Perspectives: Male Homosexuality in Torah

In Ancient Greece...

Male homosexual acts normally took place between an erastes (lover), a young man, ideally a bachelor, and an eromenos (beloved), a beardless, adolescent boy between the ages of twelve and eighteen. Both would belong to the elite. The erastes would court the eromenos with such things as hunting gifts and, if successful, consummate his desire through anal sex. As the boy turned to manhood in the period between the ages of eighteen and twenty the transitional period of life associated with service as an ephebe (a border-guard) he would himself cease to be a passive partner and pursue other boys in turn. Later on, by around the age of thirty, he would give up homosexual activity altogether in favor of marriage. The role of the erastes was one of dominance, the role of the eromenos one of subjection, and they participated in a zero-sum game of social advantage and disadvantage. As a result, the pursued boy was in a morally precarious situation, but he could retain his honor so long as he was extremely discriminating in his acceptance of a lover, took extravagant gifts for his favors but money on no account, and did not make any show of enjoying the anal sex. The lover would use his dominant position to give the boy valuable help, material or ethical, in becoming a full adult member of the community, as is reflected in Plato’s Symposium. So far as the Athenians were concerned, only an extremely deviant grown man would put himself in the role of the eromenos, and those who did, whether as prostitutes (as Timarchus was alleged to have been in a well-known speech of Aeschines) or as kinaidoi (men who simply enjoyed and sought to receive anal sex, were conceptualized as effeminate and reviled, and at Athens the former group was deprived of at least some citizen rights. (Gilbert, Conceptions of Homosexuality and Sodomy in Western History, p. 37-38 in A Cultural History of Sexuality Volume I In The Classical World editors Mark Golden, and Peter Toohey Editors)

In the Roman Empire:

By the end of the second century BCE a change in sexual mores was apparent....If a Roman wanted secure affection, respect and faithfulness, then he chose a wife. But if he wanted sexual passion, anguish and romantic ardour, he chose a youth. This now became a fashionable as well as socially acceptable practice and was celebrated in literature. (Homosexuality in History, p. 72, Spencer, C., 1995)

The Celts

Aristotle (In Politics) observed that the Celts esteemed love between men. Diodorus Siculus gave us a fuller picture: 'The men are much keener on their own sex; they lie around on animal skins and enjoy themselves, with a lover on each side. The extraordinary thing is they haven't the smallest regard for their personal dignity or self respect; they offer themselves to other men without the least compunction. Furthermore, this isn't looked down upon, or regarded as in any way disgraceful: on the contrary, if one of them is rejected by another to whom he has offered himself, he takes offence.

Homosexuality in History, p. 94

In all human societies, other than those under the influence of the Christian religion, it has been legitimate for males to have sexual relations with each other. There were two restrictions: that they also married and produced families and that the adult male was always the penetrator....In the ancient world there was no need for such a word as 'homosexuality' because the concept of it did not exist...but gradually, as the world neared 1700, a radical change took place; the idea crept in that all men who enjoyed same-sex experiences were both effeminate and criminal, and a homohobic society was born.

Homosexuality in History, Spencer, p.9-10.

  1. (ד) טֶרֶם֮ יִשְׁכָּבוּ֒ וְאַנְשֵׁ֨י הָעִ֜יר אַנְשֵׁ֤י סְדֹם֙ נָסַ֣בּוּ עַל־הַבַּ֔יִת מִנַּ֖עַר וְעַד־זָקֵ֑ן כָּל־הָעָ֖ם מִקָּצֶֽה׃ (ה) וַיִּקְרְא֤וּ אֶל־לוֹט֙ וַיֹּ֣אמְרוּ ל֔וֹ אַיֵּ֧ה הָאֲנָשִׁ֛ים אֲשֶׁר־בָּ֥אוּ אֵלֶ֖יךָ הַלָּ֑יְלָה הוֹצִיאֵ֣ם אֵלֵ֔ינוּ וְנֵדְעָ֖ה אֹתָֽם׃ (ו) וַיֵּצֵ֧א אֲלֵהֶ֛ם ל֖וֹט הַפֶּ֑תְחָה וְהַדֶּ֖לֶת סָגַ֥ר אַחֲרָֽיו׃ (ז) וַיֹּאמַ֑ר אַל־נָ֥א אַחַ֖י תָּרֵֽעוּ׃ (ח) הִנֵּה־נָ֨א לִ֜י שְׁתֵּ֣י בָנ֗וֹת אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹֽא־יָדְעוּ֙ אִ֔ישׁ אוֹצִֽיאָה־נָּ֤א אֶתְהֶן֙ אֲלֵיכֶ֔ם וַעֲשׂ֣וּ לָהֶ֔ן כַּטּ֖וֹב בְּעֵינֵיכֶ֑ם רַ֠ק לָֽאֲנָשִׁ֤ים הָאֵל֙ אַל־תַּעֲשׂ֣וּ דָבָ֔ר כִּֽי־עַל־כֵּ֥ן בָּ֖אוּ בְּצֵ֥ל קֹרָתִֽי׃ (ט) וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ ׀ גֶּשׁ־הָ֗לְאָה וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ֙ הָאֶחָ֤ד בָּֽא־לָגוּר֙ וַיִּשְׁפֹּ֣ט שָׁפ֔וֹט עַתָּ֕ה נָרַ֥ע לְךָ֖ מֵהֶ֑ם וַיִּפְצְר֨וּ בָאִ֤ישׁ בְּלוֹט֙ מְאֹ֔ד וַֽיִּגְּשׁ֖וּ לִשְׁבֹּ֥ר הַדָּֽלֶת׃

