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Is being gay a sin? Can one be a Jew and a gay person at the same time? How does the Jewish community think about gays?

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If you are referring to the Orthodox Jewish community, then please specify. When it comes to theology, the different movements take different approaches to this subject. Let us try to minimize machloket. –  Adam Mosheh Feb 12 '12 at 17:15
    
I'm honestly surprised Isaac Moses protected this rather than closing it... –  SAH May 12 '12 at 0:00
    
@SAH: Why are you surprised? –  tealhill Aug 27 at 22:03

4 Answers 4

up vote 39 down vote accepted

This is a very controversial subject. However, a distinction must be made in terminology between "being gay" (which for the purposes here we could define as being sexually attracted to members of one's own gender) and engaging in homosexual acts (where Male-Male intercourse is an unambiguous violation of a Torah-level prohibition and Female-Female may be a rabbinic prohibition).

So with those definitions, being gay would not be a sin from a Judaism perspective. Engaging in homosexual acts is a sin. One can definitely be a Jew and be Gay at the same time, and one can be Jewish and engage in homosexual acts at the same time, just as one can be Jewish and violate the Sabbath or eat non-Kosher food at the same time - a Jew who sins is still a Jew.

Regarding how the Jewish community thinks about gays - it depends on the community. This can range from being very respectful and welcoming (and for some of the most liberal non-Orthodox denominations, allowing and sanctioning such unions) to don't-ask-don't-tell to downright hostility. It just depends on the community (though the topic is definitely more polarizing than "how does Judaism think about Sabbath violators", or almost any other topic).

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+1 Very well put. –  Shaul Behr May 18 '11 at 14:52
    
Male-Male intercourse is an unambiguous violation of a Torah-level prohibition and Female-Female may be a rabbinic prohibition, so are you saying that lesbian is more tolerable than gays? –  Graviton May 18 '11 at 14:55
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@Graviton - I assume that by "gays" you are referring to male-male intercourse. So then yes, the level of sin involved with female-female sex (rabbinic) is lower than than of male-male (Torah-level, though this link raises the possibility of a Torah-level violation for a lesbian relationship). –  Yaakov Ellis May 18 '11 at 15:04
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@Graviton re "more tolerable": Note, though, that rabbinic prohibitions are not to be trifled with, either. –  msh210 May 18 '11 at 16:41

@Yaakov Ellis gave an excellent answer, but I would add just a single thought to explain to don't-ask-don't-tell attitude of many communities.

As mentioned before, Judaism sees homosexual acts as a sin. (Perhaps different levels of prohibition depending on the gender.) However, Judaism does not generally consider predilection to a sin to be a sin itself. It may a difficult test, to be sure, but Judaism expects people (of all backgrounds) to overcome their temptations (whatever they may be).

Judaism does not generally approve of broadcasting one's personal tests and shortcomings. (Note that one is not allowed to speak לשון הרע (negative speech) about oneself.) Since Judaism classifies homosexual acts as a sin, one would expect an observant Jews to not broadcast or classify themselves based on their temptation to sin. I think this is the general basis for the don't-ask-don't-tell attitude of many communities. They might be welcoming of gay individuals, but at the same time not be supportive of Gay Pride movements.

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AFAIK the Chofetz Chaim actually rules that one is allowed to speak Loshon Hora about oneself. (Yes, I know, the famous story... But he may have been just saying it is not advisable, but not forbidden.) –  SZH May 2 '14 at 15:53
    
@SZH: I once told someone who I trusted that I have same-sex attraction. (I told him this for no good reason.) He repeated this information to a third party who I don't trust. The third party then threatened to reveal my secret to the general public unless I did what he wanted. Nowadays I am more careful not to tell anyone that I have same-sex attraction unless there's a reason for me to do so. –  tealhill Aug 27 at 22:07

The Torah contains prohibitions against many activities that Hashem assures us are spiritually harmful to us. These are mainly activities that we might otherwise want to do.

On one hand, practicing homosexuality is one of these proscribed activities, on the other hand, Jews who are homosexual will find this prohibition far harder than any other.

Certain less tolerant communities will reject a practicing homosexual, as they would reject any Jew who didn't keep Shabbat or kashrut. Communities who are more accepting are more likely to welcome homosexual Jews into their community, even if they don't approve of what that individual does in the privacy of their bedroom.

"Can one be a Jew and a Gay at the same time?"

The way of life prescribed by the Torah is intended for all Jews. Having said that, being a religious Jew I'm sure is exceptionally challenging for a homosexual. But for a Jew who wants to realise their spiritual potential, there's no other way.

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Please see Wikipedia's article on homosexuality and Judaism.

Here's my summary of some points from the Orthodox Judaism section of that article.

  • Orthodox Judaism basically forbids male homosexual conduct.

  • Rabbinic views:

    • The Lubavitcher Rebbe and R' Jonathan Sacks both advocate offering help and/or compassion to homosexual Jews.

    • R' Norman Lamm says that some (but not all) homosexuals are diseased, and need compassion and treatment, not ostracism.

    • A statement, mainly by Rabbis Nathaniel Helfgot, Aryeh Klapper, and Yitzchak Blau, adds that exclusive homosexual Jews normally shouldn't marry someone of the opposite gender.

  • The JONAH organization focuses on "prevention, intervention, and healing of the underlying issues causing same-sex attractions." Atzat Nefesh is similar.

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To improve this answer, please consider quoting and/or summarizing the relevant parts here. (However, try to avoid copying entire sections and pages as per here and here.) –  HodofHod May 11 '12 at 22:22
    
@HodofHod: Thank you for the suggestion. Done. –  tealhill May 14 '12 at 4:38
    
.........and +1 –  HodofHod May 14 '12 at 5:00

protected by Isaac Moses Mar 15 '12 at 14:51

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