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Virtual Talmud

God, Television and Same-Sex Marriage

When Vince, aide to President MacKenzie Allen on ABC’s “Commander in Chief,” chooses to secretly tie the knot with his partner to protect the President during an election year (Episode 15, “Ties that Bind”), the writers are suggesting that our country is more likely to accept a woman president than the legitimacy of same-sex marriage. That may be true. But I think God is a lot more accepting than the American electorate.

The question of same-sex marriage is controversial, of course. It would be easy to argue, as many do, that same-sex marriage, and by extension all homosexuality, is biblically prohibited. Leviticus 18:22 clearly states, “Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman, it is an abhorrence.”


If we were to read the Bible as a fundamentalist would, those words might be enough for us. But as Jews, we don’t act simply on the literal words of the Bible. We seek to understand God’s will for us through the lenses of (rabbinic) interpretation, predicated on and understood within its socio-historic context. That the biblical prohibition on homosexual relations is found among a list of illicit, largely incestuous, relationships leads us to ask whether this prohibition includes the monogamous relationships that many homosexuals seek today.

Psychologists have found that there are individuals for whom sexual orientation is not a matter of choice. Regarding such a person, our Talmudic sages taught that where there is really no choice, one is freed from obligation. Nevertheless, other commandments can still be fulfilled: the obligation to have (or raise) children (“be fertile and multiply,” Genesis 1:28), which is now available outside of heterosexual marriage thanks to in-vitro fertilization and adoption, and the obligation to share companionship rather than be alone (Genesis 2:18), which could be fulfilled through some formal, ritualized, legally recognized family commitment.


One of our names for God is HaRahaman, the All-Merciful. It is hard for me to imagine that an all-Merciful God, having created an individual who can only find sexual satisfaction with a member of the same sex, would not also accept his or her need to find companionship and satisfaction within a same-sex relationship.

That doesn’t mean that any or everything is OK. I can understand and empathize with those in the gay/bisexual/transgendered community who want full acceptance. However, the purpose of religious devotion is to outline appropriate personal discipline even in our most intimate of relationships.

Judaism tells us what and how we can eat and with whom and when we can have sexual (traditionally heterosexual) relations. It is one thing to find a religious accommodation for someone who has no choice, and another to accommodate those who want to deny the place of Jewish law and tradition in limiting their choices.


The Conservative movement is currently debating the place of homosexuality in Judaism. That debate seeks to balance tradition and change: the tradition of our commitment to mitzvot, commandments, in general, as binding upon personal decisions and, in particular, regarding the legislative history of specific laws balanced by our changing understanding of human nature, sociological conditions, and sense of justice and compassion.

There are many young same-sex couples who yearn to build Jewish homes and families as accepted and active members of the Jewish community. Whether the specific answer rests in commitment ceremonies or some other equivalent of same-sex marriage is probably not as important as the effort the organized Jewish community makes to respect God’s image in every individual, by trying to find ways to take into account each person’s need to fulfill God’s command to find companionship and family within the embrace of our religious community.

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dean ward

posted May 5, 2006 at 1:46 am

This article is the biggeswt bunch of bunk I have read in a long time. God is soverin and this person is trying to justify his own interpretation of God’s word and he is way off base. Homosexuality is a sin. He is saying I can’t help myself and if I marry another person of the same sex I can still raise a family and that is what God said in His word. BALONEY!!!

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Rachel (Velveteen Rabbi)

posted May 5, 2006 at 2:18 am

Well-said. I especially like the way you articulate why and how the Jewish way to read Torah is not literalist.

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posted May 5, 2006 at 4:19 am

Thank you for your view, it was most welcomed on my screen.

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posted May 5, 2006 at 4:55 am

I really liked the way you treated this subject and worked to speak from your traditions and beliefs. You were clear and concise. Even those who may disagree with your views should atleast be able to relate to how the topic is being addressed in Judaism. As a Hindu, I understood it very well.

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posted May 5, 2006 at 8:59 am

I don t follow an Abrahamic tradition, but what you said made sense. Sexual orientation, of any variety, is not a choice. The only choice anybody, gay or straight, has over their sexuality is to either accept it as a part of themselves and live their lives, or to deny that aspect of who they are and live a pathetic life of needless repression, self-loathing and agony. Some bigoted humans twist religious texts to justify their own hatred. For example, while many individuals would debase homosexuals based on the word of their God, they ignore the even greater number of times adultery or divorce was harshly criticized by their religious founders. Such hypocrisy proves that these individuals do not disapprove of gay people for religious reasons, but that they are using religion as a convenient excuse to promote their own prejudice. Denying equality to gay peoples does not make them disappear. They exist; their relationships exist, whether or not you choose to recognize them. In the end, God (by any name) recognizes them, because a loving, committed relationship that forms between two souls can only be a gift from the Divine. Anybody who has ever been blessed with knowing true loves can not deny that fact.

