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The Torah Approach

Posted on January 21, 2016 at 2:35 PM

Declaration On The Torah Approach To Homosexuality

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Societal Developments On Homosexuality

 

There has been a monumental shift in the secular world’s attitude towards homosexuality

over the past few decades. In particular over the past fifteen years there has been a major

public campaign to gain acceptance for homosexuality. Legalizing same-sex marriage

has become the end goal of the campaign to equate homosexuality with heterosexuality.

A propaganda blitz has been sweeping the world using political tactics to persuade the

public about the legitimacy of homosexuality. The media is rife with negative labels

implying that one is “hateful” or “homophobic” if they do not accept the homosexual

lifestyle as legitimate. This political coercion has silenced many into acquiescence.

Unfortunately this attitude has seeped into the Torah community and many have become

confused or have accepted the media’s portrayal of this issue.

 

The Torah’s Unequivocal And Eternal Message

 

The Torah makes a clear statement that homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle or a

genuine identity by severely prohibiting its conduct. Furthermore, the Torah, ever

prescient about negative secular influences, warns us in Vayikra

(Leviticus) 20:23 “Do

not follow the traditions of the nations that I expel from before you...” Particularly the

Torah writes this in regards to homosexuality and other forbidden sexual liaisons.

 

Same-Sex Attractions Can Be Modified And Healed

 

From a Torah perspective, the question whether homosexual inclinations and behaviors

are changeable is extremely relevant. The concept that G-d created a human being who is

unable to find happiness in a loving relationship unless he violates a biblical prohibition

is neither plausible nor acceptable. G-d is loving and merciful. Struggles, and yes,

difficult struggles, along with healing and personal growth are part and parcel of this

world. Impossible, life long, Torah prohibited situations with no achievable solutions are

not.

We emphatically reject the notion that a homosexually inclined person cannot overcome

his or her inclination and desire. Behaviors are changeable. The Torah does not forbid

something which is impossible to avoid. Abandoning people to lifelong loneliness and

despair by denying all hope of overcoming and healing their same-sex attraction is

heartlessly cruel. Such an attitude also violates the biblical prohibition in Vayikra

(Leviticus) 19:14 “and you shall not place a stumbling block before the blind.”

 

The Process Of Healing

 

The only viable course of action that is consistent with the Torah is therapy and

teshuvah. The therapy consists of reinforcing the natural gender-identity of the individual

by helping him or her understand and repair the emotional wounds that led to its

disorientation and weakening, thus enabling the resumption and completion of the

individual’s emotional development.

Teshuvah is a Torah-mandated, self-motivated process of turning away from any transgression or sin and returning to G-d and one’s spiritual essence. This includes refining and reintegrating the personality and allowing it to grow in a healthy and wholesome manner.

These processes are typically facilitated and coordinated with the help of a specially

trained counselor or therapist working in conjunction with a qualified spiritual teacher or

guide. There is no other practical, Torah-sanctioned solution for this issue.

 

The Mitzvah Of Love And Compassion

 

It requires tremendous bravery and fortitude for a person to confront and deal with same-

sex attraction. For example a sixteen-year-old who is struggling with this issue may be

confused and afraid and not know whom to speak to or what steps to take. We must

create an atmosphere where this teenager (or anyone) can speak freely to a parent, rabbi,

or mentor and be treated with love and compassion. Authority figures can then guide

same-sex strugglers towards a path of healing and overcoming their inclinations.

The key point to remember is that these individuals are primarily innocent victims of

childhood emotional wounds. They deserve our full love, support and encouragement in

their striving towards healing. Struggling individuals who seek health and wellness

should not be confused with the homosexual movement and their agenda. This distinction

is crucial. It reflects the difference between what G-d asks from all of us and what He

unambiguously prohibits.

 

We need to do everything in our power to lovingly uplift struggling individuals towards a

full and healthy life that is filled with love, joy and the wisdom of the Torah.

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Daughter's Lesbianism

Posted on January 10, 2016 at 1:40 PM

A Happy Ending to my Daughter’s Situational Lesbianism

by Hope (Posted Nov 2011)

For two long years I dreamed about being able to write this letter. My story is that of a mother who fought with the proverbial "nails and teeth" to "rescue" her now 40 year old daughter from the tentacles of what I believe was a woman looking to take advantage of the tragedy my daughter had suffered.

Since her days in High school, my daughter Leeron was what you'd call a very attractive and popular teenager. Girls wanted to be her friends, boys wanted to date her. She was popular and well accepted by her peers. Leeron is not only beautiful but also smart; she was always an overachiever in school. Not once during her growing up years however, did I get any indication or suspicion that she might have same sex sexual inclinations.

When she met and married Shai in 2001, we all shared their happiness. Leeron and Shai built a beautiful family in a few short years; G-d blessed them with four beautiful children. But then something terrible happened, Shai was diagnosed with colon cancer and all their dreams and hopes for a beautiful future came crushing down. He passed away in 2008. That was one of those instances in which people try to make sense of something very painful and ask themselves, why? Why did this tragedy happen to such a nice, complete, and happy family?

The following two years were very challenging for the young family. Shai fought for his life like a lion. For Leeron and the children, watching him getting consumed by the cancer day by day was like living a nightmare. Leeron was now the only bread winner in the family. In her desperation, she clung to her family and her work friends for moral support. She was devastated by life's circumstances and sought comfort and support wherever she could find it.

Maureen was a colleague at the company where Leeron worked. It was only a few months later (after Shai's death) that I noticed something new going on in my daughter's life. At first I thought she was dating a male colleague but soon enough the shocking reality revealed itself in its full colors. Her "friend" was a WOMAN. Once I got over the initial shock, I decided to approach my daughter, questioning her reasoning over her decision to experience a same sex emotional and sexual relationship.

Leeron never came clear about the facts. She did not care to explain nor to reason with her own mother. She felt that she had gone through so much pain and suffering, that nobody had the right to dictate her how to live her life. I could only assume certain things, based upon the advice and reading materials provided to me by JONAH. And, I was determined to discover what caused this loving and devoted wife and mother of 4 children to enter into a lesbian relationship and to also do whatever I could to help her overcome this relationship.

Deep down, she was dealing with a sense of emotional neediness, having spent so much emotion on Shai's care over the last two years. She felt empty and lost without him. Along came a new-found friend who preyed upon my bewildered, frightened and angry daughter; they shared a mutual confidence level while exploring their deepest feelings. At the same time, however, I believe Maureen, the new friend, used the confidences shared by my daughter as a way to meet her own emotional needs for attachment to a woman while simultaneously providing Leeron with what appeared to be empathetic and unconditional love for the pain she was suffering. In this process, Maureen subtly encouraged my daughter to find love, acceptance and satisfaction in her lesbian lifestyle. I also believe she encouraged my daughter to distance herself from others like me who would or could have voiced an opinion about this new life she was embarking upon. With Maureen's encouragement, she had consciously alienated herself from our entire family. Leeron did not want to be confronted about what she was doing nor to be criticized. And, she would not communicate with me about her deep wounds. Bottom line, I believe that Maureen deliberately encouraged Leeron to be emotionally dependent upon her.

One of the things the therapist Janelle Hallman said (on the JONAH web site) really resonated with me: “When another woman comes along that triggers a sense of familiarity or presents herself to be a strong and competent woman, the lesbian literally wants to lose herself in this woman, hoping to find rest, receive the care and nurture she craves and to finally appropriate, albeit vicariously, an identity.” I saw Leeron feeling totally reliant on this other woman, both for safety and in order to continue to function. This is distinguished from an emotionally healthy relationship where two people know who they are and recognize themselves as individuals. This “emotional dependency” is characteristic of lesbian relationships and often is the consequence of a woman's deep fear of or inability to sustain intimacy.

Another relevant factor became evident from a different article I saw on the JONAH web site. Therapist Diane Eller-Boyko (who is also an ex-lesbian) wrote, “In falling in love with another woman, [Leeron] is really seeking to connect with herself…. A woman is [often] drawn to other women because she seeks heart and soul connection." Or, in Leeron's case, I believe my daughter was trying to replenish a heart and soul connection that was depleted or was no longer visible to her through the years of Shai’s illness. In this process, such women often reject their own femininity and effectively end up seeking it through another. “In seeking to unite with [another] women, she is trying to unite with herself, and this type of union will not, ultimately, heal the psyche. With another woman, she will have only the illusion of wholeness. The shadow, representing those real developmental needs that were never met, will continue to haunt her.”

During this time, I was still worried about the mental health of my 4 young grandchildren after they lost their beloved father, but now I had to also deal with their stories about what was going on at home. One time I witnessed a bitter argument between 2 of the siblings about whether Maureen was a "boy" or a "girl". My life became hell on earth. Not only was I still grieving for my beloved son-in-law but now I had to worry about the psychological implications of my daughter’s actions upon my grandchildren.

These kind of situations teach a human being that we are stronger than we think we are. To me this situation felt like "the end of the world" but I still survived. I took comfort in praying, sometimes softly and sometimes desperately. I'll never forget that time when I felt so desolated that I needed to be alone and away from the concerned eyes of my own husband. I locked myself in the bathroom and got on my knees in prayer... Some of you might say that it is not the end of the world, but for me it was. As a religious person, I truly believe that the SSA condition should be fought because it is inconsistent with G-d’s commandments for us. Many rabbis have commented how everyone is capable of transforming and that psychological counseling can be immensely beneficial to someone dealing with this condition. (The most recent pronouncement to this effect is from the noted Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky in Hakirah: the Flatbush Journal of Jewish Law and Thought, Vol. 12, Fall, 2011.)

 

I truly believe that G-d heard my prayers and took pity on my misery. Something miraculous happened! About a year ago, Leeron met David and the rest is history. David is a wonderful man who cares enough about Leeron to be willing to help her raise her 4 children. I am unaware whether Leeron had the courage to tell David about her experience with lesbianism. (I believe my daughter knows, deep inside, that her relationship with Maureen was wrong.) I hope she informs David about her past activity as I fear he may find out through a third party or from the children, and finding out that way could destroy the trust and love that has been built up between them. Without a doubt, however, I am extremely happy with her relationship with David . My prayers have been answered. Moreover, David is helping her shed her grief, anger, and loneliness. He is assisting her in tearing down the walls of distrust she had built after the loss of her husband.

As a religious person, I recognize how part of our hunger for G-d, that we as humans seek, is to truly experience our inner-most selves, our souls if you will. Lesbianism can provide a false sense of connected souls but only authentic man-woman relationships provide a sense of completion as well as a connection of souls that truly represents a gift provided to us by G-d.

I got my life back. My grandchildren are happy again. No one can substitute for a real father, but a loving stepfather is the next best thing. And, my daughter appears to be in a relatively good space. Her lesbian affair is behind her and she appears very happy with David. She is still somewhat detached from her family, most likely because of the guilt and shame she may still be feeling. I continue to pray that she will engage in counseling to understand where she came from and where she is going and in the process to totally reconnect with all who truly love her.

Why am I telling my story? Because I am convinced that among same sex couples, there are those who got there because of their own difficult life circumstances. I have seen in my community that some lesbians take satisfaction and pride in "converting" otherwise completely "normal" women into lesbians. What a better way to obtain this than to prey on a distressed woman who is going through a tragedy in her life. I believe that my daughter was so vulnerable that any kind of "gentle" attention attracted her to the attention giver. Thank G-d, Leeron was able to see the light, and walk away from lesbianism.

 

And one more thing, during this whole ordeal, JONAH, was a real source of help and guidance to me. I wish to thank Arthur Goldberg and Elaine Berk from the bottom of my heart for their guidance and compassion and also wish to have them share with their readers this one story with a happy ending!

Orthodox Response

Posted on January 7, 2016 at 4:35 PM

ORTHODOX RESPONSE TO SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

 

Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb

Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union (Posted June 2008)

 

It is high time for a statement asserting and explaining the traditional Jewish position on homosexuality. Various Jewish groups have left the impression with the public at large that Judaism is supportive of homosexual behavior to the extent of endorsing same sex marriage. Thus it is imperative for the Orthodox world to make our position clear once more.

 

The position of traditional Judaism on homosexual behavior is clear and unambiguous, terse and absolute. Homosexual behavior between males or between females is absolutely forbidden by Jewish law, beginning with the biblical imperative, alluded to numerous times in the Talmud and codified in the Shulchan Aruch.

 

The position of Judaism on marriage is equally clear. Judaism recognizes marriage as a fundamental human institution, and affirms marriage only between a man and woman.

 

Judaism recognizes the central role of the two-parent, mother-father led family as the vital institution in shaping the entire human race. Within the Jewish people, the two-parent marriage is a model not only for human relations but for relations with the Divine. The Almighty Himself is seen as being a third partner to the father-mother configuration, and the central role of the family, unless circumstances make it impossible, is to conceive and raise children, thereby perpetuating the human race and for Jews, ensuring the continuity of the Jewish people.

 

I contest the description of Jewish values that has been foisted upon the public by numerous spokesmen of various factions of Judaism, most recently, and extremely, in the David Ellenson essay on these pages ( Same Sex Marriage, In The Jewish Tradition, March 12). To argue that same-sex marriage is consistent with the traditions of Judaism is intellectually dishonest at best and blasphemous at worst.