(4) But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both young and old, all the people from every quarter. (5) And they called unto Lot, and said unto him: ‘Where are the men that came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.’ (6) And Lot went out unto them to the door, and shut the door after him. (7) And he said: ‘I pray you, my brethren, do not so wickedly. (8) Behold now, I have two daughters that have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes; only unto these men do nothing; forasmuch as they are come under the shadow of my roof.’ (9) And they said: ‘Stand back.’ And they said: ‘This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs play the judge; now will we deal worse with thee, than with them.’ And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and drew near to break the door.

וְאֶת־זָכָר לֹא תִשְׁכַּב מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה תּוֹעֵבָה הִוא׃
Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abhorrence.
וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁכַּב אֶת־זָכָר מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה תּוֹעֵבָה עָשׂוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם מוֹת יוּמָתוּ דְּמֵיהֶם בָּם׃
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.
(יג) משכבי אשה ולא מעשה חידודין.

(13) משכבי אשה, intercourse, not fondling.

(יח) לֹא־תִהְיֶ֥ה קְדֵשָׁ֖ה מִבְּנ֣וֹת יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְלֹֽא־יִהְיֶ֥ה קָדֵ֖שׁ מִבְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵל׃

(18) No Israelite woman shall be a cult prostitute, nor shall any Israelite man be a cult prostitute.

(כד) וְגַם־קָדֵ֖שׁ הָיָ֣ה בָאָ֑רֶץ עָשׂ֗וּ כְּכֹל֙ הַתּוֹעֲבֹ֣ת הַגּוֹיִ֔ם אֲשֶׁר֙ הוֹרִ֣ישׁ יְהוָ֔ה מִפְּנֵ֖י בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ (פ)
(24) there were also male prostitutes in the land. [Judah] imitated all the abhorrent practices of the nations that the LORD had dispossessed before the Israelites.
גמ׳ מאי טעמא אילימא משום ינוקי והתניא אמרו לו לר' יהודה לא נחשדו ישראל על משכב זכור ולא על הבהמה אלא רווק משום אמהתא דינוקי אשה משום אבהתא דינוקי

GEMARA: What is the reason that a bachelor may not teach children? If we say it is due to the children themselves, that it is suspected that he may engage in homosexual intercourse with them, but isn’t it taught in a baraita (Tosefta 5:10): They said to Rabbi Yehuda: Jews are not suspected of engaging in homosexual intercourse nor of engaging in intercourse with an animal. Rather, the reason is as follows: A bachelor may not be a teacher of children due to the mothers of the children, who come to the school from time to time, with whom he might sin.

בזכור מהו - ...משום דזכור ובהמה לא חשיב ביאה דאין דרך ביאה בכך ולהכי בפרק ארבע מיתות (סנהדרין נד:) צריך אזהרה ועונש לשוכב ונשכב בזכור אע"ג דבעלמא לא בעי קרא לחייב האשה הנשכבת:

(יד) הַבָּא עַל הַזָּכָר אוֹ הֵבִיא זָכָר עָלָיו כֵּיוָן שֶׁהֶעֱרָה אִם הָיוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם גְּדוֹלִים נִסְקָלִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא יח כב) "וְאֶת זָכָר לֹא תִשְׁכָּב" בֵּין שֶׁהָיָה בּוֹעֵל אוֹ נִבְעָל.

