|Posted on January 6, 2016 at 10:15 AM|
Affection Between Men
Torah Study Program: Hazon - Our Universal Vision
I would like to discuss the issue of affection between men. But before I discuss the issue in a broad sense, I will attempt to respond to the question that was raised whether, according to halacha (Torah law), two men can engage in erotic hugging, kissing, and touching, as long as they do not have intercourse.
There is a general Torah prohibition against engaging in any erotic touching with someone whom one is forbidden to sleep with, and this prohibition also includes erotic touching of a homosexual nature. The source for this prohibition is found in Leviticus 18:6 which states: "Any man shall not approach his close relative to uncover nakedness; I am Hashem." The Oral Torah interprets the phrase "shall not approach" to refer to any erotic touching which can lead one to have any form of intercourse which is forbidden by the Torah. This prohibition is discussed by Maimonides in his Sefer HaMitzvos (Prohibition 353), and it is also discussed in the Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzva 188). The Sefer HaChinuch states that this prohibition applies to both men and women.
There is a major halachic difference, however, between the Torah's prohibitions against forbidden forms of intercourse, and the Torah's prohibition against erotic touching: Unlike the prohibitions against intercourse, the prohibition against erotic touching does not bring "kares" (the soul being cut off) or the dealth penalty. Even if one violated one of the Torah's prohibitions against intercourse, there is the life-giving option of "teshuva" - repentance and renewal which cause us to return to the path of our Creator.
There is no question that Torah-committed individuals who are unable to get married, whether they have a heterosexual orientation or a homosexual orientation, were given a difficult life-challenge. In some respects, the person with the homosexual orientation has the greater challenge, for reasons already mentioned in previous correspondence. The reason why the Creator gives certain individuals unusual life-challenges is a topic for another discussion. It may be helpful, however, for all people to remember, regardless of their sexual orientation, that there can be warm, physical expressions of affection and love which are not erotic. There are many men, including "gay" men, who sometimes engage in non-erotic hugging and touching with other men. In fact, traditional Jewish culture is much more open to displays of physical affection between men than Anglo-Saxon culture. For example, in Israel, especially among the Sephardim, one sees men hugging or kissing each other at joyous occasions or when greeting each other after a period of separation. And in Israeli yeshivos, when a young man gets engaged, it is customary for his fellow students to not only wish him "mazel tov," but to also give him a hug or a kiss on the cheek. And let us not forget that in Torah-observant communities, men dance with men and women dance with women. These "mitzva" dances create a warm sense of unity among the participants, and they are emotionally and spiritually uplifting.
Last, but not least, men can experience with their male friends the deep pleasure of "emotional" affection and intimacy. To experience this form of intimacy, however, they need to be in touch with their feelings and to be capable of expressing these feelings in words. Many men find this to be a difficult process, especially those who grew up in an Anglo-Saxon culture. In fact, some married men have difficulty developing this type of intimacy with their wives.
I have known some single men and women who had a deep need for emotional intimacy, but they didn't know how to achieve this, so they ran after sexual experiences which they hoped would meet this need. They ended up feeling unsatisfied, for they did not receive the emotional love they were looking for.
The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (5:19) teaches that all love which depends on a physical or external cause will pass away when the cause is no longer there, but a love which is not dependent on a physical or external cause will last forever. And the Mishna cites the friendship between David and Jonathan as an example of a love which lasts forever. It is recorded in the Book of Samuel 1 that "Jonathan's soul became attached to David's soul" (18:1). As the Malbim and other commentators explain, the good and the holy within Jonathan's soul was drawn to the good and the holy within David's soul, and vice versa. These spiritual qualities last forever; thus, a love based on these spiritual qualities also lasts forever.
Our sages often refer to Hashem as "Rachmana" - an Aramaic word which means "the Loving One." May Rachmana bless all of us with a love that lasts forever.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen
The author is the director of the E-mail Torah study program "Hazon - Our Universal Vision":
|Posted on January 5, 2016 at 2:35 PM|
Written By Ben Newman
Gay sympathizers insist that homosexuality is not a choice. On this point I completely agree. It is not a choice. No man I know or have heard of who deals with homosexuality, whether they reject and struggle against it or embrace it with pride, feels like they ever chose these desires.
It is not a choice, it is a consequence -- an unintended consequence of a lifetime of choices -- conscious, subconscious and unconscious. It is an unfortunate but natural consequence of choices made by a growing boy that were intended only to protect himself against rejection and hurt, to make himself feel safe, and to do what seemed most natural.
One can hardly fault a little boy for running away from male peers he felt were taunting and frightening and for preferring the company of girls he felt were accepting and easy-going. One can hardly fault a little boy for rejecting and protecting himself from a seemingly cold or harsh or absent or disinterested father, or for expressing his naturally artistic and sensitive talents while rejecting what for him are the frightening, unfamiliar and uncomfortable rough-and-tumble games of boyhood. After all, he is only trying to take care of himself, feel safe and be true to himself, as best as an innocent (and unguided) little boy knows how.
Little does he know that all of these perfectly understandable and innocent choices, in combination, and without intervention, can lead to horrendous unintended consequences. These choices can ultimately cause him to fail to discover his innate masculinity, fail to bond with his gender, and fail to develop a healthy gender identity as a man among men. And unable to find his own masculinity within, he can begin to seek it outside of himself, to envy it in other boys and men, and finally to lust for it sexually. His choices can have the
very unintended consequence of causing him to see himself as the opposite of men -- to see other men as the opposite sex. And so, being their opposite, he naturally feels drawn to them sexually to give himself that sense of completeness, wholeness, balance and
oneness that sexuality is designed to provide.
The problem is, many (perhaps most or even all?) men never really find in homosexual relationships that sense of completeness and balance that they long for, because in homosexuality they give away their masculinity to their partner. They turn to another man to fill the masculine emptiness within themselves. And though they may feel maleness for a moment outside of themselves, and revel in being able to touch it externally for a moment, they are left feeling even more detached from their own inner masculinity and void of a sense of maleness they have been craving all their lives.
The question to the now-grown man becomes, what will you do with this history of choices and their unintended but inextricably attached consequences? No one I have ever heard of has been able to simply choose to stop feeling homosexual desires -- after all, the desires
aren't chosen, they are the result of a web of other, more primal choices. You can't unchoose the consequences while continuing to make the same original choices.
Nor can you change past choices you have already made. That is your history and must be accepted. But that doesn't limit you to make the same choices now, in the present. This is the terrifying, thrilling, exciting and satisfying part of homosexual recovery -- learning to
make all-new choices about the kind of man you will be now, the way you see yourself as a man, the way you see other men, the way you relate to men in your life, the way you relate to the world of men, and the way you see women and relate to women.
Today, as a grown man with much greater understanding about choices and their consequence, as a grown man with many resources for support to turn to, and not as a hurt and needy little boy, you can make different choices. Healthy choices. Constructive choices. Empowering choices.
Perhaps you will choose to work on no longer rejecting your father outright and instead to find the good in him that you can embrace and, yes, even accept as a role model. Perhaps you will choose to work on no longer seeing heterosexual men as destructive and
frightening, or no longer rejecting the entire masculine realm out of hurt and spite. Perhaps you will choose to work on overcoming defensive detachment, or no longer running from meaningful relationships with heterosexual men. Perhaps you will choose to begin to focus on your similarities with other men instead of your differences.
These new attitudes and beliefs and ways of relating will take time to learn and to develop. This is a chosen path of careful and deliberate reconstruction of the inner self. You will be ridding yourself of the long-established and familiar attitudes and beliefs and character traits and ways of being with others that have had negative consequences in your life, or the outcomes you don't want, and instead embracing and developing those that have positive consequences in your life, or the outcomes you do want.
(By emphasizing that these things can be chosen, I don't mean to suggest that change is a moment in time. The decision to pursue change might be, but the change itself -- as anyone who has ever pursued personal growth or enlightenment knows -- can take months or years or a lifetime.)
Then, as real change begins to take effect, the consequences will inevitably follow: You will discover a sense of inner male power and innate masculinity you previously only saw in others. Men will eventually stop appearing to be the opposite sex from you. You will
begin to see heterosexual men as your peers and will begin to identify with them in a bond of brotherhood as you never have before. And as your masculine identity develops, your desire to connect sexually and romantically with your opposite will gradually, quietly begin to turn from the men you once saw as the opposite sex to the women (or a woman) that you, as a firmly grounded man, now recognize as your true opposite.
So as a man among men, what new choices will you begin to make today?