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HOMOSEXUALITY & THE HEBREW BIBLE

"You shall be holy for I, the LORD (YHVH), your God am holy. You shall not insult the deaf, or put a stumbling block before the blind. You shall not render an unjust decision; do not be partial to the poor or show deference to the rich; judge your neighbor fairly. Do not stand by doing nothing while your neighbor is being injured. You shall not hate your brother in your heart. Love your neighbor so you can love yourself; I AM the LORD (YHVH)!
-Leviticus 19, passim, from the prayerbook, Siddur Sim Shalom, Daily Morning Service.

הריני מקבל (מקבלת) עלי מצות הבורא: ואהבת לרעך כמוך 
I am taking upon myself the command of the Creator to "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."

A HETEROSEXUAL JEWISH RABBI LOOKS AT THE BIBLE'S VIEWPOINT ON HOMOSEXUALITY

HEALING THE SO-CALLED "TEXTS OF TERROR" - A REINTERPRETATION OF THE SUPPOSED PROHIBITION ON HOMOSEXUALITY IN THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES

AS THERE IS NO REASON, BIBLICAL, ETHICAL NOR MORAL, TO CONTINUE TO DENY ANY CIVIL RIGHTS TO GAYS AND LESBIANS, ESPECIALLY IN TODAY'S WORLD. ALL HONORABLE PEOPLE SHOULD STAND IN SUPPORT OF GRANTING EQUALITY OF ALL LEGAL AND CIVIL RIGHTS TO GAYS AND LESBIANS.
 
As a result of his early teaching to continually wrestle with the Sacred texts and to seek to bring the texts into relevence in the modern world, since 1994, Rabbi Steinberg-Caudill has been seriously involved in a compassionate study of the so-called "anti-homosexual" verses found in the Book of Leviticus. He has searched extensively in the Hebrew Scriptures, in the Dead Sea Scrolls, in both the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds, and in other Jewish historical writings.
 
 With the help of not only his own Jewish sources, but also those of Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Latin Rite linguists and scholars, plus an LDS (Mormon) Biblical Languages student at Emory University, Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill has also been able to study original translations of the Hebrew, Greek and Latin texts.

This serious study has also involved reviewing the various Biblical manuscripts and translations, Talmudic responsa texts and other materials of a collateral nature to the subject matter being studied; i. e. history, anthropology, archaeology, philology, etymology, etc. It has required, often times, an attempt to reconstruct the ancient mindset of the pre-Babylonian conquest (586 BCE) Israelite people.

As a result of this serious research, Rabbi Steinberg-Caudill is completely convinced that THE ORIGINAL HEBREW TEXTS OF THE TORAH (the Hebrew Chumash - the Five Books of Moses) HAD ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO SAY CONCERNING HOMOSEXUALITY AS WE UNDERSTAND THE TERM "HOMOSEXUALITY" TO MEAN IN TODAYS WORLD!

Sadly, the reality of our human history is that the texts of Leviticus (and Deuteronomy) which were utilized by the teachers and rabbis of the Jewish tradition to condemn homosexuality, were so employed under a direct and constant danger and THREAT from the dominant and controlling Christian governmental and ecclesiastical authorities who needed to have the "perceived" Jewish interpretation of the texts, as taught by the Jewish rabbinical authorities, to be in accordance with their own Christian commentaries and teachings on homosexuality and what they believed (falsely) to be sexual perversion. Thus, they kept a close watch on what the Jewish rabbis wrote about subjects sensitive to Church dogma.

This period of the condemnation of homosexuals, coincides with similar condemnation edicts against witches, healers, and heretics which began mostly in the 4th to 6th centuries of the common era (CE), which was at least 1500 years after the original texts of Leviticus and Deuteronomy was codified into the Hebrew Torah. This condemnation was largely misplaced and did not represent the actual views of the writers and compilers of either Leviticus or Deuteronomy.

The Torah, itself, is a document designed to (metaphorically) teach us the progression of mankind from its creation in the Garden of Eden and, full circle, back again to the Garden of Eden (when we die) when we have hopefully learned what it means to "... become as one of us, knowing the good inclination; (the yetzer hatov; succumbing to our godly nature) and the bad inclination; (the yetzer hara; succumbing to our animal nature) ..." (Genesis 3: 22). Knowing the Good and the Bad (evil) required us to be cast out of the wombplace of the Garden so as to experience both Good and Bad, Life and Death, and to learn how to apply both in the course of our lives.
 
One of the evidences on this Eternal Path of progression towards becoming more "godlike" in our actions will be realized when we "cease to hate your brother in your heart" (Leviticus 19: 17) and "Do not render an unfair decision ... judge your brother fairly" (Leviticus 19: 15). Denying equality of civil and legal rights to gays and lesbians constitutes rendering unfair decisions and hating our brother in our heart, just exactly as it did when we denied equality of marriage and other civil rights to people of color and also to those who sought to create interracial marriages and social connections.

In the discussion below, we begin with a statement on homosexuality written by the foremost modern authority on the Book of Leviticus, Rabbi Jacob Milgrom. Following that very interesting statement, will be added the opinions and viewpoints of Rabbi Steinberg-Caudill, followed by the opinion of his teacher and Rav, Rabbi Gershon Winkler. That opinion is then followed with an article by Rabbi Michael Lerner.
 
That we may disagree on minor issues related to this very important subject is to be expected. In fact, Judaism encourages sincere dispute and amicable dialogue. It is our obligation as Jews to question and wrestle with the use of these Torah texts in the continued discrimination of gays and lesbians. And, it is most important to see where we agree, not so much where we disagree.

The four Bible scholars and teachers quoted below have each come to a slightly different conclusion about whether homosexuality is actually prohibited in the text and time period of the Torah.

*  Rabbi Jacob Milgrom says that, YES, the Bible prohibits homosexual behavior. However, only in the land of Israel and only for males, and, possibly, only in certain interfamily relationships.

*  Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill believes that the so-called "homosexual" act in the Bible that is prohibited is actually an act of HETEROSEXUAL SUBSTITUTION of a male in place of a female by a heterosexual male, and, possibly, may even need to be done in an idolatrous worship scenario.
 
Rabbi Steinberg-Caudill posits that even if Moses taught that God did command against homosexuality in the Torah (which Rabbi Steinberg-Caudill does not believe that God did), that command, like other commandments that Moses claimed as God given Torah commands, such as the command to kill the "stubborn and rebellious" son (Deuteronomy 21: 18-21), the rabbis negated totally a century after the beginning of the Christian era. The Talmudic rabbis declared that God did not say such a command through Moses. Similarly, any vestige of a supposed Torah prohibition against homosexuality also would need to be negated for this new day and age.

Rabbi Steinberg-Caudill believes that the Hebrew word that orginally conveyed the concept of what we today refer to as "homosexual" is the word סריס (saris), commonly translated "eunuch".

Simply put, homosexuality is defined as a man desiring another man for his sexual partner. In ancient times, a eunuch was chosen to guard the king's harem. The eunuch could be trusted to guard a king's harem, often because he had been castrated and could not produce offspring.

 

But, the question is raised, did the king just not want other men producing offspring with his wives, or did he really want a guard that did not desire to have sex with the king's wives? It is my contention that what the English translators thought of as a EUNUCH, in many cases, was what the ancient Israelites thought of as equal to what we today would call a homosexual. Who better to guard the harem than a man who has no sexual desire for a woman?

 

A castrated man (the traditional eunuch) would still be capable of having the desire to have sex with the king’s wives. A eunuch for the sake of heaven is a man who believes that the Kingdom of God is coming soon and therefore if he punishes himself by vowing to refrain from all sexual contact, an act that he sees as quite pleasurable, he will help hasten the coming of the Kingdom.


*  Rabbi Gershon Winkler states in his article (found in the middle of the page) his belief that the only "homosexual" act that is prohibited by the Torah is anal sex, and that female homosexuality; lesbianism, is permitted by the Torah.

 
*  Rabbi Michael Lerner's article is found towards the bottom of the page.

