The sexual revolution that burst on the scene in the western world more than a half century ago, transformed the basic assumptions and mores of societies that had been rooted for centuries in legal and moral attitudes based on the Judeo-Christian worldview (more Christian, of course, than Judaic). The core values of traditional societies stemmed from the Bible and its interpretations in the various religious traditions faithful to scripture as mediated by law and the social attitudes of the modern nation state. For example, in the United States sixty years ago, divorce was highly frowned upon, many formal legal obstacles to its use were in place, and abortion was illegal in all states of the Union. Living together without marital commitment was highly frowned upon and stigmatized as was “having children out of wedlock” which was considered shameful. In many states , homosexual congress was considered a crime- i.e. sodomy- and prosecuted. In addition, revelation of one’s homosexuality could end one’s career and lead to discrimination in housing, employment, health care and other areas of civic life without any legal recourse. This treatment of gay people was considered legal and appropriate in dealing with “deviants” and “perverts”, as gay people were referred to in common parlance. Homosexuality was still considered a mental illness by the leading mental health organizations and people lived their entire lives in the “closet”. Sixty years later, in one of the most startling and swift cultural, societal, and legal shifts that any society has experienced, the entire classic traditional moral underpinnings of western society have been turned on their head. Abortion, at some stages of pregnancy, was legalized many decades ago throughout many western countries, divorce is rampant and accessible, and living together before marriage and having children without marriage is common and devoid of most stigmas. And most startling, sixty years on, not only is homosexuality no longer considered a mental illness, but is celebrated and held up in popular culture and large swaths of society as a fully legitimate and alternative life to traditional heterosexual family life. Moreover, on the legal front, not only is homosexual congress no longer a criminal offense, but gay marriage is now legal throughout the United States and other western countries, a development that would have been unthinkable barely a decade ago. This swift and total transformation in the legal and cultural landscape has, as with any cultural and legal shifts in morals, brought many of these issues to the forefront of the American Orthodox community that lives, works and breathes the air of modern society and has been fully integrated into it for the last half century as native, fully American citizens.
As members of the gay community began “coming out” and the stigmas fell in general society, the change was not long in coming (with a lag of a decade or so) in Orthodox circles as well. In the last two decades, in parallel fashion to general society, the walls of silence and denial have come tumbling down and yeshiva high school graduates in college and beyond began coming out to their parents and communities. A few years hence we are at the point where kids are coming out in yeshiva high school, if not earlier. Numerous support groups and organizations that advocate for gay Orthodox teens, adults and parents of Orthodox gay people, have arisen throughout the United States and Israel. In that vein, in the fifty years, and especially in the last two decades as the pace of change has accelerated, Orthodox poskim, thinkers, communal rabbis and communal activists have addressed the growing phenomenon of gay members of the community. Symposia, lectures, panels at rabbinic and educational conferences, articles and entire volumes have been written addressing various aspects of this phenomenon in the last two decades. Most of these writings and pronouncements have generally dealt with broad questions of halakhic and communal policy such as the level of inclusivity that Orthodox shuls, schools, camps and families should manifest to those who identify as gay, with various nuances depending on the level of non-halakhic behavior the person engages in. Questions that have been addressed include can someone who identifies as gay or engages in same sexual behavior receive ritual honors in the synagogue, can they be members in good standing of a community, should one encourage psychological counseling (of various forms), should people be encouraged to come out in their communities or remain closeted, should gay people be encouraged to go out and marry those of the opposite gender in the hopes that it will “work out” or should they be strongly discouraged to do so or at least be fully up front with their potential spouse before moving ahead in any serious relationship?. These and a myriad of other personal and communal questions such as hosting gay support groups for shabbatonim or allowing gay youth to march at the Israel Day Parade have often dominated the communal discourse and the various statements , writings, responsa and public declarations of the community.
Moreover, a good chunk of the writing has justifiably focused on the pastoral dimensions of the phenomenon and how should families and friends react/engage with those family members who identify as gay with all its attendant challenges. Less systematic thought and writing has been given to the theological and philosophical dimensions that many young people , whether gay or not, struggle with in dealing with squaring the reality of a the existence of a significant percentage of good , loving, ethical, people; themselves, friends, relatives who are gay, and the explicit biblical and rabbinic opprobrium directed to homosexuality that touches on the “fairness”, justice, eternity and inerrancy of God’s word as interpreted in halakha. As one educator put it1See https://shalhevetboilingpoint.com/opinion/2016/09/14/the-biggest-challenge-to-emunah-of-our-time/, in arguably, hyperbolic terms:
This may surprise many adults, but the reconciliation of the Torah’s discussion of homosexuality represents the single most formidable religious challenge for our young people today. More young people are “coming out” than ever before, and that repeatedly puts a face to this theological challenge…
As they go off to college, students invariably face the painful moral dilemma created by the seemingly intractable conflict: believing in the primacy and validity of the Torah on the one hand, and following their hearts’ sense of morality with regard to loving and accepting their gay friends – or perhaps “coming out” themselves—on the other. All too often, this earnest challenge results in our children quietly losing faith in the Torah as a moral way of life.
In my experience, many, if not most, 20 to 40-year olds in the modern Orthodox world struggle with the issue of homosexuality and the divinity of the Torah. They believe in a kind and just God and they want to believe in the divinity of the Torah. But at the same time they feel fairly certain that being gay is not a matter of choice. In the apparent conflict of these ideas, the first two premises seem to be losing ground.
At first blush, a reflective individual familiar with classical Jewish and general religious thought may be tempted to question the uniqueness of the issue at hand. Shouldn’t this simply be part of the general eternal question of the existence of suffering in a world created by a just and loving God? On one level this is certainly true. However, it appears that on a sociological level, this issue (together with women’s exclusion from certain religious roles) seems to bring greater pain and questioning to religiously oriented people (especially young people) in contemporary society, than the existence of suffering in general. This may have to do with the fact that evil caused by human beings, “allowed by God”, seems to be more intelligible via the free will argument about the nature of the world and human autonomy, while the suffering caused by natural disasters or illness seem to be something that are part of the inherent nature of the world, biology or human frailty.
The fact that God would create human beings with natural inclinations of same sex attractions and then via the law, His word, rather than some natural process, shut them out from any ability to have meaningful intimacy seems to many people to be sui generis. Fort many it is particularly difficult to square this legal phenomenon with their conception of a commanding God who is merciful and righteous. This particular ethical and theological discomfort may be exacerbated by the sociological reality of living in a culture that is deeply rooted in “human rights” and freedom as the ultimate yardsticks of the morality of any policy.