(א) כָּל הַבָּא עַל עֶרְוָה מִן הָעֲרָיוֹת דֶּרֶךְ אֵיבָרִים אוֹ שֶׁחִבֵּק וְנִשֵּׁק דֶּרֶךְ תַּאֲוָה וְנֶהֱנָה בְּקֵרוּב בָּשָׂר הֲרֵי זֶה לוֹקֶה מִן הַתּוֹרָה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא יח ל) "לְבִלְתִּי עֲשׂוֹת מֵחֻקּוֹת הַתּוֹעֵבֹת" וְגוֹ'. וְנֶאֱמַר (ויקרא יח ו) "לֹא תִקְרְבוּ לְגַלּוֹת עֶרְוָה". כְּלוֹמַר לֹא תִּקְרְבוּ לִדְבָרִים הַמְּבִיאִין לִידֵי גִּלּוּי עֶרְוָה:

(1) Anyone who sleeps with one of the forbidden relationships "by way of limbs", or who hugs and kisses in a sexual way and takes pleasure in physical intimacy, receives lashes for a d'Oraisa transgression, as it says (Leviticus 18:30) "do not do any of these abominable customs etc" and it says (Leviticus 18:6) "do not approach to uncover nakedness", which is to say do not approach things which will bring you to transgressing Arayos.

מֵסִ֣יר אָ֭זְנוֹ מִשְּׁמֹ֣עַ תּוֹרָ֑ה גַּֽם־תְּ֝פִלָּת֗וֹ תּוֹעֵבָֽה׃
He who turns a deaf ear to instruction— His prayer is an abomination.

(כב) והזכיר תועבה היא. כי הוא דבר נתעב לנפש קדושה ...:

(22) It is an abomination [Hebrew: to‘eva] something which abhorred [Hebrew: nit‘av] by a refined spirit.

א"ל בר קפרא לרבי מאי (ויקרא כ, יג) תועבה כל דא"ל רבי דהכין הוא תועבה פרכה בר קפרא א"ל פרשיה את א"ל תיתי דביתכי תירמי לי נטלא אתת רמיא ליה א"ל לר' קום רקוד לי דאימר לך הכי אמר רחמנא תועבה תועה אתה בה
Bar Kappara said to Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi at the wedding: What is the meaning of the word to’eva, abomination, used by the Torah to describe homosexual intercourse (see Leviticus 18:22)? Whatever it was that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi said to bar Kappara in explanation, claiming that this is the meaning of to’eva, bar Kappara refuted it by proving otherwise. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi said to him: You explain it. Bar Kappara said to him: Let your wife come and pour me a goblet of wine. She came and poured him wine. Bar Kappara then said to Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi: Arise and dance for me, so that I will tell you the meaning of the word: This is what the Merciful One is saying in the Torah in the word to’eva: You are straying after it [to’e ata bah], i.e., after an atypical mate.

There does not seem to be, however, any reference in Torah literature to the phenomenon of 'homosexual orientation'. Consequently, there is no discussion in rabbinic writings about whether or not it is possible for a person to 'choose' or 'select' his sexual orientation. In the absence of any contrary teachings, it is reasonable to believe that a faithful Jew has no cause to reject the current appreciation of an exclusive homosexual orientation -- developed by nature or nurture -- as indicated by so much empirical, scientific and psychological evidence.

Judaism and Homosexuality, C. Rappaport, p.20

(יח) אֵין לְךָ דָּבָר בְּכָל הַתּוֹרָה כֻּלָּהּ שֶׁהוּא קָשֶׁה לְרֹב הָעָם לִפְרשׁ אֶלָּא מִן הָעֲרָיוֹת וְהַבִּיאוֹת הָאֲסוּרוֹת. אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁנִּצְטַוּוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל עַל הָעֲרָיוֹת בָּכוּ וְקִבְּלוּ מִצְוָה זוֹ בְּתַרְעוֹמוֹת וּבְכִיָּה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר יא י) "בֹּכֶה לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָיו" עַל עִסְקֵי מִשְׁפָּחוֹת:

(ד) אלו הן הנסקלין הבא על האם ועל אשת האב כו': הבא על הזכור ועל הבהמה והאשה המביאה כו':וכבר הזהירו חכמים הרבה על ההרהור והרחיקו מן הדברים המביאים אליו והאריכו לשון לאיים ולהפחיד (נדה יג:) כל המקשה עצמו לדעת והמוציא שכבת זרע לבטלה וביארו שכל זה אסור אבל אינם מחייבין מלקות בשום דבר מכיוצא בזה.

