Saturday, October 01, 2005

Judaism And Homosexuality

Rabbi Chaim Rapoport
Member of The Chief Rabbi's Cabinet

In his summary of the orthodox position on homosexuality, Rabbi Dr Alan Unterman writes: "…it is not demanded that one should be sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex, but it is demanded that, attracted or not, one should still get married and have children."

I disagree. To be sure, marriage and procreation are supreme values in Judaism. It is antithetical to the spirit of Judaism to initiate a procedure whereby children will be conceived, born and bred outside the normative family nucleus. Where the potential for a healthy and stable marriage exists, one ought to respond positively to the Divine calling "Be fruitful and multiply." Yet those unable to find a suitable spouse or are constrained by mental or physical incapacity are exempt from fulfilling this Commandment. Emotional incapacity for a heterosexual relationship may, likewise, exonerate the individual from embarking upon a marriage that is likely to bring untold suffering to both partners.

Hence, notwithstanding our high regard for marriage, a confirmed homosexual would be best advised to invest his or her energies and talents in other areas. Rabbi Aharon Feldman is closer to the mark when he writes that: "a homosexual who does not have a family can make serious contributions to Judaism which others cannot." Not being restricted to the rigours of family life, the homosexual can undertake many projects to which a married person could not commit himself. Rabbi Feldman speaks of individuals, highly respected for their communal achievements, "even though it was well known that they had no interest in marriage."

One should not jump to conclusions. Many people who have experienced manifestations of homosexuality may still be enabled, with therapeutic assistance, to engage in a mutually satisfying heterosexual relationship. Transitional homosexuality amongst teenagers, bisexuality, ambiguous sexuality or even confirmed sexuality amongst people who have been constrained in close-knit same gender settings, are all scientifically recognised phenomena. Even some 'confirmed' homosexuals have been able to get married and have children after intensive, albeit somewhat gruelling, therapy. But where therapy is either unattainable or ineffective, it would be inadvisable to draw a member of the opposite gender into a relationship where the basic ingredients for harmony and emotional security are lacking ab initio.

Jewish Law forbids premarital, extra marital, promiscuous and homosexual relations. Consequently the bachelor, the spinster, the homosexual or a person trapped in a sexless marriage, all face a formidable challenge: they have to remain celibate. It is, admittedly, theologically challenging to accept that Divine Providence has deprived the blessings of marriage and the bliss of intimacy from so many people. Yet the believing Jew accepts that ultimately the Torah's teachings are for the benefit of mankind, both the individual and society. Some temptations may require a Herculean effort to be overcome and as Rabbi Feldman asserts, cessation of homosexual activity will often "be difficult and will have to be accomplished over a period of time." Accordingly "a Jewish homosexual has to make a commitment to embark on a course through which he will ultimately rid himself of homosexual activity."

However people cannot ordinarily be blamed or penalised for experiencing homosexual feelings. Rather understanding and empathy for those facing such challenges are called for. The ethos of imitatio Dei - emulating G-d's kindness - particularly for the oppressed, surely dictates that we do not ostracise or alienate people who may well face untold loneliness, misery and sexual frustration. Sadly, some otherwise 'progressive' thinkers, don the mantle of zealousness when dismissing the plight of homosexuals. In reality they are merely projecting their own personal prejudices under the guise of religious teaching. Yet whilst we may not judge a person "until we stand in his place," we are likewise forbidden to abandon all moral objectivity and allow chaos to reign in the hierarchy of Jewish and ethical values.

Furthermore, our advocacy of tolerance and patience for the homosexual refers to the individual. It does not apply to organisations that promote homosexuality as a cause celebre or even as an equally acceptable 'alternative lifestyle.' '

Gay Synagogues' are anathema to the religiously sensitive because their aim is not only to condone behaviour that the Torah proscribes but, moreover to sanctify such practices. As to the retort sometimes advanced 'where should Gays daven?' - the answer is - in the same Synagogue that Jews who eat shrimps, desecrate the Sabbath and behave promiscuously render service to their Father in Heaven. Would they be made welcome? - yes, provided they do not proselytise. Flamboyant displays of 'gay pride' demonstrate a lack of sensitivity for the teachings that the Synagogue represents.

Many Synagogues may sometimes offer an aliyah to someone who dined in MacDonalds the previous night, so long as he does not flaunt the bill for his cheeseburger in Shul. We would likewise welcome a Jew whose sexual life is not in accordance with the Torah unless there is reason to believe that he may parade his 'cause' or attempt to win over new 'converts'. Nothing is more objectionable in our Tradition than one who seeks to lead others astray.

