Should Orthodox Homosexuals Be Encouraged to Marry?
Guest post by Rabbi Gidon Rothstein
Rabbi Dr. Gidon Rothstein is the author of Educating a People: An Haftarot Companion as a Source for a Theology of Judaism, and two works of Jewishly-themed fiction, Murderer in the Mikdash and Cassandra Misreads the Book of Samuel. He blogs at blog.webyeshiva.org and at Text and Texture.
In the recent flurry of discussions of homosexuality, sparked to some extent by the promulgation of a Statement of Principles on how to deal sensitively with those who challenged by this particular sexual inclination, some issues are almost universally agreed upon, some are a matter of debate, and some, to my mind, have become sacred cows that call for questioning.
As an example of the first, it seems to be (and should be) universally agreed that in our times, a person who confesses to such an orientation should be met with kindness and understanding, that family, friends, and spiritual advisors should look to help the person with the great struggles such a reality necessarily brings upon him or her.
How far to go with that seems to me to be an example of the second kind of issue, where there is reasonable disagreement. To hear people discuss the issue, for example, is to get the impression that this form of the yetzer hara, of the evil inclination, is qualitatively different than others, and therefore deserves to be dealt with differently. For one example, the Statement seems comfortable with homosexuals announcing themselves to their family, friends, and communities, a practice that would be discouraged when it comes to expressing other forms of inappropriate inclination.
Others, myself included, disagree. While sexual appetites are quite likely more difficult to conquer than othersâ€”and, therefore, a yetzer hara for any inappropriate sexuality would be much more difficult than one for, say, hamâ€” that does not justify a different fundamental attitude. That would mean, as I understand the Talmudâ€™s view, that all those sins ×‘×™×Ÿ ××“× ×œ×ž×§×•×, between the individual and the Creator, should remain that, private matters between the individual and the Creator.
I would certainly make exceptions for advice-seeking and empathy-soliciting, as with many other sins. When people face difficulties, they need advice and support, from family members, select friends, therapists, and/or rabbis and other spiritual advisors. But that is not the same as the decision to â€œoutâ€ oneself to the broader Jewish community, which seems, to me, to have no place in an Orthodox life. There are many people who stay single throughout their lives, and it is and should be none of the communityâ€™s business as to the reasons for that.
There, though, is perhaps the rub. Jewish homosexuals, male or female, likely find themselves bombarded with suggestions as to how they can find the right partner. Would it not be simpler to fend off these unwanted intrusions by announcing a sexual orientation that makes such ideas obviously impossible?
My first reply is that easiest is not always best. Announcing oneâ€™s homosexuality might prevent certain uncomfortable situations, but at the cost of violating a system-wide principle, that our failings between us and God should remain just that. Just as I have to hold back from telling people the ways in which I could sin, so, too, homosexuals (and would-be adulterers, etc.). To do otherwise, the Talmud implies, evinces brazenness, too great a comfort with oneâ€™s sins or inclinations toward sin. Sin, or the leaning toward sin, always shows us where we have work to do; to broadcast our comfort with who we are, in that area, is to lose sight of that reality.
But I would go a step further, to question why we are so certain homosexuals cannot marry. As so often, those who say that are responding to only one side of the issue, properly rejecting the former attitude towards homosexuality, where such people were encouraged not just to marry, but to withhold vital information from the prospective spouse, in some kind of vague hope that matters would simply work themselves out.
That is, correctly, rejected as wrong and a crime against the unsuspecting spouse. We can say that more broadly: just about any circumstance of lying or withholding vital information is going to be wrong, and a crime against some innocent, spouse or otherwise.
We need not, however, jump from there to abandoning the idea of marriage altogether. First, we have become accustomed to speaking of homosexuality as an absolute identity, but there are many shades of gray in personal sexuality. First, for some people, sexuality shifts over the course of oneâ€™s lifetime, so that someone who thought of themselves as heterosexual all their lives can â€œdiscoverâ€ his or her homosexuality at some point (or the reverse). For an Orthodox Jew, recognizing that element of sexuality could be important, reminding anyone challenged by their sense of their sexual selves that it is not necessarily cast in stone, and what is true today, or this decade, might not be true in the future.
Beyond that, though, those who feel attracted to members of their own sex still come in different stripes. There are bisexuals, for example, who can enjoy relations with members of either gender, and Orthodox Jews of this inclination should, it seems to me, absolutely be encouraged to marry. Since they are committed to resisting the homosexual aspect of their sexuality in any case, there seems no reason they cannot build a good, committed, and loving relationship with a spouse of the opposite gender.
Here, too, full disclosure is important, but just as a heterosexual entering marriage makes a commitment to quell all sexual urges outside the marriage, the bisexual could reasonably make that same commitment. A true bisexual has as good a chance of being a fine spouse as any other Jew, and his or her innate sexuality is of no concern to anyone outside that marriage.
There are, broadly speaking, two other types of homosexuals who present slightly more difficult circumstances, but whom I suspect could still find their ways to valid and in some ways fulfilling marital relationships. First, there are those homosexuals who can function heterosexually (and may even gain some pleasure from it), but not as well or as much as homosexually. Since we are, again, speaking of Orthodox Jews, for whom forbidden sexual relations are out of the question, it is not clear to me that such a person should be given a free pass on marriage.
Of course, the homosexual would need to share that aspect of him or herself with the prospective spouseâ€”to have a straightforward and honest conversation about the role a physical relationship (which need not be sexual, nor are homosexuals necessarily opposed to physical affection of a kind that can be comforting and intimate, even if not sexual) and/or sexual relations could be expected to play in this relationship.
Quite likely, such a conversation would need to be had in the presence of a third-party counselor, such as a therapist, but it still seems likely to me that some prospective spouses would accept a marital relationship even with these conditions, would take the reduced (or absent) role of sexuality in the name of an otherwise loving and fulfilling partnership. I note, in saying this, that current statistics seem to suggest that at least ten percent of American marriages significantly lack in that aspect of a relationship anyway; it is at least plausible that a homosexual could find someone for whom that part of marriage is not so vital, not a deal-breaker.
I will go a step further, and argue that the same can be true of a complete homosexual, the kind that absolutely cannot enjoy relations with a member of the opposite sex. Here, it might be more difficult to find a spouse willing to take on this condition, especially at younger ages, but as time went on, I again suspect more people would be willing to make that bargain.
I know, for example, of more than one single woman who has chosen to adopt a child as she got older and found herself unmarried. Given the burdens of child-rearing, is it unimaginable that such a woman (or a man who had reached a certain age without finding a spouse) would welcome company and assistance in building a life with the adopted child? Is it impossible that such a woman would welcome the opportunity to have a biological child with such a man, even if it had to be through in vitro fertilization?
Fooling others is never allowed; luring others into situations they never would have accepted to begin with is always a problem, and that has happened and does happen too often. But that need not take us to the extreme of rejecting the possibility of marriage and even childbearing.
Homosexuality, like any difficult wrongful inclination, challenges those who have to grapple with it, and Orthodox homosexuals deserve the same compassion for their struggles, and admiration for their triumphs, that we would give to any other sinner whom we knew to have conquered him or herself. Who is mighty? Hillel told us so long ago, s/he who conquers his/her inclinations.
But to allow Western societyâ€™s attitude towards homosexuality to warp our way of reacting to what is, in the end, simply a more difficult version of struggles we all engage in our own personal ways, is a problem, and to allow it to give a free pass on marriage (and child-bearing, a mitzvah for men) seems a step too far.