כל אלה הדברים המתועבים הבהמיים ומחזיקין אותו ברשעות ומרשיעין המתכונים לתכלית תענוגם כגון אלה הדברים לפי שנתבאר שתכלית התשמיש להעמיד המין לא לתענוג התשמיש בלבד והתענוג בזה הושם לעורר בעלי החיים על הכוונה הראשונה והוא הזרע והראיה הברורה על זה שתסור התאוה ויכרית התענוג ביציאת שכבת זרע לפי שלזה בלבד התנועעו הטבעים כי אם היה התענוג במשגל הוא הכונה היה מתמיד כל זמן שירצה האדם שיתענג ואין הדבר כן ולכן יכונו החסידים דרך כונת הטבע בלבד

(כז) לֵ֖ךְ אֱמֹ֣ר לָהֶ֑ם שׁ֥וּבוּ לָכֶ֖ם לְאָהֳלֵיכֶֽם׃
(27) Go, say to them, ‘Return to your tents.’
שובו לכם לאהליכם. לחיי בשרים ותענוגות בני האדם כטבע האנושי:

(א) עוֹנָּה הָאֲמוּרָה בַּתּוֹרָה. לְכָל אִישׁ וְאִישׁ כְּפִי כֹּחוֹ וּכְפִי מְלַאכְתּוֹ. כֵּיצַד. בְּנֵי אָדָם הַבְּרִיאִים וְהָרַכִּים וְהָעֲנֻגִּים שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם מְלָאכָה שֶׁמַּכְשֶׁלֶת כֹּחָן אֶלָּא אוֹכְלִין וְשׁוֹתִין וְיוֹשְׁבִין בְּבָתֵּיהֶן עוֹנָתָן בְּכָל לַיְלָה...

(ב) יֵשׁ לְאִשָּׁה לְעַכֵּב עַל בַּעְלָהּ שֶׁלֹּא יֵצֵא לִסְחוֹרָה אֶלָּא לְמָקוֹם קָרוֹב שֶׁלֹּא יִמָּנַע מֵעוֹנָתָהּ וְלֹא יֵצֵא אֶלָּא בִּרְשׁוּתָהּ. וְכֵן יֵשׁ לָהּ לְמָנְעוֹ לָצֵאת מִמְּלָאכָה שֶׁעוֹנָתָהּ קְרוֹבָה לִמְלָאכָה שֶׁעוֹנָתָהּ רְחוֹקָה.

(ז) אָסוּר לָאָדָם לִמְנֹעַ אִשְׁתּוֹ מֵעוֹנָתָהּ וְאִם עָבַר וּמָנַע כְּדֵי לְצַעֲרָהּ עָבַר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁבַּתּוֹרָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כא י) "שְׁאֵרָהּ כְּסוּתָהּ וְעֹנָתָהּ לֹא יִגְרָע". וְאִם חָלָה אוֹ תָּשַׁשׁ כֹּחוֹ וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִבְעל יַמְתִּין שִׁשָּׁה חֳדָשִׁים שֶׁמָּא יַבְרִיא שֶׁאֵין לְךָ עוֹנָה גְּדוֹלָה מִזּוֹ. וְאַחַר כָּךְ אוֹ יִטּל מִמֶּנָּה רְשׁוּת אוֹ יוֹצִיא וְיִתֵּן כְּתֻבָּה:

(יב) וְכֵן אָסְרוּ חֲכָמִים שֶׁלֹּא יְשַׁמֵּשׁ אָדָם מִטָּתוֹ וְלִבּוֹ מְחַשֵּׁב בְּאִשָּׁה אַחֶרֶת. וְלֹא יִבְעל מִתּוֹךְ שִׁכְרוּת וְלֹא מִתּוֹךְ מְרִיבָה וְלֹא מִתּוֹךְ שִׂנְאָה וְלֹא יָבוֹא עָלֶיהָ עַל כָּרְחָהּ וְהִיא יְרֵאָה מִמֶּנּוּ. וְלֹא כְּשֶׁיִּהְיֶה אֶחָד מֵהֶן מְנֻדֶּה. וְלֹא יָבוֹא עָלֶיהָ אַחַר שֶׁגָּמַר בְּלִבּוֹ לְגָרְשָׁהּ. וְאִם עָשָׂה כֵּן הַבָּנִים אֵינָן הֲגוּנִים אֶלָּא מֵהֶן עַזֵּי פָּנִים וּמֵהֶן מוֹרְדִים וּפוֹשְׁעִים:

(12) Similarly, the sages forbade a man to have marital relations while thinking of another woman. Nor may he initiate sex while drunk, nor out of spite or hatred, nor may he rape her or initiate sex while she is afraid. Nor may they have sex while either of them are excommunicated nor after he has decided to divorce her. If [the husband] does any of those things, the children will not be proper [citizens] but brazen, rebellious [people] and criminals.