 

Nevertheless, while the sources irrevocably forbid homosexual relationships and overt homosexual behavior, there are other issues that are more nuanced and must be clarified. One has to do with the attitude toward homosexual individuals prescribed by Jewish tradition. Here it is critical to adopt the distinction, already implicit in numerous rabbinical texts, between the sin and the sinner; that is, between the person and his or her behavior. Given the nature of our times, it is impossible to formally condemn people who violate Jewish norms. Orthodox Jews and Orthodox synagogues display various degrees of tolerance and acceptance to individuals who are violators of the halachic aspects of the Sabbath, or individuals who flagrantly violate the kashrut laws. The tolerance rightly shown to these individuals by no means condones their behavior, but accepts them as people who may be misled or uninformed. While tolerance for individuals who manifest homosexual tendencies is certainly a Jewish value, and consistent with some of the core values to which Rabbi Ellenson refers, there is a great difference between tolerance for an individual and recognition of a movement which wishes to turn something clearly wrong by Jewish standards into something not only tolerated but normative.

 

Observant Jews must have an attitude of empathy and understanding for individuals who say, I have these urges, I can t help them. But we cannot accept those who would say, I have these urges, they are God-given and therefore it is a mitzvah to follow them.

 

Another complex issue that needs to be addressed is the degree to which this clear Jewish position should be translated into public policy in a pluralistic democratic society. Here, people of good will can debate the merits of whether any religion can urge its values upon the greater society. Here we can disagree, although I personally believe that all religions have the responsibility of educating the public to core values that we believe have universal, as well as particular, religious import. In this connection we ought to consider a Talmudic passage (Chullin 92a) that says that the nations of the world, however sinful, corrupt or perverse, still have the merit of at least three behaviors, one of which is they do not write a ketubah for males.

 

We can also debate the wisdom of a constitutional amendment defining marriage. It can be argued that any tampering with the U.S. Constitution, a document that arguably has done more for the Jewish people than any other secular document in historical memory, is a risky proposition. However, whatever your position on the constitutional amendment, the inclusion of same-sex relationships in the definition of marriage is something that any Jew of conscience should oppose.

 

I, and other Orthodox leaders did not foster this debate; it has been brought upon us. We are taught that certain aspects of human behavior, even very normal and natural functions, are best treated with modesty and privacy. However, the extreme statements and declarations that have been made, and lately in the very name of Judaism, simply cannot be allowed to pass without protest. We cannot be silent upon occasions where Judaism is fraudulently depicted as condoning something that its Torah clearly and irreversibly condemns.

How I Told My Wife

Posted on January 7, 2016 at 4:00 PM

How I Told My Fiancée about my SSA

Written by Michael

(Posted October 2014)

I just had the most amazing experience of my life. It was worth telling my fiancée about my SSA just for the experience itself.

The girl who I am dating (her name is xxxx) is a truly amazing woman! I took her to Central Park and we went to the Lobe Boathouse. We went rafting for an hour and it was so beautiful. Great place for a date. (highly recommended). Then I took out the towels and kosher food I brought with us. I made a beautiful picnic and we ate lunch there. Then, I went for the "dive."

I started by telling her how beautiful I thought she was and about all the amazing things I have seen in her since I met her. I told her that I trust her completely and that I am only sharing this information because I love her so much. I felt it important and wanted her to see the *REAL* me, and thus understand the true source for my growth.

I started by telling her a summary of all that I had shared with her already. Then I went on to tell her about the sexual abuse that I went through at ages 7-10. As I was explaining this, she started to tear, and I asked her what the tears were about. She responded "that must have been so hard for you". We spoke about the abuse for 20 minutes and I reassured her that I am no longer bothered by it because I have done my work around that. She responded with awe.

Finally, I told her what all my issues resulted in. I said that I had developed attraction to other males and that at one point I was totally lost in how to deal with these feelings. I went to my rabbi, and he referred me to a JONAH referral therapist. I have been working on my "issues" for the past 2 and half years. I told her about all my struggles and she listened intently. After I had finished, she responded with the following " it must have been so hard for you to tell me that. Thank you so much for being honest and opening up to me. The fact the you are being so open with me and trusting me with your struggles makes me more attracted to you than I have ever been before. I am so impressed that you can be so emotionally open with me". She then went on to ask me questions about my therapy. She asked me to repeat the main core issues underlying SSA and to explain how it applied to my life. She had already met my family twice and gotten to know their personalities a bit. After I had told her everything, she told me "now it all makes sense".

She totally "got me" guys. I was totally amazed at her sincerity and understanding. She kept emphasizing how happy she was that I was honest with her, and that it would have been a big slap in her face if she found out after marriage some other way. She now knows my struggles and is willing to stand by my side.

I also spoke to her about my social work degree and the field of interest I am planning on working in (SSA and Sexual abuse). She responded "of course! this is something you went through, and it would be a shame if you didn't utilize your unique gifts, understanding, and knowledge to help those who are struggling". My fiancée and I have a meeting with Enrique, my therapist from JONAH next week. she is excited to meet the man who i have learned so much from about myself for the past year. (And of course to meet my mentor Arthur at the same time).

Basically, to follow up,I told her to take her time on things, And I encouraged her to meet my Rabbi as well. She told me that she has no concerns and because she trusts me fully, she does not need to speak with anyone else. She told me that her trust in me before I told her was 100%,but now it's 150%. She saw my "GOLD" guys! Its amazing what authenticity feels like!

I can finally be *ME.* I don't have to live with a double-bind. I feel alive. I am only 24 years old; yet, I feel like I have come to place of well being such as a healthy 80 year old man feels. Thank you to all of you who took the time to pray for me. I'm sure everyone created a stir up in Heaven for me. You guys rock!

Postscript: Before their marriage, Michael and his bride to be went to Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky for a blessing where they fully disclosed the issues with which he was dealing. Rabbi Kamenetsky was delighted to provide such a blessing for a happy and healthy marriage.

This email was written to others in JONAH during 2011. The writer is now happily married, has a healthy child, and is helping others heal as a licensed mental health professional.

Homosexuality vs. Judaism

Posted on January 7, 2016 at 4:00 PM

HOMOSEXUALITY AND JUDAISM

 

Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, Volume XI - 1986

 

Introduction

 

Homosexuality, once a word whispered only with revulsion or derision, is now out in the open for all to see and hear. In fact, homosexuality and its attendant issues have become big news.

 

Whether it is the rapidly spreading, and ever-more frightening AIDS epidemic, or the increase in sympathetic "gay" characters in the theater and in literature, or the widening legal battles over the status of homosexuals, one cannot go very far in contemporary society with out confronting this once extremely closet-bound topic.

 

Traditional Judaism, too, has been forced to confront the issue as "gay" individuals and "synagogues" have appeared on the Jewish landscape, often appealing for support from the liberal segments of the Jewish community.

 

Certainly, an authentic Jewish response must begin with the biblical prohibition against homosexuality. The Bible unequivocally states that a homosexual act between two consenting adult males is a capital crime(1). Therefore, homosexuality is an activity that no traditional Jew can engage in, endorse, accept, or approve of (recent televised statements to the contrary notwithstanding)(2).

 

Despite this initial biblical negative, there is much to discuss regarding our attitude to the homosexual, the issue of the homosexual's place in the community, the question of approach and the treatment of the homosexual, and the problem of the homosexual's rights and acceptance in society. In addition, we must consider why the Bible and Jewish thought reject homosexuality keeping in mind as we do that female homosexuality, though forbidden, is not nearly as serious a crime as is its male counterpart(3).

 

Drawing the Right Picture

 

Our analysis of Judaism's approach to homosexuality begins with the question, "What is Judaism's view of the Jewish homosexual?" It is this author's contention that the only appropriate answer to this question is "there is no such individual(4)."

 

To explain this rather radical statement, one must go back to the structure that halacha places upon Jewish society. In this structure there are certain legal personalities who constitute the dramatis personae of the Jewish community. A Cohen is such a personality, as is a Levi. A woman is such a personality, as is a slave or a king. Other "characters" populate the Jewish landscape. The mamzer and the Cohen Gadol, the Katan and the gadol, the cheresh and the shoteh each has his place in the scheme of things(5). Lacking from this list is the homosexual. So much is he missing from the cast of characters of Jewish society that one is hard put to find a halachic term used specifically for him(6).

 

If one were, in fact, to apply a halachic category to this individual, it would be the general category of mumar l'teiavon (one whose desires put him in opposition to Torah law), specifically mumar l'mishkav zachor (one who because of his repeated involvement in homosexual activity is in opposition to Torah law). Such a category exists in halachic literature(7), is clearly defined, and places the homosexual on a equal footing with other mumarim who violate other laws.

 

It seems clear from this that halacha never viewed the homosexual as a member of a unique category or as different from the non-homosexual. He has no greater or lesser rights or obligations. He deserves no special treatment or concessions nor any special vilification. In fact, the term "homosexual" is an essentially inappropriate description for him. We should, rather, refer to this individual as a person engaged in homosexual activity. "Homosexual" is therefore not a noun that identifies and categorizes the individual but an adjective that describes his activity.

 

This approach has great intuitive appeal. It is hard to imagine Jewish thought accepting the premise the sexual desires and activities provide grounds by which to define an individual's place in the community. In addition, there are vast and important ramifications that emerge from this picture of the individual as a person involved in homosexual activity and not as a homosexual.

 

The first effect of this changed conceptualization is to alter and improve the individual's perception of himself. If one is labeled and defined by the term "homosexual", he is consequently different than the heterosexual. As such, he will struggle for minority status and for his rights as a member of that minority. He is, and should be, portrayed as a unique character type in movies, theater, and on television, and he should command an appropriate number of participants in any institution that constitutes itself along racial, ethnic, and religious lines. He agitates for gay pride and gay power, and if he is Jewish, he creates gay synagogues and other gay institutions.

 

On the other hand, If "homosexual" is a term that is limited to the description of an activity, then the individual practicing this activity remains an undifferentiated member of society, and if Jewish he is part of Jewish society. He need not feel excluded from the community. In the same way that the adulterer, the practitioner of pre-marital sex, the mechallel Shabbat(8) or the speaker of lashon harah all enter the synagogue and feel at home while individually dealing with whatever guilt they carry as a result of their sinful activities, so, too, the individual involved in homosexual activity can and should enter the synagogue and feel himself to be part of the community. He is still a human being and a Jew. He is most assuredly not part of a separate homosexual society or sub-society. (See below for a discussion of the Gentile homosexual.) Obviously, the adulterer, mechallel Shabbat, et al are duty-bound to change their ways - to do teshuva - and the mumar l'mishkav zachor has the same obligation(9).

 

The second implication of this approach concerns the community's dealings with the individual involved in homosexual activity. If the practitioner of homosexuality is considered a full fledged Jew (albeit a mummar), the community should welcome him as such. This is particularly true in our post-holocaust era, wherein our heightened awareness of the value of each Jewish soul has motivated many communities to make kiruv rechokim (attempts to bring non-observant Jews into the fold of Torah-observance) a hallmark of their activities. This Kiruv work should not and cannot be limited only to violators of halacha in ritual matters. Deviance from halachic norms in sexual matters is as much an area for concern, outreach, and proper education as anything else. Particularly in an area that is as difficult to control as sexual desire(10), the support of the community for one who might want to bring his lifestyle in line with halacha may be crucial to success.

 

At this point something should be said about the term "toeivah(11)" as used by the Torah in connection with homosexuality. Some may feel that its appearance in this context precludes treating the practitioner of homosexuality in the same way that one would treat an individual who is guilty of a different sin. The problem with this suggestion is that to be consistent we would require similarly negative treatment of the persons who eats non-Kosher food(12) the idolator(13), the unethical business man(14) and the individual who remarries a woman who, since her divorce from him, has entered and left (by death or divorce) another marriage to another man(15). All of these individuals are guilty of committing a toeivah, according to the respective verses that prohibit the particular activity. If we are going to ostracize the individual who commits homosexual acts, then we must ostracize these individuals as well. Since we do not take this approach in the other cases, we should not do so in dealing with the individual involved in homosexual activity.

 

How then to understand the toeivah designation? In an article in the Encyclopedia Judaica Yearbook, Dr Norman Lamm(16) defines toeivah in aesthetic terms. These actions are repulsive in and of themselves; no rationale or explanation is necessary. Rather, the divine aspect within the human being is automatically and instinctively repelled by these activities. The fact that any number of individuals are possessed of a deadened spiritual sensitivity that allows them to accept or even participate in the acts in question, does not mean that the spiritually sensitive individual allows his revulsion to be diminished nor does he apologize for that revulsion.

 

Further, it is important to note that the wording of the act in question indicates that this revulsion is directed only at the act and not at its perpetrator. The perpetrator is not to be ostracized. One who commits a toeivah is halachically and societally no different than one who commits a transgression of a non-toeivah law of equal severity.

 

Although it may be true that a leopard cannot change its sports, Judaism holds that a human being can change or control his activities(17). While we certainly recognize that many individuals have personality factors that would tend to promote certain sinful activities, our expectation is that these individuals will control these tendencies. We no more would accept the act of murder as legitimate because the perpetrator is prone to violence, then we should accept the act of homosexuality as inevitable because of the existence of biological, genetic, or environmental factors that may contribute to an individual's preference for homosexual acts. A rational individual can control himself, and no amount of apologetics, explanations, or rationalizations can change this fundamental fact. Simply put, the individual engaged in homosexual activity is wrong in what he is doing and is held responsible for having done it.