The goal of this paper is two-fold:
First, we will map out the major theological approaches to this question that are explicit or implicit in much of the literature, statements and pronouncements that have emerged from various quarters of the Orthodox community in the last 30 years. In the course of the presentation we will raise questions on the cogency of each view and whether it satisfies in outlining a theological structure that can “work” for the thinking Modern-Orthodox Jew struggling with these issues.
Second, after laying out these various perspectives I will outline what appears to this writer to be the most compelling perspective in addressing this dilemma theologically and which stands the best chance of resonating within a Modern-Orthodox high school setting.
The reality which we today inhabit is one where there is much pain, ambivalence , anger and alienation among many of our sons and daughters (both gay and straight). Some are leaving our community and the world of shmirat hamitzvot entirely because of the challenges, both practical and philosophical, presented by squaring their understanding of a loving and caring God and the tradition and its assumptions and dictates in this area of sexual ethics. This paper is an attempt to try, in some measure, to address that reality and those questions in a way that can be as intellectually inclusive as possible within the framework of traditional Jewish categories. It is my hope that having theological categories to work with will help our students to remain within the community, even with questions and challenges. Moreover, even if we cannot square all the circles or solve all the problems, the effort to take people and their concerns seriously and with empathy more than justifies the endeavor. Hazal recognized that sometimes the law creates suffering for real human beings through no fault of their own.
It is that ethos that permeates the famous comments of the rabbis that God is attentive to the cries of those who cannot marry halakhically through no fault of their own, such as mamzeirim:
(Ecclesiastes 4:1): And I returned and considered all the oppressions (that were done under the sun; and beheld the tears of those that were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressor there was power, but they had no comforter):’ Daniel (Hanina) the Tailor interpreted this verse as mamzerim: “And behold the tears of the oppressed, their fathers committed a sin and these humiliated ones are removed’?! This one’s father had illicit sexual relations – What did he [the child] do? Why should it make a difference for him? They had no comforter, but from the hand of their persecutors there is strength,” this is the Great Assembly of Israel which comes against them with the power of the Torah and removes them based on “no mamzer shall enter the congregation of the Lord” (Deut. 23:3). And they have no comforter, Thus, God says, “I have to comfort them,” because in this world they are refuse, but in the Messianic Age … they are pure gold. (Vayikra Rabbah 32:8)
As human beings and Jews charged to follow in the ways of God, this ethos of compassion and understanding, even if we cannot change the law in any significant way, should animate us in our human interactions, social policy and those areas of life that can help dry some of those tears, if only a few of them.
B. Approaches in Orthodoxy
1 . Rejection of the Premise of the Dilemma-i.e. Homosexuality is Abnormal and Purely a Rebellion Against God
In a 1976 responsa2See Appendix at the end of this paper, source #1 for full text of the selection., the late and revered posek, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt”l unequivocally lays out the view that homosexuality is “disgusting” and rejects that there could be any desire for such sexual intimacy. The only desire for such activity must be driven by a purely evil desire to “rebel against the will of God”. There is no natural desire to engage in homosexual activity and even the gentiles recognize that reality. Moreover, even the gay person himself, “the wicked”, in R. Feinstein’s language, looks down on his partners and recognizes that this is a debasing and unnatural act. In a later passage in the responsa, R. Feinstein even castigates those who search for reasons why the Torah forbids homosexual relations for in doing so “they undermine the severity of the prohibition in the eyes of the evildoers who lust for this repugnant indulgence”. In this paradigm there can be no natural inclination to engage in gay sex, all societies frown upon it and it is patently obvious that anyone can stop engaging in homosexual acts if they just summon up sufficient religious motivation to avoid sin. In R. Feinstein’s model no one is born inherently with homosexual tendencies or inclinations and there is no room for gay identity. It would appear that a school or community adopting R. Feinstein’s rubric would be hard pressed to accept a student or adult into the walls of its institution as long as the person openly declares themselves to be a homosexual with no intention of attempting to reign in their “evil” and “disgusting” inclinations or in hiding their sexual identification which is a direct “rebellion” to God and his Torah.
R. Feinstein’s categorical statements are clear and sharp, however, an honest evaluation of our empirical reality seems to fly in the face of his contentions. There appear to be many people who sincerely and honestly feel and experience that they have deep same-sex attractions that they have had since their youth. This percentage of the population, whatever exact number it may be, does not yearn to rebel against God and continues to experience same sex attraction even after psychological counseling and therapy to change their sexual orientation. These men , women and teenagers deeply experience their sexual orientation as part and parcel of their very being that were endowed with by their Creator. They long for intimacy with a same sex partner while wanting to connect to the God, the Jewish people, Torah and mitzvot. And in many instances, contra, R. Feinstein, the gay person can only find such a union and intimacy on any emotional and psychological level with someone of the same sex. In some instances that even reaches the point that they are physically incapable of engaging in heterosexual relations.
Moreover a number of classical Jewish sources seem to stand in opposition to R. Feinstein’s contention. For example Tosofot (Sanhedrin 9a) in one of the solutions to a contradiction they raise that need not detain us here states that the homosexual desire is very powerful- יצרו תוקפו and thus a person would not be disqualified from giving testimony certainly implying that for a portion of the population there is a real desire for homosexual congress. This view is also implicit in the comment of Rav Kook who writes that:
That small amount of desire (for homosexual relations) that might be found in an individual which is ineradicable, was foreseen by the sages. Regarding it they said: “Whatever a man wants, etc. It is comparable to a fish which comes from the fish market. If he wants, he eats it fried; if he wants, he eats it boiled.” Thus, they (i.e. the sages) plumbed the depths of human nature to the point of compassion on those perverted from birth. Nevertheless, they commented: “Why do crippled (infants) arise? Because they “overturn their table” (a euphemism for anal intercourse.)
In Rav Kook’s view, there is a small amount of desire for homosexual intimacy (in many people?, some?)which exists “from birth” and Hazal in their wisdom allowed for certain sexual behaviors within the context of legitimate heterosexual intercourse to allow for permissible outlets for those desires.
Thirdly, R. Feinstein gives great credence to the fact that even gentile society views homosexuality in a very negative light. While this may have been true as a general statement for most of R. Feinstein life, this has certainly shifted in many segments of the western world in the last three decades. What happens to Rav Moshe’s theological structure when the social assumptions have changed so dramatically?
