web analytics
July 31, 2015 / 15 Av, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Homosexuality And Halacha: Five Critical Points


The Political: In addition to the significant distinctions made, in the halachic realm, between the act and the actors, we need to distinguish between our halachic statements and our political activity. Politics makes strange bedfellows, especially in multicultural democratic societies like America. The pragmatic decision to support equal rights for gays in the political realm is not inconsistent with our view that the underlining activity violates Jewish (and Noachide) law.

We support religious freedom for all, even as we are aware that some might use this freedom to violate Jewish or Noachide law. Similarly, it is wise to support workplace policies of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, just as we support such non-discrimination based on religion, even though these laws equally protect, for example, pagans. Discrimination based on lifestyle choices may threaten our own liberties, including freedom of religious expression. This pragmatic argument remains true irrespective of one’s views on the philosophical claims for equal treatment in the workplace or entitlement to domestic partner benefits.

A similarly balanced approach should be taken with regard to gay marriage. If one believes a civil prohibition of same-sex marriage does not threaten our rights in the long term, then joining a political alliance opposing such, based on shared values or interests, seems reasonable. If, however, one views such a campaign as an infringement of civil liberties, or a potentially bad precedent that might endanger our interests in other areas of civil life, then one should not feel compelled to combat gay marriage.

Alternatively, one might even contemplate supporting the so-called grand compromise that will allow federal “civil unions” while strongly preserving religious-conscience exemptions from recognizing those unions. We currently continue to oppose the civil legalization of same-sex marriage, but as this debate develops it will remain important not to overly conflate our religious views with our political stands.

The Context: Within the larger cultural war roiling modern American society, gay rights sometimes seems like ground zero. This stems, in part, from how some religious groups view the issue, which in turn becomes absorbed into the media and popular debate as the “religious viewpoint.” Yet as with many issues (stem-cell research, for example), it remains crucial for Orthodox Jews to stake out our own genuine positions and not simply follow the lead of non-Jews.

The more significantly threatening aspect of American culture is the primacy placed on self-fulfillment, particularly in one’s sexual life. The dictates and mores of Jewish law frequently clash with the current American ethical mindset, which promotes exercising personal autonomy toward achieving self-fulfillment. Within the highly eroticized Western culture, the greatest manifestation of this mentality is heterosexual promiscuity, followed closely by high divorce rates and startling amounts of adultery.

While halacha certainly recognizes the role of sexuality in shaping one’s identity and human experience, it definitively limits sexual activity to marriage and encourages such activity within marriage. The Jewish tradition counsels self-sacrifice and restraint to an extent that our secular society deems unreasonable or untenable, even more so on sexual matters.

In this context, the threats to the Orthodox way of life are much greater due to the culture of rampant heterosexual promiscuity than to homosexuality. The attempt to conventionalize homosexuality, while harmful, represents a decidedly less threatening manifestation of the ethos of sexual self-fulfillment. Few people are drawn to a gay life without an initial internal inclination, whereas the vast majority of men (and a smaller but significant number of women) contemplate with some interest and desire the promiscuous heterosexual life that is normal in secular America.

As promiscuity becomes more culturally acceptable, greater numbers within our community will succumb. In that sense, the focus on homosexual conduct causes us to miss the major problems of sexual ethics in our society: the problem of promiscuity and its impact on dating, marriage, and divorce.

The Pastoral: It is extremely important that we strike a balance between the pastoral needs of people with difficult challenges in front of them and our need to provide clear ethical guidance to the community. Homosexual individuals within our community regularly experience anguish, suppression, and depression, sometimes to the extent of self-endangerment. These cases deserve our empathy and understanding, albeit not to the point of any compromise in our commitment to halacha and our belief in free will.

About the Author: Rabbi Michael Broyde is a law professor at Emory University and project director at Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Homosexuality And Halacha: Five Critical Points”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Graffiti found on a building in the village of Duma.
Arab Infant Killed in Arson ‘Price Tag’ Attack
Latest Indepth Stories
Schwartz-073115

The occasion? The rarely performed mitzvah of pidyon peter chamor: Redemption of a firstborn donkey.

Rabbi YY Rubinstein

American leftists have a pathological self-inflicted blindness to the dangers of political Islam

Tobin-073115

Hillary should THANK Trump; By dominating the news he’s overshadowed the implosion of her campaign

Rabbi Yaakov Spivak

Hard to remember when Jewish youth were so hostile to their heritage as they are on campuses today.

Names of the enablers of Iran’s Nuclear weapons will be added next to Hitler’s on the list of infamy

By most accounts, the one person with the political muscle to swing enough Democratic votes to override a veto is Sen. Schumer.

The next day, in a speech in New York to the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Kerry substantially upped the ante.

In Israel, the judiciary has established itself as superior to ALL other branches of the government.

The Fifteenth Day of the month of Av became a day of national rejoicing. The moment that had seemed hopeless became the moment of Redemption.

I think the melodies in our religious services have a haunting sound to them that just permeates your guts and gets into your soul. If you have any musical inclination, I think they inspire you to compose.

Cavalier analogies to the Holocaust are unacceptable, but Huckabee’s analogy was very appropriate.

Pollard was a Jewish-head-on-a-pike for all American Jews to see and to learn the explicit lesson.

If the Iran deal passes, Obama’s WH becomes world’s leading financier of terrorism against Americans

{Originally posted to the author’s website, FirstOne Through} Some passionate and eloquent liberals have bemoaned the state of inclusiveness among Jews today. Leon Wieseltier, editor of the New Republic penned an angry piece “J Street’s Rejection Is a Scandal” about the exclusion in 2014 of J Street from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. […]

More Articles from Rabbi Michael J. Broyde
Rabbi Michael J. Broyde

The Orthodox community should support laws that prohibit commercial discrimination in activity

Circumcision

The higher the standard of review, the less likely it is the law will be constitutional.

Israel – the land and the nation – lost a giant earlier this month with the passing of Justice Menachem Elon, a monumental talmid chacham who served on the Israeli Supreme Court from 1977-1993, and as its deputy president from 1988-93, bringing a deep Torah viewpoint to the highest tiers of the Israeli judiciary.

We know that genuine halachically viable solutions to the agunah problem are hard to come by and might not even be within our grasp. But we also know the agunah problem can be functionally solved in practice, even if not in theory, and the solution is clear and obvious.

This short essay will develop five critical points for responding to the voices within the broader community that seek to accept and legitimize homosexual conduct, an activity that directly contradicts the dictates of halacha.

You may applaud the idea of ordaining women rabbis, or you may recoil in horror at the prospect, but the simple fact remains that women already serve the Orthodox world in clergy-like positions.

Our natural inclinations would have us believe that individual actions, whether errors in judgment or extravagant demonstrations of bravery, generally do not affect the course of human history.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/homosexuality-and-halacha-five-critical-points/2010/03/17/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: