Dr. Norman Lamm is the former President of Yeshiva University. He originally published the following article in 1974.
Popular wisdom has it that our society is wildly hedonistic, with the breakdown of family life, rampant immorality, and the world, led by the United States, in the throes of a sexual revolution. The impetus of this latest revolution is such that new ground is constantly being broken, while bold deviations barely noticed one year are glaringly more evident the year following and become the norm for the "younger generation" the year after that.
Some sex researchers accept this portrait of a steady deterioration in sex inhibitions and of increasing permissiveness. Opposed to them are the "debunkers" who hold that this view is mere fantasy and that, while there may have been a significant leap in verbal sophistication, there has probably been only a short hop in actual behavior. They point to statistics which confirm that now, as in Kinsey's day, there has been no reported increase in sexual frequencies along with alleged de-inhibition to rhetoric and dress. The "sexual revolution" is, for them, largely a myth. Yet others maintain that there is in Western society a permanent revolution against moral standards, but that the form and style of the revolt keeps changing.
The determination of which view is correct will have to be left to the sociologists and statisticians -or, better, to historians of the future who will have the benefit of hindsight. But certain facts are quite clear. First, the complaint that moral restraints are crumbling has a two or three thousand year history in Jewish tradition and in continuous history of Western civilization. Second, there has been a decided increase at least in the area of sexual attitudes, speech, and expectations, if not in practice. Third, such social and psychological phenomena must sooner or later beget changes in mores and conduct. And finally, it is indisputable that most current attitudes are profoundly at variance with traditional Jewish views on sex and sex morality.
Of all the current sexual fashions, the one most notable for its militancy, and which most conspicuously requires illumination from the sources of Jewish tradition, is that of sexual deviancy. This refers primarily to homosexuality, male or female, along with a host of other phenomena such as transvestism and transexualism. They all form part of the newly approved theory of idiosyncratic character of sexuality. Homosexuals have demanded acceptance in society, and this demand has taken various forms -from a plea that they should not be liable to criminal prosecution, to a demand that they should not be subjected to social sanctions, and then to a strident assertion that they represent an "alternative life-style" no less legitimate that "straight heterosexuality. The various forms of homosexual apologetics appear largely in contemporary literature and theater, as well as in the daily press. In the United States, "gay" activists have become increasingly and progressively more vocal and militant.
Homosexuals have, indeed, been suppressed by the law. For instance, the Emperor Valentinian, in 390 C.E., decreed that pederasty be punished by burning at the stake. The sixth-century Code of Justinian ordained that homosexuals be tortured, mutilated, paraded in public, and executed. A thousand years later, Gibbon said of the penalty the Code decreed that "pederasty became the crime of those to whom no crime could be imputed". In more modern times, however, the Napoleonic Code declared consensual homosexuality legal in France. A century ago, anti-homosexual laws were repealed in Belgium and Holland. In this century, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland followed suit and, more recently, Czechoslovakia and England. The most severe laws in the West are found in the United States, where they come under the jurisdiction of the various states and are known by a variety of names, usually as "sodomy laws". Punishment may range from light fines to five or more years in prison (in some cases even life imprisonment), indeterminate detention to a mental hospital, and even to compulsory sterilization. Moreover, homosexuals are, in various states, barred from licensed professions, from many professional societies, from teaching, and from the civil service -to mention only a few of the sanctions encountered by the known homosexual.
More recently, a new tendency has been developing in the United States and elsewhere with regard to homosexuals. Thus, in 1969, the National Institute of Mental Health issued a majority report advocating that adult consensual homosexuality be declared legal. The American Civil Liberties Union concurred. Earlier, Illinois had done so in 1962, and in 1971 the state of Connecticut revised its laws accordingly. Yet despite the increasing legal and social tolerance of deviance, basic feelings toward homosexuals have not really changed. The most obvious example is France, where although legal restraints were abandoned over 150 years ago, the homosexual of today continues to live in shame and secrecy.
Statistically, the proportion the proportion of homosexuals in society does not seem to have changed much since Professor Kinsey's day (his book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, was published in 1948, and his volume on the human female in 1953). Kinsey's studies revealed that hard-core male homosexuals constituted about 4-6% of the population: 10% experienced "problem" behavior during a part of their lives. One man out of three indulges in some form of homosexual behavior from puberty until his early twenties. The dimensions of the problem become quite overwhelming when it is realized that, according to these figures, of 200 million people in the United States some ten million will become or are predominant or exclusive homosexuals, and over 25 million will have at least a few years of significant homosexual experience.
The New Permissiveness
The most dramatic change in our attitudes to homosexuality has taken place in the new mass adolescent subculture - the first such in history - where it is part of the whole new outlook on sexual restraints in general. It is here that the fashionable Sexual Left has had its greatest success on a wide scale, appealing especially to the rejection of Western traditions of sex roles and sex typing. A number of different streams feed into this ideological reservoir from which the new sympathy for homosexuality flows. Freud and his disciples began the modern protest against traditional restraints, and blamed the guilt that follows transgression for the neuroses that plague man. Many psychoanalysts began to overemphasize the importance of sexuality in human life, and this ultimately gave birth to a kind of sexual messianism. Thus, in our own day Wilhelm Reich identifies sexual energy as "vital energy per se" and, in conformity with his Marxist ideology, seeks to harmonize Marx and Freud. For Reich and his followers, the sexual revolution is a machina ultima for the whole Leninist liberation in all spheres of life and society. Rebellion against restrictive moral codes has become, for them, not merely a way to hedonism but a form of sexual mysticism: orgasm is seem not only as the pleasurable climatic release of internal sexual pressure, but as a means to individual creativity and insight as well as to the reconstruction and liberation of society. Finally, the emphasis on freedom and sexual autonomy derives from the Sartrean version of Kant's view of human autonomy.
It is in this atmosphere that pro-deviationist sentiments have proliferated, reaching into many strata of society. Significantly, religious groups have joined the sociologists and ideologists of deviance to affirm what has been called "man's birthright of unbounded ambisexuality." A number of Protestant churches in America, and an occasional Catholic clergyman, have plead for more sympathetic attitudes toward homosexuals. Following the new Christian permissiveness espoused in Sex and Morality (1966), the report of a working party of the British Council of Churches, a group of American Episcopalian clergymen in November 1967 concluded that homosexual acts ought not to be considered wrong, per se. A homosexual relationship is, they implied, no different from a heterosexual marriage: but must be judged by one criterion -"whether it is intended to foster a permanent relation of love." Jewish apologists for deviationism have been prominent in the Gay Liberation movement and have not hesitated to advocate their position in American journals and in the press. Christian groups began to emerge which catered to a homosexual clientele, and Jews were not too far behind. This latest Jewish exemplification of the principle of wie es sich christelt, so juedelt es sich will be discussed at the end of this essay.
Homosexual militants are satisfied neither with a "mental health" approach nor with demanding civil rights. They are clear in insisting on society's recognition of sexual deviance as an "alternative lifestyle," morally legitimate and socially acceptable.
Such are the basic facts and theories of the current advocacy of sexual deviance. What is the classical Jewish attitude to sodomy, and what suggestions may be made to develop a Jewish approach to the complex problem of the homosexual in contemporary society?
The Bible prohibits homosexual intercourse and labels it an abomination: "Thou shalt not lie with a man as one lies with a woman: it is an abomination" (Lev. 18:22). Capital punishment is ordained for both transgressors in Lev. 20:13. In the first passage, sodomy is linked with buggery, and in the second with incest and buggery. (There is considerable terminological confusion with regard to these words. We shall here use "sodomy" as a synonym for homosexuality and "buggery" for sexual relations with animals.)
The city of Sodom had the questionable honor of lending its name to homosexuality because of the notorious attempt at homosexual rape, when the entire population -"both young and old, all the people from every quarter"- surrounded the home of Lot, the nephew of Abraham, and demanded that he surrender his guests to them "that we may know them" (Gen. 19:5). The decimation of the tribe of Benjamin resulted from the notorious incident, recorded in Judges 19, of a group of Benjamites in Gibeah who sought to commit homosexual rape.
Scholars have identified the kadesh proscribed by the Torah (Deut. 23:18) as a ritual male homosexual prostitute. This form of healthen cult penetrated Judea from the Canaanite surroundings in the period of the early monarchy. So Rehoboam, probably under the influence of his Ammonite mother, tolerated this cultic sodomy during his reign (I Kings 14:24). His grandson Asa tried to cleanse the Temple in Jerusalem of the practice (I Kings 15:12), as did his great-grandson Jehoshaphat. But it was not until the days of Josiah and the vigorous reforms he introduced that the kadesh was finally removed from the Temple and the land (II Kings 23:7). The Talmund too (Sanhedrin, 24b) holds that the kadesh was a homosexual functionary. (However, it is possible that the term also alludes to a heterosexual male prostitute. Thus, in II Kings 23:7, women are described as weaving garments for the idols in the batei ha-kedeshim (houses of the kadesh): the presence of women may imply that the kadesh was not necessarily homosexual. The Talmudic opinion identifying the kadesh as a homosexual prostitute may be only an asmakhta. Moreover, there are other opinions in Talmudic literature as to the meaning of the verse: see Onkelos, Lev. 23:18, and Nachmanides and Torah Temimah, ad loc.)
Rabbinic exegesis of the Bible finds several other homosexual references in the scriptural narratives. The generation of Noah was condemned to eradication by the Flood because they had sunk so low morally that, according to Midrashic teaching, they wrote out formal marriage contracts for sodomy and buggery - a possible cryptic reference to such practices in the Rome of Nero and Hadrian (Lev. R. 18:13).
Of Ham, the son of Noah, we are told that "he saw the nakedness of his father" and told his two brothers (Gen. 9:22). Why should this act have warranted the harsh imprecation hurled at Ham by his father? The Rabbis offer two answers: one, that the text implied that Ham castrated Noah: second, that the Biblical expression is an idiom for homosexual intercourse (see Rashi, ad loc.). On the scriptural story of Potiphar's purchase of Joseph as a slave (Gen. 39:1), the Talmud comments that he acquired him for homosexual purposes, but that a miracle occurred and God sent the angel Gabriel to castrate Potiphar (Sotah 13b).
Post-Biblical literature records remarkably few incidents of homosexuality. Herod's son Alexander, according to Josephus (Wars, I, 24:7), had homosexual contact with a young eunuch. Very few reports of homosexuality have come to us from the Talmudic era (TJ Sanhedrin 6:6, 23c: Jos. Ant., 15:25-30).
The incidence of sodomy among Jews is interestingly reflected in the Halakhah on mishkav zakhur (the Talmudic term for homosexuality: the Bible uses various terms- thus the same term in Num. 31:17 and 35 refers to heterosexual intercourse by a woman, whereas the expression for male homosexual intercourse in Lev. 18:22 and 20:13 is mishkevei ishah). The Mishnah teaches that R. Judah forbade two bachelors from sleeping under the same blanket, for fear that this would lead to homosexual temptation (Kiddushin 4:14). However, the Sages permitted it (ibid.) because homosexuality was so rare among Jews that such preventive legislation was considered unnecessary (Kiddushin 82a). This latter view is codified as Halakhah by Malmonides (Yad, Issurei Bi'ah 22:2). Some 400 years later R. Joseph Caro, who did not codify the law against sodomy proper, nevertheless cautioned against being alone with another male because of the lewdness prevalent "in our times" (Even ha-Ezer 24). About a hundred years later, R. Joel Sirkes reverted to the original ruling, and suspended the prohibition because such obscene acts were unheard of amongst Polish Jewry (Bayit Hadash to Tur, Even ha-Ezer 24). Indeed, a distinguished contemporary of R. Joseph Caro, R. Solomon Luria, went even further and declared homosexuality so very rare that, if one refrains from sharing a blanket with another male as a special act of piety, one is guilty of self-righteous pride or religious snobbism (for the above and additional authorities, see Ozar ha-Posekim, IX, 236-238).
As is to be expected, the responsa literature is also very scant in discussions of homosexuality. One of the few such responsa is by the late R. Abraham Isaac Ha-Kohen Kook, when he was still the rabbi of Jaffa. In 1912 he was asked about a ritual slaughterer who had come under suspicion of homosexuality. After weighing all aspects of the case, R. Kook dismissed the charges against the accused, considering them unsupported hearsay. Furthermore, he maintained the man might have repented and therefore could not be subject to sanctions at the present time.
The very scarcity of halakhic deliberations on homosexuality, and the quite explicit insistence of various halakhic authorities, provide sufficient evidence of the relative absence of this practice among Jews from ancient times down to the present. Indeed, Prof. Kinsey found that, while religion was usually an influence of secondary importance on the number of homosexual as well as heterosexual acts by males. Orthodox Jews proved an exception, homosexuality being phenomenally rare among them.
Jewish laws treated the female homosexual more leniently than the male. It considered lesbianism as issur, an ordinary religious violation, rather than arayot, a specifically sexual infraction, regarded much more severely than issur. R. Huna held that lesbianism is the equivalent of harlotry and disqualified the woman from marrying a priest. The Halakhah is, however, more lenient, and decides that while the act is prohibited, the lesbian is not punished and is permitted to marry a priest (Sifra 9:8: Shab. 65a: Yev. 76a). However, the transgression does warrant disciplinary flagellation (Maimonides, Yad, Issurei Bi'ah 21:8). The less punitive attitude of the Halakhah to the female homosexual than to the male does not reflect any intrinsic judgment on one as opposed to the other, but is rather the result of a halakhic technicality: there is no explicit Biblical proscription of lesbianism, and the act does not entail genital intercourse (Maimonides, loc. cit.).
The Halakhah holds that the ban on homosexuality applies universally, to non-Jew as well as to Jew (Sanh 58a: Maimonides, Melakhim 9:5, 6). It is one of the six instances of arayot (sexual transgressions) forbidden to the Noachide (Maimonides, ibid).
Most halakhic authorities - such as Rashba and Ritba - agree with Maimonides. A minority opinion holds that pederasty and buggery are "ordinary" prohibitions rather than arayot - specifically sexual infractions which demand that one submit to martyrdom rather than violate the law - but the Jerusalem Talmud supports the majority opinion. (See D. M. Krozer, Devar Ha-Melekh, I, 22, 23 (1962), who also suggests that Maimonides may support a distinction whereby the "male" or active homosexual partner is held in violation of arayot whereas the passive or "female" partner transgresses issur, an ordinary prohibition.)
Reasons of Prohibition
Why does the Torah forbids homosexuality? Bearing in mind that reasons proffered for the various commandments are not to be accepted as determinative, but as human efforts to explain immutable divine law, the rabbis of the Talmud and later Talmudists did offer a number of illuminating rationales for the law.
As stated, the Torah condemns homosexuality as to'evah, an abomination. The Talmud records the interpretation of Bar Kapparah who, in a play on words, defined to'evah as to'eh attah bah. "You are going astray because of it" (Nedarim 51a). The exact meaning of this passage is unclear, and various explanations have been put forward.
The Pesikta (Zutarta) explains the statement of Bar Kapparah as referring to the impossibility of such a sexual resulting in procreation. One of the major functions (if not the major purpose) of sexuality is reproduction, and this reason for man's sexual endowment is frustrated by mishkav zakhur (so too Sefer ha-Hinnukh, no. 209).
Another interpretation is that of the Tosafot and R. Asher ben Jehiel (in their commentaries to Ned. 51a) which applies the "going astray" or wandering to the homosexual's abandoning his wife. In other words, the abomination consists of the danger that a married man with homosexual tendencies may disrupt his family life in order to indulge his perversions. Saadiah Gaon holds the rational basis of most of the Bible's moral legislation to be the preservation of the family structure (Emunot ve-De'ot 3:1: cf. Yoma 9a). (This argument assumes contemporary cogency in the light of the avowed aim of some gay militants to destroy the family, which they consider an "oppressive institution.")
A third explanation is given by a modern scholar, Rabbi Baruch Ha-Levi Epstein (Torah Temimah to Lev. 18:22), who emphasizes the unnaturalness of the homosexual liaison: "You are going astray from the foundations of the creation." Mishkav zakhur defies the very structure of the anatomy of the sexes, which quite obviously was designed for heterosexual relationships.
It may be, however, that the very variety of interpretations of to'evah points to a far more fundamental meaning, namely, that an act characterized as an "abomination" is prima facie disgusting and cannot be further defined or explained. Certain acts are considered to'evah by the Torah, and there the matter rests. It is, as it were, a visceral reaction, an intuitive disqualification of the act, and we run the risk of distorting the Biblical judgment if we rationalize it. To'evah constitutes a category of objectionableness sui generis: it is a primary phenomenon. (This lends additional force to Rabbi David Z. Hoffmann's contention that to'evah is used by the Torah to indicate the repulsiveness of a proscribed act, no matter how much it may be in vogue among advanced and sophisticated cultures: see his Sefer Va-yikra, II, p. 54.).
It is on the basis of the above that an effort must be made to formulate a Jewish response to the problems of homosexuality in the conditions under which most Jews live today, namely, those of free and democratic societies and, with the exception of Israel, non-Jewish lands and traditions.
Four general approaches may be adopted:1) Repressive: No leniency toward the homosexual, lest the moral fiber of the rest of society be weakened. 2) Practical: Dispense with imprisonment and all forms of social harassment, for eminently practical and prudent reasons. 3) Permissive: The same as the above, but for the ideological reasons, viz., the acceptance of homosexuality as a legitimate alternative "lifestyle." 4) Psychological: Homosexuality, in at least some forms, should be recognized as a disease and this recognition must determine our attitude toward the homosexual.
Let us consider each of these critically.
Exponents of the most stringent approach hold that pederasts are the vanguard of moral malaise, especially in our society. For on thing, they are dangerous to children. According to a recent work, one third of the homosexuals in the study were seduced in their adolescence by adults. It is best for society that they be imprisoned, and if our present penal institutions are faulty, let them be improved. Homosexuals should certainly not be permitted to function as teachers, group leaders, rabbis, or in any other capacity where they might be models for, and come into close contact with, young people. Homosexuality must not be excused as a sickness. A sane society assumes that its members have free choice, and are therefore responsible for their conduct. Sex offenders, including homosexuals, according to another recent study, operate "at a primate level with the philosophy that necessity is the mother of improvisation." As Jews who believe that the Torah legislated certain moral laws for all mankind, it is incumbent upon us to encourage all societies, including non-Jewish ones, to implement the Noachide laws. And since, according to the halakhah, homosexuality is prohibited to Noachides as well as to Jews, we must seek to strengthen the moral quality of society by encouraging more restrictive laws against homosexuals. Moreover, if we are loyal to the teachings of Judaism, we cannot distinguish between "victimless" crimes and crimes of violence. Hence, if our concern for the murder, racial oppression, or robbery, we must do no less with regard to sodomy.