Others who clearly took a different perspective from R. Feinstein include diverse figures such as the Lubavitcher Rebbe-R. Menachem Mendel Schneerson, R. Aharon Feldman and R. Yuval Cherlow.
R. Schneerson in an address in 1986 notes that Maimonides in Hilkhot Teshuvah notes that people are characterized by various moral dispositions and personality traits, some of which are there from birth, but are not universal. Thus, for some people, homosexual urges are non-existent, while others may have such desires “from the beginning of his existence and correspond to his physical constitution.” What is key for Maimonides and the Rebbe is that each human being also has free will and the ability to rein in those desires and traits.
Other contemporary rabbinic figures of stature also explicitly take issue with R. Feinstein’s premise. For example , R. Aharon Feldman in his celebrated letter to an baal teshuvah who was gay (a letter we will return to later in this paper) speaks in a similar vein when he writes:
“I believe that the course you have taken is correct: you refuse to deny your nature as a homosexual while at the same time refuse to deny your Jewishness.”
This is made even more explicit in a short responsa of R. Yuval Cherlow who writes:
“The Torah’s perspective on homosexuality does not claim “that it is unnatural” but rather that there is a need to struggle with phenomena that are natural and normal. In the same section in the Torah (discussing the proscription on homosexuality), the Torah also mentions many other natural things regarding relationships between men and women(that are forbidden) and yet the Torah categorically forbids them. Even if we are speaking of things that arise of out of normal /natural desires, the Torah does not simply accept nature as it is, but rather spreads its impact and attempts to shape it according to the foundations of holiness and ethics.”
In summary, acceptance of the reality of an innate homosexual nature among some percentage of the population is not inimical to Jewish tradition and thought. R. Feinstein’s contentions were not universally adopted by contemporary rabbinic thinkers and fly in the face of the lived reality of people in the community. Rejection of R. Feinstein’s paradigm can begin the process of creating an honest and convincing theological framework for our schools and community discussion.
2. Homosexuality is A Challenge that Anyone Can Overcome
In the summer of June 2010 a consensus document prepared by Modern Orthodox educators, Rabbis Nathaniel Helfgot, Yitzchak Blau, and Aryeh Klapper entitled “A Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a Homosexual Orientation in Our Communities”3The full text appears in the appendix, source #2 with hundreds of signatures by other rabbis and educators was published on line generating much discussion and reaction. Among the sections that were most discussed were the statements that:
“Whatever the origin or cause of homosexual orientation, many individuals believe that for most people this orientation cannot be changed. Others believe that for most people it is a matter of free will. Similarly, while some mental health professionals and rabbis in the community strongly believe in the efficacy of “change therapies”, most of the mental health community, many rabbis and most people with a homosexual orientation feel that some of these therapies are either ineffective or potentially damaging psychologically for many patients.
We affirm the religious right of those with a homosexual orientation to reject therapeutic approaches they reasonably see as useless or dangerous.
These words indicated the ambivalence that existed at the time in the Modern-Orthodox community to the question of reparative therapy, its effectiveness and the morality of forcing anyone to undergo such therapies. The statement clearly implies that the authors do not believe that everyone has the ability to change and in many instances it is not desirable to attempt that move as well. This section, (primarily), led those in the Orthodox community who were more conservative and associated with the more Hareidi leaning parts of the community, to craft a counter statement entitled the “Declaration on the Torah Approach to Homosexuality” published in late December 2011. This declaration4For full text of the selection see appendix, source #3. made a number of biological and theological claims including:
1. It’s unequivocal view that homosexuality is not a permanent, inherent orientation, but one that is entirely malleable.
2. God is a good and loving God and thus He would not command us in mitzvot that are impossible to fulfill.
3. Thus, it would be impossible that God would create human beings who would be unable to fulfill their sexual and emotional needs within permitted parameters.
4. Through intensive teshuvah and therapy each and every person can change from homosexual orientation back to the “normal” state of heterosexuality.
This forceful enunciation of a clear-cut theology and philosophy was published a few weeks after the publication of an interview in Hakirah with R. Shmuel Kaminetsky, a leading American haredi rosh yeshiva and prime mover behind the Torah Declaration. In defend the justice, morality and inerrancy of God’s word by affirming that a “homosexual” simply does not exist. God, it is argued, would not create someone with such an inclination and powerful drive for companionship and yet forbid that person to actualize such a life. This would be a “cruel trick”. In this model the gay individual and his deep-seated beliefs, the interview, R. Kaminetsky had already articulated a theology that strives vigorously to feelings and experiences are ultimately not real and the only option is for the individual to recognize that and change. As such it must be that reparative therapy is possible for everyone and the recommended course of treatment. This theological structure attempts to maintain the integrity of God’s justice at the price of rejecting the lived experience of human beings. On one level it reminds one of certain religious thinkers who in addressing the conundrum of how bad things can happen to good people resolved the dilemma by rejecting the notion that evil was really “real” and that it was only illusory.5For the full citation from the interview see the appendix source #4. The formulation also has echoes of a kind of popular American Christian adage/folk wisdom that “God does not give anyone burden that is too hard to handle”
These theological claims are problematic and do not stand up to scrutiny in light of core Jewish teaching and the lived reality of people in the community. R. Chaim Rapoport in his important volume “Homosexuality and Judaism” has directly, and correctly, noted a number of deficiencies in this theological claim and its ramifications:
- The empirical evidence undercuts the theological argument made by R. Kaminetsky. For example, even many ardent proponents of reparative therapy admit that a significant percentage (up to 50%) of gay persons cannot change their orientation.
- R. Kaminetsky admits that for many people the struggle to change their orientation is a life-long one, but this puts us back at square one. As R. Rapaport notes: If “Hashem does not play cruel tricks on his creatures” why would He place people in circumstances wherein they have to spend their entire lifetime trying to change their orientation while throughout that same lifetime they remain constrained in a homo sexual orientation with all the challenges that it entails? And if “Hashem does not play cruel tricks on his creatures” why would He not enable some people to find the “space” that would enable them to change? If indeed, as Rabbi Kamenetsky clearly asserts, the individual cannot be blamed for not succeeding, because change is not necessarily in his control, why would G-d not facilitate change for such individuals? What “outlet that is acceptable within Torah” do such people have?