ARTICLE 1

 

DOES THE BIBLE PROHIBIT HOMOSEXUALITY, by Rabbi Jacob Milgrom, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the University of California, Berkeley

 

Of course it does (Leviticus) 18: 22; 20: 13), but the prohibition is severely limited. First, it is addressed only to Israel, not to other nations. Second, compliance with this law is a condition for residing in the Holy Land, but is irrelevant outside it (see the closing exhortation, 18: 24-30). Third, it is limited to men; lesbianism is not prohibited. Thus it is incorrect to apply this prohibition on a universal scale.

 

Moreover, as pointed out by my erstwhile student, Dr. David Stewart, both occurrences of the prohibition (18: 22; 20: 13) contain the phrase "as one lies with a woman" (lit. "lyings a woman"), an idiom used only for illicit heterosexual unions. Thus one could argue that carnal relations are forbidden only if their correlated heterosexual unions would be in these lists. For example, the Bible lists the following prohibited relations: nephew-aunt, grandfather-granddaughter, and stepmother-stepson. Thus, according to this theory, nephew-uncle, grandfather-grandson, and stepfather-stepson are also forbidden. This implies that the homosexual prohibition does not cover all male-male liaisons, but only those within the limited circle of family. However, homosexual relations with unrelated males are neither prohibited nor penalized. Admittedly, more than two occurrences of the phrase "as one lies with a woman" (Gen. 49: 4; Lev. 20: 13) [mishkevey eeshah משכבי אישה -] are needed before accepting this argument as definitive.

 

As I mentioned above, in the entire list of forbidden sexual unions, there is no prohibition against lesbianism. Can it be that lesbianism did not exist in ancient times or that Scripture was unaware of its existence? Lesbianism existed and flourished, as attested in an old (pre-Israelite) Babylonian omen text (Texts from Cuneiform Sources 4, 194: XXIV 33') and in the work of the lesbian poet Sappho (born c. 612 BCE, during the time of the First Temple), who came from the island of Lesbos (hence "lesbian"). But, in the eyes of the Bible, there is a fundamental difference between the homosexual acts of men and women: in lesbianism there is no spilling of seed. Thus life is not symbolically lost, and it is for that reason, in my opinion, that lesbianism is not prohibited in the Bible.

 

Thus, from the Bible, we can infer the following: the female half of the world's homosexual population, lesbians, are not mentioned. Over ninety-nine percent of the remaining gays, namely non-Jews, are not addressed. This leaves the small number of Jewish gay men subject to this prohibition. To those who argue that the Bible enjoins homosexuality, a careful reading of the source text offers a fundamentally different view. While the Bible never applauds homosexuality, neither does it prohibit most people from engaging in it.

(LEVITICUS, pgs. 196-197, by Jacob Milgrom, 2004)

 

* Jacob Milgrom is Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. The author of five scholarly books, including "Studies in Levitical Terminology" (1970), "Cult and Conscience: The Asham and the Priestly Doctrine of Repentence" (1976), "Numbers" (JPS Torah Commentary- 1990), and "Leviticus (Anchor Bible, 3 vols.,-1991-2001), and more than two hundred articles. He was named a fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation, a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem, and a senior fellow of the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research. Now retired, he and his wife, Jo, live in Jerusalem (as of August 2001).

 

Article 2
 
HOW DID THE EARLY TALMUDIC SAGES DEAL WITH OUTDATED OR IRRELEVANT BIBLICAL LAW? (And how does that relate that to the question of modern day homosexuality)? by Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill.

If the question of modern committed homosexual relationships, wherein two men or women enter into a committed relationship with each other, had been put before Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi (135-220 C.E.), the editor of the Mishnah portion of the Talmud, in Tiberias, Israel, or Rabbi Ashi (c.352-427 C.E.), one of the compilers of the Gemara in Babylon, it is my belief that the Talmud would have had similar stories to the ones depicting Rabbis Shimon and Eliezer and Elazar, son of Rabbi Eleizer as having handled the so-called proof texts of Leviticus in a similar manner as they handled the questions of "A Stubborn and Rebellious Son," "An Idolatrous City," and a "House Contaminated with Blight (Nuga)" in the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, chapter eight.

The Hebrew Bible, in Deuteronomy 21: 18 - 21 records the Word of God when it states that God told Moses on Mt. Sinai:
"If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, who does not obey the voice of his father; or the voice of his mother, and when they have chastened him, will still not hearken to them....they shall bring him out to the elders of his city...And all the men of his city shall stone him to death: so shall you put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear and fear."

Even though the Torah EXPLICITLY has God stating that a stubborn and rebellious son should be stoned to death, these rabbis of the Talmudic period strongly disagreed. They knew that the way that the Law of the Torah of Moses' day (the 14th century BCE) was practiced, was not the way that the Law was to be practiced as LAW in the Talmudic Period, almost 1500 years later, in the 4th or 5th centuries CE.

The text of the Babylonian Talmud that discusses the killing of the Stubborn and Rebellious son, tractate Sanhedrin 68B starts out the Mishnah with the statement; "A stubborn and rebellious son - from when does he become a stubborn and rebellious son?"

It ends the intricate discussion on just what constitutes a "Stubborn and Rebellious Son" five pages later on page 71A by resolving the halakha (the Way the Law is practiced) according to the decision of Rabbi Yehudah, who states: "THERE NEVER WAS A REBELLIOUS SON, NOR WILL THERE EVER BE."
 
Thus, the rabbis of the Talmud put fences around the Torah "Voice of God" to negate the Capital punishment that the Torah requires.

However, the anonymous redactor of this Mishnah in the Talmud asks:
"Then why was it written?"

The Talmud responds: "So that people might study it (wrestle with it), and receive reward for their efforts."

However, the Talmud also records both sides of the discussion for the Talmud now records the objection of Rabbi Yonatan, who states:
"This is not so, for I once witnessed a rebellious son being tried, and I sat on his grave."

This same series of discussions continues as to whether there can exist an "Idolatrous and Condemned City" as per God's Word in Deuteronomy 12: 3-4.
 
The result is again that the halakha is that "THERE NEVER WAS A CONDEMNED CITY, NOR WILL THERE EVER BE" based upon the argument of Rabbi Eliezer.

Again, Rabbi Yonatan objects with: "I once saw a city declared a condemned city, and I sat upon its rubble after it had been destroyed."

Now, the Sages turn to the question of a house infected with nega (erroneously translated as leprosy) which the Torah demands that it be torn down (Leviticus 14: 37).

Rabbi Elazar, the son of Rabbi Shimon, renders the halakha as:
"THERE NEVER WAS A LEPROUS HOUSE, NOR WILL THERE EVER BE."

However, the Talmud records the objections of Rabbi Elazar, the son of Rabbi Tzaddok and Rabbi Shimon of Kefar Akko, that they personally visited a place where the stones of a Leprous House had been desposed of. This is a strong argument as it has two witnesses (Deut. 17: 6).

Yet, in all three of these cases, the established halakha (the Way the Law is practiced) is that "THERE NEVER WAS..., NOR WILL THERE EVER BE" followed by: "WHY WAS IT WRITTEN IN THE TORAH?" This was answered by:
"So that people might study it, and receive reward for their efforts."

In other words, in Rabbinic methodology, they were saying: "EVEN IF THERE WAS SUCH A THING AS A REBELLIOUS SON, A CONDEMNED CITY, OR A LEPROUS HOUSE, IN A PAST TIME, WE STATE THAT WE WILL NOT OBSERVE THESE HARSH COMMANDS OF GOD IN THIS AGE AND TIME OR FROM THIS TIME ON." (Perhaps they were also inferring that Moses might have misheard what God really said). In any case, they did not accept that the death of a stubborn and rebellious son was what God desired in their own time period and going forward.

The Sages of the Talmud looked at the Written Torah in much the same way as modern American jurisprudence looks at the American Constitution, which some people hold to also be a sacred document.

The Sages of the Talmud operated in much the same manner as do the American Supreme Court Justices. They determined, based upon the needs of their own time period, the Rules of Ancient Law that are still mandatory upon the Jewish people in their own time period, and their rulings operate in the same manner as do Amendments to the Constitution or The Bill of Rights.

When this is resolved in a Responsa, with both a majority opinion and a minority opinion, it becomes halakha, Law. Thus, halakha is synonymous with continuing revelation.

