Judaism and the Gays: Part 1 - Dealing with Mishcav Zachar

Halachic Innovation and Reinterpretation:


“The Hebrew Bible is not particularly interested in homosexuality. Homosexuality, that is, sexual desire and activity between members of the same sex, is not the concern of Leviticus. Sameness does not seem to be the problem, for were it so, then surely two women engaging in sexual relations would be as problematic as are two males. This fact alone ought to focus our attention on the specifics of what happens in male-male sex that is seen as abominable, and not upon homosexuality... Before we explore the prohibition further, it behooves us to see how same-sex experience found expression in biblical and rabbinic society and literature... it will be interesting for us to explore some of the different ways same-sex experiences found expression in Jewish historical, literary, and legal materials despite the unambiguous acceptance of the prohibition.” - Wrestling With God and Man By Rabbi Steven Greenberg

This is a research project that I have been working on for over a year now. The goal is to show that there are many approaches to deal with the problems that the passukim that forbid sexual intercourse between to men presents.

Special thanks to Sefaria for helping me find sources and translations, Rahel Berkovits for her sources and translations, and Rabbi Steven Greenburg who's book severly influenced this project.


  1. Leviticus 18:22
    • Commentaries
  2. Leviticus 20:13
    • Commentaries
  3. Breaking down the passuk:
    • Why is mishkavei plural/what is its significance?
    • What is the purpose of mishkavei isha (it seems superfluous because ve'et zachar lo tishkav is pretty self explanitory)?
    • What does toevah really mean?
  4. Rationales behind the issur:
    • The rationale of Social Disruption

    • The rationale of Category Confusion
    • A negative commandment of Pru Irvu
    • The rationale of Humiliation and Violence
  5. Dealing with the heteronormative assumptions of the sages: Can that change the way we look at the passuk and the halacha on the matter?
  6. Implications of lo teilechu
    1. Leviticus 18:3
      • Commentaries
    2. Deuteronomy 18:9-12
      • Commentaries
  7. Oness rachmana patra
  8. Lo tov sheadam yehiyeh levado (respecy for human dignity)
  9. Other sex acts
  10. Don't assume people are sinning

(כא) וּמִֽזַּרְעֲךָ֥ לֹא־תִתֵּ֖ן לְהַעֲבִ֣יר לַמֹּ֑לֶךְ וְלֹ֧א תְחַלֵּ֛ל אֶת־שֵׁ֥ם אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ אֲנִ֥י יְהוָֽה׃ (כב) וְאֶ֨ת־זָכָ֔ר לֹ֥א תִשְׁכַּ֖ב מִשְׁכְּבֵ֣י אִשָּׁ֑ה תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה הִֽוא׃ (כג) וּבְכָל־בְּהֵמָ֛ה לֹא־תִתֵּ֥ן שְׁכָבְתְּךָ֖ לְטָמְאָה־בָ֑הּ וְאִשָּׁ֗ה לֹֽא־תַעֲמֹ֞ד לִפְנֵ֧י בְהֵמָ֛ה לְרִבְעָ֖הּ תֶּ֥בֶל הֽוּא׃

(21) Do not allow any of your offspring to be offered up to Molech, and do not profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. (22) Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abhorrence. (23) Do not have carnal relations with any beast and defile yourself thereby; and let no woman lend herself to a beast to mate with it; it is a perversion.

(א) ואת זכר. אחר שמצאנו הן שכבתי אמש את אבי הנה אזהרה לשוכב ולנשכב. ויאמר רב חננאל ז״ל, כי יש מי שיחדש בגופו כצורת בשר אשה וזה לא יתכן בתולדה. ויש אומרים אנדרוגינוס. וכל הצער הזה בעבור היות משכבי אשה לשון רבים. ודברי יחיד שני משכבים...

והכתוב אחז דרך כבוד לאמר כמו לא תקרב ואחר שהזכר נברא לעשות והנקבה להעשות הזהיר הכתוב שלא תהפוך דברי השם ויש משכב להוציא הזרע על כן מלת משכבי לשון רבים. ואין ראוי להאריך:

(1) with a man We have seen from the verse “I have lain with my father last night” [Genesis 19:34] that the verb “to lie” may be used both by men and by women to denote sexual intercourse. Thus, this commandment applies equally to a pederast and to a catamite. The phrase coition with a woman [literally: coitions with a woman] has caused a great deal of trouble, on account of the plural noun. Rabbi Ḥanan’el ben Ḥushi’el, may he rest in peace, said that there are men who graft something on to their bodies which has the appearance of the female organ. Others speak of a hermaphrodite. One person claims that Scripture here alludes to the two different ways one may have intercourse with a woman; therefore, homosexual intercourse is forbidden, whether it is done the standard way, or a nonstandard way...

Do not lie Scripture speaks delicately, as in the phrase “Do not draw near” [:19]. Since Man was designed to be dominant, and Woman was designed to be submissive, Scripture warns us not to reverse the will of God. To dwell on this subject any further is distasteful.

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

(13) And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have done an abhorrent thing: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

(א) משכבי אשה. מַכְנִיס כְּמִכְחוֹל בִּשְׁפוֹפֶרֶת:
(1) משכבי אשה means he inserts as a brush into a tube [i.e. in the manner of marital intercourse].
(א) תועבה עשו. אם הנשכב איננו אנוס:
(1) they have committed [plural] an abomination The plural form of the verb applies only if the catamite was not raped.
(א) משכבי אשה ולא מעשה חידודין. (ב) תועבה עשו שניהם אם אין הנשכב אנוס.
(1) משכבי אשה, intercourse in the full sense of the word, not fondling or premature withdrawal of either party’s male organ. (2) תועבה מעשה שניהם, both parties are guilty of an abomination (perversion), unless one party had been raped.,

(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. וְאִם הָיָה קָטָן בֶּן תֵּשַׁע שָׁנִים וְיוֹם אֶחָד וָמַעְלָה זֶה שֶׁבָּא עָלָיו אוֹ הֱבִיאוֹ עַל עַצְמוֹ נִסְקָל וְהַקָּטָן פָּטוּר. וְאִם הָיָה הַזָּכָר בֶּן תֵּשַׁע אוֹ פָּחוֹת שְׁנֵיהֶן פְּטוּרִין וְרָאוּי לְבֵית דִּין לְהַכּוֹת הַגָּדוֹל מַכַּת מַרְדּוּת לְפִי שֶׁשָּׁכַב עִם זָכָר וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא פָּחוֹת מִבֶּן תֵּשַׁע:

[A man] who has intercourse with a man or brings a male onto him, once the crown [of the penis] penetrates if both are adults they are stoned. As it states: "A man do not bed" [this applies] whether he is the active or passive partner. If a minor of nine years and a day or more is involved, the man who has intercourse with him or if brings [the minor] onto him should be stoned and the minor is not liable. If the male [minor] was less than nine years old, they are both free of liability and it is appropriate for the court to subject the adult to lashes for rebellious conduct for he bedded a male even though he was less than nine years old.

Translation by Rahel Berkovits

3. Interpreting the Passuk:

Breaking down the passuk into three parts:

  1. Why is mishkavei plural/what is its significance?
  2. What is the purpose of mishkavei isha (it seems superfluous because ve'et zachar lo tishkav is pretty self explanitory)?
  3. What does toevah really mean?

“While the tradition refused to relegate scriptural passages into a distant and irrelevant past, it also refused to read the Torah as if it means and has always meant only one thing... If two opposing understandings of Scripture can both be the word of God, there must be no final reading of any verse. All verses in the Torah are pregnant with multiple meanings, some on the surface, some more deeply hidden, and some yet unborn.
Traditional reading demands that one approach the verses in Leviticus as covenantal duty... even though they may have meant something particular in the past, they also speak today.” - Rabbi Greenberg

1. Understanding the construct "mishkavei ___":

שלא כדרכה מאי איכא למימר אמר רב אחיי [בר אדא] דמן אחא מאן לימא לן דלאו הנאה אית להו לתרוייהו ועוד משכבי אשה כתיב הקישה הכתוב כדרכה לשלא כדרכה
The Gemara asks: If he engages in intercourse in an atypical manner, i.e., anal intercourse, with her, what can be said? In that case the woman does not benefit from the intercourse. Rav Aḥai bar Adda of the place called Aḥa said: Who will tell us, i.e., it is not obvious, that there is no benefit for both of them, i.e., there is benefit only for the man, when they engage in intercourse in an atypical manner? And furthermore, it is written: “Lyings with a woman” (Leviticus 18:22). The plural form indicates that there are two ways of engaging in sexual intercourse with a woman: In this manner the verse compares typical sexual intercourse to intercourse in an atypical manner.

