Judaism View on Homosexuality
The subject of homosexuality in Judaism can be traced back to the Book of Leviticus, which details and classifies intercourse between males as a capital offence. Among Jews, the historically prevalent view was to regard homosexuality as sinful, arguing that it was forbidden by the Torah. However, it has been a subject of debate between various Jewish groups and has led to utterance of varied opinions and division among most modern Jews.
The Torah is the first and fundamental source for Jewish views on homosexuality. In fact, there are two verses in Leviticus; 18:22 and 20:13 that express equivocal condemnation of homosexuality. Leviticus 18:22 points out that, ‘’ (A man) shall not lie with another man as (he would) with a woman, it is to ‘eva.’’ The term to ‘eva’ has been used in the Torah to mean ‘abomination’ or deviation from what is natural. According to Leviticus 20:13, ‘’If a man lies with a man as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.’’
Sexual intercourse between males is forbidden by the Torah, as stated above, and is treated as capital offense. The Torah prohibition of Lo tikrevu legalot ervah states that, ‘’you shall not come close to another person for the purpose of committing a sexual crime.’’ In the ancient times, the punishment was lashes. Under Judaism laws, it is not easy to get a conviction that would lead to the administration of the prescribed punishment. The severity of the punishment indicates the seriousness with which the act is seen.
Based on the Orthodox Jewish position, homosexual attraction is not inherently sinful, though it is regarded as an unnatural. However, someone who has had homosexual intercourse is seen to have allowed their ‘unnatural attractions’ to get the better of them, and it is thus believed that they would be held accountable by God for their actions. He can seize his forbidden action, regret what he has done, apologize to God, and make a binding resolution never to repeat those actions; he is seen to be forgiven by God. The act of taking such steps is referred to as teshuva (repentance).
The traditional Judaism position on homosexuality is still difficult for most liberal-minded Jews, and the liberal denominations have debated the extent to which gays and lesbians can be fully integrated into religious communities. The first and least controversial move made by the Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform movements was for the endorsement of civil equality for gays and lesbians. In 1977, the rabbinical council of the Reform movement, CCAR drafted a call to decriminalize homosexual sex and to end all discrimination based on sexual orientations.
In the recent years, some rabbis mainly comprised of Modern Orthodox believers and laymen have begun the re-evaluation of homosexuality as a phenomenon, and the response of the Orthodox community to homosexual Jews. Until recently, there has been an assumption that all homosexuals choose to engage in homosexual actions in order to spite God, to perverse, or as a result of mental illness.
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