Saturday, January 28, 2006

Abominable Relations

Abominable Relations

When creating the world, HaShem plainly and simply forbade homosexuality, He twice called it an abomination. In the Levitical sexual prohibitions, the Torah proclaims[1], “And [with] a man, do not lay in [the fashion of] laying with a woman, for it is an abomination (toevah[2]).” Furthermore, it is stated again[3], “And a man who lies with [another] man in [the fashion of] copulating with a woman [i.e. carnally], both have committed an atrocity, they shall surely die, their blood is upon themselves.” The prohibition against Sodomy applies equally to Jews and non-Jews. The source of the Noachide’s prohibition is from the verse describing Adam’s marriage to Eve, which states[4], “…and he shall cling to his wife…” this implies he shall cling to his wife and not to another man[5]. Sodomy is almost unique in that it is a universal and global prohibition, even the Rambam, who says that Canaanite slaves are not bound by the rules against incest, agrees that male Canaanite slaves cannot have same-sex relations. Moreover, committing Sodomy also violates two more precepts: The Biblical injunction against wasting or needlessly destroying[6] and the Biblical injunction against performing any acts that are considered repulsive[7].


The Sefer HaChinuch explicates[8] the nature of the prohibition of gay intercourse by explaining its roots: HaShem created His world for it to be inhabited, so it is logically illegal for people to engage in acts of Sodomy, which needlessly waste human seed. Concerning heterosexual activity, even when there is no potential for pregnancy (e.g., she is already pregnant, she is post-menopause, etc…), it can never be deemed pointless usage of one’s seed for in doing so one is fulfilling the precept of pleasing his wife, onah. This explains why the Talmud[9] equates an adult woman marrying a minor boy and vice versa[10] to prostitution; such relations have little to no possibility of bringing about conception or pregnancy, and thus are considered wasteful. However, once married, the relations are not forbidden. Due to the unnatural nature of homosexuality, it is considered an abomination (“to’eva”), a term exclusively used to describe homosexuality and not any other type of forbidden relation. In addition to the fact that anal relations are “dirty, disgusting, and repulsive in the eyes of all intelligent beings”[11], it is not fitting for a person, who was created to serve his Creator, to disgrace his body with such despicable acts. The Torah commands all Jews to “be holy”[12]. A person’s body is likened to a holy sanctuary[13], and thus desecrating one’s self by committing Sodomy is akin to desecrating the Holy Temple.


Although the reasoning to outlaw homosexuality is purely halachik, there are also social reasons to do so. Children raised on homosexual families are said to be more likely to become homosexual themselves, which eventually will cause world population to fall. The Talmud discusses[14] the effects of homosexual acts on stabilizing family continuity: in an exchanged between Bar Kappara and Rebbi, it is revealed that toevah is a portmanteau of the words to'eh atah Vah, “you err with it". Rashi, Tosafos, and the Ran explain[15] this implies that a man would leave behind his wife and children in order to pursue homosexual liaisons, thus destroying family unity and stability[16].


The term “Sodomy” is a Biblical reference to the town of Sodom (possibly the present-day Bab edh-Dhra). The inhabitants of Sodom were known for their moral degradation as the Torah testifies about them[17], “And the people of Sodom were evil and sinners to G-d, very much so.” Rashi points out[18] that their evilness refers specifically to the evil they committed with their bodies[19]. Before the destruction of Sodom, the citizens of this unholy city requested of Lot to send out his guests (who were actually angels) from Lot’s house so that they may “know them.” “Knowing” in the Biblical sense, is a euphemism for sexually relations (e.g. Genesis 19:5). Rashi[20] and his grandson Rashbam (Rabbi Shmuel ben Meir, 1085-1174), a Tosafist, explain based on the Midrash Aggadah[21] that the residents of Sodom wanted to engage in homosexual relations with Lot’s guests. This type of detestable attitude, explains the Ramban, was the cause of Sodom’s upheaval and uprooting from the world. The Torah warns[22] that anyone who performs these types of abominations shall eventually be disgorged from the Land of Israel, just as its previous inhabitants (i.e. the ancient residents of Sodom and similar peoples) were destroyed. The destruction of Sodom with fire and brimstone (salt and sulfur) was a direct result of their homosexual tendencies, and its destruction and upheaval serves as a reminder to all of society not to perform such contemptible and shameful acts[23].


