Why did G‑d give us the wonderful gift of sexuality and then say, "But don't use it now, or here, or there, but only at this time and under certain conditions"? Why didn't he create sexuality that is perfectly acceptable at all times?

G‑d seems so concerned with what we shouldn't do. We expect Him to be concerned with positive things, such as goodness, morality, holiness, selflessness, charity, kindness, compassion, and so on. But, in Judaism, there are 365 negative commandments and only 248 positive commandments—the "thou shalt nots" far outnumber the "thou shalts." Why does G‑d create certain conditions only to say, "no"?

Because when we say "no" to what is not allowed, to an objective situation rather than to an emotion within ourselves, we establish a protective circle of modesty around us. And within this circle we create for ourselves a private, peaceful place that says, "This is who we are and this is where we belong."

According to Jewish mystical tradition, G‑d also created "a private place" for Himself. The mystics tell us that when G‑d created the world, His light filled the entire existence. He was everywhere; and the physical, finite world as we know it could not exist. So He moved His light to one side, which left an empty space. And in that space G‑d created our world.

The mystics describe this as "a place that was an emptiness." It's a paradox: on the one hand, it was empty; on the other hand, it was a definite place. How can this be?

When we think about it, this idea is really not so unusual. To create a dwelling place in a forest, a lumberjack fells some trees to make a clearing. A city dweller tears down an old, dilapidated house to create an empty lot on which to build a new home. We always need to clear away, to empty an area, before we can begin to build the walls that make our space into a dwelling place.

Here's another example: If you were going to make a cup out of clay, you would have to have an empty space in the middle to contain the water. Then you would need to make sturdy walls to prevent the water from leaking out. Without a space, without walls, it's not a container. It's useless.

So when we create inside of us an "emptiness that is a place," we need two things: emptiness and borders. The emptiness is a place of receptivity and openness that waits to be filled. If we are not receptive, nothing can come in. Then we need borders to define that space. Emptiness without borders is simply a useless void. To create a dwelling place out of emptiness, we need limits.

According to the mystics, G‑d created an empty place, in which He created our world, because He wanted a "dwelling place." A dwelling place is more than a house with four walls, a floor, and a ceiling. It is a place of peace where we can be ourselves, where there's no need for formality. For example, a king would never appear in public without royal garments. But in his dwelling place he can take off his crown and put down his scepter and just be himself.

A dwelling place, then, is a place of privacy. G‑d was motivated to create this world because He wanted a private space. He had the entire universe, of course, but it wasn't private. In order to create a private space, He created our world as we know it: with physical limits, definitions, and borders.

When we set up a life for ourselves and create our world, we follow G‑d's model. We need to create for ourselves a private space, beginning with strong definitions and clearly defined borders. This means we can't have everything. We have to include some things and exclude others. The negative commandments given in the Bible are like the emptiness that G‑d created. Not doing, not yielding to temptations, saying "no" to unhealthy situations is what gives definition to our lives.

If the temptations weren't there, if there was nothing to exclude, then to say "no" would be meaningless. So in order to say "no," we have to have temptations and desires for things that we may not do and will not do.

When we say "no" to unhealthy situations we are building the walls of our dwelling place. When we thus define our inner life we become capable of intimacy. The real meaning of intimacy is that, under certain circumstances, we can invite someone into our private place. We can participate in an interaction, and that interaction will be intimate.

The Bible says there are times when a husband and wife are allowed to be together sexually and times when they are not. Those separations are not a break in the relationship. The separations give definition to the relationship. They are what makes the time together truly intimate: instead of being violated, our privacy is enhanced.

The word for the border that protects our dwelling place is modesty'. Without modesty, the walls of our dwelling place are already crumbling.

The popular film Fatal Attraction, which was one of the top box office successes of 1987, shows how easily such walls can be torn down. It is a chilling vision of what happens when our dwelling space is violated.

The plot is familiar: a happily married man loves his wife and his family. But, one weekend, just for fun, he has an affair with a woman from his office. The woman he sleeps with doesn't understand why she can't become a permanent part of his life.

He says, "I already have a life."

She says, "But I want to be part of it."

He says, "You can't be part of it because my wife's coming home. It was just an affair, okay? My wife was out of town, it was a weekend, and that's all. It's over."

She says, "Should I just fade away, just disappear? What am I supposed to do, turn my back and walk away? Just because she married you first? What about me? What about my feelings? I refuse to be treated like that. I'm not a rag that you can throw out."

He says, "You knew coming into this what my situation was."

Our first reaction is to identify with him and say, "The man is right; leave him alone. What do you want from him? Why are you harassing him?"

Then we learn that she is pregnant. Now her argument is, "You're not facing up to your responsibility."

He says, "It's not my responsibility. You should have been smarter. It's your problem, not mine. Find a doctor and get rid of it."

She can't win. If she agrees, leaves quietly, and has an abortion, we'll think she's an unfeeling monster. If she doesn't walk away, if she becomes clinging and desperate, we'll think she's insufferable.

But she wants to have the baby. She says, "I'm not young anymore. This is your child. I want you to be a father to it. All I want is what I have coming. I want to be part of your life."

He says, "I already have a life."

