'Gaon chasid echad." This, R' Rakeffet explains, is the Steipler's letter. While the excerpts are on page 110 of the book predominantly, I thought it best to scan the question as well, so below please find pages 109-111.
The Steipler's Letter on Intimacy
On the offchance that someone is unable to access Adobe Reader I also scanned the main part of the letter (page 110) in JPG form. However, I would greatly prefer it if you read the entire PDF as that's the way to achieve the best understanding.
The reason I have cited this letter and made it available is for the pursuit of holiness. Many people whom I have spoken to are very confused by the presentation of sexuality in Judaism and I think it is imperative for them to know that the Steipler used very clear language to explain that pleasure in this act is a pure and holy thing. Not only that, but that in our time it is not appropriate to act as ascetes in this matter. It is my desire that this letter only be used to promote holiness and understanding.