Should homosexuality be acceptable for Jews?
OUR COMMITMENT to Judaism is founded on two pillars. One governs our relationship with One God — a God of righteousness, justice, love, compassion and forgiveness. The other governs our relationship with each other.
Mostly, my relationship with God is a matter of individual practice and informed choice. But how I am with others requires ethical conduct. Without that, piety, ritual and belief are meaningless.
How is the Divine Will revealed to humanity? Is it enshrined in one document; given by God at one moment in history; immutable, eternal, unchanging? Or are we to see the Torah as inspired and timeless in places, but also a product of its time? Its universal application to contemporary society endorses those who would stone the “deviants” of Orthodox halachah.
If we prize — above all else — the faith that each human being is created in the Divine Image, if we set justice and compassion as the pillars of a humane society, then those individuals whom Judaism has pushed to the margins possess as much right to be part of the Jewish community as anyone else.
We should move beyond our era of sexual obsession and learn to cherish the values of faithfulness over fickleness and affection and respect above fleeting gratification. Then perhaps we will see that everything we imagined was under assault — family and fidelity, scholarship and learning, restraint and gentleness — is cherished as dearly by same-sex couples who remain dedicated to a loving and respectful expression of Judaism and who desire to pass it on to the next generation. Rabbi Wright is senior rabbi of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue
THE TORAH and its commentaries are very clear about the Jewish attitude towards homosexuality. It is a perversion and both offending parties are liable to capital punishment (Leviticus). Although Maimonides writes that Jews are not suspected of practising homosexuality, he nevertheless specifically forbids male and female homosexuality.
The prohibition against homosexuality is not exclusive to Jews. It is a universal law included among Noahide Laws. The Sefer Hachinuch (a classical commentary) describes homosexuality as an unnatural perversion debasing the dignity of man. The Jewish view is unequivocal. Homosexuality is forbidden.
How, then, should the Jewish community view an openly gay individual? On a personal level, one can truly sympathise with the dilemma a Jewish gay faces. But to give homosexuality even a whisper of legitimacy is distinctly anti-Jewish and even borders on Chilul Hashem (desecration of God’s name).
If the Torah forbids homosexuality, its view is that one can control it. The Talmud says that God does not give his creations rules they cannot obey. While people may have an orientation and urge for a sinful act, Judaism expects and demands self-control. Openly condoning homosexuality is a statement that the Torah got it wrong.
The Torah describes the Jewish people as a Holy Nation, and our holiness is based on our adherence to the moral code of the Torah. To practise homosexuality is to violate it, and to openly espouse it is to mock the legitimacy of the Torah and Judaism. Dayan Lichtenstein is head of the Federation Beth Din