How does the way you understand and interact with your gender affect your connection to god and spirituality?

תנו רבנן שלשה שותפין יש באדם הקב"ה ואביו ואמו אביו מזריע הלובן שממנו עצמות וגידים וצפרנים ומוח שבראשו ולובן שבעין אמו מזרעת אודם שממנו עור ובשר ושערות ושחור שבעין והקב"ה נותן בו רוח ונשמה וקלסתר פנים וראיית העין ושמיעת האוזן ודבור פה והלוך רגלים ובינה והשכל

§ The Sages taught: There are three partners in the creation of a person: The Holy One, Blessed be He, and his father, and his mother. His father emits the white seed, from which the following body parts are formed: The bones, the sinews, the nails, the brain that is in its head, and the white of the eye. His mother emits red seed, from which are formed the skin, the flesh, the hair, and the black of the eye. And the Holy One, Blessed be He, inserts into him a spirit, a soul, his countenance [ukelaster], eyesight, hearing of the ear, the capability of speech of the mouth, the capability of walking with the legs, understanding, and wisdom.

How does the way in which others perceive and interact with your gender affect you?

ואמר רבי אלעזר למה ולד דומה במעי אמו לאגוז מונח בספל של מים אדם נותן אצבעו עליו שוקע לכאן ולכאן
And Rabbi Elazar says: To what is a fetus in its mother’s womb comparable? It is comparable to a nut placed in a basin full of water, floating on top of the water. If a person puts his finger on top of the nut, it sinks either in this direction or in that direction.

What role does gender play in a community?

לְלַמְּדוֹ תּוֹרָה מְנָלַן דִּכְתִיב וְלִמַּדְתֶּם אֹתָם אֶת בְּנֵיכֶם וְהֵיכָא דְּלָא אַגְמְרֵיהּ אֲבוּהּ מִיחַיַּיב אִיהוּ לְמִיגְמַר נַפְשֵׁיהּ דִּכְתִיב וְלִמַּדְתֶּם אִיהִי מְנָלַן דְּלָא מִיחַיְּיבָא דִּכְתִיב וְלִימַּדְתֶּם וְלִמַּדְתֶּם כֹּל שֶׁמְּצֻוֶּוה לִלְמוֹד מְצֻוֶּוה לְלַמֵּד וְכֹל שֶׁאֵינוֹ מְצֻוֶּוה לִלְמוֹד אֵינוֹ מְצֻוֶּוה לְלַמֵּד וְאִיהִי מְנָלַן דְּלָא מִיחַיְּיבָה לְמֵילַף נַפְשַׁהּ דִּכְתִיב וְלִימַּדְתֶּם וּלְמַדְתֶּם כֹּל שֶׁאֲחֵרִים מְצֻוִּוין לְלַמְּדוֹ מְצֻוֶּוה לְלַמֵּד אֶת עַצְמוֹ וְכֹל שֶׁאֵין אֲחֵרִים מְצֻוִּוין לְלַמְּדוֹ אֵין מְצֻוֶּוה לְלַמֵּד אֶת עַצְמוֹ וּמִנַּיִן שֶׁאֵין אֲחֵרִים מְצֻוִּוין לְלַמְּדָהּ דְּאָמַר קְרָא וְלִמַּדְתֶּם אֹתָם אֶת בְּנֵיכֶם אֶת בְּנֵיכֶם וְלֹא בְּנוֹתֵיכֶם

A father is obligated to teach his son Torah. The Gemara asks: From where do we derive this requirement? As it is written: “And you shall teach them [velimadtem] to your sons” (Deuteronomy 11:19).

And in a case where his father did not teach him he is obligated to teach himself, as it is written, i.e., the verse can be read with a different vocalization: And you shall study [ulmadtem].

From where do we derive that a woman is not obligated to teach her son Torah? As it is written: “And you shall teach [velimadtem],” which can be read as: And you shall study [ulmadtem]. This indicates that whoever is commanded to study Torah is commanded to teach, and whoever is not commanded to study is not commanded to teach. Since a woman is not obligated to learn Torah, she is likewise not obligated to teach it.

The Gemara asks: And from where do we derive that she is not obligated to teach herself? The Gemara answers: As it is written: “And you shall teach [velimadtem],” which can be read as: And you shall study [ulmadtem], which indicates that whoever others are commanded to teach is commanded to teach himself, and whoever others are not commanded to teach is not commanded to teach himself.

And from where is it derived that others are not commanded to teach a woman? As the verse states: “And you shall teach them to your sons” (Deuteronomy 11:19), which emphasizes: Your sons and not your daughters.

כָּל מִצְוֹת הַבֵּן עַל הָאָב, אֲנָשִׁים חַיָּבִין וְנָשִׁים פְּטוּרוֹת. וְכָל מִצְוֹת הָאָב עַל הַבֵּן, אֶחָד אֲנָשִׁים וְאֶחָד נָשִׁים חַיָּבִין. וְכָל מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה שֶׁהַזְּמָן גְּרָמָהּ, אֲנָשִׁים חַיָּבִין וְנָשִׁים פְּטוּרוֹת. וְכָל מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה שֶׁלֹּא הַזְּמָן גְּרָמָהּ, אֶחָד אֲנָשִׁים וְאֶחָד נָשִׁים חַיָּבִין. וְכָל מִצְוַת לֹא תַעֲשֶׂה, בֵּין שֶׁהַזְּמָן גְּרָמָהּ בֵּין שֶׁלֹּא הַזְּמָן גְּרָמָהּ, אֶחָד אֲנָשִׁים וְאֶחָד נָשִׁים חַיָּבִין, חוּץ מִבַּל תַּשְׁחִית וּבַל תַּקִּיף וּבַל תִּטַּמָּא לְמֵתִים:
With regard to all mitzvot of a son with regard to his father, men are obligated to perform them and women are exempt. And with regard to all mitzvot of a father with regard to his son, both men and women are obligated to perform them. The mishna notes an additional difference between the obligations of men and women in the performance of mitzvot: With regard to all positive, time-bound mitzvot, i.e., those which must be performed at specific times, men are obligated to perform them and women are exempt. And with regard to all positive mitzvot that are not time bound, both men and women are obligated to perform them. And with regard to all prohibitions, whether they are time-bound or whether they are not time-bound, both men and women are obligated to observe them, except for the prohibitions of: Do not round the corners of your head, and: Do not destroy the corners of your beard, which are derived from the verse: “You shall not round the corners of your head and you shall not destroy the corners of your beard” (Leviticus 19:27), and a prohibition that concerns only priests: Do not contract ritual impurity from a corpse (see Leviticus 21:1). These mitzvot apply only to men, not women, despite the fact that they are prohibitions.

What role does sexuality play the way that we understand gender?

אמר אביי ורובייהו משתכחי בבי כנישתא דתותי אפתא והיינו דכתיב (זכריה יא, יב) ואומר אליהם אם טוב בעיניכם הבו שכרי ואם לא חדלו וישקלו את שכרי שלשים כסף רבי יהודה אומר אלו שלשים צדיקי אומות העולם שאומות העולם מתקיימים עליהם עולא אמר אלו שלשים מצות שקבלו עליהם בני נח ואין מקיימין אלא שלשה אחת שאין כותבין כתובה לזכרים ואחת שאין שוקלין בשר המת במקולין ואחת שמכבדין את התורה:

Rabbi Yehuda says: These are the thirty righteous individuals among the [non-jewish] nations of the world, in whose merit the nations of the world continue to exist. Ulla says: These are the thirty mitzvot that the descendants of Noah initially accepted upon themselves; but they fulfill only three of them. One of these three mitzvot is that they do not write a marriage contract for a wedding between two males; although they violate the prohibition against engaging in homosexuality, they are not so brazen as to write a marriage contract as for a regular marriage.

וַאֲפִילּוּ לְרַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר דְּאָמַר פָּנוּי הַבָּא עַל הַפְּנוּיָה שֶׁלֹּא לְשֵׁם אִישׁוּת עֲשָׂאָהּ זוֹנָה הָנֵי מִילֵּי אִישׁ אֲבָל אִשָּׁה פְּרִיצוּתָא בְּעָלְמָא
And even according to the opinion of Rabbi Elazar, who said that an unmarried man who has intercourse with an unmarried woman not for the sake of marriage renders her a zona, a woman who has had sexual relations with a man forbidden to her by the Torah, this applies only to intercourse with a man, but lewd behavior with another woman is mere licentiousness that does not render her a zona, and therefore she is still permitted to marry into the priesthood.

What responsibility, if any, does religious community hold to govern or direct those who do not conform to traditional gender roles?

How do we create an inclusive community from a religious tradition that has not always been inclusive?

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: כֵּיצַד שָׁוֶה לַאֲנָשִׁים: מְטַמֵּא בְּלֹבֶן כַּאֲנָשִׁים, וְזוֹקֵק לְיִבּוּם כַּאֲנָשִׁים, וּמִתְעַטֵּף וּמִסְתַּפֵּר כַּאֲנָשִׁים, וְנוֹשֵׂא אֲבָל לֹא נִשָּׂא כַּאֲנָשִׁים, וְחַיָּב בְּכָל מִצְוֹת הָאֲמוּרוֹת בַּתּוֹרָה כַּאֲנָשִׁים: כֵּיצַד שָׁוֶה לַנָּשִׁים: מְטַמֵּא בְּאֹדֶם כַּנָּשִׁים, וְאֵינוֹ מִתְיַחֵד עִם הָאֲנָשִׁים כַּנָּשִׁים, וְאֵינוֹ עוֹבֵר עַל "בַּל תַּקִּיף" וְלֹא עַל "בַּל תַּשְׁחִית" וְלֹא עַל "בַּל תְּטַמֵּא לַמֵּתִים" כַּנָּשִׁים, וּפָסוּל מִן הָעֵדוּת כַּנָּשִׁים, וְאֵינוֹ נִבְעַל בַּעֲבֵירָה כַּנָּשִׁים, וְנִפְסַל מִן הַכְּהֻנָּה כַּנָּשִׁים: כֵּיצַד שָׁוֶה לַאֲנָשִׁים וְלַנָּשִׁים: חַיָּבִים עַל מַכָּתוֹ וְעַל קִלְלָתוֹ כַּאֲנָשִׁים וְכַנָּשִׁים, וְהַהוֹרְגוֹ שׁוֹגֵג גּוֹלֶה וּמֵזִיד נֶהֱרַג כַּאֲנָשִׁים וְנָשִׁים, וְיוֹשֶׁבֶת עָלָיו דָּם טָמֵא וְדָם טָהוֹר כַּאֲנָשִׁים וְכַנָּשִׁים, וְחוֹלֵק בְּקָדְשֵׁי קֳדָשִׁים כַּאֲנָשִׁים וְכַנָּשִׁים, וְנוֹחֵל לְכָל הַנְּחָלוֹת כַּאֲנָשִׁים וְכַנָּשִׁים, וְאִם אָמַר "הֲרֵינִי נָזִיר שֶׁזֶּה אִישׁ וְאִשָּׁה" הֲרֵי זֶה נָזִיר:

The [Androgynos ] 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. In what ways is he like men? He causes impurity with white discharge, like men; He dresses like men; He can take a wife but not be taken as a wife, like men...He is not maintained with the daughters, like men...And he must perform all the commandments of the Torah, like men.

And in what ways is he like women? He causes impurity with red discharge, like women; And he must not be secluded with men, like women...And he does not share [in the inheritance] with the sons, like women; And he cannot eat most holy sacrifices, like women...And he is disqualified from being a witness, like women.

In what ways is he like both men and women? One who strikes him or curses him is liable, as in the case of men and women; One who unwittingly kills him must go into exile, and if on purpose, then [the slayer] receives the death penalty, as in the case of men and women. His mother must [at his birth] bring an offering, as in the case of men and women. He may eat holy things that are eaten outside of the Temple; And he may inherit any inheritance, as in the case of men and women.

CCAR Responsa 5769.6: "Circumcision of a Transgender Female"

"The Rabbis, it seems, were aware that not every individual falls clearly within the established gender boundaries, and the category of androgynos served as a special designation encompassing those who straddle the lines. To put this another way, although the traditional Jewish world view presumes the existence of two genders and assigns many religious and ritual responsibilities accordingly, the Sages found a place for this person, who otherwise would not fit within their conceptual world. To us, the great message of these texts is the duty of inclusion: like the Rabbis, we, too, are obligated to find a place within our midst for the outsider, the Jew who does not seem to fit within the established boundaries and social categories upon which our communities are normally based."


The fact that we accept this person as a woman, however, does not necessarily answer our second question. The decision to waive the requirement for "milat gerim" assumes that gender identity, the person’s subjective sense of self, is the determining factor in this question. In our view, however, the objective fact of birth sex is the more compelling consideration. While the Biblical sources of this mitzvah (Genesis 17:10-11 and Leviticus 12:2-3) make it clear that only a male (zakhar) is to be circumcised, they describe the essence of that ritual as the removal of the foreskin (basar orlato). This individual, who possesses a foreskin, is therefore a member of that group of people who are subject to this ritual. Let us be clear: we accept this individual as a female because she presents herself as such and because we understand today – as few could possibly have imagined until very recently in human history – that one’s gender identity is not automatically determined by one’s birth sex. But the objective reality of her birth sex (which, as we have seen, is a very different thing from “gender identity”) does make her one of those who according to our tradition are to carry ot berit, the sign of the covenant of Abraham and of Sinai.[12] Had she undergone sex reassignment surgery prior to her conversion – in other words, had she altered that objective reality through surgical means to bring her sex in line with her gender identity – circumcision would obviously not have been required of her.[13] In the absence of that surgery, we are persuaded that the better response is to urge milah in cases such as this."

How do you understand the phrase "made in the image of god"?

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ וְיִרְדּוּ֩ בִדְגַ֨ת הַיָּ֜ם וּבְע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֗יִם וּבַבְּהֵמָה֙ וּבְכׇל־הָאָ֔רֶץ וּבְכׇל־הָרֶ֖מֶשׂ הָֽרֹמֵ֥שׂ עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃
And God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness. They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on earth.”

Arthur Green,"Ehyeh: A Kabbalah for Tomorrow," quoting Abraham Joshua Heschel:

"Why are we forbidden to make images of God? It is not because God is beyond all images, so that no image could possibly depict God. If that were the case, images would merely be harmless. God has and image, and that is you. You may not make the image of God because you are the image of God. The only medium in which you can make God's image is the medium of your entire life, and that is precisely what we are commanded to do. Everything you do, everything you say, each moment and the way you use it are all part of the way you build God's image. To take anything less than a full, living human being - like canvas or a piece of marble - and call it the image of God would be to diminish God, to lessen God's image."

וַאֲנִ֥י אַקְשֶׁ֖ה אֶת־לֵ֣ב פַּרְעֹ֑ה וְהִרְבֵּיתִ֧י אֶת־אֹתֹתַ֛י וְאֶת־מוֹפְתַ֖י בְּאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃
But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that I may multiply My signs and marvels in the land of Egypt.