דאמר כי האי תנא דתניא רבי סימאי אומר אנדרוגינוס חייבין עליו סקילה משתי מקומות מ"ט דרבי סימאי אמר רבא בר המדורי אסברא לי (ויקרא יח, כב) ואת זכר לא תשכב משכבי אשה אי זהו זכר שיש בו שני משכבות הוי אומר זה אנדרוגינוס ורבנן אע"ג דאית ביה שני משכבות את זכר כתיב ורבנן זכר גרידא מנא להו מאשה באשה שלא כדרכה מנא להו מואשה

The Gemara answers that Rav stated his opinion in accordance with the opinion of this tanna, as it is taught in the following baraita: Rabbi Simai says: With regard to a hermaphrodite, one is liable to be punished with stoning on his account for intercourse at two places. The Gemara asks: What is the reasoning of Rabbi Simai? Rava said: The Sage bar Hamedurei explained the matter to me, based on an allusion to this halakha found in the Bible. The verse states: “And you shall not lie with a male as with a woman [mishkevei isha]” (Leviticus 18:22). The phrase mishkevei isha, referring to lying with a woman, appears in the plural. Now, what male has two manners of lying? You must say that this is referring to a hermaphrodite, and the plural form mishkevei, meaning: Lyings, indicates that there is liability for both manners of intercourse with him. The Gemara asks: And how do the Rabbis who disagree with Rabbi Simai counter this argument? The Gemara explains: Although he has two manners of lying, it is nevertheless written: “With a male,” indicating that one is liable to be stoned on a hermaphrodite’s account only if he had relations with him in the manner of a male. The Gemara asks: And the Rabbis, who explain this entire verse as referring to a hermaphrodite, from where do they derive that a man is prohibited from engaging in relations with an ordinary male? The Gemara answers: They derive it from the words “a woman.” The Gemara asks further: And from where do the Rabbis derive that one is liable to be punished for engaging in intercourse with a woman who is forbidden to him even if he engaged in relations in an unnatural manner, i.e., anal intercourse? The Gemara responds: They derive it from the inclusive “and” in “and…with a woman.”

ואת זכר כתיב - וה"ק את זכרותו של מי שיש בו שני משכבות לא תשכב:

And the male it is written - this is what it means the maleness of the one who has two ways to lie [that is whom] you should not bed.

Translation by Rahel Berkovits

(טו) [אֶחָד הַבָּא עַל הַזָּכָר אוֹ] הַבָּא עַל אַנְדְּרוֹגִינוּס דֶּרֶךְ זִכְרוּתוֹ חַיָּב. [וְאִם בָּא עָלָיו דֶּרֶךְ נְקֵבוּתוֹ פָּטוּר]...

Both one who has intercourse with a male and one who has intercourse with an androgynous through his male orifice is liable. [And if he had vaginal intercourse he is not liable.]...

Translation by Rahel Berkovits

(כב) וַיְהִ֗י בִּשְׁכֹּ֤ן יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בָּאָ֣רֶץ הַהִ֔וא וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ רְאוּבֵ֔ן וַיִּשְׁכַּ֕ב֙ אֶת־בִּלְהָ֖ה֙ פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֑֔יו וַיִּשְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵֽ֑ל (פ) וַיִּֽהְי֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יַעֲקֹ֖ב שְׁנֵ֥ים עָשָֽׂר׃
(22) While Israel stayed in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah, his father’s concubine; and Israel found out. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve in number.

(ד) פַּ֤חַז כַּמַּ֙יִם֙ אַל־תּוֹתַ֔ר כִּ֥י עָלִ֖יתָ מִשְׁכְּבֵ֣י אָבִ֑יךָ אָ֥ז חִלַּ֖לְתָּ יְצוּעִ֥י עָלָֽה׃ (פ)

(4) Unstable as water, you shall excel no longer; For when you mounted your father’s bed (alternative reading in my opinion: when you mounted the lyings of your father), You brought disgrace—my couch he mounted!

Rabbi Steve Greenberg - An Openly Gay Orthodox Rabbi

"The verse (in Leviticus) prohibits the kind of sex between men that is designed to affect the power and mastery of the penetrator. Sex for the conquest, for shoring up the ego, for self-aggrandizement, or worse, for the perverse pleasure of demeaning another man is prohibited."


The only other time in Tanach where the construct "mishkavei [something]" appears is in the story of Reuven and Bilha. According to the pshat of the text, Reuven rapes Bilha in an attempt to assert his dominance over his father and to take control as the head of the family. His act is called "mishkavei avicha." Similarly, it seems that here the phrase "mishkavei isha" refers to violent sex whose express purpose is to increase the power of one of the partners. (There are those who say that Reuven did not go through with the act, but rather made it appear that he did; in any case, there is at the very least what appears to be sex whose only function is to increase the power of the active partner.) This is consistent with the Gemara in Kiddushin 22b that says anal sex is abnormal because there is only benefit for the man (and that creates a power dynamic).

Additionally, "mishkavei avicha" is usually translated as your father's bed which I believe is a misinterpretation based on other uses of "mishavei" in tanach. It should be interpreted as the lyings of your father as in when you mounted a woman who sleeps with your father. If we use this reading for Reuven we should be consistent and use it in the case of "mishkavei isha." "Ve'et zachar lo tishcav" - and a man should not lie, "mishcavei isha" - with a man who lies with women (heterosexuals) "toevah hi" - it is an abhorrence. Basically, we are saying that it is an abhorrence for gay men to sleep with heterosexual men. This also fits perfectly with the nature of the word "mishcavei" that is speaking about lying in the "atypical manner" and denotes rape, violence, and abuse of power that we get from the story of Reuven.

2. Understanding "tishkav" by looking at uses of the construct "mishkav zachar" in reference to women throughout Tanach:

(יח) וְכֹל֙ הַטַּ֣ף בַּנָּשִׁ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹא־יָדְע֖וּ מִשְׁכַּ֣ב זָכָ֑ר הַחֲי֖וּ לָכֶֽם׃

(18) but spare every young woman who has not had carnal relations with a man.

(לה) וְנֶ֣פֶשׁ אָדָ֔ם מִן־הַ֨נָּשִׁ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־יָדְע֖וּ מִשְׁכַּ֣ב זָכָ֑ר כָּל־נֶ֕פֶשׁ שְׁנַ֥יִם וּשְׁלֹשִׁ֖ים אָֽלֶף׃

(35) and a total of 32,000 human beings, namely, the women who had not had carnal relations.

(יא) וְזֶ֥ה הַדָּבָ֖ר אֲשֶׁ֣ר תַּעֲשׂ֑וּ כָּל־זָכָ֗ר וְכָל־אִשָּׁ֛ה יֹדַ֥עַת מִשְׁכַּב־זָכָ֖ר תַּחֲרִֽימוּ׃

(11) This is what you are to do: Proscribe every man, and every woman who has known a man carnally.”

(א) ואת זכר לא תשכב משכבי אשה. יש מי שיחדש בגופו כצורת בשר אשה:

(1) ואת זכר לא תשכב משכבי אשה, some people attempt to deceive others into believing that they are women instead of men.


“The lyings of a woman” is hard to decipher because no other context does it appear in the Torah. Two related terms, however, do appear. The first, "mishkavei avicha" was analyzed above. The second, "mishkav zachar" (the lying of a male) is what a woman experiences in intercourse (penetrative). So, we can deduce that "mishkavei isha" here is talking about penetrative sex. (Rashi's commentary is "like makeup into a tube.")

But shouldn't "lo tishkav" (you shall not lie) be the phrase that we use to prove we are talking about penetrative sex because it's modifying the action of the man? The phrase "tishkav" is relatively unambiguous especially because it has the same lashon as "mishkav zachar" that speaks about penetrative sex with a woman. If "lo tishkav" is conveying that we are speaking about penetration then what is the purpose of "mishkavei isha"?

To understand the purpose of the use of "isha" we must understand the context of power dynamics in society. Women throughout history have always had less societal power, broadly speaking, than men. As a result, all heterosexual relations necessarily included a power difference. (According to many historians, the Greeks and Romans viewed sex as legitimate only when it involved a power difference - thus, land-owning men could penetrate slaves, boys, and women, but not vice versa). The inclusion of the word "woman" in the pasuk may be referring specifically to this power dynamic. It seems reasonable to conclude that "mishkavei isha" is sex with some sort of power imbalance, possibly even sex with the express intent of increasing the power of the penetrator. This also works perfectly with our interpretation of "mishkavei" as a violent term as we learned from the story of Reuven. The problem here is not homophobia but actually misogyny; you cannot penetrate another man because it would be lowering him to the status of a woman which is a negative thing societally. The prohibition can, in fact, be about violence, rape, and abuse of power if we understand the meaning behind the use of "mishkavei" and "isha."

This leads to questions about who is the issur on? The active (penetrating) partner or both of the men having sex. There is a debate about whose punishment can be learned from this pasuk. Rabbi Yishmael states that the active partner is addressed and that the punishment for the passive partner is learned from the prohibition against kadeshim, Temple prostitutes. Rabbi Akiva says that the unpunctuated word "תשכב" should be read as "tishkav," actively penetrate, and "tishakhev," be penetrated. Sanhedrin seems to imply that the active partner may have two punishments, but all agree that both partners are punished.

3. What Does Toevah Really Mean?

(לב) וַיָּשִׂ֥ימוּ ל֛וֹ לְבַדּ֖וֹ וְלָהֶ֣ם לְבַדָּ֑ם וְלַמִּצְרִ֞ים הָאֹכְלִ֤ים אִתּוֹ֙ לְבַדָּ֔ם כִּי֩ לֹ֨א יוּכְל֜וּן הַמִּצְרִ֗ים לֶאֱכֹ֤ל אֶת־הָֽעִבְרִים֙ לֶ֔חֶם כִּי־תוֹעֵבָ֥ה הִ֖וא לְמִצְרָֽיִם׃

(32) They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves; for the Egyptians could not dine with the Hebrews, since that would be abhorrent to the Egyptians.
(לד) וַאֲמַרְתֶּ֗ם אַנְשֵׁ֨י מִקְנֶ֜ה הָי֤וּ עֲבָדֶ֙יךָ֙ מִנְּעוּרֵ֣ינוּ וְעַד־עַ֔תָּה גַּם־אֲנַ֖חְנוּ גַּם־אֲבֹתֵ֑ינוּ בַּעֲב֗וּר תֵּשְׁבוּ֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ גֹּ֔שֶׁן כִּֽי־תוֹעֲבַ֥ת מִצְרַ֖יִם כָּל־רֹ֥עֵה צֹֽאן׃
(34) you shall answer, ‘Your servants have been breeders of livestock from the start until now, both we and our fathers’—so that you may stay in the region of Goshen. For all shepherds are abhorrent to Egyptians.”
(כב) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֗ה לֹ֤א נָכוֹן֙ לַעֲשׂ֣וֹת כֵּ֔ן כִּ֚י תּוֹעֲבַ֣ת מִצְרַ֔יִם נִזְבַּ֖ח לַיהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵ֑ינוּ הֵ֣ן נִזְבַּ֞ח אֶת־תּוֹעֲבַ֥ת מִצְרַ֛יִם לְעֵינֵיהֶ֖ם וְלֹ֥א יִסְקְלֻֽנוּ׃
(22) But Moses replied, “It would not be right to do this, for what we sacrifice to the LORD our God is untouchable to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice that which is untouchable to the Egyptians before their very eyes, will they not stone us!
(ה) לֹא־יִהְיֶ֤ה כְלִי־גֶ֙בֶר֙ עַל־אִשָּׁ֔ה וְלֹא־יִלְבַּ֥שׁ גֶּ֖בֶר שִׂמְלַ֣ת אִשָּׁ֑ה כִּ֧י תוֹעֲבַ֛ת יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ כָּל־עֹ֥שֵׂה אֵֽלֶּה׃ (פ)
(5) A woman must not put on man’s apparel, nor shall a man wear woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is abhorrent to the LORD your God.
(טו) אָר֣וּר הָאִ֡ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יַעֲשֶׂה֩ פֶ֨סֶל וּמַסֵּכָ֜ה תּוֹעֲבַ֣ת יְהוָ֗ה מַעֲשֵׂ֛ה יְדֵ֥י חָרָ֖שׁ וְשָׂ֣ם בַּסָּ֑תֶר וְעָנ֧וּ כָל־הָעָ֛ם וְאָמְר֖וּ אָמֵֽן׃ (ס)
(15) Cursed be anyone who makes a sculptured or molten image, abhorred by the LORD, a craftsman’s handiwork, and sets it up in secret.—And all the people shall respond, Amen.

(כב) וְאֶ֨ת־זָכָ֔ר לֹ֥א תִשְׁכַּ֖ב מִשְׁכְּבֵ֣י אִשָּׁ֑ה תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה הִֽוא׃ (כג) וּבְכָל־בְּהֵמָ֛ה לֹא־תִתֵּ֥ן שְׁכָבְתְּךָ֖ לְטָמְאָה־בָ֑הּ וְאִשָּׁ֗ה לֹֽא־תַעֲמֹ֞ד לִפְנֵ֧י בְהֵמָ֛ה לְרִבְעָ֖הּ תֶּ֥בֶל הֽוּא׃ (כד) אַל־תִּֽטַּמְּא֖וּ בְּכָל־אֵ֑לֶּה כִּ֤י בְכָל־אֵ֙לֶּה֙ נִטְמְא֣וּ הַגּוֹיִ֔ם אֲשֶׁר־אֲנִ֥י מְשַׁלֵּ֖חַ מִפְּנֵיכֶֽם׃ (כה) וַתִּטְמָ֣א הָאָ֔רֶץ וָאֶפְקֹ֥ד עֲוֺנָ֖הּ עָלֶ֑יהָ וַתָּקִ֥א הָאָ֖רֶץ אֶת־יֹשְׁבֶֽיהָ׃ (כו) וּשְׁמַרְתֶּ֣ם אַתֶּ֗ם אֶת־חֻקֹּתַי֙ וְאֶת־מִשְׁפָּטַ֔י וְלֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֔וּ מִכֹּ֥ל הַתּוֹעֵבֹ֖ת הָאֵ֑לֶּה הָֽאֶזְרָ֔ח וְהַגֵּ֖ר הַגָּ֥ר בְּתוֹכְכֶֽם׃

(22) Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abhorrence. (23) Do not have carnal relations with any beast and defile yourself thereby; and let no woman lend herself to a beast to mate with it; it is perversion. (24) Do not defile yourselves in any of those ways, for it is by such that the nations that I am casting out before you defiled themselves. (25) Thus the land became defiled; and I called it to account for its iniquity, and the land spewed out its inhabitants. (26) But you must keep My laws and My rules, and you must not do any of those abhorrent things, neither the citizen nor the stranger who resides among you;

(ב) והזכיר תועבה היא. כי הוא דבר נתעב לנפש קדושה אפי׳‎ לו בתולדה:

(2) It is an abhorrence [Hebrew: to‘eva] something which is naturally 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.

4. Understanding the Issur:

What are some potential rationales behind issur?

  1. The rationale of Social Disruption
  2. The rationale of Category Confusion
  3. A negative commandment of Pru Irvu
  4. The rationale of Humiliation and Violence

1. Social Disruption

If homosexuality were permitted then men would leave their wives. There is a really easy solution to this... don't force gay men to marry women and it's not a problem.

2. Category Confusion

In order to consider this a compelling reason, you must state that the differences between men and women are important and in fact necessary, to the extent that they must be enforced. Interestingly, the use of toevah in Devarim כ״ז when prohibiting beged isha and beged ish actually would support this reason. Yet, I personally do not find this a compelling reason, and it deals more with social norms than with strict halacha; as such, I am not going to talk about it in depth.

Part 3: Pru Irvu

(כח) וַיְבָ֣רֶךְ אֹתָם֮ אֱלֹהִים֒ וַיֹּ֨אמֶר לָהֶ֜ם אֱלֹהִ֗ים פְּר֥וּ וּרְב֛וּ וּמִלְא֥וּ אֶת־הָאָ֖רֶץ וְכִבְשֻׁ֑הָ וּרְד֞וּ בִּדְגַ֤ת הַיָּם֙ וּבְע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וּבְכָל־חַיָּ֖ה הָֽרֹמֶ֥שֶׂת עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃
(28) God blessed them and God said to them, “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth.”

(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 ולא מצות עונה.

מלבד שענין אותו טרוף נמאס ומכער הוא מאד בעיני כל בעל שכל. והאיש שנברא לעבדת בוראו לא ראוי (י', ג להתגאל) להתנול במעשים מכערים כאלה. ומזה השרש אמרו זכרונם לברכה (שם עו, ב), שאסור להשיא אשה לקטן, דכעין זנות הוא, וכן שלא ישא אדם זקנה ועקרה שאינה ראויה לילד (עי' יבמות סח ב).

(4) It is from the roots of the commandment [that it is] because God, blessed be He, desired the settling of His world that He created. And therefore He commanded that [men] not destroy their seed with male homosexuality. As it is truly destruction, since there is neither [reproductive] benefit, nor a commandment of [a wife's] appointed time - besides that the matter of this craziness is disgusting and ugly to anyone with intelligence.

And it is not fitting for a man who is born for the service of his Creator to become distorted (some have the textual variant, to become repulsive) with these ugly acts. And from this root, they, may their memory be blessed, said (Sanhedrin 76b) that it is forbidden to marry a woman to a minor, as it is similar to licentiousness; and so [too,] that a man not marry an elderly woman nor a sterile woman that is not [able] to give birth (see Yevamot 68b).

If the intended purpose of sex is reproduction, then non-reproductive sex might be seen as a problematic abuse of sexual pleasure.
Rabbi Yehudah HaHasid offers this interpretation: “Why did the Torah prohibit sexual intercourse between males or between humans and animals?... in order that men marry a woman and fulfill the command to be fruitful and multiply...”

If you would like to say that pru irvu were the rationale behind the issur of mishkav zachar because it is a shev vea'al ta'ase then how do you deal with contraception and the fact that infertile heterosexuals are still allowed to have marital relations? Additionally, it's strange because mishkav zachar would just be a geder for the mitzvat aseh of pru irvu but we don't give the death penalty (which is the punishment for mishkav zachar) for actively violating a mitzvat aseh (shev ve'al taase).

Perhaps the problem is not with abusing sexual pleasure/not using sex for reproduction but with a mitzvat lo taase related to pru irvu - hotzaat zera levatalah (wasting seed).

-Info from Wrestling With God and Man

If you would like to say that pru irvu were the rationale behind the issur of mishkav zachar because it is a shev vea'al ta'ase then how do you deal with contraception and the fact that infertile heterosexuals are still allowed to have marital relations (sefer hachinuch says that a man cannot marry someone infertile but that is not halacha lema'ase)?

Perhaps the problem is not with abusing sexual pleasure but with wasting seed - hotzaat zera levatalah - which is not a problem if you are not chayav in pru irvu.

"[In antiquity], Jews and most other people believed that it was the man and his semen who provides the actual life, the "seed," and that the woman was merely the soil, so to speak, in which the seed grew to maturity to be born. It was considered almost like murder to allow the "seed" to be wasted through masturbation, homosexuality, or sexual intercourse without intent to procreate. It was also erroneously believed...that semen, "the precious fluid," was limited in quantity so that if it was "wasted", the energy and strength of the man would thereby be reduced" (Mary Calderone and Eric Johnson, The Family Book about Sexuality, p. 158, quoted by Rabbi Michael Gold, p. 107, retrieved from Teaching Hot Topics, p. 307).

"It is forbidden to destroy [improperly emit] seed. Therefore, a man may not practice coitus interruptus" (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Isuray Biah 21:18).

אמרו לו לבן עזאי יש נאה דורש ונאה מקיים נאה מקיים ואין נאה דורש ואתה נאה דורש ואין נאה מקיים אמר להן בן עזאי ומה אעשה שנפשי חשקה בתורה אפשר לעולם שיתקיים על ידי אחרים
They said to ben Azzai: There is a type of scholar who expounds well and fulfills his own teachings well, and another who fulfills well and does not expound well. But you, who have never married, expound well on the importance of procreation, and yet you do not fulfill well your own teachings. Ben Azzai said to them: What shall I do, as my soul yearns for Torah, and I do not wish to deal with anything else. It is possible for the world to be maintained by others, who are engaged in the mitzva to be fruitful and multiply.

As seen in the case of Ben Azzai, reproduction is not a mitzva that one can accomplish without passion. He has no ideological stance against the primary value of heterosexual family, but since his heart works in another way, it is best for him to nourish the world in another way. Reproduction is a relational duty - without that context, the mitzva cannot be fulfilled.

Rabbi Joseph Engel: if cannot reproduce under duress they are exempt from procreation and find another way to contribute to society = “settle the earth”
Rabbenu Tam: wasting seed applies only to people who are commanded in procreation (Tosofat Yevamot 12b, shalosh nashim)

​​​​​​​“The rationale of reproduction is a significant challenge to non-reproducing individuals and couples to find alternative ways to care for and sustain the world. However, it does not justify the forcing of homosexuals into heterosexual marriage, nor does it ground the rejection of same-sex partnerships for gay people. Indeed, the policy that would most sensibly emerge from the value of reproduction and family making would be one that supports and encourages homosexuals to fulfill in whatever ways possible the duty to ‘settle the world.’” - Rabbi Greenberg

4. Humiliation and Violence

(כא) וַיֵּ֥שְׁתְּ מִן־הַיַּ֖יִן וַיִּשְׁכָּ֑ר וַיִּתְגַּ֖ל בְּת֥וֹךְ אָהֳלֹֽה׃ (כב) וַיַּ֗רְא חָ֚ם אֲבִ֣י כְנַ֔עַן אֵ֖ת עֶרְוַ֣ת אָבִ֑יו וַיַּגֵּ֥ד לִשְׁנֵֽי־אֶחָ֖יו בַּחֽוּץ׃ (כג) וַיִּקַּח֩ שֵׁ֨ם וָיֶ֜פֶת אֶת־הַשִּׂמְלָ֗ה וַיָּשִׂ֙ימוּ֙ עַל־שְׁכֶ֣ם שְׁנֵיהֶ֔ם וַיֵּֽלְכוּ֙ אֲחֹ֣רַנִּ֔ית וַיְכַסּ֕וּ אֵ֖ת עֶרְוַ֣ת אֲבִיהֶ֑ם וּפְנֵיהֶם֙ אֲחֹ֣רַנִּ֔ית וְעֶרְוַ֥ת אֲבִיהֶ֖ם לֹ֥א רָאֽוּ׃ (כד) וַיִּ֥יקֶץ נֹ֖חַ מִיֵּינ֑וֹ וַיֵּ֕דַע אֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁר־עָ֥שָׂה־ל֖וֹ בְּנ֥וֹ הַקָּטָֽן׃ (כה) וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אָר֣וּר כְּנָ֑עַן עֶ֥בֶד עֲבָדִ֖ים יִֽהְיֶ֥ה לְאֶחָֽיו׃
(21) He drank of the wine and became drunk, and he uncovered himself within his tent. (22) Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside. (23) But Shem and Japheth took a cloth, placed it against both their backs and, walking backward, they covered their father’s nakedness; their faces were turned the other way, so that they did not see their father’s nakedness. (24) When Noah woke up from his wine and learned what his youngest son had done to him, (25) he said, “Cursed be Canaan; The lowest of slaves Shall he be to his brothers.”

Were men and women not top and bottom intercourse would not involve domination. M/m anal intercourse only considered a disgrace in a society where women are inferior because otherwise, it would not be abhorrent for a man to make himself into the status of a woman.

-Info From Wrestling With God and Man

5. Dealing with the heteronormative assumptions of the sages: Can that change the way we look at the passuk and the halacha on the matter?

(יד) רַבִּי יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵר, לֹא יִרְעֶה רַוָּק בְּהֵמָה, וְלֹא יִישְׁנוּ שְׁנֵי רַוָּקִים בְּטַלִּית אֶחָת. וַחֲכָמִים מַתִּירִין.

(14) Rabbi Yehudah says, "An unmarried man should not herd animals, and two unmarried men should not sleep in the same garment." And the Sages permit it.

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. Similarly, a woman may not serve as a teacher to children because she may come to be secluded with the fathers of the children.

דתניא (בראשית ב, כד) על כן יעזב איש את אביו ואת אמו... ודבק - ולא בזכר. באשתו - ולא באשת חבירו, והיו לבשר אחד - מי שנעשים בשר אחד, יצאו בהמה וחיה שאין נעשין בשר אחד.

As it is taught in a baraita with regard to the verse: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother... “And shall cleave to his wife,” but not to a male; such a relationship is not defined as cleaving. “To his wife,” but not to the wife of another man. “And they shall be one flesh” indicates that he should marry one of those with whom he can become one flesh, i.e., they can bear children together. This excludes domesticated and undomesticated animals, with which one is prohibited from engaging in bestiality, as they do not become one flesh. All these are forbidden to the descendants of Noah.

ודבק ולא בזכר - דליכא דיבוק דמתוך שאין הנשכב נהנה אינו נדבק עמו:

And he shall cleave, not to a male - for there isnt cleaving from that - the one bedded does not enjoy he does not cleave to him.

Translation by Rahel Berkovits

וּמִנַּיִן שֶׁהֵן מֻזְהָרִין עַל גִּלּוּי עֲרָיוֹת כְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (בראשית ב, כד): וְדָבַק בְּאִשְׁתּוֹ, וְלֹא בְּאֵשֶׁת חֲבֵרוֹ, וְלֹא בְּזָכוּר, וְלֹא בִּבְהֵמָה.

And how do we know that they were fastidious about sexual impropriety like Israel? As it says: "And he cleaved to his wife" (Genesis 2:24) and not the wife of his friend, or another man, or an animal.

(ב) לֹא נֶחְשְׁדוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל עַל מִשְׁכַּב זָכוּר וְעַל הַבְּהֵמָה. לְפִיכָךְ אֵין אָסוּר לְהִתְיַחֵד עִמָּהֶן. וְאִם נִתְרַחֵק אֲפִלּוּ מִיִּחוּד זָכוּר וּבְהֵמָה הֲרֵי זֶה מְשֻׁבָּח.

(2) Jews are not suspected of male homosexual penetrative intercourse or of bestiality. Therefore, it is not forbidden to seclude oneself with them (i.e. to have yichud between two men, or between one person and one animal). And if one distances oneself, even from seclusion between two men or with one animal, behold, this is praiseworthy.

(א) אין ישראל חשודים על הרביעה ועל הזכר ובו ס"א:
לא נחשדו ישראל על משכב זכר ועל הבהמה לפיכך אין איסור להתייחד עמהן ואם נתרחק אפי' מיחוד זכר ובהמה הרי זה משובח וגדולי החכמים היו מרחיקין הבהמה כדי שלא יתייחדו עמהם ובדורות הללו שרבו הפריצים יש להתרחק מלהתייחד עם הזכר:

(1) We do not suspect Jewish men of lying with another man or with beasts. Therefore, we do not prohibit them from being alone with them, and if one wants to distance themselves from men or beasts, it is a praiseworthy thing. For the great sages (of old) used to keep beasts at a distance in order that they would not be alone with them. But in these generations because such corrupt people exist one should (therefore) try not be alone with a man.

כתב ב"י בש"ע ובדורות הללו שרבו הפריצים יש להתרחק מלהתייחד עם הזכר כנ"ל וכתב כן לפי מדינחו ודורותיו ומשמע דיש להתרחק מדינא קאמר אבל במדינתינו דלא נשמע שפרצו בעבירה זו א"צ להתרחק אלא דמכל מקום מי שנתרחק הרי זה משובח:

The Shulchan Aruch wrote: "And in these genderations were promiscuity has increased, one should distance oneself from being alone with a male." And he wrote this according to his country and his generation. And it seems that one should distance for this is the stated law. However, in our countries promiscuity is in this transgression is not heard of, there is no need [for a man] to distance himself [from another man]. Nevertheless, a person who chooses to distance himself is certainly praiseworthy.

6. Implications of lo teilechu:

(ג) כְּמַעֲשֵׂ֧ה אֶֽרֶץ־מִצְרַ֛יִם אֲשֶׁ֥ר יְשַׁבְתֶּם־בָּ֖הּ לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֑וּ וּכְמַעֲשֵׂ֣ה אֶֽרֶץ־כְּנַ֡עַן אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֲנִי֩ מֵבִ֨יא אֶתְכֶ֥ם שָׁ֙מָּה֙ לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֔וּ וּבְחֻקֹּתֵיהֶ֖ם לֹ֥א תֵלֵֽכוּ׃

(3) You shall not copy the practices of the land of Egypt where you dwelt, or of the land of Canaan to which I am taking you; nor shall you follow their laws.

(ט) כִּ֤י אַתָּה֙ בָּ֣א אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ נֹתֵ֣ן לָ֑ךְ לֹֽא־תִלְמַ֣ד לַעֲשׂ֔וֹת כְּתוֹעֲבֹ֖ת הַגּוֹיִ֥ם הָהֵֽם׃ (י) לֹֽא־יִמָּצֵ֣א בְךָ֔ מַעֲבִ֥יר בְּנֽוֹ־וּבִתּ֖וֹ בָּאֵ֑שׁ קֹסֵ֣ם קְסָמִ֔ים מְעוֹנֵ֥ן וּמְנַחֵ֖שׁ וּמְכַשֵּֽׁף׃ (יא) וְחֹבֵ֖ר חָ֑בֶר וְשֹׁאֵ֥ל אוֹב֙ וְיִדְּעֹנִ֔י וְדֹרֵ֖שׁ אֶל־הַמֵּתִֽים׃ (יב) כִּֽי־תוֹעֲבַ֥ת יְהוָ֖ה כָּל־עֹ֣שֵׂה אֵ֑לֶּה וּבִגְלַל֙ הַתּוֹעֵבֹ֣ת הָאֵ֔לֶּה יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ מוֹרִ֥ישׁ אוֹתָ֖ם מִפָּנֶֽיךָ׃

(9) When you enter the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to imitate the abhorrent practices of those nations. (10) Let no one be found among you who consigns his son or daughter to the fire, or who is an augur, a soothsayer, a diviner, a sorcerer, (11) one who casts spells, or one who consults ghosts or familiar spirits, or one who inquires of the dead. (12) For anyone who does such things is abhorrent to the LORD, and it is because of these abhorrent things that the LORD your God is dispossessing them before you.

(ח) [ח] או (ס"א אי) "כמעשה ארץ מצרים וכמעשה ארץ כנען לא תעשו", יכול לא יבנו בנינים ולא יטעו נטיעות כמותם? תלמוד לומר "ובחוקותיהם לא תלכו" – לא אמרתי אלא בחוקים החקוקים להם ולאבותיהם ולאבות אבותיהם. ומה היו עושים? האיש נושא לאיש והאשה לאשה. האיש נושא אשה ובתה, והאשה נישאת לשנים. לכך נאמר "ובחוקותיהם לא תלכו".

(8) 8) If "As the deed of the land of Egypt and as the deed of the land of Canaan, you shall not do," I might think they should not build or plant as they do; it is, therefore, written (Ibid.) "and in their statutes you shall not walk." I have proscribed for you only those statutes which were instituted for them and for their forefathers and for the fathers of their forefathers. What did they do? A man would wed a man, and a woman, a woman. A man would wed a woman and her daughter, and a woman would wed two — wherefore Scripture states "and in their statutes you shall not walk."

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:

Ula said: of the 30 commandments that Ben-Noah accepted upon themselves they only keep three: one they do not write marriage contracts [ketubah] for males, one is that they don't sell dead [human] meat by the pound in stores and one is that they respect the Torah.

Translation by Rahel Berkovits

שאין כותבין כתובה לזכרים - דאע"פ שחשודין למשכב זכור ומייחדין להם זכר לתשמישן אין נוהגין קלות ראש במצוה זו כל כך שיכתבו להם כתובה:

They do not write marriage contracts for males - even thought they are suspect for [transgressing] intercourse with a male and they set aside for themselves a male for sex they do not act with such distain for this commandment that they write for them a marriage contract.

Translation by Rahel Berkovits

7. Oness:

אמר רמי בר חמא לא כגון שאנסוהו עובדי כוכבים והשתחוה לבהמתו דידיה מתקיף לה רבי זירא אונס רחמנא פטריה דכתיב (דברים כב, כו) ולנערה לא תעשה דבר

Rami bar Ḥama says: No, the baraita is referring to a case where gentiles coerced someone and he bowed to his own animal. Rabbi Zeira objects to this: The Merciful One exempts a victim of circumstances beyond his control from punishment, as it is written with regard to a betrothed young woman who is raped: “But to the maiden you shall do nothing, the maiden has no sin worthy of death, for as when a man rises against his neighbor, and slays him, so is this matter” (Deuteronomy 22:26).

"Homosexuality is no different from any other anti-social or anti-halakhic act, where it is legitimate to distinguish between the objective act itself, including its social and moral consequences, and the mentality and inner development of the person who perpetuates the act . . . To use halakhic terminology, the objective crime remains a ma'aseh avayrah (a forbidden act) whereas the person who transgresses is considered innocent on the grounds of ["oh-ness"] (force beyond one's control)." - Rabbi Norman Lamm, "Judaism and the Modern attitude toward Homosexuality," Encyclopedia Judaica Yearbook, 1974.

Rabbi Riskin's Sources:

(א) מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ מוֹדֶה בַּתּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה אֵינוֹ זָקֵן מַמְרֵא הָאָמוּר בַּתּוֹרָה. אֶלָּא הֲרֵי זֶה בִּכְלַל הָאֶפִּיקוֹרוֹסִין [וּמִיתָתוֹ בְּכָל אָדָם]:

(ב) מֵאַחַר שֶׁנִּתְפַּרְסֵם שֶׁהוּא כּוֹפֵר בַּתּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה [מוֹרִידִין אוֹתוֹ] וְלֹא מַעֲלִין וַהֲרֵי הוּא כִּשְׁאָר כָּל הָאֶפִּיקוֹרוֹסִין וְהָאוֹמְרִין אֵין תּוֹרָה מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם וְהַמּוֹסְרִין וְהַמּוּמָרִין. שֶׁכָּל אֵלּוּ אֵינָם בִּכְלַל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לֹא לְעֵדִים וְלֹא הַתְרָאָה וְלֹא דַּיָּנִים [אֶלָּא כָּל הַהוֹרֵג אֶחָד מֵהֶן עָשָׂה מִצְוָה גְּדוֹלָה וְהֵסִיר הַמִּכְשׁוֹל]:

(ג) בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בְּאִישׁ שֶׁכָּפַר בַּתּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה בְּמַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ וּבִדְבָרִים שֶׁנִּרְאוּ לוֹ. וְהָלַךְ אַחַר דַּעְתּוֹ הַקַּלָּה וְאַחַר שְׁרִירוּת לִבּוֹ וְכוֹפֵר בַּתּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה תְּחִלָּה כְּצָדוֹק וּבַיְתּוֹס וְכֵן כָּל הַתּוֹעִים אַחֲרָיו. אֲבָל בְּנֵי הַתּוֹעִים הָאֵלֶּה וּבְנֵי בְּנֵיהֶם שֶׁהִדִּיחוּ אוֹתָם אֲבוֹתָם וְנוֹלְדוּ בֵּין הַקָּרָאִים וְגִדְּלוּ אוֹתָם עַל דַּעְתָּם. הֲרֵי הוּא כְּתִינוֹק שֶׁנִּשְׁבָּה בֵּינֵיהֶם וְגִדְּלוּהוּ וְאֵינוֹ זָרִיז לֶאֱחֹז בְּדַרְכֵי הַמִּצְוֹת שֶׁהֲרֵי הוּא כְּאָנוּס וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁשָּׁמַע אַחַר כָּךְ [שֶׁהוּא יְהוּדִי וְרָאָה הַיְהוּדִים וְדָתָם הֲרֵי הוּא כְּאָנוּס שֶׁהֲרֵי גִּדְּלוּהוּ עַל טָעוּתָם] כָּךְ אֵלּוּ שֶׁאָמַרְנוּ הָאוֹחֲזִים בְּדַרְכֵי אֲבוֹתָם הַקָּרָאִים שֶׁטָּעוּ. לְפִיכָךְ רָאוּי לְהַחְזִירָן בִּתְשׁוּבָה וּלְמָשְׁכָם בְּדִבְרֵי שָׁלוֹם עַד שֶׁיַּחְזְרוּ לְאֵיתָן הַתּוֹרָה:

(1) One who does not believe in the Oral Torah is not to be identified with the rebellious elder spoken of in the Torah, but is classed with the epicureans (heretics).— —

In a 1974 article, Rabbi Dr Norman Lamm, the former president of Yeshiva University, suggested that we apply the principle of oness rahmana patrei, that the Merciful One exempts a person from the impossible. This talmudic principle was inspired by the case in Deuteronomy (22:25-27) of the raped woman who is not held accountable for adultery, and was applied to cases in which enemies of the Jews would force them to violate halachot under threat of death (Talmud, Avodah Zarah 54a).
The application of this principle to homosexuals was bold. Over the years, it has found a number of Orthodox rabbinic defenders such as Rabbis Steven Greenberg (himself an Orthodox Jewish homosexual), Nathan Lopez Cardozo, Benny Lau and Shlomo Riskin.

A number of other rabbis, striving to be lenient and understanding while remaining true to
halachah, have rejected this viewpoint. Rabbi Chaim Rapoport of England discusses this possibility sympathetically, but prefers an alternative mechanism (tinok shenishba) to arrive at a similar goal. Beit Hillel, too, explores different avenues in its response.
The problems with the
oness suggestion are twofold. First, how can voluntary engagement in intimate union be defined as “forced”? It seems condescending to say that homosexuals have “no choice” but to act on their impulses. Certainly, we don’t say this about heterosexual adulterers, for instance. Second, this application veers sharply from the standard uses in the Talmud, ie, physical force or threat of violence.
In my 2012 Morethodoxy post, “Homosexuals in the Orthodox Community,” I argued in
favor of the oness approach, noting a precedent that could resolve both issues. The Talmud (Gittin 38a-b) discusses a case of a female non-Jewish slave (shifcha) who was owned by two Jewish masters, and freed by only one, making her a “half- shifcha, half -freewoman”.
According to
halachah, non-Jewish slaves become Jewish on being freed, bringing about the following problem: as a shifcha, she is forbidden to marry a Jew and as a Jew she is forbidden to marry a non-Jew, even a fellow-slave. In short, she is forbidden to be intimate with anybody at all. The woman became promiscuous and the rabbis forced the second owner to free her.
In his
responsa Kol Mevasser (1:25), Rabbi Meshullam Roth (1875-1963) writes that this woman’s lack of a permissible sexual outlet makes her “as if coerced” (anussah) to sin with men. This, he argues, is why she must be freed. The point is not that she cannot control herself in any given situation or that it is in fact impossible for her to be celibate, but rather, the lack of any permissible means whatsoever, present or future, substantially weakens her psychological capacity to avoid sinning. The woman turned to promiscuous sex since all sex was equally forbidden and no halachically or socially acceptable method was available for her to create a stable marital union.
The application of Rabbi Roth’s reading of the
talmudic passage to the case of homosexuals is clear. The weight of knowing that no permissible outlet exists is akin to coercion (oness). Moreover, as happened with the half-shifcha, offering no socially acceptable status to monogamous homosexual couples invites promiscuity.
In modern times, we understand that homosexual attraction is not a lifestyle choice but a hardwired fact; whether the cause is genetic, hormonal, psychological, or some combination thereof is immaterial. Since we cannot “free” homosexuals from same-sex attraction, despite the false and often pernicious claims of “conversion therapy” advocates, our best course
is treat Orthodox Jewish homosexuals as anussim and welcome them into our communities without judgment, and with the same social and religious expectations we have of other members.
In addition to contributing to their psychological well-being, knowing that they can become fully integrated into Orthodox synagogues may help
stabilise Orthodox homosexual families, keeping the couple and their children in the fold, and contributing to the strength of klal Yisrael. Such a shift in attitude is in keeping with the Torah’s mission as a “living Torah” and “a tree of life for them that hold fast to it”.

Rabbi Farber is editor of TheTorah.com


8. Lo Tov Heyot Ha'adam Levado:

(יח) וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ ה' אֱ' לֹא־ט֛וֹב הֱי֥וֹת הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְבַדּ֑וֹ אֶֽעֱשֶׂהּ־לּ֥וֹ עֵ֖זֶר כְּנֶגְדּֽוֹ׃

(18) And the LORD God said: ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.’

הרב לאו: אין לגזור על הומוסקסואלים דתיים חיי בדידות

בפתיחת מאמרו על הנישואין, מצביע הרב י"ד סולובייצ'יק על שתי תכליות בסיסיות בדבר מוסד הנישואין. האחת מבטאת מחויבות קולקטיבית שבה שני בני הזוג מעמידים עצמם לשירותה של החברה, והשנייה מבטאת את המחויבות הפנימית שבמוסד הנישואין. מחויבות זו נעוצה בחווית היחד של שנים המשתוקקים לאהבה וידידות.
תוצאה מבדילה (="נפקא מינה") בין שתי תכליות אלו היא המקום של מצוות "פרו ורבו".
לפי התכלית הראשונה מצוות פרו ורבו היא הקורה המרכזית שעליה מושתת הבניין כולו. טול מהנישואין את המחויבות הזו ואיבדת את כל משמעותה.

לפי התכלית השנייה אין פגיעה בנישואין גם אם לא צמחו מהם חיים חדשים. עצם ההתקשרות של בני הזוג היא היא היצירה המתבקשת.
כדרכו של הרב סולובייצי'ק במקומות אחרים, גם כאן הוא מבקש לגלות בתורה את שתי התפיסות גם יחד. הציווי "פרו ורבו" מבטא את מהותו ותכליתו של האדם הנברא בפרק א. חובת ההולדה של האדם המופיעה בפרק א מתבררת כחלק מהיות האדם שותף לקב"ה בהמשך מעשה בראשית. עצם המעשה המיני המוביל להמשכת הזרע אינו רק מקודש אלא טבעי והכרחי.
פרק ב המתמקד ב"לא טוב היות האדם לבדו" מבטא את כמיהתו של האדם לחלוק את חייו בשותפות. אין בפרק זה מאומה מצרכי הגוף של האדם, אין כלל עיסוק בחובת ההולדה אלא בבדידות המעיקה של הנברא הראשון. לאיש ולאישה יש שמות, הם לא שייכים לכלל הטבע אלא הופכים להיות אנשים פרטיים, מיוחדים ומתייחדים. "בהקשר זה צריכים היו הנישואין לקנות להם משמעות חדשה, בבטאם לא רק את דרישותיו של הגזע אלא גם (ואולי בעיקר) את כיסופיו של האדם היחיד" (הרב סולובייצ'יק, שם, עמ' 49).
הנישואין מכילים בתוכם גם את השאיפה הסובייקטיבית להיגאל מהבדידות, וגם את המוסד האובייקטיבי של כריתת ברית של שני יחידים המבקשים להקים יחד קהילה, ולשם כך מקבלים על עצמם מחויבות הדדית זה לזה.
על פי קריאה זו אבקש לגשש את מילותי בתשובה להרבה אנשים השואלים את דעתי ביחס לזוגיות של אנשים בעלי נטיות חד-מיניות.

גם באופן המקל ביותר משכב זכר ייחשב לאיסור. לצאת מארון הקודש צילום: שימי נכטיילר

כבר בפתיחה אומר שאיני מכיר רב מזרם כלשהו שיתיר את משכב הזכר שנאסר בתורה. הפסוק שבתורה ניתן לפרשנויות, אך גם באופן המקל ביותר משכב זכר ייחשב לאיסור. הנושא של דבריי כאן אינו קשור לחוויה המינית אלא לחוויית הנפש של האדם המבקש להימלט מגזירת הבדידות ולחוות את חווית היחד שמתרחשת בין בני זוג.
על פי זה נאמר שמוסד הנישואין היה ויישאר בהגדרה היהודית שלו התקשרות בין איש ואישה שנועד למימוש האידאה האלוקית של המשכת העולם ("פרו ורבו") ולמימוש האידאה הפרטית והסובייקטיבית של האדם ("לא טוב היות האדם לבדו"). זו המשמעות של נישואין "כדת משה וישראל". אלא שזוגיות לחוד ונישואין לחוד.
זוגיות אינה מחייבת נישואין ויש מקום רב לשחרר את התלות שבין שני המושגים. כבר עמד על כך הרב אליעזר מלמד בכותבו בטורו "רביבים" (אתר "בשבע", חנוכה תשע"ד):

"יש לקבוע שכל שני אנשים זכאים לחתום על הסכם לשותפות זוגית, שיזכה אותם בכל הזכויות הנגזרות מחיים משותפים, כעין משפחה. אין ראוי לקרוא להסכם זה "ברית", מפני שברית מבטאת קדושה ונצח, ואילו המדינה צריכה לאפשר גם שותפות שאין בה קדושה והתחייבות לנצח. לכן השם המתאים לכך הוא "שותפות זוגית."
שלא אחטא חלילה בהוצאת דברים מהקשרם, הרב מלמד לא התייחס בדבריו להתקשרות זוגית של בני אותו מין. אני קורא את דבריו ומקשיב למשמעות מילותיו. הצורך של אדם לצאת מן הבדידות ולחיות במבנה זוגי הוא צורך קיומי. הרב מלמד עוסק בשאלה המשפטית הנגזרת מזה. קבלת זכויות "כעין משפחה". אני לא עוסק כאן בשאלה המשפטית אלא בשאלה העקרונית – האם עצם החיים המשותפים, תחת קורת גג אחת, של בני זוג חד מיניים שמוצאים הבנה ואהבה זה עם זה הם איסור?

אין היתר לגזור על בני אדם חיי בדידות

לדעתי צריך לייצר גבולות גזרה כתשובה לשאלה זו:
הגבול האחד – אין היתר לאדם להביא עצמו לאיסורי תורה. כל פעילות גופנית או נפשית שמייצרת התעוררות פיזית שאינה מותרת – תהיה אסורה. מבלי להתפלפל במגוון אין סופי של סיטואציות אפשריות אני אומר שאיסורי תורה של גירויים מיניים לא יכולים למצוא היתר.
הגבול השני – אין היתר לגזור על בני אדם חיי בדידות. עצם היציאה מן הבדידות אל חיי הזוגיות היא הצלת חיים של ממש. ראיתי הרבה אנשים בודדים בחיי הקצרים, ואני יודע שפעמים רבות הם בסביבת סיכון גבוה. גבר שאינו מסוגל לחיות בזוגיות של אמת עם אישה (או להפך) נידון לחיי בדידות שעשויים להיות עבורו גזר דין מוות. ההלכה מכירה היטב את מושגי "פיקוח נפש" ועושה בהם שימוש רחב עד כמה שאפשר. גם "ספק פיקוח נפש" דוחה שבת. גם בסוגיה זו אנו צריכים להשתמש באותה מערכת מושגית ולא לפחד להגדיר את המציאות של הבדידות כ"ספק פיקוח נפש". ההגדרה הזו מחייבת אותנו (בני משפחה, מחנכים ורבנים) לעשות כמה שביכולתנו כדי שהאנשים החיים בסביבתנו יצאו מאפילה לאורה וממוות לחיים. הבדידות היא סם מוות והזוגיות הנאמנה היא סם חיים. ובחרת בחיים.

Rav Benny Lau: "It is not permissible to decree a life of loneliness on a person"

In the opening of his article on marriage, Rabbi Yosef Beer Solovetchick suggests two basic objectives regarding the institution of marriage. The first reflects a collective commitment where both partners put themselves at the service of society, and the other expresses their inner commitment that is part of the institution of marriage. This commitment stems from the experience of oneness of the two who long for love and friendship


The practical difference between these two objectives is the place of the mitzvah, "Be fruitful and multiply."

According to the first objective, the commandment of procreation is the central bean on which rests the entire building. Remove this commitment from marriage and it loses all meaning.

According to the second goal, the marriage is not compromised if it does not produce new life. the connection itself between the couple is the creation that is desired.

As is the way of Rav Soloveitchik in other places, here too he seeks to discover in the Torah the two approaches together. The command to "be fruitful and multiply" express the essence and purpose of man created in chapter one. The duty of a person to procreate that appears in chapter one reveals itself to be part of a person's being a partner with God in the continuing act of creation. The very act of sex that leads to the continuation of the seed is not only sacred but natural and necessary.

Chapter two that focuses on "it is not good for humans to be alone" expresses the longing of humans to share life partnership. Nothing in this chapter mentions the person's bodily needs, there is not addressing the obligation to have children, but rather the [focus is on the] oppressive loneliness of the first human. Man and Woman have names, they do not belong to nature but become individuals, unique and distinct, able to join with another. "in this context, marriage had to acquire a new meaning, to express for them not only the demands of the race, but also (and perhaps especially) the longings of the individual" (Rabbi Soloveitchik, Lonely Man of Faith p 49).

Marriage contains the subjective desire to be saved from solitude, and also the objective institution of a covenant between two individuals who want to start a community together, and for that undertake mutual commitment to each other.

According to this reading, I would like to carefully choose my words in reply to many people who ask my opinion in connection to couple-hood for people with same-sex tendencies.

At the outset let me say that I do not know any rabbi from any denomination that will permit male intercourse that the Torah prohibited. The verse in the Torah is open to interpretation, but even in its most lenient reading male intercourse is deemed a prohibition. The theme of my remarks here is not related to sexual experience, but the experience of the soul of the person who is trying to escape feared loneliness and desires to experience togetherness that occurs between spouses.

According to this I will say that the institution of marriage was and will remain in its Jewish definition a commitment between a man and a woman intended to realize the Divine goal for continuing the world ("Be fruitful and multiply") and the realization of the personal and subjective goal of humans ("it is not good for Human to be alone"). This is the meaning of marriage "according to the law of Moses and Israel." But couple-hood and marriage are two different things.

Relationships do not require marriage and there is ample space to separate the independence between these two concepts. Already Rabbi Eliezer Melamed insisted on this in writing his column "Revivim" [in reference to heterosexual marriage]:

"We must establish that any two people are entitled to sign on a partnership agreement of couplehood that will entitle them to all the rights that derive from a shared life, just like family. It is not appropriate to call this agreement "a covenant-brit", for "covenant" expresses holiness and eternality, and the State [of Israel] must allow a partnership that is not sacred and not an eternal commitment/ Therefore, the proper name for this is 'partnership of couple-hood.'"

So that I do not transgress by God forbid taking things out of context, Ravvi Melamed did not address same-sex couples. I read his words and listen to the meaning of his words. The need of a person to be freed from loneliness and to live in the framework of couplehood is an existential need. Rabbi Melamed deals with the legal question derived from this [idea] - the obtaining of benefits "like a family." I am not concerned here with the legal question but a question of principle -whether life together, under one roof, by same-sex couples who find understanding and love for each other, is a prohibition?

I think we have to create boundaries for an answer to this question:

One border - there is no permission for a person to bring himself to transgress the Torah. Any physical or mental activity that produces physical arousal that is not allowed - will be prohibited.

without discussing the infinite variety of possible situations I the Torah's prohibition of sexual stimuli cannot be made permissible.

The second border it is not permissible to decree on people a life of being alone. Exiting from loneliness to life of couplehood is really a life-saving act. I have seen many lonely individuals in my short life and I know that they are in a high-risk situation [for suicide]. A man who cannot live in a true relationship with a woman (or vice versa) and is sentenced to a life of loneliness - it may well become a death sentence for him. Halacha knows very well the concept of "saving a life" and makes wide use of this concept whenever possible. Also "even a possibility of [safek] saving a life" overrides [the prohibitions of] Shabbat.

Even on this issue [of same-sex couples] we have to use the same conceptual system and not be afraid to define the reality of loneliness as "a possibility of saving lives." This definition requires us (family members, educators, and rabbis) to do all we can that the people living around us will exit from darkness to light and from death to life. Loneliness is deadly poison and faithful relationship is the elixir of life. And you shall choose life.

Translation by Rahel Berkovits

9. Other sex acts/is mishkav zachar part of the arayot prohibitions?

"Do not come near to uncover nakedness" [Leviticus 18:6] And the Torah prohibited all coming close to the sexual prohibitions like hugging and kissing and all the more so to enjoy her with closeness of flesh of via limbs and if he does thus in the prohibitions which are liable for karet Maimonides wrote... that he recives lashes from the Trorah and it is said "do not come near to uncover nakedness" that is to say to not come near to the things which bring one to uncover nakedness and the things which bring one to uncover nakedness and there are those that say that one is not liable for lashes. The one who does anytihng from these things is suspected of [transgressing the] sexual prohibitions and ineligable to testify as a witness... and so it is forbidden for a man to rub a man with his limbs in a manner of desire.

(ד) הָעֲרָיוֹת שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהֶן מִיתַת בֵּית דִּין מֵהֶן שֶׁמִּיתָתָן בִּסְקִילָה. וּמֵהֶן שֶׁמִּיתָתָן בִּשְׂרֵפָה. וּמֵהֶן שֶׁמִּיתָתָן בְּחֶנֶק. וְאֵלּוּ שֶׁמִּיתָתָן בִּסְקִילָה. הַבָּא עַל אִמּוֹ. וְעַל אֵשֶׁת אָבִיו. וְעַל אֵשֶׁת בְּנוֹ וְהִיא הַנִּקְרֵאת כַּלָּתוֹ. וְהַשּׁוֹכֵב עִם זָכָר. וְהַשּׁוֹכֵב עִם בְּהֵמָה. וְהָאִשָּׁה הַמְּבִיאָה אֶת הַבְּהֵמָה עָלֶיהָ:

Among the arayot punishable through execution by the court are those for [which the violators are] executing by stoning, those for which they are executed by burning, and those for which they are executed by strangulation. the following transgressions are punishable by stoning: one who has relations with his mother, whit his father's wife, his son's wife; she is called his daughter-in-law, one who has intercourse with a male, a male who has relations with an animal, and a woman who has relations with an animal.

Translation by Rahel Berkovits

(י) אֶחָד הָרוֹדֵף אַחַר חֲבֵרוֹ לְהָרְגוֹ אוֹ רוֹדֵף אַחַר נַעֲרָה מְאֹרָסָה לְאָנְסָהּ. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כב כו) "כִּי כַּאֲשֶׁר יָקוּם אִישׁ עַל רֵעֵהוּ וּרְצָחוֹ נֶפֶשׁ כֵּן הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה". וַהֲרֵי הוּא אוֹמֵר (דברים כב כז) "צָעֲקָה הַנַּעֲרָה הַמְאֹרָסָה וְאֵין מוֹשִׁיעַ לָהּ". הָא יֵשׁ לָהּ מוֹשִׁיעַ מוֹשִׁיעָהּ בְּכָל דָּבָר שֶׁיָּכוֹל לְהוֹשִׁיעַ וַאֲפִלּוּ בַּהֲרִיגַת הָרוֹדֵף:

(יא) וְהוּא הַדִּין לִשְׁאָר כָּל הָעֲרָיוֹת חוּץ מִן הַבְּהֵמָה. אֲבָל הַזָּכוּר מַצִּילִין אוֹתוֹ בְּנֶפֶשׁ הָרוֹדֵף כִּשְׁאָר כָּל הָעֲרָיוֹת. אֲבָל הָרוֹדֵף אַחַר הַבְּהֵמָה לְרָבְעָהּ. אוֹ שֶׁרָדַף לַעֲשׂוֹת מְלָאכָה בְּשַׁבָּת אוֹ לַעֲבֹד עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהַשַּׁבָּת וַעֲבוֹדָה זָרָה עִקְּרֵי הַדָּת אֵין מְמִיתִין אוֹתוֹ עַד שֶׁיַּעֲשֶׂה וִיבִיאוּהוּ לְבֵית דִּין וִידִינוּהוּ וְיָמוּת:

10 The laws of a rodef [pursuer] apply whether a person is pursuing a colleague with the intent of killing him, or a maiden that had been consecrated with the intent of paring her, as reflected by Deuteronomy 22:26, which establishes an equation between murder and rape, stating: "Just as when a man arises agains his colleague and kills him, so too, in this matter i.e., the rape of a consecrated maiden." The same principle is reflected by another verse within the passage, which states (Ibid.:27): "the consecrated maiden cried out, but there was no one to save her." Implied that if there is someone who can save her, he must do so, using all means including taking the life of the pursuer.

11 The same laws apply with regard to all others forbidden as an ervah, but not to relations with an animal. However, one may save a man from being raped [by a man] by killing the intended rapist like other arayot.

Translation by Rahel Berkovits

(א) הזהיר מהקרב אל אחת מהעריות האלו ואפילו בלא ביאה כגון חבוק ונשיקה והדומה להם מן הפעולות הזרות, והוא אמרו באזהרה מזה איש איש אל כל שאר בשרו לא תקרבו לגלות ערוה, כאילו יאמר לא תקרבו שום קירוב שיביא לגלות ערוה.

We are warned not to come close to one of any of the arayot even without intercourse - e.g., embracing, kissing, and things that are similar to them in the acts of licentiousness - as [Leviticus 18:6] states: "No person shall approach a close relative to commit a sexual offense." As if He says they shall not come near any closeness that will bring to uncover nakedness.

Translation by Rahel Berkovits

(א) באיזו ביאה חייב הבא על הערוה ובו ב סעיפים:
הבא על אחת מן העריות דרך איברים או שחבק ונשק ונהנה בקירוב בשר הרי זה לוקה וחשוד על העריות.

(1) If one has bodily contact or petting with one of the arayot (people with whom sexual relations are forbidden), or he hugged and had genital contact (literally kissing; c.f. Yevamot 55b) and benefited from nearness of the flesh, he receives (biblically sanctioned) lashes, and is suspected of having relations with arayot.

(א) הרי זה לוקה. זה הוא דעת הרמב"ם בפ' כ"א מהא"ב וכבר ביאר המ"מ שמלקות זה אינו רק בעריות אבל לא בחייבי לאוין אבל הרמב"ן נחלק על הרמב"ם בזה ודעתו שאין חיוב מלקות רק בהעראה ממש ושאר קריבות מדרבנן ובספר זוהר הרקיע (שחיבר הרשב"ץ על תרי"ג מצות) במצות ל"ת מצוה י' הסכים עם הרמב"ן והביא ראיה מה שאמרו בגמ' בסוטה דרך אברים פריצותא היא ופריצות מי אסר רחמנא:

Behold he is lashed - this is the view of the Rambam.., but the Raman disagrees about this and his view is that there is no obligation of lashes only with penetration explicitly and the rest of the coming close are from the Rabbis and Sefer Zohar HaRakiyah in negative mitzvah 10 agreed with the Ramban and brought a proof from what they [the rabbis] said in gemara Sotah sex through body parts is pritzut [licentiousness] and prizut when did God forbid it [as a biblical transgression - i.e. God did not]?

Translation by Rahel Berkovits

Kovetz Teshuvot Even Haezer 184

R. Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (April 1910 - July 18, 2012)

On the clarification of the words of the Rambam in the law of coming close to the Arayot and the obligation with Androgynous

Although the issue is simple that the words of the Minchat Chinuch that up until here he did not write that the prohibition and obligation of lashes on closeness [of flesh] is applicable rather just specifically intercourse with a male, however sex through body parts with a male the prohibition of coming close is not applicable - for behold according to the view of Rambam in the category of prohibited closeness is also hugging and kissing and this prohibition is not applicable to a man and a man.

And these are the words of the Rambam in Sefer Hamitzvot mitzva 353 he warns about coming close to one of these arayot and even without intercourse like hugging and kissing, and this[prohibition of coming close] they [the Sages] said in a warning "Every man shall not come close to any of his close relatives, to uncover [their] nakedness." (Leviticus 18:19) It is like He said, "they should not come close to any closeness that will lead to uncovering nakedness." And the language of the Sifra "they should not come close to uncovering nakedness" - I have [established] only not to uncover, from where [can I derive] that he should not come close? And to a man during the impurity of separation, you shall not come near to uncover her nakedness. Scripture teaches "And to a woman during the impurity of her separation, you shall not come close." (Leviticus 18:19) I have [established that this applies] only to a niddah etc. Scripture teaches, "They should not come close to uncover."

Meaning that the prohibition is with hugging and kissing because these are the types of things which lead to intercourse and [this prohibition] is not applicable to a man and a man. And the Minchat Chinuch only innovation is the one who has intercourse with a man is obligated in lashes for coming close to arayot. Yet we have not heard if sex with a male through body parts [is included in the prohibition] - even though a male is also written in parshat arayot, "and a male you shall not lie" etc. and specifically an androgynous the Torah expanded that one receives stoning like a male.

However, one needs to examine this according to the view of the Rambam in Chap. 11 of Laws of Prohibited Intercourse that anyone who has intercourse with and arvah from any of the arayot through body parts or he is hugged or kissed in a manner of desire and he enjoyed the closeness of flesh behold he is lashed from the Torah as it states "Do not do abominable acts" (Leviticus 18:30) [and this is said after parshat arayot that includes within it "and a male you shall not bed" etc.] although certainly hugging and kissing male to male is not included in this above-mentioned prohibition, and with this [male to male] one must say that it is like a father with his daughter and a mother with her son and like the Rambam wrote there in Law 6. But a male that has sex with another [male] through body parts what is our source to distinguish in this [and make it prohibited]? And behold according to the Minchat Chinuch one who has intercourse with the male is also obligated in coming close.

And so from what the Rambam wrote in Chapter 1 of Laws of Prohibited intercourse one who has intercourse with an androgynous through his vagina we lash him the lashes of rebellion [against the Rabbis]... and the issues of lashes of rebellion was already explained that they are like this that is exempt [of biblical punishment] although forbidden [to do from the Rabbis]. Meaning there is in this only a rabbinic prohibition. And behold the Rambam rules that an androgynous is uncertain whether s/he is a male or female.

And the Kesef Mishnah writes there in the name of the Rashba about the view of the Rambam that even if [an androgynous] is a new creation it is uncertain, and never the less we are obligated in stoning for intercourse with him [the androgynous] as with a male from the decree of the verse, see there. And now and if you say that regarding a male that has sex with a male through body parts is a biblical prohibition - on the face of it intercourse with an androgynous through his vagina is no worse than sex [with a male] through body parts [and that is not a biblical prohibition]. And it needs to be looked into more about this that the Rambam ruled that it is prohibited to have intercourse with an androgynous through his vagina and the one who has intercourse [we lash him the lashes of rebellion].

Translation by Rahel Berkovits

10. Don't assume others are sinning:

Do Homosexuals Fit into the Jewish Community?

By Bronya Shaffer


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 behaviors, 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.