Does Judaism Accept Same-Sex Behavior?
Michele Brand Medwin, Rabbi of Temple Sholom in Monticello, New York, stated in her Dec. 2004 essay “Does the Old Testament Really Condemn Homosexuality?” on the Keshet-JTS website:
“These verses [Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13] were not meant to be used to foster hate against homosexuals or to condemn individual gay men and the loving relationships they form…
The Canaanites used homosexual acts as part of their pagan rituals. Therefore the Israelites were prohibited from doing this, not because it was an act between two men but because it was symbolic of pagan ritual. In today’s world this prohibition now has no meaning. We are no longer threatened by Canaanite pagan religion and homosexuality today is not a pagan ritual. Homosexuality in Biblical terms is no longer an issue for us today.
As a religious community, there are many scriptural verses that require us to accept and welcome gays and lesbians into our community as equals… ALL people, not just heterosexuals are created in God’s image.”Dec. 2004
Harold Schulweis, ThD, Rabbi of Valley Beth Shalom Temple, wrote in his article, “A Second Look At Homosexuality,” on the Valley Beth Shalom website (accessed Apr. 13, 2007) and published on his temple’s website:
“According to Jewish law, activities that are under compulsion or constraint, even if they are prohibited, are free of liability… Scholars agree that the authors of the Bible and Talmud took their position on the issue of homosexuality on the assumption that homosexual behavior was an act of freedom of choice… The assumption of the ancients about the motivation of the homosexual was based on factual error… We are dealing with mounting evidence that there are genetic factors which play a large role, perhaps a determining role, in this behavior.
On both moral and Halachic [Jewish legal] grounds it is wrong to take one or two verses in the Bible, stripped of their historic context and devoid of medical knowledge, and apply them to punish innocent people who cannot deny their basic instincts, impulses and sexual attractions. To inflict punishment upon the innocent violates the spirit and intent of Jewish law.”Apr. 13, 2007
Jewish Mosaic, an advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Jews, explained in the article “The Reform Movement on LGBT Issues” on its website (accessed Apr. 13, 2007):
“Of the three major Jewish movements, the Reform Movement is the most fully inclusive of LGBT people in Jewish life with most Reform communities and synagogues embracing LGBT people. The Reform Movement’s welcoming stance has been informed by: a focus on the Jewish philosophy of tikkun olam (repairing the world/social justice) as a primary method of serving God; a commitment to Judaism as an evolving tradition; an understanding of halacha (Jewish law) as a series of guidelines, not binding rules; and the principle of b’tselem elohim (all human beings are created in God’s image)…
The Union of American Hebrew Congregations (or UAHC, now known as the Union for Reform Judaism, it is the movement’s national body) firmly stated its commitment to welcoming LGBT Jews into Jewish communal life in the movement. In 1993, UAHC passed a resolution recognizing gay and lesbian partnerships.”Apr. 13, 2007
Joel Roth, PhD, Rabbi and Louis Finkelstein Professor of Talmud and Jewish Law, The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), stated in his Spring 2004 USCI Review essay “We Can’t Legitimate Homosexuality Halakhically”:
“The two verses in the book of Leviticus (18:22 and 20:13) which deal with homosexuality are really quite clear, despite the efforts of some to call their clarity into question. Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 absolutely forbid homosexual intercourse between males. The Rabbis, in the Sifra (Aharei Mot 9:8), also understand the Torah to forbid lesbianism. The Torah’s prohibitions, let it be clear, are against actions, like male homosexual intercourse, not against fantasies or attractions.
The Torah and the Rabbis do not distinguish between types of homosexuals in any way… The Rabbis were well able to conceive of monogamous and loving relationships between members of the same sex, and I quote in my paper the texts that prove this beyond reasonable question. But their words cannot possibly be read to imply that such monogamous or loving gay relationships are in a different halakhic [Jewish legal] category than any other relationships between members of the same sex. The prohibition is clear and total.”Spring 2004
Menachem Mendel Schneerson, former Chief Rabbi and Spiritual Leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch ultra-orthodox Jewish movement, in his Mar. 1986 speech “‘Rights’ or Ills,” posted on the website of Jew Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality [JONAH], explained:
“The problem of individuals who express an inclination towards a particular form of physical relationship in which the libidinal gratification is sought with members of one’s own gender… [is that] in a normal relationship the results that follow bring forth children and create a new generation, which goes on to bring future generations, to the end of time. The abnormal trait brings no positive results and no offspring… Both in the case of men who have these relations, and in the case of women, they know that this tendency is not normal…
Those who feel that this form of conduct is permissible and continue to practice this deviation, will in the end see that it brings excessive, abnormal weakness, and the most horrible diseases and maladies, as we are presently beginning to discover… This trait when practiced is very much more devastating because it destroys, destroys the body and the soul… We are not dealing with the inalienable American, or human, right of freedom of choice; we are not dealing with the innate and sacred, democratic right of free will; we are dealing with an issue of abnormality. In simple language: a sickness! And just because the patient proclaims that he is normal does not make the malady any less dangerous.”Mar. 1986
Naomi Grossman, freelance journalist, stated in her Apr. 2001 article “The Gay Orthodox Underground” in Moment Magazine:
“The Torah strictly forbids homosexual sex, and rabbis have consistently upheld that prohibition through the ages… The prohibition against homosexual sex comes from Leviticus: ‘Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abhorrence’ (18:22). In biblical times, the punishment for violating that code was clear. ‘If a man lies with a male as one lies with a woman, the two of them have done an abhorrent thing; they shall be put to death -— their bloodguilt is upon them’ (Leviticus 20:13). The Talmud extends the prohibition to lesbian sex [Hilchot Issurei Bi’ah 21:8].”Apr. 2001