“Announcing oneâ€™s homosexuality might prevent certain uncomfortable situations, but at the cost of violating a system-wide principle, that our failings between us and God should remain just that. Just as I have to hold back from telling people the ways in which I could sin, so, too, homosexuals (and would-be adulterers, etc.)”
The problem with your analysis is that you think that being a homosexual is a failing between the person and God. God made this person homosexual, it is not a failing! We are not speaking of someone engaged in homosexual acts, merely a person with homosexual feelings. So in what way does a homosexual have a ‘failing’?
It’s interesting how people assume it’s a matter of actively “coming out”. Sometimes it’s merely a matter of not expending the intense, and ultimately futile, effort to pretend to be something you’re not.
My partner and I never “came out” in our community. But come on. We own a house together. And yes, we introduced ourselves to people as roommates, but people aren’t stupid. There’s also the matter of our daughter calling me Mommy and her Ima.
To this day, we have not said, “We’re gay” or “We’re lesbians” to anyone. Nor “We’re a couple.” But again, people aren’t stupid.
When someone says, “Don’t come out,” what they really mean is “Hide. Lie. Evade. Be completely dishonest so that we don’t have to be aware that such a thing exists.” I just don’t see how that’s my responsibility. I know I don’t engage in assur acts. If people have prurient thoughts about what might go on behind closed doors in our home, that’s their aveira to deal with. I’m not responsible for making them feel better.
Rabbi Rothstein says “Fooling others is never allowed”. I’m not sure how that jibes with the whole, “Hide who you are” thing. It isn’t brazenness to refuse to lie. It’s honesty.
I have no patience for people who hang up rainbow flags outside their homes and hold hands with their partners in public (straight *or* gay, mind you). And I totally agree that if you’re frum and bisexual, there’s no excuse not to be functionally straight, since you *can*. But some of the pronouncements I hear made, like some of the ones Rabbi Rothstein makes here, just demonstrate an inability to grasp what happens in real life. You can sit in your beis medrash and theorize all you want, but it doesn’t work like that.
“First, for some people, sexuality shifts over the course of oneâ€™s lifetime, so that someone who thought of themselves as heterosexual all their lives can â€œdiscoverâ€ his or her homosexuality at some point (or the reverse).”
There are people who discover that they are homosexual (they don’t really discover, but knew it all along, but didn’t want to accept it). There are NO people who are homosexual who discover that they are really hetero. No one wants to be homosexual, and every homosexual who realizes what his inclination is would change it if he could. Later he might come to accept it and even be proud of it.
“Of course, the homosexual would need to share that aspect of him or herself with the prospective spouseâ€”to have a straightforward and honest conversation about the role a physical relationship (which need not be sexual, nor are homosexuals necessarily opposed to physical affection of a kind that can be comforting and intimate, even if not sexual)”
What is this supposed to mean? A homosexual is supposed to tell a prospective spouse that he is interested in having physical affection with her, and comfort her, but not have a marriage with anything sexual?
Rabbi Rothstein, you haven’t answered the fundamental question: If someone is born gay, why shouldn’t he tell people that? I thought that being gay was not forbidden, only homosexual acts. I thought that there was nothing wrong with being gay, since that’s how God made people. People say over and over that there is nothing wrong with being gay, nothing to be ashamed of, it is only that one can’t do any issurim. Well if that is the case, why shouldn’t people tell others that they are gay? Why should this be hidden?
Please explain this.
Why does this article make empirical claims without providing psychological evidence?
With all due respect to the articulate nature of this post – the author clearly does not understand what its like to be a homosexual or more aptly to be either the homosexual or the heterosexual partner in the marriage in which he encourages people to enter into. This is quite evident in casting homosexuality as a yetzer harah around a “sexual appetite” that can be compared even slightly to the yetzer harah of eating a ham sandwich.
In a recent NY Times column, Ross Douthat argued against gay marriage on the grounds that if gays were to marry a certain ideal of marriage would be challenged.
I think a similar argument applies to R’ Rothstein’s post. R’ Rothstein believes that gays should attempt to marry members of the opposite gender. But allowing gays to marry members of the opposite gender would challenge the Torah’s ideal of marriage as a union between a man and a woman that is capable of growing into a deep love for the other. And I think that it is quite clear that a homosexual and a member of the opposite gender are not capable of the love that characterizes the Torah’s ideal of a loving marriage.
Therefore, I think R’ Rothstein’s suggestion should be rejected on the grounds that it undermines Torah-true marriage.
I may be missing something. In telling what R. Rothstein calls a complete homosexual to marry, is he telling them to have sexual relations with their spouse? And if he is, I wonder if he could put himself in that complete homosexual’s shoes for a minute and think what it would mean to him if someone told him to have a lifetime of homosexual relations with a man he cared for. As i see it, that’s what he’s asking the complete homosexual to do. I know what I would tell someone who told me to do that; I wonder what R. Rothstein would say.
I don’t accept the concept that God made someone a certain way, and therefore that state of being is not a failure. If I covet something that isn’t mine, isn’t that a failure, even though by definition that’s how God created me?
As for a person who is capable of having heterosexual relations, regardless of the other attractions he has – I don’t see the point of telling the prospective spouse. How is that different from a man who has trouble keeping his eyes off other women? There’s no need to tell your future wife that you find other women attractive – there is a need only to refrain from acting on such attraction.
Rabbi Rothstein, I think you make some very valid observations here. Nevertheless, it seems to me that you classify homosexual orientation as a “sin between man and G-d” about which someone should be ashamed to talk, when in reality only acting on one’s homosexual tendencies is sinful. Indeed, the Gemara, brought down as halakhic precedent by the Rambam in Hilkhot Issure Biah, cites several examples of Hakhmei Hatalmud who publicly shared details about their very personal and specific inappropriate sexual desires and requested help in managing them, all in order to underscore the importance of being honest and forthright about these issues. These famous Gemaras which I am sure you are familiar with would seem to contradict your approach.
Seems like, as usual, people are more interested in picking the easy talking points and less interested in dealing with the substance of the argument, with the exception of Joseph Kaplan. OK, LET’S JUST SAY R. Rothstein HADN’T said that homosexuals should remain in the closet, because obviously there’s nothing worth noting about that view unless you’re trying to raise you’re political-victories score in Shamayim so you can get to havlei havalim gan eden. Let’s just forget about that, and focus on the argument that gays should be encouraged to marry, for the (not terribly illogical, as far as I can tell) reasons R. Rothstein gave us. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?
Yasher koach, Rabbi Rothstein. I agree with everything you wrote in this post except the parts where you talk about full disclosure. Why must he always tell his spouse? A spouse doesn’t have to know every single one of her husband’s secrets. This is esspecially true in the case of bisexuals. Why should she know? Her marital life won’t suffer in the least.
With no disrespect, I hope, to R’ Rothstein, I think he is not only mistaken about the metziut of the gay Jew — his proscription of “brazeness” or “broadcasting,” of the gay man or woman being out and talking about it, would silence them, so we couldn’t find out what that metziut is.
If you will listen to gays, as I have tried to, you will hear most speak of their being gay as a matter of who or how they are, not of what they want or want to do: of identity, not desires. But don’t take my word for it — ask them. If R’ Rothstein succeeded in persuading them to stay in or return to the closet, they could not tell us. If the gay Jew is not for himself, who will be for him? If she cannot speak for herself as an out gay Jew, how could we hope to understand what it is to be gay?
R. Rothstein: “I would certainly make exceptions for advice-seeking and empathy-soliciting, as with many other sins.”
Can there possibly be a better description of what “frum homosexuals” are looking for than “empathy-soliciting”?