 

It is on this issue that the approach presented here parts company most completely with Dr.Lamm's view. Whereas Dr. Lamm(18) sees the homosexual as an anuss (an individual forced into heredity and/or environment into activity that the Bible forbids) this author sees him as mumar. Whereas Dr. Lamm effectively removes culpability from him (anuss rachma patrie(19)), this author insists that creating a sense of culpability is an integral part of the approach that Judaism should take in confronting the individual involved in homosexual activity. This sense of culpability may be just the push necessary for the individual to begin the teshuva process.

 

The view presented here seems more in keeping with biblical(20), talmudic(21) and other halachic sources(22). The consistent position taken by these sources is that the homosexual is ultimately subject to punishment for his actions. The halachic system fully expects that an individual properly warned, witnessed, and brought to trial for this act be killed. There is no indication anywhere in the literature that such individuals have a prima facie defense as anussim.

 

Dr. Lamm(23) supports his approach by arguing that present public policy and social reality preclude punishment of all offenders. We must, therefore, maintain our condemnation of the act while refraining from dealing punitively with the offender. In his view, this can best be done by treating the offender as an anuss.

 

However, there is nothing in his argument that prevents our labeling the individual as a mumar. We do not punish Sabbath violators, or those who eat treif. Environment/heredity is not enough to label the individual involved in homosexual activity an anuss. Rather label him a mumar, indicating that he is responsible for his actions.

 

Further, a stance such as Dr. Lamm's seems to carry with it the possibility of pushing the individual presently questioning his own sexual orientation over the wrong edge.

 

After all, if biology/upbringing is the cause, and the participant is only the victim of irresistible forces, he has a handy excuse and less of a reason not to succumb to his desires.

 

Labeling one a mumar does not necessarily mean that the community should respond with public condemnation and rejection or the individual. In an era which lacks a Sanhedrin and adequate Jewish communal structures we have long tolerated, worked with, and even welcomed and accepted violators of many halachot within our community. It is necessary, therefore, to couple our tolerance of the individual with disapproval of the activity. This must then be combined with an expectation and hope that the individual will change his behavior. Calling him a mumar, if handled correctly, strengthens the chances for change.

 

The subject of change brings us to our next point. Jewish thought would argue that homosexually oriented individuals can change their sexual orientation and can ultimately develop an interest in and derive pleasure from heterosexual activity. This conclusion is an obvious consequence of our discussion thus far. If a homosexual act is punishable, and if we expect he individual who has homosexual desires to avoid giving in to them, what then is the life situation of such and individual? There seem to be two possibilities. One: such and individual cannot change his feelings. If this is the case he is a prisoner trapped in a body which, while commanded to marry an procreate, has an emotional structures that finds such a concept at best unfulfilling and at worst a living purgatory. Two: change - and a normal, happy, fulfilled life marriage and heterosexual union are possible.

 

We are told by the Talmud(24) that G-d does not play tricks on His creations. Particularly as the area of sexuality is an area of such deeply personal implications to any individual, it is difficult imagine G-d creating a situation wherein those who feel themselves to possess a homosexual orientation cannot change and are consequently locked in a living prison with no exit and no key. Therefore, some method or methods must exist to successfully change the sexual orientation of motivated individuals. It's heartening to note that a recent study (25),indicates a 70% success rate among such individuals. It is unfortunate that the mass media and most mental health professionals publicly portray the goal "acceptance of one's orientation" as the optimum, while downplaying or denying the possibility of change. Our task must be to publicize the possibility of change, and the relevant statistics that now become statistics of hope. We also should encourage the mental health community to develop new and even more effective methods to alter the sexual orientation of those striving to live Torah-true lifestyle.

 

Perhaps one further support for the idea that homosexual orientation is at least preventable, if not totally changeable, is the anomalous fact that one community in which the percentage of homosexual preference is significantly lower than in the general population is the Orthodox Jewish community(26).

 

It is almost as if halacha rejects the notion of an individual called a homosexual, rejects the necessity of the homosexual act for any individual, rejects the idea of an irrevocable homosexual orientation, and then creates a society in which these ideals can, apparently quite successfully, be lived.

 

Judaism rejects the suggestions that homosexuality is either a form of mental illness or an "acceptable alternate lifestyle." Judaism's positions would be a third and as yet unconsidered option. Homosexuality is an activity entered into volitionally by individuals, who may be psychologically healthy, which is maladaptive and inappropriate. Depending on one's theory, it may indicate arrested development, poor family structure, early trauma, frustration of the purpose of creation, disruption of the basic family structure, unnatural behavior, etc.

 

But whatever the case it constitutes activity that will diminish an individual's capacity to fulfill, in his own life, G-d's expressed plan for creation. As such, this individual cannot achieve his full potential as a human being(27). Therefore, our task is to treat and redirect this individual to more appropriate and fulfilling activity.

 

Gentile Homosexuals

 

One question not addressed directly in the previous section is, "Why does Judaism not recognize the existence of a homosexual sub-group within the Jewish community?"

 

Of course, one might answer that as the act of homosexuality is forbidden, Judaism would no more grant official status to those who practice it than it would grant such status to murderers, thieves, or adulterers. This answer may, in fact, be sufficient and perhaps we should simply turn to the next section and the discussion of the rationale for Judaism's negative approach to the entire issue of homosexuality.

 

However, there may be another more profound and far-reaching answer to this question. The Sifra states(28)

 

"I did not say this except for those laws inscribed for them [the Gentiles] their fathers' father. What did they [the Gentiles, as opposed to the Jews] do? Men would marry men, and women would marry women".

 

This seems to indicate a difference between homosexuality when it makes its appearance in the Jewish community. For the Gentile, homosexuality is a reality that is part of his heritage. For a Jew, homosexuality is a foreign incursion.

 

Additional support for this division along national lines can be adduced from the prohibition against female homosexuality. This prohibition, though not explicitly stated in the Bible, is derived from the same verse, Leviticus 18:2, that elicits the comment of the Sifra quoted above. The verse reads: "After the doings of the land Egypt wherein you lived you shall not do, and after the doings of the land of Canaan where I am bringing you, you shall not do, nor shall you walk in the statutes." This source provides a further indication that homosexuality is viewed as a foreign element in Jewish society. It may well be that this factor contributes to halacha's unwillingness to recognize a homosexual subgroup within Jewish society.

 

Statistics show significantly reduced levels of homosexual men in Orthodox Jewish circles as compared to all other segments of society. Further indication of this anomaly is provided by the dearth of questions relating to homosexuality and individuals involved in homosexual activity in halachic and responsa literature(29).

 

One obvious question remains. Does halacha recognize a homosexual individual who cannot change, and therefore a homosexual sub-community in the Gentile world?

 

The answer to this question seems unclear. On the one hand the Sifra quoted above indicates a belief that at least some Gentile homosexuals develop their sexual orientation because of a traditional cultural heritage. This would tend to support the idea the halacha acknowledges the possibility of a homosexual subgroup in Gentile society.

 

On the other hand, none of the stories from the Bible, such as the sin of Ham, the men of Sodom, or the Potiphar's true purpose in purchasing Joseph as his slave, portray any of the individuals as totally homosexual. All are either married (in the normal fashion) or are said to father children in the course of their lives. This would seem to indicate that pure homosexuality was considered an aberration even if found in Gentile circles.

 

Further, halacha prescribes the death penalty for homosexual acts committed between Gentile men(30). Our tendency would therefore be to deny that halacha recognizes a homosexual community among Gentiles. If we, in fact, did recognize such a community would we not be advocating genocide towards it? Such a position is obviously troubling.

 

Condemnation of Homosexuality - Why?

 

In discussions of the Jewish view of homosexuality, the question "Why does Judaism condemn a pleasurable, victimless act that tales place between two consenting adults?" often takes center stage. Although explanations are not lacking in the literature a truly consistent approach should also shed some light on why female homosexuality, though forbidden, is far less heinous a crime than male homosexuality(31).

 

In fact, a number of suggested answers suffer from a failure to adequately explain this last point.

 

One such approach centers around the primacy of family and children in our system of values. The practice of male homosexuality obviously frustrates the implementation of these values(32). But so does the practice of female homosexuality. Yet the two are not treated with equal severity.

 

A second approach argues that homosexuality is somehow unnatural. Our bodies are constructed to act in certain ways, and the practice of male homosexuality prevents these ways(33). Once again, female homosexuality seems to be every bit as unnatural as the male variety, yet we do not react to it in the same way.

 

Often, those who advocate these two approaches resort to the "hashchatat zera" (destruction of seed) argument(34). Since male homosexuality involves hashchatat zera and female homosexuality does not, the prohibition as violated by the man is more stringent.

 

There are two problems with the treatment of the male participant. Hashchatat xera in other contexts does not entail the death penalty(35).

 

However, males involved in homosexual activity (as opposed to females) are subject to capital punishment. Hashchatat zera, therefore, does not appear to be a significant enough factor to explain this severe reaction of the part of Torah law.

 

Second, the biblical prohibition concerns the homosexual act and not hashchatat zera. In Jewish law, homosexual activity, if consummated, is a capital crime even if there is not hotzaat zera, yet male physical contact, even if it results in hotzaata zera, is not punishable in this way unless actual sexual consummation occurs(36). For these reasons, the approaches cited seem unable to serve as complete explanations for the Torah view of this issue.

 

However, one variation of the "unnatural"theme seems to fare better in dealing with our question. This position takes its definition of natural, not from physiology and nature as studied in the laboratory, but from nature as defined in the Torah. The Torah says:

 

"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife and they shall be as one flesh(37)".

 

The Torah has, in the verse, defined "natural" as man and women united in heterosexual union. Any person engaged in homosexual activity acts against G-d's natural order of things, and is therefore culpable. However, women involved in homosexuality are less in violation of the "natural" then men as it says: "He shall cleave…..and they shall be as one flesh", can be accomplished by males in homosexual union but not by females. This explanation seems to deal neatly with the various facets of the problem(38).

 

One other approach to the question of why Judaism has such antipathy to homosexuality deserves mention(39). This approach expands on the argument "And he shall cleave and they shall be as one flesh...", reintroduces the centality of the family in Judaism to the discussion of homosexuality, and treats the halachic differences between male and female homosexuality in a rather interesting way. This explanation argues that homosexuality, when it did occur at all in the Jewish community, usually occurred in a bisexual context and not as an exclusively homosexual orientation on the part of the individual. Individuals raised in the Jewish community usually possessed a strong sense of family as part of their tradition and heritage. This, coupled with the desire to find personal continuity into the next generation and with communal pressure to marry, would naturally lead almost everyone to establish a marriage relationship. Unfortunately, some individuals might seek additional companionship elsewhere. This outside companionship could possibly be homosexual in nature. Such an outside relationship might then be devastating to the special intimacy between husband and wife and to the family, the fundamental building block and most important religious institution in Jewish society

 

Many rabbinic discussions allude to homosexuality in a strongly negative tone(40). The Talmud(41) discusses the meaning of the term "toeivah" as used the context of homosexuality. Says Bar Kapparah, "toeivah" means "to'eh ata ba", "your have strayed from her." This phrase is explained by Tosafot as meaning:

 

"That they leave their wives to follow homosexuality."

 

This statement seems to embody the essence of the proposed explanation.

 

Whether because of different emotional needs on the part of women, their status in society, or because of the physiological impossibility of "He shall cleave ...and they shall be as one flesh", on the part of women, male homosexuality is considered a far more serious danger in this context and is, therefore, treated with greater severity.

 

Our discussion to this point leads to the following conclusions:

 

Homosexuality is an activity, not a state of being. Put another way, "homosexual" is an adjective, not a noun.

Homosexual activity is wrong.

Homosexuality may be a foreign incursion into Judaism.

The perpetrator of homosexual activity is held responsible for the activity.

We expect individuals involved in such activity to make every attempt to stop the activity and to alter their sexual orientation.

No greater halachic stigma attaches to the practitioner of homosexuality than the Sabbath violator or the violator of many other divine commandments.

In light of these conclusions the traditional Jewish community should agree on the following goals:

The primary goal should be to create an environment that is most conducive to motivating the practitioner of homosexuality to want to change his orientation.

In the absence of this motivation or during a period when initial attempts to change are unsuccessful, our task is to keep this individual within the Torah community. We must create a situation which offers a positive alternative to the "gay synagogue" and to the even worse choice of complete abandonment and assimilation.

It would seem that these goals can best be realized by implementing the following agenda:

 

All unnecessary negative stigma must be removed from the individual involved in homosexual activity. Such an individual must be encouraged to see himself as someone with a problem that he is responsible to overcome, and not as a person who has been defined by his sexual orientation.

 

At the same time that the individual is told of his responsibility to change, he must also be told, with great compassion, that we recognize the difficulty of his task and that we are willing to help in any way possible.

 

This is similar, in general terms, to the way in which we treat others such as the alcoholic.

 

Specific programs of outreach to those participating in homosexual activities should be implemented so that those best able to respond to the questions of these individuals will have a chance to work with them. Contemporary Jewish organizations do Kiruv (outreach) work with individuals who violate many commandments. We must do the same with those whose failures are sexual areas. This is particularly true because of the all-pervasive nature of sexual desire and because of the constant encounter with sexual imagery that pervades our society.

 

Mental health professionals must be encouraged to develop new and better therapeutic techniques to alter sexual orientation. Methods that are even partly successful must be highlighted and publicized to offer hope to those who would want to change.

