Homosexuality and Judaism

Reference: Religion Facts

To read the full text from the article, please visit the Religion Fatcs website at: http://www.religionfacts.com/homosexuality/judaism.htm


The known history of homosexuality in Judaism begins in Leviticus, which describes intercourse between male homosexuals as a capital offence. The historically prevalent view among Jews was to regard homosexual intercourse as sinful, arguing that it was forbidden by the Torah. However, this has been a subject of contention between various Jewish groups and has led to both debate and division among modern Jews.

Homosexuality in the Jewish Scriptures

The Torah is the primary source for Jewish views on homosexuality. It states that: “[A man] shall not lie with another man as [he would] with a woman, it is a to’eva” (Leviticus 18:22).

The term to’eva is usually translated as “abomination”. However, because the word is used twice in regards to homosexuality, its second use has been understood by the Talmud to be a contraction of the words to’eh hu va, meaning “He is deviating from what is natural.” (literally “He is wandering with it [from the natural way of the world]” since the Hebrew word to’e means “He is wandering”, va “with it”)

According to the rabbis, the prohibition is a part of the Noachide Laws, and thus applies to Gentiles as well as Jews. In both, very little is said about female homosexuality (known as mesoleloth). {1}

Homosexuality and Orthodox Judaism

Sexual intercourse between two men is forbidden by the Torah, as stated above, and is a capital offense. The Torah prohibition of Lo tikrevu legalot ervah (“You shall not come close to another person for the purpose of committing a sexual crime”) forbids all other sexual acts which can lead to intercourse, and prescribes the punishment of lashes.

However, under Judaism, it is very difficult to get a conviction that would lead to this prescribed punishment (and, in any case, modern instances of this are not judged). The severity of the punishment indicates the seriousness with which the act is seen.

Homosexual acts between women (lesbianism) were forbidden by the rabbis on the basis of “Do not follow the ways of Egypt where you once lived, nor of Canaan, where I will be bringing you. Do not follow [any] of their customs.” (Leviticus 18:3). The oral law (Sifra there, 8:8) explains that what is meant is sexual customs and that one of those was the marriage of women to each other, as well as a man to a woman and her daughter. The Talmud follows this view, forbidding lesbianism. Like all Rabbinical prohibitions, violation can incur lashes. Female homosexuality is regarded as less serious than male homosexuality.

The Orthodox Jewish position generally holds that homosexual attraction is not inherently sinful, though it is regarded as unnatural. However, someone who has had homosexual intercourse is seen to have allowed their “unnatural attractions” to get the better of them, and it is thus believed that they would be held accountable by God for their actions. If he does teshuva (repentance), i.e. he ceases his forbidden actions, regrets what he has done, apologizes to God, and makes a binding resolution never to repeat those actions, he is seen to be forgiven by God (in a similar manner to the other capital crimes, except murder).


To read the full text from the article, please visit the Religion Fatcs website at: http://www.religionfacts.com/homosexuality/judaism.htm