The purpose of revelation is to bring ancient law into modern practice, or, in other words, to bring the people into balance with the Will of God. If this means reinterpreting a text, or even doing as the rabbis of the Talmud did and putting the text as to being no longer relevant, and thus, in the place of "THERE NEVER WAS ............, NOR WILL THERE EVER BE"

This does not mean that they ignore or negate the original text. They still continue to argue the issues using the text in later baraitot as examples, but they do not use the text to carry out a sentence of judgement.

Within the weekly Hebrew Torah readings of Parashat Achare Mot (Leviticus 16: 1-18: 30) and Parashat Kedosheem (Leviticus 19: 1-20: 27) are found the particular verses utilized for the past sixteen centuries, by both Jewish and Christian fundamentalist teachers to erroneously (and purposefully) persecute, torture and punish a small portion of the human population.


These specific verses read:

(1) Leviticus 18: 22; which states: ואת זכר לא תשכב משכבי אשה תועבה הוא "Do not lie (sexually) with a male like as you would with a woman, since this is an idolatrous perversion (תועבה TOEYVAH)".

And:

(2) Leviticus 20: 13, which states: ואיש אשר ישכב את זכר משכבי אשה תועבה עשו שניהם מות יומתו דמיהם בם "If a man has sexual intercourse with a male person, like as with a woman, they have both committed a תועבה TOEYVAH (aמ idolatrous perversion). Their death is their own fault".

These verses were written in the Book of Leviticus originally sometime about 1350 BCE. This was a full millennium prior to Jews being in contact with a hedonistic, militant non-Semitic culture that had a Syrian-Greek-Hellenistic AND A missionizing Hellenizing religious premis that was openly promiscuous and a bi-sexual modality. This public display of what Jews held as sacred and private behavior was why the very first Talmudic references are to PUBLIC DISPLAYS of homosexual like, sexual activity, mostly by non-Jews, which was spoken of as an idolatrous perversion (תועבה  TOYEVAH) of JEWISH mores and religious practice (Sanhedrin 54a) if practiced by Jews.

Again, according to the rabbi and Bible scholar, Professor Jacob Milgrom, the prestigious translator and commentator of the scholarly Anchor Bible Series Translation of the Book of Leviticus, and the Jewish Publication Society Commentary on the Book of Numbers; the ORIGINAL Hebrew Bible Leviticus texts are referring to NON-ISRAELITE, RELIGIOUS cultic ritual sexual and sexual abuse practices that Israelites were not to imitate when they entered into the Land of Israel. It has nothing at all to do with what we today term as being homosexuality per se, but with cultic religious fertility rituals.

The ORIGINAL LEVITICUS documents of the biblical texts that are today used by the uninformed to deny a spiritual connection to God for homosexuals were not written to address either homosexuals or homosexuality. These documents are actually referring to a prohibition against imitating non-Israelite, foreign CULTIC sexual substitution fertility rituals, and do not condemn anyone who does not use substitutional and/or incestuous sex as a method of gaining Divine favor.

 

In fact, the text of the Book of Leviticus was originally written as an instruction manual for the priestly tribe, and referred to PRIESTLY prohibitions only. The original name of the Book of Leviticus (which name comes from the Greek Septuagint) was in Hebrew "ספר תורת הכהנים SEFER TORAT HAKOHANIM" (The Instructions of the Priestly Officiants).

 

Among the Israelites the Priestly class was required to be קדוש  "Kadosh" (Holy; see Lev. 22: 8; Ezek. 44: 31), "set apart" from the rest of the people, just as the Sabbath and Festivals are set apart as קדוש "Holy" from the rest of weekly time.

 

During Ezra's time period (5th century BCE) this same text of Leviticus was then edited, added to, and made to apply to all the returning Jews, who were now to be a "nation of kings and priests." "You shall be Holy (קדש set apart), for I, ADONAI, your God, am Holy"(Lev. 19: 2).

NOTE:
The Hebrew word for a Eunuch, סריס, is the generic word that probably included those who were homosexual, a term unknown to Jews of the 1st century. It simply referred to those who would not produce offspring, not just castrated individuals. Though I am NOT a Christian in any way or form. AND I believe that the Nazarener Rebbe, Jesus, the son of Joseph, was not a Christian either. Thus I offer the following quotation:

יש סריסים אשר נולדו כן מבטן אמם ויש סרסים ויש המסרסים על-ידי אדם ויש סרסים אשר סרסו את-עצמם למען מלכות השמים  
"For there are some who are homosexuals, which were born so from their mother's impregnation: and there are some who are castrated ones, which were made eunuchs by men: and there be those who are celibates by vow, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake" (Rabbi Jesus ben Joseph of Nazareth, 1st century CE; Matthew 19: 12) 

See also Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Yebamoth, Chapter 8 (folio 79b-80a)

סריס as a synonym for "homosexual"

 

There is a question as to whether the ancient sages who wrote the Torah would have seen סריסים (sarisim - eunuchs) as equivalent to what we would call today “homosexuals,” as well as others who did not propagate. Did the word סריס (saris) connote more than one meaning to the ancient Israelite? Did they lump in their own minds those who they saw as either physically, mentally, or in any other way, unable (or unwilling) to create offspring as “eunuchs?” And, did they give this class of their fellow tribesmen negative connotations?

 

They certainly did not call them by the English word, homosexuals. Karl-Maria Kertbeny first coined the term homosexual in 1869 in a pamphlet when arguing against a Prussian anti-sodomy law. The Hebrew speaking people who wrote the original text of Leviticus did not see homosexual actions as a sexual orientation of any consequence. In fact, they viewed homosexuality as something that was of little or no real concern to the normal operation of the tribal group, thus it was not singled out as a single class identity as were Priests כהנים, Levites לויים, and Nazarites נזירים.

 

Mr. Faris Malik's article, “The Ancient Roman and Talmudic Definition of Natural Eunuchs,” convincingly shows that the ancient Hebrews did indeed refer to what we today call homosexuals by the term סריס-eunuch. What is the effect of this? The effect is to show most definitely that the so-called anti-homosexual passages in Leviticus and Deuteronomy COULD NOT HAVE REFERRED TO HOMOSEXUALITY, just as Rabbi Steinberg-Caudill has long contended. Rather, these passages refer to sexual substitution by HETEROSEXUAL men as symbolic acts performed originally in idolatrous ceremonies.

 

It makes sense that the ancient sages of the Jewish people knew what homosexuality was. After all homosexuality is a natural human condition that has been on the earth as long as the species itself. The only question is by what terminology was it known to them? As the text of the Hebrew Torah (from which comes Jewish Law) is as much as 3500 years old, many of the words used then to describe people, acts, and actions are not clearly understood today. It is easier for religious fundamentalists as they take the King James English most literally as the inerrant text of the Bible "just as it was given to Moses on Mt Sinai." The scholar and Truth seeker, however, knows better. One need only take a look at the latest Jewish Publication Society translation of the Torah (from Hebrew into English), and see the number of times the notation "Hebrew meaning unknown" is beside a word, to get the drift that sometimes the true meaning of a specific word in the ancient language has been lost over time. This loss of the original meaning has happened in all languages as words go out of favor or usage, or change in the way they are used.

 

The New Testament records Rabbi Jesus ben Joseph of Nazareth as saying: "For there are some eunuchs who are born so from their mother's womb (homosexual?), and some eunuchs who are made eunuchs by men (castrated), and some eunuchs who make themselves become eunuchs (celibates) for the sake of the kingdom of the heavens. Let him who is able to receive it, receive it" (Matthew 19:12). It is evident that in his day he (or the writer of his words) saw several different classes of non-procreating men as part of a group that he lumped together under the generic term “eunuchs – sarisim (pl) סריסים.

 

It has also long been known that "The God Fearers," who were Gentiles that worshipped at Jewish synagogues and kept the Jewish Laws, and from whom the earliest "Christian" Church was formed, failed in becoming "completed Jews" by conversion to the tribal religion due to their fear of circumcision, which they thought made them less competent in bed. This equation of circumcision with castration and with loss of sexual potency left a void in the spiritual beliefs of these "God Fearers" that Paul of Tarsus took advantage of

For a well written argument by Mr. Faris Malik in favor of the Hebrew term "Saris" as referring to homosexual persons as well as to castrated persons, click here:

It is thought that the Dead Sea community of Zadokites (Zadukeem - Sadducees), who are considered by most scholars to have written and hidden most, if not all, of the Dead Sea Scrolls, evidently thought that the Book of Leviticus was ESPECIALLY important for their community. Sixteen separate manuscripts (none totally complete) of the Scroll of Leviticus have been discovered in the Qumron caves.

Of these sixteen manuscripts, three manuscripts show no deviation from what we read in the Masoritic text of the Book of Leviticus today. Interestingly, however, four manuscripts were written in the Paleo-Hebraic script in use prior to the exile of the Judeans into Babylon. Although both chapters 18 and 20 are present in these manuscripts, our particular verses do not seem to have survived.

It is the opinion of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill that, like all other indigenous tribal societies of people, including Native American Indians, the Jewish people were not overly concerned about homosexuality as a sexual modality within the community, where-in two married or widowed men might come together in a loving, companionship that well may have included a sexual relationship. As a rule, it did not get any notice. Why? Because, just as long as these men had also fulfilled the command to take a wife and be fruitful and multiply and replenesh the earth (to have at least one child of each sex), their "other sexual activity" did not make a difference. No condemnation of King David's relationship with Jonathon, nor of Judah's tryst with Tamar is recorded in the Hebrew Bible.

IN THE TIME OF THE TORAH, ALL MALES WERE COMMANDED TO MARRY

The first commandment in the Torah is considered to be fruitful and multiply [Sefer HaHinnuch Vol. 1, pg. 7] and one who fails to marry is considered to have neglected one of the most fundamental of Jewish laws. In fact, the Sages tell us, when a person comes up for judgment after his death, he will be asked: "Did you get married?" "Did you raise a family?"..Thus we are told, " A man who does not have a wife is not a proper man," and "A man who has no wife lives without joy, without blessing and without goodness" [Yebamot 62b].

King Hezekiah was told by the Prophet Isaiah that he would die and his soul would perish because he had failed to observe the first commandment, the command to marry and preserve the species (Talmud, Berachot 10A). It was because of this failure that, though he was destined to be the Messiah and bring peace to the world, that it did not occure in his day (ibid).

In ancient traditional Jewish society, ALL males were viewed as under the command of Heaven to marry and to have children. No provision was made for a completely celibate or a completely homosexual orientation. A man could, but was not required to, obtain a divorce from a woman who was unable to produce him children. He could also take a second wife (polygamy) or even a "common-law" wife (a pelegesh - a concubine). A person who failed to keep a commandment that applied to him (i.e. to marry and have children) was seen as a danger to the welfare of the entire community; because of his disobedience of a positive commandment, the rains would fail to come and the herds would abort their young. Only after a man had fulfilled the command to marry and bring forth children could he dedicate his life to a vow of celibacy, if he so chose.


According to the Jerusalem Talmud in Tractate Ketubot, Rabbi Chisda (3rd-4th century Babylonian Amora) said; "I am better than my colleagues because I was married when I was but sixteen years old. Yet, if I had married at age thirteen, I would not have had (a single wasted seminal emission) and would have spit in the Adversary's (HaSatan) eye." In other words, a young married man will not spill semen in vain.

The Sages further taught that the commandment to marry and to have children is more important than the commandment to build the Temple. It is considered as the VERY FIRST COMMANDMENT (Genesis 1: 28 & 2: 24). A Jew who willfully did not marry was considered a sinner and needed to offer a sin sacrifice. He could even be FORCED by his community to take a wife if he was still unmarried by the age of 20 (Rokeach 12, as quoted in the 18th century Sephardic Commentary on the Bible, MeAm Lo'ez, Vol. 1, page 124).

The Sages taught that a boy should be under the obligation to marry at an early age, he should have already signed the prenuptial document by his thirteenth birthday. This was the origin of today's Bar Mitzvah ceremony. If he had not married by his twentieth birthday, the court could compel him to marry (ibid.)

THE COMMUNITY OF "ESSENES" WAS NOT A STRICTLY CELIBATE COMMUNITY

According to Josephus, there existed a group of Jews (during the pre-Roman war of 64-70 CE, that culminated with the destruction of the Temple, called the "Essenes." He refers to celibacy as one of the practices of this community. Recent excavation at the cemetary of Qumron has turned up graves of not only men, but also of women and children. It is an error based upon a superimposing of the monastic tradition of the early archaeologist, Fr. Roland De Vaux upon the community who inhabited Qumron.
 
Some of that community, AFTER they had fulfilled their proceative duties, and their children had grown up, took upon themselves celibate vows similar to the vows a Nazarite takes. They believed that by denying themselves this "pleasure," they would hasten the coming of the Kingdom of God.
 
In the Dead Sea Scroll, "The Messianic Rule," (1QSa,I, 9-11); "At the age of twenty years old, a youth shall be enrolled (in the Community) to enter upon his allotted duty to raise a family and to be joined to the Holy Congregation. He shall not lay with a woman before then for he does not yet know the difference between good and evil." Thus, you see that a youth of 20 years of age had to marry and assume the duty to raise a family in order to be "joined to the Holy Congregation." Being married and a father of children was viewed by the Essenes as a REQUIREMENT, just as in normative Pharisaic Judaism.

From the above texts we see that within both the Pharisaic-Sadducean Judaism, and Essene Judaism, as represented by the Talmud and the Dead Sea Scroll texts, EVERY Jewish young man was to be married to a Jewish young woman by the time they were sexually active, no matter what their true sexual orientation was. In fact, the signing of the prenuptial documents, the ketubah, was part of a child's coming of age (B'nai Mitzvah) ceremony.

Although both the Essene community and the Priestly element of Sadducean Judaism were obsessed with sexual purity and seminal emissions, one cannot find specific references to male homosexuality as having been a prohibited activity for Jews in any of their sectarian writings. It seems that the married Essenes lived in the cities, near the walls, while, possibly, those who had already raised their families, or were widowed, or were no longer married may have lived at the community at Qumron.

In a closely knit religious community of this kind, true homosexuality, wherein two persons of the same sex live together in a committed, sexually active relationship, is usually accepted without fanfare or public notice. Snide remarks might be made but the relationship is usually just ignored.

THE TORAH IS NOT TALKING ABOUT WHAT WE REFER TO AS THE PRACTICE OF "HOMOSEXUALITY"

Almost all Jewish halakhic authorities agree that nowhere in the specific texts of the Five Books of the Written Torah does the Torah prohibit homosexual acts by WOMEN (see the writing on this by Rabbi Yosef Hayyim of Chief Rabbi of Baghdad, 1834-1909), in The Halachot of the Ben Ish Hai, Chapter "Shoftim," on lesbianism). This fact proves that, to these later rabbis, homosexuality itself as a sexual orientation is not the intent of the subject verses in the Book of Leviticus.

The intent of the verses in question was to prohibit male upon male sexual idolatry in the imitation of the practices of Canaanite and Egyptian cultic fertility rites by Israelite heterosexual men (see Leviticus 18: 1).

In the 3rd century CE, the Babylonian Talmud records that Rabbi Huna (the miracle working rain making-sacred circle drawing rabbi) tried to get the Sanhedrin to legislate against female homosexuals (lesbians) being able to marry a High Priest, a Cohen, but his colleagues ruled against him (BT Yebamot 76a). The Sanhedrin said that it was not permissible to prohibit what the Torah permits.

It logically follows that if the Torah was referring to homosexuality in general, as a sexual preference or as an sexual orientation, why would it just address only the MALE homosexual activity and not also the female homosexual activity?

JEWISH EXEGESIS METHODOLOGY

On the basis of the exegesis of Baraitha d'Rabbi Ishmael in the Sifra, on Leviticus, written in the mid-second century of the Common Era, Rabbi Ishmael says:

"The Torah is interpreted by means of thirteen rules.... When a generalization is followed by a specification, only what specifies applies (Miklal u'frat)."

In our texts of Leviticus the generalization is the text; "A man shall not lay with a man," ואת זכר לא תשכב and the specification is the text; "as you would lay with a woman" משכבי אשה.

Based upon Rabbi Ishmael's method of Jewish Torah exegesis, we can clearly see that the biblical passages in Leviticus 18: 22 and also in Leviticus 20: 13 can not refer to true homosexual activity at all, as at least one of the males is a heterosexual or perhaps a bisexual male. Otherwise the text need not supply the words, "as (you would) lay with a woman."