In a similar vein, when forming the world, HaShem straightforwardly outlawed Bestiality. The Torah says[24], “And to all animals, you [in the male form of the word] shalt not give of your seed to defile her [i.e. the animal]; and a woman shall not stand in front of an animal for mating, [for] it is a perversion.” It is further reiterated[25], “And a man who lies [carnally] with an animal shall surely be put to death, and the animal you shall [also] kill. And a woman who approaches any animal for it to mate with her, you shall kill the woman and the animal, they shall surely die, their blood is upon themselves.” Again, based on Genesis 2:24, the Rambam[26] explains that this law applies even to gentiles[27]: It says about marital relations, “[A]nd they shall become one flesh,” which excludes domesticated animals, wild animals, and birds[28]. In his alternate explanation[29], Rabbi Avrohom ben Meir Ibn Ezra (1093-1167) explains that quote comes to teach that the purpose of relations is for partners to join physically in order to beget other humans. Sexual relations with an animal defeat the entire purpose of sex and thus are not actions condoned by the world’s Creator.


The Sefer Chinuch explains that The Holy One Bless Is He wants all the species of His world to create fruits (i.e. offspring) of their own kind. Because of this will of G-d, the opposite, the creation of unnatural hybrids (whether in plants, people, or animals), is looked down upon because it needlessly mixes various seeds. To mix one genus of plants or animals with another is absolutely forbidden[30] even to a Non-Jew as the verse states[31], "from the birds according to their species." From the fact that Noach was commanded to bring all the animals in pairs, and not to bring one animal of one species along to mate with an animal of another species, shows that there was a prohibition against the practice of mixing the seeds of animals. The Rema mi'Panu (Rabbi Menachem Azaria de Fano, 1548-1620) also includes[32] the prohibition of grafting and cross planting in his list of the thirty Noachide laws. If for lowly creatures such as a plants and animals it is forbidden to create hybrids, then surely for a person, the choicest creation from all, it is unfitting to mix his or her seed with a lowly animal’s impure seed. The most impure man—the prophet of impurity—Balaam son Beor[33] was also known to have had relations with his famous ass[34]. His female donkey asked him[35], “Am I not your jackass on whom you rode…?” On this, the Ba’al Haturim (Rabbi Yaakov Ben Asher, 1270-1340), expounded[36] that the numerical value of the Hebrew words for “you rode upon me” is equal to “you mated with me,” thus Balaam had bestial relations with his Equus asinus. The man who attempted to curse the Jewish nation was himself cursed as a special curse was pronounced at Mount Gerizim that is imposed upon one who lies with any animal[37].


Just as concerning bestial relations, an active (male) partner is equivalent to a passive (female) partner[38], concerning homosexual relations, both the Sodomite (the active partner) and the Sodomized (the passive partner) are considered sinners[39]. However if the involvement of the either or both was purely unintentional, accidental (i.e. one partner was sleeping), or forced, in which case s/he or they are mere victims, then s/he or they cannot be held responsible[40]. As the Rambam elaborates, one is liable for the death penalty even for just carrying out the “initial step” of Sodomistic or bestial relations. Whether that term (ha'arah) means the beginning of the penetration (i.e. insertion of the tip) or mere physical contact between the two sexual organs is subject to an Amoraic dispute[41]. Regardless of the age of the men or animals involved in these illicit practices, one has committed a grave transgression. Just as the practical applications of the laws of Homosexual relations and bestial human-animal relations are very much comparable, the moral objections to both are similar. The waste of seed resulting from a man having sex with another man is at least tantamount to the waste of seed when one consorts with an animal, if not worse (for with an animal only one person is wasting his or her seed, while in gay relations, two men are). Similarly, the disgustingness and squalor of one making love with an animal should apply to relations between two men, regardless of whether those involved feel that it is a lovely act and is justified. Furthermore, due to their juxtaposition in the Torah –twice in fact—, one should only greet another man for homosexual relations with the same stance of repulsiveness that he greets close relatives (e.g. mother, daughter, sister, etc…) for incestuous relations.