(ד) משרשי המצוה. לפי שהשם ברוך הוא חפץ בישוב עולמו אשר ברא ולכן ציוה לבל ישחיתו זרעם במשכבי הזכרים, כי הוא באמת השחתה שאין בדבר תועלת פרי .

The root of the precept lies in the reason that God desires the settlement of the world that God has created. Therefore, God commanded that human seed shall not be destroyed by being wasted between males - for there can be no children produced.

(א) וַיְהִ֗י כְּכַלֹּתוֹ֙ לְדַבֵּ֣ר אֶל־שָׁא֔וּל וְנֶ֙פֶשׁ֙ יְה֣וֹנָתָ֔ן נִקְשְׁרָ֖ה בְּנֶ֣פֶשׁ דָּוִ֑ד ויאהבו [וַיֶּאֱהָבֵ֥הוּ] יְהוֹנָתָ֖ן כְּנַפְשֽׁוֹ׃ (ב) וַיִּקָּחֵ֥הוּ שָׁא֖וּל בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֑וּא וְלֹ֣א נְתָנ֔וֹ לָשׁ֖וּב בֵּ֥ית אָבִֽיו׃ (ג) וַיִּכְרֹ֧ת יְהוֹנָתָ֛ן וְדָוִ֖ד בְּרִ֑ית בְּאַהֲבָת֥וֹ אֹת֖וֹ כְּנַפְשֽׁוֹ׃ (ד) וַיִּתְפַּשֵּׁ֣ט יְהוֹנָתָ֗ן אֶֽת־הַמְּעִיל֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָלָ֔יו וַֽיִּתְּנֵ֖הוּ לְדָוִ֑ד וּמַדָּ֕יו וְעַד־חַרְבּ֥וֹ וְעַד־קַשְׁתּ֖וֹ וְעַד־חֲגֹרֽוֹ׃
(1) And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. (2) And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father’s house. (3) Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. (4) And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his apparel, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.
(א) ויאהבהו יהונתן כנפשו, רצה לומר שלא היתה אהבת הערב או המועיל רק אהבה עצמיית שיאהב הטוב את הטוב והיתה האהבה כנפשו שהיא האהבה העזה שאין למעלה ממנה :
צַר־לִ֣י עָלֶ֗יךָ אָחִי֙ יְה֣וֹנָתָ֔ן נָעַ֥מְתָּ לִּ֖י מְאֹ֑ד נִפְלְאַ֤תָה אַהֲבָֽתְךָ֙ לִ֔י מֵאַהֲבַ֖ת נָשִֽׁים׃
I grieve for you, My brother Jonathan, You were most dear to me. Your love was wonderful to me More than the love of women.
(כו) נפלאתה. ענינו דבר אשר תקשה השגתו ותמוה, כמו (שמות טו יא): עשה פלא:

(טז) כָּל אַהֲבָה שֶׁהִיא תְלוּיָה בְדָבָר, בָּטֵל דָּבָר, בְּטֵלָה אַהֲבָה. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ תְּלוּיָה בְדָבָר, אֵינָהּ בְּטֵלָה לְעוֹלָם. אֵיזוֹ הִיא אַהֲבָה הַתְּלוּיָה בְדָבָר, זוֹ אַהֲבַת אַמְנוֹן וְתָמָר. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ תְּלוּיָה בְדָבָר, זוֹ אַהֲבַת דָּוִד וִיהוֹנָתָן:

(16) Any love that is dependent on something, when that thing perishes, the love perishes. But [a love] that is not dependent on something, does not ever perish. What's [an example of] a love that is dependent on something? That's the love of Amnon and Tamar. And [a love] that is not dependent on something? That's the love of David and Jonathan.

שִׂנְאָה תְּעוֹרֵר מְדָנִים וְעַל כָּל־פְּשָׁעִים תְּכַסֶּה אַהֲבָה׃
Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers up all faults.
ואמר רבי יוחנן נהירנא כד הוו מטיילין טליא וטלייתא בשוקא כבר שית עשרה וכבר שב עשרה ולא הוו חטאן

Rabbi Yoḥanan said: I remember when a boy and girl, of sixteen and seventeen years of age, would walk together in the market, and they would not sin.

מטיילין - משחקין: טליא וטלייתא - נער ונערה:

The End of the 17th Century: Gender and Capitalism

The largely agricultural society, in which both men and women were labourers, gave way to a mercantile society, in which feudalism finally died to be replaced by the petit-bourgeoisie...Middle class people now redefined gender roles and the role of the family itself. They placed a high-premium on self-discipline, hard work and frugality, for class distinctions were now comparatively fluid and by these means a person could rise in the world to positions of power, wealth and authority...We had a new social structure in which everybody watches everybody else, eager to discover new styles and modes, the details of public display...publishers were booming, women's journals, stories and novels were being read and they all had one theme - romantic love. It now became fashionable to marry for love. Before, marriages had been planned by the parents and the suitability of partners was worked out strategically, for land property and class...Respectable society found this concept appealing, though it would have been horrified at the idea that romantic love might exist between people of the same sex.

