Homosexuality and Lesbianism

Homosexuality, per se, is not forbidden. How could it be? Judaism recognizes this state of being and inclination. However, the Torah clearly forbids the homosexual to act on this inclination. The homosexual act is absolutely forbidden, and the wording in Lev. 18:22 is so forceful that there is little room to interpret or maneuver around the commandment.

“Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abhorrence.”

The practice of homosexuality, in the Torah, is punishable by death.

“Both shall be put to death–their blood guilt is upon them.” (Lev. 20:13)

The Torah gives no reason for this strongly worded commandment.

Homosexuality is today not at all related to cult. Its causes are complex, but it cannot be regarded as a willful act of religious disobedience. Judaism as such cannot offer formal recognition to the bond that links homosexual persons, nor allow them any special privileges, but it also cannot deny them their Jewishness and the rights and privileges attached to it.


Lesbianism is never mentioned in the Torah. One Talmudic reference exists:

Rav Huna taught that, “厀omen who have sex with one another are forbidden to marry a Kohen.” Other Rabbis, however, do not agree with him, and do allow a lesbian to marry a Kohen.

Maimonides rules that lesbianism is forbidden, punishable by flagellation. Following this ruling, rabbinical literature prohibits lesbianism.

Rabbinical responses to Gay Jews Today

One can distinguish three main positions concerning this thorny issue:

A) The Orthodox position supports the prohibition, but stresses the need to have compassion for homosexuals.
“God says “no” to the homosexual lifestyle, and man cannot change that,” writes Rabbi Fridlander Halachic. (Perspectives, 1986)

B) The compromise position tries to maintain the relevance of Halakha, and therefore wants it changed in order to be more accommodating to gays. The argument for change is that, today, we know much more about the topic than when the Halakha was written, and know that this is not an issue of volition if one is born gay, i.e., if God makes one gay. The Rabbis that adhere to this position maintain that, “卙omosexuals should be allowed to find holiness in their gay relationship applying the Torah precepts of love and respect and, of course, fidelity and modesty.”

C) The rejection of Jewish Law (Halakha) would incorporate gays into the Jewish community. Rabbis that adopt this position consider Halakha an historic document, that is, part of their culture, having no authority in modern culture. The premise of this position is that one must search for “true spirituality in sexuality,” and wherever one finds it, one finds completeness and holiness.