This argument is, however, weak on a number of grounds. Practically, it fails to take into cognizance the number of homosexuals of all categories, which, as we have pointed out, is vast. We cannot possibly imprison all offenders, and it is a manifest miscarriage of justice to vent our spleen only on the few unfortunates who are caught by the police. It is inconsistent because there has been no comparable outcry for harsh sentencing of other transgressors of sexual morality, such as those who indulge in adultery or incest. To take consistency to its logical conclusion, this hard line on homosexuality should not stop with imprisonment but demand the death sentence, as is Biblically prescribed. And why not the same death sentence for blasphemy, eating a limb torn from a live animal, idolatry, robbery -all of which are Noachide commandments? And why not capital punishment for Sabbath transgressors in the State of Israel? Why should the pederast be singled out for opprobrium and be made an object lesson while all others escape?
Those who might seriously consider such logically consistent, but socially destructive, strategies had best think back to the fate of that Dominican reformer, the monk Girolamo Savonarola, who in 15th-century Florence undertook a fanatical campaign against vice and all suspected of venal sin, with emphasis on pederasty. The society of that time and place, much like ours, could stand vast improvement. But too much medicine in too strong doses was the monk's prescription, whereupon the population rioted and the zealot was hanged.
Finally, there is indeed some halakhic warrant for distinguishing between violent and victimless (or consensual and non-consensual) crimes. Thus, the Talmud permits a passer-by to kill a man in pursuit of another man or of a woman when the pursuer is attempting homosexual or heterosexual rape, as the case may be, whereas this is not permitted in the case of a transgressor pursuing an animal to commit buggery or on his way to worship an idol or to violate the Sabbath, (Sanh. 8:7, and v. Rashi to Sanh. 73a, s.v. al ha-behemah).
The practical approach is completely pragmatic and attempts to steer clear of any ideology in its judgments and recommendations. It is, according to its advocates, eminently reasonable. Criminal laws requiring punishment for homosexuals are simply unenforceable in society at the present day. We have previously cited the statistics on the extremely high incidence of pederasty in our society. Kinsey once said of the many sexual acts outlawed by the various states, that, were they all enforced, some 95% of men in the United States would be in jail. Furthermore, the special prejudice of law enforcement authorities against homosexuals - rarely does one hear of police entrapment or of jail sentences for non-violent heterosexuals - breeds a grave injustice: namely, it is an invitation to blackmail. The law concerning sodomy has been called "the blackmailer's charter." It is universally agreed that prison does little to help the homosexual rid himself of his peculiarity. Certainly, the failure of rehabilitation ought to be of concern to civilized men. But even if it is not, and the crime be considered so serious that incarceration is deemed advisable even in the absence of any real chances of rehabilitation, the casual pederast almost always leaves prison as a confirmed criminal. He has been denied the company of women and forced into society of those whose sexual expression is almost always channeled to pederasty. The casual pederast has become a habitual one: his homosexuality has now been ingrained in him. Is society any safer for having taken an errant man and, in the course of a few years, for having taught him to transform his deviancy into a hard and fast perversion, then turning him loose on the community? Finally, from a Jewish point of view, since it is obviously impossible for us to impose the death penalty for sodomy, we may as well act on purely practical grounds and do away with all legislation and punishment in this area of personal conduct.
This reasoning is tempting precisely because it focuses directly on the problem and is free of any ideological commitments. But the problem with it is that it is too smooth, too easy. By the same reasoning one might, in a reductio ad absurdum do away with all laws on income tax evasion, or forgive, and dispense with all punishment of Nazi murders. Furthermore, the last element leaves us with a novel view of the Halakhah: if it cannot be implemented in its entirely, it ought to be abandoned completely. Surely the Noachide laws, perhaps above all others, place us under clear moral imperatives, over and above purely penological instructions? The very practicality of this position leaves it open to the charge of evading the very real moral issues, and for Jews the halakhic principles, entailed in any discussion of homosexuality.
The ideological advocacy of a completely permissive attitude toward consensual homosexuality and the acceptance of its moral legitimacy is, of course, the "in" fashion in sophisticated liberal circles. Legally, it holds that deviancy is none of the law's business; the homosexual's civil rights are as sacred as those of any other "minority group." From the psychological angle, sexuality must be emancipated from the fetters of guilt induced by religion and code-morality, and its idiosyncratic nature must be confirmed.
Gay Liberationists aver that the usual "straight" attitude toward homosexuality is based on three fallacies or myths: that homosexuality is an illness; that it is unnatural; and that it is immoral. They argue that it cannot be considered an illness, because so many people have been shown to practice it. It is not unnatural, because its alleged unnaturalness derives from the impossibility of sodomy leading to reproduction, whereas our overpopulated society no longer needs to breed workers, soldiers, farmers, or hunters. And it is not immoral, first, because morality is relative, and secondly, because moral behavior is that characterized by "selfless, loving concern."
Now, we are here concerned with the sexual problem as such, and not with homosexuality as a symbol of the whole contemporary ideological polemic against restraint and tradition. Homosexuality is too important - and too agonizing - a human problem to allow it to be exploited for political aims or entertainment or shock value.
The bland assumption that pederasty cannot be considered an illness because of the large number of people who have or express homosexual tendencies cannot stand up under criticism. No less an authority than Freud taught that a whole civilization can be neurotic. Erich Fromm appeals for the establishment of The Sane Society - because ours is not. If the majority of a nation are struck down by typhoid fever, does this condition, by so curious a calculus of semantics, become healthy? Whether or not homosexuality can be considered an illness is a serious question, and it does depend on one's definition of health and illness. But mere statistics are certainly not the coup de grâce to the psychological argument, which will be discussed shortly.
The validation of gay life as "natural" on the basis of changing social and economic conditions is an act of verbal obfuscation. Even if we were to concur with the widely held feeling that the world's population is dangerously large, and that Zero Population Growth is now a desideratum, the anatomical fact remains unchanged: the generative organs are structured for generation. If the words "natural" and "unnatural" have any meaning at all, they must be rooted in the unchanging reality of man's sexual apparatus rather than in his ephemeral social configurations.
Militant feminists along with the gay activists react vigorously against the implication that natural structure implies the naturalness or unnaturalness of certain acts, but this very view has recently been confirmed by one of the most informed writers on the subject. "It is already pretty safe to infer from laboratory research and ethological parallels that male and female are wired in ways that relate to our traditional sex roles... Freud dramatically said that anatomy is destiny. Scientists who shudder at the dramatic, no matter how accurate, could rephrase this: anatomy is functional, body functions have profound psychological meanings to people, and anatomy and function are often socially elaborated" (Arno Karlen, Sexuality and Homosexuality, p. 501).
The moral issues lead us into the quagmire of perennial philosophical disquisitions of a fundamental nature. In a way, this facilitates the problem for one seeking a Jewish view. Judaism does not accept the kind of thoroughgoing relativism used to justify the gay life as merely an alternate lifestyle. And while the question of human autonomy is certainly worthy of consideration in the area of sexuality, one must beware of the consequences of taking the argument to its logical extreme. Judaism clearly cherishes holiness as a greater value than either freedom or health. Furthermore, if every individual's autonomy leads us to lend moral legitimacy to any form of sexual expression he may desire, we must be ready to pull the blanket of this moral validity over almost the whole catalogue of perversion described by Krafft-Ebing, and then, by the legerdemain of granting civil rights to the morally non-objectionable, permit the advocates of buggery, fetishism, or whatever to proselytize in public. In that case, why not in the school system? And if consent is obtained before the death of one partner, why not necrophilia or cannibalism? Surely, if we declare pederasty to be merely idiosyncratic and not an "abomination," what right have we to condemn sexually motivated cannibalism - merely because most people would react with revulsion and disgust?
"Loving, selfless concern" and "meaningful personal relationships" - the great slogans of the New Morality and the exponents of situation ethics - have become the litany of sodomy in our times. Simple logic should permit us to use the same criteria for excusing adultery or any other act heretofore held to be immoral: and indeed, that is just what has been done, and it has received the sanction not only of liberals and humanists, but of certain religionists as well. "Love," "fulfillment," "exploitative," "meaningful" - the list itself sounds like a lexicon of emotionally charged terms drawn at random from the disparate sources of both Christian and psychologically-orientated agnostic circles. Logically, we must ask the next question: what moral depravities can not be excused by the sole criterion of "warm, meaningful human relations" or "fulfillment," the newest semantic heirs to "love"?
Love, fulfillment, and happiness can also be attained in incestuous contacts - and certainly in polygamous relationships. Is there nothing at all left that is "sinful," "unnatural," or "immoral" if it is practiced "between two consenting adults?" For religious groups to aver that a homosexual relationship should be judged by the same criteria as a heterosexual one - i.e., "whether it is intended to foster a permanent relationship of love" - is to abandon the last claim of representing the "Judeo-Christian tradition."
I have elsewhere essayed a criticism of the situationalists, their use of the term "love," and their objections to traditional morality as exemplified by the Halakhah as "mere legalism" (see my Faith and Doubt, chapter IX, p. 249 ff). Situationalists, such as Joseph Fletcher, have especially attacked "pilpolistic Rabbis" for remaining entangled in the coils of statutory and legalistic hairsplitting. Among the other things this typically Christian polemic reveals is an ignorance of the nature of Halakhah and its place in Judaism, which never held that law was totality of life, pleaded again and again for supererogatory conduct, recognized that individuals may be disadvantaged by the law, and which strove to rectify what could be rectified without abandoning the large majority to legal and moral chaos simply because of the discomfiture of the few.
Clearly, while Judaism needs no defense or apology in regard to its esteem for neighborly love and compassion for the individual sufferer, it cannot possibly abide a wholesale dismissal of its most basic moral principles on the grounds that those subject to its judgments find them repressive. All laws are repressive to some extent - they repress illegal activities - and all morality is concerned with changing man and improving him and his society. Homosexuality imposes on one an intolerable burden of differentness, of absurdity, and of loneliness, but the Biblical commandment outlawing pederasty cannot be put aside solely on the basis of sympathy for the victim of these feelings. Morality, too, is an element which each of us, given his sensuality, his own idiosyncracies, and his immoral proclivities, must take into serious consideration before acting out his impulses.
Several years ago I recommended that Jews regard homosexual deviance as a pathology, thus reconciling the insights of Jewish tradition with the exigencies of contemporary life and scientific information, such as it is, on the nature of homosexuality (Jewish Life, Jan-Feb. 1968). The remarks that follow are an expansion and modification of that position, together with some new data and notions.
The proposal that homosexuality be viewed as an illness will immediately be denied by three groups of people. Gay militants object to this view as an instance of heterosexual condescension. Evelyn Hooker and her group of psychologists maintain that homosexuals are no more pathological in their personality structures than heterosexuals. And psychiatrists Thomas Szasz in the U.S. and Ronald Laing in England reject all traditional ideas of mental sickness and health as tools of social repressiveness or, at best, narrow conventionalism. While granting that there are indeed unfortunate instances where the category of mental disease is exploited for social or political reasons, we part company with all three groups and assume that there are significant number of pederasts and lesbians who, by the criteria accepted by most psychologists and psychiatrists, can indeed be termed pathological. Thus, for instance, Dr. Albert Ellis, an ardent advocate of the right to deviancy, denies there is such a thing as a well-adjusted homosexual. In an interview, he has stated that whereas he used to believe that most homosexuals were neurotic, he is now convinced that about 50% are borderline psychotics, that the usual fixed male homosexual is a severe phobic, and that lesbians are even more disturbed than male homosexuals (see Karlem, op. cit., p. 223ff.).
No single cause of homosexuality has been established. In all probability, it is based on a conglomeration of a number of factors. There is overwhelming evidence that the condition is developmental, not constitutional. Despite all efforts to discover something genetic in homosexuality, no proof has been adduced, and researchers incline more and more to reject the Freudian concept of fundamental human biological bisexuality and its corollary of homosexual latency. It is now widely believed that homosexuality is the result of a whole family constellation. The passive, dependent, phobic male homosexual is usually the product of an aggressive, covertly seductive mother who is overly rigid and puritanical with her son - thus forcing him into a bond where he is sexually aroused, yet forbidden to express himself in any heterosexual way - and of a father who is absent, remote, emotionally detached, or hostile (I. Bieber et al. Homosexuality, 1962).
Can the homosexual be cured? There is a tradition of therapeutic pessimism that goes back to Freud but a number of psychoanalysis, including Freud's daughter Anna, have reported successes in treating homosexuals as any other phobics (in this case, fear of the female genitals). It is generally accepted that about a third of all homosexuals can be completely cured: behavioral therapists report an even larger number of cures.
Of course, one cannot say categorically that all homosexuals are sick - any more than one can casually define all thieves as kleptomaniacs. In order to develop a reasonable Jewish approach to the problem and to seek in the concept of illness some mitigating factor, it is necessary first to establish the main types of homosexuals. Dr. Judd Marmor speaks of four categories. "Genuine homosexuality" is based on strong preferential erotic feelings for members of the same sex. "Transitory homosexual behavior" occurs among adolescents who would prefer heterosexual experiences but are denied such opportunities because of the social, cultural, or psychological reasons. "Situational homosexual exchanges" are characteristic of prisoners, soldiers and others who are heterosexual but are denied access to women for long periods of time. "Transitory and opportunistic homosexuality" is that of delinquent young men who permit themselves to be used by pederasts in order to make money or win other favors, although their primary erotic interests are exclusively heterosexual. To these may be added, for purposes of our analysis, two other types. The first category, that of genuine homosexuals, me be said to comprehend two sub-categories: those who experience their condition as one of duress or uncontrollable passion which they would rid themselves of if they could, and those who transform their idiosyncrasy into an ideology, i.e., the gay militants who assert the legitimacy and validity of homosexuality as an alternative way to heterosexuality. The sixth category is based on what Dr. Rollo May has called "the New Puritanism", the peculiarly modern notion that one must experience all sexual pleasures, whether or not one feels inclined to them, as if the failure to taste every cup passed at the sumptuous banquet of carnal life means that one has not truly lived. Thus, we have transitory homosexual behavior not of adolescents, but of adults who feel that: they must "try everything" at least once or more than once in their lives.
A Possible Halakhic Solution
This rubric will now permit us to apply the notion of disease (and, from the halakhic point of view, of its opposite, moral culpability) to the various types of sodomy. Clearly, genuine homosexuality experienced under duress (Hebrew: ones) most obviously lends itself to being termed pathological especially where dysfunction appears in other aspects of personality. Opportunistic homosexuality, ideological homosexuality, and transitory adult homosexuality are at the other end of the spectrum, and appear most reprehensible. As for the intermediate categories, while they cannot be called illness, they do have a greater claim on our sympathy than the three types mentioned above.
In formulating the notion of homosexuality as a disease, we are not asserting the formal halakhic definition of mental illness as mental incompetence, as described in TB Hag. 3b, 4a, and elsewhere. Furthermore, the categorization of a prohibited sex act as ones (duress) because of uncontrolled passions is valid, in a technical halakhic sense, only for a married woman who was ravished and who, in the course of the act, became a willing participant. The Halakhah decides with Rava, against the father of Samuel, that her consent is considered duress because of the passions aroused in her (Ket, 51b). However, this holds true only if the act was initially entered into under physical compulsion (Kesef Mishneh to Yad, Sanh. 20:3). Moreover, the claim of compulsion by one's erotic passions is not valid for a male, for any erection is considered a token of his willingness (Yev, 53b; Maimonides, Yad, Sanh, 20:3). In the case of a male who was forced to cohabit with a woman forbidden to him, some authorities consider him guilty and punishable, while others hold him guilty but not subject to punishment by the courts (Tos., Yev, 53b; Hinnukh, 556; Kesef Mishneh, loc. cit.: Maggid Mishneh to Issurei Bi´ah, 1:9). Where a male is sexually aroused in a permissible manner, as to begin coitus with his wife and is then forced to conclude the act with another woman, most authorities exonerate him (Rabad and Maggid Mishned, to Issurei Bi´ah, in loc). If, now, the warped family background of the genuine homosexual is considered ones, the homosexual act may possibly lay claim to some mitigation by the Halakhah. (However, see Minhat Hinnukh, 556, end; and M. Feinstein, Iggerot Moshe (1973) on YD, no. 59, who holds, in a different context, that any pleasure derived from a forbidden act performed under duress increases the level of prohibition. This was anticipated by R. Joseph Engel, Atvan de-Oraita, 24). These latter sources indicate the difficulty of exonerating sexual transgressors because of psycho-pathological reasons under the technical rules of the Halakhah.
However, in the absence of a Sanhedrin and since it is impossible to implement the whole halakhic penal system, including capital punishment, such strict applications are unnecessary. What we are attempting is to develop guidelines, based on the Halakhah, which will allow contemporary Jews to orient themselves to the current problems of homosexuality in a manner articulating with the most fundamental insights of the Halakhah in a general sense, and consistent with the broadest world-view that the halakhic commitment instills in its followers. Thus, the aggadic statement that "no man sins unless he is overcome by a spirit of madness" (Sot. 3a) is not an operative halakhic rule, but does offer guidance on public policy and individual pastoral compassion. So in the present case, the formal halakhic strictures do not in any case apply nowadays, and it is our contention that the aggadic principle must lead us to seek out the mitigating halakhic elements so as to guide us in our orientation to homosexuals who, by the standards of modern psychology, may be regarded as acting under compulsion.
To apply the Halakhah strictly in this case is obviously impossible; to ignore it entirely is undesirable, and tantamount to regarding Halakhah as a purely abstract, legalistic system which can safely be dismissed where its norms and prescriptions do not allow full formal implementation. Admittedly, the method is not rigorous, and leaves room to varying interpretations as well as exegetical abuse, but it is the best we can do.
