Jewish religious values are predicated upon the unity of God and the integrity of the world and its inhabitants as Divine creations. These values identify shleimut ["wholeness"] as a fundamental goal of human experience. Sexuality and sexual expression are integral and powerful elements in the potential wholeness of human beings. Our tradition commands us to sanctify the basic elements of the human being through values that express the Divine in every person and in every relationship. Each Jew should seek to conduct his/her sexual life in a manner that elicits the intrinsic holiness within the person and the relationship. Thus can shleimut be realized. The specific values that follow are contemporary interpretations of human shleimut: B'tzelem Elohim ("in the image of God"): This fundamental Jewish idea, articulated in Genesis 1:27 ("And God created Adam in the Divine image ... male and female. ..."), is at the core of all Jewish values. B'tzelem Elohim underscores the inherent dignity of every person, woman and man, with the equal honor and respect due to each individual's integrity and sexual identity. B'tzelem Elohim requires each of us to value one's self and one's sexual partner and to be sensitive to his/her needs. Thus do we affirm that consensuality and mutuality are among the values necessary to validate a sexual relationship as spiritual and ethical and therefore "in the image of God.".
Mishpacha ("family"): The family is a cornerstone of Jewish life. The Torah, through the first mitzvah ["commandment"], p'ru u'rvu, "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28), emphasizes the obligation of bringing children into the world through the institution of the family. In our age, the traditional notion of family as being two parents and children (and perhaps older generations) living in the same household is in the process of being redefined. Men and women of various ages living together, singles, gay and lesbian couples, single parent households, etc., may all be understood as families in the wider, if not traditional, sense. "Family" also has multiple meanings in an age of increasingly complex biotechnology and choice. While procreation and family are especially important as guarantors of the survival of the Jewish people, all Jews have a responsibility to raise and nurture the next generation of our people. The importance of family, whether biologically or relationally based, remains the foundation of meaningful human existence.
Tz'niyut ("modesty"): The classic "Iggeret HaKodesh--"The Holy Letter"--sets forth the Jewish view that the Holy One did not create anything that is not beautiful and potentially good. The human body in itself is never to be considered an object of shame or embarrassment. Instead, "...it is the manner and context in which it (i.e., the body) is utilized, the ends to which it is used, which determine condemnation or praise." Our behavior should never reduce the human body to an object. Dress, language, and behavior should reflect a sensitivity to the Jewish respect for modesty and privacy. As Jews, we acknowledge and celebrate the differences between public, private, and holy time, as well as the differences between public, private, and holy places.
Simcha ("joy"): Human sexuality, as a powerful force in our lives, has the potential for physical closeness and pleasure, emotional intimacy and communication. The experience of sexual pleasure and orgasm, both in relationships and individually, can greatly delight women and men. Our tradition teaches that procreation is not the sole purpose of sexual intimacy; it not only recognizes but rejoices in the gratification which our sexuality can bring to us. As an expression of love, the physical release and relaxation, the enjoyment of sensuality and playfulness, which responsible sexual activity can provide is encouraged by our Jewish tradition. The sages teach that the Sh'chinah, the Divine Presence, joins with people when they unite in love, but add that if there is no joy between them, the Sh'chinah will not be present (Shabbat 30b, Zohar l). Judaism insists that the simcha of human sexual activity should be experienced only in healthy and responsible human relationships.
Ahava ("love"): The mitzvah from Leviticus 19:18, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am Adonai," serves as an essential maxim for all human relationships. The same Hebrew value term, ahava, is used to describe the ideal relationship between God and humanity as well as between people. The Jewish marriage ceremony speaks of ahava v'achava, shalom v'reiyut--"love and affection, wholeness and friendship"--as ideals which should undergird holy relationships. For Jews, ahava is not only a feeling or emotion but also the concrete behaviors we display toward God and our fellow humans. Ahava implies "self esteem," the internal conviction that each of us should appear worthy in our own eyes. To be loved, one must consider oneself lovable; without regard for self, one can hardly care for others. Ahava forbids any abuse or violence in sexual or any aspect of human relationships. Ahava should be expressed through behavior which displays caring, support, and empathy.
Kedusha ("holiness"): This value comes from the root meaning of the Hebrew word KDSh, "distinct from all others, unique, set apart for an elevated purpose." The Torah instructs us: "You shall be holy, for I, Adonai your God, am holy" (Leviticus 19:2). Holiness is not simply a state of being; rather it is a continuing process of human striving for increasingly higher levels of moral living. In a Reform Jewish context, a relationship may attain a measure of kedusha when both partners voluntarily set themselves apart exclusively for each other, thereby finding unique emotional, sexual, and spiritual intimacy. .
At this moment in the history of the CCAR, the issue of rabbinic officiation at same-gender ceremonies is a matter of concern for many of our colleagues. These Reform Jewish Sexual Values have led the Ad Hoc Committee on Human Sexuality to conclude that kedusha may be present in committed, same-gender relationships between two Jews, and that these relationships can serve as the foundation of stable Jewish families, thus adding strength to the Jewish community. In this spirit, we believe that the relationship of a Jewish same-gender couple is worthy of affirmation through appropriate Jewish ritual, and that each rabbi should decide about officiation according to his/her own informed rabbinic conscience. We call upon the CCAR to support all colleagues in their choices in this matter. We also call upon the CCAR to develop educational programs in this area.