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posted May 5, 2006 at 4:57 pm

Why is it considered bigoted and intolerant to uphold the clearest meaning of the Biblical prohibitions against homosexuality? How could Leviticus 18:22 be any clearer? If someone believes that the words of the Torah are inspired by God, then he/she cannot speak on God’s behalf and say that homosexual intercourse in not a sin. The rabbi is pretty clear where she stands: “If we were to read the Bible as a fundamentalist would, those words might be enough for us. But as Jews, we don t act simply on the literal words of the Bible. We seek to understand God s will for us through the lenses of (rabbinic) interpretation, predicated on and understood within its socio-historic context.” In other words, the Torah does not supercede the traditions and changing customs of man. This is what it all boils down to. As for me, I believe that the written Torah is the ultimate authority on what God determines holy and profane, and so I cannot accept that homosexuality is deemed acceptable in His eyes. If you consider me a bigot for holding to this belief, then how tolerant does that make you?

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posted May 5, 2006 at 5:50 pm

Bingo, Pete. When PC people say “tolerance,” they have in mind a quality they find to be lacking in others — never themselves. A good start on real tolerance would be a diversity of views rather than PC consensus on VT.

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Rev. Dr. Ronald F. Piper

posted May 5, 2006 at 8:22 pm

To me it is wonderful to see Judaism exploring this important issue. I totally agree that when reading the Torah (Bible), it is our responsibility to encourage our worshippers to realize the historical context in which it was written…the role that homosexuals actually played or were forced to play within the society and the pervasive socio-economic, as well as the psychological mind set of the times which dictated the fundamentalist theology of many religions. I believe that the Rabbi did an excellent job of enlightening us with this article. Rev. Dr. Ron

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Baruch Gershom

posted May 5, 2006 at 11:00 pm

I must differ with the author. The relevant commandments are a negative mitzvah with regards to homosexual relations, and a positive mitzvah to bear offspring. We must understand these commandments together. In the sexual union between man and wife, there is an essence of holiness because they are fulfilling a positive commandment to fill the world with people (or at least trying to, whether they succeed is up to G-d) and taking part in G-d’s Creation of the world as his partner. A person who sees sex as merely personal gratification of sexual needs, whether he masterbates, participates in homosexual activity, or takes efforts to avoid insemination, the act becomes just that — an act — losing with it the spark of the Divine. G-d gives us many urges, both good and bad (see Deut. 30:15-20), which provide us with choices in life. The choices often contrast the sensual against the Holy. For example, our appetite to eat delicious foods can be merely a vehicle for gluttony, or it can be a vehicle for us to thank G-d for the things He created, including our meal, and to express a desire for a life that embraces the Ways of G-d, rather than the Ways of Man. Good Shabbos, Baruch Gershom

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posted May 5, 2006 at 11:40 pm

Hi Pete, Lev 20:10 says, And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. I bet you have never signed a petition calling for the reinstatement of anti-divorce laws. I bet you would not support a President who suggested that a constitutional amendment be made to forbid divorce, or to deny divorcees the right to remarry. I bet you would never support people who picket the funerals of divorcees with signs that read, God Hates Whores! Yet, you use a Leviticus quotation to justify the hatred you feel for homosexuals. And that is what it is, Pete: hatred. Bigotry. Hypocrisy. You use a handful of sentences from 2000 year old Jewish tribal laws to justify how you feel toward homosexuals. Do you want to know the best way to identify a bigot, Pete? They are the ones who think God hates all the same people they do.

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posted May 8, 2006 at 2:57 am

(R. Grossman) That the biblical prohibition on homosexual relations is found among a list of illicit, largely incestuous, relationships leads us to ask whether this prohibition includes the monogamous relationships that many homosexuals seek today. Exactly!!! We tend to assume adultery is equivalent to unfaithfulness of either the man or the woman, in the context of a monogamous marriage. Not so 3000 years ago! Marriage was thought of as the acquisition of a woman by the husband from her father. And “adultery” only occurred when a man had relations with one of another man’s wives. The author of Lev 18 conceded to the practice of polygamy, not banning it, but limiting it instead. Lev 18 ensures that a man does not marry too many close relatives, such as a mother and daughter, etc. Lev 18:22 exists to close a loophole that would allow a man to have relations outside of marriage with as many men as he wanted (since a homosexual relationship could never be adulterous as “adultery” was then defined).