Rabbi Jacob Milgrom has said that these Leviticus texts are in reality, referring to foreign religious, cultic, ritual and promiscuous sexual practices, as practiced by the idolatrous religions of Egypt and Canaan, which featured the substitution of others, including relatives, animals, and members of the same sex for cultic ritual fertility purposes.

It should also be noted that it is not the normal homosexual practice for a man to lay with another man as though he were laying with a (preferred) woman. This is HETEROSEXUAL SUBSTITUTION for sexual gratification. The norman homosexual man has no desire for sex with a woman.

Thus, if a man were thinking of using his sexual partner as though that partner were a woman, and not the man that he is, it would not be a true homosexual relationship, as one of the parties involved is PRETENDING that the person he is laying with is a preferred woman. Why should he lay with a man when he could find many willing women that would lay with him?

SUBSTITUTIONAL SEXUAL BEHAVIOR NOT PERMITTED 

There is a second possible explanation that the situation described in our Leviticus texts are actually a permissive sexual situation in which the first man does not have control over his sexual emotions, but uses others to satisfy his sexual desires. If we read the Torah this way, it is warning this kind of person that certain types of substitutional sexual behavior are not permitted. The way that the text is written also provides us with a clue that sexual substitution is what is being referred to when it says:
ואת זכר לא תשכב משכבי אשה תועבה הוא.The writing of the last word as הוא, which means HE, and yet is vowelled so that it is to be pronounced as HEE, היא, which means SHE, instead of the correct HU, for the masculine tense, shows that the male is substituting as a female instead of the male that he is.

In the Greek texts reference to Lev. 18:22 from the Septuagint (translated in 3rd century BCE), the words are: "koimithisi koitin gynaikos" (you may not lie as with a woman).

This is the way it is usually rendered. The above translates into Greek the Hebrew words mishkevey, (to lay sexually with - The Hebrew consonants are: מ-ש-כ-ב-י) and eeshah, (woman : א-י-ש-ה).

This translation is attested in three of the earliest papyri, A, B, and F, which support the word "gynaikos" -- (as with a woman). It implies a substitution of some sort. Later Christian Greek renditions have used "arsenos" (young male) instead of gynaikos, which shows a decided anti-Hellenistic or a pro-Gentile Christian, anti-Jewish Christian bias.

The Torah itself tells us it is not referring to homosexuality but to idolatry by its opening statement in chapter 18 of Leviticus wherin YHVH God states; "I am is YHVH your Creator Force! You are not to follow the practices of Egypt where you lived, nor of Canaan, where I will be bringing you. Do not follow any of their customs."

If we wish to determine what kind of customs the author of Leviticus is referring to as being prohibited, we must ask ourselves: What were the supposed homosexual practices of the religions in Egypt and in Canaan in the 14th century-10th century BCE (the time represented by Leviticus)?

According to the Alexandria, Egypt Jewish philosopher Philo (1st century CE); "They [the pagan TEMPLE PRIESTS] would apply themselves to deep drinking of strong liquor and dainty foods and forbidden forms of intercourse. Not only in their mad lust for WOMEN [these were heterosexual men] did they violate the marriages of their neighbors, but also these men mounted males [they were promiscuous men].... Then, little by little they accustomed those who were BY NATURE MEN to submit to play the part of women.... (On Abraham, Chapter 26, pages 134-136.)

This Egyptian cultic religious practice is a SUBSTITUTION of the male body for a female body in male to male promiscuous sexual activity. It is not homosexuality! The practices being referred to are those of CULTIC ritual promiscuous sexual behavior.

SODOMY

Genesis 19: 4-5:  4 They had not yet lain down, when the townspeople, the MEN of Sodom, young and old—all the people to the last MAN—gathered about the house. 5 And they shouted to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may be intimate with them.”

This text in Genesis 19: 4-5, used to erroneously give the nomenclature of “sodomy” to homosexual sex is from the 17th or 18th century BCE biblical account. This text actually does not refer to an act of consensual sex, or to homosexual sex at all. It refers to an act of sexual violence, degradation, and male rape, as also does the passage in Judges 19: 22. These sexual acts committed by the men of Sodom are acts of VIOLENCE and sexual brutality, used to show the hatred and FEAR of the men of Sodom for those they consider as strangers, who they are thereby degrading and humiliating. This act of forced sex is not an act of love, nor is it one of caring, nor is it based upon either parties sexual orientation. There are religious ministers and rabbis who view this degradation and humiliation as an act of homosexuality. They could not be further from the truth. That they do so speaks more to their own bias and lack of understanding than to their desire to be true to the meaning of the original text.

The Hebrew Prophet, Ezekiel, who wrote his writings much closer to the writing down of this Torah story, actually addresses directly the question of what the sin of the people of Sodom was.

He writes in his chapter 16:

48 As I live—declares the Lord GOD—your sister Sodom and her daughters did not do what you and your daughters did. 49 Only this was the sin of your sister Sodom: arrogance! She and her daughters had plenty of bread and untroubled tranquillity; yet she did not support the poor and the needy.

In chapter 13 of Genesis, we are told that the land of the Jordan Plains upon which the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah stood was like “God’s own Garden.” Now, the people of Sodom were wicked and  given to sin; towards Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh especially (they practiced idolatry). The Hebrew word “Sodom (סודם) is etymologically related to the Hebrew word (שדה), “fertile field.” The implication is that Sodom was a fertile farming area, good for grazing animals. The Hebrew word “Gomorrah” (עמורה) derives etymologically from the word (עומר) meaning “sheaf of grain.” By using these names for these cities, the writer is implying that the area of Sodom and Gomorrah was good for the growing of grains like, wheat, barley, oats, rye, etc. This is also why the Prophet Ezekiel states: She and her daughters had plenty of bread and untroubled tranquility. So, what then were the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah?

The sins of Sodom were - social injustice, waste, over-indulgence, and insolence. These were the crimes of Sodom, not homosexuality!

In the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Pirke Abot, chapter 5, section 9, it states “At four periods pestilence increases: in the fourth year and in the seventh year, and in the year after the seventh year, and at the end of Sukkot every year. In the fourth year – because of [neglect of] the Tithe for the Poor in the third year; in the seventh year – because of [neglect of] the Tithe for the Poor in the sixth year; and in the year after the seventh year – because of [transgressing the laws of] Shemitah produce; and at the end of Sukkot every year – because of stealing the gifts due to the poor.”

The Rabbis are telling us that if we neglect the gifts due to the poor, we will incur “pestilence” because of it. The gifts due the poor are not considered as belonging to us, so if we keep them, we are stealing from the poor. A part of the obligation of being able to make a living from raising animals and growing crops was the responsibility to see that the Poorman’s Tithe was properly done every third and sixth year, and that the fields were allowed to not be harvested in the seventh year (Shemitah Year), with the crops that grew on their own being harvested by the poor.

 

Pirke Abot, chapter 5, section 10, states: “There are four attitudes among men: He that says, “What is mine is mine and what is yours is yours” – this is the average attitude; but some [Sages] say that this is the attitude of the Sodomites….”

 

A Sodomite is described here as being a person who accepts no responsibility for the poor in his community. He owes them nothing.

Thus we see that the sins of Sodom were the failure to provide for the homeless, the hungry, and the poor - AGAIN, "social injustice, waste, over-indulgence, and insolence." These were the crimes of Sodom and Gomorrah, not homosexuality!  It is THESE sins that should rightly be labeled as SODOMY.

THE ENTIRE BIBLICAL REFERENCES TO SODOM AND TO GOMORRAH BEGINING WITH CHAPTER 13 OF GENESIS UNTIL THEIR DESTRUCTION IN CHAPTER 19 IS TO CONTRAST THE HOSPITALITY OF AVRAM AND SARAI WITH THE SELFISH AND GREEDY NATURE OF THOSE WEALTHY CITIES OF THE JORDAN PLAIN, SODOM AND GOMORRAH. A NATURE THAT CAUSED GOD TO PUNISH THEM BECAUSE OF ARROGANCE, BECAUSE OF GREED, AND NOT BECAUSE OF HOMOSEXUALITY.

