Same gender marriage

I was reading the Australian Jewish News, and I noted a letter from my cousin, Rabbi Yaron Gottlieb. In that letter, Yaron argued that whilst the Torah explicitly forbade homosexual acts, it said nothing about marriage.

I’m not too sure what to make of his statement. Yaron isn’t a Karaite, who only follows Torah SheBichsav, sans the Mesora of Torah Shebaal Peh. Accordingly, I must assume that he either heard this opinion from his Rabbis/Poskim or that he was Moreh HoRaah himself on this issue. The final possibility is that he isn’t saying anything at all regarding his opinion on that matter, rather, he was simply point scoring on a technicality.

If it is the latter, there is no more to say. I find such a response hollow and unenlightening as far as practice is concerned.

The other possibility is that he has a Psak which he relies on, as above, which concludes that there is no issue of marital union alone sans the homosexual act. If this is the case, I call upon Yaron to name the Posek. If it Yaron himself, then a learned Tshuva written by him, should be constructed and sent to the Poskim in Gush, or perhaps R’ Yehuda Herzl Henkin, men with a Bar Samcha for Psak on such important issues.

From my non-Rabbinic point of view, the Jew who finds themselves attracted to the same gender, is forbidden to be alone (Hilchos Yichud) with a person of the same gender. This is a clear Torah She Baal Peh in the Shulchan Aruch. That being the case, the formality of a union ceremony can only logically be seen as a contributor to such events as opposed to a fence which might help someone with such desires from acting on those desires. It is Lifnei Iver, or perhaps M’Sayeah LiDvar Averya? I think the former. It’s not as if there are oodles of Orthodox Rabonim who would perform a “marriage union” of this variety.

I think it’s time for Yaron to come clean. Tell us exactly what you believe is permitted and not permitted according to Orthodoxy, in this domain, and name your sources. Please ensure your Psak has been agreed to by a recognised experienced Posek. This means someone who has also done Shimush, and Yodin Yodin.

If, on the other hand, Yaron is referring to non-Jewish unions, then I’d suggest that perhaps we could go back to Sodom or Charan, and find out if they needed to formalise such unions before engaging in the forbidden act, or whether there was no such formalisation.

Yes, marriage is not Kiddushin. However, the legitimacy ascribed to such, cannot be something which will aid the couple to avoid sin, surely!

Author: pitputim

I've enjoyed being a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia, as well as band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel and later in life at Machon L'Hora'ah, Yeshivas Halichos Olam.

5 thoughts on “Same gender marriage”

  1. Isaac, I frankly think that the rabbis who issue joint declarations with Christian and Moslem clerics are at least as harmful to Judaism as your cousin’s ill-considered pronouncement. I don’t believe secular gay marriage is or should be relevant to anyone who isn’t going to use it; sitting in ecumenical forums, on the other hand, suggests that the participant rejects the uniqueness of the Torah.


  2. The written Torah says nothing about same-sex marriage, but Chazal had plenty to say about it, all of it negative. Remember that they lived in societies which had no hangups about sex, and homosexual relations were considered so completely normal that Chazal presumed that every goy engaged in them at least occasionally. They decreed טומאת זב on every goy from birth, for the specific purpose of making it inconvenient for a Jewish parent to allow his children to play with goyishe children, and their reason for wanting to discourage this was their concern over what the boys would get up to together, since the goyishe boys would see this as good clean fun,. And Chazal accepted that this was what the nations surrounding them were like, and there was nothing to be done about it. One had to live with them.

    And yet, they specifically condemned the ancient Kenaanim and Mitzrim for instituting same-sex and polyandrous marriages, defining this — rather than the sexual acts themselves — as the מעשה ארץ מצרים and מעשה ארץ כנען which the Torah condemns and forbids. And they singled out for praise those societies that, despite their acceptance of such relations, did not “write a kesubah” for them, i.e. grant them the formal legal and social status of marriages. They compared this to a cannibal society that at least has the decency not to allow human flesh to be sold openly in the marketplace.

    Our own society may well be compared to those of Chazal, and it’s precisely for such societies that Chazal tell us that there is a level of decency that they can achieve, by not granting same-sex unions the formal status of marriages. The institution of “civil unions”, which used to be popular until a few years ago, seems to me to satisfy exactly this concern of Chazal; the partners have all the practical advantages of marriage, but are specifically denied the formal recognition.

    More recently we’ve seen the political gay movement reject such “civil unions” and insist on “marriage”, even where the practical results are almost the same, and the reason they give is that they davka want the formal dignity that comes only with “marriage” and not with an equivalent institution. This makes Chazal’s point, that the distinction is significant and deeply important, even if it has no practical implications. It therefore seems to me that from a Torah point of view we ought to encourage legislatures to establish “civil unions” and oppose the establishment of “marriage” for such couples.


  3. Even in the secular world this represents a fundamental shift.
    Whether it is in a legal or linguistic sense it represents a redefining of basic terms. No only that, but such a broadening introduces a certain vagueness and fuzzyness to our everday understanding of terms.
    Just like referring to one’s partner used to mean a business partner without any further qualification now it requires further elucidation or context.
    Terms and language are there for a purpose constantly changing the ‘goal posts’ introduces uncertainty, lack of clarity and the reqiuremment for extra work.
    For the record, some terms are gender specific others are not, ‘Chairman’ is not genric and non-gender specific. The ‘-man’ suffix which is not an actual suffix but part of the word does not (necessarily refer to the male of the species. (i.e. chairman = chair, as in speaking through the chair).


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