This article is an excerpt from our Sefer
- The Kavanos/Intentions that one is to have during marital relations:
See Chapter 1 Halachas 8-12 for further details on this subject.
Naturally, intercourse involves within it some of the most powerful human lusts known to mankind. This natural lust comes from the animal soul and can give potential nurture to the Kelipos. Therefore, it is imperative upon the couple to sanctify themselves, their minds, speech, and actions, prior to and during intercourse. This causes the nurture of the Sitra Achra to be dispelled from their act, and to bring a presence of Divinity and holiness into their actions. One is required to clean his thoughts and sanctify them during intimacy, by not thinking of sinful matters and promiscuity but rather only matters of holiness. Thinking of promiscuous matters, or focusing on one’s physical pleasure during the intimacy, causes all of his Neshamah to become invested in the Yetzer Hara, and is contrary to the G-dly intent of the Mitzvah.
The importance of having holy intentions during intimacy and its effect on one’s future children: Sanctification of one’s thoughts is of utmost importance during intimacy as it has a tremendous effect on the children. See Chapter 1 Halacha 5-6 at length!
- How to sanctify:
One sanctifies himself in thought by thinking to fulfill the Mitzvah of Onah during the intimacy, and to draw down a holy soul, and all the other Kavanos brought below in B-E. One sanctifies himself in speech by specifically saying that he is doing so for the sake of fulfilling the Mitzvah. One sanctifies himself in action by fulfilling all the regulations recorded in this book. [There is no need for one to try to ignore and dispel all feelings of physical lust or pleasure, as indeed, a person needs to have intimacy with lust and desire with all of his heart for his wife and it is not possible to dispel it. Rather, the lust and pleasure should be directed towards the soul of one’s wife, and bonding with her, as opposed to only her physical body. This is the proper way to sanctify oneself during intimacy, and have good intentions, to turn one’s physical lust into a passion to bond, and by thinking, saying, and doing the actions described above. Furthermore, even if one is overtaken by actual physical lust, he always maintains control of his mind and can think about whatever he desires, and therefore, even while his heart and emotions are involved in lustful activity, his mind can focus on the positive and holy aspects of intimacy. Accordingly, sanctifying oneself during intimacy is very tangible and attainable for all people, even those who know they have, and will retain, a powerful bodily lust for sexual relations. They are not demanded to ignore or destroy it, but simply to channel it.]
The wrong intents: [Obviously, one who has intimacy more frequently than minimally obligated and necessary, as explained in Chapter 2 Halacha 7, is not fulfilling the correct intents of intimacy during those superfluous sessions.] Furthermore, even when intercourse is taking place according to the minimum obligated frequencies, the intent of the husband is not to be simply getting pleasure, but rather [also] for more altruistic reasons, as listed below. If he has intercourse simply to satiate his own lusts, or to pleasure his body, then it is looked at with disdain. Furthermore, even when one intends to do so in order to have children, nevertheless, if one does so with intent that he births sons which can serve and inherit him, it is not praiseworthy. Rather, he should intend to have children who serve G-d. [Furthermore, even when one intends to do so for the sake of loving his wife and uniting with her, his intent alone does not suffice, and he must also intend on the general intents brought below which involve G-d and the fulfillment of a Mitzvah in the intimacy.]
The correct intents: According to Halacha, the correct intents include the following:
- Fulfill obligation of Onah: [When having intercourse during the obligatory Onah frequencies explained in Chapter 2] one is to have intercourse with the intent to fulfill his [Biblical] obligation of Onah for his wife [so he does not transgress this commandment], like a man who is paying a debt. Meaning, that even when he is having relations for the sake of fulfilling his Onah obligations, he is not to focus on his own pleasure, but rather [he should focus on pleasuring his wife and making her feel happy and satisfied], similar to one who is paying off his “debt,” which is his Halachic obligation to her. [This Kavana applies at all times, even when his wife is pregnant or nursing.]