Michael Pershan: “And I think that it is quite clear that a homosexual and a member of the opposite gender are not capable of the love that characterizes the Torahâ€™s ideal of a loving marriage. And I think that it is quite clear that a homosexual and a member of the opposite gender are not capable of the love that characterizes the Torahâ€™s ideal of a loving marriage.”
The Torah permits arranged marriages and marriages by children – apparently your ideal love is not necessarily part of the picture. Ideally, but not necessarily.
anonymous: “If I covet something that isnâ€™t mine, isnâ€™t that a failure, even though by definition thatâ€™s how God created me? ”
There is a midrash that says (I paraphrase from memory) “One should not say ‘I have no desire to eat treif or engage in arayot’, rather, ‘I desire it, but what can I do, my Creator has prohibited it?’ ” Clearly, desiring something forbidden is not considered a failure.
“A spouse doesnâ€™t have to know every single one of her husbandâ€™s secrets.”
Didn’t R’ Moshe say that a wife who unwittingly married a homosexual does not need a get, because we presume that a woman would not willingly enter such a marriage?
are you married?
if so, have you disclosed to your wife your non-disclosure policy?
Well, lots to respond to. First, to Lisa, and with all due respect, if you’re living with a partner and you have a child together, you have clearly chosen (or not been able to) not to resist this aspect of yourself, but to embrace it, and then, yes, you will be outing yourself regardless of your attempt. I was speaking to those homosexuals who recognize the prohibited nature of giving in to this inclination, and they would have a different look to the community.
But an underlying theme of your comment, and Binny’s many comments, is that homosexuality is something you “are,” and therefore not really to be resisted or rejected. But, from an Orthodox point of view, that is simply wrong. Just as many men lust specifically after married women, that does not mean they are “adulterers” in their identity, it means they have to learn to resist and even suppress/repress an aspect of themselves. That is true in many areas of life– the Torah never says God created us perfect; God created us with things to work on; for homosexuals, their sexuality is one of them. And, Binny, Anne Heche has very publicly gone from hetero to homo and back. There are other stories I’ve read like that– looking back, the homosexual will say “I always knew,” but in fact that homosexual might have been in a committed and physical heterosexual relationship for years. And we often don’t know if s/he could go back, because the social milieu today gives little reason to do so.
As for empirical evidence, Michael Pershan, I do not believe anything I wrote is controversial– some percentage of homosexuals are exclusively so, some can participate in heterosexual activity, and some are fully bi. I didn’t look it up because I’ve seen it in numerous places numerous times.
Joseph Kaplan, I didn’t tell homosexuals to do anything; to those homosexuals who are able to function sexually with women (and, perhaps, enjoy it although not nearly as much as with a man) I suggested that, with full disclosure, there might be a way to create a loving marriage, with many positive elements to it. To those homosexuals who cannot function in this way, I suggested a sexless marriage, which I believe some spouses would accept in the name of other values marriage brings.
The reason to share all this with a spouse– and I am not sure there’s not a reason to share difficulties in looking at other women with a wife as well, but that’s a different conversation– is that the spouse should not be lured into a marriage where one spouse’s sexuality is tenuous, since that spouse really enjoys sex more with members of his/her own gender. Some will accept this reality, but they shouldn’t be tricked into it.
Again to Baruch, I agree that spouses don’t tell absolutely everything to each other, but this is a big, huge part of a person’s life and also of married life. You’d have to tell, just to be fair to the other person.
To RJM, there may be occasions where revealing one’s own struggles will help others realize they are not alone in a battle; certainly if a gadol, now 80 years old and married with children, were to say that he had struggled with his sexuality as a youth, but conquered it to build a married life, there could be some great lessons learned. Or, if a person sparks a forum discussion that finds practical advice for how to resist certain inclinations, there’s value in that. But, in the general term, we keep our religious struggles to ourselves.
To Daniel, the whole idea that sexuality is an identity is not a Jewish one; it’s not even a Western one– it’s a homosexual one. They would reject the idea that anyone’s identity, e.g., is an adulterer, and that therefore such a person should have the right to commit adultery, to talk about it alot in public. The same goes for bestiality and/or pedophilia. All those, of course, are seen as wrong forms of sexuality, but in halachah so is homosexuality. That homosexuals see that as essential to who they are is already a sign that we all have absorbed outside values that are, in this case, inimical to those of Torah. Sexuality is part of what makes us tick– like other desires, albeit stronger– and sometimes it is right and sometimes it is wrong. When it’s right, we grow from involvement in it; when it’s wrong, we are to suppress/repress/remove it as soon and as well as we can. And that’s no less true for homosexuality, regardless of what Western culture has chosen to say on the issue.
The value of understanding what it is to be homosexual is only in terms of learning how to avoid acting on it, how to reduce the extent to which it affects one’s life (just as non-homosexuals are strongly encouraged to restrict the time/effort they give to their heterosexuality, to restrict it as completely as possible– in thought as well as action– to the marital relationship); for that, there is no need to “out” oneself. Anonymous articles work, speaking to therapists, who can then share aggregate pictures of what it looks like works, and so on.
To Shlomo, empathy soliciting can be done in private, was my point. And, while it’s true that we need not be ashamed of having a desire for arayot, we are expected to handle it like all inappropriate desires– by doing our best to uproot it, by recognizing that it leads us in unfortunate directions, etc.
R’ Rothstein, are your unmarried teenage children (if you have any) heterosexuals? By your principles, they cannot be. That would mean defining their identity around a desire for what is forbidden to them. But I don’t expect you to announce any time soon that “None of my children are heterosexuals”. Why not?
“To Shlomo, empathy soliciting can be done in private”
How much use is it for one or two of your close friends to show you empathy, when the rest of the world views you as subhuman?
Daniel said, “If you will listen to gays, as I have tried to, you will hear most speak of their being gay as a matter of who or how they are, not of what they want or want to do: of identity, not desires. But donâ€™t take my word for it â€” ask them.”
In my experience, it depends on whom you talk to. The couple of gay men I know who were open about their sexuality in the 1950’s and early 1960’s did, and still do, talk about desires and sexuality, rather than identity. The younger ones talk more about identity. So I suspect that that is a cultural matter, not one inherent to homosexuality.
Shlomo, you are confusing the use of a term to indicate general sexual preferences with a definition of the person him or herself. I hope my children will find themselves desiring, in the right time and place, heterosexual relations; I don’t announce anything about their sexuality, since it is none of anybody’s business, just as homosexuals sexuality should not be. And, besides, this form of sexuality would one day be allowed them, so that’s a whole different story.
I don’t think anybody today views homosexuals as subhuman- those who oppose homosexual activity view them as burdened with, and sometimes giving in to, a very wrong desire (like adulterers, e.g.; you don’t seem to protest our viewing them as subhuman). Also, there are homosexuals who promote acceptance of that lifestyle– they are not subhuman, but they are looking to bring an evil into the world, and get it entrenched.
From all of these discussions, I am beginning to think that it is easier, on both us and the homosexual, to tell him that there is no place in our community for them, that they should just give up frumkeit. Won’t that make all of us happier?
R’ Rothstein, I apologize. I misread your piece, and thought you were making the sort of claim that I would expect evidence for, but you were not. My bad.
r’rothstein – what is your understanding of the homosexual “condition”? that its equivalent to the desires of hetrosexual married men to have an affair ? or is it because you feel that hashem could not create the conditions – biological – that may make the attraction (desire) innate and forbid the act?