Hence there are types of homosexuality that do not warrant any special considerateness, because the notion of ones or duress (i.e., disease) in no way applies. Where the category of mental illness does apply, the act itself remains to’evah (an abomination), but the fact of illness lays upon us the obligation of pastoral compassion, psychological understanding, and social sympathy. In these sense, homosexuality is no different from any other social or anti-halakhic act, where it is legitimate to distinguish between the objective itself including its social and moral consequences, and the mentality and inner development of the person who perpetrates the act. For instance, if a man murders in a cold and calculating fashion for reasons of profit, the act is criminal and the transgressor is criminal. If, however, a psychotic murders, the transgressor is diseased rather than criminal, but the objective act itself remains a criminal one. The courts may therefore treat the perpetrator of the crime as they would a patient, with all the concomitant compassion and concern for therapy, without condoning the act as being morally neutral. To use halakhic terminology, the objective crime remains a ma’aseh averah, whereas a person who transgresses is considered innocent on the grounds of ones. In such case, the transgressor is spared the full legal consequences of his culpable act, although the degree to which he may be held responsible varies from case to case.
An example of a criminal act that is treated with compassion by the Halakhah, which in practice considers the act pathological rather than criminal, is suicide. Technically, the suicide or attempted suicide is in violation of the law. The Halakhah denies to the suicide the honor of a eulogy, the rending of the garments by relatives or witnesses to the death, and (according to Maimonides) insist that the relatives are not to observe the usual mourning period for the suicide. Yet, in the course of time, the tendency has been to remove the stigma from the suicide on the basis of mental disease. Thus, halakhic scholars do not apply the technical category of intentional (la-da’at) suicide to one who did not clearly demonstrate before performing the act, that he knew what he was doing and was of sound mind, to the extent that there was no hiatus between the act of self-destruction and actual death. If these conditions are not present, we assume that it was an insane act or that between the act and death he experienced pangs of contrition and is therefore repentant, hence excused before the law. There is even one opinion which exonerates the suicide unless he received adequate warning (hatra’ah) before performing the act, and responded in a manner indicating that he was fully aware of what he was doing and that he was lucid (J.M Tykocinski, Gesher ha-Hayyim, I, ch. 25, and Encyclopaedia Judaica, 15:490).
Admittedly, there are differences between the two cases: pederasty is clearly a severe violation of Biblical law, whereas the stricture against suicide is derived exegetically from a verse in the Genesis. Nevertheless, the principle operative in the one is applicable to the other: where one can attribute an act to mental illness, it is done out of simple humanitarian considerations.
The suicide analogy should not, of course, lead one to conclude that there are grounds for a blanket exculpation of homosexuality as mental illness. Not all forms of homosexuality can be so termed, as indicated above, and the act itself remains an "abomination". With few exceptions, most people do not ordinarily propose that suicide be considered an acceptable and legitimate alternative to the rigors of daily life. No sane and moral person sits passively and watches a fellow man attempt suicide because he "understands" him and because it has been decided that suicide is a "morally neutral" act. By the same token, in orienting ourselves to certain types of homosexuals as patients rather than criminals, we do not condone the act but attempt to help the homosexual. Under no circumstances can Judaism suffer homosexuality to become respectable. Were society to give its open or even tacit approval to homosexuality, it would invite more aggressiveness on the part of adult pederasts toward young people. Indeed, in the currently permissive atmosphere, the Jewish view would summon us to the semantic courage of referring to homosexuality not as "deviance" with the implication of moral neutrality and non-judgmental idiosyncrasy, but as "perversion" - a less clinical and more old-fashioned word, perhaps, but one that is more in keeping with the Biblical to’evah.
Yet, having passed this moral judgment, we cannot in the name of Judaism necessarily demand that we strive for the harshest possible punishment. Even where it was halakhically feasible to execute capital punishment, we have a tradition of leniency. Thus, R. Akiva and R. Tarfon declared that had they lived during the time of the Sanhedrin, they never would have executed a man. Although the Halakhah does not decide in their favor (Mak., end of ch. I), it was rare indeed that the death penalty was actually imposed. Usually, the Biblically mandated penalty was regarded as an index of the severity of the transgression, and the actual execution was avoided by strict insistence upon all technical requirements - such al hatra’ah (forewarning the potential criminal) and rigorous cross-examination of witnesses, etc. In the same spirit, we are not bound to press for the most punitive policy toward contemporary lawbreakers. We are required to lead them to rehabilitation (teshuva). The Halakhah sees no contradiction between condemning a man to death and exercising compassion, even love, toward him (Sanh. 52a). Even a man on the way to his execution was encouraged to repent (Sanh. 6:2). In the absence of a death penalty, the tradition of teshuva and pastoral compassion to the sinner continues.
I do not find any warrant in the Jewish tradition for insisting on prison sentences for homosexuals. The singling-out of homosexuals as victims of society's righteous indignation is patently unfair. In Western history, anti-homosexual crusades have too often been marked by cruelty, destruction, and bigotry. Imprisonment in modern times has proven to be extremely haphazard. The number of homosexuals unfortunate enough to be apprehended is infinitesimal as compared to the number of known homosexuals; estimates vary from one to 300.000 to one to 6.000.000!. For homosexuals to be singled out for special punishment while all the rest of society indulges itself in every other form of sexual malfeasance (using the definitions of Halakhah, not the New Morality) is a species of double-standard morality that the spirit of Halakhah cannot abide. Thus, the Mishnah declares that the "scroll of the suspected adulteress" (megillat sotah) - whereby a wife suspected of adultery was forced to undergo the test of "bitter waters" - was cancelled when the Sages became aware of the ever-larger number of adulterers in general (Sot. 9:9). The Talmud bases this decision on an aversion to the double standard: if the husband is himself an adulterer, the "bitter waters" will have no effect on his wife, even though she too be guilty of the offense (Sot. 47b). By the same token, a society in which heterosexual immorality is not conspicuously absent has no moral right to sit in stern judgment and mete out harsh penalties to homosexuals.
Furthermore, sending a homosexual to prison is counterproductive if punishment is to contain any element of rehabilitation or teshuva. It has rightly been compared to sending an alcoholic to a distillery. The Talmud records that the Sanhedrin was unwilling to apply the full force of the law where punishment had lost its quality of deterrence; thus, 40 (or four) years before the destruction of the Temple, the Sanhedrin voluntarily left the precincts of the Temple so as not to be able, technically, to impose the death sentence, because it had noticed the increasing rate of homicide (Sanh. 41a, and elsewhere).
There is nothing in the Jewish law's letter or spirit that should incline us toward advocacy of imprisonment for homosexuals. The Halakhah did not, by and large, encourage the denial of freedom as a recommended form of punishment. Flogging is, from a certain perspective, far less cruel and far more enlightened. Since capital punishment is out of the question, and since incarceration is not an advisable substitute, we are left with one absolute minimum: strong disapproval of the proscribed act. But we are not bound to any specific penological instrument that has no basis in Jewish law or tradition.
How shall this disapproval be expressed? It has been suggested that, since homosexuality will never attain acceptance anyway, society can afford to be humane. As long as violence and the seduction of children are not involved, it would best to abandon all laws on homosexuality and leave it to the inevitable social sanctions to control, informally, what can be controlled.
However, this approach is not consonant with Jewish tradition. The repeal of anti-homosexual laws implies the removal of the stigma from homosexuality, and this diminution of social censure weakens society in its training of the young toward acceptable patterns of conduct. The absence of adequate social reproach may well encourage the expression of homosexual tendencies by those in whom they might otherwise be suppressed. Law itself has an educative function, and the repeal of laws, no matter how justifiable such repeal may be from one point of view, does have the effect of signaling the acceptability of greater permissiveness.
Some New Proposals
Perhaps all that has been said above can best be expressed in the proposals that follow.
First, society and government must recognize the distinctions between the various categories enumerated earlier in this essay. We must offer medical and psychological assistance to those whose homosexuality is an expression of pathology, who recognize it as such, and are willing to seek help. We must be no less generous to the homosexual than to the drug addict, to whom the government extends various forms of therapy upon request.
Second, jail sentences must be abolished for all homosexuals, save those who are guilty of violence, seduction of the young, or public solicitation.
Third, the laws must remain on the books, but by mutual consent of judiciary and police, be unenforced. This approximates to what lawyers call "the chilling effect", and is the nearest one can come to the category so well known in the Halakhah, whereby strong disapproval is expressed by affirming a halakhic prohibition, yet no punishment is mandated. It is a category that bridges the gap between morality and law. In a society where homosexuality is so rampant, and where incarceration is so counterproductive, the hortatory approach may well be a way of formalizing society's revulsion while avoiding the pitfalls in our accepted penology.
For the Jewish community as such, the same principles, derived from the tradition, may serve as guidelines. Judaism allows for no compromise in its abhorrence of sodomy, but encourages both compassion and efforts at rehabilitation. Certainly, there must be no acceptance of separate Jewish homosexual societies, such as - or specially - synagogues set aside as homosexual congregations. The first such "gay synagogue", apparently, was the "Beth Chayim Chadashim" in Los Angeles. Spawned by that city's Metropolitan Community Church in March 1972, the founding group constituted itself as a Reform congregation with the help of the Pacific Southwest Council of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations some time in early 1973. Thereafter, similar groups surfaced in New York City and elsewhere. The original group meets on Friday evenings in the Leo Baeck Temple and is searching for a rabbi - who must himself be "gay". The membership sees itself as justified by "the Philosophy of Reform Judaism". The Temple president declared that God is "more concerned in our finding a sense of peace in which to make a better world, than He is in whom someone sleeps with" (cited in "Judaism and Homosexuality" C.C.A.R. Journal, summer 1973, p. 38; five articles in this issue of the Reform group's rabbinic journal are devoted to the same theme, and most of them approve of the Gay Synagogue).
But such reasoning is specious, to say the least. Regular congregations and other Jewish groups should not hesitate to accord hospitality and membership, on an individual basis, to those "visible" homosexuals who qualify for the category of the ill. Homosexuals are no less in violation of Jewish norms than Sabbath desecrators or those who disregard the laws of kashrut. But to assent to the organization of separate "gay" groups under Jewish auspices makes no more sense, Jewishly, than to suffer the formation of synagogues that care exclusively to idol worshipers, adulterers, gossipers, tax evaders, or Sabbath violators. Indeed, it makes less sense, because it provides, under religious auspices, a ready-made clientele from which the homosexual can more easily choose his partners.
In remaining true to the sources of Jewish tradition. Jews are commanded to avoid the madness that seizes society at various times and in many forms, while yet retaining a moral composure and psychological equilibrium sufficient to exercise that combination of discipline and charity that is the hallmark of Judaism.
Source: Norman Lamm, “Judaism and the Modern Attitude to Homosexuality” in Encyclopedia Judaica Yearbook 1974 (194-205). Jerusalem: Keter.
A Letter on Homosexual Pornography - excerpted from "The Treatment of Sexual Orientation"
Written By: Dror Zandman, Clinical Psychologist
(Posted March 2012)
[ NOTE from the JONAH Directors: This letter was written by "R.L.", a former client of Israeli Psychologist Dror Zandman, and was written in two parts, one immediately prior to R.L's marriage and the second part 5 months after his marriage. It was written to encourage men dealing with unwanted SSA. This letter is part of a soon-to-be-published book in Hebrew by Israeli Psychologist, Dror Zandman, entitled: “The Treatment of Sexual Orientation”.]
My Dear Friend,
I am writing this letter a few hours before my chupah [wedding canopy & ceremony].I want to tell you about what I’ve been through in these past 10 years. I know that you are suffering great pain and are going through many crises growing up. Life feels much harder for you than it seems to be for most of your friends. You are constantly fighting your sexual feelings; you are attracted to men, but you are also religious. You live with a tremendous inner contradiction. You struggle desperately between wanting to satisfy your “natural” desires, and your emunah [faith] in the Ribono shel Olam [Master of the Universe], who seems to be cruelly torturing you by having placed you in the position in which you find yourself.
I know exactly how you feel.
I have been dealing with this exact problem since my early adolescence; from the time when I was 12 years old. I “always” knew that I was different. I wasn’t attracted to girls. (not that there were many girls around - I studied in various national religious schools where for many good reasons, the sexes are kept separate). I was attracted to men. I found men to be very sexually exciting, and I felt like I just had to find a man who I could lean on, who would protect me.
I spent years looking at magazines and then on the Internet searching for more and more pictures of sexy men. Naked men. More recently, in high school, I “graduated” to spending hours with homosexual pornography. Many, many hours. And all the time, my emunah [faith] in the Ribono shel Olam grew stronger and more profound, and I believed, deep in my heart, that He created me just as I am, with a goal and a purpose in this world.
I knew perfectly well that homosexuality is not compatible with the Torah, and that the “gay” lifestyle is deeply, and diametrically, opposed to the Jewish vision of life. The homosexual lifestyle consecrates the material world, it worships the bodily passions, and it destroys the most important basis of Jewish life - the family. Relationships between men, as wonderful as they can ever be (also between straight men, by the way), can’t even begin to approach in any way the deep connection between a man and a woman. G-d created the world in such a way that every man is missing something; a man needs a woman, and a woman needs a man. There is no other way to realize our potential or to achieve real satisfaction in any field of life, without the intimate partnership of man and wife.
It was my great good fortune, which I understand as Divine Providence, that in 9th grade, my Rav [Rabbi] noticed that something was troubling me. After many heart-to-heart talks with him, he gained my trust and I opened up and told him what I was going through. He supported me; he helped me to understand that I was not sick, that G-d didn’t hate me. He explained to me that every person has different challenges in his life, some less, some more, and that every man is given the strengths that are necessary to achieve the goals and overcome the challenges that G-d places in his path.
The rest of my high school years, and the beginning of my days in a “hesder yeshiva" [religious Zionist program combining yeshiva studies with military service], went by in the same way - but with my secret helper, my Rav, who supported me and helped me to maintain my sanity, along with a healthy and constantly developing relationship with the Ribono shel Olam [Master of the Universe].
It was a very, very hard time: in high school, in the yeshiva, and in the army. I was always surrounded by men, and at the same time surrounded by a world of Torah and religious belief. I was living a life of intense and constant contradiction.
Baruch Hashem, [blessed be G-d] I never had any sexual contact with another man, Heaven forbid. I never met another man like me - neither a religious nor a secular one. Everything I did was between me and myself; it was me and the Internet, me and the pictures, me and the masturbation, just me by myself.
Somewhere during my army service, during a very difficult time of profound despair, my Rav (with whom I have kept up a very important and meaningful relationship to this day) recommended that I see a psychologist who could help me, because he felt that he himself did not have the tools with which to move me forward, despite his enormous desire to assist me. The psychologist who helped me was Dror Zandman.
(The continuation of this letter was written 5 months after my marriage)
It was worth everything: all the suffering, all the constant coping, all the frustrations, all the crises. It is impossible for me to describe the enormous happiness, the emotional, spiritual and sexual satisfaction that I have experienced with my wife. Yes, yes, with my wife.
It is infinitely deeper, satisfying, fulfilling, and empowering; way beyond any fantasy that I ever had with men.
You can believe it! It is possible!
I was in therapy with Dror for over three years. It was standard, verbal psychological therapy, with the addition of some sex therapy. Together, we tried to ascertain the reasons behind my homosexual feelings. What was I missing? Why was I attracted to men? Why wasn’t I attracted to women? What was I attracted to in the men I desired? The therapy also included work with initiating conscious, directed arousal towards women. I learned how to redirect the amazing power of sexual imagination – which until then had only been utilized for fantasies about men - into fantasies about women. Imagining her body. Imagining a relationship with a woman. And I am telling you – all of that pales a million times when compared with the real thing – relations with a real woman.
Throughout all the time I was in therapy I would experience regressions - mostly with the Internet. (It’s unbelievable how much sickness and evil are so instantly accessible there!). But Schelomo HaMelech [King Solomon] was right when he said: “A tzadik [righteous man] will fall seven times and then rise up” (Proverbs, 24:16). Do not lose hope!
This is a very difficult struggle. Sometimes it can seem insurmountable. But it is possible! You can fight and be victorious over this accursed inclination. If you work hard, you will find a woman with whom you can fall in love, and build a “bayit ne’eman b’Yisrael!” [a home faithful to Jewish Tradition.] And even if this “problem” won’t entirely disappear (as in my case – this “false lust” for men is still there on occasion, but I have learned how to live with it or redirect it and to handle it one day at a time) – you can achieve a beautiful marriage with a woman.
Dror helped me to understand this. He pushed me; he guided me, like a blind man in the darkness. In his merit I have come to where I have always wanted to be, to where HaKodosh Baruch Hu (The Holy One, Blessed be He) wanted me to be.
Thank you, Ribono shel Olam for the “nisayon” [test] that you placed me in, and for my incredible wife. Thank you Dror for being a faithful emissary for the Creator, Yisborach [may He be blessed]. Thank you to my wife, for the love, the support, and the total acceptance [of me, with knowledge of the issues I've overcome].
Best of luck to you in your life! Believe in Hashem [G-d, literally "The Name."]!
“Blessed is the man who trusts in G-d” (Yermiahu, 17:7)
Affection Between Men
Torah Study Program: Hazon - Our Universal Vision
I would like to discuss the issue of affection between men. But before I discuss the issue in a broad sense, I will attempt to respond to the question that was raised whether, according to halacha (Torah law), two men can engage in erotic hugging, kissing, and touching, as long as they do not have intercourse.
There is a general Torah prohibition against engaging in any erotic touching with someone whom one is forbidden to sleep with, and this prohibition also includes erotic touching of a homosexual nature. The source for this prohibition is found in Leviticus 18:6 which states: "Any man shall not approach his close relative to uncover nakedness; I am Hashem." The Oral Torah interprets the phrase "shall not approach" to refer to any erotic touching which can lead one to have any form of intercourse which is forbidden by the Torah. This prohibition is discussed by Maimonides in his Sefer HaMitzvos (Prohibition 353), and it is also discussed in the Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzva 188). The Sefer HaChinuch states that this prohibition applies to both men and women.
There is a major halachic difference, however, between the Torah's prohibitions against forbidden forms of intercourse, and the Torah's prohibition against erotic touching: Unlike the prohibitions against intercourse, the prohibition against erotic touching does not bring "kares" (the soul being cut off) or the dealth penalty. Even if one violated one of the Torah's prohibitions against intercourse, there is the life-giving option of "teshuva" - repentance and renewal which cause us to return to the path of our Creator.