 

The issue of homosexuality is an extremely sensitive, difficult, and emotional one. It is a topic that creates a sense of discomfort and even revulsion not only in those who may have been personally involved in such activity, but also in many who have never had any personal contact with it at all. Stereotyping and personal doubts about one's sexuality tend to maintain and reinforce these reactions and the AIDS scare has given them new impetus. Our response as Torah-true Jews must be to reject these prejudical and counter-productive reactions. On the other hand, we cannot equivocate in our opposition to homosexual activity. This is particularly true in light of the media's continuing portrayal of homosexuals as positive role models and the increasing acceptance of the homosexual as a minority group with "legitimate" civil rights.

 

The program described above entails walking a difficult tightrope between condemnation of an act and acceptance of the perpetrator as a Jew worth saving. We cannot close our eyes and pretend that a problem of this magnitude will go away. It is our task to present a legitimate Jewish response, balancing our opposition to homosexual activity with our concern for the human beings involved.

 

 

____________________________________________________________

 

Foot notes:

 

 

1. Levitacus 18:22 and 20:13

 

2. On WNBC TV's "Donahue" show during a discussion of the controversial Harvey Milk High School for homosexual students, June 12, 1985

 

3. See below for sources.

 

4. Spero, M.H., in (a) "Homosexuality: Clinical and Ethical Challenges", Judaism and Psychology Halalchic Perspectives, Yeshiva University, New York,1980 and (b) "Further Examinations of the Halalchic Status of Homosexuality". Proceedings of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists, vol. 7, 1983, disagrees with this position and claims that a homosexual personality, as defined by desires, orientation and lifestyle does exist, and that this state is intrinsically prohibited. In addition to the philosophical problems discussed in the article that arise from this position, there is an even more serious problem, with his approach. The sources that Spero uses to support his position, Torah Temimah to Genesis 2;24, San Hedrin 58a, "T.J. 'Kiddushin" 1;1, all deal with Gentiles. Although anything forbidden to Gentiles is forbidden to Jews, the prohibition against existing in a homosexual state cannot apply to Jews if the state does not exist for Jews. At best Spero has supported the idea of a homosexual subgroup in Gentile society. See below for discussion.

 

5. The Mishnayot in the third chapter of at Tractate Horiyot and the Mishnayot in the eighth chapter of Yevamot. The categories of individuals mentioned here are Cohen-priest, Levi, mamzer-product of an adulterous or incestuous marriage, Cohen Gadol-high priest, katan-child, gadol-adult, cheresh-deaf-mute, shoteh-mental incompetent. This list is by no means complete.

 

6. Roveia (c.f. Sanhedren 9b) refers to only one aspect of the homosexual act and is also used for other sexual acts, e.g. bestiality (Levitacus 18:23 and Mishna Sanhedrin, 1;4), and intercourse between animals (Levitacus 19;19 and T.j. Avodah Zorah 40a) A. Even-Shoshan, HaMilon Hehadash, s.v. Ravah, sees this first meaning as the primary and original meaning of the term. Interestingly R. Ishmael (Sanhedren 54b) requires a different verse ( Deut. 23;18) to warn the "female" participants in the homosexual act than the verse (Levitacus 18;22) which warns the "male" participant. As a result if an individual plays both roles at one time he is punishable for two sins. R. Akiva disagrees and allows an alternate reading of the verse in Levitacus to serve as warning for the "female" participant, and consequently holds that an individual who plays both roles at once is punishable only once. It seems that R. Ishmael, certainly, and R.Akiva, probably, saw the two types of activity as being different. This strikes another blow against "Roveia" being a term for a homosexual and another blow against one who would want to suggest that the rabbis did recognize a homosexual personality. If there are two types of actions involved and two different verses or readings needed to cover them, there can not be a homosexual in Jewish law. If there were such an individual one verse should be sufficient. Other possible terms such as Shochev Im Zecharim or Shochev Mishkivei Isha are awkward and do not appear in colloquial usage. The modern transliteration of homosexual into Hebrew only proves the point that no term exists.

 

7. See Avodah Zorah 26b, Hulin 5a, Horiyot 11a, Rambam Yad, Hilchot Teshuva 3:9 and Kesef Mishnah ad. Loc, Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 2, and Choshen Mishpat, 266:2. Some might argue that homosexuals who are exclusively homosexual are actually Mumarim L'hachis (following Rashi A.Z., ad. loc., sv. L'Teiavon). Although some militant homosexuals may come close to this definition, the emotional conflicts and extenuating circumstances involved make it difficult to describe most, if any, homosexuals as having actively chosen to reject permissible sexual relations for forbidden ones in the same way that Rasi describes the Mumar L'hachis' behavior regarding non-kosher meat. Even if one could define some or all homosexually oriented individuals as Mumarim L'hachis the comment of the Chazon Ish quoted in the next footnote would allow us to treat such an individual in the same way that we would treat a Mumar L'Teiavon i.e. like any other Jew (see kesef Mishneh loc. cit.).

 

8. It is well known that if one violates the Sabbath in public there is a serious stigma attached (see Hulin 3a-6b and Eruvin 69a.). However, the equating of the Sabbath desecrator and the Idolator is rarely applied in anymore then a pedagogic sense in contemporary halachic literature ( aee R. Moshe Feinstein, Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chaim, 1, No. 23 and especially 1, No. 33). In addition to R. Feinstein's lenient stance on Mechallelel Shabbat, The Chazon Ish Yoreh Deah 2;16, says that the stringent treatment of transgressors described in the Talmud does not apply today, as such treatment will cause greater abandonment of Judaism. Since our task is to improve the situation and not to make it worse, the only approach to take with sinners is "to bring them back with ropes of love." This statement form the Chazon Ish could serve as the central message of this article.

 

9. Rambam, Sefer Hamitzvot Positive Commandment, No. 73.

 

10. "There is no guardian against unchastity" (Ketubot 13b and Hulin 11b), or the even more dramatic, "even the most pious of the piuos is not appointed guardian over unchastity" (T) Ketubot 1;8). See also Rambam, Issurei Biah, 2:19, that inappropriate sexual behavior will occur from time to time, in all communities because of man's extreme desire for sexual matters.

 

11. Levitacus 18:22 and 20:13

 

12. Deut.14:3.

 

13. Deut.7:25-26 and 27:15

 

14. Deut. 25:16. Parenthetically, it would be interesting to see the stigma presently attached to homosexuality placed on anyone guilty of unethical business practices-at least for a brief time.

 

15. Deut 24;4.

 

16. Judaism and the Modern Attitude to Homosexuality, "Encycopaedia Judaica Year book 1974, Keter, Jerusalem, 1974, p. 198.

 

17. The concept of Teshuva makes no sense without this premise.

 

18. Ibid pg. 202. See also Matt, H.J., "Sin, Crime, Sickness or Alternative Lifestyle? A Jewish Approach to Homosexuality", Judaism, vol. 27 No. 1 Winter 1978, and Bleich, J.D., Judaism and Healing, Halalchic Perspectives, Ktav , New York, 1981. Bleich comes closest to the view presented in this article on the homosexual as anuss (forced). However, "mummar" (sinner) as opposed to "anuss" is the term to be used in the discussion of homosexuality. Introducing "oness" (compulsion) in a discussion of homosexuality is as appropriate as introducing it to a discussion of murder. There are murderers who are anussim (psychopathological murderers), but a discussion of these individuals is not a discussion of murder or the Jewish attitude to that crime. Yet we continue to speak of anussim (psychopathological homosexuals), who may make up only a small portion of those involved in that activity, in regard to Judaism's general view on the subject.

 

19. Bava Kama 28b, Avodah Zarah 54a. Nedarim 27a. Spero, op. cit, (b) also reject the anuss position on these and other grounds.

 

20. Levitacus 20:13

 

21. e.g. Sanhedrin 9b and 54a

 

22. Rambam, Yad, Hilchot Issurei Biah 1;14

 

23. Ibid pp.203-204

 

24. "ain hakodosh boruch hu bo bitranina aim bitraninav" Avodah Zorah 3a

 

25. Schwartz, M.F. And Masters, W.H., "The Masters and Johnson Treatment Program for Dissatisfied Homosexual Men". American Journal of Psychiatry 141:2, February,1984, pp. 173-181. This study shows a remarkable success rate. After 1 year the success rate was 79.1% and after 5 years it was 71%.

 

26. "...except that the (frequency of the) homosexual among Orthodox Jewish groups appears to be phenomenally low", Kinsey, A.C., Pomeroy, W.B., Mari, C.E., Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, W.B., Saunders, Phila., 1948, p. 4. See also Rosenhelm, E. "Sexual Attitudes and Regulations in Jusaism". Money, J. and Musaph, H., ed., Handbook of Sexology, Excerpta Medica Amsterdam, 1977, p.1321-22

 

27. See Spero, op.cit., (a), p. 157.

 

28. To Levitacus 18;2.

 

29. Encyclopaedia Judaica s.v. Homosexuality; Lamm, op.cit.,197;Epstein J.M. Sex Laws and Customs in Judaism, Ktav, New York, 1948, pp. 64-65, 135. See Sefer HaChinuch No. 209 who describes a homosexual prostitute and then says that such an individual is known to us from the Arabs (Eretz Ha'Yishmaelim). The Chinuch is quoting from Ramban To Deut. 28;18 with one change. Rambam doesn't mention the Arabs, but he does say the institution was known from the Egyptians. Both these scholars were obviously unfamiliar with homosexual prostitution-and therefore with institutionalized or extensive homosexuality within the Jewish community. Further comp are Rambam, Yad, Hilchot Issurei Biah 22;2 with 22;5 and (the Gentiles)

 

30. Sanhedrin 58a Rambam Yad , Hilchot Melachim 9;5.

 

31. Yevamot 76a, Shabbat 65a. Female homosexuality is punished by "Halot Mardut" which is a rabbinic and not a biblical punishment, Yad, Issurei Biah21;8, On the other hand male homosexuality is a capital crime as has been indicated. For a more complete discussion of female homosexuality see Spero, op. cit., (b).

 

32. Sefer HaChinuch No. 209.

 

33. Torah Temimah to Levitacus 18;22, No.70.

 

34. Sefer HaChinuch, loc. cit.

 

35. Niddah 13a, Rambam, Yad, Hilchot Issurei Biah 21;18, Shulchan Aruch, E.H. 23;1-2. There is no question of the seriousness of this sin, but is not a capital crime to be tried in a human court of law as is homosexuality. See also Feldman, D.M., Birth Control and Jewish law, New York University, 1968, chs. 6 and 8, and the debate between him and M. Tendler in Tradition, Vol. 9, No.'s 1-2 and 4. Even if we accept the view that Er and Onan (Genesis 38) died for the sin of haschatat zera, their punishment came at G-d's hands and not in a court of law.

 

36. Sanhedrin 55a, Rambam, Yad, Hilchot Issurei Biah 1:10, and 1:14, Suclchan Aruch, Even Ha'Ezer, 20;2.

 

37. Genesis. 2:24.

 

38. This approach is suggested by the Beraita, Sanhedrin 58a, which derives prohibitions for various immoral sexual activities for Gentiles from this verse

 

39. This approach was suggested to me by Mr. Mat Hoffman, national director of "The Flame"; Jewish College Student's Organization. It is also suggested, in brief terms, by Dr. Lamm, op.cit., pp.197-198.

 

40. Genesis Rab., 26;59 (commenting on Genesis 6;2)

 

41. Nedarim 51a

Judaism

Posted on January 7, 2016 at 2:55 PM

The Jewish Community

 

DO HOMOSEXUALS FIT INTO THE JEWISH COMMUNITY?

Written By: Bronya Shaffer (posted Jan. 2011)

 

 

Printed from JewishMontana.com

 

Question:

 

According to Jewish law, how should a person react to homosexual feelings? Do homosexuals fit into the Jewish community?

 

Answer:

 

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 absolutes. Absolute law. Absolute values. Torah. From the time we're very, very young we learn: this may be how you feel, but this is not how you may act. Consider a three year old who longs to use his grandmother's couch as a trampoline, consider what his mother will tell him. We feel what we feel. And we act according to the law: the law of the Torah, or the law of the land, or the laws of social niceties. And as we grow, clear about absolute laws, we develop our own moral compass.

 

We feel what we feel. And we act according to the lawSo what to do when our desires are for unequivocally forbidden acts? While firmly closing the door on the act, often we find that when we consistently redirect those emotions, again and again, the emotions are slowly tempered and change. Sometimes it takes just a little work, sometimes many years. Some feelings never go away. That is the challenge of being human.

 

Jewish law unconditionally prohibits the homosexual act. Just as the heterosexual act is prohibited outside of marriage, regardless of personal desires, attractions or inclinations, so the homosexual act is forbidden.

 

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. Consider that a person with such feelings who fails even once in such a battle is sinning. And then ask yourself, "Do I ever fight such a battle on my own ground? What makes me any better than him?"

 

The Tanya continues to illustrate the many areas in which all of us could 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.

 

Wishing you all the best,

 

Bronya Shaffer for Chabad.org

 

DOES HOMOSEXUALITY INCORPORATE THE SEXUAL HOLINESS VALUES OF JUDAISM?