She says, "Well, I want to be part of it."

He says, "But you can't be part of it."

One day he finds her at his house talking to his wife. The next day she picks up his daughter at school and takes her to the amusement park. He warns her to stay away, and threatens her. She becomes homicidal and comes after his wife with a knife.

Whose side do we take? Who was right and who was wrong? Each of their arguments is logical. She's saying, "You started something. You have to finish it." He's saying, "It was never meant to be that way. It's finished." It's a confusing situation so typical of our times.

When we look at the story from the perspective of modesty, however, it becomes clearer. His marriage is his dwelling place, in which only he and his wife can dwell. He thought he could invite a stranger into that space for a weekend without compromising it.

She had not been installed in his private place, but she can't or won't make that distinction. Perhaps the walls of her own dwelling place are as weak as his. He only has so much to offer; he was only "good for a weekend," but she can't accept that.

The man didn't know where to draw his boundaries; the woman is unable to recognize or appreciate his limits. Metaphorically, the woman represents our passionate nature, and his marriage represents our intimate space. Inevitably, the story ends in tragedy.

Sometimes we're bored in our marriages. We want a little excitement, a little attention. We want to flirt. We don't want to do anything evil, we just want to flirt with forbidden fruit. We justify this need to ourselves by saying, "I don't want to do it, I just want to watch it, I want to read about it, I want to get a little vicarious pleasure from hearing about others doing it." It gets our adrenaline flowing, and we think we can get away with it, since we're only flirting.

Our society is convinced that we can flirt with borders and never really violate them. Fatal Attraction points out that we can't. Passion isn't that simple; once we let it in, it won't leave so quickly. Any passion that we have no intention of following through on—any attraction to which we will have to eventually say "no," but with which we toy and pretend—is "fatal." We flirt with it for a while, and when it gets complicated, we kill it.

But if we kill a passionate response, we're killing something that's a part of us. If we let it live, the passion will become an all-consuming monster. It will kill us, gobble us up.

If we create something that we can't conclude, one of two things will happen: either a passion that is never meant to be intimate will become so, which can lead to tragedy; or that which is now intimate will no longer be so, because we violate it.

So in the film, the couple could continue their relationship, which would become deeper, muddier, murkier, and without love. He could decide to leave his wife, or his wife might leave him. Either situation will destroy his dwelling place, and he will be left with nothing, neither wife nor mistress. The woman comes to kill his wife because the passion that she represents is an unwanted intrusion, and such intrusions devastate privacy.

What about permissible, legitimate passion? That passion we are more than willing to go all the way with. On the contrary, we want it to go all the way. We want it to get deeper and deeper and more inclusive, all–inclusive. We want to completely dissolve into that kind of intimate relationship.

We may say "no" to innumerable people; then one person, carefully selected, is allowed into our inner life. Marriage does not compromise our private space, it enriches it. The result is that our passion, our sexuality, becomes more meaningful.

Animals don't say "no." Animals also don't say "yes." They have passions, seasons, and instincts, but they have no "say" in the matter at all. Human beings can say "yes" once because they say "no" many times.

Therefore the restrictions concerning sexuality are not negative; they allow human passion, human sexuality to be a place of holiness. By saying "no" to the wrong situation we create the "yes" to the right emotion.

That's the definition of marriage: permissible, holy passion to which we say "yes," and it does not violate our dwelling place.

Imagine a Martian observing a human building a home. The person whose home is being built is working with anticipation, anxious for his home to be finished. He bangs, saws, and hammers. Finally, all the construction and work are finished. He walks in and what does he do?

He lies down. And now he's happy.

That's it? For this he worked, just so he could lie down?

For that one little bit of comfort, security, and privacy, we have to put up a lot of walls. We have to say "no" to the east, to the west, to the north, to the south, to the top, and to the bottom.

We have to build the walls from bricks or boards and put them together to be solid. We have to make sure that they're not too thick, or no sunlight will come in. We have to make sure they're not too thin, or the wind will come through. If it's going to be our own house, it has to be carefully built.

When our house is carefully built, when we've defined our private place, then there can be passion, intimacy, and human sexuality to which we say, "yes," joyfully and totally.

The Bible tells us in Genesis 28:11 that after leaving his father Isaac's house, Jacob stopped to sleep in a field. Before falling asleep, he surrounded his head with stones. He marked off a place for himself, saying, "I am claiming this as my space. This is the border, the outline, the definition. Within that definition is my place where I belong. Outside is not."

We must have those two parts: "Inside is mine, outside is not." A person can't say, "Inside is mine, outside also." Then there would be no inside, no privacy, no intimate space.

That's what modesty is all about. It is the curtain that marks the transition—the border—from what is not ours to what is ours, from what is not personal to what is personal, from what is not private to what is private.

If we don't appreciate the positive, constructive rewards of saying "no" to unhealthy situations, then saying "no" will feel stifling. But once we realize that modesty represents the walls of our own home, the walls of our private space, then we will appreciate and respect them and seek to keep them strong.

The result is that we will appreciate every moment of passion and sexuality that is allowed. We will be thankful for the opportunity to share our dwelling place with our spouse, and to become part of that person's innermost private life.