On what basis do make these recommendations for homosexuals to pursue hetrosexual marriages. Have you consulted with therapists with relevant experience counseling Orthodox couples and homosexuals. Have you spoken with any frum homosexuals about your ideas. How about those aging heterosexual singles who you think might be persuaded to enter into such a union? Or is this merely arm chair theorizing about how others should live their lives?
A lot of these discussions about homosexuality amount to a series of machloksim in metzius. perhaps we should work on a common consensus on how best to determine the metzius, to the best of our ability in these cases before bashing each other over the head with halacha and ideology.
Thank you, R. Rothstein, for clarifying that, with respect to complete homosexuals, you were speaking about a sexless marriage. With that in mind, I have two follow-up questions: (a) why?; where in halacha is there any imperative for marriage if not only is there no chance for procreation but there will also be no sex? What halachic/haskafic value does such a marriage have? Or to look at it from another angle: would you encourage a man (widower or divorcee) who has fulfilled his mitzvah of peru u’revu to get married again if he told you he had no interest in sex? And (b), what would you encourage a woman to do who is considering to enter into this relationship and comes to you for rabbinic/counseling advice? Would you encourage her to proceed with the sexless marriage or encourage her not to and to keep trying to find the right man with whom she can have a marriage with a sexual aspect, even if the chances for success are poor?
“Homosexuality, like any difficult wrongful inclination, challenges …”
the whole basis of your argument is based on this sentence. is it that simple no other possible explanation for homosexuality – just an evil inclination? equivalent and no different than bestaiality or pedophilia – surely you spoke to some professionals in this area to come to that conclusion.
your proof:”Anne Heche has very publicly gone from hetero to homo and back. There are other stories Iâ€™ve read like thatâ€“ looking back,” – so it seems you base your understanding to this condition on stories that appear in places like people magazine? very scientific and empirical. Anne heche who claims to have multiple personalities and one of them is an alien – is your proof that you can be gay then hetro (most likely she was bi and just nuts looking for publicity).
In ancient Greece, where homosexuality behavior was well accepted, men were still expected to marry women- it was considered their civic duty. The city/state needed citizens, and all citizens were expected to contribute by giving birth to new citizens.
It would seem to me that a “marriage of convenience” might occur between a male and female homosexual. Each would then fully understand the feelings and situation of their spouse, and neither would feel sexually rejected by their spouse. Each would gain many of the advantages of marriage (financial, companionship, position in the Orthodox community, opportunity to raise children,etc.), while only sacrificing sexual behavior which, presumably, must be sacrificed in any circumstance.
“There are bisexuals, for example, who can enjoy relations with members of either gender”
“There are, broadly speaking, two other types of homosexuals…”
“First, for some people, sexuality shifts over the course of oneâ€™s lifetime, so that someone who thought of themselves as heterosexual all their lives can â€œdiscoverâ€ his or her homosexuality at some point (or the reverse)”
r’ rothstein – please note that bisexuals are not homosexuals of a different stripe. people’s sexuality really doesn’t shift over time. its one thing to be married and unhappy and not know way (or deny it) and then find out that you are really attracted to the the same ex. if you do believe this then i assume its based on some studies or knowledge of this field – please inform us.
“A lot of these discussions about homosexuality amount to a series of machloksim in metzius. perhaps we should work on a common consensus on how best to determine the metzius, to the best of our ability in these cases before bashing each other over the head with halacha and ideology.”
So just what is the “metzius” we are dealing with here? What percentage of the population of the average liberl orthodox shul in liberal orthodox neighborhoos is really homosexual? what percentage of the average regular plain old suburban orthodox community? what was the “metzius” that drove the rabbis to issue the SOP? since many of the “leading” rabbis driving that document are media driven rabbis who have agendas, it seems to me that they have to come clean with their metzius first. How many cases did Rabbi Dr. Benny Lau deal with in his professional Orthodox rabbinical career? how many did Rabbi Yuval Cherlow deal with? Rabbi Riskin? let’s hear more about their “metzius”
The aguna activists wanted us all to do away with committed marriages and drove forth a quick vegas style divorce agenda to protect “chained” women. Then the administration of the Israeli Batei Din showed us – at an Orthodox feminist conference yet – that out of 10,000 new divorce files opened every year there were less than 200 cases of people who waited more than 2 years for a divorce to finalize – nearly evenly split between men and women. That’s not a metzius which justifies “radical” solutions which will cause a breakdown in the stability of family life.
So what’s the “metzius” here?
Rabbi Rothstein, I think you’re making the same mistake again. There is nothing forbidden about being gay. There is nothing forbidden about two women raising a child together. You assume that because I have a partner with whom I live, that we engage in forbidden acts. That’s your first mistake. And with all due respect, it’s an unjustifiable one. You owe us what any Jew owes any other frum Jew, which is hevei dan et kol ha-adam l’chaf zechut.
I understand that you live in the US. Well, to the best of my knowledge, and certain it’s the impression I get from the media and entertainment, most Americans not only see no problem with premarital sex, but feel that marrying without a “test drive” is irresponsible. Since you’re an American, would it be okay for me to assume that you’re on board with that? Or should the fact that you’re a committed Torah Jew tell me that you can’t be judged by the standards of the US as a whole?
Don’t judge me by the standards of the secular-gentile gay community. It’s inappropriate.
There is no prohibition of accepting that you’re gay and living a fulfilling life. Sure, there are challenges. There are challenges for heterosexuals, too. And yes, heterosexual marriage is the norm, as it should be. But being right handed is the norm. Being sighted is the norm. Being able to hear is the norm.
For a very long time, deaf Jews were treated as idiots and madmen, *based on the halakha*. And the halakha hasn’t changed; just our recognition that some of our assumptions needed to be adjusted. A cheresh is still a cheresh, but just being deaf doesn’t make one a cheresh. Similarly, mishkav zachor (+ kirva) and nashim hamesollelot are still assur and will always be assur. But that doesn’t mean that anyone needs to apologize for being gay. Or be ashamed of being gay. We simply have to deal with certain challenges that I guess Hashem didn’t think you and other straight folk were up to.
You say that accepting ourselves as gay being part of who we are is “simply wrong” from an Orthodox point of view. I think that it’s only wrong when seen through a lens of inapplicable and inappropriate assumptions.
(None of this applies to bisexuals, incidentally. I have a friend who is bisexual, and when he became BT, he recognized, correctly, that functional heterosexuality was the only legitimate path for him to take. This doesn’t mean he isn’t bisexual; it means he’s made the choice, as a frum Jew, to take the only legitimate path for him. Not everyone has that choice. Anne Heche is a really bad example, even aside from her obvious psychological problems, because she is clearly bisexual.)
In hacha nami, what I said applies to all sides. You ask important questions.
For starters, the scientists at the Family Research Institute, an unabashedly pro-“family values” outfit estimate, on the basis of their review of all of the extant research that “probably around 2-3% Males, 2% Females are homosexual or bisexual”
So, statistically speaking any decent sized shul or yeshiva can expect to have at least a couple of homosexuals among its members and in the course of a career a rabbi or mechanech can expect to encounter many many homosexuals.
Charlie Hall, any comments?
Thank you for your thought provoking comments.
“peopleâ€™s sexuality really doesnâ€™t shift over time.”
You might be interested in checking out this link.
I don’t see Rabbi Rothstein making any claims that homosexuals are all of one stripe. It appears that some people do have a relatively malleable form of sexuality.
However, the mental health field is not free of political/philosophical biases, particularly with regards to homosexuality. It has not been considered a disorder by the DSM for decades, although the definition of what constitutes a disorder is in part influenced by the philosophical outlook of experts in the field.