Taking all the above into consideration, a number of conclusions emerge:

Homosexual intercourse is forbidden for Jews and Gentiles alike. Yet when counselling homosexuals it is unrealistic to expect that prohibited behaviour should cease immediately. In the interim, we must help the homosexual avoid the pitfalls of promiscuity, despair and the various ailments to which he may be more vulnerable. Depression and suicide attempts among homosexuals are not rare occurrences. Rabbis, teachers and counsellors must be alert to these issues and "not stand idly by" in matters of pikuach nefesh. On a national level, we must endeavour to curb the worrying trend of personal attacks on homosexuals, which are reminiscent of Nazi policies.
Jewish Homosexuals should be encouraged to participate in every aspect of Jewish life that they feel able to. We are enjoined to promote the spiritual welfare of every Jew. Judaism does not advocate a 'take it or leave it' position. The journey to religious perfection is a long and indefinite one. Everyone should be supported to make progress on his or her own level.
G-d Almighty loves all His 'children' irrespective of their sexual orientations. He cares for the errant Jew even if his wrongdoing is inexcusable, a fortori when his or her behaviour has invariably been influenced by the predominantly secular and liberal nature of contemporary society and culture. We, too, should endeavour to emulate G-d's ways and befriend all our 'brothers and sisters'. In this way we can hope to create a society which will indeed reflect the G-dly attributes of love and benevolence.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Saturday, October 01, 2005 8:55:00 PM  
Blogger Shmuly Shmulovitz said...

What's up with this sudden obsession with homosexuality?

Saturday, October 01, 2005 8:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think the world is rocked by the recent coming out of a yeshiva principal. He's not the first we've heard of...

Thus, UOJ is concerned lest this become normative even as he avers that this affects only one percent of the population.

Erev Rosh Hashonah he is also not out to insult those who are hurting, who struggle with the issue.

This is to his credit.

But, here's a wrench: statistics suggest only 20% of marriages are actually happy. There are individuals married to women with vaginismus, who conceive, but their husbands are not happy. Isn't it better for them to have children even in an unhappy marriage? Why is rabbit unterman wrong?

Saturday, October 01, 2005 9:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

whats kjef1 opinion. Hes always got some good wisdom to give away for free

Saturday, October 01, 2005 9:08:00 PM  
Blogger Un-Orthodox Jew said...

I never knew it's so rampant in our community.
I was shocked at the principal's e-mail to his student, like it was a notice of a new clothing store in Boro Park.
I guess my biggest surprise is that people are trying to create another OK lifestyle within Orthodox Judaism.
The Reform do not claim to keep the Mitzvos, but for the Gays to claim to be Orthodox, that sends me reeling.
Soon we will have "Orthodox Jews" driving on Shabbos.

Saturday, October 01, 2005 9:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

we already do... and some of them, affiliated with MO synagogues, drove in Warsaw on Shabbes before the war.

The majority in Europe were observant, but not all. Here, anything goes.

Saturday, October 01, 2005 9:16:00 PM  
Blogger Un-Orthodox Jew said...

I know many people that do not claim to be Orthodox, drive to shul, but would only go to an Orthodox shul.
The reasons they give:
1-Orthodox Judaism is the authentic Judaism, even though they choose not to accept all the restrictions.
2-Respect for their ancestors beliefs.
3-They were exposed to Orthodoxy in their youth and had good/bad feelings about it, but choose not to let go entirely.

Saturday, October 01, 2005 9:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And there are gay people among them in the closet, as there are in yeshivish minyanim.

Saturday, October 01, 2005 9:51:00 PM  
Blogger Y.Y. said...

you are truly obsessed with gays
get over it

Saturday, October 01, 2005 9:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am more obsessed by how you get your farshtunkene punim in my face every time.

i guess i'd feel better if it were gone.

Saturday, October 01, 2005 10:11:00 PM  
Blogger Un-Orthodox Jew said...

What people do in private is between them and G-D.

Saturday, October 01, 2005 10:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

including fraud, right?

Saturday, October 01, 2005 11:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article UO. Imagine to be trapped in homosexual feelings and to be trained from birth to observe Jewish Law. Talk about shame! We must have compassion yet not allow people to make up their own religion...but where do we draw the line?