- Fulfill Mitzvah of Peru Urevu: [When pregnancy is viable, in addition to intending to fulfill the Biblical command of Onah] one is to [also] intend to have intercourse to fulfill the command of his creator, that he have children who will grow up to learn Torah and fulfill Mitzvos amongst the Jewish people. [This indeed is the entire purpose of intimacy, and is the main reason for lust. This intent assists in G-d blessing the wife with righteous children. This intent is relevant even for the wife, even though women are technically exempt from Peru Urevu. One is to tell his wife to have this intent, to draw down a holy soul with their unity. This intent applies even if one has already fulfilled his Mitzvah of Peru Urevu, as nevertheless, the Rabbinical Mitzvah of Peru Urevu, also known as Liareiv, to have more children, still applies.] Even when one intends to do so in order so he have children, nevertheless, if one does so with the intent that he birth sons which can serve and inherit him, it is not praiseworthy. Rather, he should intend to have children who serve G-d.
- During pregnancy – For the benefit of the child: During the intercourse that takes place within the last six months of pregnancy, he is to intend to enhance the features of the child, as the intercourse of the last six months is beneficial for the child to come out further developed. If one has intercourse for this reason alone, it suffices.
- To prevent forbidden thoughts, save oneself from sinning with women: If one is doing the intimacy simply in order to satiate his lust in order to prevent him from sinning, then he is to intend on this reason during the intimacy, in order to better serve G-d and not come to sin. See Chapter 2 Halacha 7C! This intent, however, is the lowest of the intents and receives less reward.
- To relieve a constant erection and for other health reasons: If one is doing the intimacy for medical reasons, in order to relieve a constant erection [or to remove depression], then he is to intend on this reason during the intimacy, in order to have a healthy body to better serve G-d. See Chapter 2 Halacha 7C! This intent, however, is the one of lowest of the intents and receives less reward.
During intimacy the couple must be filled with true love, joy, and passion for each other, and through doing so, they will merit to have children who are righteous and scholarly. Thus, if a husband is not interested at all in the intimacy, and is forcing himself to do it without any real feeling and passion involved, then not only is he not considered to have sanctified himself in the intimacy, but on the contrary, he is doing it in a state that is negated according to Halacha. Furthermore, according to Kabbalah one is specially encouraged to increase the love and passion to unite with their spouse. This is not sexual passion, but passion of love. Clearing one’s mind to focus on his wife and think only of her and not of any other woman or matter is indeed the definition of sanctification. Defining sanctification of intimacy as disinterest is not only an injustice to its meaning, but is the exact opposite of sanctification, as one may not have intimacy if he is emotionally not interested, he must purposely arouse himself to be passionate and loving and to desire his wife. Thus, the perspective that Judaism looks at intimacy as a dry act of procreation, and that the righteous and pious should do so with no feeling, is very distanced from the true Jewish philosophy that it must involve feeling and passion. The sanctification is not in dispelling the feelings of passion and pleasure, but rather in channeling them towards one’s wife and not towards one’s own physical satiation of lust. This intent is required by all forms of intimacy, whether it is being done for the purpose of procreation, or to fulfill the mitzvah of Onah, or to benefit the child during the last six months of pregnancy, or to relieve a sexual urge to save himself from sin, or for medical reasons to relieve an erection. In addition to having the general intent of having intercourse for these holy reasons, one must also intend during the intercourse to love one’s wife and to bond with her. However, even when one intends to do so for the sake of loving his wife, and uniting with her, this intent alone does not suffice, and he must also intend on the general intents brought below which involve G-d and the fulfillment of a Mitzvah in the intimacy. See Chapter 1 Halacha 12 for further details on this matter.
See Chapter 6 Halacha 2C-D
Regarding the form of intercourse that a Ba’al Nefesh should strive for, see Halacha 7.
Instructing the wife to also have holy thoughts:
The husband is to instruct his wife to have holy thoughts during intimacy, explain to her the importance of doing so, and remind her of this periodically. He should speak to her words of fear of heaven, piety and modesty, and speak to her about righteous and pious women and how holy children derived from them. He should tell her to intend to draw down holy souls in their intimacy.
