Freedom, tradition, and erectile dysfunction
Posted Jan 10, 2017
Berny was a 28-year-old IT specialist, very bright, high achiever, and made an excellent salary. But, Berny had erectile dysfunction.
Berny was reared in a strict Jewish family. At age 16, he was castigated by his father for eating pizza, which was not kosher. Shortly after, he was forced to leave his friends in high-school and enter a yeshiva, to prepare to enter the rabbinate. His father and mother selected a wife and Berny married at the age of 20. His mother-in-law selected the apartment and chose the furniture, along with the plastic covers. By the age of 23, Berny rebelled and decided to leave his wife. His father and mother disowned him, and Berny ventured forth into the secular world.
Berny found immediate success. He plunged into all the forbidden pleasures of his upbringing, including pizza. He had a gift of conversation and could easily charm the most reluctant and beautiful of women. He enjoyed being single until, suddenly he fell in love. He remarried, and, quite bluntly, could not get it up. He was prescribed Viagra, and regardless the number and timing of the pills, found it ineffective about half the time. His wife, an academic, feeling rejected, told him she could not wait forever.
Although Berny insisted on focusing on the erection problem, it became apparent that Berny still admired his father, in spite of their differences. His father had emigrated from Hungary as a teenager, “carrying a roll of baloney under one arm and the Torah under the other.” Berny respected his father for sticking to his beliefs and for his honesty. His father was fired by a dry goods merchant who wanted him to work on Saturdays. Berny held nothing but contempt for his mother, whom he considered excessively righteous.
Somehow, falling in love with a non-Jewish woman brought Berny into a new confrontation with his father’s proscriptions. Getting an erection was not a problem when Berny was simply rebelling. But now that Berny had decided to have a family of his own, and because Berny still loved his father, his father’s “rights and wrongs” resurfaced with a vengeance, thereby creating a conflict leading to his erection problem. His wife moved in with a male colleague, and Berny felt condemned to bachelorhood.
When asked about his early childhood, Berny said he had pretty much fused with his father, Abe. Abe’s father, his grandfather, great-grandfather, and relations even further back, were all orthodox rabbis. Abe spotted Sarah, Berny’s mother, on an evening stroll while on Ellis Island, awaiting entry to America. Courting practices at the time were carefully designed to prevent any intimacy. Following marriage, sexual activity was allowed only in prescribed bedroom attire and in complete darkness. Nudity and sensuality were forbidden.
Berny was the youngest of four brothers. The other three, following in Abe’s footsteps, worshiped Sarah and became rabbis. But Berny was different. He wanted to have fun. Sarah had given up on Berny by the time he reached twelve years. Abe, on the other hand, thought the boy was just a little rebellious and needed more time to settle down, until that fateful day when Abe learned that Berny had succumbed to the temptation of pizza, which judging from Abe’s reaction initiated the thunderous wrath of Abe’s forefathers, all the way back to Moses.
Berny wanted only to discuss with me the attractive women he was dating and his intense frustration that he could not get it up with any of them. I refused to focus on the erection problem, preferring instead to reconcile Berny with Abe, who had long since passed away. Berny related how Abe, on his death bed, called for Berny, who promptly came. Abe had asked Berny about his computer business and Berny proceeded to tell him the issues of information technology. Abe smiled as though he understood. Berny felt heartbroken to say goodbye.
I pointed out to Berny that Abe loved him, not in spite of his fun-loving rebelliousness, but because of it. Abe must have faced the same temptations, but Abe was afraid to make the break, as was Abe’s father and possibly Abe’s grandfather and forefathers before him. Berny had made the break from tradition, and Abe, or at least a part of him, was proud that Berny not only cherished freedom, but acted according to his convictions. Being the successful salesman he was, Abe must have been flirted with by many attractive non-Jewish women and being the virile man he was, felt many temptations. And Abe, were it not forbidden, certainly would have loved pizza.
Berny soon reported that he met a gorgeous redhead with a little pug, turned-up nose that turned him on all the way down to his toes, and that he was going to go for it. She also was an academic and he respected her intelligence. Berny spent several amorous weekends with his new friend and shortly thereafter discontinued therapy.
This blog was co-published with PsychResilience.com