 

Back

 

 

Much of today's world denies the concept of sexual holiness, and sees sex as but another natural function - like eating, drinking or defecating. The sex act itself is therefore compared, or even equated, to drinking a glass of water. Judaism, on the other hand, clearly believes sex between a husband and a wife is a "kiddushin", a sanctification, a holy act commanded by G-d.

 

Conjugal Sex's Unique Holiness in Judaism:

 

The sacredness of lawful sex which lies at the heart of traditional Judaism is often forgotten. As R.Patai tells us in "Sex and Family in the Bible and the Middle East," while the ancient Canaanites saw "the entire sexual aspect of life as surrounded by an aura of sanctity," and believed that "performing the sexual act in honor of a deity was a religious practice" (the saturnalia), their view permitted sexual pairings of all kinds - heterosexual, homosexual, incestuous, pederastic and group sex - in order to sexually stimulate the gods, who were watching, so they would then make the herds, fields and women fertile.

 

When the Hebrews accepted the existence of One Lawful G-d, the pagan notion of sex as holy was retained but was severely limited by recognizing a sacred sexuality solely in the marital bed. Adultery, premarital sex for women, homosexuality, incest and bestiality were therefore banned. "The revolution begun by the Torah when it declared war on the sexual practices of the world wrought the most far-reaching changes in history," according to Dennis Prager in "Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization." It was Judaism that demanded that all sexual activity be channeled into marriage, and thus, as Prager observed, "it changed the world."

 

David Gelernter recently maintained in Commentary Magazine (2003) that "husband and wife create a whole man out of two halves. Their sexual union is inherently blessed whether a child is engendered or not. The cult of the couple has given marriage in Judaism a supreme (and unique) importance." With the notion of "the married couple at the center of the universe," Jews "celebrate sexuality."

 

This view of sex as serious, sacred, and limited to one's spouse contradicts America's increasing trivialization of sex. And, in turn, the trivialization produced in young people's minds by previous experiences with many partners weakens the emotional exclusivity with which they view the marital sexual bond. This has become a major psychological reason for America's high divorce rate.

 

The intense sexual pleasure which marriage brings both partners helps create and maintain love and affection between them. (The importance of a wife's sexual satisfaction has long been stressed by Jewish sages.) The marital trust evoked by sexual fidelity helps create homes in which children learn the love and trust upon which civilization itself rests.

 

On the contrary, feminist, gay and other political movements have systematically minimized or denied the biological differences between men and women. As leading advocates of sexual freedom and promiscuity, these movements represent the major political enemies of fidelity and sexual holiness. In doing so, they hide one of Judaism's greatest contributions to civilization, that is, the transformation of raw biological sexuality and the inborn attraction of male and female, by channeling it into the faithful, sacred love of the Song of Solomon.

 

A Word on Homosexual Ideology

 

Andrew Sullivan, one of the homosexual movement's leading ideologists, refers to the "natural urges in a particular person that may run counter to the nature of the species as a whole." Judaism calls such defiance for its own sake "the evil inclination." Sullivan, however, goes on to illustrate how "homosexuals have delighted in showing in their ironic games with the dominant culture" that they can be "ultimately immune to its [society's] control." This finding suggests the centrality of defiance as part of the psychology within many gays. In contrast, obedience to the Law is, of course, the essence of Judaism.

 

The Opposite Natures of Homosexual and Traditional Marriage

 

The real conflict between homosexual and traditional marriage is the reliance on different standards that are found in two competing cultures: one of fidelity and the other of "freedom" (or promiscuity) . Fidelity - sexual exclusivity - is at the heart of both Jewish and Christian traditional marriage between men and women. But gay couples are apparently more interested in sexual variety. Of 156 such couples who had lived together for at least 5 years ( many were together for 20 years or more) and were interviewed by a pair of gay researchers named McWhirter and Mattison, only seven had a totally exclusive relationship--however, none of these seven had been in their relationship for more than five years . Indeed, these researchers concluded that "the single most important factor that keeps [these gay] couples together past the ten year mark is the lack of possessiveness they feel. Many couples learn very early in their relationship that ownership of each other sexually can become the greatest internal threat to their staying together."

 

Another pair of gay investigators (M.Kirk and H. Madsen in "After the Ball") describe "the cheating ratio of 'married' gay males, given enough time, [as] approaching 100%." This being how gay couples actually behave, the notion of faithful homosexual marriage, although doubtlessly occasionally occurring, appears rather questionable.

 

The gay and feminist political movements hold strong power positions, especially in the mass media, and are now attempting to use the U.S. Supreme Court's recent Lawrence decision to get further acceptance of homosexuality as equal, if not superior, to heterosexuality. For example, New York Times national political correspondent Richard Berke told the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association that at times, "literally three-quarters of the people deciding what's on the front page are not-so-closeted homosexuals." And the American psychiatric, psychological and social work associations are trying to declare unethical any psychotherapeutic attempts to help people wanting to change from homosexuality.

 

While any two or more people can make whatever private contracts they wish, the acceptance of legally and/or religiously-approved homosexual marriage would gravely undermine the uniquely sacred nature of traditional marriage. For those of us who practice Judaism as a religion and understand the sacredness of a sanctified relationship between a man and woman which is called marriage, a so-called homosexual "marriage" would be comparable to a Jew trying to kosher a pig.

 

- Dr. Nathaniel S. Lehrman

(Posted to JONAH Online Library - April 2004)

 

DEAR PARENTS, RABBIS, THERAPISTS,TEACHERS AND THE JEWISH COMMUNITY

 

Back

 

 

JONAH was chosen as our group's name both as an acronym for Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality and to represent the biblical Book of JONAH. The Book of JONAH is the Torah portion read on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and thus the classic parable of repentence and returning to G-D. For all Jews, Yom Kippur represents the culmination of 40 days of reflection, evaluation, and the willingness to change what has not worked well in our lives.

 

The myths surrounding the attempt to normalize homosexuality have left many of us confused and bewildered. We want to be good people, we don't want to discriminate against our sisters and brothers who experience same-sex attractions, and yet - if we embrace someone's homosexuality as G-D given and natural, are we doing the right thing? Recent scientific evidence bolsters the traditional scientific evidence that leads us to believe that same-sex attractions represent a drive to meet unmet love needs. Based on the numerous articles and papers you will read on the JONAH web site, JONAH's position on how the Jewish community should respond to this issues is as follows:

 

We love our fellow Jews too much to watch them embrace the false identity of homosexuality. The Torah teaches us that homosexuality is a behavior, not an identity. This idea is further clarified in a letter of support from Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky who powerfully stated, " Anything that the Torah forbids, the human being is able to control."

 

Empirical evidence is clear that homosexuality is changeable and so we need to devote ourselves to teaching the public about the prevention, causes, and treatment of homosexuality.

 

For those of us who are parents and family members of those experiencing same-sex attractions, we need to admit that we probably unwittingly contributed to our children's homosexual attractions. Therefore, we need to provide an example of how we as people need to grow and change ourselves so that we can express our love for our children more fully, improve our relationship with them, and teach by example that we all have the capacity to change even deeply-rooted conflicts.

As Jews, we also need to insure that families and communities do not ostracize their children who live a homosexual lifestyle. It is heartless to reject a child for something that is not his/her fault. In the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, we must "take a loving and caring attitude by extending a helping hand."

 

We need to reach out to those experiencing same-sex attractions and let them know that we will support them in every way possible if they decide to transition out of homosexuality and recover their heterosexual potential. However, we will love and cherish them as the individuals they are even if they choose to stay in a homosexual lifestyle.

 

We must reach out with love and compassion and an understanding that many times the worst treatment of homosexuals comes from their own internalized sense of shame and guilt. Alternatively, gay activists seek a cult-like environment to keep a person with a confused sense of gender identiuty within the bounds of the so-called gay lifestlye. Homosexuals are us and we are them, they were not born a different class of persons, they were not born different. No one chooses to be a homosexual anymore than you would choose to be an obese person, an alcoholic, or anyone afflicted with a life-damaging condition, which if we are honest, includes almost all of us in one way or another.

 

We need to work together to figure out the best way to explain that we can love our fellow Jews and yet encourage them to change. We must be honest and let the public know that in every way measurable, the cons outweigh the pros of a homosexual lifestyle, whether or not the government or a religious body gives its approval to homosexuality. It is simply cruel to tell young people experiencing same-sex attractions that a homosexual lifestyle will give them the same chance at living a full life as a heterosexual lifestyle - we know it won't and we must stand up to the "politically correct" rhetoric of our times and speak the truth.

 

In closing, we all gain when the issues surrounding homosexuality are out of the closet, when the stigma of being a homosexual is lessened, when recovered homosexuals are not ashamed to speak out and give hope to others, when parents can admit their mistakes, when our fellow Jews know that we love them enough to stand up and fight for their right to live a normal life, and when the world understands the underlying causes of same-sex attractions.

 

We all need to join together, speak out, publicize our cause, and help our fellow Jews who are suffering from unwanted same-sex attractions.

 

Shalom with love,

 

Elaine Silodor Berk,

Co-Director of JONAH

 

 

 

Lesbianism

Posted on January 7, 2016 at 2:25 PM

CLINICAL AND DEVELOPMENTAL ISSUES OF LESBIANISM

Introduction

 

The lesbian condition is complex in its origin and very diverse in its expression. The elements of the lesbian struggle vary in degree and intensity, as do the temperaments and personality types of the women. My clients present with a variety of Axis I and II disorders as well as unique stories and histories. Therefore, in my treatment of the lesbian client, I first and foremost want to meet and interact with the unique individual sitting in front of me. Lesbian women are intelligent and intuitive and can tell if I am truly "seeing" them or trying to squeeze them into a box or theory. I hold my models and theories loosely so I can meet the true person. I also want to encounter the "whole" woman, not just her lesbianism. I want to give her the message that she is more than her lesbian struggle. I want her to know that she is important, and I am not sitting with her simply because I think her sexual orientation needs fixing or that I can "fix" her.

As a therapist, I want to respect her human dignity. Many of my clients are not sure they want to totally resolve the lesbian conflict. The emotional aspect of their struggle seems to reach down into the very core of their being. It is often a long process for a woman to just define the struggle, let alone to begin to disidentify with it. Over six years ago, about two years into my practice, I decided to make a commitment to myself and to my clients that I would work with them regardless of where they are at in their decision to resolve the lesbian conflict. I agreed that I would not place demands or expectations on them with respect to their sexual struggle that would, in any way, condition or impede our ongoing work together. In other words, I have decided to be committed to them, wherever their journey leads, and to remain committed for the long haul. The "long haul" seems to be an average of 4-5 years of weekly to bimonthly appointments.

 

While there is much variation amongst lesbian women, there are still many notable themes that consistently emerge in their stories and struggles. I would like to highlight a few of those here.

 

Roots of Lesbianism

In broad sweeping terms, the roots of lesbianism can be discovered in four basic elements:

 

A strained, detached or disrupted bond or attachment with mother without an available mother substitute, resulting in a need for secure attachment.

A lack of respect and/or protection from men, often in the form of sexual abuse or rigid gender roles, resulting in a fear or hatred of men.

Few, if any, close girlhood friendships, resulting in a need for belonging and fun.

A sense of emptiness and lostness in lieu of a full and rich sense of self and identity as a feminine being, resulting in a need for a self and gender identity.

While the presence of these elements is not an absolute predictor or determinant of the lesbian struggle, they are nevertheless the most common and frequently reported facets of the lesbian story. These elements are generally sequential in order of development or experience, can be causal or predisposing for the subsequent element and are therefore interrelated. An adult woman actually cycles in and out of these elements and related needs as she acts out the lesbian bond in an attempt to repair the inherent dilemmas. Unfortunately, this "acting out" can actually intensify these predisposing conditions of lesbianism.

 

I would also like to suggest that there are some common innate characteristics shared by lesbian women. These would include an above average intelligence, strong sensitivity to hypocrisy and injustice, athleticism, natural draw to more stereotypically masculine interests, capacity to feel deeply and passionately. It is the combination of the above environmental factors and inherent characteristics that may eventually lead to a lesbian struggle.

 

Developmental Issues

To highlight the specific developmental issues that are present in most lesbian struggles, I wanted to share the research findings from an unpublished doctoral dissertation by Dr. Sheryl Brickner Camallieri. Dr. Camallieri used an instrument called the Measures of Psychosocial Development (MPD) to assess the developmental differences between 54 allegedly heterosexual and 54 allegedly homosexual women. The MPD measures the developmental resolution based on Erik Erikson's model of psychosocial development. The eight stages are listed below.

 

While Dr. Camallieri admits that the scope of her research does not establish the cause of the differences (which could be developmental or attributed to the social and political climate regarding lesbianism), "Of the 19 scales analyzed, six of the scales indicated a significant difference in the scores between the two groups of women" (p. 3). The heterosexual women scored significantly higher on the favorable resolution scales of Trust, Intimacy and Generativity (marked in squares below). The lesbian women scored significantly higher on the negative resolution of Identity Confusion and Stagnation and Total Negative Resolution (circled below).

 

 

I have since given this assessment to over 25 of my lesbian clients and continue to see extremely high identity confusion and stagnation scores as well as low trust and high mistrust scores. Additionally, there is another pattern that has emerged in my client's testing: relative to their other scores, the lesbian woman scores significantly high in the positive resolution of Initiative and/or Industry (also circled above). If we were to just consider the results of the MPD based on suggested methods of interpretation, we would conclude that these are women who feel very insecure and unsafe in their world; are unsure of others and doubt that anything good will last. They have used performance, competence and assertiveness in a compensatory fashion, probably to gain a sense of control, value and purpose. They hold no inherent value or clear identity and therefore have little capacity or motivation to sacrificially give to others. Emotionally, they remain in a depressed state of self-absorption. This is a fairly accurate description of the lesbian experience.