So what if a woman who claims to be Orthodox doesn't cover her hair in public, but buys and cooks only Kosher? The law states that a married woman should have a head covering. (Well it is actually is inferred)

I guess this is why we shouldn't mess with Jewish law because we can all start to water it waaaay down to fit our own lifestyles.

I for one can not follow everything but consider myself an Orthodox Jew. I do what I can. I feel guilty when I don't hold Shabbas to the letter but I also feel that Judaism is the right way to go.

Saturday, October 01, 2005 11:29:00 PM  
Blogger kjef1 said...

The problem comes into play when
someone wants the whole world to
know he is gay, and wants everybodys acceptance and approval. Just like a straight person does not go up to the shtender in shul and discuss
in detail what all his desires are, i d o not want to be expected
to know about a gay persons desires.Its called respect and common courtesy. Can"t people have a private life any more?Whats private should remain private. However, the gays have an agenda. THey want every body to accept them as normal. What if i were to say , im not really interested.
I have my desires which i keep to myself, and should you.I sympathize
with a frum person who has to deal with these desires, but do not expect me to be happy hearing about during Shalosh seudes. And above all do not want the Torah to adjust itself to your feelings and desires.The gays want to force their lifestyle on everybody. We symbathize, but sodomy is forbidden.What more can we say or do for you?A person might be in love with a married woman, yet its forbidden. I do not care what a doc says, its forbidden.

Saturday, October 01, 2005 11:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

but, i do care what a duck says.

Saturday, October 01, 2005 11:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what if a duck told you moshiach has arrived, would you believe it.
What chassidus are you from,
Quakerrebbe from williams berg.

Saturday, October 01, 2005 11:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the donald.

Sunday, October 02, 2005 12:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Mechanech said...

I would just like to offer a perspective that is simple yet suprisingly absent from any debate on homosexuality. When a person says he must be “true to himself” what does this mean? What part of him is “himself?” Is it his urges? Is it his intellect? Emotions? We all understand that our physical desires are not who we are, but our emotions and intellect can be more confusing. Chazal say that Shlomo Hamelech’s intellect “fooled” him into transgresing two aveiros (lo yarbeh lo nashim, susim) which means that intellect too can be a yetzer hara. Emotions cannot be considered “ourselves” because it too rooted in the physical. What is then “ourselves?” It is our decisions. The power of choosing, Bechira Chafshis. The final decision to act after receiving all the feedback from these three sources (intellect, emotion & physical urges) is who we really are (a.k.a. the Neshama). I ask you then, why do people confuse “being true to oneself” with being true to their emotions, physical urges or their intellect? If a person chooses to be a homosexual it is not because he is being “true to himself” and “authentic.” Actually he is letting “himself,” the decision maker within, be led astray by his (pick one) emotion, physical urges, or intellect. Actually, he is not being true to himself at all.

Sunday, October 02, 2005 12:55:00 AM  
Blogger cash at home said...

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Sunday, October 02, 2005 3:00:00 AM  
Blogger blogdollar2 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Sunday, October 02, 2005 6:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Beautifully said!

Sunday, October 02, 2005 9:52:00 AM  
Blogger Un-Orthodox Jew said...

With mechanchim like you, many of the tsures people bring upon themselves could be healed.
I hope you are a rebbe in a normal yeshivah.
Kol Hakovod, great gedank!

Sunday, October 02, 2005 10:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what is a normal yeshiva?

Sunday, October 02, 2005 1:50:00 PM  
Anonymous sechel said...

You make an important point.At the same time it is important to admit and empathize with those striving to follow halacha.

Sunday, October 02, 2005 7:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to admit what?

that they have a yetser hara?

everyone has one, different sizes, shapes, disguises.

mechanech, properly at this time of year, speaks in abstractions. What is "intellect?" Rationality? chochmas Yevanis? minus? Philosophy? He knows his own neshoma better than most folks know theirs, which is only at a glimmering time, outside of time?

We live in this world, as chomer b'yad ha-yotser. Chumriyus doesn't always lend itself to chumros. The large number of unwed mothers in America speaks to the problem: not everyone is perfect, in control etc. If this world is an experiment, how are we doin'?

Since the dor ha-mabbul, not too well.

Monday, October 03, 2005 12:45:00 AM  
Blogger Blog World said...

A dying man needs to die, as a sleepy man needs to sleep, and there comes a time when it is wrong, as well as useless, to resist.
Stewart Alsop- Posters.

Monday, November 21, 2005 11:19:00 AM  

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