There is no question that Torah-committed individuals who are unable to get married, whether they have a heterosexual orientation or a homosexual orientation, were given a difficult life-challenge. In some respects, the person with the homosexual orientation has the greater challenge, for reasons already mentioned in previous correspondence. The reason why the Creator gives certain individuals unusual life-challenges is a topic for another discussion. It may be helpful, however, for all people to remember, regardless of their sexual orientation, that there can be warm, physical expressions of affection and love which are not erotic. There are many men, including "gay" men, who sometimes engage in non-erotic hugging and touching with other men. In fact, traditional Jewish culture is much more open to displays of physical affection between men than Anglo-Saxon culture. For example, in Israel, especially among the Sephardim, one sees men hugging or kissing each other at joyous occasions or when greeting each other after a period of separation. And in Israeli yeshivos, when a young man gets engaged, it is customary for his fellow students to not only wish him "mazel tov," but to also give him a hug or a kiss on the cheek. And let us not forget that in Torah-observant communities, men dance with men and women dance with women. These "mitzva" dances create a warm sense of unity among the participants, and they are emotionally and spiritually uplifting.
Last, but not least, men can experience with their male friends the deep pleasure of "emotional" affection and intimacy. To experience this form of intimacy, however, they need to be in touch with their feelings and to be capable of expressing these feelings in words. Many men find this to be a difficult process, especially those who grew up in an Anglo-Saxon culture. In fact, some married men have difficulty developing this type of intimacy with their wives.
I have known some single men and women who had a deep need for emotional intimacy, but they didn't know how to achieve this, so they ran after sexual experiences which they hoped would meet this need. They ended up feeling unsatisfied, for they did not receive the emotional love they were looking for.
The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (5:19) teaches that all love which depends on a physical or external cause will pass away when the cause is no longer there, but a love which is not dependent on a physical or external cause will last forever. And the Mishna cites the friendship between David and Jonathan as an example of a love which lasts forever. It is recorded in the Book of Samuel 1 that "Jonathan's soul became attached to David's soul" (18:1). As the Malbim and other commentators explain, the good and the holy within Jonathan's soul was drawn to the good and the holy within David's soul, and vice versa. These spiritual qualities last forever; thus, a love based on these spiritual qualities also lasts forever.
Our sages often refer to Hashem as "Rachmana" - an Aramaic word which means "the Loving One." May Rachmana bless all of us with a love that lasts forever.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen
The author is the director of the E-mail Torah study program "Hazon - Our Universal Vision":
Why Neither Homosexuality nor Heterosexuality Exist in Judaism
Rabbi Joel Beasley teaches Bible, Talmud, and Philosophy, and develops creative learning programs in a variety of educational institutions near his home in Alon Shvut, Israel. This article first appeared in the Jewish Spectator, Winter 1998.
"God does not play tricks on His creations". - Talmud, Avoda Zara 3a
"I'm not a bad girl; I'm just drawn that way." - Jessica Rabbit, Who Shot Roger Rabbit? (1988).
Canadian columnist Barbara Amiel recently identified a product of Western culture she called the "azza," a person who prefaces comments with the words, "as a." "Azza left-handed pro-life Scottish-nationalist Elvis-imitator," for example, "I might find your remarks offensive." The azza preface grants critical immunity. Honest intellectual discussion is hard to come by with this ultra-sensitive, utilitarian character.
Amiel's words resonate in an era in which Jewish tradition is derided as bigoted and homophobic. Is there any relevance in this environment for the Torah view that the homosexual act is an "abomination" (Leviticus 18:22)? How can Judaism with its unambiguous position speak to this generation? As far as the Jewish religion goes, there are no homosexuals in the world, nor have there ever been. There are no heterosexuals either. Both terms are pejorative. They imply that the essence of existence lies somehow within the crass and the carnal. Human beings are reduced to their most primal function, as if the point of life was to contemplate the smorgasbord of sexual possibilities in the world.
From the Jewish perspective, identifying existentially as a homosexual or a heterosexual is as irrelevant as identifying as a ptyalizer (a person whose saliva flows excessively).The words may describe predilections or behavior, but they hardly capture the essence of the person. The Torah labels people not by their primal urges, but by their obligations to God. The Cohen, Levi, and Yisrael each play a different role within the apparatus of Divine worship. The adult keeps mitzvot, while the youth is exempt. The indentured servant, the non-Jewish citizen, and the free person all enjoy different monetary obligations. In dividing these responsibilities, God apparently did not care about human preferences, sexual or otherwise. He did not ask the Jewish people whether or not they would like to follow His Torah. According to the Midrash, He held the mountain over the entire nation and said, "take it." No azza interest group declined because of special needs. It was an offer no one could refuse.
In the pre-azza world, Jews tended to appreciate their Creator more, not only for bringing them out of bondage, but for enabling them to breathe. The Torah gave them the opportunity to express their gratitude. Before JFK, God told His people not to ask what He can do for them, but what they can do for Him. If any one label applies accurately to the Jew, it is Eved Hashem, servant of God. This may represent the main point of conflict between the ideology of the azza world and the Torah. The azza is concerned with rights. The Torah rarely discusses rights. It is more focused on responsibilities. Within its structured framework, people can maximize their own distinct talents and interests. Their ultimate task is to become partners with God in the world's creation -- literally by creating their unique selves in His image.
As part of this act of self-creation, people must see their personal qualities as constantly evolving. Branding themselves with labels stymies their potential for growth and destroys their partnership with God. Labels rarely describe people as they are. They more frequently become self-fulfilling prophecies. A child who is labeled "slow" from an early age feels defeated. Trying to rise above the low expectations seems futile.
Teshuvah, the assumption that any human quality can be changed if necessary to serve the Creator, allows individuals to maximize their potential beyond their wildest expectations. A child once assumed to have been slow can develop into a top scholar with the appropriate determination. Every destructive impulse can be directed towards appropriate holy activity.
The current consensus amongst Behavioral Psychologists supports the Torah's optimism with regards to change. With the right positive and negative reinforcement, people can adjust to any number of previously unimaginable realities. Behavioral conditioning usually works more efficiently at earlier ages, but all people can adjust to new situations if they are motivated.
According to sexual behaviorists like Masters and Johnson, babies are born neither heterosexual nor homosexual in any categorical sense (Human Sexuality, 1995, fifth edition). They are sexually malleable, and can remain in flux throughout their lifetimes. Whether sexuality is determined by biology or by the environment -- or both -- is a question that defies clear empirical proof. Regardless of the nature-nurture conundrum, sexual attraction is almost always influenced to some degree by external stimuli. Human preferences are complex and quirky. If chocolate ice cream tastes sensational today, it may taste less so tomorrow. People are inclined naturally towards aesthetic variation. That does not mean they should be free to act on their impulses. The Torah understands that unrestrained pursuit of personal pleasure takes a terrible toll on society, and creates havoc for the stability of the family.
What if people feel genuinely attracted to their own gender? This does not make them homosexual, even if they experience homosexual feelings. These feelings may or may not go away in time, but the Torah still expects that people adapt themselves as best they can to male-female marriage. There have always been people in the world who at least at one point in their lives are attracted to their own gender, to little children, to family members, to ever-changing sexual whims. God does not permit people to act out their fantasy lives if these conflict with His vision of holiness.
The Torah does not accept the concept of monogamous homosexual relationships because self-fulfillment is not part of its agenda. If human sexuality is influenced by environment, someone with homosexual ideation can potentially lead a fulfilled marital life. But even if their innermost desires remained unfulfilled, it does not matter. It may never become clear why some people do not feel predisposed to marrying someone of the opposite sex. The obligation remains.
Marriage is meant to teach people how to rise above their own selfish needs in order to give to a partner who is both psychologically and physiologically different. Same-gender marriages might have been too easy. As one essayist put it, male couples would have been able to sit around and watch ballgames all day; female couples would have been able to sit down and really talk about one another's feelings. But marriage is meant to challenge each of the partners. John Grey's bestsellers on the subject (Menare from Mars, Women are from Venus, et al.) have touched a raw nerve precisely because members of both sexes are aware of the difficulty in bridging the chasm between them.
Jews have always appreciated the gap between the sexes. The Torah sanctified it. The Jews were the first people in world history to make divorce difficult by forcing the man to pay a hefty sum before separating permanently from his wife. When the inevitable conflicts arose, neither spouse could run away so quickly. They had to stay together and work things out the hard way, often becoming finer individuals in the process. Divorce was a possibility, but only as a last resort after all other options had been explored. The constructive tension in marriage helped them grow.
Male-female marriage is a much more stable societal norm than monogamous same-sex relationships. Dennis Prager argues that men in particular need women as a civilizing force in order to tame their potentially unruly libidos ("Judaism, Homosexuality, and Civilization," Ultimate Issues ,April-June 1990). Societies that tolerated homosexual behavior in history were characterized almost without exception by the oppression and subjugation of women, by the elevation of male sexual gratification as a mainstream pastime, and by a lack of any persevering family life. Men by their nature are not as willing to commit to long-term relationships. Prager argues that "while it is possible for male homosexuals to live lives of fidelity comparable to those of heterosexual males, it is usually not the case." According to one study, the typical lesbian has fewer than ten lovers in the course of her active sexual life, the typical male homosexual has over five hundred (Bell and Weinberg, Homosexualities, Alfred Kinsey Institute for Sex Research, 1978).
God's idea of holiness is not always discernible to the human mind. These explanations may not fully account for the Torah's overall prohibition. They do refute the popular claim that the Torah would have sanctioned monogamous homosexual relationships if it had known about them. The prohibition was meant to be unambiguous and eternal. This is one reason the Torah is so spare with its words, "And do not lie with the male in the way you lie with a woman -- it is an abomination" (Leviticus 18:22). Try as they may, modern voices fail to twist these words beyond their unavoidably clear meaning.
God is not cruel. He does not ask people to do anything beyond their capacity. He does at times ask them to harness their desires. To some degree, all mitzvot go against the natural human grain. Without the social or ethical restraints that usually bind them, most people would steal, live promiscuously, lie, cheat, and occasionally murder, sometimes out of sheer convenience. The greatest struggle in life, according to the Torah, is to discipline base instincts in pursuit of moral excellence. People are bursting with inchoate spirituality. The truly righteous learn how to control their physical drives while striving to realize their loftiest convictions.
Many people diminish their potential by embracing labels. The self-proclaimed homosexual who engages in homosexual acts is not necessarily considered evil from a Torah perspective. The act is evil. The prohibition may be absolute, but Jews still have a priority of showing one another compassion, especially when doing the right thing becomes a struggle. There is no contradiction when those who condemn homosexual behavior reach out lovingly to self-identified "homosexuals." It means that they are able to see the Divine image in all people.
In a world that hypocritically accepts homosexuality in public and abhors it in private, the compassionate Jewish approach is unique. But for Judaism to be on the cutting edge is nothing new. The Midrash explains why our founder was called Avraham ha'ivri. While the rest of the world stood on one side(iver) of the river, Avraham bravely stood on the other. Jews are defined from the beginning of their history by their ability to stand firm in their beliefs despite the prevailing trends in the world. The Jewish views of monotheism, a limited monarchy, and freedom have rarely been endorsed by the historical powers of the world. Most of these powers themselves have died out, while the Jews and their Torah are as vibrant as ever. When homosexuality was exalted in Greek, Mayan, Chinese, Scandinavian cultures -- in fact almost every society in world history (see David E. Greenberg, The Construction of Homosexuality, 1988) -- the Jews stood resolutely by their ideal of male-female marriage.
People diminish themselves by insisting on azza-like labels. Strangely enough, in the modern world, identity often becomes enmeshed with career: "I am a secretary," "a lawyer," "a clerk," "an artist." These self-definitions are sadly accurate for those who accomplish little beyond their all-consuming careers. Others identify with their astrological signs, their lives assuming a kooky arbitrary dimension that seems beyond the individual's control. And some identify with their carnal preferences, as homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, or otherwise sexually challenged. Sex indeed often dominates their lives. If their days and nights are not filled with pursuits of physical pleasure, their minute-to-minute fantasy life tends to be all-engrossing.
The Torah offers a finer alternative. Within God's scheme, career, cosmos, and sexuality are all part of life's intricate fabric. Judaism is not ascetic. The individual is supposed to appreciate the richness of God's physical creation. The key is to accept the Torah's parameters. Through discipline and a pursuit of holiness, the Torah teaches how to appreciate the spiritual gifts in the universe and thereby live the fullest kind of existence.
The Jewish Community
DO HOMOSEXUALS FIT INTO THE JEWISH COMMUNITY?
Written By: Bronya Shaffer (posted Jan. 2011)
Printed from JewishMontana.com
According to Jewish law, how should a person react to homosexual feelings? Do homosexuals fit into the Jewish community?
You ask about feelings and law. But feelings do not fall within the domain of law. A person feels what a person feels. Then he has the power to decide whether he will act upon those feelings or… not. This is the human experience: desire, longing, wanting…and the law. Part of our development from childhood to adulthood is creating for ourselves a moral compass. Something that's internal. That which tells us right from wrong. And that moral compass is comprised of myriad components, but must be firmly grounded, always, in a system of absolutes. Absolute law. Absolute values. Torah. From the time we're very, very young we learn: this may be how you feel, but this is not how you may act. Consider a three year old who longs to use his grandmother's couch as a trampoline, consider what his mother will tell him. We feel what we feel. And we act according to the law: the law of the Torah, or the law of the land, or the laws of social niceties. And as we grow, clear about absolute laws, we develop our own moral compass.
We feel what we feel. And we act according to the lawSo what to do when our desires are for unequivocally forbidden acts? While firmly closing the door on the act, often we find that when we consistently redirect those emotions, again and again, the emotions are slowly tempered and change. Sometimes it takes just a little work, sometimes many years. Some feelings never go away. That is the challenge of being human.
Jewish law unconditionally prohibits the homosexual act. Just as the heterosexual act is prohibited outside of marriage, regardless of personal desires, attractions or inclinations, so the homosexual act is forbidden.
Or perhaps your question is in regard to how we should react to the homosexual feelings of others? Or how we should react to someone who eats on Yom Kippur? Or someone who longs for the relationship with a man other than her husband? On this, the classic work known as the Tanya provides strong advice: Consider what it means to have such burning passions for forbidden fruit. Consider the day to day fierce and relentless battle demanded to conquer such passions. Consider that a person with such feelings who fails even once in such a battle is sinning. And then ask yourself, "Do I ever fight such a battle on my own ground? What makes me any better than him?"
The Tanya continues to illustrate the many areas in which all of us could improve by waging at least a small battle on our own ground.
On your question concerning community: A Jew belongs within a Jewish community. There are no application forms and no qualification requirements. He's Jewish—that's where he belongs. Period. We all have our challenges, our shortcomings, our feelings...and our failures in battle as well...and with all that, we are a community of Jews.
Wishing you all the best,
Bronya Shaffer for Chabad.org
DOES HOMOSEXUALITY INCORPORATE THE SEXUAL HOLINESS VALUES OF JUDAISM?
Much of today's world denies the concept of sexual holiness, and sees sex as but another natural function - like eating, drinking or defecating. The sex act itself is therefore compared, or even equated, to drinking a glass of water. Judaism, on the other hand, clearly believes sex between a husband and a wife is a "kiddushin", a sanctification, a holy act commanded by G-d.
Conjugal Sex's Unique Holiness in Judaism:
The sacredness of lawful sex which lies at the heart of traditional Judaism is often forgotten. As R.Patai tells us in "Sex and Family in the Bible and the Middle East," while the ancient Canaanites saw "the entire sexual aspect of life as surrounded by an aura of sanctity," and believed that "performing the sexual act in honor of a deity was a religious practice" (the saturnalia), their view permitted sexual pairings of all kinds - heterosexual, homosexual, incestuous, pederastic and group sex - in order to sexually stimulate the gods, who were watching, so they would then make the herds, fields and women fertile.
When the Hebrews accepted the existence of One Lawful G-d, the pagan notion of sex as holy was retained but was severely limited by recognizing a sacred sexuality solely in the marital bed. Adultery, premarital sex for women, homosexuality, incest and bestiality were therefore banned. "The revolution begun by the Torah when it declared war on the sexual practices of the world wrought the most far-reaching changes in history," according to Dennis Prager in "Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization." It was Judaism that demanded that all sexual activity be channeled into marriage, and thus, as Prager observed, "it changed the world."
David Gelernter recently maintained in Commentary Magazine (2003) that "husband and wife create a whole man out of two halves. Their sexual union is inherently blessed whether a child is engendered or not. The cult of the couple has given marriage in Judaism a supreme (and unique) importance." With the notion of "the married couple at the center of the universe," Jews "celebrate sexuality."
This view of sex as serious, sacred, and limited to one's spouse contradicts America's increasing trivialization of sex. And, in turn, the trivialization produced in young people's minds by previous experiences with many partners weakens the emotional exclusivity with which they view the marital sexual bond. This has become a major psychological reason for America's high divorce rate.
The intense sexual pleasure which marriage brings both partners helps create and maintain love and affection between them. (The importance of a wife's sexual satisfaction has long been stressed by Jewish sages.) The marital trust evoked by sexual fidelity helps create homes in which children learn the love and trust upon which civilization itself rests.
On the contrary, feminist, gay and other political movements have systematically minimized or denied the biological differences between men and women. As leading advocates of sexual freedom and promiscuity, these movements represent the major political enemies of fidelity and sexual holiness. In doing so, they hide one of Judaism's greatest contributions to civilization, that is, the transformation of raw biological sexuality and the inborn attraction of male and female, by channeling it into the faithful, sacred love of the Song of Solomon.
A Word on Homosexual Ideology
Andrew Sullivan, one of the homosexual movement's leading ideologists, refers to the "natural urges in a particular person that may run counter to the nature of the species as a whole." Judaism calls such defiance for its own sake "the evil inclination." Sullivan, however, goes on to illustrate how "homosexuals have delighted in showing in their ironic games with the dominant culture" that they can be "ultimately immune to its [society's] control." This finding suggests the centrality of defiance as part of the psychology within many gays. In contrast, obedience to the Law is, of course, the essence of Judaism.