- Finally, R. Rapoport addresses the problems of R. Kaminetsky’s views from a purely theological perspective:
- Many heterosexual individuals are born or develop natural conditions or have halakhic restrictions that do not allow them to ever experience the blessings of intimacy or marriage. They too do not seem to ever have outlets or solutions to their struggles and challenges within the halakhic framework.
- The claim that there must always be a solution to every halakhic problem is theologically problematic as it does not jibe with the experience of human beings in history nor was that the theology that emerges from the Bible , Hazal or the great Baalei Mahshavah. As R. Rapaport notes:
As to why, from the human vantage point, G-d does apparently “play cruel tricks with His creatures,” one only needs to open up the Holy Scriptures to learn that Divinely inflicted suffering is ultimately beyond human grasp. In the Psalms and Ecclesiastes, as well as in The Ethics of Our Fathers and the Talmud, Prophets and Sages alike confront the issue of theodicy in different ways and provide a variety of theological strategies for dealing with “the suffering of the righteous.” Yet ultimately the man of faith will humbly accept that we, with our limited intelligence, can never adequately plumb the depths of such mysteries. If we ever become inclined to presumptuousness in this regard we ought to retract and confess as did the Biblical Job (Job 42:3): “I did indeed speak without understanding, of things too wondrous for me and which I did not know.
The views outlined here are ones that I believe are fully in consonance with Modern-Orthodoxy and its educational system. In broad terms we believe in confronting reality head on, looking at the best science of the time and exhibiting humility in the face of suffering. Reparative therapy does not work in many/most instances and can often leave painful scars on those who are encouraged to pursue it undermining the claim that every person with same sex attraction can, with enough effort, change their orientation. Moreover, on the theological level we do not educate our children per some kabbalistic thinkers that evil is not real or that God would not bring suffering on people that they cannot handle. For example in approaching the Holocaust, Modern-Orthodox thinkers such as the Rav, Dr. Norman Lamm, Rav Lichtenstein or Dr. Eliezer Berkovits reject classic theodicies that justify God by attributing fault to the victims. We, our leading lights and our students, reject such notions as not commensurate with the reality of the evil, the actual state of the people involved, our notions of the justice of God nor the other voices in the tradition which present other theodicies. Similarly in this instance, the presentation of a gay person as not really existing, per R. Kaminetsky, is unsatisfying and unconvincing.
3. Homosexuals Have A Great Challenge That Ennobles The Soul
In the famous letter6The entire letter is printed here: https://guardyoureyes.com/resources/ssa/item/a-letter-by-reb-ahron-feldman-to-a-gay-baal-teshuva authored by R. Aharon Feldman, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Ner Israel in Baltimore and a leading contemporary hareidi thinker, to a gay baal teshuvah, he adopts a number of interesting theological positions. He maintains that it is certainly possible that homosexuality is an inborn and essential part of the nature of the gay person. At the same time the Torah commands us to refrain from certain forbidden sexual behaviors. in that context, R. Feldman lays out a classic theological claim found in some strands of literature of the Mussar movement that:
Life is meant to be a set of challenges by which we continuously grow spiritually. Any physical defect curtails the enjoyment of life, but, on the other hand, meeting the challenge inherent in such a defect can be the greatest source of joy and accomplishment. Challenges are what life is all about, and homosexuality is one of these challenges. It is difficult for us to understand why certain people were given certain shortcomings as their challenge in life and other were not. We cannot fathom God’s ways but we can be sure that there is a beneficence behind these handicaps. When these shortcomings are met they will grant us a greater satisfaction from our lives and a deeper devotion to G-d than if we were not given them.
This broad theological claim is rooted in the notion that overcoming a nisayon, a challenge, and holding back from acting on desires, even deeply ingrained or inborn desires, shapes us into better human beings and servants of God. This is a form of what has been developed by the late philosopher John Hicks as the theodicy of viewing this world as a “vale of soul making” (borrowing a celebrated phrase from one of John Keat’s letters). In this theodicy, God desires the human being to achieve moral perfection and spiritual growth. This can be achieved, only through the use of the human beings moral and spiritual muscles. Suffering and challenges help one actualize their moral and spiritual potential. As R. Feldman notes the human being cannot know the exact details of the Divine economy and why one person is given the challenge of struggling with homosexual urges while others have to deal with other challenges to achieve their purpose in life.
The challenge to this theological construct is the one that applies to all forms of the vale of soul making theodicies, namely: One can still be troubled about the notion of the justice and fairness of a God if He creates the world in such a way that the only way to achieve perfection or reach beatitude is to have to learn virtues that rely on experiencing suffering? Why cannot the means not be just and more pleasant as well? The classic answer is that achieving spiritual heights or a refined soul through the crucible of suffering are “worth” more, allow one to reach greater and deeper growth than if God would simply hand one these ends without any struggle. Again, the challenge at the end of the day is that the reader, including this author, is left with deep questions about the fairness of God’s world and the need for the pain that so many seem to have to go through to achieve some possible perfection in the future, whether here or in the afterlife.
4. Homosexuals Play A Unique Role in Jewish Society
A second suggestion, made by R. Feldman, appears in an earlier section of his letter. In that portion he suggests an alternate divine rationale for the existence of gay people tied specifically to the fact that they cannot find sexual satisfaction in the normal fashion envisioned by Torah. R. Feldman makes the stunning claim that the observant gay person can achieve certain goals and play. Certain roles in society, and specifically in Jewish society that the married individual “burdened” with the responsibility of raising a family have a hard time fulfilling, can be achieved by a gay person. For example, a gay person can play a significant role in bringing Judaism to far flung communities without the concerns of where their children will receive a proper Jewish education.7For the full citation see the Appendix source #6. (This comment , of course, reflects the times when it was written, 1990’s when the notion of a gay couple raising a family through adoption or surragocy was not a live option or contemplated.)
R. Feldman does not directly claim that this is the purpose of the existence of the homosexual, but it can certainly be interpreted as offering an explanation of God’s “plan”. This rationale may resonate with some of our students as it creates a clear purpose for God’s creation of the homosexual and his being different than the majority of human beings. It accepts the reality that there are homosexuals who are born that way and sees ultimate purpose to all of God’s creations. One challenge to R. Feldman’s suggestion is that it posits that there would be whole categories of people who are, prima facia, from the very outset of God’s plan for the world, who were destined to be exempt from the divine directive to engage in marriage and procreation. These persons would have been created with a built-in exemption to a foundational element of the nature of the human experience as outlined in the Torah’s first chapters and embedded in the halakhic system from time and memorial. This sweeping understanding, does not too the best, of my knowledge, appear in any source prior to R. Feldman’s letter and is quite novel to say the least.