Other intents from Sifrei Chassidus and Kabbalah
Focus on becoming one with one’s wife:
Both the husband and wife are to intend at that time to become one. During intimacy between a male and female, if they have the proper intent of sanctification, the couple becomes unified and are called one without a blemish. It is for this reason that a man must rejoice his wife at that time, to prepare her to desire the intimacy, so that they both intend to unite with each other. When they are both found together, then they both become one, in body and soul. The oneness in soul is complete when they desire to unite with each other, and the oneness in body is complete as it states that one who is not married is considered incomplete, only by being intimate does one become a complete person. It is then, when this soul and body unity is complete, that G-d dwells amongst them.
Intent on uniting with the Shechina:
The couple is to intend on uniting with the Shechina during their intimacy.
Intent of drawing Elokus into Malchus and procreating souls:
One is to intend on drawing down G-dlines into Malchus and by doing so new souls are created which have legions of angels as protection.
Passion of Gevurah:
One is to intend that the Yetzer Hara which becomes aroused for Zivug comes from Gevurah, which is a holy fire.
Picturing the face of a Tzaddik during intercourse:
Some write that the husband and wife is to be taught to picture the face of a Tzaddik during intercourse, in order so that their children come out as wise and pious individuals. [they are to think of the righteous deeds of the Tzaddik and pray to G-d that their children come out likewise.]
Thinking words of Torah:
It is proper to think words of Torah during intimacy. See Chapter 7 Halacha 7E!
Drawing down a holy soul:
During intimacy the couple is to think of drawing down a holy soul for the child.
Mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem:
Some even write that they are to think of fulfilling the Mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem and giving up their very lives for G-d.
Say that you are doing so for G-d’s sake:
The Mekubalim state that the entire desire of the Kelipos is to receive nurture from the actions done by Jews. Through a Jew mentioning the name of G-d prior to doing an action, he protects and defends against the Kelipos, so they will be unable to receive nurture from his otherwise neutral actions. This especially applies to Mitzvos that contain bodily pleasure and benefit, such as Oneg Shabbos and Yom Tov, and marital intercourse, of which the Kelipos have a great desire to nurture from, and attach to the Kedusha, as this energy is its life. It is this hungry passion of the Kelipos which seduces man to swerve from his pure intentions during marital intimacy, and perform matters that are inappropriate, in order to satiate the hunger of the Kelipos. The Tikkun for this is to state prior to starting the act that one is doing so for the sake of G-d.
Should one think of the above intentions during the actual penetration?
Yes. It should be thought of periodically during the intimacy and certainly during the actual intercourse.
What is one to do if thinking of the above intentions disturb one from properly fulfilling the Mitzvah:
If thinking of the above intentions during intimacy or intercourse prevents one from properly fulfilling the Mitzvah, such as if one loses his erection as a result of it, then one should not think of them during the actual intimacy or intercourse, but rather prior to starting.
What should one do if thoughts of physical pleasure keep entering into his mind?
As stated above, it is not possible to ignore the physical pleasure involved in intimacy, and thus, one’s job is simply to also add to it the holy intentions stated above. If even this is difficult, then one should follow the words of the Ra’avad in Ba’alei Hanefesh Sha’ar Hakedusha that, “One is required to force himself and remove bad thoughts from his heart.”
 See Michaber O.C. 240:1; E.H. 25:2; Tur 240:1 and E.H. 25:8 in name of Ra’avad; Ra’avad in Ba’alei Hanefesh Sha’ar Hakedusha 4; Igeres Hakodesh of the Ramban; Reishis Chochmah Sha’ar Hakedusha chapter 16: at length throughout the chapter; Siddur Ya’avetz Mitos Kesef 6; Kitzur SHU”A 150:1; Igros Kodesh 12:424; Piskeiy Teshuvos 240:22; Sheyikadesh Atzmo 15:1; See Menoras Hama’or Ner Gimel K’lal Vav 5:1
 Reishis Chochmah Sha’ar Hakedusha 16:31 in name of Ramak; Or Tzadikim 27:14; Kaf Hachaim 240:64;
 Igeres Hakodesh of Ramban Chapters 5; Reishis Chochmah Sha’ar Hakedusha 16:8; Ra’avad in Ba’alei Hanefesh Sha’ar Hakedusha that one must sanctify himself in thought and action; Kitzur SHU”A 150:1; Igros Kodesh 12:424 that one’s thoughts have huge affects on the intimacy;
 Reishis Chochmah Sha’ar Hakedusha 16:10
 Igeres Hakodesh of Ramban Chapters 5; Menoras Hama’or Ner Gimel K’lal Vav 5:2-3 and 6:4; Siddur Ya’avetz Mitos Kesef 6:9-11 and Chulya Gimel 16; Igros Kodesh 12:424
 See Reishis Chochmah Sha’ar Hakedusha 16:31 in name of Ramak
 Torah L’shma 72, “Although one must intend to have intercourse for the sake of fulfilling God’s command, one must also do it with lust and desire with all of his heart”; See also Reishis Chochma 16:19; Menoras Hama’or Ner Shelishi 6:5 that he should not do so for only his pleasure, but also for her pleasure; Siddur Ya’avetz Mitos Kesef 6:10; Sheyikadesh Atzmo 15:1 and footnote 6
 See Reishis Chochma 16:19; Kedushas Levi Metzora; Noam Elimelech Vayishlach; Sur Meira V’asei Tov in name of Chozeh Milublin that during the Zivug it’s impossible to remove oneself from the pleasure; See Yaskil Avid E.H. 5:10, 2-8 that the pleasure is an integral part of the Mitzvah, and hence one does not fulfill his obligation of Peru Urevu with an IVF pregnancy; Sheyikadesh Atzmo [Nachmonson-2015] p. 555
The level of Tzadikim: See Sur Meira V’asei Tov in name of Rav Chaim Vital that one should sanctify himself to the point that he does not feel pleasure; Chumash Heichal Bracha Parshas Bechukosaiy p. 287; Rav Poalim 3:10; Noam Elimelech Bereishis
 Reishis Chochma 16:13-18 based on Zohar Raya Mihemna 96:34 and Or Hachama of Ramak 96
 See Sheyikadesh Atzmo 15 footnote 1
 Michaber 231:1 and all Poskim in coming footnotes; Tur 240:1; Kitzur SHU”A 150:9
 See wording in Menoras Hama’or Ner Shelishi 6:5 that he should not do so only for his pleasure, but also for her pleasure; See also Ramban Igros Kodesh 6; Rambam Pirush Hamishnayos Sanhedrin 7:4
 The Poskim do not record love and passion as a justifiable reason to add in Onah (even when one has already fulfilled his Onah for that week) and do not list it as a reason to have intimacy. It is simply listed as an intent during intimacy and not as a reason to have it to begin with; See also Torah L’shma 72, “Although one must intend to have intercourse for the sake of fulfilling God’s command, one must also do it with lust and desire with all of his heart.”
 Michaber 240:1; 231; Tur 240:1; Ra’avad in Ba’al Nefesh Sha’ar Hakedusha; Reishis Chochma 16:24; Mikdash Melech on Zohar Vayikra 43a; Siddur Arizal of Rav Shabsi; Taharas Yisrael 240:19
The positive commandment of Visamei’ach Es Ishto: Some Poskim learn that in addition to the negative commandment of Veonasa Lo Sigara there is also a positive commandment of Visamei’ach Es Ishto. [Semak Mitzvah 285; Chareidim 7 Asei Mitzvos Hateluyos Bageviyah 8] Accordingly, some Poskim suggest that in addition to intending not to transgress the negative commandment of Onasa Lo Sigara, one is to also intend that, according to the Semag, one fulfills the positive commandment of Visamei’ach Es Ishto. [Derech Pikudecha L.S. 46:13; Sheyikadesh Atzmo 15 footnote 8]
 Michaber E.H. 25:2; See Beir Mayim Chaim Bereishis, “Vayatzar Hashem Elokim Es Ha’adam”; Piskeiy Teshuvos 240 footnote 158;
 M”B 240:1
 Michaber O.C. 240:1; 231; E.H. 25:2; Tur 240 in name of Ra’avad that this is the greatest of the intents; Rambam Pirush Hamishnayos Sanhedrin 7:4; Mikdash Melech on Zohar Vayikra 43a; Siddur Kol Yaakov Arizal p. 112; Sefer Habris 1:17-2
 Taharas Yisrael 240:19
 Rambam Pirush Hamishnayos Sanhedrin 7:4 that so is proven form the fact that as soon as one ejaculates his lust ceases.
 Menoras Hama’or Ner Hashelishi 6:5 2:178
 See Ran Kiddushin chapter 2 that she receives a Mitzvah for helping the husband achieve his Mitzvah.
 Reishis Chochmah Sha’ar Hakedusha 16:25
 See Michaber E.H. 1:8; Beis Shmuel 1:1 and 14-15; Taz E.H. 1:1; Rambam Ishus 15:16; Yevamos 62b; See Likkutei Sichos 30:264 for distinction between Liareiv versus Rabbinical Peru Urevu and that according to the Rambam ibid there exists a Rabbinical obligation of Peru Urevu, and that one fulfills the Biblical Mitzvah of Peru Urevu with every additional child.
 Michaber 231
 Michaber O.C. 240:1; Tur 240 in name of Ra’avad; Kitzur SHU”A 150:9
 Tur 240 in name of Ra’avad; Siddur Ya’avetz Mitos Kesef 6:3
 Siddur Ya’avetz Mosach Hashabbos Mitos Kesef 7; See Sefer Binyan Habayis Al Pi Derech HaTorah p. 252
 Tur 240 in name of Ra’avad
 Many Rishonim and Sefarim emphasize the need for love, joy and passion during intimacy in order that it has a positive effect on the child born: Menoras Hama’or Ner Gimel K’lal Vav 5:1, “When they love each other and have intercourse with appeasement”; Implication of verse, “Al Kein Yazov Ish Es Avivo V’es Imo V’davak B’ishto Vehayu Lebasar Echad”; See Ramban Bereishis 2:24 that this is the difference between the mating of animals and that of humans, that by animals, it’s a mere act of procreation, and there is no D’veikus between the male and female. However, by humans, we attach ourselves to our wives; See also Ra’avad in Ba’alei Hanefesh in Hakdama for a similar explanation. [However, see Sheyikadesh Atzmo Shut 8 which claims that the above does not refer to the feelings of love during intercourse, but simply in general to the love which a husband has for his wife and vice versa]; Reishis Chochmah Sha’ar Hakedusha 16:13-18 based on Zohar Raya Mihemna 96:34 and Or Hachama of Ramak 96; Rokei’ach Teshuvah 14, “He should rejoice in touching her in all forms of hugging to fulfill his and her desire so that he thinks of no one else but her”; and, “Whatever a man desires to do with his wife he may do in order so he does not come to think of other women”; Kol Bo 66 in name of Rokei’ach “When one’s wife is pure, he should rejoice with her in all forms of desire of his heart with passion and touching and hugging and kissing and cleaving”; Siddur Ya’avetz Mosach Hashabbos 6:10, “Arouse her so she desires you… and then they will love each other and their sons will be smart… in accordance with the great passion will be the warmth of their blood from which the child is created”; Torah L’shma 72, “Regarding that which you asked if a person who just woke up from his sleep and is completely uninterested in having intercourse to the point that he almost despises it, may do so anyways, or if he has to do things in order to arouse his desire and lust. The answer: It is not good to have intercourse without any desire, and on the contrary, one must have will and desire of his own. Thus, it is better that one arouses his will and lust in his heart for the intercourse than for him to despise it. For this purpose, it is permitted for him to even speak words of frivolity with his wife in order to arouse his desire. Although one must intend to have intercourse for the sake of fulfilling God’s command, one must also do it with lust and desire with all of his heart”; See Rambam Dei’os 5:4-5 brought in next footnote; Nedarim 20b and Shita Mekubetzes ibid in name of Riem and Ritva; Rashi on Niddah 17a; Sefer Chassidim 362; Menoras Hama’or Ner Hashelishi 6:6 5:185; Sheyikadesh Atzmo [Nachmonson-2015] p. 497-502; See Bava Kama 84a that the Matruniosa asked Rebbe Elazar the son of Rebbe Shimon how he can have intimacy with his wife if he is so obese, to which he replied that, “Ahavah Dochekes Habasar,” that the love and passion between the couple overcomes all physical impediments.