There is a paucity of data in recent years on attempts to “mainstream” homosexuals. You won’t find a heck of a lot of clinical trials on this.
Relying on experts in the field is a useful rule of thumb, but I disagree that educated laymen cannot offer their opinions.
HaShem praises people who triumph in uniquely difficult battles with the Evil Nature, such as a bachelor in a big city, a rich man who separates his tithe in private, and a poor man who returns lost objects of others: Pesachim 113a
Reading the articles written lately by Rabbis who have no concept of what it means to be gay – or to grow up in the orthodox / Yeshivish community – and discover you are gay — I believe we should add a fourth category to the gemoro above: “being gay yet dedicating yourself to observing and learning Torah in a community that doesn’t want to see you”. Thank you to the many commentators who expressed this better than I can.
“I believe we should add a fourth category to the gemoro above: â€œbeing gay yet dedicating yourself to observing and learning Torah in a community that doesnâ€™t want to see youâ€.”
This is an important category. I presume you are not enumerating R’Rothstein in the group of Rabbis mentioned above, since he did advocate private discussion amongst close friends/confidants regarding these struggles.
I would, based on what he wrote in the blog posting as well as what he added in the comments, regretfully include Rabbi Rothstein in that category.
Unless somehow Rabbi Rothstein is making some kind of “Let them eat Irish babies” modest proposal, I think his encouraging homosexuals to pursue marriage is cruel.
It’s actually crueler to whoever they wind up marrying.
I’m not measuring who it’s crueler toward, but I certainly included all parties concerned.
it always amazes me that believers say the things of god are about spirit, the spirit one gives themselves over to, whether that spirit is for or against the love of god. god being love. and then they turn around with concerns about physicalities, choices about errogenous zones and gender pairing saying these trump the things of the spirit, rather than being merely human choices about sexual intimacy and human bonding. my understanding is that physicalities account for nothing.
Perhaps we can understand the issue of homosexual identity better by looking at another case in which a person’s sexual impulses are incompatible with the circumstances they are forced into.
The Torah never rules explicitly* that rape, in and of itself, is wrong. Rape of a married woman is a form of adultery, and rape of an unmarried woman requires monetary compensation to her father. But there is no indication that rape causes severe emotional harm to the victim and we must refrain from inflicting this. Perhaps the reason is as follows (if you disagree, please propose a better explanation). In modern times people think of themselves as independent beings, who among other things can choose their sexual partners, and rape destroys that image of independence. Ancient people (male as well as female I’d say) – who had arranged marriages, predetermined professions, and ancestral land holdings – never had a sense of independence. Thus rape was not the uniquely terrible crime we think of today. Psychological changes caused the crime of rape to have different significance, and thus different treatment in the sources, in different eras.
Let us assume that similar psychological changes have occurred regarding homosexuality. Imagine that once upon a time people did not have a sexual “identity”, rather they were neutral and indistinguishable from one another, except for the occasional moments in which they might feel sexual attraction to someone else. Perhaps that was the case in the past. But nowadays millions of people testify that gay or straight “identity” exists even for those who make extreme efforts to eliminate it. Telling a homosexual to “just ignore your identity” is like telling a rape victim to “just get over it – you have no reason to be upset, your sense of independence was only a modern social construction anyways”.
Like it or not, we no longer live in the past. Treating people, whether rape victims or homosexuals, as if their subjective identity can just be ignored and repressed is a very effective way of causing them horrible suffering.
* Perhaps you can learn this from the story of Dina, but perhaps not. In Chazal “boshet” and “pegam” are applicable to rape, but it is notable that no such law appears in the chumash in this context.
“I would, based on what he wrote in the blog posting as well as what he added in the comments, regretfully include Rabbi Rothstein in that category.”
I’ll have to leave it up to him to clarify if he feels a homosexual orientation is a sin, which is how many people in this comments section have taken his writing. I assumed this not to be the case, since he likened a desire to homosexual relations to any other yetzer harah–i.e. you can’t control having it, but you have control over to what degree you actualize these desires. Maybe he meant things in a way other than I read it.
“The Torah never rules explicitly* that rape, in and of itself, is wrong.”
If it’s prohibited by the Torah then it’s considered “wrong” under Torah law.
Re: homosexuals marrying heterosexuals. I don’t see how R’ Rothstein can toe the line any better than he did. If there’s full disclosure than the heterosexual partner in the relationship has a basis to choose. I don’t see what’s “cruel” about this, as nobody is being mandated to do anything.
“Charlie Hall, any comments?”
I’m not sure that you can apply the Family Research Institute review’s statistics to the Orthodox Jewish population.
“There is a paucity of data in recent years on attempts to â€œmainstreamâ€ homosexuals. You wonâ€™t find a heck of a lot of clinical trials on this.”
Actually there were a lot of studies many decades ago, but with little success. There is no “reparative therapy” that has been shown efficacious by the standards that are generally applied to clinical interventions. (See below.)
“Relying on experts in the field is a useful rule of thumb, but I disagree that educated laymen cannot offer their opinions.”
The data are there for anyone to see; you don’t have to be an expert. I found a 2002 review that did a meta-analysis of 14 studies, but all had been done between 1969 and 1982 with an average sample size of only 25! The reference is Byrd AD, Nicolosi J. A Meta-Analytic Review of Treatment of Homosexuality. Psychological Reports 2002, 90, 1139-1152. The authors claim to show a signficant treatment effect but it took combining two very different study designs (parallel and pre-post) which isn’t really kosher. I haven’t seen any more recent work, and certainly nothing similar to the kind of large randomized intervention study typically used to examine the efficacy of pharmacological or behavioral interventions. If anyone knows of one, please cite!
>If itâ€™s prohibited by the Torah then itâ€™s considered â€œwrongâ€ under Torah law.
Depends what you mean by that. Is eating pork wrong? For some people. Is marrying (=sleeping) with your daughter wrong? For Jews – the Talmud explains the the Torah permits Gentiles to cohabit with their daughter.
What about if it’s permitted? Does that make it “right”? According to the Ramban there is such a person who is naval be-reshut ha-torah.
The point is, there are different degrees of “wrong” and not all prohibitions (or permissions) are equal.
>Re: homosexuals marrying heterosexuals. I donâ€™t see how Râ€™ Rothstein can toe the line any better than he did. If thereâ€™s full disclosure than the heterosexual partner in the relationship has a basis to choose. I donâ€™t see whatâ€™s â€œcruelâ€ about this, as nobody is being mandated to do anything.
Actually he’s suggesting that homosexuals marry, as opposed to suggesting that they not marry, which many people would regard as the saner option. My suggestion is that even with “full disclosure,” while better than non-disclosure, all he has done is attempted to convince homosexuals that they can have a successful marriage. Assuming that somehow in the real world we can actually persuade a homosexual and a heterosexual to go along with such an arrangement, what if it turns out that he is wrong and almost all such marriages cannot work?
The only upgrade he has made to the age-old suggestion of ignoring it, get married and things will work themselves out – which most of us agree is ridiculous – is honesty up front. That sounds great, and of course it is better than dishonesty, but who says that such marriages can really work?
s. – without a doubt there are probably marriages in existence that have a one spouse gay (otherwise there would be many more older bachelors 20-30 yrs ago. its nice to think that these can produce good marriages. but how do you know? who is the right candidate for these marriages? what are the consequences if you are wrong – having sexual relations on the down low and infecting your spouse with hiv (its not such a rare occurance if you talk to medical professionals) — devastating a whole family ?
