Volume 49 Number 31
                    Produced: Tue Aug  2  5:42:49 EDT 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Frum and Gay (3)
         [Freda B Birnbaum, Orrin Tilevitz, Bernard Raab]
         [Art Sapper]
Homosexuality and halacha (2)
         [Janice Gelb, Avi Feldblum]
Pressure to Get Married
         [Russell Jay Hendel]
Sexual preferences hard wired
         [Russell Jay Hendel]
Who is a Family


From: Freda B Birnbaum <fbb6@...>
Date: Mon, 1 Aug 2005 09:38:10 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Frum and Gay

Akiva Miller writes, re the question of hardwired vis-a-vis forbidden,

> A flippant answer would be that it is only the attraction which is 
> hardwired, and it is only acting on it which is forbidden. But I call 
> that "flippant" because (although I believe it to be accurate) it is 
> coldhearted to those who must endure life without the comforts of being 
> physically close to the person he feels most close to emotionally.

As someone on another list once put it, "I KNOW it's forbidden.  But
damn you for being so happy about that."

From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Thu, 28 Jul 2005 09:33:04 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Frum and Gay

Bernard Raab writes:

> In all of this discussion, we have been dancing around the real issue:
> Yes, it seems to be indisputable that sexual preference *IS*
> hardwired, just as skin-color is hardwired (Michael Jackson
> notwithstanding), and unlike one's religiosity, bigotry, or character.

For the scientific theory that religiosity (as opposed to a particular
religion) is hard-wired, see the book, "Why God Won't Go Away" by Andrew
B. Newberg, MD, and http://my.webmd.com/content/article/31/1728_77081 In
an earlier I post I suggested that various types of bigotry might well
be hard-wired.  I suggested the same for so-called "homophobia", which I
shall define for my purposes as an aversion to homosexual contact and,
by extension, to homosexuals.  In biological terms, this is a perfectly
rationale attitude: heterosexuals who "prefer" to spend their time
cavorting with other heterosexuals, and who avoid homosexuals like the
plague, will pass their genes down at a greater rate than those who
behave otherwise.  It's a corollary of the old joke, "sterility is
inherited; if your father had no children, chances are you won't

In brief, if homosexuality is hard-wired, it is--in biological terms-a
hard-wiring error.

> Given this fact (I believe supported by the vast majority of
> contemporary scientists), how can the Torah forbid that which is so
> fundamentally established by genetics?

As I pointed out in an earlier post, this is a non sequitur: because I
inherited it from my parents, it must be OK?  All sorts of criminality
also runs in families; if scientists were to discover a genetic basis
for this-at one time there was speculation about an extra
chromosome-would it now be mutar?

If homosexuality is hard-wired and as a result the homosexual cannot
control his impulses, or can't control them completely, then it follows
only that presumably he is in the category of an annus.  But the status
of an annus only makes him exempt from punishment; it does not mean he
is not sinning. The first al chet we say is "Al chet shechatanu
lefanecha be'oness ovratzon". Of course, the level of sin and type of
punishment would differ depending on the type of act he is committing;
and as I suggested in an earlier post, I would not exclude homosexuals
who are trying to control their impulses from the category of "frum"
simply because they engage in certain types of arguably questionable
conduct.  But that doesn't mean it's ok.

>Yes, I am aware that the Torah forbids many things which the yetzer
>harah may tempt us with, but I cannot think of one which is so

The desire for sexual contact is fundamental. But not all sexual desires
are the same.  Homosexuality is no more "fundamental" than
incest. Homosexual desires are today treated as more "fundamental" than
incestuous desires only because homosexuals have recently had the better
lobby, presumably they are more numerous, and as Bill Bernstein pointed
out, they and their supporters have managed to distort the English
language with euphemisms like "gay" and "sexual preference".  It is
politically correct to treat homosexual conduct, or desires, as ok and
incestuous conduct, or desires, as not, but this is an arbitrary and
secular decision.

