When it comes to preparing Orthodox couples for marriage, the burden of pre-wedding education often falls on the shoulders on women. Women attend a series of classes with a kallah teacher to learn the laws of niddah and how to navigate taharat hamishpacha with their partner. We consider hilchot niddah an area of halacha for which women are primarily responsible, but limiting classes that prepare couples for marriage to women and their observance of niddah is doing a disservice to men and women alike.

Preparing couples for marital relations is about much more than learning halacha. It is important to understand human anatomy, the wide range of ways people experience intimacy, as well as what it means to have both a healthy and halachic married life. Once we recognize the need to give couples a thorough halachic and personal education before entering marriage, it becomes quite clear that we must be teaching not only brides, but grooms as well.

Preparing couples for marital relations is about much more than learning halacha.

The Chatan and Kallah and Teacher Training Workshop is an incredible opportunity for men and women who care about preparing chatanim and kallot responsibly for marriage and about improving understanding about this essential element of life, in the Orthodox community. The four day workshop allows teachers to study hilchot niddah through primary sources and learn from licensed professionals.

Although I learnt the laws of niddah in depth as part of my semicha studies, I am very grateful that I joined the Chatan and Kallah Teacher Training in the summer of 2015 before I started to learn with grooms ahead of their weddings. Not only was it an excellent refresher on the sources and details of the halachot, it included many other essential aspects too, and I have often referred back to the excellent course materials we received.

I am very grateful that I joined the Chatan and Kallah Teacher Training in the summer of 2015 before I started to learn with grooms ahead of their weddings

The couples approaching marriage in the Modern Orthodox community are anxious to know much more than just the practicalities of observing niddah, although they are obviously vital. Many have a background in learning, and need to see the sources and understand the values that underpin the system. They want to hear about Judaism’s holistic sexual ethic, and receive guidance about birth control, how to enjoy a healthy and nurturing sexual relationship, and on such questions as hair covering for married women.

This course provided all of those aspects, and more. The core teachers and range of experts brought in for particular sessions were excellent, well prepared, and open for discussion. The conversation amongst students and between teachers and students was frank, but appropriate and respectful, and the mix of serious men and women, some new teachers and others more experienced, made it a rich environment to learn and grow.

It is essential that chatanim are given first class, informed, reliable and sensible guidance, and we have male teachers with wider range of skills than a narrow focus on the halachot can offer.

I want to recommend this course for men in particular. It is essential that chatanim are given first class, informed, reliable, and sensible guidance, and we have male teachers with wider range of skills than a narrow focus on the halachot can offer. Hilchot niddah is by no means the sole responsibility of the woman, especially as a husband’s behaviour during niddah can make it either more difficult or less onerous, all within halachic boundaries. In terms of the sexual relationship outside niddah, each partner has an equal responsibility for achieving success.

I hope that lots of men and women will pass through this course, for the benefit of all those they teach in the approach to a happy and fulfilled married life.

Benjamin Elton is the Senior Rabbi of The Great Synagogue in Sydney and the Secretary of the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand. He received semicha from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in 2015 and attended the CKTT in the same year. Rabbi Elton and his wife Hinda teach several couples before their weddings each year.

The next Chatan and Kallah Teacher Training Workshop will be held in June 2018. Applications close December 2nd. For more information visit our website or contact shira@jofa.org. 

 

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