I cannot respond to every comment left, although I should thank those who defended me. Part of the problem here is that many of us accept the Western assertion (only 40 years old) that homosexuality is a matter of identity, is unchangeable, and that to deny it is to deny the essence of oneself. As noted, there are no empirical studies that prove this in the way that physical scientific ideas can sometimes be proven, at least partially because it seems fairly clear that some part of sexuality (how much is an open question) is cultural and some party psychological. My point was not to categorize people who have this tendency, it was to encourage them to recognize that it is not inherent to oneself to long for a certain type of sexual activity. Just as we would counsel someone whose only way of achieving sexual satisfaction was through adultery, or bestiality, to suppress that side of him/herself, I believe homosexuals need to do the same. Once that is settled– and it should be settled, because homosexuality is one of the arayot, which means that abizrayhu (actions that come close to the full prohibition) are also completely prohibited, even to the point of dying to avoid transgressing it– the question becomes a completely different one– what do homosexuals do in terms of marriage, having/raising children, and so on?
It was there that I suggested that marriage– a complex, multifaceted institution, handled by different couples in a range of ways– is not necessarily as out of reach as we assume. Granted that this homosexual must never engage in such relations or anything like them (and that, whether or not s/he marries), the homosexual can be bitter about that forever, or can learn, as others do in other areas, that there are parts of ourselves we must constantly battle, because they are simply wrong. (How would you respond to someone with a murderous temper who protested that by stopping him from identifying that part of himself, we were denying who he really was, his real desire for murder, or idol worship, or other comparably prohibited acts?).
Pardon me for belaboring that point one more moment. From many of these post, it is clear that some Orthodox homosexuals want not only understanding and tolerance, but the acceptance that Western homosexuals have received; they want people to tell them it’s fine to be that way, and that, I believe, is just wrong from a Torah point of view. I have no need to stigmatize people, but it’s not really fine to be homosexual if you mean it as a positive aspect of your personality; it is not anyone’s fault if they’re born a certain way, but how they handle those natural parts of themselves is absolutely their responsibility. Homosexuals, like anyone else born with a deep desire for wrongful acts, have to battle that tendency, and battle it all the time. Anything less than that perspective of the matter is, it seems to me, just wrong.
My contribution was really focused on the next step, recognizing that once homosexuality in all its forms is off the table– including two people of the same gender living together, having adopted a child, creating a family unit– there are more options for loving, stable relationships than we have hitherto considered.
Rabbi Rothstein, you wrote in the article: “Homosexuality, like any difficult wrongful inclination”. Am I wrong to understand from this that you consider *being* gay to be wrong?
You wrote: “it is not inherent to oneself to long for a certain type of sexual activity”. Yes and no. Sexual activity involves more than a physical act. People who are gay don’t fall in love with members of the opposite sex; they fall in love with members of the same sex.
I’d like you to imagine being romantically in love with a man. Wanting the kind of closeness that most men want with a woman. Because that’s what we’re talking about. Not about an urge to a specific sexual act (not that I can speak for gay men, obviously).
Have you ever heard the expression “Men have relationships in order to have sex; women have sex in order to have relationships”? Maybe the fact that you’re a guy makes it difficult for you to separate sexual orientation from an urge to have sex.
You wrote: “homosexuality is one of the arayot”. But it isn’t, you know. Mishkav zachor is. Nashim ha-mesollelot is *not*, though it’s definitely assur.
And I want to get back to your view that *being* gay is a bad thing. You wrote: “itâ€™s not really fine to be homosexual if you mean it as a positive aspect of your personality”. Why not? You say that it’s a flaw. I say that it’s a challenge. What’s your source for considering it a flaw? Because I don’t believe there is one. I know that I don’t have any deep desire for wrongful acts. I do know that the prospect of being married to a man feels as wrong to me as it does to you. I’ve been in love a very few number of times in my life. All to other women. Maybe you’re one of those who thinks that love is a modern invention as well. I’d like to think that you’re wrong about that, if so, but I don’t think it actually matters.
It’s amazing for me to see Rabbi Rothstein making cogent, calm arguments to help Orthodox homosexuals live fulfilled lives while all the allegedly pro-homosexual commenters are doing their best to argue that homosexuals cannot live fulfilled lives unless they make a full, public disclosure — something which is simply and obviously wrong according to the Torah (unless one engages in mental gymnastics).
The honest Orthodox homosexual’s friend here is Rabbi Rothstein, not his detractors.
(P.S. Rabbi Rothsetin: I still disagree about disclosures in the case of someone who can live a proper married life. Do you think the former N.J. governor’s wife and so many other wives of homosexuals suffered tremendously over the years? Every case is different, and I don’t think one should lay down a categorical rule for every case. In some cases, I don’t think full disclosure is necessary.
I wouldn’t be so against disclosures except that it’s obvious to me that very, very few girls would marry someone after such a disclosure. And when should he tell her? After the tenth date when she already likes him very much? Isn’t that a form of deception too?)
I think the reach for technicalities is itself a problem; while, technically, nashim ha mesollelot is certainly a different problem than mishkav zachur and, technically, women aren’t obligated in piryah ve-rivyah, to jump from there to thinking it’s fine to indulge in these feelings (I know, you’ll say that you don’t indulge, it just happens, but that’s untrue– if a woman was already in a relationship with another woman, I suspect you’d suppress/repress those budding feelings, and they’d go away, just like I’m recommending with all homosexual feelings). Btw, Hazal assumed that Maaseh eretz mitsrayim (which is prohibited by
Torah law) involved men marrying men and women marrying women, and they don’t specifically talk about sex, they talk about marriage. Also, when Hazal were reaching for one of the Noahide laws that non-Jews had not broken (in a long-distant time), it was writing a marriage document for such relationships. So it’s pretty clear that not only the sex, but the relationship itself, is a problem in Jewish thought.
Baruch, thank you for your words and I agree that the choice of when to disclose is an issue. I note that on other complicated issues, rabbis have given advice as to exactly when in the relationship. Here, too, this would be a most delicated, case by case discussion. I don’t pretend to have an absolute answer to that.
Rabbi Rothstein, since the Torah permits Gentile fathers to sleep with their daughters, should we as Orthodox Jews advocate for a relaxation of this specific union mistakenly considered incestuous by the general society?
I’m not sure that each time the Torah does not prohibit something, that means it’s fine to do– as Ramban pointed out in perhaps his most famous turn of phrase “naval bi-reshut haTorah.” In truth, the whole topic of sexuality in Jewish thought is very complex, and before I could answer your question, we’d have to discuss our understanding of what the Torah wanted out of non-Jewish sexuality, why it might be that some relationships would be permitted, and whether that was the highest standard the Torah could imagine. Rambam, for example, seems to have hoped for non-Jews to voluntarily agree to perform mitzvot beyond the Noahide ones, such as having themselves circumcised (that one is particularly interesting, since we tend to think of it as a covenant between God and Jews, yet Rambam is comfortable with non-Jews doing it). If so, being uncircumcised, or eating pork, or whatever, might be permitted but undesirable. And the same with sexuality issues.
Rabbi Rothstein should be blessed for his long-overdue slaughtering of this sacred cow.
Rabbi, pay no heed to the predictable grumbling of those commentators who have bought into and internalized the homosexual propaganda and agenda (we can be dan lekaf zechus perhaps, and assume that they did so out of an excess of compassion and sensitivity). They, along with the homosexuals, constitute a pressure group which attempts to stifle and silence anyone who questions their orthodoxies.
I think you are actually too polite and conciliatory with them actually. They need to put in their place for a change. Enough of excessively deferring to them and their unholy minions, cleverly cloaking themselves in pseudo-science and pseudo-compassion.
