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Same Sex Marriage: The Debate

by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow

  

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Same Sex Marriage is a front-page news item debated in North American media, legislatures, and courts. The topic has recently returned to the headlines because of a Parliamentarian vote to legalize same sex marriage in Canada.

This human-interest issue deeply affects many from across the political spectrum and elicits radical responses on both sides of the aisle.

Proponents of the bill have painted it as a human rights and egalitarianism issue that grants same sex couples the same rights that are enjoyed by heterosexual couples. This is a brilliant masterstroke on the part of proponents because painting opposition to the bill as discriminatory places its opponents in a very delicate position.

Opponents of the bill have invoked the sanctity of Marriage. Same sex marriage is painted as a slippery slope, which will eventually erode the traditional structure of marriage between a man and a woman. Biblical injunctions such as “Man shall therefore leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife,” and “Thou shall not lie with a man as one would with a woman,” are often invoked.1

Torah also prohibits discrimination against sinners. Homosexual activity is restricted, not the homosexual person. The act is an abomination, not the actor
While no one likes to be seen as dismissive of the bible, proponents find such concerns easily surmountable. In western society, class discrimination is viewed as a greater evil than dismissal or even opposition to biblical imperatives.

It comes as no surprise that most faith-based groups are opposed to same sex marriage. This is especially true of many Jewish faith representatives. After all, Jews are the original trailblazers of biblical values and ought to be its continued torchbearers.

The Sin not the Sinner

While the Jewish faith strictly opposes legalization of same sex marriage, it also enjoins us to carefully examine our conscience to ensure that our opposition is based on religious grounds, not social mores or, even worse, homophobia.

In the Torah, G-d clearly prohibited cohabitation between members of the same sex. In Biblical parlance such activity is deemed abominable and sinful. At the same time, Torah also prohibits discrimination against sinners. Homosexual activity is restricted, not the homosexual person. The act is an abomination, not the actor. The sin is forbidden, not the sinner.2

The Talmud relates a remarkable discussion that took place between the great sage Rabbi Meir and his learned wife, Bruriah. She overheard her husband praying for the downfall of a particularly vexing neighbor and advised him to pray for “an end to the vexing rather than the downfall of the vexer.” Citing the Biblical verse,3 “All sin shall cease,” she argued, “The sins must cease, not the sinners.” Rabbi Meir accepted her wise advice and prayed accordingly. Sure enough, the neighbor soon stopped his vexing ways.4

This story underscores the Torah’s approach to all sin. The act must never be condoned but the actors must also never be dismissed. We must work to educate rather than to denigrate.

Footnotes

  • 1. Genesis 2:24; Leviticus 18:22.
  • 2. To be sure, Torah advocates, and indeed obligates, the punishment of sinners. But punishment is not meted out to those who were raised in a permissive environment and do not appreciate the severity of biblical commandments. On the contrary in those situations it is incumbent upon us to educate rather than to discriminate.
  • 3. Psalm 104:35.
  • 4. Babylonian Talmud, Brachot, 10a.

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COMMENTS

Torah prohibition of same-sex marriage

Posted by: Sheila MacArthur, Newton, MA on Jul 25, 2005

This article states that the Torah prohibits same-sex cohabitation, but that is not really true. The Torah only prohibits this for men, and not all homosexuals are men, and the law is not only about men. Men are not the only people in the world.

Editor's Comment

Jewish law prohibits same-sex cohabitatoin amungst women as well. See Maimonidies laws of Forbidden Relationships 21:8

Response to the first comment

Posted by: Ploni Almoni on Jul 26, 2005

Response to the first comment,

i hope the Rabbis on this site give me permission to state this:

actually, i was taught that homosexuality is prohibited for females too. we are prohibited from acting immorally as the Egyptians (in the time of our slavery in Egypt) did & there were homosexual practices among the women. thus, this too is prohibited for women.

R' Mordechai Kamenetsky SHLIT"A tells a story: there was a woman who made a beautiful covering for a sefer Torah and she presented it to the rabbi. unfortunately, the cover was too small for the Torah. she asked the rabbi, "is it possible you can cut out parts of the Torah so you can use my covering?" the rabbi replied, "im sorry, i cannot cut out parts of the Torah, you will have to alter your covering." The lesson: we need to base our lives around the Torah; not base the Torah around our lives. it's not about doing what you want. it's about doing what Hashem wants, which is clearly stated in the Torah (written & oral).

RELATED CATEGORIES

Intimacy » Sexual Issues
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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.