Homosexuality in History, p.194-6

אבל מחשבות בורא עולם--אין כוח באדם להשיגם, כי לא דרכינו דרכיו ולא מחשבותינו מחשבותיו. וכל הדברים האלו של ישוע הנוצרי, ושל זה הישמעאלי שעמד אחריו--אינן אלא ליישר דרך למלך המשיח, ולתקן את העולם כולו לעבוד את ה' ביחד: שנאמר "כי אז אהפוך אל עמים, שפה ברורה, לקרוא כולם בשם ה', ולעובדו שכם אחד" (ראה צפניה ג,ט). ח כיצד: כבר נתמלא העולם כולו מדברי המשיח, ומדברי התורה ומדברי המצוות, ופשטו דברים אלו באיים רחוקים, ובעמים רבים ערלי לב; והם נושאים ונותנים בדברים אלו, ובמצוות התורה--אלו אומרים מצוות אלו אמת היו, וכבר בטלו בזמן הזה, ולא היו נוהגות לדורות. ואלו אומרים דברים נסתרות יש בהם, ואינן כפשוטן, וכבר בא משיח, וגילה נסתריהם. ט וכשיעמוד המלך המשיח באמת, ויצליח וירום ויינשא--מיד הם כולן חוזרין ויודעים ששקר נחלו אבותיהם, ושנביאיהם ואבותיהם הטעום.

But, the plans of the creator of the world--no person can understand them for our ways are not the same as His ways and our plans are not His plans. And all of these things about Jesus of Nazareth, and about that Ishmaelite who rose after him--they are only to make the path for the King Messiah straight, and to fix the whole world for worshipping God together, as it is said, "For I will give the peoples clear speech, for them all to call out the name of God, and to worship Him with one purpose (Zephaniah 3:9) How? The whole world is already filled with the words of the Messiah, and the words of the Torah, and the words of the Mitzvot, and these words have been spread on distant islands, and to many peoples of uncircumcised hearts, and they deal with these words, and with the mitzvot of the Torah--they say 'These mitzvot were true but they are already nullified in this time, they aren't applicable forever.' And they say, 'There are things hidden in them, and they're not just a simple meaning, and the Messiah already came and revealed their secrets.' And when the King Messiah rises for real, and he succeeds, and he is lifted up and exalted, they will immediately return and will know that their ancestors passed down lies to them and that their prophets and their ancestors made them do wrong.

The basic tools of history and cultural difference upend the biological determinism position on sexuality just as they do on race. If sexual identity is biologically determined, we should find evidence of what we today define as gay men or women in our past, as well as across different cultures. As we begin such an exploration, we see that ‘gayness’ – which I define as a permanent and self-defining same-sex attraction that constitutes a distinct social identity – is very rare. We certainly find countless examples of what I would call ‘queerness’ – or of sexual expression that does not fit what is today’s norm. This includes same-sex sex and even relationships, but also pederasty, polygamy, pan-sexuality, transgender and ‘third-gender’ expression, and many practices that are difficult for my contemporary American sensibility to comprehend. But while gayness can be a kind of queerness, it’s a small subcategory. Gayness is an almost exceptional expression, mostly limited to contemporary Western life; this plants serious doubt upon the idea that it is biologically determined.

Some might think of the Greeks and note that they practiced gayness. But their sexual expression would disgust most of us, for it was pederasty (παιδεραστία, meaning, ‘love of boys’), not contemporary gayness. Adult men would enter into sexual unions with pubescent boys, with men typically performing what they considered the ‘masculine’ or ‘active’ sexual role. The passive role was mostly limited to the subordinate – youths or women. The relationship was not limited to sex, but entailed a moral and cultural education of these young boys. The sexual aspects of these relationships almost always ceased as youths grew older. To claim temporary pederasty as historical evidence of the immutable and permanent gayness is, at best, a stretch.

We do, however, find such pederasty in many cultural contexts. The practice existed in Spain under the Moors, in some areas of Italy during the Renaissance, and throughout areas of the Middle East and China at different time periods. While such commonality might lead some to believe that this is evidence of a fundamental biological drive, such thinking is inaccurate. For the Greeks, pederasty was a form of moral education which could either involve sexual contact or not – such expression most often was limited to boys (not men); to the Chinese, it was rather limited to prostitution; to the Romans, penetration was allowed only against slaves, and violating this strict rule could result in extreme punishment. In most of these instances, sexual relationships between male adults were forbidden. We find a variety of sexual acts and relationships across time and place, but we almost never see the social identity of gayness.

