An interesting set of letters has appeared regarding the phenomenon of boys who seek to get married around the age of 23 or more. The gist of the letter is that this is not spiritually healthy, especially in our day where there are many forms of attraction. They state that if a person is as mature and ready at 20 as they will be at 23+ then they should not delay the process of seeking a partner until later. There are numerous ramifications. Time will tell if this advice is efficacious or established.
There has been recent news and commentary about the organisation known as “כמוך”. This organisation seeks to provide a range of support mechanisms for those with a proclivity towards homophillia. The group advertises itself as belonging to Orthodox Judaism. R’ Haskel Lookstein wrote:
“I can’t change Jewish law, but the way one thinks about it has to change. There is something very sensitising about hearing from Jews who are shomrei mitsvot in just about every way, except for conformity to the halakha of sexual behavior, and are struggling with that tension. I wasn’t aware of the depth of the struggle before”
(cited in Debra Nussbaum Cohen, “The ‘Trembling’ Phenomenon,” The Jewish Week, November 9, 2001 )
כמוך have sought Rabbinic approbation for marriage between males and females both of whom have homophile tendencies. It would seem that, reading between the lines, those Rabbis who have expressed support for this association, would prefer to do so on a case-by-case basis, as opposed to a blanket פסק דין permitting or forbidding this practice.
Not having any idea whether such marriages of “accommodation” (I can’t think of a different way of describing them) can help change orientation, I’m not sure what the halachic basis for permitting יחוד of this variety between two people who don’t actually love each other. Technically, though, they are married, and I guess one only needs to separate from another person if one doesn’t like the person, so I guess the reasoning is “sound”. Love would does not seem to be a precondition for enabling יחוד let alone קידושין?
Either way, the innovation sits uncomfortably with me even if on a pure techno-halachic scale, it’s not forbidden. It sits uncomfortably because I can’t see it as part of the halachic norm. I can’t see קידושין as being constituted by such. I can’t imagine this to be the familial structure mandated and encouraged by the תורה. It’s not a פלגש; even from a more urbane lusty level. In the end, though, at least there is an attempt to deal with the issue and not sweep it under the proverbial carpet.
One assumes that the motivation of a Rabbi who would permit this is:
- to lessen the chance that a forbidden act is committed
- to induce, if possible, a reorientation of gender attraction
It is interesting that it’s mainly the Religious Zionist Poskim who are involved in this. I surmise that this is because they are the Israeli quasi equivalent to a Centrist Orthodoxy that doesn’t recoil from the world.
Rabbi Chaim Rapoport, who wrote a book on the general topic, states
[E]ven proponents of conversion and reparative therapy acknowledge that in many cases such therapy can, at the very most, help the individual in his pursuit of celibacy, but would not enable him to embark upon a potentially viable marital union. Furthermore, even one of the greatest optimists about the success of sexual reorientation therapies, (Orthodox) Dr. Joseph Berger, acknowledges that “even under the best of circum- stances, with highly motivated, suitable patients, the success rate is between 30 and 50 percent”. Consequently, we may conclude that it is almost universally recognized that people of exclusive and apparently unalterable orientation do exist in a significant number (p. 24).
See also the Tradition article which quotes R’ Aharon Feldman of Ner Yisrael:
Judaism looks negatively at homosexual activity, but not at the homosexual nature. Whatever the source of this nature, whether it is genetic or acquired (the Torah does not express any view on the matter), is immaterial. . . . Accordingly, a Jewish homosexual has to make a commitment to embark on a course where he will ultimately rid himself of homosexual activity. It is not necessary that he change his sexual orientation (if this is at all possible), but that he cease this activity. It is obvious that for many people this [cessation of homosexual activity] will be difficult, and will have to be accomplished over a period of time. But it must be done and it can be done.
One can only hope that Halachic life and life in general becomes easier for those facing these difficult challenges.