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Do Homosexuals Fit into the Jewish Community?

Do Homosexuals Fit into the Jewish Community?

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Question:

According to Jewish law, how should a person react to homosexual feelings? Do homosexuals fit into the Jewish community?

Answer:

You ask about feelings and law. But feelings do not fall within the domain of law. A person feels what a person feels. Then he has the power to decide whether he will act upon those feelings or… not. This is the human experience: desire, longing, wanting…and the law. Part of our development from childhood to adulthood is creating for ourselves a moral compass. Something that's internal. That which tells us right from wrong. And that moral compass is comprised of myriad components, but must be firmly grounded, always, in a system of values.

For Jews, the all-encompassing system is Torah law. Torah law governs every single part of living. And from the body of Torah law emerges a system of values - general, societal and personal. Sometimes, it's easy; we feel an affinity, for example, to the laws of tzedaka, or we feel a strong connection to the laws of Shabbat or brit milah. And sometimes, we feel something quite the opposite - we feel estranged or disconnected or personally deeply at odds with a law.

We feel what we feel. Some feelings we can change, and some we can't. Sometimes what we feel is subject to modification, and sometimes it's not. Totally and unequivocally not. And yet, the law is absolute.

As much as we know about human sexuality, we don't yet know enough. We're all, as individuals and as a society, still learning. In the last half century, we've come a long way in our understanding of human sexuality, and in redefining a cultural moral code. Some of what we've come to accept as a society is long, long overdue. And some of what we've come to accept undermines the very dignity of human sexuality. But, we're learning.

We do know this, though: we know that among other sexual behaviours, Torah law expressly forbids the specific act of male homosexuality.

And we do know this: Torah law forbids bigotry; homophobia is prohibited.

And we do know this: too many Jewish girls and boys, Jewish women and men, have suffered too much for too long. And we know that most of that suffering is caused by the environment around them. We do know this: when we become judges of another person, we behave contrary to Torah law.

And we do know this: A Jew belongs in a Jewish environment. Each of us, struggling or not, needs to be in a truly Torah-observant environment. And each of us is responsible for that environment - each of us is responsible for what we bring to that environment. When we bring ignorance, or cruelty or self-righteous judgment of others, we contribute to the sullying of a true Torah environment. When we bring the most ideal principles of ahavat Yisrael, respect for every individual, recognition of each individual's personal relationship with G‑d...when we bring the best of our humanity, as expected by Torah ideals, we contribute to a Torah environment that is healthy and wholesome.

Or perhaps your question is in regard to how we should react to the homosexual feelings of others? Or how we should react to someone who eats on Yom Kippur? Or someone who longs for the relationship with a man other than her husband? On this, the classic work known as the Tanya provides strong advice: Consider what it means to have such burning passions for forbidden fruit. Consider the day to day fierce and relentless battle demanded to conquer such passions. And then ask yourself, "Do I ever fight such a battle on my own ground?"

The Tanya continues to illustrate the many areas in which all of us can improve by waging at least a small battle on our own ground.

On your question concerning community: A Jew belongs within a Jewish community. There are no application forms and no qualification requirements. He's Jewish—that's where he belongs. Period. We all have our challenges, our shortcomings, our feelings...and our failures in battle as well...and with all that, we are a community of Jews.

Mrs. Bronya Shaffer is a noted globetrotting lecturer on Jewish women's issues, and serves as a personal counselor and mentor for women, couples and adolescents. Mrs. Shaffer, a responder for Chabad.org’s Ask the Rabbi service, lives with her ten children in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
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Discussion (127)
March 22, 2014
Wisdom inspired from Parsha Shemini
Every created thing possesses a spark of Divine Energy. Although it might sometimes be hidden ---our work is to extract that good and unleash it's Goodness.and full potential. This takes time, compassion, putting yourself in the shoes of the 'stranger'. Tear off the husks and kelipot of outward appearances and superficial categories that divide humans into 'us', 'them', 'gay', 'straight', 'jew', or 'goy'. Discover the Spark of Divine inherent in each human being amongst the dazzling banquet of unique varieties in which we were created.
Bruce Bierman
Berkeley, CA
March 15, 2014
This isn't the problem
The post may have meaning to some people, but the reality that I see and encounter is basically the opposite. I do in fact respect, like, and want to have relations with gay persons, but, they do not reciprocate. As long as I hold to scripture, they simply cannot take that I have a different opinion on something. I differ in a view of life, and they are the ones that break any kind of chance to "get along" in a group. This is not addressed, at least in an obvious way. They also have a responsibility to respect me and anyone else in life who has a different view on something from them. We live in a world of bullies and babies, it seems to me, and the bullies and babies are being coddled (I am NOT saying all gays are these people - I'm referring to the offenders only). [PS - I'm glad to have found this informative site]
Vicki
S Cal
March 13, 2014
Gut Yontif! Chag Samaach! Happy Purim All! Time to gather all your sweetness and goodness and dole it out to others who might be lacking. Time to have a good listen to the whole Megilleh: the story of how a Queen saved the day! Time to get so divinely high, you can't tell the difference anymore between good and bad, right and wrong, male or female, gay or straight, Jewish or goy. All becomes One. Happy Purim!
Bruce Bierman
Berkeley, CA
March 9, 2014
Dear Billy Price, Cincinnati, Ohio:

If G-d's word is so clear, then let's do away with the Talmud and all other commentary.