A second objection is that while some gay people, like any human being, may find fulfillment in doing community work and the like, there are many who do not see their life’s destiny in these areas. These people would denied both the fulfillment of family life and companionship and any meaningful replacement given their lack of desire to be pigeonholed into a career on behalf of the community. If they would be forced into such a life , the element of free choice and autonomy would be totally undermined as well.
5. The Prohibition of Homosexuality As A Chok
Many have come to adopt the view that there is no human rational explanation that can truly explain why loving committed, gay couples cannot come together in intimacy and love. As R. Chaim Rapoport already wrote more than a decade ago:
We may say that homosexuality may be perceived as a rationally compelling commandment-a mishpat- in certain cases, whilst in other it may well be perceived, rightly or wrongly-as a commandment that transcends human logic- a chok.
This insight yields the honest reflection that the loneliness, pain and suffering that many homosexuals who want to remain committed to halakha experience is highly theologically challenging. They are a part of the general question of “why do bad things happen to good people?” and raise many difficult and searing questions that been part of the Jewish and general theological world from time and memorial. As he writes:
God surely could have brought about whatever Divine purpose there is in the emotional trauma, depression, despair and suicidal feelings that homosexuals…may be subject to, with suffering and evil malaise. Ultimately, therefore the fact, that human beings have to endure intense misery, even if it is in order to receive the subsequent good, remains at a certain level -an enigma.
This, of course, places the dilemma into the larger context of theodicy and God’s justice and in a sense closes down any further discussion of the underpinnings of this law. For many people this may be the only honest move that they can live with, but it too carries some educational and philosophic challenges. The dangers of this move to treating the prohibition as pure chok have been eloquently articulated by R. Aryeh Klapper in a lengthy post on the website of his institute.8See source #6 in the appendix at the conclusion of the paper.
R. Klapper identifies a trend that has been evident on the ground in many Modern-Orthodox circles for the last decade and is probably the space in which many in the community including many committed students would place themselves. There is no clear rationale for the prohibition on homosexual congress except it is a type of gezeirat hakatuv like the laws of shatnez. As Orthodox Jews we are committed to living and accepting the binding nature of the entirety of the system even the parts we don’t understand or agree with. Religious prohibitions on same sexual activity fall into this category of law. As such there is no moral opprobrium attached to the act nor should the people involved be viewed in any jaundiced light. As such for many students and young adults in the Modern-Orthodox community the entire discussion around acceptance of some form of secular same sex marriage was a no brainer. Loving committed same sex couples who are not harming anyone else (no harm -no foul) should have no restrictions in the secular realm. Moreover given that the prohibition even in religious terms is seen as a pure gezierat hakatuv it should extremely limited to the actual act of אין בו-cohabitation and should not be expanded in any way or to use halakhic language Thus gay people should be fully integrated and their loving relationships .אלא חידושו even celebrated as we do with all other people even those in our community who fail to live up to other norms of the community. Moreover in an Orthodox community where there is much concern and angst about the shidduch crisis and people being lonely and not experiencing love and companionship the reality that some find their existential soul mates in same sex relationships is seen as something to be valued and appreciated.
Thus, for many young people, the recent controversies as to whether a shul bulletin should include a mazal tov announcements congratulating the parents of a gay couple who have married in a secular ceremony become unintelligible. As long we are not engaging in the actual violation of the sin of cohabitation or celebrating that private behavior , “what is the big deal?”. This trend is clear and has taken deep root in the consciousness of many people in the community. At the same time it raises profound educational questions for the future. As R. Klapper notes, can the perception of the prohibition on homsexuality as a gezierat hakatuv, alone, stand up in the face of the strong cultural winds that so dominate the modern western society’s sexual ethic.
Will it not erode and slowly evolve into a dead letter? Will one be able to teach traditional normative Jewish texts with their vigorous heteronormative assumptions and aspirations which privileges, both legally and existentially, huppah vekiddushin between a man and woman with the goal of bringing children into the world ? In light of that, it may be critical that the Modern-Orthodox educational system not simply accepts this ongoing trend but buck it in a counter-cultural way. While affirming the dignity and respect for gay and lesbian Jews and educating towards full inclusion in the community, the community and its educational system needs to recapture and educate towards a more robust conception of sexuality that is not simply about consent but also highlights the themes of kedusha as understood throughout the continuum of Jewish texts and tradition. (It is not for naught that Rambam places the laws of forbidden unions in the book of Kedusha). This would require hightened emphasis on unpacking the concepts of sanctity in the use of our physical bodies, values of restraint and sacrifice in our experience of physical pleasure, sexual pleasure and fulfillment as a value but one among many competing and constraining values in our conception of the life of the ideal human being. Given such an educational stance and educational model, it then would be possible to integrate the last theological construct which we will examine below, which speaks to this author as holding as a valid model for educational implimentation.
6. Homosexuality: A Rationale and the Lo Plug
In private conversations with a number of rabbis and thinkers over the last few years, a
number of people have raised the following possible theological model for discussion:
1. The Torah’s prohibition on homosexual behavior is absolute and binding in all instances and generations irrespective of what rationale we can divine.
2. The Torah’s prohibition on homosexual behavior is rooted in a number of possible rationales, none of which are mutually exclusive, and all of which should be presented in our educational settings:
a) The desire of the Torah to focus sexual intercourse on the procreative act or the potential for procreation which does not exists in homosexual congress.
b) the danger to the marital bond and relationship when men look for their sexual fulfillment outside of the marital bond
c) Many homosexual liaisons were non-consensual and involved masters coercing slaves or young men to serve them or pleasure them in a relationship where one person was taking advantage of the other.
3. The Torah was not primarily addressing the concept of a committed monogamous relationship between two consenting adults as that did not exist in the midst of most of human history and most people in the world, even those who engaged in homosexual behavior were either, to use our modern terminology, heterosexual or bi-sexual, not exclusively homosexual in orientation. Yet , given the nature of legislating such laws and the difficulty in identifying exact parameters, the Torah legislates an absolute prohibition on all homosexual congress, in a type of biblical lo-plug that is binding in all situations.
4. One result of this absolute law is that a small percentage of people in society who are exclusively homosexual may experience suffering and pain as a result of the “greater” purpose of the law. This would then be a parade example of Maimonides’ famous assertion in the Guide for the Perplexed:
“Among the things you ought to know is the fact that the Law does not pay attention to the isolated. The Law was not given with a view to things that are rare, For in everything that it wishes to bring about… it is directed only toward the things that occur in the majority of cases and pays no attention to what happens rarely or to the damage occurring to the unique human being…(Nevertheless) the governance of the Law ought to be universal, including everyone, even if it is suitable only for certain individuals and not suitable for others.”
This theological structure does not change the force of the law in any way, but it can affect our sensitivity and attitude to those who are committed homosexuals. This idea has also been articulated in a private communication by a prominent educator:
As Rambam teaches in the Moreh, the Torah is given for the majority of cases in history and sometimes individuals suffer. So what if one were to conjecture that the Torah prohibited all homosexual congress because it wanted sexual expression to be limited to the marriage arena and not outside of it in any way and focused on procreation or that potential? In majority homosexual union would be outside of the established relationships, sometimes would be degrading, sometimes would be to dominate etc. But the Torah made a kind of biblical lo plug that even if one could create a loving monogamous relationship in the context of homosexual love, it was still forbidden because of the overwhelming majority of cases. Thus, the Torah makes an absolute statement and we are bound by that. But in the eyes of God, the person who is a gay and monogamous is viewed differently and will be understood on those terms, even though in the real world we cannot celebrate such a union or give it equal legitimacy to heterosexual marriage. It obviously doesn’t change the Jewish law on the ground but maybe allows people to think about their place in the community. It also allows us to recognize that while we cannot sanction or encourage homosexual behavior, we certainly see a monogamous, committed relationship with companionship and loyalty as infinitely better and more valued than a promiscuous homosexual lifestyle of hooking up that is disconnected from family and commitment.
This is also appears to be the thrust of the recent comments of veteran communal rabbi and leader, R. Shlomo Riskin who in a newspaper interview stated:
“We cannot permit that which the Torah forbids. On the other hand there is a concept of Oness Rahamana Patrei God exempts those who are coerced to commit a sin from punishment for that sin.
I would like to propose the following: The verses that discuss homosexuality speak of it as a toeivah which the Talmud interprets as a toeah ata bah- you are acting in a mistaken fashion. In the days of Socrates and Plato, many of the Greeks were bi-sexual and the philosophers encouraged homsexuality, because then there is no challenge with raising children , they did not believe in the having children at all.. I believe that this is what the Torah is speaking about, i.e. someone who is heterosexual and chooses to be a homosexual. About such a person it is stated: toeh ata bah. Oness Rahamana Patrei applies only to someone who cannot have sexual satisfaction in any other way.
R. Michael Broyde has noted that this construct is not without philosophical problems:
If this approach were a correct read of the will of the Almighty, an easier lo plug would have been to mandate an appropriate kiddushin for same sex couples. Of course, the Rambam’s basic approach is that halacha (law) cannot adjust for the individual case; Rambam argues that this is in the very nature of law, so even God could not have mandated a different law that wouldn’t have edge cases. But this is uniquely inapplicable in mattes of sexuality, since God created a nature that at least sometimes includes homosexual love (and in which many of those who have such an impulse, do not find love in heterosexual relationships). God could have chosen not to do such a thing which obviates the point of the Rambam here to a great degree. Then just as some heterosexual relationships are good and some are flawed, so too would hold for homosexual relationships. Indeed, one could claim exactly that the problems in same sex relationships is because society deprives them of the marriage writ, exactly flipping this approach on its head.
In spite of critiques such as these, I believe that the basic theological claims outlined at the begin of this section are the most cogent ones that have been put forth in the broader discussion. They are the ones that are most likely to have the greatest resonance with committed teens and adults who are struggling to integrate the traditional teachings of Torah and halakha on homosexuality with the lived reality that they experience. Such a theological construct, coupled with a rich and thick affirmation of the values of Jewish sexual morality as outlined in the previous section, can provide a path to the committed Modern Orthodox teen and young adult who is trying to navigate this issue with integrity, compassion and fidelity to the commanding voice of the tradition.
Full Citations of Secondary Source Material Cited in the Paper :
The first thing you need to know is that homosexuality has the severe punishment of stoning and kares and it is also called disgusting by the Torah itself. It is one of the most debased sins and it even is prohibited for non-Jews. This knowledge is a strong bulwark against the yetzer harah. Secondly it is inexplicable that there should be a lust for it. That is because in the creation of man himself there is no natural lust for homosexuality… The desire for homosexual relations is against natural lust and even the wicked do not have a desire for it itself. Rather their entire desire for it is only because it is something prohibited and the yetzer harah seduces them to rebel against the will of G-d. This knowledge of what is the will of G-d is a powerful protection against the yetzer harah… The third thing is that homosexuality is an embarrassment even to the common man. Because the entire world – even the wicked – ridicule those who are homosexuals. Even in the eyes of the wicked who participate in these acts, he looks down on the one who did it with him and ridicules and insults him… …Awareness of how debasing a sin is, is a good advice to strengthen oneself against the desire to do a sin which is disgusting and ridiculed such as this one. Because not only is it against the Torah which prohibits it with the most severe punishment, but it is also the greatest embarrassment to his whole family.
2. Text of “Statement of Principles on. The Place of Jews with A Homosexual Orientation in Our Community (2010)
Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a Homosexual Orientation in Our Community We, the undersigned Orthodox rabbis, rashei yeshiva, ramim, Jewish educators and communal leaders affirm the following principles with regard to the place of Jews with a homosexual orientation in our community:
1. All human beings are created in the image of God and deserve to be treated with
dignity and respect (kevod haberiyot). Every Jew is obligated to fulfill the entire range of
mitzvot between person and person in relation to persons who are homosexual or have
feelings of same sex attraction. Embarrassing, harassing or demeaning someone with a
homosexual orientation or same-sex attraction is a violation of Torah prohibitions that
embody the deepest values of Judaism.
2. The question of whether sexual orientation is primarily genetic, or rather
environmentally generated, is irrelevant to our obligation to treat human beings with
same-sex attractions and orientations with dignity and respect.
3. Halakhah sees heterosexual marriage as the ideal model and sole legitimate outlet
for human sexual expression. The sensitivity and understanding we properly express for
human beings with other sexual orientations does not diminish our commitment to that principle.
4. Halakhic Judaism views all male and female same-sex sexual interactions as
prohibited. The question of whether sexual orientation is primarily genetic, or rather
environmentally generated, is irrelevant to this prohibition. While halakha categorizes
various homosexual acts with different degrees of severity and opprobrium,
including toeivah, this does not in any way imply that lesser acts are permitted. But it is
critical to emphasize that halakha only prohibits homosexual acts; it does not prohibit
orientation or feelings of same-sex attraction, and nothing in the Torah devalues the
human beings who struggle with them. (We do not here address the issue of hirhurei
aveirah, a halakhic category that goes beyond mere feelings and applies to all forms of
sexuality and requires precise halakhic definition.)
5. Whatever the origin or cause of homosexual orientation, many individuals believe that
for most people this orientation cannot be changed. Others believe that for most people
it is a matter of free will. Similarly, while some mental health professionals and rabbis in
the community strongly believe in the efficacy of “change therapies”, most of the mental
health community, many rabbis, and most people with a homosexual orientation feel
that some of these therapies are either ineffective or potentially damaging
psychologically for many patients.
We affirm the religious right of those with a homosexual orientation to reject
therapeutic approaches they reasonably see as useless or dangerous.
6. Jews with a homosexual orientation who live in the Orthodox community confront
serious emotional, communal and psychological challenges that cause them and their
families great pain and suffering. For example, homosexual orientation may greatly
increase the risk of suicide among teenagers in our community. Rabbis and
communities need to be sensitive and empathetic to that reality. Rabbis and mental
health professionals must provide responsible and ethical assistance to congregants
and clients dealing with those human challenges.
7. Jews struggling to live their lives in accordance with halakhic values need and
deserve our support. Accordingly, we believe that the decision as to whether to be open
about one’s sexual orientation should be left to such individuals, who should consider
their own needs and those of the community. We are opposed on ethical and moral
grounds to both the “outing” of individuals who want to remain private and to coercing
those who desire to be open about their orientation to keep it hidden.
8. Accordingly, Jews with homosexual orientations or same sex-attractions should be
welcomed as full members of the synagogue and school community. As appropriate
with regard to gender and lineage, they should participate and count ritually, be eligible
for ritual synagogue honors, and generally be treated in the same fashion and under the
same halakhic and hashkafic framework as any other member of the synagogue they
join. Conversely, they must accept and fulfill all the responsibilities of such membership,
including those generated by communal norms or broad Jewish principles that go beyond formal halakha.
We do not here address what synagogues should do about accepting members
who are openly practicing homosexuals and/or living with a same-sex partner.
Each synagogue together with its rabbi must establish its own standard with
regard to membership for open violators of halakha.
Those standards should be applied fairly and objectively.
9. Halakha articulates very exacting criteria and standards of eligibility for particular
religious offices, such as officially appointed cantor during the year or baal tefillah on the
High Holidays. Among the most important of those criteria is that the entire
congregation must be fully comfortable with having that person serve as its
representative. This legitimately prevents even the most admirable individuals, who are
otherwise perfectly fit halakhically, from serving in those roles. It is the responsibility of
the lay and rabbinic leadership in each individual community to determine eligibility for
those offices in line with those principles, the importance of maintaining communal
harmony, and the unique context of its community culture.
10. Jews with a homosexual orientation or same sex attraction, even if they engage in
same sex interactions, should be encouraged to fulfill mitzvot to the best of their ability.
All Jews are challenged to fulfill mitzvot to the best of their ability, and the attitude of “all
or nothing” was not the traditional approach adopted by the majority of halakhic thinkers
and poskim throughout the ages.
11. Halakhic Judaism cannot give its blessing and imprimatur to Jewish religious
same-sex commitment ceremonies and weddings, and halakhic values proscribe
individuals and communities from encouraging practices that grant religious legitimacy
to gay marriage and couplehood. But communities should display sensitivity,
acceptance and full embrace of the adopted or biological children of homosexually
active Jews in the synagogue and school setting, and we encourage parents and family
of homosexually partnered Jews to make every effort to maintain harmonious family
relations and connections.
12. Jews who have an exclusively homosexual orientation should, under most
circumstances, not be encouraged to marry someone of the other gender, as
this can lead to great tragedy, unrequited love, shame, dishonesty and ruined
lives. They should be directed to contribute to Jewish and general society in
other meaningful ways. Any such person who is planning to marry someone of
the opposite gender is halakhically and ethically required to fully inform his or her
potential spouse of their sexual orientation.
We hope and pray that by sharing these thoughts we will help the Orthodox
community to fully live out its commitment to the principles and values of
Torah and Halakha as practiced and cherished by the children of Abraham, who our sages teach us are recognized by the qualities of being rahamanim
(merciful), bayshanim (modest), and gomelei hasadim engaging in acts of loving-kindness).
3. Text of “Declaration of Torah Principles”(2010)
From a Torah perspective, the question whether homosexual inclinations and behaviors are changeable is extremely relevant. The concept that G-d created a human being who is unable to find happiness in a loving relationship unless he violates a biblical prohibition is neither plausible nor acceptable. G-d is loving and merciful. Struggles, and yes, difficult struggles, along with healing and personal growth are part and parcel of this world. Impossible, life long, Torah prohibited situations with no achievable solutions are not.
We emphatically reject the notion that a homosexually inclined person cannot overcome his or her inclination and desire. Behaviors are changeable. The Torah does not forbid something which is impossible to avoid. Abandoning people to lifelong loneliness and despair by denying all hope of overcoming and healing their same-sex attraction is heartlessly cruel. Such an attitude also violates the biblical prohibition in Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:14 “and you shall not place a stumbling block before the blind.”
The Process Of Healing
The only viable course of action that is consistent with the Torah is therapy and teshuvah. The therapy consists of reinforcing the natural gender-identity of the individual by helping him or her understand and repair the emotional wounds that led to its disorientation and weakening, thus enabling the resumption and completion of the individual’s emotional development. Teshuvah is a Torah-mandated, self-motivated process of turning away from any transgression or sin and returning to G-d and one’s spiritual essence. This includes refining and reintegrating the personality and allowing it to grow in a healthy and wholesome manner.
These processes are typically facilitated and coordinated with the help of a specially trained counselor or therapist working in conjunction with a qualified spiritual teacher or guide. There is no other practical, Torah-sanctioned solution for this issue.
4. Text of Interview With R.Shmuel Kaminetskyin Hakirah
“Everyone is capable of overcoming an inclination that is prohibited by the Torah,” said Rav Kamenetsky. Change is not only possible, but, according to the Rosh Yeshiva, it is imperative and crucial for every G-d–fearing person. The Rosh Yeshiva recognizes two distinct types of “change” (which he used interchangeably with the word “control.”) To accomplish such change, he said, “counseling is the best thing—if a person is willing to engage in it.” Two separate and distinct types of change relevant to mishkav zachar may occur: (a) virtual elimination of the thoughts, feelings, and behavior, or (b) significant decrease of the desire, combined with knowledge of the tools necessary to redirect one’s feelings if the desire returns. He indicated that all of us face challenges of one sort or another but as humans we have been given by our Creator the capacity to overcome them. In March 2000, he forcefully expressed this sentiment when he wrote in a letter endorsing JONAH, “Anything that the Torah forbids, the human being is able to control.” The Rosh Yeshiva further indicated that Hashem does not play cruel tricks on His creatures, nor does He create impossible situations for a human being that would cause the individual to violate a Torah prohibition. The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 3a) affirms this concept: “Because the Holy One, blessed be He, does not deal imperiously with His creatures.”
5. Citations from R.Chaim Rapaport-“Homosexuality and Judaism”
If “Hashem does not play cruel tricks on his creatures” why would He place people in circumstances wherein they have to spend their entire lifetime trying to change their orientation while throughout that same lifetime they remain constrained in a homo sexual orientation with all the challenges that it entails? And if “Hashem does not play cruel tricks on his creatures” why would He not enable some people to find the “space” that would enable them to change? If indeed, as Rabbi Kamenetsky clearly asserts, the individual cannot be blamed for not succeeding, because change is not necessarily in his control, why would G-d not facilitate change for such individuals? What “outlet that is acceptable within Torah” do such people have?
Rabbi Kamenetsky also acknowledges that some people that have persevered with long-term therapy may not yet have found a suitable therapeutic modality for them or “may not yet be in the right space to achieve his/her goal. For some it requires hitting rock bottom to be in that space. For others, they may not yet have been in the space that enabled them to release certain blocks. This is not about blame in any way, but rather an explanation of the reality of why some people succeed and some don’t. The fact that a person has not yet achieved healing, even after major effort, is not proof that s/he cannot eventually achieve healing.” Rabbi Kamenetsky also acquiesces that “some people may have to work longer or harder. For some it may even be a lifetime undertaking, but that does not excuse the person from engaging in the necessary counseling.”
The suggestion that there ‘must’ always be a remedy to every problem and there is always a halakhically viable outlet for every drive is not only at odds with the facts, it is, in my opinion, theologically dangerous.
Rather than making absolute claims about the possibility of sexual reorientation based on supposedly inviolable dogmas about the nature of divinely imposed challenges, I would recommend that rabbis preach a more nuanced and true-to-life formulation. Such a statement would concede that G-d has clearly imposed on some people, whether they are heterosexual, homosexual, asexual or bisexual, “lifelong, Torah prohibited situations with no achievable solutions.” This position is not essentially connected to challenges of a sexual nature. For example, Divine Providence has historically placed many people in positions in which they have had to live their entire lives in extreme poverty in order to remain loyal to the commandments mandating the observance of Shabbos. Many couples have been deprived of the blessing of children and as a result have endured acute lifelong suffering, simply because G-d created them with a biological nature to ovulate prematurely: in such a situation those who do not transgress the laws of niddah remain childless for life.
6. Citation from R.Aryeh Klapper
When halakhic premises become unintelligible to the society outside our community, they will likely become, or have already become, unintelligible within our community. One core premise: let us identify it with the Noachide commandment against forbidden sexual relationships, or arayot—that is no longer intelligible to many Americans is that sexuality can be evaluated in non utilitarian terms, that a sexual act can be wrong even if no one gets hurt. We have replaced sexual morality with sexual ethics. Conversations on topics such as chastity, masturbation, and adultery are wholly changed from what they were even two decades ago, and tracts from back then can seem less contemporary than prehistoric cave art. There are many reasons that traditional rationales in the area of sexuality have moved rapidly from self-evident to unintelligible. Here are two: (1) Effective birth control and in vitro fertilization have broken the connection between intercourse and procreation. It is no longer self-evident to speak of intercourse as potential recreation, or as inevitably associated with the risk of pregnancy. (2) Many human beings with homosexual orientations have told compelling personal stories of pain and alienation. In the secular world, the natural reaction to a premise’s social unintelligibility is the repeal of any laws that depend on it. In the Orthodox world, where immediate repeal is rarely a viable option, one reasonable reaction is what I call “chokification,” or the declaration that laws that once depended on the now-unintelligible premise should be regarded as either beyond human comprehension or else as arbitrary rules intended to train us to obedience. Chokification generally has two consequences: It forestalls attempts to change the law while discouraging any attempt to extend the law’s reach by applying it to new situations. Over time, as reality diverges more and more from the law’s original situation, the law will become less and less relevant practically. A trend toward chokification of the halakhic prohibitions against homosexuality has been evident in Modern Orthodoxy for some time, and as in the general society, it is more pronounced among the young. This
suggests that rationales seen as self-evident in the past are no longer intelligible to them. My suspicion is that this is true as well for a significant percentage of the Charedi world. The question is whether chokification is an effective long term strategy, or only a holding pattern. Even if it is sometimes an effective long-term strategy, the case of homosexuality may be harder, as the laws generated by the original premise are now seen by many within our community as deeply wrong ethically rather than only incomprehensible. Perhaps chokification can help hold the halakhic line only if it is rooted in unshakeable belief that this law, as is, represents the will of G-d.
- 1See https://shalhevetboilingpoint.com/opinion/2016/09/14/the-biggest-challenge-to-emunah-of-our-time/
- 2See Appendix at the end of this paper, source #1 for full text of the selection.
- 3The full text appears in the appendix, source #2
- 4For full text of the selection see appendix, source #3.
- 5For the full citation from the interview see the appendix source #4.
- 6The entire letter is printed here: https://guardyoureyes.com/resources/ssa/item/a-letter-by-reb-ahron-feldman-to-a-gay-baal-teshuva
- 7For the full citation see the Appendix source #6.
- 8See source #6 in the appendix at the conclusion of the paper.