Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors


Jewish Sexual Mores

posted by Brad Hirschfield

The announcement of a talk about Jewish sexual mores, to be given by Rabbi Yona Reiss of Yeshiva University, provoked an interesting exchange in which I participated. It dealt with issues of Homosexuality, which one recipient of an invitation to the talk immediately raised as an important issue for such a talk to address.
The same individual who received the invitation questioned how Rabbi Reiss could be taken seriously on the question since, according the questioner, that same rabbi had described a program on homosexuality, held in an auditorium on the YU campus, as having “defiled” the beit midrash, or central study hall and synagogue on the same campus.
A respondent to this observation, himself a Yeshiva alum, commented that “homosexuality in fact defiles the beit midrash”. My response to that observation follows:
What does that statement actually mean? I appreciate that it’s viscerally satisfying to say such things, but given the fact that words like defile have precise meanings in Jewish law, what do you or anyone who uses that language really mean?


What does it mean to defile a place, especially in a world that does not operate with the norms of ritual purity and impurity, except for ritual related to post-menstrual immersion in a mikvah? Why do you think that the presence of a gay person, or talking about homosexuality ever defiled a place?
You know, I hope, that neither ever did, even when the purity code was fully observed, and certainly not now. I think that for those of us who really value these categories, caution in how we use them is demanded.
When asked why I was so tough on the questioner, I responded that the combination of my affection/respect for the speaker and my own deep concerns about the insufficiency of current responses from the so-called traditional or Orthodox community with which I too am associated, to sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular, compel me to ask tough questions about how we inure ourselves to the challenges we face and the pain we create (or at least fail to adequately address) for others.
Like President Obama, about whom I wrote yesterday, I feel myself struggling with competing claims upon my conscience – probably a good, if deeply uncomfortable place to be.



  • romanscapegoat

    after the Jews tear their clothes because of hearing blasphemy…do they throw their clothes away,or do they have a tailor fix them… I’m sure the Jews realized tearing clothes cost alot of money so they don’t tear them anymore…so what Jew gets to decide whats pure and whats not…taking power away from the Jewish religion is unpure…accepting power of the world is pure…the gays must be embarrassing the top noch jews in charge of the jewish religion…when the gays offer more power of the world to the top notch jews, then the top notch jews will accept the gays…

  • ekares

    Every time I see a listing by Romanscapegoat I marvel at the degree of tolerance of Jewish people in “suffering the fool.”

  • Gil

    well I’m gay and I’m a jew and very proud.

  • Mr. Incredible, in Jesus’ Name

    Gil says:
    well I’m gay…
    Mr. Incredible says:
    Yes, you chose to go homosexual.

  • maurice

    Mr. incredible, how dare you, God creates gay children who grow up into gay adults. Shame on you for judging my gay brethren.

  • Mr. Incredible, in the Name of Jesus

    God created NOBODY homosexual.
    Just lookit Genesis 1; it’s all hetero His programming of the spirits of Man. He created EVERYBODY heterosexual. Some chose the homosexual, lifestyle-orientation option.
    If He programmed homosexuality into Man, it would-a happened in Genesis 1. It didn’t. So, as I say, some programmed homosexuality into themselves and say, “God did it!” even though He didn’t.
    Homosexuality arises out the sin nature, not the Godly nature.

  • Mr. Incredible, in Jesus’ Name

    maurice says:
    Shame on you for judging my gay brethren.
    Mr. Incredible says:
    They are YOUR brethren, not Christ’s, and, therefore, not mine.

  • Gil

    not so incredible, Christ had a gay apostle, peter

  • Mr. Incredible, in the Name of Jesus

    Gil says:
    not so incredible, Christ had a gay apostle, peter
    Mr. Incredible says:
    That’s what the Homosexual Internet Militia wants everybody to believe. However, the Homosexual Internet Militia, through Gil, a loyal member, gets that one wrong, too.

  • Grumpy Old Person

    Geez louise, it’s either rampant homophobia/homohatred or insane anti-semitism. I don’t know how jews cope OR why such is even allowed in a discussion.
    Jesus would weep.

  • MR. Incredible, in the Name of Jesus

    Grumpy Old Person complains:
    Geez louise, it’s either rampant homophobia/…
    Mr. Incredible says:
    You mean what YOU choose to perceive as “homophobia.”
    Grumpy Old Person complains:
    …homohatred…
    Mr. Incredible says:
    You mean what YOU choose to perceive as “homohatred.” [I agree that those who claim to be homosexual hate.]
    Grumpy Old Person complains:
    …or insane anti-semitism.
    Mr. Incredible says:
    So, in YOUR world, Jews and those who claim to be homosexual are exampt and protected from any challenge??
    Strange that you don’t like criticism of Jews, but have nothing to say about criticism of Christians — and I don’t see what the goat says about Jews.
    Grumpy Old Person complains:
    I don’t know how jews [sic] cope…
    Mr. Incredible says:
    The same way Christians cope: Get over it.
    Grumpy Old Person complains:
    …OR why such is even allowed in a discussion.
    Mr. Incredible says:
    And you’ll NEVER understand why cuz you want discussion that’s agreeable with YOU, and anything less, to YOU, shouldn’t be allowed.
    Grumpy Old Person complains:
    Jesus would weep.
    Mr. Incredible says:
    How do YOU know???

  • Gil

    Not so incredible, get a life. You have no idea what the village people has done for the gay community.

  • Mr. Incredible, in the Name of Jesus

    Gil says:
    Not so incredible, get a life.
    Mr. Incredible says:
    Already got one…in Christ!
    Gil says:
    You have no idea what the village people has done for the gay community.
    Mr. Incredible says:
    Aaaannnnnddd I don’t care.

  • Gil

    So how incrediable is it? You like me dont you, try it you my like it.

  • Your Name

    I’m not sure how a “life in Christ” is pertinent to a thread on Jewish sexual mores, apart from pushing a selective, blatantly obvious Christianist agenda into all discussions.

  • Mr. Incredible, in the Name of Jesus

    Your Name says:
    I’m not sure how a “life in Christ” is pertinent to a thread on Jewish sexual mores, apart from pushing a selective, blatantly obvious Christianist agenda into all discussions.
    Mr. Incredible says:
    “Homosexuality” was brought up. I answered posts that make crazy assertions promoting homosexuality.
    Gil, claiming to be homosexual, tells me to getta life. I tell him that I gotta life in Christ. You can’t follow that?? Tuff.
    I answer posts. They are MY answers. Your posts are YOUR answers.
    I don’t tell you how to answer posts. You don’t tell ME how to answer posts.
    I don’t tell you what evidence to bring. You don’t tell ME what evidence to bring.

  • Your Name

    No one is telling you what to post. We’re just saying, don’t expect to be believed.

  • Mr. Incredible, in Jesus’ Name

    It’s up to them to believe what I write. If they don’t, they don’t. It doesn’t hurt me.

  • Bob

    Wow, what a compelling discussion. Just ignore Mr. Unincredible, the Roman Goat, and their ilk.
    As far as ruining the sanctity of the beit midrash, what an absurdity. Since when did debate and discussion become defiling. Aren’t debate and discussion cornerstones of Jewish learning?

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