- (Sanh. 54a). Talmudic law extends the prohibition, but not the penalty, which is limited to flagellation, also to lesbianism, i.e., homosexual intimacies between women, based on the general warning not to indulge in the abhorrent practices of the Egyptians and the Canaanites (Sifra 9:8). While the laws on both offenses are codified by Maimonides (Yad, Issurei Bi'ah, 1:14; and 21:8), the prohibition of homosexuality proper is omitted from R. Joseph Caro's Shulhan Arukh. This omission reflects the perceived absence of homosexuality among Jews rather than any difference of views on the criminality of these acts. The Bible refers to actual incidents involving homosexuality only in describing the abominations of the sinful city of Sodom, where the entire population demanded of Lot the surrender of his visitors "that we may know them" (Gen. 19:5), i.e., have carnal knowledge of them (hence the common use of the term "sodomy" for homosexuality), and again in the story of similar conduct by a group of Benjamites in Gibeah, leading to a disastrous civil war (Judg. 19–20). In addition to these isolated cases, the Talmud records that the Egyptian Potiphar purchased Joseph "for himself " (Sot. 13b), that is, for homosexual purposes (Rashi). For the talmudic period, too, the records know of very few such incidents (see TJ, Sanh. 6:6, 23c; Jos., Ant. 15:25–30). An instructive indication of the rare incidence of homosexuality among Jews may also be found in the interesting history of a legal enactment designed to prevent it. To this end R. Judah forbade two bachelors to sleep together under one blanket (Kid. 4:14); but the view of the sages prevailed that there was no need for such a safeguard against homosexuality (Kid. 82a). Maimonides (Yad, Issurei Bi'ah 22:2) still followed the Talmud in holding that "Jews are not suspect to practice homosexuality," and therefore permitted two males to be closeted together. By the 16th century conditions had evidently changed to induce Caro, after recording this view, to add: "Nevertheless, in our times, when lewdness is rampant, one should abstain from being alone with another male" (Sh. Ar., EH 24). Yet, a century later R. Joel Sirkes again suspended the restriction, except as a praiseworthy act of piety, on the ground that "in our lands (Poland) such lewdness is unheard of " (Bayit Hadash to Tur, EH 24). Rabbinic sources advance various reasons for the strict ban on homosexuality which, incidentally, is regarded as a universal law included among "the Seven Commandments of the Sons of Noah" (Sanh. 57b–58a). It is an unnatural perversion, debasing the dignity of man (Sefer ha-Ḥinnukh, no. 209). Moreover, such acts frustrate the procreative purpose of sex, just as do any other forms of "spilling the seed in vain" (ibid.). A third objection is seen in the damage to family life, by the homosexual abandoning his wife (Tos. and R. Asher to Ned. 51a). Jewish law, then, rejected the view that homosexuality was to be regarded merely as a disease or as morally neutral, categorically rejecting the view that homosexual acts "between two consenting adults" were to be judged by the same criterion as heterosexual marriage – that is, whether they were intended to foster a permanent relation of love. Jewish law holds that no hedonistic ethic, even if called "love," can justify the morality of homosexuality any more than it can legitimize adultery or incest, however genuinely such acts may be performed out of love and by mutual consent. (Immanuel Jakobovits) With the coming of the "sexual revolution" and the breakdown of old taboos in Western society since the 1960s, attitudes toward homosexuality have greatly changed. While Orthodox Judaism continues to view homosexuality with abhorrence, the more liberal movements have sanctioned gay congregations and even gay marriages, removing the stigma entirely from such relationships. See also lesbianism . -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Oẓar ha-Posekim, 9 (1965), 236–8; L.M. Epstein, Sex Laws and Customs in Judaism, (1948), 64f., 134–8; N. Lamm, in: Jewish Life, 35 (1967–68), no. 3, 11ff.; no. 5, 53ff. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: D. Shneer and K. Aviv (eds.), Queer Jews (2002); D. Boyarin et al. (eds.), Queer Theory and the Jewish Question (2003).
Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.
Look at other dictionaries:
homosexuality — 1892; see HOMOSEXUAL (Cf. homosexual) + ITY (Cf. ity) … Etymology dictionary
Homosexuality — Sexual orientation Orientations Asexual · Bisexual · Heterosexual · Homosexual … Wikipedia
homosexuality — /hoh meuh sek shooh al i tee/, or, esp. Brit., / seks yooh /, n. sexual desire or behavior directed toward a person or persons of one s own sex. [1890 95; HOMO + SEXUALITY] * * * Sexual interest in and attraction to members of one s own sex.… … Universalium
Homosexuality — Until 1977, censorship regulations, which applied both to Spanish and foreign films, banned homosexuality as a central part of a film s plot, and before 1963, representation of sexual perversions was simply unthinkable. Of course, one of the… … Guide to cinema
Homosexuality — Until 1977, censorship regulations, which applied both to Spanish and foreign films, banned homosexuality as a central part of a film s plot, and before 1963, representation of sexual perversions was simply unthinkable. Of course, one of the… … Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema
homosexuality — The term homosexual describes those who have sex with, or are sexually attracted to, persons of the same (Greek:homo) sex. It was devised in 1869 by a Hungarian doctor (Benkert), as part of the emerging medical and scientific discourse around… … Dictionary of sociology
Homosexuality — The legal ban on homosexuality was repealed in the Russian Federation in 1993, and homosexuality was removed from the official list of mental disorders in 1999. Since then, Russia has seen an emergence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and… … Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation
homosexuality — Erotic attraction or activity, including sexual congress, between individuals of the same sex, especially past puberty. SYN: homoerotism, homoeroticism. ego dystonic h. a psychological or psychiatric disorder in which an individual experiences… … Medical dictionary
Homosexuality — The larger part of Dutch society had rejected sexual relationships between members of the same sex until the last decades of the 20th century. Although things have changed rapidly since then, discrimination of gays and lesbians still exists,… … Historical Dictionary of the Netherlands
homosexuality — Sexual relations between members of the same sex. The question whether homosexual practices are of legal concern raises questions of the proper extent of the law, and of the way a distinction may be drawn between the public and the private . It… … Philosophy dictionary