Today’s daf (Ketubot 73a) makes reference to the Talmudic presumption of אין אדם עושה בעילתו בעילת זנות – which means that whenever someone has sexual relations with another, we do not presume that they do so casually.
Before proceeding, it is important to note that this presumption reflects substantive Jewish values, and while there is much to be said about improving sex and relationships education within the Jewish community, sexual intimacy is generally and rightly taught to be an expression of a deep personal, emotional and ideally spiritual connection between two people.
Notwithstanding this, we live at a time when sex is often thought of – and at times engaged in – casually, and this raises a question of whether this Talmudic presumption of אין אדם עושה בעילתו בעילת זנות remains applicable – to which the answer is that it is applicable to those who consider sexual intimacy to be an expression of a deep personal, emotional and ideally spiritual connection between two people, and it is not applicable to those who engage in casual sex.
What this means is that it is the behaviour of people which affirms whether this presumption applies to them. Beyond this, what this also means – which is something worthwhile remembering – is that when this presumption was originally formulated, it could be applied towards the great majority of the Jewish people.
Oftentimes, when topics such as this are discussed we are encouraged to be ‘realistic’. At the same time, I believe that when topics such as this are discussed, it is also our duty to ‘idealistic’ – which means that we should be prepared to speak our ideals and to give voice to our values. And though, both in education and halacha, we need realism, we also need idealism as well.