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August 31, 2016 / 27 Av, 5776
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Rav Soloveitchik’s Clear Stand on Homosexuality

What Rav Soloveitchik said in 1974 is truer than ever: normative Judaism is on the defensive in the modern world.
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik
Photo Credit: Rabbi Irwin Albert

A rabbi who studied at Yeshiva University recently posted a blog where he commented on the prohibition of homosexual relations in Vayikra 18:22, “[E]very time I encounter these two verses, I feel I understand them less.”

Y.U. recently commemorated the twentieth yahrtzeit of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik (zt”l), the rosh yeshiva most associated with this institution. A man of immense integrity and Halachic loyalty, Rav Soloveitchik had no such problems understanding the clear, Divine language of the Torah. Speaking in 1974 about how “it’s quite in vogue to be heretical,” Rav Soloveitchik related the following:

A philosophy of [homo]sexualism is being preached throughout the Western world, to such an extent that a certain rabbi came to me and said, “How can we defend ourselves against it?” I told him, take out a Chumash and read a pasuk. V’es zachar lo sishkav mishk’vei ishah. [Vayikra 18:22] We are on the defensive, you understand. Why? And the same is true of abortion and so forth.

Rav Soloveitchik likewise observed in Man of Faith in the Modern World:

We think we know the motivations for the prohibitions against stealing, murder, adultery, and false testimony and for the positive commandments which reflect a sensitivity to the rights and welfare of others. They seem to be morally uplifting and socially stabilizing. In fact, however, their moral reasonableness is often in question in our modern world. The campaigns to legitimize abortion, euthanasia, adultery, and homosexuality are examples of the unreliability of the social conscience…

Specific to sexual morality, Rav Soloveitchik emphasized the universal nature of such standards. He noted in The Emergence of Ethical Man with reference to the Seven Noahide Laws,

It is worth mentioning that both prohibitions (bestiality and homosexuality) apply to non-Jews too and form part of a universal religion that is based upon the concept of man and personality.

Rav Soloveitchik elaborates in Abraham’s Journey on our duties to the gentile world in this area:

Our task was and still is to teach the Torah to mankind, to influence the non-Jewish world, to redeem it from an orgiastic way of living, from cruelty and insensitivity, to arouse in mankind a sense of justice and fairness. In a word, we are to teach the world the seven mitzvot that are binding on every human being.

What Rav Soloveitchik said in 1974 is truer than ever: normative Judaism is on the defensive in the modern world. The answer to this hostility is not to abandon our internal and global duties. The answer is not to pretend that HaShem is ambiguous where He is perfectly clear—an act equal parts arrogance and cowardice. May Rav Soloveitchik’s example give us focus and strength in days ahead

Menachem Ben-Mordechai

About the Author: Menachem Ben-Mordechai has written for numerous publications on subjects ranging from Israel and Latin America to the sport of powerlifting and life insurance. He has also coached elite powerlifters as well as beginners. Menachem's other writing can be found under the name Myles Kantor.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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10 Responses to “Rav Soloveitchik’s Clear Stand on Homosexuality”

  1. Brian Kent says:

    Excellent article.I wonder what the High Priest of PC, Rabbi Yosef Blau would say?

  2. Brian Kent says:

    Excellent article.I wonder what the High Priest of PC, Rabbi Yosef Blau would say?

  3. Thomas Braun says:

    11% of humanity has been throughout the ages not heterosexual, some form of LGBT. It is the consequence of biology. Biology is divine. Ergo, respect civil rights of LGBT, avoid human suffering based on narrow-minded, poorly-informed views.

  4. That homosexuality is the consequence of biology, your underlying premise, is debatable. Perhaps the same thing could be said for murderers, as we have been plagued with them since the dawn of humanity.
    However, that the Torah prohibits homosexuality and murder is not debatable.

  5. Interesting..I studied about homosexuality 4 years ago and It said: There is NO proof about being homosexual..Neither psychology or biology can explain it

  6. Myriam Obadia says:

    I beg to differ. The very place in our texts at which the prohibition is located, tends to prove that, far from being universal, it is meant for the Jews alone to ensure their ritual purity and set them apart from the Goyim.
    Furthermore, the reasons for the prohibition are as clear and objective as possible: a) a small nation cannot grow its numbers unless it favors reproduction as a sacred duty, b) a marital relationship between two men (ergo "masters") destroys the perpetuity of paternalistic power structure, since it allows equality between partners.
    This is further supported by the fact that, nowhere in the entire Torah is a relationship between women forbidden or even mentioned.
    The debate on the "reality" of homosexuality (or transsexuality) is moot. Unless/ until a "cure" is found, any judgement on someone's "difference" is a cruel and unusual punishment, especially for non-Jewish LGBT, since the prohibition is NOT meant for them.

  7. Malcolm Dash says:

    Clearly nature intended heterosexual unions in order to procreate. All other forms of sexual conduct can best be described as an exception to the natural order. This exception like any other human deviation should not be celebrated and promoted as a desirable and mainstream activity.. Of course all sexual minorities should be accorded all rights before the law and no more than that.And what's more the jury is still out as to whether homosexual behavior is genetic, behavioral or a mix of both but one thing is for sure it is at the margins of human sexuality.

  8. The author makes an obvious logical flaw in this article.

    Just because we know a rabbi has taken a "clear stance" on adultery, doesn't mean that he Does not struggle with the issues of Agunah. For example, this article mentions the Rav's approach to adultery but from this we know nothing about what the Rav thinks about the aguna crisis…or the pertaining hallachic issues.

    Are end of life issues Hallachic Issues (including life support, organ donation and brain death) "clear" because we know a Rav said that Murder was wrong?

    The issur of mishgav zachar has always been relatively clear, (gemarah defines it as anal sex between 2 adult men), the questions arise with how we respond to a Frum gay person in our community who wants to be able to live a healthy and honest life. This is a complicated question and the Rav's past speech says NOTHING about that.

    Please do not make up "clear positions" for the Rav. It is beneath us all.

    This article would be laughed out of the beis Medrash if it made these arguments about a reb Chaim or a tosafot on a sugya.

    Mordechai Levovitz

  9. Reb Yid says:

    You're attacking a straw man. The article is not addressing the question of how we interact with homosexuals in our midst. The article was quite obviously addressing the fact that Western society wants us to believe that committing homosexual acts is fine. The Rav teaches us that we don't learn from them, and we have nothing to apologize for.

    By obfuscating the issue as such, you have, consciously or unconsciously, bought into one of the dishonest techniques of the homosexual lobby: that of pretending to be merely in favor of non-discrimination against homosexuals, but in reality promoting non-discrimination against homsexual offenses.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Regardless of what any one says or might think,. HaShems word (Torah) is quite clear,.." homosexuality"..is an abomination in His Eyes…One of the reasons he destroyed Sodom and Gamorah..need I say more..and I am a Goyim and stand with Israel and the believing Israeli community.

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