Often referred to as "America's Rabbi," Shmuel Boteach (a.k.a. Rabbi Shmuley) has forged a successful side gig as a relationship guru with such bestselling books as Kosher Lust and The Modern Guide to Judaism. On his forthcoming reality TV series, Divine Intervention, Rabbi Shmuley counsels couples and individuals on modern relationship quandaries of all kinds. Here he shares some of his own secrets to success, including why a healthy sex life is a lot like an iPhone launch.
Your best adviser is across the dinner table
Last year, on my 25th anniversary of being a rabbi, we had this big dinner in New York and a lot of friends and acquaintances were there, and I said that if there's one thing I've learned over the past 25 years, it's that I should have listened more to my wife. A spouse has two qualities that are rare when they're combined. The first is loyalty and dedication – they care about you a lot. And the second is that even though they know you so well, they are not you, so they can be objective about your life. For me, I tend to be a very impulsive, passionate person and I have been lucky to have my wife, who will tell me to put on the brakes every once in a while.
Steve Jobs, sex guru
Steve Jobs is probably the greatest modern marketer ever. The iPhone or the iPod are great pieces of technology, but that's not what made people line up outside the stores like Romeo outside of Juliet's balcony. Jobs did three things. First, he limited availability – the more people can't have something, the more they want it. Second, he never talked about his products during the development stages, so there was a lot of mystery surrounding them. And finally, he positioned Apple as a sort of sinful upstart against Microsoft. When you look at sex within the confines of marriage, you have none of these things and that is part of the problem: You have constant availability, you have a total lack of mystery and there is absolutely nothing rebellious or sinful about marital sex. In my own marriage, we try to maintain at least some mystery. And in the Jewish religion, there is a 12-day period of enforced abstinence every month. I think this cultivates lust and desire, which are good things for any relationship.
Don't let fame be a spotlight
One of the transformative experiences in my life was the time I spent as personal rabbi to Michael Jackson. It taught me a lot about the pitfalls of fame, which I am mindful of, even with the very small amount of fame that I have. Did fame give Michael a close relationship with his father, or inner peace or solace? No. Instead it probably did the exact opposite. One of the tragedies of his life is that he so wanted to figure out how to use his fame for a higher purpose, but he was never really able to do that. I think fame is like a very powerful light. If you just let it shine directly on you like a spotlight, you will eventually get scorched. Instead, you have to try to position it so that the light will shine out and illuminate the lives of other people. Bono is a very good example of how this can work and be such a positive thing.
Time to reassess success
In our society, we tend to have this very warped version of success where a person can be considered "successful" even if the people who are supposed to love him the most think the least of him. For me, you can be a world leader, you can have a billion dollars in the bank, but if your kids can't stand you or your wife thinks you're a narcissist, you're missing the point. Don't get me wrong – career is very important and there is nothing wrong with working very hard at that, but it is not the only way to measure success. When you look at the erosion of happiness that we have seen over the past few decades, I think a lot of that has to do with emphasizing the quantity of our bank accounts rather than the quality of our lives.
Divine Intervention airs weeknights at 10 p.m. on ONE starting Nov. 2.