The Opposite Natures of Homosexual and Traditional Marriage
The real conflict between homosexual and traditional marriage is the reliance on different standards that are found in two competing cultures: one of fidelity and the other of "freedom" (or promiscuity) . Fidelity - sexual exclusivity - is at the heart of both Jewish and Christian traditional marriage between men and women. But gay couples are apparently more interested in sexual variety. Of 156 such couples who had lived together for at least 5 years ( many were together for 20 years or more) and were interviewed by a pair of gay researchers named McWhirter and Mattison, only seven had a totally exclusive relationship--however, none of these seven had been in their relationship for more than five years . Indeed, these researchers concluded that "the single most important factor that keeps [these gay] couples together past the ten year mark is the lack of possessiveness they feel. Many couples learn very early in their relationship that ownership of each other sexually can become the greatest internal threat to their staying together."
Another pair of gay investigators (M.Kirk and H. Madsen in "After the Ball") describe "the cheating ratio of 'married' gay males, given enough time, [as] approaching 100%." This being how gay couples actually behave, the notion of faithful homosexual marriage, although doubtlessly occasionally occurring, appears rather questionable.
The gay and feminist political movements hold strong power positions, especially in the mass media, and are now attempting to use the U.S. Supreme Court's recent Lawrence decision to get further acceptance of homosexuality as equal, if not superior, to heterosexuality. For example, New York Times national political correspondent Richard Berke told the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association that at times, "literally three-quarters of the people deciding what's on the front page are not-so-closeted homosexuals." And the American psychiatric, psychological and social work associations are trying to declare unethical any psychotherapeutic attempts to help people wanting to change from homosexuality.
While any two or more people can make whatever private contracts they wish, the acceptance of legally and/or religiously-approved homosexual marriage would gravely undermine the uniquely sacred nature of traditional marriage. For those of us who practice Judaism as a religion and understand the sacredness of a sanctified relationship between a man and woman which is called marriage, a so-called homosexual "marriage" would be comparable to a Jew trying to kosher a pig.
- Dr. Nathaniel S. Lehrman
(Posted to JONAH Online Library - April 2004)
DEAR PARENTS, RABBIS, THERAPISTS,TEACHERS AND THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
JONAH was chosen as our group's name both as an acronym for Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality and to represent the biblical Book of JONAH. The Book of JONAH is the Torah portion read on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and thus the classic parable of repentence and returning to G-D. For all Jews, Yom Kippur represents the culmination of 40 days of reflection, evaluation, and the willingness to change what has not worked well in our lives.
The myths surrounding the attempt to normalize homosexuality have left many of us confused and bewildered. We want to be good people, we don't want to discriminate against our sisters and brothers who experience same-sex attractions, and yet - if we embrace someone's homosexuality as G-D given and natural, are we doing the right thing? Recent scientific evidence bolsters the traditional scientific evidence that leads us to believe that same-sex attractions represent a drive to meet unmet love needs. Based on the numerous articles and papers you will read on the JONAH web site, JONAH's position on how the Jewish community should respond to this issues is as follows:
We love our fellow Jews too much to watch them embrace the false identity of homosexuality. The Torah teaches us that homosexuality is a behavior, not an identity. This idea is further clarified in a letter of support from Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky who powerfully stated, " Anything that the Torah forbids, the human being is able to control."
Empirical evidence is clear that homosexuality is changeable and so we need to devote ourselves to teaching the public about the prevention, causes, and treatment of homosexuality.
For those of us who are parents and family members of those experiencing same-sex attractions, we need to admit that we probably unwittingly contributed to our children's homosexual attractions. Therefore, we need to provide an example of how we as people need to grow and change ourselves so that we can express our love for our children more fully, improve our relationship with them, and teach by example that we all have the capacity to change even deeply-rooted conflicts.
As Jews, we also need to insure that families and communities do not ostracize their children who live a homosexual lifestyle. It is heartless to reject a child for something that is not his/her fault. In the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, we must "take a loving and caring attitude by extending a helping hand."
We need to reach out to those experiencing same-sex attractions and let them know that we will support them in every way possible if they decide to transition out of homosexuality and recover their heterosexual potential. However, we will love and cherish them as the individuals they are even if they choose to stay in a homosexual lifestyle.
We must reach out with love and compassion and an understanding that many times the worst treatment of homosexuals comes from their own internalized sense of shame and guilt. Alternatively, gay activists seek a cult-like environment to keep a person with a confused sense of gender identiuty within the bounds of the so-called gay lifestlye. Homosexuals are us and we are them, they were not born a different class of persons, they were not born different. No one chooses to be a homosexual anymore than you would choose to be an obese person, an alcoholic, or anyone afflicted with a life-damaging condition, which if we are honest, includes almost all of us in one way or another.
We need to work together to figure out the best way to explain that we can love our fellow Jews and yet encourage them to change. We must be honest and let the public know that in every way measurable, the cons outweigh the pros of a homosexual lifestyle, whether or not the government or a religious body gives its approval to homosexuality. It is simply cruel to tell young people experiencing same-sex attractions that a homosexual lifestyle will give them the same chance at living a full life as a heterosexual lifestyle - we know it won't and we must stand up to the "politically correct" rhetoric of our times and speak the truth.
In closing, we all gain when the issues surrounding homosexuality are out of the closet, when the stigma of being a homosexual is lessened, when recovered homosexuals are not ashamed to speak out and give hope to others, when parents can admit their mistakes, when our fellow Jews know that we love them enough to stand up and fight for their right to live a normal life, and when the world understands the underlying causes of same-sex attractions.
We all need to join together, speak out, publicize our cause, and help our fellow Jews who are suffering from unwanted same-sex attractions.
Shalom with love,
Elaine Silodor Berk,
Co-Director of JONAH
HOMOSEXUALITY AND JUDAISM
Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, Volume XI - 1986
Homosexuality, once a word whispered only with revulsion or derision, is now out in the open for all to see and hear. In fact, homosexuality and its attendant issues have become big news.
Whether it is the rapidly spreading, and ever-more frightening AIDS epidemic, or the increase in sympathetic "gay" characters in the theater and in literature, or the widening legal battles over the status of homosexuals, one cannot go very far in contemporary society with out confronting this once extremely closet-bound topic.
Traditional Judaism, too, has been forced to confront the issue as "gay" individuals and "synagogues" have appeared on the Jewish landscape, often appealing for support from the liberal segments of the Jewish community.
Certainly, an authentic Jewish response must begin with the biblical prohibition against homosexuality. The Bible unequivocally states that a homosexual act between two consenting adult males is a capital crime(1). Therefore, homosexuality is an activity that no traditional Jew can engage in, endorse, accept, or approve of (recent televised statements to the contrary notwithstanding)(2).
Despite this initial biblical negative, there is much to discuss regarding our attitude to the homosexual, the issue of the homosexual's place in the community, the question of approach and the treatment of the homosexual, and the problem of the homosexual's rights and acceptance in society. In addition, we must consider why the Bible and Jewish thought reject homosexuality keeping in mind as we do that female homosexuality, though forbidden, is not nearly as serious a crime as is its male counterpart(3).
Drawing the Right Picture
Our analysis of Judaism's approach to homosexuality begins with the question, "What is Judaism's view of the Jewish homosexual?" It is this author's contention that the only appropriate answer to this question is "there is no such individual(4)."
To explain this rather radical statement, one must go back to the structure that halacha places upon Jewish society. In this structure there are certain legal personalities who constitute the dramatis personae of the Jewish community. A Cohen is such a personality, as is a Levi. A woman is such a personality, as is a slave or a king. Other "characters" populate the Jewish landscape. The mamzer and the Cohen Gadol, the Katan and the gadol, the cheresh and the shoteh each has his place in the scheme of things(5). Lacking from this list is the homosexual. So much is he missing from the cast of characters of Jewish society that one is hard put to find a halachic term used specifically for him(6).
If one were, in fact, to apply a halachic category to this individual, it would be the general category of mumar l'teiavon (one whose desires put him in opposition to Torah law), specifically mumar l'mishkav zachor (one who because of his repeated involvement in homosexual activity is in opposition to Torah law). Such a category exists in halachic literature(7), is clearly defined, and places the homosexual on a equal footing with other mumarim who violate other laws.
It seems clear from this that halacha never viewed the homosexual as a member of a unique category or as different from the non-homosexual. He has no greater or lesser rights or obligations. He deserves no special treatment or concessions nor any special vilification. In fact, the term "homosexual" is an essentially inappropriate description for him. We should, rather, refer to this individual as a person engaged in homosexual activity. "Homosexual" is therefore not a noun that identifies and categorizes the individual but an adjective that describes his activity.
This approach has great intuitive appeal. It is hard to imagine Jewish thought accepting the premise the sexual desires and activities provide grounds by which to define an individual's place in the community. In addition, there are vast and important ramifications that emerge from this picture of the individual as a person involved in homosexual activity and not as a homosexual.
The first effect of this changed conceptualization is to alter and improve the individual's perception of himself. If one is labeled and defined by the term "homosexual", he is consequently different than the heterosexual. As such, he will struggle for minority status and for his rights as a member of that minority. He is, and should be, portrayed as a unique character type in movies, theater, and on television, and he should command an appropriate number of participants in any institution that constitutes itself along racial, ethnic, and religious lines. He agitates for gay pride and gay power, and if he is Jewish, he creates gay synagogues and other gay institutions.
On the other hand, If "homosexual" is a term that is limited to the description of an activity, then the individual practicing this activity remains an undifferentiated member of society, and if Jewish he is part of Jewish society. He need not feel excluded from the community. In the same way that the adulterer, the practitioner of pre-marital sex, the mechallel Shabbat(8) or the speaker of lashon harah all enter the synagogue and feel at home while individually dealing with whatever guilt they carry as a result of their sinful activities, so, too, the individual involved in homosexual activity can and should enter the synagogue and feel himself to be part of the community. He is still a human being and a Jew. He is most assuredly not part of a separate homosexual society or sub-society. (See below for a discussion of the Gentile homosexual.) Obviously, the adulterer, mechallel Shabbat, et al are duty-bound to change their ways - to do teshuva - and the mumar l'mishkav zachor has the same obligation(9).
The second implication of this approach concerns the community's dealings with the individual involved in homosexual activity. If the practitioner of homosexuality is considered a full fledged Jew (albeit a mummar), the community should welcome him as such. This is particularly true in our post-holocaust era, wherein our heightened awareness of the value of each Jewish soul has motivated many communities to make kiruv rechokim (attempts to bring non-observant Jews into the fold of Torah-observance) a hallmark of their activities. This Kiruv work should not and cannot be limited only to violators of halacha in ritual matters. Deviance from halachic norms in sexual matters is as much an area for concern, outreach, and proper education as anything else. Particularly in an area that is as difficult to control as sexual desire(10), the support of the community for one who might want to bring his lifestyle in line with halacha may be crucial to success.
At this point something should be said about the term "toeivah(11)" as used by the Torah in connection with homosexuality. Some may feel that its appearance in this context precludes treating the practitioner of homosexuality in the same way that one would treat an individual who is guilty of a different sin. The problem with this suggestion is that to be consistent we would require similarly negative treatment of the persons who eats non-Kosher food(12) the idolator(13), the unethical business man(14) and the individual who remarries a woman who, since her divorce from him, has entered and left (by death or divorce) another marriage to another man(15). All of these individuals are guilty of committing a toeivah, according to the respective verses that prohibit the particular activity. If we are going to ostracize the individual who commits homosexual acts, then we must ostracize these individuals as well. Since we do not take this approach in the other cases, we should not do so in dealing with the individual involved in homosexual activity.
How then to understand the toeivah designation? In an article in the Encyclopedia Judaica Yearbook, Dr Norman Lamm(16) defines toeivah in aesthetic terms. These actions are repulsive in and of themselves; no rationale or explanation is necessary. Rather, the divine aspect within the human being is automatically and instinctively repelled by these activities. The fact that any number of individuals are possessed of a deadened spiritual sensitivity that allows them to accept or even participate in the acts in question, does not mean that the spiritually sensitive individual allows his revulsion to be diminished nor does he apologize for that revulsion.
Further, it is important to note that the wording of the act in question indicates that this revulsion is directed only at the act and not at its perpetrator. The perpetrator is not to be ostracized. One who commits a toeivah is halachically and societally no different than one who commits a transgression of a non-toeivah law of equal severity.
Although it may be true that a leopard cannot change its sports, Judaism holds that a human being can change or control his activities(17). While we certainly recognize that many individuals have personality factors that would tend to promote certain sinful activities, our expectation is that these individuals will control these tendencies. We no more would accept the act of murder as legitimate because the perpetrator is prone to violence, then we should accept the act of homosexuality as inevitable because of the existence of biological, genetic, or environmental factors that may contribute to an individual's preference for homosexual acts. A rational individual can control himself, and no amount of apologetics, explanations, or rationalizations can change this fundamental fact. Simply put, the individual engaged in homosexual activity is wrong in what he is doing and is held responsible for having done it.
It is on this issue that the approach presented here parts company most completely with Dr.Lamm's view. Whereas Dr. Lamm(18) sees the homosexual as an anuss (an individual forced into heredity and/or environment into activity that the Bible forbids) this author sees him as mumar. Whereas Dr. Lamm effectively removes culpability from him (anuss rachma patrie(19)), this author insists that creating a sense of culpability is an integral part of the approach that Judaism should take in confronting the individual involved in homosexual activity. This sense of culpability may be just the push necessary for the individual to begin the teshuva process.
The view presented here seems more in keeping with biblical(20), talmudic(21) and other halachic sources(22). The consistent position taken by these sources is that the homosexual is ultimately subject to punishment for his actions. The halachic system fully expects that an individual properly warned, witnessed, and brought to trial for this act be killed. There is no indication anywhere in the literature that such individuals have a prima facie defense as anussim.
Dr. Lamm(23) supports his approach by arguing that present public policy and social reality preclude punishment of all offenders. We must, therefore, maintain our condemnation of the act while refraining from dealing punitively with the offender. In his view, this can best be done by treating the offender as an anuss.
However, there is nothing in his argument that prevents our labeling the individual as a mumar. We do not punish Sabbath violators, or those who eat treif. Environment/heredity is not enough to label the individual involved in homosexual activity an anuss. Rather label him a mumar, indicating that he is responsible for his actions.
Further, a stance such as Dr. Lamm's seems to carry with it the possibility of pushing the individual presently questioning his own sexual orientation over the wrong edge.
After all, if biology/upbringing is the cause, and the participant is only the victim of irresistible forces, he has a handy excuse and less of a reason not to succumb to his desires.
Labeling one a mumar does not necessarily mean that the community should respond with public condemnation and rejection or the individual. In an era which lacks a Sanhedrin and adequate Jewish communal structures we have long tolerated, worked with, and even welcomed and accepted violators of many halachot within our community. It is necessary, therefore, to couple our tolerance of the individual with disapproval of the activity. This must then be combined with an expectation and hope that the individual will change his behavior. Calling him a mumar, if handled correctly, strengthens the chances for change.
The subject of change brings us to our next point. Jewish thought would argue that homosexually oriented individuals can change their sexual orientation and can ultimately develop an interest in and derive pleasure from heterosexual activity. This conclusion is an obvious consequence of our discussion thus far. If a homosexual act is punishable, and if we expect he individual who has homosexual desires to avoid giving in to them, what then is the life situation of such and individual? There seem to be two possibilities. One: such and individual cannot change his feelings. If this is the case he is a prisoner trapped in a body which, while commanded to marry an procreate, has an emotional structures that finds such a concept at best unfulfilling and at worst a living purgatory. Two: change - and a normal, happy, fulfilled life marriage and heterosexual union are possible.
We are told by the Talmud(24) that G-d does not play tricks on His creations. Particularly as the area of sexuality is an area of such deeply personal implications to any individual, it is difficult imagine G-d creating a situation wherein those who feel themselves to possess a homosexual orientation cannot change and are consequently locked in a living prison with no exit and no key. Therefore, some method or methods must exist to successfully change the sexual orientation of motivated individuals. It's heartening to note that a recent study (25),indicates a 70% success rate among such individuals. It is unfortunate that the mass media and most mental health professionals publicly portray the goal "acceptance of one's orientation" as the optimum, while downplaying or denying the possibility of change. Our task must be to publicize the possibility of change, and the relevant statistics that now become statistics of hope. We also should encourage the mental health community to develop new and even more effective methods to alter the sexual orientation of those striving to live Torah-true lifestyle.
Perhaps one further support for the idea that homosexual orientation is at least preventable, if not totally changeable, is the anomalous fact that one community in which the percentage of homosexual preference is significantly lower than in the general population is the Orthodox Jewish community(26).
It is almost as if halacha rejects the notion of an individual called a homosexual, rejects the necessity of the homosexual act for any individual, rejects the idea of an irrevocable homosexual orientation, and then creates a society in which these ideals can, apparently quite successfully, be lived.
Judaism rejects the suggestions that homosexuality is either a form of mental illness or an "acceptable alternate lifestyle." Judaism's positions would be a third and as yet unconsidered option. Homosexuality is an activity entered into volitionally by individuals, who may be psychologically healthy, which is maladaptive and inappropriate. Depending on one's theory, it may indicate arrested development, poor family structure, early trauma, frustration of the purpose of creation, disruption of the basic family structure, unnatural behavior, etc.
But whatever the case it constitutes activity that will diminish an individual's capacity to fulfill, in his own life, G-d's expressed plan for creation. As such, this individual cannot achieve his full potential as a human being(27). Therefore, our task is to treat and redirect this individual to more appropriate and fulfilling activity.
One question not addressed directly in the previous section is, "Why does Judaism not recognize the existence of a homosexual sub-group within the Jewish community?"
Of course, one might answer that as the act of homosexuality is forbidden, Judaism would no more grant official status to those who practice it than it would grant such status to murderers, thieves, or adulterers. This answer may, in fact, be sufficient and perhaps we should simply turn to the next section and the discussion of the rationale for Judaism's negative approach to the entire issue of homosexuality.
However, there may be another more profound and far-reaching answer to this question. The Sifra states(28)
"I did not say this except for those laws inscribed for them [the Gentiles] their fathers' father. What did they [the Gentiles, as opposed to the Jews] do? Men would marry men, and women would marry women".