Now, none of this justifies what I think Avi was decrying earlier, what
I presume is the tendency in some frum circles to selectively write off
homosexuals no matter whether they control their impulses and while
tolerating serious deviation from halacha by heterosexuals.  That, in my
book, would be irrational hypocritical bigotry.  But I do not understand
how the notions that Judaism somehow sanctifies or elevates a homosexual
relationship, or that a Jewish organization must grant status to such a
relationship, can be taken seriously.

Orrin Tilevitz

From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Mon, 01 Aug 2005 10:03:20 -0400
Subject: RE: Frum and Gay

>From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
>From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
> > Yes, it seems to be indisputable that sexual preference *IS* hardwired,
> > just as skin-color is hardwired (Michael Jackson notwithstanding), and
> > unlike one's religiosity, bigotry, or character.
>I don't think that the science is in any way conclusive on this
>statement (take a look at
>http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/narth/bioresearch.html and especially the
>references cite therein).  There are, for example, cases of identical
>twins (i.e. genetically identical) where one twin considers herself
>homosexual and the other does not.

The case of such identical twins, if true (color me a skeptic), would
seem to say that sexual preference is a much more subtle expression of
genetic bias than any purely physical trait. But does this imply that
sexual preference is voluntary, or can be reversed? As Eliyahu Shiffman
expresses it so well elsewhere in this issue of MJ: "...do you (i.e.
heterosexuals) think that if halacha required it, and you underwent
sufficient psychotherapy, you could bring yourself to sexually desire
individuals of your own sex?"

b'shalom--Bernie R.


From: <asapper@...> (Art Sapper)
Date: Mon, 1 Aug 2005 11:08:38 -0400
Subject: Re: Homophobe

In Vol. 49, No. 28, Phillip Minden wrote:

>"Heterosexuals don't change into homosexuals (whatever homophobes claim
>to exclude homosexuals from society)."

We should in this forum avoid ever using the term "homophobe."  The word
is used today by proponents of homosexual conduct to tar their opponents
as irrational.  The word is used to trade falsely on the definition of
the term "phobia" in clinical psychology, which is "an irrational fear
or an obsessive dread."  ("Phobos" originally meant "panic" in Greek.)
Homosexuals thus employ the term to imply (without actually saying so)
that there are no rational criticisms of homosexual conduct, and that
opposition to homosexual conduct is a medical illness.  As Wikipedia
puts it, the term is part of "an attempt to disempower [opponents of
homosexual conduct] by artificially medicalizing a legitimate point of

Avoidance of the term in this forum is particularly important.  Aside
from the high level of respectful discourse that we try to maintain, the
term insults Jews who dispassionately follow the Torah, which terms
homosexual conduct an abomination, and those of many religions who
follow similar principles.  Moreover, the term is false, for there are
indeed rational criticisms of homosexual conduct.  At the very least, we
should avoid using terms that imply the inability to maintain such
criticisms unless that inability is first established beyond cavil --
which, of course, it has not.

Art Sapper


From: Janice Gelb <j_gelb@...>
Date: Thu, 28 Jul 2005 11:36:29 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Homosexuality and halacha

Martin Stern <md.stern@...> wrote:
> The above questions are based on the assumption that BEING HOMOSEXUAL,
> as opposed to having homosexual desires, is a halachic category. AFAIK
> this is simply not the case and therefore these questions, as posed, are
> halachically meaningless.
> Halacha discusses much rarer conditions such as tumtum[...], but only
> discusses homosexual behaviour. This is surprising if it recognises the
> existence of homosexuals as an intrinsically distinct group rather than
> just people with certain specific desires whose actualisation is
> prohibited.
> I am not even sure if there is any word at all in classical or rabbinic
> Hebrew for a homosexual as such, as opposed to the performers of a
> homosexual act - roveia' and nirba' - which themselves distinguish the
> roles played in its performance.

I don't follow this distinction at all. It seems to say that there is a
difference between someone who has homosexual desires and someone called
a homosexual.  What distinction are you making between these two
categories? What would you call someone who has homosexual urges if not
a homosexual?

For anyone interested in a thoroughly researched paper on the issue of
halacha and homosexuality, I recommend reading the following document:


I urge people to deal with the subject matter of the paper rather than
the affiliation of its author.