 

As you might guess, these developmental deficits and compensations coincide almost perfectly with the clinical themes in a lesbian's history.

 

A strained, detached or disrupted bond Mistrust

or attachment with mother without

an available mother substitute, resulting

in a need for secure attachment.

 

 

A lack of respect and/or protection from Initiative/Industry -

men, often in the form of sexual abuse assuming a toughened or

or rigid gender roles, resulting in a masculinized stance towards

fear or hatred of men. life and survival.

 

Few if any close girlhood friendships, Identity Confusion (solid-

resulting in a need for belonging and fun. ified during adolescence)

 

A sense of emptiness and lostness in lieu Stagnation

of a full and rich sense of self and identity

as a feminine being, resulting in a need

for a self and gender identity.

 

Specific treatment options need to take into consideration these developmental needs. Ultimately, treatment should start with the beginning issue of trust, move through the subsequent developmental issues with a major emphasis on identity formation and conclude when the woman is free to give, love and contribute to the betterment of the world.

 

 

Contrasts Between the Masculine and Feminine

I would now like to offer some framework around the differences between the male and female developmental journey in order to highlight the nuances of the lesbian struggle. I hope to also provide a framework for understanding the essence of the true masculine and feminine. It is essential to have some framework such as this if we are to help gender-confused clients.

 

Attachment and Identification

Boys and girls follow different developmental paths in terms of attachment and identification. Both boys and girls are to be initially attached to mom at birth. To develop healthily, a boy must move, strive and initiate to successfully separate from mom and ultimately attach and identify with dad. Homosexuality becomes a serious possibility when this step or process is frustrated or altogether missing for the boy. A girl on the other hand is supposed to remain and rest, so to speak, in an experience of ongoing or continuous connection. Figuratively speaking, she warmly rests secure at home with mom, to eventually receive dad who is to gently move towards her to offer his love, affirmation and protection.

 

Lesbianism initially becomes a possibility when this needed ongoing attachment with mom is absent, insufficient or undesirable. (Lesbianism becomes an even greater possibility if dad's movement is non-existent, abusive, or becomes masculinizing of his daughter.)

If for the girl, her initial attachment to mom is perceived to be weakened or broken, a type of homelessness is created for the girl that even the homosexual boy does not experience. In this way, the lesbian condition is more primal and perhaps more entrenched emotionally and psychologically than male homosexuality. The girl is essentially stripped of her most fundamental tether in the universe. There may be no greater trauma in a girl's life developmentally than one that interferes with her primal relationship with mom. Mom is not only the first bond and attachment for a little baby girl, but is the relational object with whom this little girl will form her first sense of self and eventually rely on to complete her identification process as a female.

 

Besides internalizing the insecurity that a break in this foundational relationship creates, the girl will activate or move in an effort to find the attachment for which she was designed and so desperately needs. She begins to follow the developmental path of a male, that is, moving, striving and initiating. Unfortunately, trust in others and her self is not adequately formed to support secure and meaningful connection or relatedness (this is the mistrust that the MPD measures). She is filled with a sense of aloneness and need that further fuels her movement and initiation to resolve her dilemma (herein lies the high initiative and industry scores on the MPD). Simply put, this emotional movement disrupts her normal growth and development and identification as a feminine being (identity confusion), not to mention the false paths such movement will uncover. Let me add another picture of gender differences.

 

Erikson Research on Preadolescent Play Constructions

In the 1940's Erik Erikson conducted research at Berkeley on preadolescent play constructions. While he wasn't specifically addressing gender differences in his study, Erikson was struck by the fact that when given a set of blocks, little boys and girls built different constructions of space.

 

The boys' construction looked something like the one below. The construction would also include such things as cars among the buildings and people atop the buildings. As one can see, boys seem to be naturally preoccupied with the outer world, nature, objects and things.

 

 

The girls' constructions tended to look like the picture below. The people sat close together and faced the inside of the room. Girls seem to be naturally preoccupied with the inner world of human relatedness, communication and connection.

 

Theological Perspective

Theologically, the creation story of Adam and Eve parallels Erik Erikson's findings and adds some important notions about the true masculine and feminine. First, Adam and Eve were created equal in terms of dignity, value, call and purpose. (To work with a lesbian successfully, you must truly believe and hold to this conviction.) They were to both Fill and Multiply - the realm of human relationship and Rule and Subdue - the realm of nature, animals and the earth (found in Genesis 1:27, New International Version). Second, they were created differently. Adam was created from the ground, was placed in the garden with the plants and animals and became very busy working, moving, initiating, ruling and subduing. Eve, on the other hand, was the only created being made from another living being. Her primal essence is one of human relatedness. She was immediately placed in front of Adam and became busy relating-being known and loved. Both Adam and Eve were needed to complete God's purposes for humanity, but it seems that their very origins and initial experiences point to difference and uniqueness.

 

 

True Femininity and the Inner World of Connectedness

Another way to look at these differences is seen in the complementary circles below. Perhaps the masculine (I believe gender is not merely a construct of socialization or learning processes but a fundamental and inherent aspect of our humanity) has a greater exterior strength of movement, initiation and courage to face and deal with the outer world but with an inner core of tenderness and compassion for human relatedness. It is this exterior strength, movement and confidence that homosexual men seemingly lack or struggle discovering.

 

Perhaps the true feminine means having an exterior that is inviting, restful and receiving with an inner core of solidness and strength of being and courage to face the complexities of another soul and the requirements of ongoing intimacy. Lisa Beamer (the wife of Todd Beamer who helped guide United Flight 93 away from human targets) is a great example of a woman with an inviting, restful exterior and a solid inner core. She was sad, but not crushed as she faced the tragedy of losing her husband. She was not fragile, wispy, whiney, needy, overly dependent but solid, strong, articulate, lovely.

The true feminine is not weak, but boasts of the strength, courage and power to be - to be present and connected with her own heart, emotions and thoughts and with another, even in the most difficult or tragic time. The true feminine can weather loneliness. Lisa can stand in the face of her husband's death because she has her self and many other vital relationships.

 

Lesbian women typically lack or struggle discovering and accepting both of these aspects as women. They are toughened and defended on the outside and sense emptiness and desperation on the inside. Their toughness defies their inner need and their inner need, which so often is expressed in terms of dependencies, speaks to the depth of their gender brokenness. They are not living out of the strength of the true feminine.

 

Of interest is the typical profile of the mother of a lesbian daughter. According to my clients, their mothers typically had no solid self or strength of character or integrity, regardless of how they presented on the outside. The mom of a lesbian struggler is a mom who:

 

- hid in bed under the covers when dad became abusive or rageful

- was mentally ill and relied on her daughter to continually talk her out of committing suicide

- didn't even know the basics of housekeeping let alone caring for a baby or child

- was a social butterfly and alcoholic leaving her little daughter alone and unsupervised

- was unable to separate from an abusive husband

- was a dutiful wife but a shell of a woman

- bragged incessantly about herself and kids, negating any negative feelings or experiences in her daughter

- hated being a woman, never shed a tear and despised her daughter

- was openly jealous of her daughter

 

 

These vignettes do not describe a woman who is solid in being and strength of heart. They describe a woman who is insecure, dependent, afraid of being alone, weak, lost and broken and underdeveloped in her own femininity. It is easy to understand why a daughter who has a sharp intellect, strong sense of justice and integrity, high energy level with deep passions might conclude that if becoming a woman means becoming like mom, she wants nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, in the girl's detachment and flight from femininity as portrayed by her mother, she too begins to live out a deep inner desolation and crisis of her true gender identity. She has had no "home" in which to develop or become. "I don't know who I am," "I hate being a woman," and "I don't know how I feel." Many of my clients feel and believe they are not women. This is not a symptom of a transgender struggle but is an indication of their alienation from their inherent design as a feminine being.

 

Emotional Dependency

To briefly summarize, healthy development for a girl first requires that she rests and remains in the warm and secure home of mother so that she can form and develop an inner home for herself - out of which she will live, express her strength and power, create, relate, connect, nurture, bring forth life, etc. Without this inner sense of home or a secure and solid sense of self and feminine identity, she will not have the capacity to enter into healthy intimacy. Yet she will live with a deep belief that she cannot be alone. Therefore, she is unconsciously driven or on the move to find a "home" or true "self" outside of her self.

 

This is the drive behind an emotionally dependent relationship. When another woman comes along that triggers a sense of familiarity or presents herself to be a strong and competent woman (unlike mom perhaps), the lesbian literally wants to lose herself in this woman, hoping to find rest, receive the care and nurture she craves and to finally appropriate, albeit vicariously, an identity. Emotional dependency is not an inordinate love but is the consequence of a woman's deep fear of and inability to sustain intimacy. The partner is not loved or known for who they truly are. It is the sense or illusion of warm connection or secure attachment that is desired. Sadly, the "emotional dependency," if sustained, will prevent a woman from any substantial healing or change. A woman does not need to lose herself (in another woman or man) but in fact, needs to find her true self and this goal should be the primary focus of therapy with the lesbian client.

 

Personality Disorders and Traits

It is this missing core and the accompanying restlessness that I believe leads to conflicts and struggles within the lesbian woman that qualify as full blown personality disorders and traits. The most common configurations I encounter in my practice generally include a depressed and/or dependent disorder with associated self defeating, avoidant and borderline disorders or traits. Depressed - empty, dejected, pessimistic, worthless and full of self and other centered contempt, dependent - needy to the point of desperate yet fearful of rejection, self defeating - negative, self pitying and hostile, and avoidant - defended and isolated. This list accurately describes the predominant characteristics of the average lesbian woman.

 

Effective Therapy for the Lesbian Client

Work with the lesbian will require a long-term commitment which will be tasking and draining but also rewarding if the client is highly motivated to change. The individual characterological profile must be considered and appropriately handled in therapy. Generally speaking, lesbian women are deeply conflicted. But remember, every woman you see will be unique in this regard. The general goal of therapy is to establish trust (this may be the first experience of trust for many clients) so that the client can accomplish the deep inner formation work, or as quoted by Elaine Siegel, "attainment of firmer inner structures," (Female Homosexuality: choice without volition, Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press (1988)). The woman must come into her own. She must be able to embrace the breadth of her identity and humanity, her strengths and weaknesses, her glory and her shortcomings, her dreams, hopes and visions as well as her disappointments and losses. This process will involve among other things, extensive work in identifying, challenging and restructuring the woman's belief system regarding the world, God, others and herself. Lesbianism is supported by a complex system of distorted, negative and self-defeating beliefs. This system must be rebuilt. The client's defensive maneuvering and unhealthy attachments with women need to be addressed while the woman is being challenged to take risks with new and healthier relationships. Eventually she will need to deal with her opposite sex contempt and ambivalence and appropriate her own individual style of feminine relating.

 

In conclusion, because healing for the lesbian requires the establishment of her "home" so to speak, I believe that the most effective component of therapy with a female homosexual is the quality of the attachment and therapeutic relationship formed between female counselor and client. While there are many techniques that can be used to access deep unconscious conflicts and to teach cognitive truths and principles of healthy living and relationship, it is the consistency, faithfulness, caring and loving attitude of the counselor that begins to finally establish a solid center of trust and inner core or sense of being in the women we work with. It is as I love, accept and affirm my client that she can begin to unfold and continue to develop as a female being. In essence, I provide the home in which she can rest and simply become.

Lesbianism

Posted on January 7, 2016 at 2:25 PM

CLINICAL AND DEVELOPMENTAL ISSUES OF LESBIANISM

Introduction

 

The lesbian condition is complex in its origin and very diverse in its expression. The elements of the lesbian struggle vary in degree and intensity, as do the temperaments and personality types of the women. My clients present with a variety of Axis I and II disorders as well as unique stories and histories. Therefore, in my treatment of the lesbian client, I first and foremost want to meet and interact with the unique individual sitting in front of me. Lesbian women are intelligent and intuitive and can tell if I am truly "seeing" them or trying to squeeze them into a box or theory. I hold my models and theories loosely so I can meet the true person. I also want to encounter the "whole" woman, not just her lesbianism. I want to give her the message that she is more than her lesbian struggle. I want her to know that she is important, and I am not sitting with her simply because I think her sexual orientation needs fixing or that I can "fix" her.

As a therapist, I want to respect her human dignity. Many of my clients are not sure they want to totally resolve the lesbian conflict. The emotional aspect of their struggle seems to reach down into the very core of their being. It is often a long process for a woman to just define the struggle, let alone to begin to disidentify with it. Over six years ago, about two years into my practice, I decided to make a commitment to myself and to my clients that I would work with them regardless of where they are at in their decision to resolve the lesbian conflict. I agreed that I would not place demands or expectations on them with respect to their sexual struggle that would, in any way, condition or impede our ongoing work together. In other words, I have decided to be committed to them, wherever their journey leads, and to remain committed for the long haul. The "long haul" seems to be an average of 4-5 years of weekly to bimonthly appointments.

 

While there is much variation amongst lesbian women, there are still many notable themes that consistently emerge in their stories and struggles. I would like to highlight a few of those here.

