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Homosexuality in Judaism

The Jewish text, the Torah, says very little about homosexuality, but one verse has been used to justify the condemnation of a man’s primary relationship with another man: “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman” (Lev. 18:22). The injunction against “spilling seed” effectively means that Orthodox Jews typically restrict themselves from any homosexual acts because procreation cannot result from it.

The verse calls this behavior toh-ei-vah, which is often translated as “abomination” but “taboo” or “foreign” is more accurate — the same word applies to eating unkosher food, feeling unwholesome pride, or using false scales when weighing things.

Interestingly, there is no condemnation of lesbian relationships in the Bible, but most Jewish Orthodox rabbis argue against homosexual behavior by both men and women.

On the other hand, men can’t actually “lie with a man as with a woman” because the anatomy is different. So some people in the Jewish community don’t take this verse literally, but see it as a product of a different time and culture.

Whatever the case, attitudes toward homosexuals have changed radically in the last 40 years, and Jewish groups have begun to welcome members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Furthermore, openly gay rabbis and cantors now serve in all branches of Judaism except the Orthodox. And most liberal (and even some Conservative) rabbis have been performing same-sex marriage or commitment ceremonies for decades.

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