OTHER BIBLICAL REFERENCES THOUGHT TO REFER TO HOMOSEXUALITY

 

The male prostitutes הקדשים mentioned in the English translation of I Kings 14: 24, 15: 12, and II Kings 23:7 (proscribed in Deuteronomy 23: 18) are described in the Talmud (BT Sanhedrin 54b) as providing homosexual sex, but other early Bible translators were of a different opinion.

The translator of the 2nd century CE Babylonian Aramaic Jewish translation of the Hebrew texts, theTargum Onkelos, read the quoted Book of Kings text to show that the male prostitutes provided sex to the FEMALE visitors to the idolatrous temples. If this is the case, there is some question whether these male prostitutes were providing male on male sex or if they were also, or only, providing heterosexual sex to women.


In any case, the male rapes of Genesis 19 and Judges 19: 22, and the promiscuous male sexual activity of I & 2 Kings does not describe monogamous, loving and caring homosexual relationships anymore than the case of Lot and his daughter's act of incest in Genesis 19: 31-38, describes monogamous, loving and caring heterosexual relationships.

תועבה -TOEYVAH IS A CATEGORY RELATED TO IDOLATROUS PRACTICES
 
Now let us examine the meanings of the Hebrew word - תועבה -TOEYVAH (abomination, detestable, idolatrously unfit, a horrible deed, a shameful vice, idolatry, idols- related to the Phoenician תעבת, derived from Old Hebrew תעבה).  

A look at the internal evidence shows that the words (toeyvah hee תועבה הוא), which are translated as "an abomination" or "a disgusting perversion," means much more than that.

The Hebrew word TOEYVAH תועבה is used in the Torah to describe three CATEGORIES of actions in the Torah that are considered abominations or disgusting perversions.

These are (1) laws around IDOLATRY; as in Deuteronomy 17: 4; (2) laws around the eating of forbidden animal species or bodily fluids (blood, semen), as in Deuteronomy 14: 3; and (3) laws around the male cultic sexual prohibitions, as in Leviticus 18 & 20, which include incestuous relationships, bestiality, and same sex substitution.

It is the opinion of Rabbi Steinberg-Caudill that the three catagories around the word TOEYVAH 
תועבה are, in reality, but ONE category, that of things prohibited because of their association with idolatrous worship. Thus,
 the word TOEYVAH תועבה (or a form of the word), is a CATEGORY of IDOLATROUS forbidden action, and is used in that manner over 100 times in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh).

The word TOEYVAH תועבה is used only 26 times in the Torah; 2 times in Genesis; 1 time in Exodus; 6 times in Leviticus; 0 times in Numbers; and 17 times in Deuteronomy. In all these cases it refers to a form of (idolatrous) substitution. The one time תועבה is used in Exodus (8: 22), it refers to the concept that what Israelites sacrifice are considered to be by the Egyptians; an ABOMINATION, a תועבה.

We thus learn that the Hebrew word TOEYVAH refers to a concept akin to adultery against God, by substituting the idolatrous sexual behavior of another religion's fertility practice as a method of worshipping the Israelite concept of God.

The word TOEYVAH תועבה is in the Major Prophets 57 times. 5 times in 1 & 11 Kings, 3 times in Isaiah, 8 times in Jeremiah, 1 time in Malachi and 41 times in Ezekiel. It is not found AT ALL in the Minor Twelve Prophets.

In the Writings, TOEYVAH תועבה is found once in Psalms and 25 times in Proverbs. In every case that תועבה is found, it is referring to a prohibitted activity centered around some concept of IDOLATRY.

In today's world, most traditional rabbinical halakhists would not see the Christian concept of Trinity as a toeyvah form of idolatrous belief (as the Torah saw Egyptian and Canaanite beliefs), but rather they would accept that Judaism, Christianity and Islam all worship the SAME GOD even if by different Names and concepts of understanding the nature of that same One God.

There are certainly no authorities within mainline, traditional Judaism that would consider any of the variants of Christian or Moslem faiths as "a disgusting perversion or abomination," with the possible exception of those groups that advocate violence or hatred based upon race, religious differences, ethnicity, or sexual orientation (and ALL religions have their zealots).

Even the eating of a forbidden animal, bird and fish species, as well as eating a kid cooked in it's mother's milk is considered toeyvah in Deuteronomy 14: 4, as well as the eating of blood (forbidden even in the early Jewish-Christian community, see Acts 15: 20 & 29), yet we do not hold non-Jews guilty of being idolators because they eat these Torah forbidden substances.

According to Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888), the founder of Modern Orthodox Judaism, in his extensive five volume work Translation and Commentary to the Torah, states (page 44)... in commenting on Genesis 1: 28; "The four sections of man's mission - כבשה, מלאו, את הארץ, רבו, פרו embody his whole free-willed moral development. פרו refers to marriage; רבו refers to the family; מלאו refers to society; and כבשה refers to the aquisition of property."
ALL of these thing are obtainable by gays and lesbians as well as by straights. The WORD "MARRIAGE" is just that - a word. It does not, by itself, mean just a man and a woman unless that is how we define it. I choose to define it as two loving people who have come together to create a bond between themselves that allows them to be able to trust that the other partner will be faithful to the Covenant of Marriage that is between them.

Anthropological studies and modern genetic and social science has shown that homosexuality is a natural state of being for some human beings and other animal species.

If that is truly the case, and it is Rabbi Steinberg-Caudill's belief that it is, then it is the God who created the human species who is responsible for the condition of homosexuality just as it is God who is responsible for the condition of heterosexuality.

To say that homosexuality is a deviant behavior is to say that God made a mistake when God created the אדם, the singular Earth Creature, זכר ונקבה (both male and female). "He (God) created him;  to be male and female, He created them. And God blessed them.... And God saw all that He had made, and He found it to be VERY GOOD טוב מאד!
(Genesis 1: 27 - 31).
 
Rabbi Ted Alexander (A Conservative rabbi) of the San Francisco, California's Jewish community has stated that; "This is the way God has created them (as homosexuals), and if God has created them this way, I'm willing to give them the blessings (of marriage). Furthermore, anyone who has any hesitation to give blessings to same-sex people should not say the Sabbath Psalm, 'How great are Your works, oh God,' because that includes everybody." Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill is in agreement with this statement.

In March 2000, the 111th Convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, (Reform), passed a Resolution On Same Gender Officiation whereby they resolved to support a Reform Rabbi that would perform same gender marriage rituals. They also supported the right of Rabbis to choose not to perform same gender marriage rituals.

As a totally Jewish Rabbi who considers himself "Flexodox", Rabbi Gershon commends the Reform Rabbis for taking this important step towards full Jewish religious equality in our communities. He prays for the day when the other communities of Jewish thought; Conservative, and Orthodox, also follow suit.

In the San Francisco Bay area, as well as other areas of intellectual progressive thinking, some Rabbis belonging to the Conservative movement have begun performing same-sex marriages. Rabbis of the Renewal, Reconstructionist, and Flexodox areas of Jewish thought are also performing same-sex unions.

It is of utmost importance for those who are students of the Torah to reclaim the texts that have been kidnapped by the fundamentalist, Taliban types among the Jews, the Moslems, and the Christians and then twisted them, and used these texts to hurt the innocent and to make them afraid.

We must follow the example of our blessed Rabbis of Talmudic times and retranslate the Torah in EVERY generation so that we might live in it and not die by it. The Torah is our life and length of days. It is Eternal! It is TRUE!

The Hebrew Torah is the CONSTITUTION of the Jewish people, but it is the Rabbis who, like the Supreme Court, tell us how the Torah directs us in our current generation. The INTERPRETATION of the Torah is a New and Everlasting Continuing Revelation (kabbalah).

In fact, Rabbi Hayyim Palachi writes that: "...the Torah gave permission to each person to express his opinion according to his understanding.... It is not good for a sage to withhold his words out of deference to the sages who preceded him if he finds in their words a clear contradiction.... A sage who wishes to write his proofs against the kings and giants of Torah should not withhold his words nor suppress his prophecy, but should give his analysis as he has been guided by Heaven."

Rabbi Palachi notes that "even though Rambam wrote with Divine inspiration, many great sages of his generation criticized his work. There are numerous examples of students refuting their teachers: Rabbi Yehudah haNassi disagreed with his father; Rashba disagreed with Ramban; The Tosafists disagreed with Rashi. Respect for the authorities of the past does not mean that one cannot arrive at an opposing opinion." (See Hikekei Lev, vol. 1, O. H. 6 and Y. D. 42.)

Rabbi Marc Angel (an New York Orthodox Sephardi Rabbi, and past President of the Union of Sephardi Congregations, and past President of the Modern Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America) writes: "Diversity of opinion is a reality well recognized in Jewish tradition. The Talmud (Berakhot 58a) records the ruling that one is required to make a blessing upon seeing a huge crowd of Jews, praising God who understands the root and inner thoughts of each individual. Their thoughts are not alike and their appearances are not alike. God created each individual to be unique; He expected and wanted diversity of thought." (Seeking Good, Speaking Peace.)

Rabbi Hayyim David Halevi, and Rabbi Yaakov Emden both gave their opinions that; a student should question their rabbis teachings as best they can. In this way, truth is clarified. (See Aseh Lekha Rav, 2: 61 and Shehlot Yavetz, 1: 5)

Rabbi Halevi further quotes Rambam (Hilkhot Sanhedrin 23: 9), who states the principle that  "En le-dayan ella mah she-enav ro'ot" (A judge has only what his eyes see). In other words, a judge must base his opinion solely on his own understanding of the case he is considering. No legal precedent obligates him, even if it is a decision of courts greater than he, even of his own teachers.

In Judaism, we teach that ALL the Torah was given to Moses at Mount Sinai, and that even the most future Responsa of a future Rabbi was included in that Revelation.

We do not change the past teachings arbitrarily, but examine the present needs, look at all the past teachings on the subject, closely inspect the inner meanings of any textual materials that are relevant to determine if we can deduce a new and the true meaning of the texts, and with a prayer towards the concept of unifying the Jewish people so that they last on into the coming generations, we do what needs to be done.

Rabbi Gershon Winkler, who was ordained as an Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi in Jerusalem, has written that: "Asked the Sages of France (11th century), how can the ruling of both parties be the Word of God when this one permits and this one forbids? And they answered with the following midrash (sermon): When Mosheh ascended the mountain to receive the Torah, the Holy Blessed One demonstrated to him concerning every commandment 49 different angles (literally "faces") from which a matter might be declared forbidden and 49 angles from which a matter might be declared permitted. And he asked the Holy Blessed One about this, and God said: "This knowledge shall be transmitted to the spiritual teachers in every generation so that the decision on any matter shall be theirs" (13th-century Rabbi Yom Tov ben Avraham Isbili (Ritva) on the Babylonian Talmud, Eruvin 13b).

Had the Torah been given already sliced (Rashi: with its laws already set and absolutized and void of any process of learning to one side of an issue or the other), no leg would have anything to stand on (Rashi: the world could not survive, because the Torah requires us to interpret her many faces this way and that, and both these and those are the Words of the Living God)... Said Moses to the Holy Blessed One: "Teacher of the Universe! Show me how the halachah is determined (Rashi: so that there will be no question about the application of any of the laws." But God then said to him: "That is impossible, because the Torah requires us to interpret her many faces this way and that, and if I disclose to you the final halachah the Torah would then never be interpreted based on her many faces), for there are 49 ways of interpreting the Torah so that a thing is rendered impure, and 49 ways of interpreting the Torah so that a thing is rendered pure" (2nd-century Rabbi Yannai, in Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 4: 2)."

From the preceeding we see that the Jewish rabbis and sages of the Talmud, our Jewish Supreme redactors on what the Torah means to convey to us in our own generation, as a living document for a living community, did not believe that how they, or a generation 1000 or 2000 years down the road saw the Torah to mean, would be how the Torah SHOULD mean at some still future date in time.

WHY DOES THIS MATTER TO ME, RABBI GERSHON STEINBERG-CAUDILL, A HETEROSEXUAL RABBI?
 
THE REBBE'S DREAM.

In the early 1990s, the legislature of the State of Idaho was presented with a bill that would deny civil rights to gays and lesbians. A lesbian member of my congregation asked me to represent the Jewish community by being present in a march against that oppresive legislation.

As rabbi of Boise's single unified Jewish community, I was presented with a conflicting internal wrestling match. On the one hand, no segment of any population ought to be denied their civil rights based solely upon their sexual orientation, and on the other hand, I had been taught that homosexual acts were expressly prohibited by the teachings of the Torah as being not just sinful acts but acts that were abhorrent to God.

I resolved my own inner conflict by deciding to follow the Torah dictate of "tzadakah v'chesed" (justice tempered with mercy), and support the gay-lesbian desire to obtain and keep the civil rights that were rightfully theirs as citizens of the United States of America and of the State of Idaho.

The Torah stipulates 32 times that one shall not oppress the "stranger" that dwells among you. To deny any person, or group of persons, their civil rights was definitely a form of oppressive behavior.

Having resolved my immidiate quandary, I then began to actively support in public the gay-lesbian rights movement as a friend of the gay-lesbian community and as a representative of Boise's Jewish community.

This public action on my part led to a speaking engagement at a retreat that was being held by one of Boise's more gay-friendly churches. It was my intention to address the Torah concept of the oppressive nature that any legislation passed by the State against any segment of its population represented. I did not intend to address the issue of my own personal beliefs as to the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality within Judaism.

However, evidently God had other ideas. That evening I retired to my room to study and sleep. I recited my evening and bedtime prayers and began to read a new book that I had received just that day (Paradigm Shift, by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi) while I lay on my bed.

In the course of the night, I began to dream about the Kabbalistic Tree of Jacob's Ladder and how EVERY person possessed within themselves the energies of this Tree, which is an inner psychological Tree. This Tree was represented in my dream by a visual "Shiviti" ( a mandala) that was pictured in "Paradigm Shift."

I dreamed that in bringing the individual's inner energies through the various energy centers within this inner Tree; through the masculine oriented places and through the feminine oriented places; to the central balancing places, from the "Heavenly realm" to the "Earthly realm," one unified the Sacred Name of God; Yod, Heh with the Vav, Heh.

Suffice it to say that along with the visual representation seen in the dream, I also received audio explanation. This "Voice" told me that it was God who determined the sexual orientation of every person on earth who is created in the Divine Image as a physical-spiritual representative of the Divine on earth, as represented by their head being associated with the Yod of God's Sacred Name, their shoulders and arms with the Heh, their spine and torso with the Vav, and their hips and legs with the final Heh.

So impactful was this dream on my consciousness that upon awakening I jumped out of my bed and ran to the Art Cabin where I drew the representation of the dream on the back of the sweat shirt that I was using as a pajama top due to the extreme cold night Fall temperatures of 4:00 A.M. in McCall, Idaho.

That morning, at my lecture, I threw away my notes and instead I used the pajama top as a visual aid representation to describe the dream of the previous night and its meaning for me. That dream had taught me to be totally accepting of homosexuality as a God based and God ordained sexuality and not as an "abomination." Several of those who attended my lecture told me that my explanation cleared up for them why they knew that homosexual orientation was the way that they had been born and not a learned behavior.

Kol brakhot tobot (May you receive all good blessings)

Copyright 2000 by Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill, (the EcoRebbe) Updated March 2009.

IT IS TIME FOR THE GLBT COMMUNITY TO SEE ITSELF AS "THE CHOSEN PEOPLE"

After approximately 1600 years of being degraded, persecuted, put down, murdered, encloseted, and in many other ways caused to be thought of as depraved and deviant, it is high time that Gays and Lesbians recognize that they are just as much loved by God as ANY other member of the human specie.

The whole idea of God singling out a group of people, and in It's covenant with that group of people, referring to them as "My Chosen People," is to cause that previously hated group of people to gain confidence in themselves as human beings capable of loving and being loved, and through that confidence, lifting themselves up as spiritual people who care about other human beings and sentient creatures. One can only show love for others if one feels that one is worthy of being loved him or herself. The term "Chosen People" is one way that God used to cause the Jewish ex-slaves to raise their feelings of self worth up so that they could see themselves as valuable and worthy of being a FREE people. It is time for the homosexual community to lift up it's feelings of self-worth and value.

Article 3

On the Chosen People Syndrome
By Rabbi Gershon Winkler

Regarding the question about the Jews claiming to be the chosen people, and how that has led to antisemitism: my feeling is that we never claimed to the world to be the chosen people. We claimed it to ourselves, no less and no more than did the Celts claim that they were the chosen ones, or the Hopi Indians, or the Lakota Sioux or the Egyptians, or the Greeks. It is not our fault that Christianity TOOK our personal diary from us and published it all over the world. It is the early Church in its claim to be the only true religion that used our scriptures to prove this by quoting about how we were chosen by God, so that by replacing us, they became automatically the NEWLY chosen ones.

But we Jews never publicized to the world that God had chosen us over any other. On the contrary, throughout the Tenakh we were reminded again and again that we are not THE chosen people, but A chosen people, meaning a people chosen amongst many others.

Here are a few examples from the Tenakh, the private diary of the Jewish people:
"In that day shall Israel be third alongside Egypt and Assyria, as a blessing on earth; for God will bless them, saying: 'Blessed be my people Egypt, my handiwork Assyria, and my inheritance Israel'" (Isaiah 19:24).

"Are you not just like the Children of the Ethiopians unto me, O Children of Israel? Did I not bring out Israel from the Land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caf'tor, and Aram from Kir?" (Amos 9:7).

From the Talmud:
"It is written, 'There never again arose among the Israelites a prophet as great as Moses' (Deuteronomy 34:10) --among the Israelites there never again arose a prophet as great as Moses, but amongst other peoples, it is certainly probable!" (Midrash Bamid'bar Rabbah 14:19).

Martin Buber put it this way: "As a historical people, Israel enjoys no precedence over any other. Like Israel, the other peoples were all wanderers and settlers; they came 'up' from a land of want and servitude into their present homeland. The one God, the Redeemer and Leader of the peoples, strode before all of them upon their way -- even the hostile neighboring peoples -- protecting them by His might. He guided their steps, gave them power, let them 'inherit' the soil of a people that had been ruined by its sins and abandoned by history." (From "Martin Buber On the Bible", edited by N. Glatzer [Schocken Books, 1982], p. 80).

I believe that we believe that God does not discriminate between one people and another. That God loves the Palestinians as much as [God loves] the Israelis. Sort of like a mother who writes six letters to her six children, and in each letter she writes "You are my favorite. I love you more than anything in the world!" This is why we never went out missionizing to people. We believed every-one had their own divine revelation and each their path is sacred as long as they don't use it to destroy others. A tzadik (righteous person), the Talmud teaches, is not someone who is a holy Jew, but someone of ANY faith or [ANY] people who is righteous by their actions. A tzadik is not determined by belief or religious affiliation but by how they live their life.

So, no we are not any more chosen than the aboriginals of Australia. We are equally chosen. And when we say "asher bachar ba'nu mee'kol ha'ameem" (who chose in us from all the nations) we mean that we thank God for choosing us, too, from among all the other nations, meaning from among all those other peoples who were chosen long before we were.

Of course the average traditional Jew will think about this differently. I believe that is because we have as a people been persecuted for so long that our religious teachers kept impressing upon us how precious we were to God in order to lift up our downtrodden spirits. A people oppressed for close to two thousand years needs to hear that they are important, chosen, the highest of the high. But theologically it is totally incorrect. We are different than most, yes. But we are not more important to God than most. God likes us because we are funny. We gave the world more comedians than anyone else.

We are not hated because we claim to be chosen. We are hated because of the venom spread against us by the New Testament story of the Jews calling for the crucifixion of Jesus, which has been proven again and again as historically and theologically fictitious, but it is already a poison well-entrenched in every-one influenced by the Church, whether Christian or not, which is practically the entire world today.

I think another factor of this chosen people problem is not anything we say or said to the world as much as what the world assumes we say about ourselves or think about ourselves, because the world sees us as uncompromising, tenaciously clinging to our peculiar and often politically-incorrect ways, even when those ways clash with the rest of the world. We have always been different, and always refused to conform to the religious and cultural ways of those who have conquered us, whether Babylonian, Greek, Roman, Christian, etc. which led them to assume that we thought ourselves special. Why don't the Jews give in? They couldn't understand it. Everyone else who was conquered adopted the conqueror's ways. Everyone but the Jews. Which may naturally lead people to think that we think we are too special, chosen by God or the gods. Our crime was our stubborn refusal to compromise our beliefs and our ways, and so we chose death more often than any other conquered people, rather than conform or convert.

Our crime was not our claim to be chosen. Our crime was our claim to the right to believe as we wished.

And for that we have paid dearly.

San Francisco Gay-Lesbian Synagogue Congregation Shaar Zahav (link) click here

Gay-Lesbian friendly BEYT TIKKUN SYNAGOGUE (link) click here

Conservative Congregation B'nai Emunah (link) click here

Rabbi Gershon Winkler has written (in the Bible Review, June 2001):

The Jewish scriptural prohibition against homosexuality appears in the context of laws concerning cultic rites performed by seven specifically named nations whose religious worship rites we were being instructed not to emulate in our worship of God (Leviticus 18: 3, 22, 20: 13, 23; Deuteronomy 23: 18).

Therefore the wording is; to lay with a man as with a woman, something a true homosexual man does not do. The sin is about a horny heterosexual man using another man for sex, which occurred in ancient religious worship among some of those very same nations that our ancestors were warned against emulating.

To translate that prohibition, therefore, as applying to any homosexual relationship is to exit the realm of divine ordination and enter instead the realm of subjective, mortal homophobia.

The ancient rabbis must have had some sense of this problem when they ruled two thousand years ago that any homosexual sexual activity short of anal intercourse is not included in the biblical prohibition (Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot 54a-56a; Sotah 26b; Niddah 13a; Maimonides, Perush L'Mishnayot on Sanhedrin 54a).

Why did they bother to offer that qualification if it was so clear to them that homosexuality was forbidden?

Also, lesbianism, according to Jewish law, was never prohibited; Maimonides, who personally abhorred such behavior, ruled that; it is neither a biblical nor a rabbinic prohibition. (Perush L'Mishnayot on Sanhedrin 54a.)

In fact, the rabbis in the Gemara (BT, Tractate Yevamot) specifically say that the passages in Leviticus refers to an androgynous being and not to male-male sex.

Since the rabbis' interpretations are the basis of halakhah, anyone claiming that Judaism is against homosexual orientation based upon that passage is simply incorrect.
(See also the book "SACRED SECRETS" by Rabbi Gershon Winkler).

Article 4
 
Rabbi Michael Lerner states:

From the time I became a rabbi, I've been performing homosexual marriages in my synagogue, though with changes in the liturgy and ketuvah (they are not ke'dat moshe ve yisrael, but they are holy kiddushin and treated as such).  For Torah literalists and fundamentalists, I argue in my book Jewish Renewal that what the fundamentalists fail to do is to read the actual literal words: that a man should not lie with a man the way that they lie with a woman. The words are striking because in the context all the other sexual commands do not qualify by saying "the way that x does y" but are simply categorical. But here there is no categorical prohibition, but only a prohibition on a certain way of being with a man. So I agree with Torah: men should lie with men in a different way than they lie with women, recognizing and honoring the uniqueness of that relationship. Jesus says nothing against homosexual acts. But Paul goes off against them, probably meaning the way homosexuality was being abused in Rome at the time. Nothing in the Hebrew bible prohibits gay marriage. And none of the religious texts prohibits lesbian marriages or affairs.

 

          So why the fuss? I've tried to analyze this in Tikkun and in my books, I mean the source of homophobia. The Left Hand of God gives part of the account, as does Spirit Matters and also my The Politics of Meaning. There is, in my view, no legitimate reason why states should prohibit gay marriage. All the allegedly rational reasons are transparently phony--evidence that gay families do not do as good a job at raising children as heterosexual couples is scant, except for gay couples living in societal contexts where homophobia plays a shaping role in the lives of gay parents and their children. Most of the evidence I've seen shows the opposite--that homosexual families range from healthy to neurotic in precisely the same distribution as heterosexual families, usually facing the same severe problems that everyone has sustaining loving relationships in a society that privileges selfishness and materialism.

 

            There is no legitimate reason to deny homosexuals the same rights given to heterosexuals in any sphere, and that includes marriage.

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