 Rambam Dei’os 5:4-5 regarding negation of laziness and depression or being upset; Sefer Chassidim 563 regarding negation of being in a state of anger or being upset and so writes Morah B’etzba 1:11; Shevet Mussar 24; Avraham Anochi 1 Teruma 10 regarding being sad or depressed; Tikkunei Zohar Tikkun 56 regarding being upset or depressed; Torah L’shma ibid
 Reishis Chochmah Sha’ar Hakedusha 16:2, “Both the husband and wife are to intend at that time to become one. It is for this reason that a man must rejoice his wife at that time, to prepare her to desire the intimacy, so that they both intend to unite with each other. The oneness in soul is complete when they desire to unite with each other.”; and 16:26; So is also evident from all the Sefarim which record the need to kiss on the lips before and during intercourse, for the sake of building up the love between them and expressing the highest level of love. [See Reishis Chochma 16:21; Zohar Tikkun 10 p. 25b; Eitz Chaim 2 Heichal 6 Sha’ar 39 end of Derush 9; Adam Yashar of Rav Chaim Vital Derushei Mad; Siddur Ya’avetz Mosach Hashabbos Mitos Kesef 7 Chulya 2:6]
 Rabbeinu Bechayeh Bereishis 30:38
 See Menoras Hama’or Ner Shelishi 6:5 that he should not only do so for his pleasure, but also for her pleasure.
 See Seder Hayom Seder Hanhagas Halayla that both are needed.
 The Poskim do not record love and passion as a justifiable reason to add in Onah even when one has already fulfilled his Onah for that week, and do not list it as a reason to have intimacy. It is simply listed as an intent during intimacy and not as a reason to have it to begin with; See also Torah L’shma 72, “Although one must intend to have intercourse for the sake of fulfilling God’s command, one must also do it with lust and desire with all of his heart.”
 Ramban Igeres Hakodesh chapter 6; Reishis Chochmah Sha’ar Hakedusha 16:25; Morah B’etzba 2:49; Birkeiy Yosef 240:4; Avodas Hakodesh 2:49; Siddur Ya’avetz Mosach Hashabbos Mitos Kesef 6 8-9; Pela Yoeitz Erech Zivug; See Sheyikadesh Atzmo 14 footnote 8
 Reishis Chochmah Sha’ar Hakedusha 16:2 and 25; Zohar Kedoshim p. 81a
 Reishis Chochmah Sha’ar Hakedusha 16:5
 Reishis Chochmah
 Ramban in Igeres Hakodesh chapter 5 regarding that he and her should think of pure Tzadikim; Shevet Hamussar 24 that she is to think of a Tzaddik during intimacy so her children become tzadikim and Chassidim; Siddur Ya’avetz Mitos Kesef 6:9; Pischei Olam 240:27; Midrash Talpiyos Inyan Zivug to think of the Tzurah of a Tzadik; Ma’or Vashemesh Likkutim on Ta’anis that he is to think of it; Taharas Yisarel 240:20; Kaf Hachaim 240:58; See Brachos 20a that when the women who left Mikveh would see Rebbe Yochanon, they would have children like him, thus proving that also her thoughts have an effect; See Pirush Hakosein in Iyun Yaakov on Brachos ibid; Midrash Raba Vayeitzei 73:10; See Piskeiy Teshuvos 240:23; Sheyikadesh Atzmo 14 footnote 7 and 15:6
 Kaf Hachaim ibid
 Tzetel Katan of Rav Elimelech of Lizhinsk 1-3
 Pela Yoeitz Erech “Dibbur”
 See Or Hachaim Tazria 12:2 that if one thinks bad thoughts during the actual ejaculation it can damage the child, and that the main matter of sanctification is specifically during ejaculation.
 See Tanya Chapter 41 that the main L’shma is prior to the start of the learning; Ma’amarei Admur Hazakein Haketzarim p. 168; Sefer Torah Vechaim Mareches Hazayin 52; Sur Meira Viaseh Tov p. 36 in name of Chozeh Milublin; Sheyikadesh Atzmo 15:3
 See Sefer Chassidim 362
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