Certain gay rights activists argue, in defense of homosexuality, that if certain “opponents to gayness” oppose gay marriages, then it is fine for them, but they should not have the right to impose their views upon other people. Furthermore, they contend that if two people “love” each other, then their relationship cannot possibly be wrong. Other so-called experts in morality, such as “Rabbi” Elliot Dorff from the University of Judaism, California (purportedly an atheist) claim that modern-day Talmudic scholars should attempt to reexamine the Torah in order to justify these sinners in their sinning. Many liberals also assert that being gay is not all about anal sex and Sodomy, but it is a lifestyle of its own, even without committing those abhorrent acts (and some gays even agree that they are disgusting and abominable). The comparison between a Kleptomaniac and Homosexual as diseases is not fair, because the former is a disease that has afflicted people throughout history and it something that society deals with, while the latter is a self-imposed sickness in which a man puts himself into a position of carnally (or passionately) desiring other men.


However, those familiar with the Noachide laws would never propose such arguments. The entire world is commanded to establish systems of justice to try to punish those who do not adhere to the standards and rules of a moral society. It indeed is the business of those trying to uphold the moral standing of the world to defend and maintain the ancient Heavenly injunctions against homosexuality. “Love” is not a justification for any type of sin, even if one loves his mother that love does not rationalize him “marrying” her[42]. Merely allowing homosexuals to join in holy matrimony, defeats the entire purpose of the institute of marriage. The raison d’etre of marriage is to produce children and thereby insure the survival of the world for future generations. However, homosexuality encourages “free sex” which does not intend bring about the birth of children, and many of its offspring are illegitimate bastards.


Even those gays who do not engage in Sodomy are still prohibited from marrying each other. This is because, as the Rema mi'Panu records[43], there is even a prohibition for Noachides merely to draw up marriage contracts for homosexuals[44]. Even non-sexual relations (e.g. kissing, hugging, etc…) between forbidden partners are forbidden under the prohibition of ‘ervah[45]. Furthermore, a gay man, who has urges for forbidden homosexual relations that a normal person does not have, to be alone with another man, especially if they are living together, can possibly be prohibited because of “Before the blind do not put a stumbling block”[46]. The Talmud understands[47] this passage to prohibit causing a person to be in a situation in which he is likely to transgress a commandment. In addition, it is clear from Tosafos (throughout the first perek/chapter of Avodah Zarah) that this rule (of not causing others to sin) applies even to a Noachide.


Some liberal Jews wish to reinterpret the Levitical passages prohibiting homosexual relations as referring to anything but actual Sodomy. One such person is Lakme Batya Elior[48] who tried to fallaciously say, loosely based on Rabbi Yehuda of Sanhedrin 71a, that just like the execution of the rebellious son[49] has never actually occurred, so too the prohibition of homosexual relations is never actually applicable. She claims that from the fact that the Torah refers to homosexual relations in terms of its similarity to heterosexual intercourse[50] shows that homosexual relations are only forbidden if the intercourse is vaginal, just as all the other forbidden relations are only vaginal. Since it is physiologically impossible for two men to engage in relations with vaginal penetration, she claims that the prohibition of homosexual relations never applies. However, her logic is flawed because HaShem would not give a specific prohibition for a situation that is inherently impossible because by definition a man does not have the female anatomy of a woman! Furthermore, even if "vaginal penetration" was possible for two men, the act would still be prohibition because Rabbi Eliezer ben Shmuel of Metz (d. 1175), a student of Rabbeinu Tam, points out[51] that the Torah outlaws "the ways which one engages in relations with a woman[52]" which prohibits both ways (if they were even possible). Ms. Elior's comparison between sodomy and the rebellious son is unjustified and has no basis because while every enumeration of the 613 commandments includes the prohibition of homosexual relations, the opposite is true concerning the commandments about the rebellious son. Furthermore, unlike the rebellious son, which has not even occurred throughout the history of the world, homosexuality has existed and there are gays. It is quite clear that the prohibition of homosexuality is meant for practical application, while the laws of the rebellious son are purely theoretical.


