• In what ways do ancient sources acknowledge non-binary gender?
  • How have modern sources leveraged ancient sources in expression of support and acceptance of LGBTQ community members?


אמר רבי ירמיה בן אלעזר בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁבָּרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן, אַנְדְּרוֹגִינוֹס בְּרָאוֹ... אָמַר רַבִּי שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר נַחְמָן, בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁבָּרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן, דְּיוּ פַּרְצוּפִים בְּרָאוֹ, וְנִסְּרוֹ וַעֲשָׂאוֹ גַּבִּים, גַּב לְכָאן וְגַב לְכָאן... רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר אָמַר, בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁבָּרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן גֹּלֶם בְּרָאוֹ, וְהָיָה מוּטָל מִסּוֹף הָעוֹלָם וְעַד סוֹפוֹ

Rabbi Jeremiah son of Elazar said, when God created the first human being, he was created as a hermaphrodite (wholly female and wholly male at the same time) … Rabbi Shmuel son of Nahman said that when God created the first human being, God created two faces and placed them back to back... Rabbi Elazar said, when God created the first human being, he was created as a genderless mass that stretched from one end of the universe to the other.


  • What is the difference between an entity being "wholly female and wholly male" vs. being "genderless?"
  • What can this text tell us about the relationship between male and female in Jewish tradition? What about gender and sex?

(א) אַנְדְּרוֹגִינוֹס יֵשׁ בּוֹ דְּרָכִים שָׁוֶה לַאֲנָשִׁים, וְיֵשׁ בּוֹ דְּרָכִים שָׁוֶה לַנָּשִׁים, וְיֵשׁ בּוֹ דְּרָכִים שָׁוֶה לַאֲנָשִׁים וְנָשִׁים, וְיֵשׁ בּוֹ דְּרָכִים אֵינוֹ שָׁוֶה לֹא לַאֲנָשִׁים וְלֹא לַנָּשִׁים:

... רַבִּי מֵאִיר אוֹמֵר: אַנְדְּרוֹגִינוֹס בְּרִיָּה בִּפְנֵי עַצְמָהּ הוּא וְלֹא יָכְלוּ חֲכָמִים לְהַכְרִיעַ עָלָיו אִם הוּא אִישׁ אוֹ אִשָּׁה. אֲבָל טֻמְטוּם אֵינוֹ כֵּן, פְּעָמִים שֶׁהוּא אִישׁ פְּעָמִים שֶׁהוּא אִשָּׁה:

The hermaphrodite is in some ways like men, and in other ways like women. In other ways he is like men and women, and in others he is like neither men nor women... Rabbi Meir says: the hermaphrodite is a unique creature, and the sages could not decide about him. But this is not so with a tumtum (one of doubtful sex), for sometimes he is a man and sometimes he is a woman.


  • What is a hermaphrodite?
  • This text gives us three different descriptions of the characteristics of a hermaphrodite, does one resonate with you more than others?

    (א) נָּשִׁים וַעֲבָדִים וּקְטַנִּים פְּטוּרִים מִן הַסֻּכָּה. טֻמְטוּם וְאַנְדְּרוֹגִינוּס חַיָּבִים מִסָּפֵק.

    Women, slaves and minors are exempt from the [commandment of dwelling in a] sukkah. The tumtum (one of undetermined sex) and the androgynus (one who has genitalia of both sexes) are obligated based on the doubt [about their sex].


    • In your understanding, what is the difference between a hermaphrodite and a tumtum? If you were using modern LGBTQQIIA language, what would you use for these?
    • What can these texts teach us about non-binary gender inclusion in the Jewish community?

    Challenges to Grapple With:

    • This Mishnah Torah text uses sex to determine who is obligated to perform the commandment of dwelling in a sukkah. Do you think that all adults should be obligated regardless of biological sex and gender expression? Why or why not?

    On Holiness [From Siddur Sha’ar Zahav]

    We are your gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender children:

    You must not seek vengeance, nor bear a grudge against the children of your people. (Leviticus19:18)

    We are your bi, trans, lesbian, and gay parents:

    Revere your mother and father, each one of you (Lev.19:3)

    We are elderly lesbians, bisexuals, gay men and transgender people:
    You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the old. (lev.19:32)

    We are the stranger:

    You must not oppress the stranger. You shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt (lev.19:34)

    We are lesbian, gay trans and bi Jews:

    You must not hate your brother or sister in your heart (Lev.19:17)

    We are lesbian, gay, trans, and bi victims of gay-bashing and murder:

    You may not stand idly when your neighbor’s blood is being shed (Lev.19:16)

    We are your bi, gay, trans, and lesbian neighbors:

    You must not oppress your neighbor (Lev.19:13)

    You must judge your neighbor justly (Lev.19:15)

    You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself (Lev.19:18)

    "Blessing for Pride" by Rabbi Joshua Zlochower, Rabbi Erica Steelman and Dr. Gloria Becker

    This prayer was created to encourage and empower synagogues and organizations to incorporate LGBTIQ Pride into their synagogue celebrations on Shabbat.

    Mekor HaChayim, Source of Life, You have blessed each of us with Your Spirit. In Your Wisdom, you have made each of us a unique treasure. M’ayan Chayeinu, Wellspring of our Lives, cause us to flow with courage, strength, and compassion to live our stories openly, proudly, and joyfully.

    Shekhina shel Ahavah, Presence of Love, You embrace us with Your Love. May we embrace ourselves, our partners, our lovers, our friends, our children, our dear ones with the power of Your Ahavah Rabbah, Your Unending, Boundless Love.

    Ru’ach HaShalom, Spirit of Peace and Wholeness, open our eyes to the gifts and blessings we offer and receive from each other; open our hearts to welcome each other fully and truly; open our hands to embrace, to support, to lift each other b’geela, b’reena, b’shalom, uv’rei-ut—with joy, with song, with peace, and with deep friendship.

    Today, [on this Shabbat], as we celebrate renewal, Pride, and community, let us walk together with strength, compassion, and love.

    (נְבָרֵךְ אֶת מַעְיַן חַיֵּינוּ תְּקַדֵּשׁ וּתְשַׂמֵּחַ אוֹתָנוּ (וְאֶת הֲשַׁבַּת

    N’varech et Ma’a-yan Chayeinu, T’kadesh u’T’Sa’me’ach Otanu [V’et HaShabbat]. Amen.

    We bless You, Wellspring of our Lives; May You fill us [and Shabbat] with joy and sanctity. Amen.


    • Going stanza by stanza in the prayer from Siddur Sha’ar Zahav, make a connection (give examples of, explain) between the ancient text quote and the modern application.
    • In the Blessing for Pride, highlight all the names/expressions of God that are mentioned (in transliteration and English). How are each of these four names similar to each other and different from each other in metaphor and in practical application?
    • How do each of these names relate to the affirmation or request that follows it?
    • How does including different names for God elevate this blessing at it relates to Pride? (note: some of the names are feminine in Hebrew form and some are masculine).


    • Consider if you were going to write your own blessing or prayer request regardlng LGBTQ equality – what would you include?

    The following two texts from Leviticus have been used as the “proof-text” against LGBT equality and acceptance. Below each of the original texts, you will find an alternative interpretation.

    (כב) וְאֶ֨ת־זָכָ֔ר לֹ֥א תִשְׁכַּ֖ב מִשְׁכְּבֵ֣י אִשָּׁ֑ה תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה הִֽוא׃
    (22) Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abhorrence.

    Alternative interpretation of Leviticus 18:22 [sourced from Keshet]

    V’et zakhar – And along with another male

    lo tishkav – you shall not lie

    mishkevei ishah – in forced sexual intercourses with a woman;

    toevah hi – it is an abomination.

    (יג) וְאִ֗ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִשְׁכַּ֤ב אֶת־זָכָר֙ מִשְׁכְּבֵ֣י אִשָּׁ֔ה תּוֹעֵבָ֥ה עָשׂ֖וּ שְׁנֵיהֶ֑ם מ֥וֹת יוּמָ֖תוּ דְּמֵיהֶ֥ם בָּֽם׃
    (13) 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.

    Alternative interpretation of Leviticus 20:13 [sourced from Keshet]

    V’ish asher yishkav –Any man who shall lie

    et zakhar –along with another male

    mishk’vei ishah –in forced sexual intercourses with a woman

    to’evah `asu sh’neihem –both of them [the men] have done an abomination

    mot yumatu d’meihem bam –these [two men] shall surely die, their bloodguilt upon them.


    • In Leviticus 18:22, how are homosexual relationships between two men described?
    • In Leviticus 20:13, what is the punishment for sexual relationships between two men?
    • In the alternative interpretation of Leviticus 18:22, what act is an abomination?
    • In the alternative interpretation of Leviticus 20:13, who is responsible for the behavior(s)?

    Challenges to Grapple With:

    • Based on the original verses, should Judaism be open to LGBTQ people? Why or why not?
    • Do you think that an alternative interpretation of an historical text is acceptable practice? Why or why not?


    • Of the seven values listed, which resonates the most for you in terms of LGBTQ inclusion and rights?
    • How might each of these values play out individually in terms of philanthropy for LGBTQ organizations? In terms of LGBTQ equality advocacy?
    • Are there Jewish values that you are familiar with that you would add to this list?


      Keshet Resource and texts on LGBTQ identity and experience