Yeyasher kochacha. You get extra sechar for publicly addressing this issue knowing that the homosexuals and their allies would pillory you for it. But our faith is not controlled by pressure groups. The American Psycholgical Ass’n was, that’s why they changed their stance in homosexuality. But Judaism is a different story.
Keep up the great work. Speak truth to power (power being the homosexual lobby)!
Moshe – if the figure is 2% (as it is in the aguna situation) then the decision to go public with the SOP can only be described as – in the same way Rabbi Michael Broyde described a certain radical solution to the aguna “problem” – a gross rabbinic malpractice.
This is a subject about which i am happy to say i know anything about. But as i have written elsewhere the issur in last weeks sedra from the same posuk we learn also bestiality. That usually means they have a connection. The daf yomi at the moment says if he cant find the woman he takes the animal. From all the gemoros it seems that sexual depravity has no boundaries or favorites. They take what is available. There is also the gemoro that Jewish people are not ‘nechshad’ on this. And according to the chachomim two men can sleep in one cloak whom we pasken like. What this adds up to in my understanding is that if this is not the case there is something lacking in their Jewishness. All our literature goes against the idea that this is a condition. I also refer to the gemoro in shabbos about zidkiyahu. I have written elsewhere and am under the impression from this gemoro in shabbos that it is a form of power not sexual apetite at all.
About rape which was mentioned earlier. From the posuk it seems that it was usual that the girl afterwards wanted to marry him and even stay with him all her life and he could never get rid of his victim.
The reason is, and that is the reason why a woman has to be a virgin at marriage because she only makes a covenant with the one who makes her into a vessel. Even surprisingly through rape
Regarding fooling others.
If a woman is not a virgin at marriage does she have to tell her groom.
According to minchas yitschok she has to. According to the Klausenberger rebbe (it seems one of his own family were involved) he says she doesnt.
I agree with the minchas yitschok for the reason i mentioned in my previous post.
When I say his Jewishness is lacking.
This could mean his bris needs to be seen to.
Or the mohel was not an orthodox person and therefore his bris did not take care of this condition. This is something that distinguishes us from the goyim as all gemoros state. The bris is a lot more than just a neat cut.
R Rothstein deserves much kudos for raising a cogent objection to the SOP and the premises upon which it is based.
Rabbi Rothstein, I don’t know what “I know, youâ€™ll say that you donâ€™t indulge, it just happens” means. You might find http://snipurl.com/10s6d1 edifying.
Also, I don’t think the Sifra used “nasa” in the sense of “marry”. If it meant that, the Rambam (who is our primary source for any connection between that Sifra and nashim hamesollelot) would have brought it in cases other than two women, since it would be adding a chiddush. He didn’t, because nesuin always meant the point at which the married couple (who became married after eirusin) entered into a sexual relationship. Rambam had to bring it for two women, because there’s no source earlier than him for *any* homosexual activity between women to be assur in any way, but he didn’t bring it elsewhere, because nothing else was mit’chadesh from it. We already know that bi’ah between two men, a woman and two men, or a man with a woman and her daughter, are assur.
Also, the thing about writing a ketuba for two men refers *only* to two men. The concept of “homosexuality” as a category that includes same sex relations between two men or two women is a modern invention and has no source in halakha.
I second the kudos.
To me there is a parallel to the rabbah/Kabbalat shabbat issue here, as in neither case can anyone really point to empirical data that there is such a “demand” for intensive attention and/or radical halachic/traditional intervention to these issues. As I have commented before, I have seen no demand personally in the Sephardic community for greater female involvement in “rite” (as opposed to learning which is to be encouraged and supported – both in terms of secular and torah knowledge), nor have I encoutered so many homosexually-oriented individuals that it seems worth devoting communal/rabbinic resources to. There are just more pressing concerns that effect more people that require attention. No of the above is to be construed as sanction for ignoring anyone’s plight, only a recognition that some struggles are personal.
One of the beauties of Judaism, in some ways appropriated by Islam via the concept of Jihad (internal, not terroristic), is the idea that the fight against the yetzer is a constant one – but the chessed of Hashem (as opposed to human-gifted rewards) is in the reward given for undertaking the struggle, and the windfall in this world and the next for each and every victory. One of the obstacles to the above is the apparent belief that there is something “beautiful” in homosexuality per se, and that its just a shame that the Torah forbids the behavior.
>Also, the thing about writing a ketuba for two men refers *only* to two men. The concept of â€œhomosexualityâ€ as a category that includes same sex relations between two men or two women is a modern invention and has no source in halakha.
I don’t get what you’re trying to do. Carve a space for “Orthodykes” but to hell with Orthodox gay men?
“””One of the obstacles to the above is the apparent belief that there is something â€œbeautifulâ€ in homosexuality per se, and that its just a shame that the Torah forbids the behavior.””””
The Torah doesnt call every sin ‘toeva’. The ones that it does are reprehensible as well. The only reason they are included in the mitsvot is not that people would otherwise not keep them but to give a reward for keeping them.
“When I say his Jewishness is lacking.
This could mean his bris needs to be seen to.
Or the mohel was not an orthodox person and therefore his bris did not take care of this condition.”
So being homosexual proves that you’re not Jewish?
It’s just one more step, and not an unprecedented one, to say that being homosexual proves you’re subhuman.
BTW, as bizarre as chaim1’s claims sound, they seem like a natural extension of the common belief that whenever something bad happens it’s caused by invalid mezuzot.
chaim1 wrote: “The Torah doesnt call every sin â€˜toevaâ€™. The ones that it does are reprehensible as well.”
I would like him (or anyone else) to expand upon what he meant by “reprehensible” and explain how his understanding of “toevah” is consistent with its usage throughout the Torah. Here is a list of the sins referred to by the Torah as “toevah”:
– Worshiping idolatry (Devarim 17:4)
– Leading a city to worship idolatry (ibid. 13:15)
– Deriving benefit from idolatrous objects (ibid. 12:31)
– Molech, divination, astrology, omen-reading, incantations, inquiring of an Ov or Yidoni, and consulting the dead (ibid. 18:9-12)
– Cross-dressing (ibid. 22:5)
– Slaughtering a blemished animal (ibid. 17:1)
– Bringing a harlot’s wage or the exchange for a dog to Mikdah (ibid. 23:19)
– a divorcÃ©e remarrying her first husband after being consecrated to a second husband (ibid. 24:4)
– Using or owning inaccurate weights and measures (ibid. 25:13-16)
– Eating a non-kosher species of animal (ibid. 14:3)
Indeed, the Torah refers to ALL sexual violations as “toevah” (Vayikra 18:24-31). Obviously, mishkav zachor is singled out as “toevah” in a unique or superlative way, but the term applies to all sexual transgressions nonetheless.
The Torah uses the term “toevah” in reference to all of these transgressions. Few people would describe the use of inaccurate weights and measures as “disgusting” or blemished offerings as “repulsive” – and yet, this is exactly the term that God uses to describe these transgressions, INCLUDING mishkav zachor. Some people might need to check their definitions.
Do you have better definition why the Torah calls somethings ‘toevo’ and not others, which will answer all of them.
I have not gone into it. But that is what my initial reaction is. I am always willing to learn but even if i dont have all the answers at hand this not yet disproved my point.
I refer you to a tosfos in sanhedrin 54b who says that only this and bestiality qualify.
