I am a seventeen-year-old young man and I am looking towards going into Massage Therapy to, as you surely would put it, “Serve your fellow man and make money in the process.”. I’ve already participated in a class on it and completed the course. Until I can get licensed, I work for tips since I cannot legally ask for money for my work.
The problem is since listening to one of your podcasts where you talked about dating, courting and marriage, you talked about the power of touch. How dangerous it can be. What are your thoughts on Massage Therapy and would you consider it respectable work? It’s been on my mind that because of the physical contact in Massage, it should perhaps be reserved only within a marriage?
It is a pleasure to hear from a young man who is seriously planning both his economic and spiritual future. We would like to answer on both those fronts.
As you say, we have discussed and written about the power of touch. If you have not read Gila Manolson’s book, Hands Off! This May Be Love, it is a must-read for anyone in your age group. There are two problems: touch possibly leading to wrong behavior or conversely desensitizing yourself to touch so that you deprive you and your future spouse from the full excitement and benefit that is a vital aspect of marriage.
While we are sure you are seeing massage as comparable to a medical treatment—and indeed, it does have health benefits—there is a big difference between giving a massage to a member of the opposite sex and, for example, seeing a urologist or gynecologist of the opposite sex. Even so, many male doctors will not examine a female patient without a nurse in the room. This protects both them and the patient. It will not make economic sense for you to do the same. It will not make spiritual or legal sense for you not to.
We do see your career path as problematic for the above reasons. In addition, at seventeen, we would encourage you to set your sights higher. Massage therapy means that your earnings are limited both because you will only earn while you are physically on the job and because massage is a luxury that people can cut out when finances are tight.
Furthermore, it requires very little in the way of training and preparation which means barriers to entry are very low. This means you will always be competing with others willing to earn much less than your ambitions might seek. At your age, why not invest some time in acquiring more valuable skills and qualifications?
We would encourage you to take your goal of helping people and interest in the human body and explore a different and perhaps more demanding profession that will potentially be less harmful to you as well as far more lucrative.
Wishing you well,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin