Judaism on Homosexuality

This small blog post is just the beginning…I’ve been working on this for quite a while – two years, in fact.  My research is not done. I don’t know when it will be done — it’s important to me to have rock-solid evidence that states: Stop supporting bigoted, cruel words and behavior with the Bible, because it ain’t kosher.

So, this is just a post to point out an article I found that is talking about exactly what I’ve been researching. It’s a good article. (it’s at the bottom, if you want to just skip my post and get to the article!)

I’ve grown very tired of people slamming the Torah (Old Testament) and saying that it is homophobic, fostering hate, just look at those verses, etc. We all have seen how people misuse the Bible to cause harm, pointing at verses and saying it’s clear that God “hates the sin..” etc.
No, it is not clear.  And NO, homosexuality is not a “sin.”

(And…really? “God hates” are two words that do not go together. At all. Ever.)

I’ve been doing a lot of research. I’ve been searching for articles, reading books, reading Torah, asking people about this. I began this research two years ago when a gay friend told me he was treated badly in an Orthodox shul. I set out to write him a letter about the many reasons the way he was treated was not a representation of Judaism or any kind of religious behavior, but, rather, a representation of human ignorance and fear and cruelty, plain and simple. (and that he needed to promptly find another shul–I’ve never attended a synagogue in which such behavior would occur–in fact, I’ve never attended a synagogue in which gay marriages were not performed.)

When I set out to write that letter, I had no idea if it was true – I just had my gut instinct and my heart screaming at me, no way could I ever align myself with a religion that discriminated against people and pointed at a verse in an ancient book to justify it.

So, I spoke with a rabbi – my mentor at the time.

He told me to look at the Hebrew.  He told me (basically) what this article is saying.

So. Here’s an article by Reb Jeff that addresses …you know…THAT verse.

It’s a good article. It’s not a pretty article: there are some things in it that might challenge people; it doesn’t gloss over the ugly parts of a rougher time period…

and it’s a very good article.

Would people please spread the word?  Can we stop this ignorant misusage of one of the world’s most beautiful books?  (Even if you don’t revere it as a holy book, it’s got some of the most incredible poetry in it.)

Anytime you hear someone using “the Bible” as justification for discrimination against anyone who identifies as GLBT, tell them to look at the Hebrew. Tell them to think a little. Tell them that there are a lot of ways in which the “rules” in Torah are questioned, in that very same book, by things that occur later on – it happens on purpose, people, because the point is that we are supposed to think!

    I have had someone I thought was a friend point to violent stories in the Torah and say “that’s what Judaism is: a baby-massacre religion.”  (needless to say, this person is not a friend any more.)  That person was (obviously) not only speaking from massive ignorance and narrow-mindedness, but was also violently incorrect. Judaism is not a “rote” religion. The things that happen in Torah are not things we are supposed to emulate and try at home- they are things we are supposed to learn from.

Torah is a mirror – it’s the journey of lives. It is trial and error. It’s a LOT of error.  It is a blueprint for relationships. Torah is also chock full of very powerful metaphor. Sure, it can be taken literally – but there are so many other ways to read it.

But to look at it as an historical document for a second: back then, they simply did not know that people could be made in such a way that they were attracted to, felt romantic love for, people of the same sex.  They didn’t have a word for homosexuality.  Therefore, the verses people misuse are not about homosexuality. They are not about loving relationships.

Even if the verses were as people say and a “rule” were being laid out in Torah against homosexuality for some odd reason, many “rules” that are laid out in Torah are completely contradicted by things that happen later on in the book.  It’s just the way it is – it unfolds exactly like life –  I think the point is that we are supposed to see ourselves in it, in all of our flawed, contradictory, messy humanity;  we are supposed to learn compassion for ourselves and for others.

Torah is transparent.  It doesn’t sugar-coat anything.  It is also not a museum piece – it is a living text;  our obligation is to interpret it as our times require.

There is only one “rule” in Torah that is more important than anything else.
The main rule, the only rule, that is never questioned is : love. Loving kindness. that’s it. You want to sum up the Bible? Love.

So when people are using the Bible as an excuse to discriminate, they are not following the Bible’s precepts in any way,

which means a lot of things:  it means that we can stop blaming religions and God for the things that people do. It means that people can stop feeling like they need to hide if they are homosexual and also very religious.  It means that people can stop using a book – a book that could be a vessel for great healing in this world- as an excuse to cause harm with hateful speech and actions.
So. If you’re gay, bi, transgendered, and someone brings up the poor maligned Old Testament to you, please … please…help heal this world by setting them straight — or rather, setting them on the correct and loving path, whether it’s straight, gay, bi, trans…you get it…

“Also be ready to defend the ideas that there is more than one “religious” way of looking at these questions. From the perspective a Judaism that is willing to change with a changing understanding of God’s creation, the religious reading may be the one that leans on the side of compassion and love.” – excerpt from Reb Jeff’s article, “Judaism on Homosexuality.”


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