Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Steipler's Letter on Sex

I had never heard of this before and found it fascinating. Ah, the gems to be found in Rabbi Dr. Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff's lectures! Continuing in the Monday, August 31, 2009 lecture Rabbi Dr. Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff makes the following statement:
    It seems that in Bnei Brak in the ‘60s, a group of yeshiva people or people from the Chazon Ish Kollel got together and instituted that they want to be like Maimonides and they want to be very machmir and they want to have a negative attitude and they just want to indulge in sex because they have to for procreation. They don’t want to take the concept of sex into consideration and some of the wives went and complained to the Gadol Hador at that time, the Steipler Rav, the famous R’ Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky. And the Steipler wrote a four-page letter which he didn’t want published but circulated. Every Rosh Yeshiva gave it to a chatan at his wedding and in the four-page letter he tells these yeshiva boys off. He says to them, you think you’re tzaddikim; in reality you’re terrible sinners. You treat your wives like legal prostitutes. That’s the word that he uses. And the women cry; this is not the way to treat a woman. And he goes into rashei prakim simple, sexual knowledge, how to treat a woman. Very famous letter.

    The letter was published anonymously years later by Rabbi Nachum Drazin, Rabbi Nathan Drazin, rabbi in Baltimore, the most famous rabbi in Baltimore, a YU musmach out of the ‘20s, a talmid of the Meitscheter Illui and Rabbi Revel. And Rabbi Drazin, among the sefarim he wrote, he wrote a sefer, ‘Marriage Made in Heaven.’ In English the book was not a best-seller because by the 1960s every kid going to yeshiva in America knew the facts of life. He didn’t need anyone to tell him. If he just read The New York Times already, he knew the facts of life. The Hebrew translation of the book, ‘Zivug Min HaShamayim’ became a tremendous best-seller. And here there was a great need for it. And the Roshei Yeshiva explained about the Steipler that b’zman hazeh where everyone knows about sex, we cannot and should not take a negative attitude.

    And therefore there’s no question, when we go into the rabbinate, when we go into chinuch, and this is so important, because the spiritual leader shapes attitudes; you can affect children for life by the attitude you can convey to them and it’s important b’zman hazeh to be positive and this is the Steipler. You don’t have to quote Rakeffet and say, ‘What do you expect out of a rotten, vicious, malicious, hideous, heinous, ruthless, depraved, degenerate, surreptitious, malevolent YU graduate?” This is the Steipler Rav speaking! And you have the source in Rabbi Drazin’s book beginning on page 110. It’s right there before your eyes.
I don't own the book but if anyone does and wants to scan the letter, I think it would make for fascinating reading.

UPDATE (10/27/09): I found the book and scanned the letter. You can read it here.


Dana said...

wow- go steipler rav... that's why it's built into the k'tubah! we're not meant to be prostitutes-we are people... and there's actually aside from "pru-urivu" the miztvah of "onah"- enjoying sex for what it is, not just to create babies.

Chana said...

Re: Onah- he speaks about this earlier in the shiur. You would love his lectures, Dana. He is very down to earth and awesome.

Anonymous said...

He probably said the Meitscheter Illui. The name given to Rav Shlomo Polachek by his rebbe Rav Chaim Soloveitchik.

Chana said...


Fixed- thank you!

Dorron Katzin said...

Does the YU library have a copy of this book?

Izgad said...

I like the sound of people wanting to act like Maimonides. Why could they have not at least put into play some of the philosophy behind his position on sex?

Dorron Katzin said...

From the YU library catalog:

Author Drazin, Nathan, 1906-
Title Marriage made in Heaven / by Nathan Drazin.
Publication New York : Bloch Publishing Co., 1958, 1961 printing.
Description 144 p. ; 21 cm.
Location Stern Judaica
Call Number 296.72 .D679M
Copy 1
Status Available

Anonymous said...

I believe that the Steipler's letter was (also) in response to a position to the contrary taken by the then current Gerrer Rebba (the Bais Yisroel). In general, Ger has a completley different approach to sexuality and the marraige relationship.

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Rakeffet has disagreed strongly with the Gerrer position on marital relations strongly in public.
Chana, you might have gone a little overboard with the proposed adverbs for the "YU Rabbi"...Thankfully I haven't heard those descriptions in my dealings with hostile "Frum" Yidden.

Dorron Katzin said...

Anonymous 5:56pm

Chana was not going overboard. She was quoting what Rabbi Rakeffet said. While I have not yet listened to the entire lecture, I did hear that portion.

nmf #7 said...

I actually have heard of this before- and the Steipler told those men off in a very harsh way...
I didn't know the letter was meant to be circulated- from my understanding it was only meant for chassanim.

The Talmid said...

re circulating, Rav Moshe Feinstein had a psak about smoking that he didn't want to be widely circulated, but he did publish it. I heard from Rav Aharon Solver at KBY that he wanted to quote this teshuva in a footnote to something else, but wasn't sure if he should because Rav Moshe didn't want it circulated so much, and he asked R Mordechai Willig if he should include this teshiva, abd R Willig said "he did publish it." So once it is published, it will get around. Even before the internet, some things got around quickly.

The Talmid said...


Does Getzel Ellinson discuss this in any of his books?

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Yeah, I read that letter in a Hebrew sefer once on a boring Shabbat afternoon and found it...surprising.