The reality is that today, no one knows what was actually forbidden by the prohibition, because it is not phrased as a prohibition , but as a regulation. If the words which we translate as "As with a woman" and been omitted and instead the Hebrew of equivalent forbidding one man "knowing" another man, the verse might be clearer. However, that is not what the Torah says. We do know that few centuries before the Common Era. Jewish tradition was concerned about effeminacy as a sign of weakness which we also see reflected in Roman society. Hence some people made fun of Julius Cesar (100 BCE - 44 BCE) because he was an alleged bottom, which many cultures find "being like a woman."

Earlier including the time of Jacob and the El, true leaders were expected to have sexual relations with men. This tradition came from the East where we originated, i.e. Ur.
Rick Abrams
Beverly Hills
March 8, 2014
To Rick Abrams,
To lie with a man as you would lie with a woman is specifically forbidden in the Torah, period. Do you feel the same way about beastiality also? The context is simple, it is any sexual behavior between the same sex, as it would be with any beast, no specific act required. Your line of questioning may work in a human courtroom, dealing with laws whose authors are mere men, but this is the Law of Almighty G-d, his intent is perfectly clear, as noted by all of the history of the Jews. Starting in about 300 B.C., the Hebrew Scriptures began to be translated into the language of Greek, the Septuagint, further cementing into place a time capsule of human language that used the Greek words that referred to the Levitical law against man on man sex as forbidden by G-d, letting us know specifically that all such behavior was forbidden, and it's interpretation as understood by those Jews was exact. Did G-d really say that? Sounds like a lie spoken by a serpent, in a certain tree!
Billy Price
Cincinnati, Ohio
March 7, 2014
Shabbat Shalom!
Gut Shabbas dear 'Do Homosexuals Fit into the Jewish Community'.....community.

Peace, shalom.....

May you enjoy a nice L'chaim, a piece of fish, the light of all that is Good. And may you know, at least for this Shabbat....that you are perfect and Hashem's entire world is made perfect and there's nothing to fix today or work on or change about it. Have a good rest. We can wrestle with G-d's Big Mysteries again if we wish next week. Shalom Aleichem!!
Bruce Bierman
Berkeley, CA
March 6, 2014
Specific Acts
Billy Price from Cincinnati, Ohio:

All legal systems require that when certain conduct is forbidden it must be spelled out in precise detail so that the people know what is and is not permitted. There is no Torah section which says all contact between males is forbidden. If you think so, then you are adding words to The Torah.

Since the claim has been made that it is only specific acts which are forbidden, people need to know what acts and exactly which section of the Torah forbids them. To use American legal parlance, without specificity the prohibition is unconstitutionally vague. If you cannot identify it and show where it is forbidden, then it is not forbidden
Rick Abrams
Beverly Hills
March 6, 2014
Ms Shaffer claims that the Torah only forbids "a specific act", the fact is that the "act" is any sexual contact with the same sex! There is no need to condemn the "same" heterosexual act, because those acts between a married, heterosexual is allowed! This is apparent in the thinking and context throughout the Torah, and is never contradicted by any scripture. The truth is that many modern Jews are not the same as the Jews throughout scripture, because to some of your modern thinking, there is no behavior that would exclude you permanently from your position of Jewishness. G-d himself destroyed Jews who willingly disobeyed his commands, when did G-d change? And if he has changed, then EVERYTHING is up for debate! No, the only way to understand scripture is to understand it as originally given, to claim differently is to serve a different G-d. Serving THIS G-d requires all Jews to bend at the waist in worship and submit their will to G-d!
Billy Price
Cincinnati, Ohio
March 6, 2014
To Bruce Bierman, Berkeley, CA,
I would agree that the great love of those who paid a great price to bring the Word of G-d to us by the exacting study of every punctuation, letter, and word of Torah, is respect, not everyone does so. Torah was given to reveal the character of G-d to us, not to cause debate about what G-d meant. This has been the great sorrow the Jewish people have had to experience, as the prophet Isaiah said ........all we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned each one to his own way..." G-d is not speaking contradiction, he is declaring truth. If the Jewish people in America, alone, decided that abortion was murder, which it is, there would be no abortion upheld by the Democratic Party, so please don't tell me that justice is pursued for every single human life! It is not about relevancy, that Torah speaks, but from the mouth of G-d himself, so don't wrestle, give up and accept what G-d said, for G-d does not change, read the prophet Malachi.
Billy Price
Cincinnati, Ohio
March 5, 2014
And those specific acts are?
Dear Bronya Shaffer,

As we have communicated previously, please identify the specific acts and where they are forbidden.

Since you refer to specific acts, then it should be easy to identify them and where the Torah forbids each act.
Rick Abrams
Beverly Hills
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