This seems to indicate a difference between homosexuality when it makes its appearance in the Jewish community. For the Gentile, homosexuality is a reality that is part of his heritage. For a Jew, homosexuality is a foreign incursion.
Additional support for this division along national lines can be adduced from the prohibition against female homosexuality. This prohibition, though not explicitly stated in the Bible, is derived from the same verse, Leviticus 18:2, that elicits the comment of the Sifra quoted above. The verse reads: "After the doings of the land Egypt wherein you lived you shall not do, and after the doings of the land of Canaan where I am bringing you, you shall not do, nor shall you walk in the statutes." This source provides a further indication that homosexuality is viewed as a foreign element in Jewish society. It may well be that this factor contributes to halacha's unwillingness to recognize a homosexual subgroup within Jewish society.
Statistics show significantly reduced levels of homosexual men in Orthodox Jewish circles as compared to all other segments of society. Further indication of this anomaly is provided by the dearth of questions relating to homosexuality and individuals involved in homosexual activity in halachic and responsa literature(29).
One obvious question remains. Does halacha recognize a homosexual individual who cannot change, and therefore a homosexual sub-community in the Gentile world?
The answer to this question seems unclear. On the one hand the Sifra quoted above indicates a belief that at least some Gentile homosexuals develop their sexual orientation because of a traditional cultural heritage. This would tend to support the idea the halacha acknowledges the possibility of a homosexual subgroup in Gentile society.
On the other hand, none of the stories from the Bible, such as the sin of Ham, the men of Sodom, or the Potiphar's true purpose in purchasing Joseph as his slave, portray any of the individuals as totally homosexual. All are either married (in the normal fashion) or are said to father children in the course of their lives. This would seem to indicate that pure homosexuality was considered an aberration even if found in Gentile circles.
Further, halacha prescribes the death penalty for homosexual acts committed between Gentile men(30). Our tendency would therefore be to deny that halacha recognizes a homosexual community among Gentiles. If we, in fact, did recognize such a community would we not be advocating genocide towards it? Such a position is obviously troubling.
Condemnation of Homosexuality - Why?
In discussions of the Jewish view of homosexuality, the question "Why does Judaism condemn a pleasurable, victimless act that tales place between two consenting adults?" often takes center stage. Although explanations are not lacking in the literature a truly consistent approach should also shed some light on why female homosexuality, though forbidden, is far less heinous a crime than male homosexuality(31).
In fact, a number of suggested answers suffer from a failure to adequately explain this last point.
One such approach centers around the primacy of family and children in our system of values. The practice of male homosexuality obviously frustrates the implementation of these values(32). But so does the practice of female homosexuality. Yet the two are not treated with equal severity.
A second approach argues that homosexuality is somehow unnatural. Our bodies are constructed to act in certain ways, and the practice of male homosexuality prevents these ways(33). Once again, female homosexuality seems to be every bit as unnatural as the male variety, yet we do not react to it in the same way.
Often, those who advocate these two approaches resort to the "hashchatat zera" (destruction of seed) argument(34). Since male homosexuality involves hashchatat zera and female homosexuality does not, the prohibition as violated by the man is more stringent.
There are two problems with the treatment of the male participant. Hashchatat xera in other contexts does not entail the death penalty(35).
However, males involved in homosexual activity (as opposed to females) are subject to capital punishment. Hashchatat zera, therefore, does not appear to be a significant enough factor to explain this severe reaction of the part of Torah law.
Second, the biblical prohibition concerns the homosexual act and not hashchatat zera. In Jewish law, homosexual activity, if consummated, is a capital crime even if there is not hotzaat zera, yet male physical contact, even if it results in hotzaata zera, is not punishable in this way unless actual sexual consummation occurs(36). For these reasons, the approaches cited seem unable to serve as complete explanations for the Torah view of this issue.
However, one variation of the "unnatural"theme seems to fare better in dealing with our question. This position takes its definition of natural, not from physiology and nature as studied in the laboratory, but from nature as defined in the Torah. The Torah says:
"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife and they shall be as one flesh(37)".
The Torah has, in the verse, defined "natural" as man and women united in heterosexual union. Any person engaged in homosexual activity acts against G-d's natural order of things, and is therefore culpable. However, women involved in homosexuality are less in violation of the "natural" then men as it says: "He shall cleave…..and they shall be as one flesh", can be accomplished by males in homosexual union but not by females. This explanation seems to deal neatly with the various facets of the problem(38).
One other approach to the question of why Judaism has such antipathy to homosexuality deserves mention(39). This approach expands on the argument "And he shall cleave and they shall be as one flesh...", reintroduces the centality of the family in Judaism to the discussion of homosexuality, and treats the halachic differences between male and female homosexuality in a rather interesting way. This explanation argues that homosexuality, when it did occur at all in the Jewish community, usually occurred in a bisexual context and not as an exclusively homosexual orientation on the part of the individual. Individuals raised in the Jewish community usually possessed a strong sense of family as part of their tradition and heritage. This, coupled with the desire to find personal continuity into the next generation and with communal pressure to marry, would naturally lead almost everyone to establish a marriage relationship. Unfortunately, some individuals might seek additional companionship elsewhere. This outside companionship could possibly be homosexual in nature. Such an outside relationship might then be devastating to the special intimacy between husband and wife and to the family, the fundamental building block and most important religious institution in Jewish society
Many rabbinic discussions allude to homosexuality in a strongly negative tone(40). The Talmud(41) discusses the meaning of the term "toeivah" as used the context of homosexuality. Says Bar Kapparah, "toeivah" means "to'eh ata ba", "your have strayed from her." This phrase is explained by Tosafot as meaning:
"That they leave their wives to follow homosexuality."
This statement seems to embody the essence of the proposed explanation.
Whether because of different emotional needs on the part of women, their status in society, or because of the physiological impossibility of "He shall cleave ...and they shall be as one flesh", on the part of women, male homosexuality is considered a far more serious danger in this context and is, therefore, treated with greater severity.
Our discussion to this point leads to the following conclusions:
Homosexuality is an activity, not a state of being. Put another way, "homosexual" is an adjective, not a noun.
Homosexual activity is wrong.
Homosexuality may be a foreign incursion into Judaism.
The perpetrator of homosexual activity is held responsible for the activity.
We expect individuals involved in such activity to make every attempt to stop the activity and to alter their sexual orientation.
No greater halachic stigma attaches to the practitioner of homosexuality than the Sabbath violator or the violator of many other divine commandments.
In light of these conclusions the traditional Jewish community should agree on the following goals:
The primary goal should be to create an environment that is most conducive to motivating the practitioner of homosexuality to want to change his orientation.
In the absence of this motivation or during a period when initial attempts to change are unsuccessful, our task is to keep this individual within the Torah community. We must create a situation which offers a positive alternative to the "gay synagogue" and to the even worse choice of complete abandonment and assimilation.
It would seem that these goals can best be realized by implementing the following agenda:
All unnecessary negative stigma must be removed from the individual involved in homosexual activity. Such an individual must be encouraged to see himself as someone with a problem that he is responsible to overcome, and not as a person who has been defined by his sexual orientation.
At the same time that the individual is told of his responsibility to change, he must also be told, with great compassion, that we recognize the difficulty of his task and that we are willing to help in any way possible.
This is similar, in general terms, to the way in which we treat others such as the alcoholic.
Specific programs of outreach to those participating in homosexual activities should be implemented so that those best able to respond to the questions of these individuals will have a chance to work with them. Contemporary Jewish organizations do Kiruv (outreach) work with individuals who violate many commandments. We must do the same with those whose failures are sexual areas. This is particularly true because of the all-pervasive nature of sexual desire and because of the constant encounter with sexual imagery that pervades our society.
Mental health professionals must be encouraged to develop new and better therapeutic techniques to alter sexual orientation. Methods that are even partly successful must be highlighted and publicized to offer hope to those who would want to change.
The issue of homosexuality is an extremely sensitive, difficult, and emotional one. It is a topic that creates a sense of discomfort and even revulsion not only in those who may have been personally involved in such activity, but also in many who have never had any personal contact with it at all. Stereotyping and personal doubts about one's sexuality tend to maintain and reinforce these reactions and the AIDS scare has given them new impetus. Our response as Torah-true Jews must be to reject these prejudical and counter-productive reactions. On the other hand, we cannot equivocate in our opposition to homosexual activity. This is particularly true in light of the media's continuing portrayal of homosexuals as positive role models and the increasing acceptance of the homosexual as a minority group with "legitimate" civil rights.
The program described above entails walking a difficult tightrope between condemnation of an act and acceptance of the perpetrator as a Jew worth saving. We cannot close our eyes and pretend that a problem of this magnitude will go away. It is our task to present a legitimate Jewish response, balancing our opposition to homosexual activity with our concern for the human beings involved.
2. On WNBC TV's "Donahue" show during a discussion of the controversial Harvey Milk High School for homosexual students, June 12, 1985
3. See below for sources.
4. Spero, M.H., in (a) "Homosexuality: Clinical and Ethical Challenges", Judaism and Psychology Halalchic Perspectives, Yeshiva University, New York,1980 and (b) "Further Examinations of the Halalchic Status of Homosexuality". Proceedings of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists, vol. 7, 1983, disagrees with this position and claims that a homosexual personality, as defined by desires, orientation and lifestyle does exist, and that this state is intrinsically prohibited. In addition to the philosophical problems discussed in the article that arise from this position, there is an even more serious problem, with his approach. The sources that Spero uses to support his position, Torah Temimah to Genesis 2;24, San Hedrin 58a, "T.J. 'Kiddushin" 1;1, all deal with Gentiles. Although anything forbidden to Gentiles is forbidden to Jews, the prohibition against existing in a homosexual state cannot apply to Jews if the state does not exist for Jews. At best Spero has supported the idea of a homosexual subgroup in Gentile society. See below for discussion.
5. The Mishnayot in the third chapter of at Tractate Horiyot and the Mishnayot in the eighth chapter of Yevamot. The categories of individuals mentioned here are Cohen-priest, Levi, mamzer-product of an adulterous or incestuous marriage, Cohen Gadol-high priest, katan-child, gadol-adult, cheresh-deaf-mute, shoteh-mental incompetent. This list is by no means complete.
6. Roveia (c.f. Sanhedren 9b) refers to only one aspect of the homosexual act and is also used for other sexual acts, e.g. bestiality (Levitacus 18:23 and Mishna Sanhedrin, 1;4), and intercourse between animals (Levitacus 19;19 and T.j. Avodah Zorah 40a) A. Even-Shoshan, HaMilon Hehadash, s.v. Ravah, sees this first meaning as the primary and original meaning of the term. Interestingly R. Ishmael (Sanhedren 54b) requires a different verse ( Deut. 23;18) to warn the "female" participants in the homosexual act than the verse (Levitacus 18;22) which warns the "male" participant. As a result if an individual plays both roles at one time he is punishable for two sins. R. Akiva disagrees and allows an alternate reading of the verse in Levitacus to serve as warning for the "female" participant, and consequently holds that an individual who plays both roles at once is punishable only once. It seems that R. Ishmael, certainly, and R.Akiva, probably, saw the two types of activity as being different. This strikes another blow against "Roveia" being a term for a homosexual and another blow against one who would want to suggest that the rabbis did recognize a homosexual personality. If there are two types of actions involved and two different verses or readings needed to cover them, there can not be a homosexual in Jewish law. If there were such an individual one verse should be sufficient. Other possible terms such as Shochev Im Zecharim or Shochev Mishkivei Isha are awkward and do not appear in colloquial usage. The modern transliteration of homosexual into Hebrew only proves the point that no term exists.
7. See Avodah Zorah 26b, Hulin 5a, Horiyot 11a, Rambam Yad, Hilchot Teshuva 3:9 and Kesef Mishnah ad. Loc, Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 2, and Choshen Mishpat, 266:2. Some might argue that homosexuals who are exclusively homosexual are actually Mumarim L'hachis (following Rashi A.Z., ad. loc., sv. L'Teiavon). Although some militant homosexuals may come close to this definition, the emotional conflicts and extenuating circumstances involved make it difficult to describe most, if any, homosexuals as having actively chosen to reject permissible sexual relations for forbidden ones in the same way that Rasi describes the Mumar L'hachis' behavior regarding non-kosher meat. Even if one could define some or all homosexually oriented individuals as Mumarim L'hachis the comment of the Chazon Ish quoted in the next footnote would allow us to treat such an individual in the same way that we would treat a Mumar L'Teiavon i.e. like any other Jew (see kesef Mishneh loc. cit.).
8. It is well known that if one violates the Sabbath in public there is a serious stigma attached (see Hulin 3a-6b and Eruvin 69a.). However, the equating of the Sabbath desecrator and the Idolator is rarely applied in anymore then a pedagogic sense in contemporary halachic literature ( aee R. Moshe Feinstein, Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chaim, 1, No. 23 and especially 1, No. 33). In addition to R. Feinstein's lenient stance on Mechallelel Shabbat, The Chazon Ish Yoreh Deah 2;16, says that the stringent treatment of transgressors described in the Talmud does not apply today, as such treatment will cause greater abandonment of Judaism. Since our task is to improve the situation and not to make it worse, the only approach to take with sinners is "to bring them back with ropes of love." This statement form the Chazon Ish could serve as the central message of this article.
9. Rambam, Sefer Hamitzvot Positive Commandment, No. 73.
10. "There is no guardian against unchastity" (Ketubot 13b and Hulin 11b), or the even more dramatic, "even the most pious of the piuos is not appointed guardian over unchastity" (T) Ketubot 1;8). See also Rambam, Issurei Biah, 2:19, that inappropriate sexual behavior will occur from time to time, in all communities because of man's extreme desire for sexual matters.
11. Levitacus 18:22 and 20:13
13. Deut.7:25-26 and 27:15
14. Deut. 25:16. Parenthetically, it would be interesting to see the stigma presently attached to homosexuality placed on anyone guilty of unethical business practices-at least for a brief time.
15. Deut 24;4.
16. Judaism and the Modern Attitude to Homosexuality, "Encycopaedia Judaica Year book 1974, Keter, Jerusalem, 1974, p. 198.
17. The concept of Teshuva makes no sense without this premise.
18. Ibid pg. 202. See also Matt, H.J., "Sin, Crime, Sickness or Alternative Lifestyle? A Jewish Approach to Homosexuality", Judaism, vol. 27 No. 1 Winter 1978, and Bleich, J.D., Judaism and Healing, Halalchic Perspectives, Ktav , New York, 1981. Bleich comes closest to the view presented in this article on the homosexual as anuss (forced). However, "mummar" (sinner) as opposed to "anuss" is the term to be used in the discussion of homosexuality. Introducing "oness" (compulsion) in a discussion of homosexuality is as appropriate as introducing it to a discussion of murder. There are murderers who are anussim (psychopathological murderers), but a discussion of these individuals is not a discussion of murder or the Jewish attitude to that crime. Yet we continue to speak of anussim (psychopathological homosexuals), who may make up only a small portion of those involved in that activity, in regard to Judaism's general view on the subject.
19. Bava Kama 28b, Avodah Zarah 54a. Nedarim 27a. Spero, op. cit, (b) also reject the anuss position on these and other grounds.
20. Levitacus 20:13
21. e.g. Sanhedrin 9b and 54a
22. Rambam, Yad, Hilchot Issurei Biah 1;14
23. Ibid pp.203-204
24. "ain hakodosh boruch hu bo bitranina aim bitraninav" Avodah Zorah 3a
25. Schwartz, M.F. And Masters, W.H., "The Masters and Johnson Treatment Program for Dissatisfied Homosexual Men". American Journal of Psychiatry 141:2, February,1984, pp. 173-181. This study shows a remarkable success rate. After 1 year the success rate was 79.1% and after 5 years it was 71%.
26. "...except that the (frequency of the) homosexual among Orthodox Jewish groups appears to be phenomenally low", Kinsey, A.C., Pomeroy, W.B., Mari, C.E., Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, W.B., Saunders, Phila., 1948, p. 4. See also Rosenhelm, E. "Sexual Attitudes and Regulations in Jusaism". Money, J. and Musaph, H., ed., Handbook of Sexology, Excerpta Medica Amsterdam, 1977, p.1321-22
27. See Spero, op.cit., (a), p. 157.
28. To Levitacus 18;2.
29. Encyclopaedia Judaica s.v. Homosexuality; Lamm, op.cit.,197;Epstein J.M. Sex Laws and Customs in Judaism, Ktav, New York, 1948, pp. 64-65, 135. See Sefer HaChinuch No. 209 who describes a homosexual prostitute and then says that such an individual is known to us from the Arabs (Eretz Ha'Yishmaelim). The Chinuch is quoting from Ramban To Deut. 28;18 with one change. Rambam doesn't mention the Arabs, but he does say the institution was known from the Egyptians. Both these scholars were obviously unfamiliar with homosexual prostitution-and therefore with institutionalized or extensive homosexuality within the Jewish community. Further comp are Rambam, Yad, Hilchot Issurei Biah 22;2 with 22;5 and (the Gentiles)
30. Sanhedrin 58a Rambam Yad , Hilchot Melachim 9;5.
31. Yevamot 76a, Shabbat 65a. Female homosexuality is punished by "Halot Mardut" which is a rabbinic and not a biblical punishment, Yad, Issurei Biah21;8, On the other hand male homosexuality is a capital crime as has been indicated. For a more complete discussion of female homosexuality see Spero, op. cit., (b).
32. Sefer HaChinuch No. 209.
33. Torah Temimah to Levitacus 18;22, No.70.
34. Sefer HaChinuch, loc. cit.
35. Niddah 13a, Rambam, Yad, Hilchot Issurei Biah 21;18, Shulchan Aruch, E.H. 23;1-2. There is no question of the seriousness of this sin, but is not a capital crime to be tried in a human court of law as is homosexuality. See also Feldman, D.M., Birth Control and Jewish law, New York University, 1968, chs. 6 and 8, and the debate between him and M. Tendler in Tradition, Vol. 9, No.'s 1-2 and 4. Even if we accept the view that Er and Onan (Genesis 38) died for the sin of haschatat zera, their punishment came at G-d's hands and not in a court of law.