 

Roots of Lesbianism

In broad sweeping terms, the roots of lesbianism can be discovered in four basic elements:

 

A strained, detached or disrupted bond or attachment with mother without an available mother substitute, resulting in a need for secure attachment.

A lack of respect and/or protection from men, often in the form of sexual abuse or rigid gender roles, resulting in a fear or hatred of men.

Few, if any, close girlhood friendships, resulting in a need for belonging and fun.

A sense of emptiness and lostness in lieu of a full and rich sense of self and identity as a feminine being, resulting in a need for a self and gender identity.

While the presence of these elements is not an absolute predictor or determinant of the lesbian struggle, they are nevertheless the most common and frequently reported facets of the lesbian story. These elements are generally sequential in order of development or experience, can be causal or predisposing for the subsequent element and are therefore interrelated. An adult woman actually cycles in and out of these elements and related needs as she acts out the lesbian bond in an attempt to repair the inherent dilemmas. Unfortunately, this "acting out" can actually intensify these predisposing conditions of lesbianism.

 

I would also like to suggest that there are some common innate characteristics shared by lesbian women. These would include an above average intelligence, strong sensitivity to hypocrisy and injustice, athleticism, natural draw to more stereotypically masculine interests, capacity to feel deeply and passionately. It is the combination of the above environmental factors and inherent characteristics that may eventually lead to a lesbian struggle.

 

Developmental Issues

To highlight the specific developmental issues that are present in most lesbian struggles, I wanted to share the research findings from an unpublished doctoral dissertation by Dr. Sheryl Brickner Camallieri. Dr. Camallieri used an instrument called the Measures of Psychosocial Development (MPD) to assess the developmental differences between 54 allegedly heterosexual and 54 allegedly homosexual women. The MPD measures the developmental resolution based on Erik Erikson's model of psychosocial development. The eight stages are listed below.

 

While Dr. Camallieri admits that the scope of her research does not establish the cause of the differences (which could be developmental or attributed to the social and political climate regarding lesbianism), "Of the 19 scales analyzed, six of the scales indicated a significant difference in the scores between the two groups of women" (p. 3). The heterosexual women scored significantly higher on the favorable resolution scales of Trust, Intimacy and Generativity (marked in squares below). The lesbian women scored significantly higher on the negative resolution of Identity Confusion and Stagnation and Total Negative Resolution (circled below).

 

 

I have since given this assessment to over 25 of my lesbian clients and continue to see extremely high identity confusion and stagnation scores as well as low trust and high mistrust scores. Additionally, there is another pattern that has emerged in my client's testing: relative to their other scores, the lesbian woman scores significantly high in the positive resolution of Initiative and/or Industry (also circled above). If we were to just consider the results of the MPD based on suggested methods of interpretation, we would conclude that these are women who feel very insecure and unsafe in their world; are unsure of others and doubt that anything good will last. They have used performance, competence and assertiveness in a compensatory fashion, probably to gain a sense of control, value and purpose. They hold no inherent value or clear identity and therefore have little capacity or motivation to sacrificially give to others. Emotionally, they remain in a depressed state of self-absorption. This is a fairly accurate description of the lesbian experience.

 

As you might guess, these developmental deficits and compensations coincide almost perfectly with the clinical themes in a lesbian's history.

 

A strained, detached or disrupted bond Mistrust

or attachment with mother without

an available mother substitute, resulting

in a need for secure attachment.

 

 

A lack of respect and/or protection from Initiative/Industry -

men, often in the form of sexual abuse assuming a toughened or

or rigid gender roles, resulting in a masculinized stance towards

fear or hatred of men. life and survival.

 

Few if any close girlhood friendships, Identity Confusion (solid-

resulting in a need for belonging and fun. ified during adolescence)

 

A sense of emptiness and lostness in lieu Stagnation

of a full and rich sense of self and identity

as a feminine being, resulting in a need

for a self and gender identity.

 

Specific treatment options need to take into consideration these developmental needs. Ultimately, treatment should start with the beginning issue of trust, move through the subsequent developmental issues with a major emphasis on identity formation and conclude when the woman is free to give, love and contribute to the betterment of the world.

 

 

Contrasts Between the Masculine and Feminine

I would now like to offer some framework around the differences between the male and female developmental journey in order to highlight the nuances of the lesbian struggle. I hope to also provide a framework for understanding the essence of the true masculine and feminine. It is essential to have some framework such as this if we are to help gender-confused clients.

 

Attachment and Identification

Boys and girls follow different developmental paths in terms of attachment and identification. Both boys and girls are to be initially attached to mom at birth. To develop healthily, a boy must move, strive and initiate to successfully separate from mom and ultimately attach and identify with dad. Homosexuality becomes a serious possibility when this step or process is frustrated or altogether missing for the boy. A girl on the other hand is supposed to remain and rest, so to speak, in an experience of ongoing or continuous connection. Figuratively speaking, she warmly rests secure at home with mom, to eventually receive dad who is to gently move towards her to offer his love, affirmation and protection.

 

Lesbianism initially becomes a possibility when this needed ongoing attachment with mom is absent, insufficient or undesirable. (Lesbianism becomes an even greater possibility if dad's movement is non-existent, abusive, or becomes masculinizing of his daughter.)

If for the girl, her initial attachment to mom is perceived to be weakened or broken, a type of homelessness is created for the girl that even the homosexual boy does not experience. In this way, the lesbian condition is more primal and perhaps more entrenched emotionally and psychologically than male homosexuality. The girl is essentially stripped of her most fundamental tether in the universe. There may be no greater trauma in a girl's life developmentally than one that interferes with her primal relationship with mom. Mom is not only the first bond and attachment for a little baby girl, but is the relational object with whom this little girl will form her first sense of self and eventually rely on to complete her identification process as a female.

 

Besides internalizing the insecurity that a break in this foundational relationship creates, the girl will activate or move in an effort to find the attachment for which she was designed and so desperately needs. She begins to follow the developmental path of a male, that is, moving, striving and initiating. Unfortunately, trust in others and her self is not adequately formed to support secure and meaningful connection or relatedness (this is the mistrust that the MPD measures). She is filled with a sense of aloneness and need that further fuels her movement and initiation to resolve her dilemma (herein lies the high initiative and industry scores on the MPD). Simply put, this emotional movement disrupts her normal growth and development and identification as a feminine being (identity confusion), not to mention the false paths such movement will uncover. Let me add another picture of gender differences.

 

Erikson Research on Preadolescent Play Constructions

In the 1940's Erik Erikson conducted research at Berkeley on preadolescent play constructions. While he wasn't specifically addressing gender differences in his study, Erikson was struck by the fact that when given a set of blocks, little boys and girls built different constructions of space.

 

The boys' construction looked something like the one below. The construction would also include such things as cars among the buildings and people atop the buildings. As one can see, boys seem to be naturally preoccupied with the outer world, nature, objects and things.

 

 

The girls' constructions tended to look like the picture below. The people sat close together and faced the inside of the room. Girls seem to be naturally preoccupied with the inner world of human relatedness, communication and connection.

 

Theological Perspective

Theologically, the creation story of Adam and Eve parallels Erik Erikson's findings and adds some important notions about the true masculine and feminine. First, Adam and Eve were created equal in terms of dignity, value, call and purpose. (To work with a lesbian successfully, you must truly believe and hold to this conviction.) They were to both Fill and Multiply - the realm of human relationship and Rule and Subdue - the realm of nature, animals and the earth (found in Genesis 1:27, New International Version). Second, they were created differently. Adam was created from the ground, was placed in the garden with the plants and animals and became very busy working, moving, initiating, ruling and subduing. Eve, on the other hand, was the only created being made from another living being. Her primal essence is one of human relatedness. She was immediately placed in front of Adam and became busy relating-being known and loved. Both Adam and Eve were needed to complete God's purposes for humanity, but it seems that their very origins and initial experiences point to difference and uniqueness.

 

 

True Femininity and the Inner World of Connectedness

Another way to look at these differences is seen in the complementary circles below. Perhaps the masculine (I believe gender is not merely a construct of socialization or learning processes but a fundamental and inherent aspect of our humanity) has a greater exterior strength of movement, initiation and courage to face and deal with the outer world but with an inner core of tenderness and compassion for human relatedness. It is this exterior strength, movement and confidence that homosexual men seemingly lack or struggle discovering.

 

Perhaps the true feminine means having an exterior that is inviting, restful and receiving with an inner core of solidness and strength of being and courage to face the complexities of another soul and the requirements of ongoing intimacy. Lisa Beamer (the wife of Todd Beamer who helped guide United Flight 93 away from human targets) is a great example of a woman with an inviting, restful exterior and a solid inner core. She was sad, but not crushed as she faced the tragedy of losing her husband. She was not fragile, wispy, whiney, needy, overly dependent but solid, strong, articulate, lovely.

The true feminine is not weak, but boasts of the strength, courage and power to be - to be present and connected with her own heart, emotions and thoughts and with another, even in the most difficult or tragic time. The true feminine can weather loneliness. Lisa can stand in the face of her husband's death because she has her self and many other vital relationships.

 

Lesbian women typically lack or struggle discovering and accepting both of these aspects as women. They are toughened and defended on the outside and sense emptiness and desperation on the inside. Their toughness defies their inner need and their inner need, which so often is expressed in terms of dependencies, speaks to the depth of their gender brokenness. They are not living out of the strength of the true feminine.

 

Of interest is the typical profile of the mother of a lesbian daughter. According to my clients, their mothers typically had no solid self or strength of character or integrity, regardless of how they presented on the outside. The mom of a lesbian struggler is a mom who:

 

- hid in bed under the covers when dad became abusive or rageful

- was mentally ill and relied on her daughter to continually talk her out of committing suicide

- didn't even know the basics of housekeeping let alone caring for a baby or child

- was a social butterfly and alcoholic leaving her little daughter alone and unsupervised

- was unable to separate from an abusive husband

- was a dutiful wife but a shell of a woman

- bragged incessantly about herself and kids, negating any negative feelings or experiences in her daughter

- hated being a woman, never shed a tear and despised her daughter

- was openly jealous of her daughter

 

 

These vignettes do not describe a woman who is solid in being and strength of heart. They describe a woman who is insecure, dependent, afraid of being alone, weak, lost and broken and underdeveloped in her own femininity. It is easy to understand why a daughter who has a sharp intellect, strong sense of justice and integrity, high energy level with deep passions might conclude that if becoming a woman means becoming like mom, she wants nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, in the girl's detachment and flight from femininity as portrayed by her mother, she too begins to live out a deep inner desolation and crisis of her true gender identity. She has had no "home" in which to develop or become. "I don't know who I am," "I hate being a woman," and "I don't know how I feel." Many of my clients feel and believe they are not women. This is not a symptom of a transgender struggle but is an indication of their alienation from their inherent design as a feminine being.

 

Emotional Dependency

To briefly summarize, healthy development for a girl first requires that she rests and remains in the warm and secure home of mother so that she can form and develop an inner home for herself - out of which she will live, express her strength and power, create, relate, connect, nurture, bring forth life, etc. Without this inner sense of home or a secure and solid sense of self and feminine identity, she will not have the capacity to enter into healthy intimacy. Yet she will live with a deep belief that she cannot be alone. Therefore, she is unconsciously driven or on the move to find a "home" or true "self" outside of her self.

 

This is the drive behind an emotionally dependent relationship. When another woman comes along that triggers a sense of familiarity or presents herself to be a strong and competent woman (unlike mom perhaps), the lesbian literally wants to lose herself in this woman, hoping to find rest, receive the care and nurture she craves and to finally appropriate, albeit vicariously, an identity. Emotional dependency is not an inordinate love but is the consequence of a woman's deep fear of and inability to sustain intimacy. The partner is not loved or known for who they truly are. It is the sense or illusion of warm connection or secure attachment that is desired. Sadly, the "emotional dependency," if sustained, will prevent a woman from any substantial healing or change. A woman does not need to lose herself (in another woman or man) but in fact, needs to find her true self and this goal should be the primary focus of therapy with the lesbian client.

 

Personality Disorders and Traits

It is this missing core and the accompanying restlessness that I believe leads to conflicts and struggles within the lesbian woman that qualify as full blown personality disorders and traits. The most common configurations I encounter in my practice generally include a depressed and/or dependent disorder with associated self defeating, avoidant and borderline disorders or traits. Depressed - empty, dejected, pessimistic, worthless and full of self and other centered contempt, dependent - needy to the point of desperate yet fearful of rejection, self defeating - negative, self pitying and hostile, and avoidant - defended and isolated. This list accurately describes the predominant characteristics of the average lesbian woman.

 

Effective Therapy for the Lesbian Client

Work with the lesbian will require a long-term commitment which will be tasking and draining but also rewarding if the client is highly motivated to change. The individual characterological profile must be considered and appropriately handled in therapy. Generally speaking, lesbian women are deeply conflicted. But remember, every woman you see will be unique in this regard. The general goal of therapy is to establish trust (this may be the first experience of trust for many clients) so that the client can accomplish the deep inner formation work, or as quoted by Elaine Siegel, "attainment of firmer inner structures," (Female Homosexuality: choice without volition, Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press (1988)). The woman must come into her own. She must be able to embrace the breadth of her identity and humanity, her strengths and weaknesses, her glory and her shortcomings, her dreams, hopes and visions as well as her disappointments and losses. This process will involve among other things, extensive work in identifying, challenging and restructuring the woman's belief system regarding the world, God, others and herself. Lesbianism is supported by a complex system of distorted, negative and self-defeating beliefs. This system must be rebuilt. The client's defensive maneuvering and unhealthy attachments with women need to be addressed while the woman is being challenged to take risks with new and healthier relationships. Eventually she will need to deal with her opposite sex contempt and ambivalence and appropriate her own individual style of feminine relating.