On what the Torah calls to’eivah, see this post: http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2010/01/homosexuality-in-halakhah-xiv.html
To Hirhurim (Rabbi Student),
The distinction between “toevah of Hashem” and “toevah” (stam) is interesting. It is also interesting that when the Torah refers categorically to non-kosher species and to all sexual transgressions, it uses the term “toevah” (stam), like mishkav zachor, rather than “toevah of Hashem,” like the other examples listed above.
The best explanation of “toevah” that I’ve seen in the Rishonim is that of the Sefer ha’Chinuch on the prohibition of “deriving pleasure from sexually prohibited women” (#188). The Sefer ha’Chinuch does not recognize the aforementioned distinction, but equates “toevah” (stam) with “toevah of Hashem.” He writes:
“The injunction about this prohibition was doubled by Scripture’s statement, ‘and you shall do none of these abominations’ (Vayikra 18:26); this includes all these matters, which are an abomination to Hashem. IN OTHER WORDS, ANYONE WHO DOES THEM BECOMES DISTANCED FROM THE GOOD AND REMOVES FROM HIMSELF THE HASHGACHAH OF HASHEM. This is the meaning of ‘abomination to God’ in every instance, according to what I have heard. So likewise, what is written at the end of the matter: ‘for all these abominations the men of the land did who were before you and I abhorred them’ (ibid. 20:23). Its sense is to convey that the quality is most ugly; every unusually bad and repulsive thing, Scripture describes as though Hashem detests it, all along the lines that we have stated [translator’s footnote: i.e. that this conveys a truth about the quality or trait in a human being, but not in the Almighty, who is beyond human emotion and human comprehension], and in the vein of what the Sages of blessed memory said in every instance: in order to convey intelligibly to the ear what it is able to hear.”
According to the Sefer ha’Chinuch, the Torah does not refer to a particular transgression as “toevah” because they are unnatural or because most people find them repulsive. Rather, “toevah” means that the transgression “distances a person from the good and removes that person from the hashgachah of Hashem.”
This is supported by Onkelos, who often renders “toevah” as “that which distances [one] from before Hashem.” On the other hand, Onkelos does use this translation in the pesukim about mishkav zachor, which would tend to support Rabbi Student’s distinction.
I apologize: I didn’t see your comment when I responded to Rabbi Student. Check out my response to him – particularly the quote from the Sefer ha’Chinuch. At this point, I don’t have an approach which explains every case, though I do have some thoughts. I also have an explanation written up by a great chacham, which is too lengthy to post here. Email me if you’re interested (agurbinyakeh at gmail).
Also, check out the ibn Ezra on Vayikra 18:22. I think that’s a big clue, provided that one has the correct understanding of “nefesh” and “kedushah.”
I think you and the posts in previous hirhurim have fully covered the matter.
My post was really that the gemoro doesnt seem to believe it is a ‘condition’ but a matter of power.
I am also given to understand even in a same sex relationship one is the dominant partner, they are not equal.
Which makes me believe that one is not really happy with the relationship.
Toevah is sometimes translated by Onkelos as “merachak – rejected”, (as in Lo Sesaev Mitzri. See Rashi – Legamrei, i.e. don’t completely reject him, as he is allowed after 3 generations.) and sometimes as “toevta” – abomination. Only the Arayos, with the homosexual male act singled out, Avodah Zarah, and Kishuf are accorded this appelation.
On the Passuk of Besoevos Yachisuhu in Haazinu, the Sifrei says – “zehu mishkav zachur”. Rashi there adds Kishuf, and the Ramban says it means Avodah Zarah. Nobody mentions offering a Baal Mum or cross-dressing, or any of the others translated as ‘merachak”.
“Iâ€™d like you to imagine being romantically in love with a man. Wanting the kind of closeness that most men want with a woman. Because thatâ€™s what weâ€™re talking about. Not about an urge to a specific sexual act (not that I can speak for gay men, obviously).”
Lisa, I’m going to have to play devil’s advocate here, including a personal anecdote, in an attempt to get at what I view as the heart of the matter.
I’ve been romantically in love with several women in my life–all of these instances did not work out (largely unrequited). My wife, whom I do find physically attractive, and in many ways I feel more compatible with any of these other women, did not elicit powerful feelings of romantic longing. We simply share similar values, are able to engage in prolonged conversations, often lasting hours (even now after 7 years of marriage), and share sufficient mutual attraction to indulge in the physical side of our marriage on a monthly basis. The physical side is nice, sometimes quite nice, but does not consist of the profound emotional fireworks for me that I had imagined/hoped for as a younger man.
In discussion with various other men, I do not believe that this phenomenon–of not being head over heals in love for your spouse–is rare. In fact it seems that plenty of marriages are not founded on intense feelings of romantic longing. Sex is generally important, and attraction sufficient to engage in sex with “some” regularity is obviously sought after, but bells and whistles is not a universal phenomenon with one’s spouse. I consider it an ideal, when combined with a cluster of other more important things, but it is not something universally granted to everyone.
I make these observations, because it seems to me that the difficulties of a homosexual (at least one who is capable of getting into a sexual relationship with a member of the opposite gender) differ from the above in degree and not kind. Yes, such a relationship must be broached with caution, if at all. Yes, full disclosure is preferable, in all fairness to the heterosexual spouse. Many may not be able to function sexually, which to my mind would make most such marriages impossible. Yes, unfulfilled romantic feelings can be a source of significant disappointment, and place a strain on the relationship if not dealt with maturely.
However, there seems to be this notion that a sense of romantic completion is a right, and not a gift, granted to everyone. But I fail to see why homosexuals are more entitled to achieving this in their life than anyone else? Like many other things we encounter in this world, sometimes the mature thing is to accept one’s feelings of disappointment, move on, and see what’s beautiful about what is accessible to you. This may not be a satisfying answer, but I think many people recognize the truth to this perspective, particularly if they looked at other areas of their life in which they were met with significant disappointment. I may feel like I have a right to various things that have not been granted me (decent parents, good looks, high intelligence, etc.), but such things are clearly not granted to everyone, nor am I entitled to such things by dint of birth.
It seems that much of the excessive sympathy accorded to homosexuals is based on this mistaken notion that “romantic fulfillment” is a right and not a gift. I can empathize with that individual; I can be a shoulder to cry on, but I cannot change the rules of the game so to speak simply to satisfy their longings, no matter how deep seeded. Obviously much hinges on the faith of such an individual, and the nature of their belief, to see if such a “sacrifice” is worthwhile, but to a believing Jew it seems the path is clear, even if the road is (at times exceedingly) difficult.
You should seek a good marriage counsellor. There is something lacking in your marriage. That is not the way marriage ought to be.
I would suggest also that if you dont, you should start keeping the laws of nidda properly. Part of the reason is that familiarity breeds contempt. and the opposite saying which escapes me for the moment is the idea of those laws. If you dont know them i am sorry but this is not the place for them, but in short one must keep away in every respect. The more you keep them the better your marriage will be. I guarantee you that.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder
Chaim, why on Earth should he see a counselor if he has a happy marriage? It’s all about sex for you, isn’t it? Perv. (Turnabout is fair play.)
By the way, the laws of nidda exist because of tuma and tahara. They have nothing to do with increasing sexual longing.
By the way, the laws of nidda exist because of tuma and tahara. They have nothing to do with increasing sexual longing.
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Thank you Doron its most refreshing to see a real talmid chochom here. Too many posters here have picked up bits and pieces of the torah and already claim to be rabbis!
And even those that seem to know quite a lot have a superficial and warped understanding of it.
A sexless marriage is not a happy one as the poster himself says he is missing out on life and is seeking other avenues which his wife ought to provide.
Why hasn’t Rabbi Rapoport spoken up yet?