Another typical so-called refutation against the biblical injunction against homosexual relations is that the prohibition only applies if done as a ritual. Elior herself points out that the prohibitions described in the book of Leviticus are only forbidden because they were done as pagan rituals by the Canaanites. She writes, “In this context, the law against ‘cohabiting with a male as with a woman’ gets the interpretation that men were standing in for sacred priestesses to have sex with other men - not because those other men were homosexual, but because it was the ritual.” This means that relations with a man are only forbidden if under the guise of a religious observance, but if done freely. However, the Torah does not make mention of such a clause in the prohibition, the verse clearly implies that all such fornications with men are forbidden. The Torah did not draw a distinction between whether the relations were done in the context of a pagan sacrament or were done “for the fun of it.” Even assuming the Canaanites engaged in such relations, as they did in burning their children to the molech, in boiling kids in their mother’s milk, in shaving the corner of their hair, and in other acts outlawed by the Torah, that does not say that the Torah allowed for such actions outside of the context of a pagan rite. It merely shows that HaShem outlawed something that someone else actually did.


“Rabbi” Arthur Ocean Waskow of the Jewish Renewal movement offers a third warped interpretation of the biblical ban against homosexual relations. He says that perhaps homosexual relations are only forbidden when the man “replaces a woman.” However, in a situation where one is consciously and purposely engaging in relations with another, not as a replacement for a woman, but specifically for the man, Waskow says it should be permitted. In essence, Waskow is saying that for homosexuals, homosexual activity should be permitted and for non-homosexuals, it should be forbidden. Again, his logic is flawed because the Torah never makes such a distinction and because again the prohibition would never apply.


Conservative Judaism’s defender of homosexuality, "Rabbi" Bradley S. Artson, maintains[53] that the Torah never outlawed homosexuality in the context of a well-established loving relationship, only in the context of a circumstantial, casual, relation. He understands that all the cases of homosexuality that were protested against by the Rabbis of old were the non-loving kind of sexuality, where people were merely giving into their own temptations and pleasures. However, he says, if two men love each other enough, they should have the right to be able to express that love in terms of physical actions. He writes about the Torah laws, "These passages all speak about homosexual acts outside of the context of homosexual relationship. The nature of the sex is casual, almost circumstantial -- two bachelors who happen to be under the same blanket, a young boy seduced by an older man... Anonymous or coercive homosexual acts (as, for example, the prevalence of such acts in American prisons or on navy ships) are, indeed, abominations. To'evah still applies to sexual relations with minors, bath house sex, rape, sadomasochistic sex." However, Artson's reasoning is flawed because no one before has mentioned such a split between two types of homosexual relations, nowhere is such a split even hinted to in the Torah or other writings. Furthermore, concerning the other forbidden sexual relations, such as incest or zoosexuality, there is no leeway given for one who is in “love" with his mother or horse; all forbidden sexual relations are forbidden[54].


All the above rationale about the waste of seed can explain why male Homosexuals should be condemned; however, female homosexuality, or lesbianism, is somewhat a different issue. There is seemingly no direct prohibition for a woman to waste her seed (she has no sperm or semen to waste), and the Torah never specifically forbade female-female relations. However, they can also be included in the prohibition of male homosexuality because of the repulsiveness in their sexual relations. Concerning the prohibition of a Zonah (lit. prostitute) to a Kohen[55], the Rambam understands that the definition of a zona is any lady who engaged in forbidden sexual conduct. The Talmud says[56] that a woman who engaged in Lesbian relations is forbidden to marry a Kohen; this is because she engaged in forbidden conduct and gains the status of a zona. These types of relations fall under the prohibited category of “Egyptian acts”[57] and according to Maimonides are Biblically forbidden. Rabbi Yehoshua Falk Katz (d. 1614) of Lemburg, argues on the Rambam, and says[58] that while there is no precise Biblical source for forbidding Lesbian relations, it surely is Rabbinically forbidden. Rabbi Yaakov Culi (1685-1732) writes[59] that it is debatable whether women are included in the prohibition of destroying seeds or not. He writes that according to Rabbeinu Tam, since women are not included in the comment of procreation, they are not forbidden to destroy human seeds, while according to Nachmanides, despite the fact that women are not commanded to procreate, they are still proscribed against destroying human seed. Amongst the medieval sages, there are two explanation of what exactly is the proscribed act of lesbianism[60]. According to the Rivan[61], the forbidden act of lesbianism is when a woman emits the seed injected into her by husband in the context of intimate relations with another woman. According to another explanation cited in Tosafos[62], the act of lesbianism mentioned in the Talmud is the act of Tribadism. Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad (1835-1909) writes[63] that even according to the first opinion, the prohibition of lesbianism is not because of the seed, which is spilled; rather, lesbianism is prohibited because of a separate prohibition banning all acts that are "Egyptian" in nature. The Mabit, Rabbi Moshe ben Yoseph di Trani the Elder (1505-1585), writes[64] that while the prohibition banning "Egyptian acts"[65] is biblical in origin while the prohibition of spilling one's seed is only possibly biblical, but not necessarily.



Even those Lesbians who do not believe in engaging in sexual relations with one another (perhaps because of the aforementioned disgustingness related to it), they should still not be married together. A lesbian lifestyle encourages flamboyance and flashiness, while the Torah tells woman to act with modesty; the lesbian lifestyle is thus contrary to the Torah’s outlook of tznius because it is, by definition, immodest. Therefore, since there seems not to be an actual Biblical injunction against Lesbianism, it is possible that for non-Jews Lesbianism might be a permitted lifestyle, but certainly, it is unbecoming of the holy daughters of Israel and virgins of Zion. In lamenting the destruction of the Holy Temple, Malachi mentioned[66] as a cause of its destruction the “toevah” which were done in Israel and Jerusalem. The Talmud[67] understood that the prophet was referring to homosexual relations between men, which were a reason for the destruction of the Holy Temple. Despite present-day justification of promiscuity, may it be the will of HaShem that the Holy Temple should be speedily rebuilt in our days: Amen.



[1] Leviticus 18:22

[2] Some explain the word "taboo" is derived from the Hebrew word To'evah.

[3] Leviticus 20:13

[4] Genesis 2:24

[5] Maimonides, Laws of Kings 9:5

[6] Deuteronomy 20:19

[7] Leviticus 20:25

[8] §209

[9] Sanhedrin 76b

[10] Yevamos 68b

[11] Direct quote from the Chinuch

[12] Leviticus 19:2

[13] Taanis 11a-b

[14] Nedarim 51a

[15] All ad loc.

[16] “Rabbi” Bradley S. Artson has the impudence to argue on this Gemara and he says that suppressing homosexuality destabilizes and ruins families (Jewish Spectator, Winter 1990, “Gay and Lesbian Jews: An Innovative Jewish Legal Position”). He is clearly in error.

[17] Genesis 13:13

[18] Ibid. and Kiddushin 70a

[19] Contrary to the Ibn Ezra who says that their “evilness” refers to their state of interpersonal interactions with one another

[20] Ibid.

[21] Genesis Rabbah 50:5

[22] Leviticus 18:27-28

[23] See Deuteronomy 29:22

[24] Leviticus 18:23

[25] Leviticus 20:15-16

[26] Maimonides, Laws of Kings 9:5

[27] Although in such a case the animal is not put to death, Ibid. 9:6

[28] Perhaps also fish based on Bava Kamma 55a. However, Rabbi Yosef Ben Moshe Babad, 1801-1874, argues, see Minchat Chinuch §210:1.

[29] of Genesis 2:24

[30] Leviticus 19:19

[31] Genesis 6:20

[32] Asarah Ma'amaros, Ma'amar Chikur Din 3:21, Amsterdam, Holland, 1649

[33] See Numbers, chapters 22-24

[34] Sanhedrin 105a

[35] Numbers 22:30

[36] Numbers, ad loc. based on Sanhedrin 105a

[37] see Deuteronomy 27:21

[38] As stated explicitly in Leviticus 20:15-16

[39] Sanhedrin 54b

[40] Rabbi David Bleich of Yeshiva University supposedly feels that all contemporary homosexuals fall under the category of accidental ‘ones sinners, because they have uncontrollable urges; however, this minority opinion is not accepted by mainstream Orthodoxy.

[41] See Yevamos 55b

[42] It should be noted that comparing modern day homosexuals to zoophiles does not do the former justice because the latter has become so accepted in today’s morally degenerated society, as is evident from the coverage of the December 2005 marriage of Sharon Tendler to her dolphin Cindy.

[43] 3:21

[44] See Chullin 92a-b

[45] See Chinuch §188, who writes according to the understanding of the Bais Shmuel and the Ramban in the opinion of the Maimonides, it is forbidden to have relations with another man even by way of other limbs (besides those normally used). This is true even if not done in the fashion of lovemaking (however, the Rashbatz argues), see Minchas Chinuch Ibid. at length.

[46] Leviticus 19:14

[47] Bava Metzia 75b

[48] See her essay entitled “The Halachic Process and the Laws on Homosexuality”

[49] As described in Deuteronomy 21:18-21

[50] Meaning both Leviticus 20:13 and Leviticus 18:22 refer to a man who cohabits with another man “like a woman”

[51] Sefer Yereim, laws of Forbidden Sexual Relations, §4

[52] Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 says Mishkevai not Mishkav, this denotes the plural of ways to engage in relations by usage of the plural word for lying instead of the singular.

[53] Jewish Spectator, Winter 1990, “Gay and Lesbian Jews: An Innovative Jewish Legal Position”

[54] To Artson’s credit, he does address those issues in his “halachik responsa” and writes, "Modern psychology and psychiatry affirm that incest and bestiality reflect mental illness that will interfere with all aspects of the individual's life. Their status as mental illness is uncontested.” However, he still uses his elusive “difference” between those two and homosexuality. Such a difference is still unfounded.

[55] Leviticus 21:7

[56] Yevamos 76a, Shabbos 25a

[57] Leviticus 18:3

[58] Perisha

[59] Mishneh L'Melech to Laws of Forbidden Sexual Relations 21:18

[60] See Maimonides, Laws of Forbidden Sexual Relations 21:8

[61] Cited in Tosafos to Yevamos 66a

[62] To Yevamos 66a

[63] In his pseudonymous responsa Torah Lishmah §502, under the penname "Ezekiel the Blue"

[64] Kiryas Sefer to Maimonides' Laws of Forbidden Sexual Relations, Chapter 21

[65] Leviticus 18:3

[66] Malachi 2:11

[67] Sanhedrin 82a

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I believe the prohibition against lesbianism may also derive from the posuk "Don't place a stumbling block before the blind." If the world's population were evenly divided between men and women, and a significant number of women were lesbians - possibly to have avoided the risk of death at child birth, or because they were generally held to be unattractive to men - then there would be too many men for the number of available females interested in traditional marraige. This, in turn, might result in an inducement of the surplus of men (for whom no females remain for them to marry) to either commit adultery or engage in other forms of forbidden sexual activity. Accordingly, participants in lesbianism, as a general rule,would be the cause of this corresponding avaira committed by willing but unneeded males.

Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

That's another issue. But it was too lomdishe to be considered. Good thinking!

You'r old buddy you-know-who said...

RChaim, love the blogg normally, really do, but this artical was really poorly written. You don't provide a lot of proff for many of your points, and a lot of times, you missunderstand thing, such as why gay people want to get married, Elliot Dorff's stand on the issue, ect. All someone would have to do is point out that you don't know what they meant, and it makes your whole articel look bad. I have no idea what you mean by that thing about gay, but not having sex, yet still married. Again, you'r missing the point about why people do things. Lastly, Lesbianism is expressly foribin in the shulcan aruch. I chat you up up about this later in person, don't worry.

Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

Please point out specifically on what points you disagree with me and where the Shulchan Aruch says his psaq explicitly. I have tried very much to give sources for every citation of mine. Please ask me if you need to know where I got a certain statement or idea from.

Frank said...

In the early 1990's there were eight anti-homosexual murders in 16 months in Texas alone. The perpetrators were teenagers. When they were asked about their motives, the most common response was "G*d said it's ok to kill these people."

If Orthodox Jews claim that Jewish laws against homosexuality must apply to gentiles as well, they are obligated to explain the restrictions on the application of this death penalty. To merely endorse this law as an example for the who world without explaining those restrictions, as you have done, puts blood on your hands and on the hands of every Orthodox Jew who makes the same omission.

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