 

In conclusion, because healing for the lesbian requires the establishment of her "home" so to speak, I believe that the most effective component of therapy with a female homosexual is the quality of the attachment and therapeutic relationship formed between female counselor and client. While there are many techniques that can be used to access deep unconscious conflicts and to teach cognitive truths and principles of healthy living and relationship, it is the consistency, faithfulness, caring and loving attitude of the counselor that begins to finally establish a solid center of trust and inner core or sense of being in the women we work with. It is as I love, accept and affirm my client that she can begin to unfold and continue to develop as a female being. In essence, I provide the home in which she can rest and simply become.

Gays vs. Ex-Gays - II

Posted on January 6, 2016 at 1:40 PM

Why Many Homosexuals Hate Ex-Gays: Thoughts From A JONAH Member

Michael Shaw (Posted 2006)

 

Why Many Homosexuals Hate Ex-Gays: Thoughts From A JONAH Member

 

I recently came across a posting on message board on a politically-oriented Web site entitled "Why Do So Many Homosexuals Hate Ex-Gays?." The question made me stop and think.

 

I wouldn't say that all homosexuals hate ex-gays but I would say that homosexual rights activists don't care about the individual journeys and lives of people with homosexual feelings, they care about their political cause and nothing else.

 

How can it possibly be wrong for a young man who experiences homosexual feelings to seek ways to cope with and even overcome these feelings and learn to expand his range of sexual expression to include members of the opposite sex? How can it be wrong to offer such a young man help?

 

Here is my story: When I was college my best friend Alan defined himself as gay. I had certain sexual fantasies and feelings about men but wasn't so sure. Alan became politically active in the gay organizations on and off campus (with the support of liberal professors), dated men and believed that he was gay and that was it. Unfortunately, Alan was just in time to catch the AIDS virus before anyone knew what it was. Needless to say, he does not walk in any more gay rights marches.

 

At that age, you are very open and close in your friendships. I knew him like I have known few other friends in my life.

 

When I read his obituary, it shored up my resolve to take another path. I never acted on my homosexual feelings with another person and sought to know myself as honestly as I could. Now, I can't say life has been easy or perfect; I am who I am. But I have experienced incredible changes in my sexual fantasy life and arousal patterns. My homosexual attractions are a miniscule percentage of what they once were. I have experienced genuine sexual arousal from physical contact with a woman. These are not changes in behavior, these are changes in my core way of thinking, a reflection of a gradual process of attaining emotional maturity.

If political activist gays would tell the truth they would say it takes a lot of hurt to make a boy a homosexual. They would also say that the human mind can accomplish anything and that, whatever mistakes we make, change is always possible. These are subtle concepts and may never get play in the mass media.

 

But it is the truth.

Sexuality in Judaism

Posted on January 6, 2016 at 10:40 AM

Why Neither Homosexuality nor Heterosexuality Exist in Judaism

 

Rabbi Joel Beasley teaches Bible, Talmud, and Philosophy, and develops creative learning programs in a variety of educational institutions near his home in Alon Shvut, Israel. This article first appeared in the Jewish Spectator, Winter 1998.

 

"God does not play tricks on His creations". - Talmud, Avoda Zara 3a

"I'm not a bad girl; I'm just drawn that way." - Jessica Rabbit, Who Shot Roger Rabbit? (1988).

 

Canadian columnist Barbara Amiel recently identified a product of Western culture she called the "azza," a person who prefaces comments with the words, "as a." "Azza left-handed pro-life Scottish-nationalist Elvis-imitator," for example, "I might find your remarks offensive." The azza preface grants critical immunity. Honest intellectual discussion is hard to come by with this ultra-sensitive, utilitarian character.

 

Amiel's words resonate in an era in which Jewish tradition is derided as bigoted and homophobic. Is there any relevance in this environment for the Torah view that the homosexual act is an "abomination" (Leviticus 18:22)? How can Judaism with its unambiguous position speak to this generation? As far as the Jewish religion goes, there are no homosexuals in the world, nor have there ever been. There are no heterosexuals either. Both terms are pejorative. They imply that the essence of existence lies somehow within the crass and the carnal. Human beings are reduced to their most primal function, as if the point of life was to contemplate the smorgasbord of sexual possibilities in the world.

 

From the Jewish perspective, identifying existentially as a homosexual or a heterosexual is as irrelevant as identifying as a ptyalizer (a person whose saliva flows excessively).The words may describe predilections or behavior, but they hardly capture the essence of the person. The Torah labels people not by their primal urges, but by their obligations to God. The Cohen, Levi, and Yisrael each play a different role within the apparatus of Divine worship. The adult keeps mitzvot, while the youth is exempt. The indentured servant, the non-Jewish citizen, and the free person all enjoy different monetary obligations. In dividing these responsibilities, God apparently did not care about human preferences, sexual or otherwise. He did not ask the Jewish people whether or not they would like to follow His Torah. According to the Midrash, He held the mountain over the entire nation and said, "take it." No azza interest group declined because of special needs. It was an offer no one could refuse.

 

In the pre-azza world, Jews tended to appreciate their Creator more, not only for bringing them out of bondage, but for enabling them to breathe. The Torah gave them the opportunity to express their gratitude. Before JFK, God told His people not to ask what He can do for them, but what they can do for Him. If any one label applies accurately to the Jew, it is Eved Hashem, servant of God. This may represent the main point of conflict between the ideology of the azza world and the Torah. The azza is concerned with rights. The Torah rarely discusses rights. It is more focused on responsibilities. Within its structured framework, people can maximize their own distinct talents and interests. Their ultimate task is to become partners with God in the world's creation -- literally by creating their unique selves in His image.

 

As part of this act of self-creation, people must see their personal qualities as constantly evolving. Branding themselves with labels stymies their potential for growth and destroys their partnership with God. Labels rarely describe people as they are. They more frequently become self-fulfilling prophecies. A child who is labeled "slow" from an early age feels defeated. Trying to rise above the low expectations seems futile.

 

Teshuvah, the assumption that any human quality can be changed if necessary to serve the Creator, allows individuals to maximize their potential beyond their wildest expectations. A child once assumed to have been slow can develop into a top scholar with the appropriate determination. Every destructive impulse can be directed towards appropriate holy activity.

 

The current consensus amongst Behavioral Psychologists supports the Torah's optimism with regards to change. With the right positive and negative reinforcement, people can adjust to any number of previously unimaginable realities. Behavioral conditioning usually works more efficiently at earlier ages, but all people can adjust to new situations if they are motivated.

 

According to sexual behaviorists like Masters and Johnson, babies are born neither heterosexual nor homosexual in any categorical sense (Human Sexuality, 1995, fifth edition). They are sexually malleable, and can remain in flux throughout their lifetimes. Whether sexuality is determined by biology or by the environment -- or both -- is a question that defies clear empirical proof. Regardless of the nature-nurture conundrum, sexual attraction is almost always influenced to some degree by external stimuli. Human preferences are complex and quirky. If chocolate ice cream tastes sensational today, it may taste less so tomorrow. People are inclined naturally towards aesthetic variation. That does not mean they should be free to act on their impulses. The Torah understands that unrestrained pursuit of personal pleasure takes a terrible toll on society, and creates havoc for the stability of the family.

 

What if people feel genuinely attracted to their own gender? This does not make them homosexual, even if they experience homosexual feelings. These feelings may or may not go away in time, but the Torah still expects that people adapt themselves as best they can to male-female marriage. There have always been people in the world who at least at one point in their lives are attracted to their own gender, to little children, to family members, to ever-changing sexual whims. God does not permit people to act out their fantasy lives if these conflict with His vision of holiness.

 

The Torah does not accept the concept of monogamous homosexual relationships because self-fulfillment is not part of its agenda. If human sexuality is influenced by environment, someone with homosexual ideation can potentially lead a fulfilled marital life. But even if their innermost desires remained unfulfilled, it does not matter. It may never become clear why some people do not feel predisposed to marrying someone of the opposite sex. The obligation remains.

 

Marriage is meant to teach people how to rise above their own selfish needs in order to give to a partner who is both psychologically and physiologically different. Same-gender marriages might have been too easy. As one essayist put it, male couples would have been able to sit around and watch ballgames all day; female couples would have been able to sit down and really talk about one another's feelings. But marriage is meant to challenge each of the partners. John Grey's bestsellers on the subject (Menare from Mars, Women are from Venus, et al.) have touched a raw nerve precisely because members of both sexes are aware of the difficulty in bridging the chasm between them.

 

Jews have always appreciated the gap between the sexes. The Torah sanctified it. The Jews were the first people in world history to make divorce difficult by forcing the man to pay a hefty sum before separating permanently from his wife. When the inevitable conflicts arose, neither spouse could run away so quickly. They had to stay together and work things out the hard way, often becoming finer individuals in the process. Divorce was a possibility, but only as a last resort after all other options had been explored. The constructive tension in marriage helped them grow.

 

Male-female marriage is a much more stable societal norm than monogamous same-sex relationships. Dennis Prager argues that men in particular need women as a civilizing force in order to tame their potentially unruly libidos ("Judaism, Homosexuality, and Civilization," Ultimate Issues ,April-June 1990). Societies that tolerated homosexual behavior in history were characterized almost without exception by the oppression and subjugation of women, by the elevation of male sexual gratification as a mainstream pastime, and by a lack of any persevering family life. Men by their nature are not as willing to commit to long-term relationships. Prager argues that "while it is possible for male homosexuals to live lives of fidelity comparable to those of heterosexual males, it is usually not the case." According to one study, the typical lesbian has fewer than ten lovers in the course of her active sexual life, the typical male homosexual has over five hundred (Bell and Weinberg, Homosexualities, Alfred Kinsey Institute for Sex Research, 1978).

 

God's idea of holiness is not always discernible to the human mind. These explanations may not fully account for the Torah's overall prohibition. They do refute the popular claim that the Torah would have sanctioned monogamous homosexual relationships if it had known about them. The prohibition was meant to be unambiguous and eternal. This is one reason the Torah is so spare with its words, "And do not lie with the male in the way you lie with a woman -- it is an abomination" (Leviticus 18:22). Try as they may, modern voices fail to twist these words beyond their unavoidably clear meaning.

 

God is not cruel. He does not ask people to do anything beyond their capacity. He does at times ask them to harness their desires. To some degree, all mitzvot go against the natural human grain. Without the social or ethical restraints that usually bind them, most people would steal, live promiscuously, lie, cheat, and occasionally murder, sometimes out of sheer convenience. The greatest struggle in life, according to the Torah, is to discipline base instincts in pursuit of moral excellence. People are bursting with inchoate spirituality. The truly righteous learn how to control their physical drives while striving to realize their loftiest convictions.

 

Many people diminish their potential by embracing labels. The self-proclaimed homosexual who engages in homosexual acts is not necessarily considered evil from a Torah perspective. The act is evil. The prohibition may be absolute, but Jews still have a priority of showing one another compassion, especially when doing the right thing becomes a struggle. There is no contradiction when those who condemn homosexual behavior reach out lovingly to self-identified "homosexuals." It means that they are able to see the Divine image in all people.

 

In a world that hypocritically accepts homosexuality in public and abhors it in private, the compassionate Jewish approach is unique. But for Judaism to be on the cutting edge is nothing new. The Midrash explains why our founder was called Avraham ha'ivri. While the rest of the world stood on one side(iver) of the river, Avraham bravely stood on the other. Jews are defined from the beginning of their history by their ability to stand firm in their beliefs despite the prevailing trends in the world. The Jewish views of monotheism, a limited monarchy, and freedom have rarely been endorsed by the historical powers of the world. Most of these powers themselves have died out, while the Jews and their Torah are as vibrant as ever. When homosexuality was exalted in Greek, Mayan, Chinese, Scandinavian cultures -- in fact almost every society in world history (see David E. Greenberg, The Construction of Homosexuality, 1988) -- the Jews stood resolutely by their ideal of male-female marriage.

 

People diminish themselves by insisting on azza-like labels. Strangely enough, in the modern world, identity often becomes enmeshed with career: "I am a secretary," "a lawyer," "a clerk," "an artist." These self-definitions are sadly accurate for those who accomplish little beyond their all-consuming careers. Others identify with their astrological signs, their lives assuming a kooky arbitrary dimension that seems beyond the individual's control. And some identify with their carnal preferences, as homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, or otherwise sexually challenged. Sex indeed often dominates their lives. If their days and nights are not filled with pursuits of physical pleasure, their minute-to-minute fantasy life tends to be all-engrossing.

 

The Torah offers a finer alternative. Within God's scheme, career, cosmos, and sexuality are all part of life's intricate fabric. Judaism is not ascetic. The individual is supposed to appreciate the richness of God's physical creation. The key is to accept the Torah's parameters. Through discipline and a pursuit of holiness, the Torah teaches how to appreciate the spiritual gifts in the universe and thereby live the fullest kind of existence.