The biological commonality here, if there is any, is sexual desire; the tracks of that desire – how it is expressed and what it meant – vary from time and place. The implication is that sexuality is a physiological desire whose expression is socially constructed. Some of that construction turns desire into love. Some of it converts desire into pederasty. Some of it converts desire into power, either through sexual domination (being dominated), or through the acquisition of multiple wives. The radical implication is that there is nothing natural about love, particularly as the basis of marriage. But there is nothing ‘normal’ about human sexuality more broadly, whether it is heterosexuality or homosexuality.

True, many gay and lesbian people will note that they ‘always felt different’ or that they knew about their homosexuality for as long as they’ve been aware of themselves as sexual beings. Is this not evidence of a powerful biological drive? Not necessarily, because it is also consistent with the idea of sexuality as co-determined by biology and environment. Race is a social construct, and its experience is felt from the moment we begin our lives. Two common mistakes we often make when thinking about social constructions are to imagine that because something is socially constructed it isn’t real, or that it’s easy to change. Money is a social construction; its value and meaning are contingent not on its inherent quality but instead on what we ascribe to it. A physical dollar has no real value – its value is in the fact that we collectively acknowledge it. If you think that things that are socially constructed aren’t real then I propose you give me all of your money. The reason you’re not going to do that is because even though it might be socially constructed, money has deeply material consequences; the same can be said for most social constructions.

Often our biology is more mutable than our social constructs. We can change our gender assignment, the presence or absence of hair and its colour; we can augment and remove, enhance and make youthful, fundamentally transform. We can become fatter or thinner, muscular or soft, grow and embellish our nails or remove them. We age, surely. But even this experience and its effects we have altered.

Social constructs are another matter; their transformation requires moving mountains of people, many of whom have commitments to, and define themselves by, their present location. Were I to dress, quite regularly, as Henry VIII, I would be unlikely to transform our conceptualisations of masculinity. And this is not because I don’t have a big enough stage. Were Clint Eastwood to engage in a similar project, he would be more likely to find his mental health questioned than to transform our collective understanding of masculinity.

Of course, social constructs do change. They are always shifting, in often nearly undetectable ways. The formation of ‘gayness’ – of gay identity itself – has been a gradual transformation of the structure of sexuality. Rather than be a kind of act that men and women engaged in (as it once was), same-sex attraction has become a kind of person you are. In essence, homosexual went from being an adjective, describing certain actions, to a noun – a kind of person. A permanent, encompassing, immutable identity…For embracing the fiction of biological determinism risks consistently misunderstanding the most important part of our lives – our intimate relationships. We invented romantic love. And homosexuality. And just about every other kind of relationship. That doesn’t make any of these things less important or less real. But our inventions are not part of a biological nature: they are part of a conversation between a biological and social order of life."


ממה שאתה צריך לדעת עוד, כי אין התורה מביטה על הבודד, ולא יהיה הציווי כפי הדבר המועט, אלא כל מה שרצוי להשיגו, השקפה או מידה או מעשה מועיל, אין מביטים בו אלא לדברים שהם הרוב.
ואין שמים לב לדבר מועט האירוע, ולא לנזק שיהיה ליחיד מבני אדם בגלל אותה הגזרה וההנהגה התורתית. כי התורה היא דבר אלוהי, ויש לך ללמוד מן הדברים הטבעיים אשר אותם התועליות הכלליות המצויות בהן, יש בכללן ומתחייב מהן נזקים אישיים. כמו שנתבאר בדברנו ודברי זולתנו.
ועל פי הבחנה זו, כך אל תתפלא שאין מטרות התורה מתקיימים בכל אחד ואחד, אלא מתחייב בהחלט שימצאו אנשים שאיו אותו הניהול התורתי מביא להם שלמות, כי הצורות הטבעיות המיניות לא יושג כל מה שמתחייב מהן בכל אחד ואחד, כי הכל מאלוה אחד ופועל אחד, נתנו מרועה אחד, והפך זה נמנע, וכבר ביארנו כי לנמנע טבע קבוע לא ישתנה לעולם.

