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Do Homosexuals Fit into the Jewish Community?

Do Homosexuals Fit into the Jewish Community?



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


You ask about feelings and law. But feelings do not fall within the domain of law. A person feels what a person feels. Then he has the power to decide whether he will act upon those feelings or… not. This is the human experience: desire, longing, wanting…and the law. Part of our development from childhood to adulthood is creating for ourselves a moral compass. Something that's internal. That which tells us right from wrong. And that moral compass is comprised of myriad components, but must be firmly grounded, always, in a system of 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’s Ask the Rabbi service, lives with her ten children in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
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Discussion (138)
January 27, 2015
Post-modern crisis
very well written although it does not take into account that as much as yes one should be involving Torah in his life, today we live in 2015, where society has evolved in many ways and new ideas of modernity are in place. It has officially been proven that homosexuality is no longer a choice. with that being said; is it fair for that person to want to live a life of Torah and still be gay? how can one reconcile the two? would this man be permitted to recite blessings- why or why not? And what if he has the potential to become a rabbi, would he be rejected simply because of his sexual status?
January 1, 2015
the idea that lgbtq people should want to have anything to do with anyone who upholds old laws in this case (but not in others- how many have us seen someone who blasts homosexuality but isn't kosher or anything else that would cause them personal discomfort) is ridiculous. i saw a post on here saying gay people don't want to be friends with that person because they uphold the law- your gay friends don't need to know that unless you've specifically said that, which, by the way, telling someone you think they're an abomination who should be put to death isn't a way to "get along" with everyone.
October 30, 2014
Wisdom of Parsha LECH LECHA
Absolutely amazing that we are still here today--- studying, examining, disputing, wrestling and dancing with our traditional texts. All because Abraham and Sarah---whose tent was open on all sides to welcome ALL of humanity----left the land of selfish egos, the birthplace of galut meshugas, the flawed rational thinking of the father's house---and went towards 'themselves'. May we all follow in the footsteps of Abraham and Sarah---who went towards the promise of their true inner souls---despite the dominant and rationally held beliefs of their day.
Bruce Bierman
Berkeley, CA
October 7, 2014
This article and comments have made me shed tears
I came across this site purely by accident as I received a new year greeting that I did not understand and had to look up. I am 49 years old, Jewish male, single most of my life and struggle to commit to any sort of homosexual relationship and refuse to have a heterosexual relationship by lying to a female about who I am what my desires are. I believe Torah and bible speaks to us from a frame of reference as a survival guide given to us by G_d. We have evolved as a people and much of the bible, as I believe, refers to health issues, pleasing G_d as well, but really deeply we've been told how to survive on this planet and carry on the race. Remember this, everything said is a man's interpretation of what G_d told us to put in the scripture. Only G_d know what G_d expects and as man we can do our best to adhere while not condemning others. I have known since I was six years old that I was to be with another man then I ask why would G_d do this to a child if it was an abomination?
Mount Dora FL
September 17, 2014
All of HaShem's Creations Contribute Something and Fit In Perfectly
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi compares the larger Jewish Family to the various organs and limbs of a body. Although different in size, shape and function---the heart, the liver, the lungs, the kidneys, the mind---all complement, serve and fulfill all the others. So, too, the Jewish people: the simple "wood-hewer" or "water-carrier", Jews who are LGBT, straight, orthodox, reformed, renewal, humanistic, Sephardic, Ashkenaz, Mizrachi-----all contribute something to each and every one of his fellow Jews.
Bruce Bierman
Berkeley, CA
September 14, 2014
Daniel shears
August 10, 2014
Re: Anonymous
If you look at the verse in context, you will see that the whole chapter is discussing relationships, not the issue of cleanness before entering the Temple.
Yehuda Shurpin for
August 8, 2014
correct me if i'm wrong, but i'm to understand that the laws stated in Leviticus in regards to "laying with a man as with a woman" refers to properly cleansing oneself before entering the temple, rather than a broad condemnation of the acts. essentially, i read the passage as instructing us to cleanse ourselves whether we've laid with a man or a woman, because it is disrespectful/sinful to bring uncleanliness to the temple (or into our spiritual lives). just my two cents...
July 1, 2014
Balak, Curses and Blessings.........
In almost every age and place, those on the margins of the mainstream have experienced their own Balaks ---leaders terrified that the 'other', the 'stranger', will contaminate and upset the status quo of their pure society. These 'Balaks' summon up false propaganda and incite hateful curses meant to spiritually weaken their 'enemy'. How miraculous it is then, when hateful curses turn into loving blessings! Last Sunday, Rosh Chodesh and the first of Tammuz---I smashed the glass under the chuppah with my Beshert of 20 years. Underneath the chuppah with us was a dear friend, who at one time, berated marriage equality as a right that would destroy the institution of marriage. Over the years she saw how good and pleasant our relationship is. How good our home, made sweet with Torah study is. She became one of our 7 blessers--and her loving blessing for us was a true miracle of Transformation! May all our curses be turned into blessings speedily and today!
Bruce Bierman
Berkeley, CA
June 10, 2014
The Five Daughters of Zelochphad
If the nature of Hashem's world is ever evolving, developing and refining as the planet is constantly evolving, as humans are forever developing---cannot laws (which do more harm than good) evolve over time as well? At one time not too long ago, it was absurd to think that women should ever be given the right to vote. At another time in ancient days, a father's inheritance and property were only passed down to sons. The daughters of Zelochphad changed that. They stood up and came before Moses and the assembly and argued the case that if a father dies without sons, the inheritance should go to his daughters. Hashem agreed immediately and inheritance laws were changed. Who was Zelochphad? Rabbis say he might have been the stick gatherer who was stoned for working on Shabbas. Those who had no voice in days of old, can now stand up and tell their story--and plead for justice where there was none before.
Bruce Bierman
Berkeley, CA
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