36. Sanhedrin 55a, Rambam, Yad, Hilchot Issurei Biah 1:10, and 1:14, Suclchan Aruch, Even Ha'Ezer, 20;2.
37. Genesis. 2:24.
38. This approach is suggested by the Beraita, Sanhedrin 58a, which derives prohibitions for various immoral sexual activities for Gentiles from this verse
39. This approach was suggested to me by Mr. Mat Hoffman, national director of "The Flame"; Jewish College Student's Organization. It is also suggested, in brief terms, by Dr. Lamm, op.cit., pp.197-198.
40. Genesis Rab., 26;59 (commenting on Genesis 6;2)
41. Nedarim 51a
Declaration On The Torah Approach To Homosexuality
Societal Developments On Homosexuality
There has been a monumental shift in the secular world’s attitude towards homosexuality
over the past few decades. In particular over the past fifteen years there has been a major
public campaign to gain acceptance for homosexuality. Legalizing same-sex marriage
has become the end goal of the campaign to equate homosexuality with heterosexuality.
A propaganda blitz has been sweeping the world using political tactics to persuade the
public about the legitimacy of homosexuality. The media is rife with negative labels
implying that one is “hateful” or “homophobic” if they do not accept the homosexual
lifestyle as legitimate. This political coercion has silenced many into acquiescence.
Unfortunately this attitude has seeped into the Torah community and many have become
confused or have accepted the media’s portrayal of this issue.
The Torah’s Unequivocal And Eternal Message
The Torah makes a clear statement that homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle or a
genuine identity by severely prohibiting its conduct. Furthermore, the Torah, ever
prescient about negative secular influences, warns us in Vayikra
(Leviticus) 20:23 “Do
not follow the traditions of the nations that I expel from before you...” Particularly the
Torah writes this in regards to homosexuality and other forbidden sexual liaisons.
Same-Sex Attractions Can Be Modified And Healed
From a Torah perspective, the question whether homosexual inclinations and behaviors
are changeable is extremely relevant. The concept that G-d created a human being who is
unable to find happiness in a loving relationship unless he violates a biblical prohibition
is neither plausible nor acceptable. G-d is loving and merciful. Struggles, and yes,
difficult struggles, along with healing and personal growth are part and parcel of this
world. Impossible, life long, Torah prohibited situations with no achievable solutions are
We emphatically reject the notion that a homosexually inclined person cannot overcome
his or her inclination and desire. Behaviors are changeable. The Torah does not forbid
something which is impossible to avoid. Abandoning people to lifelong loneliness and
despair by denying all hope of overcoming and healing their same-sex attraction is
heartlessly cruel. Such an attitude also violates the biblical prohibition in Vayikra
(Leviticus) 19:14 “and you shall not place a stumbling block before the blind.”
The Process Of Healing
The only viable course of action that is consistent with the Torah is therapy and
teshuvah. The therapy consists of reinforcing the natural gender-identity of the individual
by helping him or her understand and repair the emotional wounds that led to its
disorientation and weakening, thus enabling the resumption and completion of the
individual’s emotional development.
Teshuvah is a Torah-mandated, self-motivated process of turning away from any transgression or sin and returning to G-d and one’s spiritual essence. This includes refining and reintegrating the personality and allowing it to grow in a healthy and wholesome manner.
These processes are typically facilitated and coordinated with the help of a specially
trained counselor or therapist working in conjunction with a qualified spiritual teacher or
guide. There is no other practical, Torah-sanctioned solution for this issue.
The Mitzvah Of Love And Compassion
It requires tremendous bravery and fortitude for a person to confront and deal with same-
sex attraction. For example a sixteen-year-old who is struggling with this issue may be
confused and afraid and not know whom to speak to or what steps to take. We must
create an atmosphere where this teenager (or anyone) can speak freely to a parent, rabbi,
or mentor and be treated with love and compassion. Authority figures can then guide
same-sex strugglers towards a path of healing and overcoming their inclinations.
The key point to remember is that these individuals are primarily innocent victims of
childhood emotional wounds. They deserve our full love, support and encouragement in
their striving towards healing. Struggling individuals who seek health and wellness
should not be confused with the homosexual movement and their agenda. This distinction
is crucial. It reflects the difference between what G-d asks from all of us and what He
We need to do everything in our power to lovingly uplift struggling individuals towards a
full and healthy life that is filled with love, joy and the wisdom of the Torah.
Title, Congregation, Yeshiva or other affiliations.
ORTHODOX RESPONSE TO SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb
Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union (Posted June 2008)
It is high time for a statement asserting and explaining the traditional Jewish position on homosexuality. Various Jewish groups have left the impression with the public at large that Judaism is supportive of homosexual behavior to the extent of endorsing same sex marriage. Thus it is imperative for the Orthodox world to make our position clear once more.
The position of traditional Judaism on homosexual behavior is clear and unambiguous, terse and absolute. Homosexual behavior between males or between females is absolutely forbidden by Jewish law, beginning with the biblical imperative, alluded to numerous times in the Talmud and codified in the Shulchan Aruch.
The position of Judaism on marriage is equally clear. Judaism recognizes marriage as a fundamental human institution, and affirms marriage only between a man and woman.
Judaism recognizes the central role of the two-parent, mother-father led family as the vital institution in shaping the entire human race. Within the Jewish people, the two-parent marriage is a model not only for human relations but for relations with the Divine. The Almighty Himself is seen as being a third partner to the father-mother configuration, and the central role of the family, unless circumstances make it impossible, is to conceive and raise children, thereby perpetuating the human race and for Jews, ensuring the continuity of the Jewish people.
I contest the description of Jewish values that has been foisted upon the public by numerous spokesmen of various factions of Judaism, most recently, and extremely, in the David Ellenson essay on these pages ( Same Sex Marriage, In The Jewish Tradition, March 12). To argue that same-sex marriage is consistent with the traditions of Judaism is intellectually dishonest at best and blasphemous at worst.
Nevertheless, while the sources irrevocably forbid homosexual relationships and overt homosexual behavior, there are other issues that are more nuanced and must be clarified. One has to do with the attitude toward homosexual individuals prescribed by Jewish tradition. Here it is critical to adopt the distinction, already implicit in numerous rabbinical texts, between the sin and the sinner; that is, between the person and his or her behavior. Given the nature of our times, it is impossible to formally condemn people who violate Jewish norms. Orthodox Jews and Orthodox synagogues display various degrees of tolerance and acceptance to individuals who are violators of the halachic aspects of the Sabbath, or individuals who flagrantly violate the kashrut laws. The tolerance rightly shown to these individuals by no means condones their behavior, but accepts them as people who may be misled or uninformed. While tolerance for individuals who manifest homosexual tendencies is certainly a Jewish value, and consistent with some of the core values to which Rabbi Ellenson refers, there is a great difference between tolerance for an individual and recognition of a movement which wishes to turn something clearly wrong by Jewish standards into something not only tolerated but normative.
Observant Jews must have an attitude of empathy and understanding for individuals who say, I have these urges, I can t help them. But we cannot accept those who would say, I have these urges, they are God-given and therefore it is a mitzvah to follow them.
Another complex issue that needs to be addressed is the degree to which this clear Jewish position should be translated into public policy in a pluralistic democratic society. Here, people of good will can debate the merits of whether any religion can urge its values upon the greater society. Here we can disagree, although I personally believe that all religions have the responsibility of educating the public to core values that we believe have universal, as well as particular, religious import. In this connection we ought to consider a Talmudic passage (Chullin 92a) that says that the nations of the world, however sinful, corrupt or perverse, still have the merit of at least three behaviors, one of which is they do not write a ketubah for males.
We can also debate the wisdom of a constitutional amendment defining marriage. It can be argued that any tampering with the U.S. Constitution, a document that arguably has done more for the Jewish people than any other secular document in historical memory, is a risky proposition. However, whatever your position on the constitutional amendment, the inclusion of same-sex relationships in the definition of marriage is something that any Jew of conscience should oppose.
I, and other Orthodox leaders did not foster this debate; it has been brought upon us. We are taught that certain aspects of human behavior, even very normal and natural functions, are best treated with modesty and privacy. However, the extreme statements and declarations that have been made, and lately in the very name of Judaism, simply cannot be allowed to pass without protest. We cannot be silent upon occasions where Judaism is fraudulently depicted as condoning something that its Torah clearly and irreversibly condemns.
The Seven Noahide Laws: A Blueprint for a Better World
The Jewish Institute for Global Awareness (JIFGA) teaches that by understanding, internalizing and following a set of Divinely-ordained moral imperatives and universal ethics known as the Seven Noahide Laws, the world can produce more just societies, which are better able to receive and retain G-d’s** Presence. We seek to inspire our fellow human beings, because we are all descendants of Noah who, together with his family, is described in the Hebrew Bible as the survivor of The Flood and who thus became the ancestor of all of humanity. However, not only do we seek to inspire everyone who follows the Abrahamic religions (Jews, Christians, and Muslims) to follow these Noahide laws but also those of every race, color, or creed.
Our foundation is rooted in Biblical principles and expresses a Biblical world-view. Some may refer to this code as representative of a “Judeo-Christian” worldview because it includes the moral values initially set forth in the Hebrew Bible (the Torah) and shared by the Christian traditions that historically shaped much of the western world. Given to us by G-d at the dawn of history, (as recounted in the book of Genesis and documented in the Talmud, Sanhedrin 56a-b -- the Oral Law), these seven principles, if followed, permit us to establish a harmonious world in which diverse peoples can live together peacefully.
JIFGA seeks to globally provide humanity with greater awareness of the existence of these universal values, principles that are dependent upon Biblical teachings. These are root ethical values that Jews, Christians and Muslims, who represent more than 50% of the world’s population, can act upon within their own religious traditions. The great Eastern religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, also have, at their root, a primordial link to these core values. In fact, going back to Noah, these values are part of a legacy for all humanity.
Jews Have a Special Obligation to Spread Knowledge of the Noahide Laws
Orthodox Jewish tradition states that these moral imperatives were given by G-d as a binding Code of Conduct for the children of Noah, i.e., for all of humanity; further, that Jews (as the original recipients of the tradition from Sinai) are obligated to teach people about the Code's existence and to encourage them to observe these laws.
Maimonides (1138-1204), a great rabbinic sage, said, ‘Moses, our teacher, instructed the Jewish people, having been authorized from the mouth of G-d, to bring all of the inhabitants of the world to observe the commandments given to the children of Noach [Noah]. It is the Jew’s duty to see to it that all peoples lead the righteous and decent life which comes from compliance with G-d’s Laws.”
Rabbi Daniel Levy currently from the United Kingdom explains: “The Jew has a crucial role to play. He cannot be a by-stander remaining aloof from the world’s conduct.”
And Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, the revered deceased leader of the world-wide Chabad movement, in urging Jews to inform non-Jews about the Noahide Code of Conduct, said, “Every Jew has the obligation to ensure that all the peoples of the world observe the Seven Noahide Laws. The religious tolerance of today, and the trend towards greater freedom, gives us the unique opportunity to enhance widespread observance of these laws.”
Even though G-d charged the Children of Israel to serve as His "Light unto the nations" (Isaiah 49:6) at Mount Sinai, historical circumstances did not permit us to publicize Noahide laws, also reiterated at Sinai, until the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, revived this lost tradition in the early 1980s in an effort to prepare the world for a new era. Recent rabbinical support from a group of Modern Orthodox rabbis reaffirm “the fundamental ethical obligations that all people have before G-d [as] … taught [by Judaism] through the universal Noahide covenant.”
The Jewish Institute for Global Awareness, working with people of all three of the Abrahamic faiths, as well as any individual who has a potential affinity with these basic values, was thus formed to take upon itself this obligation by spreading awareness of the content of these commandments and to encourage adherence to them.
Any non-Jew who adheres to these seven Biblical Laws, and does so because they were commanded to Moses as part of the general revelation at Sinai, is considered a “righteous gentile” in G-d’s eyes and is thus assured of a place in the world to come (Olam Haba) -- the ultimate reward for the righteous. There is no imperative for such a person to become a Jew and Jews are mandated not to prostelyze religious conversion to Judaism but simply to make known to all of humanity the laws which humanity in general is commanded to follow.
- Christianity: Most Christian believers today see these 7 Noahide Laws as compatible with the main ethical tenets of their faith and advocate adhering to its Code of Conduct. The original intention of Jesus (the Nazarene) and Paul (Saul of Tarsus), according to the historical research of Rabbi Jacob Emden (1697-1776), was to convert non-Jews to the observance of the Seven Noahide Laws. Indeed, early Christian references to the essence of the Noahide Laws as a Code of Conduct is mentioned in the first century CE, Acts 15:1-31 when Paul agreed to admit gentiles into the Christian Church only after they accepted the substance of these principles. The New Testament, followed by Christians, incorporated the universal values of the Noahide Laws which in turn are part of the Old Testament that G-d gave at Mt. Sinai for all of humanity.
- Islam: Because Noah is recognized as a prophet in the Koran, there is Muslim support for and compliance with the spread of the Seven Noahide Laws. This fact is evidenced by its specific acceptance by many Muslim leaders. For example, the Mayors of several Israeli Arab communities such as the Mayor of the Galilean City of Shefa-Amar (Shfaram) and the Abu Gosh Mayor (Salim Jaber), both of whom signed a declaration in 2004 committing to establish a more humane world by adopting the values of the seven Noahide Laws. Mohammed VI, the King of Morocco, has expressed the view in 2012 that these values truly unite civilizations. The spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel, Sheikh Mowafak Tarif (in 2004) likewise recognized these seven principles as fundamental values of society. And, Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi, a leader of the Italian Muslim Assembly, unequivocally declared in 2006, “Islamic law holds within it the seven laws of Noah and can be taught correctly to the Muslims of the world.” It is hoped that acceptance of these common moral values can end the centuries old animosity between Muslims and Jews.
Belief in G-d and His Moral Values Essential
In order to transcend our innate selfishness and the subjectivity of our intellects, a key aspect of this universal moral code is an acknowledgement that society must be predicated on a belief in G-d. If we are to follow His commandments, we must recognize the existence of a Higher Power, one to whom we are responsible for our actions. Morality should not be altered to suit one’s personal whims or for his/her social convenience. Human beings cannot become the sole arbiters of right and wrong. If we do so, then "right" and “wrong” become relative rather than absolute. When this occurs, the “politically correct” view enforces one group’s standards, regardless of the consequences it may have to others who may disagree. On the other hand, G-d’s commandments as to what is “right” and what is “wrong” provide us with universal moral absolutes which have withstood the test of time over millennia.
Today’s world has lost touch with these moral absolutes and thus we find ourselves living in a time of great moral and social drift – without an objective or universal moral anchor. We need to rediscover these timeless laws and incorporate them into our daily lives, thereby enabling us, based upon G-d’s commandments, to structure an ethical code of conduct for human existence. By doing so, we can not only unify different cultures, societies, and traditions but also reverse the course of moral decay that is evident in western civilization.
Connection to the Ten Commandments
There is a clear connection between the seven Laws of Noah which were commanded to Noah sixteen generations earlier than the Ten Commandments which were given at Mt. Sinai to Moses as part of the Torah (Hebrew Bible) as an eternal inheritance (Deut. 33:4). At a minimum, five out of the Ten Commandments are specifically referenced in the Seven Noahide laws while the other five are implicitly included in the more generalized Seven Noahide laws, either through inference or by interpretation.
Rabbi Dr. Shimon Dovid Cowen, founder and director of the Institute for Judaism and Civilization in Melbourne, Australia explains that both the Seven Laws of Noah and the Ten Commandments are at the core of a revelation communicated to Moses in its totality in the Five Books of Moses. “This [revelation] contained altogether 620 commandments, comprised of 613 commandments addressed to the Jewish people and seven commandments, the Noahide laws, addressed to humanity.” While the universal part of the revelation—the Noahide laws—was communicated to humanity prior to Sinai, its reiteration in the Sinai revelation fortifies the importance of Noahide law and the social order it commands.
Drawing upon the ancient Jewish tradition of gematria which assigns a number to each letter of the Hebrew alphabet in order to help us understand hidden meanings of words and phrases as well as capturing the spiritual association or connection between words and spiritual concepts, Rabbi Dr. Cowen points out the symbolism of “the fact that the Hebrew text of the Ten Commandments contained 620 letters,” precisely the same number of total commandments (613 plus 7) revealed at Mt. Sinai to the world, thereby evidencing G-d’s intent to connect the seven laws of Noah with the Ten Commandments.
Government Leaders Encourage Adherence to the Seven Noahide Laws
The universality of these principles and global import was recognized in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan when he spoke of “the eternal validity of the Seven Noahide Laws [as] a moral code for all of us regardless of religious faith” (Proclamation on the National Day of Reflection, April 4, 1982).
Seven years later, in 1989, President George H.W. Bush not only proclaimed that these “Biblical values are the foundation for civilized society” but he also recognized that “A society that fails to recognize or adhere to them cannot endure.”
He understood how these “principles of moral and ethical conduct that have formed the basis for all civilizations comes to us, in part, from the centuries old Seven Noahide Laws.” And, in doing so, he noted their origins: “The Noahide Laws are actually seven commandments given to man by G-d, as recorded in the Old Testament. …” (Proclamation 5956-Education Day, USA 1989 and 1990, 102 Stat. 3016, April 14, 1989)
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States Congress in 1991, on a bipartisan basis, further recognized how this “historical tradition of ethical values and principles…upon which our great Nation was founded … have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization, when they were known as the Seven Noahide Laws.” The American Congress understood how “the most recent weakening of these principles … has resulted in crises that beleaguer and threaten the fabric of civilized society.” Thus, they warned us that “without these ethical values and principles the edifice of civilization stands in serious peril of returning to chaos.” (Public Law 102-14, 102d Congress, 1st session, H.J. Res. 104)
Other world leaders have joined the call for further observance and knowledge of these laws. For example, Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Union wrote (in July, 2014) that he seeks greater “dissemination of the universal values known as the Noahide laws” and Major General Michael Jeffery, Governor General of Australia, lamenting family breakdowns and drug and alcohol abuse in modern society in a 2008 letter wrote that he believed that observing the fundamental values of the Noahide Laws can be an antidote to such ills of society.
We only need to look at the havoc in which we find ourselves today in order to recognize the validity of these truthful assertions.
Specifics of the Seven Laws of Noah
So what are these seven Laws of Noah? Depending upon the source utilized to ascertain these laws, the exact order--but not the substance--may vary somewhat.