ועוד על פי הבחנה זו לא יתכן שיהו המצוות נרשמות כפי שינויי מצבי בני אדם והזמנים, כמו הרכבת התרופה, שמיוחדת הרכבה לכל אדם כפי מזגו באותה העת, אלא ראוי שתהא ההנהגה התורתית מוחלטת כללית לכל, ואף על פי שיהא זה חיובי ביחס לאנשים, וביחס לאחרים אינו חיובי, כי אלו היו לפי היחידים, יהיה הפסד לכל, ונתת דבריך לשיעורין.

ומפני זה אין ראוי שיוגבלו הדברים המכוונים מטרה ראשונה שבתורה, לא בזמן ולא במקום, אלא יהיו הדינים החלטיים באופן כללי, כמו שאמר יתעלה 'הקהל חוקה אחת לכם', אלא מכוון בהם התועליות הכלליות שהן על הרוב כמו שביארנו.

IT is also important to note that the Law does not take into account exceptional circumstances; it is not based on conditions which rarely occur. Whatever the Law teaches, whether it be of an intellectual, a moral, or a practical character, is founded on that which is the rule and not on that which is the exception: it ignores the injury that might be caused to a single person through a certain maxim or a certain divine precept. For the Law is a divine institution, and [in order to understand its operation] we must consider how in Nature the various forces produce benefits which are general, but in some solitary cases they cause also injury. This is clear from what has been said by ourselves as well as by others. We must consequently not be surprised when we find that the object of the Law does not fully appear in every individual; there must naturally be people who are not perfected by the instruction of the Law, just as there are beings which do not receive from the specific forms in Nature all that they require. For all this comes from one God, is the result of one act; "they are all given from one shepherd" (Eccles. 12:11). It is impossible to be otherwise; and we have already explained (chap. xv.) that that which is impossible always remains impossible and never changes. From this consideration it also follows that the laws cannot like medicine vary according to the different conditions of persons and times; whilst the cure of a person depends on his particular constitution at the particular time, the divine guidance contained in the Law must be certain and general, although it may be effective in some cases and ineffective in others. If the Law depended on the varying conditions of man, it would be imperfect in its totality, each precept being left indefinite. For this reason it would not be right to make the fundamental principles of the Law dependent on a certain time or a certain place; on the contrary, the statutes and the judgments must be definite, unconditional and general, in accordance with the divine words: "As for the congregation, one ordinance shall be for you and for the stranger" (Num. 15:15); they are intended, as has been stated before, for all persons and for all times.

(ח) נָשִׁים הַמְסוֹלָלוֹת זוֹ בָּזוֹ אָסוּר וּמִמַּעֲשֵׂה מִצְרַיִם הוּא שֶׁהֻזְהַרְנוּ עָלָיו שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא יח ג) "כְּמַעֲשֵׂה אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ". אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים מֶה הָיוּ עוֹשִׂים אִישׁ נוֹשֵׂא אִישׁ וְאִשָּׁה נוֹשֵׂא אִשָּׁה. וְאִשָּׁה נִשֵּׂאת לִשְׁנֵי אֲנָשִׁים. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁמַּעֲשֶׂה זֶה אָסוּר אֵין מַלְקִין עָלָיו. שֶׁאֵין לוֹ לָאו מְיֻחָד וַהֲרֵי אֵין שָׁם בִּיאָה כְּלָל. לְפִיכָךְ אֵין נֶאֱסָרוֹת לִכְהֻנָּה מִשּׁוּם זְנוּת וְלֹא תֵּאָסֵר אִשָּׁה עַל בַּעְלָהּ בָּזֶה שֶׁאֵין כָּאן זְנוּת. וְרָאוּי לְהַכּוֹתָן מַכַּת מַרְדּוּת הוֹאִיל וְעָשׂוּ אִסּוּר. וְיֵשׁ לָאִישׁ לְהַקְפִּיד עַל אִשְׁתּוֹ מִדָּבָר זֶה וּמוֹנֵעַ הַנָּשִׁים הַיְדוּעוֹת בְּכָךְ מִלְּהִכָּנֵס לָהּ וּמִלָּצֵאת הִיא אֲלֵיהֶן:

וכמו כן זה המעשה המגונה הנוהג בין הנשים ג"כ מביאות אשה על אשה הוא מעשה תועבה אבל אין בו עונש לא מן התורה ולא מדרבנן ואין אחת משתיהם נקראת זונה ואינה נאסרת על בעלה ואינה אסורה לכהן וזה שקורין חכמים (יבמות עו.) נשים המסוללות זו בזו והוא נגזר מן מסלול והוא הדרך הכבוש ועם היות שאין בו עונש כבר מנו זה המעשה מכלל תועבות המצרים ואמרו בביאור כמעשה ארץ מצרים מה היו עושין איש נושא איש ואשה נושאת אשה ואשה נשאת לשני אנשים: