This dvar Torah is from TorahWeb's Rabbinic Board:
Rabbi Herschel Shachter
Rav Hershel Schachter
Rabbi Mordechai Willig
Rav Mordechai Willig
Rabbi Michael Rosensweig
Rav Michael Rosensweig
Rabbi Mayer Twersky
Rav Mayer Twersky

Torah View on Homosexuality

"K'maase Eretz Mitzrayim asher yeshavtem ba lo sa'asu - like the practice of the land of Egypt in which you dwelled do not do" (Vayikra 18:3)

This verse prohibits the most immoral forms of behavior - idolatry, incest, adultery, bloodshed, male and female homosexual activity and bestiality[1]. The prohibition against male homosexual behavior is repeated in Vayikra 18:22. Prohibited homosexual activity includes any non-platonic physical contact; even yichud (seclusion) with someone of the same gender is forbidden for homosexually active individuals[2].

In addition to its legislative content, this verse also provides a fundamental insight into human nature and propensities. The Torah emphasizes "asher yeshavtem ba - in which you dwelled"; but Jews of all generations most certainly know that we lived in Eretz Mitzrayim. The Torah's statement of the obvious warns us to be on guard against societal influence. We become susceptible to even the most egregious and vile forms of behavior if we do not guard against societal influence. "Human nature is such that a person in his beliefs, character, dispositions, and actions is drawn after his friends and colleagues and acts in the same fashion as his countrymen" (Rambam Hilchos De'os 6:1). (How to take such precautionary measures will, God willing, be discussed below.) Thus a full interpretive translation of the verse reads: the behavior of Eretz Mitzrayim, to which, having lived there, you may be inclined, is forbidden to you.

Ramban[3] comments that the descent to Mitzrayim foreshadows the current galus. He highlights the historical symmetry between the descent to Mitzrayim and the origins of the current galus. Sadly, we can highlight an additional point of symmetry. The "Mitzrayim" in which we find ourselves is also plagued by aberrant behavior, including the practice of homosexuality. Here too due to societal influence we have become susceptible to such behavior. Moreover, Mitzrayim of old not only engaged in corrupt behavior, it legitimized and mainstreamed such behavior. "Our sages said, what were they (i.e. Mitzriyim) accustomed to doing? Men married men and women married women…"[4] Similarly, the Mitzrayim of today's galus seeks to legitimize and mainstream the abominable practice (toeiva) of homosexuality. Frighteningly, we who live here are not only practically affected, but also axiologically and ideationally infected. Not only our behavior but our very Weltanschauung has been compromised and contaminated.

Let us illustrate and elaborate the effect of society's insidious influence regarding homosexuality. In a Torah society, unaffected and uninfected by today's Mitzrayim, what should one's attitude be towards homosexual behavior and homosexual individuals? Homosexual behavior is absolutely prohibited and constitutes an abomination[5]. Discreet, unconditionally halachically committed Jews who do not practice homosexuality but feel same sex attraction (ssa) should be sympathetically and wholeheartedly supported. They can be wonderful Jews, fully deserving of our love, respect, and support. They should be encouraged to seek professional guidance. Moreover, in an uninfected Torah society, appropriate sympathy for discreet shomrei Torah u'mitzvos who experience but do not act upon ssa is clearly distinguished from brazen public identification of their yetzer hara for forbidden behavior. In a pure Torah society people would recognize that every individual neshama is given its own unique constellation of challenges and some of these challenges consist of feeling an impulse to forbidden behavior. But every individual neshama also possesses the resilience and strength to triumph over its challenges[6].

How painful, sad and sobering is the sharp contrast between the clear attitude that should prevail in a pure Torah community and the confusion that exists among well-intentioned individuals within our communities. We are not speaking of the heresy of elements who although identifying themselves as Orthodox demand (sic.) change in the Torah, rachamanah litzlan, a clear violation of the thirteen principles of faith. Instead we are speaking of the confusion caused by today's Mitzrayim within our communities. Due to the influence of today's Mitzrayim, appropriate sympathy in discreet settings has become conflated with public, celebratory identification of people with an urge for forbidden behavior. In today's galus ssa is not viewed as a challenge of kevishas hayetzer (overcoming and taming impulses for forbidden behavior), but rather as a troubling halacha lacking in compassion, rachmanah litzlan.

The influence of today's Mitzrayim on our thinking is sadly and dramatically evident. The light of Torah, however, dispels confusion. Talmud Torah, when honestly and unconditionally pursued, allows us to recognize societally induced pre/misconceptions and biases. Talmud Torah allows us to absorb the divine Weltanschauung. Inevitably, with respect to homosexuality, Talmud Torah will place us at odds with political correctness and the temper of the times. Nevertheless, we must be honest with ourselves, and with Hakadosh Baruch Hu, regardless of political correctness, considerations or consequences.

Editor's note: Readers may also be interested in the following audio shiurim: A Response to the Recent "Orthodox" Gay Forum and Absolute Truth and Alternate Life Styles: The Torah's Position on Homosexuality


[1] The Sifra (Vayikra 138:5), cited by Rashi ad loc. refers to the atrocities of Eretz Mitzrayim as being the most corrupt of all nations. The Sifra (138:7) further provides the list of activities in which the Mitzriyim engaged. See also Rambam Hilchos Isurei Biah 21:8.

[2] Rambam Hilchos Isurei Biah 21:1,2; 22:1,2. See also Shulchan Aruch Even HoEzer 24

[3] Commentary to Breishis 43:14, 47:18

[4] Rambam Hilchos Isurei Biah 21:8

[5]Vayikra 18:22

[6] In the present forum we are not discussing the halachic category of shotim.

Copyright © 2010 by The TorahWeb Foundation. All rights reserved.