ONE: Prohibition of Idolatry: by being ever mindful and aware of G-d’s Presence. We are to focus on the monotheistic concept of the unity of G-d and negate what is the opposite of a belief in G-d, i.e. idolatry of any sort. By having knowledge of G-d, we are able to imitate His G-dly qualities.
TWO: Reverence for G-d: includes a prohibition of blasphemy against G-d’s holy Name (the ultimate irreverence for G-d) and by positive concepts of serving G-d by revering Him in our speech and respecting His sacred texts. Likewise, since every human being is created in the image of G-d, he or she must be treated with respect and honor. In particular, this respect for G-d’s image within us is associated with honoring one’s parents, honoring one’s own words, being careful not to lie, and exercising the G-d given free will of humans, thus enabling us to choose ethical responses to life’s situations.
THREE: Prohibition of Homicide: not to kill [physical harm is included in the prohibition of theft – theft and material harm] a human being. As required by respect for the sanctity of human life, suicide, assisting suicide, elective abortion, and euthanasia are forbidden. By engaging in these acts, we metaphorically lessen G-d, for humans were created in the image of G-d. Phrased positively, this law requires us to respect human life.
FOUR: Prohibition of Theft/Robbery: includes not only stealing, lying, or cheating but extends to all kinds of harm to person or property. Overall affirmative respect for another’s personhood, rights and property are included.
FIVE: Prohibiting Sexual Deviations/Misconduct: We are commanded to forever protect and uphold the family unit by not committing any acts of sexual immorality (adultery, incest, bestiality, homosexuality, sexual abuse) as well as not engaging in promiscuous behaviors nor engaging in castration, pornography, and masturbation. It also includes the positive aspects of strengthening natural marriages and procreating. The sanctity of natural marriage reflects the oneness of G-d and his creations.
SIX: A Dietary Law Prohibition: not to eat flesh taken from an animal while still alive – is part of a broader prohibition on gratuitous cruelty to animals; we are also enjoined not to be heedlessly wasteful or unnecessarily destructive to G-d’s physical creation.
SEVEN: Create a Fair and Righteous Judicial System: to enforce the other six laws and all other laws consistent with them.
**It is traditional among many Jews, rather than spelling out the full word for the Supreme Being, to substitute the letters “G-d,” thereby treating G-d’s name with reverence and providing respect to Him as the Supreme Being. By doing so, we can erase or dispose of the writing without disrespecting Him or symbolically destroying His name.
Our goal is not heterosexuality. Our goal is holiness!
Homosexuals Anonymous - probably the oldest and longest-running organization in the world helping individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction (SSA)! Founded in 1976, first meeting in 1977 (late in the year)!!
Or goal is not to turn "homos" into "heteros". We help people who - for whatever reason - do not want to act out on their same-sex attractions. We do this through pastoral care, Christian counseling, individual talks or group meetings. Who are we to tell them that their goals are not to be pursued?
Nevertheless it is striking that meanwhile professionals as well as gay activists are talking of a "fluidity" of human sexuality. This means in other words that nothing is set in stone here but open for - however defined - change.
In spite of this "conversion therapy" is fanatically being attacked. You can't have it both ways though. Either there is fluidity of human sexuality - implying openness for change - or not.
Human sexuality is influenced by many different internal and external factors. Even the activation or deactivation - or even the development (!) - of genes depends on envirnonment and behavior. Black and white statement may have a political background, there is one thing, however, they are not: scientific.
“One of the most pathetic—and dangerous—signs of our times is the growing number of individuals and groups who believe that no one can possibly disagree with them for any honest reason.”
"The chief danger of the 20th century will be religion without the Holy Spirit, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, and heaven without hell." Gen. William Booth (1829-1912), Salvation Army founder
“Every sin is a choice to turn a miraculous being into an object for consumption. It flattens the human person, one’s self and one’s victim, into a one-dimensional universe.”
― Michael D. O'Brien, Father Elijah: An Apocalypse
The only reason why people don't find freedom from same-sex attractions is because they don't believe it can be done!
"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you."
- Pericles (Greek - Statesman 495 BC - 429 BC)
NOTE: With our 14-step program "Lord, Set Me Free!" we do NOT try to suppress or change someone's sexual orientation. We use it as a tool to assist those who have same-sex attractions but choose not to live them out (for whatever reason). We help them find a fulfilled life according to the goals and values they choose for themselves.
"The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness."
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI
Whatworks best?Youneeda lovegreaterthanyourdesireforthesamesex.Alovethattranscendseverything.Alovethatgoesbeyond yourwildestimaginationand dreams.AloveandadeepdesireforGod. Robert
‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
“In this world are many people who do not master their bodies. Such people say that no one can tell them what to do, not even God, and they think that in this way they have no master. In the end they become slaves to anything.”
― Michael D. O'Brien, The Island of the World
Don't just look around what resources you have. Find out about your potential!
"I've tried pretty much everything, but I guess I will always be gay!"
You are neither "gay" nor "straight". You are "you". As a Christian you can say you were born in the image of God. But even as a non-believer you have your very own special design. No need to define an extra "identity" for every single sexual practice or orientation.
Having accepted this, there is no need to strive for a change from "gay" to "straight". It is not your sexuality that defines you, but your belief system. Christians want to be more like Jesus (and not just "straight"). People with other belief systems have their own goals and values as well
Nobody can take that away from you. It is you (!) that decides who you are and which way you want your life to go. Don't let anyone take that away from you!
Homosexuals Anonymous does not aim to alter the sexual orientation of minors.
However, if minors ask of Christian counseling and/or pastoral care and their parents are okay with that, we will gladly offer it to them.
We are a self-support organization and as such do not offer or recommend any kind of therapy for people with same-sex attractions. However, we support the right of every individual with same-sex attractions, their families, friends or anybody interested to have free access to all information regarding this topic. Only then can you come to a reasonable evaluation and decision as to how your viewpoint of this is.
Not from gay to straight, but from lost to saved!
NOTE: Expressions like "freedom from homosexuality", "change", "healing" or "recovery" do NOT refer to a change from homosexuality to heterosexuality but to a personal decision to live a fulfilled life beyond the gay scene. A life following Jesus Christ.
Wir lehnen Konversionstherapien ab und bieten grundsätzlich keine Therapien an. Ebenso wenig machen wir hierfür Werbung. Unser Ziel ist nicht "von schwul zu hetero“, sondern „näher zu Jesus“!
We oppose conversion therapies and do not offer any therapies whatsoever nor do we make publicity for them. Our goal is not "from gay to hetero“, but „closer to Jesus“!
Note: The work of Dr. Douglas McIntyre is being shown in part for documentation purposes only. That does NOT mean we embrace all of it or make publicity for its content in its entirety.
Not freedom from homosexuality, but freedom for God !
Nicht Freiheit von Homosexualität, sondern Freiheit für Gott!
Points to ponder for "Ex-Gay Ministries":
The goal of whatever services or programs you offer can never be to become and remain sexually pure. Not to do something must never be a goal. Why? Because our brain cannot NOT process information. If you keep on telling someone not to have sex, not to look at porn etc., his or her brain will focus on sex and porn (example: If I tell you "Do not think of a rose elephant! Do not think of a rose elephant! Do not think of a rose elephant! - what are you thinking of? A rose elephant, even if you haven't thought of one for all of your life!) Sexual purity can at best be a means to a goal, but never a goal in and of itself. As a Christian, my goal is to be holy, to become more like Jesus. and follow Him. The non-Christians among us must define their own goal, which has to be specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable, time bound ("SMART") and positive.
You do not measure "success" in your programs by the number of participants who do not have sex, or who marry or whatever else in that direction. Just imagine measuring success for a Christian by not sinning anymore. The success rate would be zero.
Be family. When someone falls, help him or her up again, find out why it happened and help him or her to stand more stable from now on. Don't brag with statements like "I have never had sex for 20 years!". That might even be true, but I am sure you sinned in different ways. So nothing to boast of.
Stop making a living out of "being ex-gay" through preaching to the choir (traveling from church to church and talking to those who already share your opinion while charging a honorarium for it or writing books that you sell to exactly those believers). Jesus told us to go OUT. To pass His love and truth on to those who have never experienced it. Don't found a ministry and wait who will be coming. Those you want to reach will not be reached by that. They will most likely never even hear from it, and if they do the information will be filtered through other people who reject you.
For a while I was honored to serve as a volunteer in a local jail. The inmates there can smell a mile away what your true motivation is for visiting them. Are you really interested in them as persons and human beings - or do you simply want to raise your number of converts and knock the "visiting prisoners" part off your Christian to-do-list?
If you keep on giving testimony on how you "found freedom", if your whole life focuses only on "being an ex-gay" and if you are even financially dependent on that aspect of your life, chances are high you will never really find freedom as you keep on living in the past and stiring old things up.
Be open for gays and ex-gays. Your counselees alone decide upon the goal they want to reach. If someone decides to "stay gay" and needs your help in a certain issue, be there for him/her just the same. Our love needs to be unconditional.
When have we shown love to gay and lesbian people for the last time? Why not meeting with them, having a cup of coffee, becoming friends with some of them? Sometimes we only see the sin part in them. As if we are pure and do not sin. An example: A very dear friend of mine has been taking care of his severyl handicapped male partner for about 15 years now. They stopped having sex a long time ago as it is physically hardly possible anymore. He takes care of his partner 24/7 - he washes him, takes him to the bathroom, organizes his life, does the household and much more. The Christian knee-jerk reaction of some might be now to claim that as they do not have sex anymore all is fine. That is condescending, unloving and actually very un-Christian. This man shows love to his partner in a way that few people who claim themselves "Christian" do.
Stop talking about gays and lesbians as if they were only sick and pervert people that will go to hell anyway. Yes, the number of sexually transmitted diseases is much higher among them than among the rest of the peopulation. Yes, the average partnership lasts not as long as the average heterosexual one and is much less monogamous. Yes, sex is usually much more "creative" than that of heterosexual couples. But, that does in no way mean we should look down on them and think we know everything better. That we may stand on our podium and psychologically analyse them (while never having really met them and/or having no psychological training ourselves). Yes, there is a reason why people are doing what they are doing. If we want to be of any help we need to show genuine interest and love them like Christ would. Yes, at Christians we should point people to the Good News by our words and deeds but in the end it is God alone who decides who will go to heaven or hell. There are around 40.000 Christian denominations so far with totally different beliefs. We can't even agree on the basics. So none of us should ever claim to know everything and have it all together. Pride is the root of all evil - which applies to us as well.
As Christians, the basic rules to go by are to love God and others like ourselves. To go out and make disciples. All other rules and laws flow out of these. Yes, Christian love is more than a passing feeling. It is a covenant thing. A decision of the will. It implies humbleness, being unconditional, courage, self-sacrifice. It does not imply pride - on neither side.
Gays vs. Ex-Gays
Points to ponder for gays regarding their attitude towards ex-gays
Most gay people have never heard of ex-gays. Those who did usually have a very negative view of them. Ex-Gays are supposed to deny their sexuality (thereby becoming mentally ill), they are backwards oriented, old-school, radical, fundamental in their Christian faith, homophobic, haters and most of all adherents of "conversion therapies". So let's go into that.
Do ex-gays deny their sexuality? No, not at all. They use their sexual energy simply another way, like by letting their gifts and talents blossom, by becoming active and creative and by not letting their whole life turn around "being gay". You can just as well turn the argument around: People who think that you need to have sex in order not to deny your sexuality have a very disturbed view on and relationship towards it.
Are ex-gays becoming mentally ill because they "deny" their sexuality? This argument usually is brought up by people who do not have the slightest training in psychology and/or psychiatry. A mental disorder usually takes a whole bunch of different factors to develop. Hardly ever it is a single one. Mental disordders should also never be used to further a political position.
Again, you can just as well turn the argument around: Does not in many cases an excessive gay life play a major part in developping mental disorders and physical diseases (like through attracting and passing on of sexually transmitted diseases)?
Are ex-gays backwards oriented, old-school, radical, fundamental in their Christian faith, homophobic, and haters? All of that uses the same dirty propaganda technique (that sometimes reminds me of the Nazis by the way): You just have to repeat a lie often enough so people will believe it in the end. If you do not have good arguments, you put the "adversary" in a radical corner and make him look like a fanatic criminal with (again) mental problems. That makes you look pure and good and the other one dirty and evil. Hardly anybody though is purely good or purely bad just as well as hardly any motivation is by the way. Why not just sit down and listen - really listen! - to each other, without coming up with knee-jerk reactions at once? Why not grant the other side the right to have a rationally well-founded argument? Why not accept the fact that the other side could also be right or that they could at least have a valid alternative?
Could it be that sometimes we need the other side to look bad because we cannot accept the fact that they could have a point there? Because that would ruin our whole system of argumentation?
Ex-Gays can hardly be homophobic haters as they have same-sex attractions themselves. That "argument" actually reveals more about the person that uses it than about the one being attacked.
No ex-gay I know has ever supported conversion therapies. Gay-friendly politicians know that and still push anti-conversion-therapy legistlation just the same - in order to wipe off the surface of the earth all opposition against gay points of view. However, we want science and research to be independent. Even gay activists use the argument of "sexual fluidity" sometimes (they have to, else they could not make a point for being transgender). Given the fact that many factors contribute to the development of human sexuality and taken into account modern research on epigenetics we all have to adapt our positions on a regular basis, even if it hurts and does not fit our world view.
Why not see our common same-sex attractions as a common foundation and work together instead of against one another? Why can't gay counselors accept an ex-gay belief system and help the person leave a gay life if she or he wants that? Or the other way around?
I am just naive enough to believe that this can be done.
Never say "I love you, but..." or "Jesus loves you, but...". That "but" kills everything before. Either you love someone unconditionally or you don't. Ain't no in-between.
From our members and friends:
"HA has been the most transforming change agent in my born again life. My being, identity, self esteem was shattered into little pieces."
"I can honestly say HA deals with individuals struggling with sexual issues in a loving and caring manner. It uses the Bible, prayer, and group dynamics to provide individuals with hope and practical insights.
The emphasis is on reconciling one's self with his or her creator. In turn,one clarifies his or her true moral values for guiding his or her life.. The whole focus is on seeking holiness in one's day to day living.
HA invites individuals to participate in its meetings without coercion. If any changes are made by the individual, it is a result of his or her own choice. Everyone has the right to seek out like-minded individuals who wish to share their life stories and to share their religious beliefs.
I have seen individuals benefit from their participation in the group meetings, and the Bible studies. Needless to say, I have benefited greatly too!"
"Why do people think HA practices conversation therapy? Does AA or SAA (Sex Addiction Anonymous) practice conversion therapy? I think not. As a member of HA, I experience such ‘accusations’ or statements as oppressive, ignorant and unethical. I choose how I express my sexuality, integrate my beliefs, morality and preferences according to who I am. Nobody can or has a right to impose their beliefs onto me. I work out my own journey on a daily basis, only I can work it and walk it. It is a unique journey and I treasure the life it brings. HA is a non-judgemental, non-intrusive support for me in this process. There is certainly no hidden agenda to convert anyone to heterosexuality. However, I question the agenda of those who deny me this right to self determination. On the contrary, in HA there is space for each individual to uniquely emerge in an non-directive way, based on self-acceptance, love and mutual support. As a psychotherapist, I can say with great confidence that there is nothing unethical about the approach of HA and I would recommend it to anyone who desires to be free from the power of homosexual addiction and of unwanted same sex attraction. If during this process one discovers a more true-to-self sexual identity, so be it. Such has been my experience."
"Homosexuals Anonymous and Jason International are doing great work! In a day and age when there is more confusion than ever about sexuality, gender identity and the nature of the human person as lovingly created male or female by God, you are a beacon of clarity and light. You give hope to many by courageously proclaiming the message that embracing God's design and purpose for sexuality, no matter how difficult, is the best way to live a happy life."
"Homosexuality is an attempt to achieve human contact and to break
through stark isolation." [Charles Socarides, Homosexuality, p. 159]
We always get to hear about "conversion therapy". I have been with ex-gays for 16 years now and dealt with a great number of them in several countries around the globe. How come I have never met a single one who has undergone this kind of therapy or even knows one who did? This whole thing looks more and more like a myth to me.
Seelsorge für Minderjährige nur mit Einverständnis der Eltern und auch dann nur im Rahmen der gesetzlichen Möglichkeiten!
Christian counseling and pastoral care for minors only if their parents agree and only as far as the law allows it!
Our goal is NOT to turn gay people into straight ones. We assist people with same-sex attractions who decide by their free will that they do not wish to live a "gay" life. In that context we help them to develop an alternative life the nature of which is alone in the hands of our clients.
Even people who wish to live a "gay" life will find pastoral care and Christian counseling at Homosexuals Anonymous, if they wish to have it.
Before the age of 2, Helen Keller was stricken with a disease (the doctors don't agree as to what it was) that left her permanently blind and deaf. If you've not seen it, the movie The Miracle Worker, with Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke, is an excellent story of the beginning of her story. Today's attached devotional will reveal the secret of how she became one of the most celebrated women in the world! God bless you!
Because of Calvary,
“If I regarded my life from the point of view of the pessimist, I should be undone. Ishould seek in vain for the light that does not visit my eyes and the mastic that does notring in my ears. I should beg might and day and never be satisfied. I should sit apart inawful solitude, a prey to fear and despair. But since I consider it a duty to myself and toothers to be happy, I escape a misery worse than any physical deprivation.” [Helen Kellerin Don’t Forget to Sing in the Lifeboats and 366 Other Bits of Uncommon Wisdom forUncommon Times compiled by Kathryn & Ross Petras, (New York: WorkmanPublishing, 2009), p. 190]
"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."
Arthur Schopenhauer 1788-1860
Therapy-related content does not mean we endorse those practices. It has only informational purpose.
"Freedom from homosexuality" does not mean that we aim to never again have same-sex attractions. Spiritually speaking, it means freedom from the power of sin. Beyond that it refers to the freedom to choose a life according to your values and principles and not letting an oriention order you what life you must live.
Wir machen keinerlei Therapien, wir empfehlen insbesondere keine Konversionstherapien und werben auch nicht für eine Teilnahme an einer derartigen Therapie noch vermitteln wir keine solche.
We offer no therapy whatsoever. Especially we do not recommend conversion therapies nor do we make any publicity for them.