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posted May 8, 2006 at 6:17 pm

RE: NightLad 05.05.06 – 5:45 pm There was nothing hateful in the post you were supposedly responding to. More on the gay agenda vs. religious liberty (for those who disagree with NightLad) here:

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posted May 14, 2006 at 10:20 am

My grandmother said it best and most clearly: God’s will is very simple to anyone who could see with the mind, more than with the eyes. He did not make a Blue Jay to mate with a Parrot, so you stick to your own kind. Animals do not wonder about homosexuality. Two male cats don’t take the kittens from a litter to raise on their own. We all need our Mothers! How would you have liked to be taken from your Mom or Dad? Could you wish that on any child? How will children honor their Mother & Father, if they don’t know them? Never keep a child form honoring God and the Ten Commandments; Lest you wish to curse yourself. Be Fruitfull and multiply (He meant “Yourself” physically). Since you seem to be so articulate with words…Explain to me how you justify homosexuality to God Himself, when you pray to Him about it. Do you ask for mercy? Do you pray… or do you go on blogs like these instead and try to get people to join you in accepting sin as part of evolution, in hopes of hooking another young mind, before they get to know God good enough to see clearly, how God’s Will and Nature are simply interlocked into one. Take the Ten Commandments: Do you enjoy killing animals? How about people “Bad-Mouthing” your parents. You like getting robbed? People eyeing your car or other belongings? How about “Hitting” on your other half? Beign lied to or about? Do your own desires or money come first than God? Do you think God comes into importance only when you have time for Him or only when you need him? Do you observe the Sabbath only when you want to impress some one at the Temple? Only “Socially” or as a means to “Show-Off”? Do people at the Temple know you as well as your co-workers (Atleast) or your friends? Does anyone here remember what the Men in Sodom & Ghamorrah wanted to do with the Angels? It’s what “Cursed” them to their “Damnation”! I pray daily and I will pray for the Messiah to come soon, because we need God to do something for our children, really soon. My Uncle is Homosexual (Or better said, WAS) now he just lives alone and fights it with prayer. I never bother homosexuals. I just refuse to touch the subject with them. But, when they push themselves with me…I tell them straight just like I am saying here. And, add…We have worked fine untill you touched the subject and we can forget we ever spoke about it and keep working side by side. Let’s just not make the same mistake. Some try to “Back-Stabb” me. They become very “Vengeful” but I know God’s words: “Vengence is Mine”. Since I won’t take revenge and tell the “Truth” to the Superiors, soon enough they dig their own graves. Keep in mind that, others have just kept the whole thing quiet and have remained working with me and I have never repeated it to no one. We just know where each other stands and it never interferes with our work. We all get Tempted at one point or the other in our lives. Specially when we drink. So I quit drinking a long time ago (16 years now). Now I’m Humble and loving and not Selfish, like I used to be. I no longer have to be “Slick”, now I can go about life “Intelligently”. Thank-You very much.

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posted June 10, 2006 at 7:04 pm

I believe there is only one Judge, so instead of judging – why not try praying? To love unconditionally is so hard to accomplish and rarely are we successful. We should believe what and how we want and have faith in what gives us inspiration, but let me ask you this. If two men or two women were to unite legally and even spiritually (as we are not all the same in that respect), what harm and/or division does that union bring to us and/or our relationship with our Lord. I am a Christian and I know that those of the Jewish faith see me as lost. Why do we not just love one another for who or what we are and leave the Judging up to G-d (that is out of respect for you of Jewish faith). May HE bless and keep each of you.

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posted August 15, 2007 at 8:16 pm

NightLad… Amein!!

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posted August 15, 2007 at 8:41 pm

I don’t know about you but I don’t get my moral cues from animals. If I did than I would have multiply wives. There are animals that do, y’know. I don’t base my views on homosexuality on the “God’s will is very simple to anyone who could see with the mind, more than with the eyes. He did not make a Blue Jay to mate with a Parrot, so you stick to your own kind. Animals do not wonder about homosexuality. Two male cats don’t take the kittens from a litter to raise on their own” rules. Because to my knowledge other animals do. You may want to look up Cnemidophorus uniparens. I wonder what their Gay Agenda looks like? No one has given any valid reason on the matter against. Also according to your grandmother Eve, being in a biracial relationship would be just as sinful. I wonder about Ishmael? Were his parents from the same people? I feel that you have just spit in G-d’s face. We look to the scared writtings to find how to live the good life. We have also thrown out many things. No slavery. And your a woman correct. I don’t think woman should be on the internet. As a man, I believe that woman should not discuss matters that pertain to man. Your place is in the kitchen bare foot and pregnant. The bibles says I have authority over you. So after you read this no more computer. I’m pretty sure some one from fundamentalist Muslim country might agree. We can stay the same is was before Jesus, if you wish. As a black straight man I don’t think that slavery is a good idea. And as an opinionated woman you may feel the same was about a man being your lord. So let us really think about what we say. We can’t say that the bible is to be taken literal and expect things to be the same. I can’t say that I don’t want slavery, then exclude some else because of scripture. We can’t said women and men are equal, then exclude.

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