-- Janice

From: Avi Feldblum <avi@...>
Date: Thu, 28 Jul 2005 22:48:13 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Homosexuality and halacha

On Thu, 28 Jul 2005, Janice Gelb wrote:
> For anyone interested in a thoroughly researched paper on the issue of
> halacha and homosexuality, I recommend reading the following document:
> http://www.keshetjts.org/sources/Dorff-sexuality.pdf
> I urge people to deal with the subject matter of the paper rather than
> the affiliation of its author.

I took a quick look at the paper, and while I agree with dealing with
the subject matter of the paper, the nature of the affiliation of the
author very much affect much of the way he deals with the subject
matter.  There are clear philosophic / religious elements that are
contrary to what most of us here accept as the halachic
methodology. However, while still needing to be careful of the
affiliation of the author, I suspect a responsa more in line with our
understanding of halachic processes would be:


For a bibliography of Orthodox responses to the subject, I would


Avi Feldblum


From: Russell Jay Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 31 Jul 2005 22:30:11 GMT
Subject: RE: Pressure to Get Married

Additionally (to everything else said) there is a Biblical prohibition
of COVETING which the Rambam (Murder Chapter 1) defines as a prohibition
of PRESSURING SOMEONE into BUYING SOMETHING(even if the price is right
and even if no force is used and even if he consents).

In other words if I pressure someone into marrying someone I have
violated a Biblical prohibition (And Yes: Marriage is classified as
"buying" in this context; Rambam also includes "Pressuring from friends"
in this prohibition).

In other words this is a serious Biblical crime.

Russell Jay Hendel; http://www.rashiyomi.com/


From: Russell Jay Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 31 Jul 2005 22:25:37 GMT
Subject: RE: Sexual preferences hard wired

Berny Raab brings up (v49n25) the idea that "all sexual preferences are
hand wired". In light of that,he asks, how can the Torah prohibit it.

This is a "science-religion" question that comes up frequently and in
several (not necessarily sexual) contexts.

The simplest way to answer it is to distinguish between ABSOLUTE
preferences and TENDENCIES to PREFERENCES. The human being is a complex
organism. No one gene really DETERMINES anything. What typically happens
is that genes FACILITATE certain tendencies.

Here is an example that might clarify: If a gene of mine created a
desire for salt we might erroneously state that the gene created high
blood pressure. But in reality all the gene did was create a tendency
for high blood pressure. **I** have to control my urge for salt more
than other people but no one is forcing me to have high blood pressure.

The same is true for sexual preferences. Certain genes may make it
easier to become gay. But in ALL people, sexual preferences are a
combination of genetics and learning(So an ordinary person who receives
an unpleasant rejection may lose interest in sex).

Halahcah's prescription to be non-gay may therefore be interpreted as a
comprehensive commandment on each person to integrate his environmental
and emotional-encouraging experiences in such a way that he ends up non

Russell Jay Hendel; http://www.Rashiyomi.com/


From: Mordechai <mordechai@...>
Date: Fri, 29 Jul 2005 19:47:52 -0400
Subject: Who is a Family

>The whole "family membership" issue is a red herring, in my view.  The
>obvious solution to this so-called problem is to replace "family
>membership" with "household membership."  Simply allow people who live
>together in a single housing unit to join the synagogue as a unit,
>whatever the configuration and circumstances.  Get the synagogue out of
>the business of defining who does or does not constitute a "family," and
>allow the private lives of its members to remain private.  I am familiar
>with at least one Conservative synagogue that has replaced "families"
>with "households," and the walls have not yet come a-tumblin' down.

Why should the synagogue be out of the business of deciding what a
family is.  A synagogue exists to promote Judaism.  Jewish law clearly
defines what a family is and a gay couple is not a family under halacha.

The non halachic practices of a conservative Temple is irrelevant.
Indeed this statement illustrates exactly why halachic synagogues need
to be very clear in their public condemnation of the gay lifestyle.  The
goal is to make the Torah's idea of family irrelevant, and to substitute
the idea that any "household" can call itself a family, no matter how
perverse the lifestyle of the household is.


End of Volume 49 Issue 31