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A sign at a recent rally protesting New York's 2011 Marriage Equality Act reads

Judaism considers male homosexuality a worse sin than murder

I imagine that this is a minority opinion, but does it have any support at all in Jewish thought?

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@SethJ, done (the reversion - whether the questioner wants to add the comment is up to him). TRiG, from the point of view of "Jewish Life and Learning" what the SPLC says about a particular group is neither here nor there. –  Alex Mar 9 '12 at 17:09

3 Answers 3

up vote 24 down vote accepted

I'd bet that sign was referencing the theoretical punishment that a Jewish court could have administered, during Temple times, under Jewish self-rule, when such events were exceedingly rare and shocking, and with overwhelming evidence:

Male-to-male sex is punishable by death by stoning.

Murder is punishable by decapitation.

The Talmud states that of those two methods of the death penalty, the former is more severe; hence, if a man raped and then murdered another man, we apply the more severe punishment, in this case stoning.

Trying to use the severity of forms of death penalty to determine what's "better than" or "worse than" in G-d's book is not so simple. Working on the Sabbath is also theoretically punishable by stoning, yet the Sabbath must be violated to save a life (whereas you can't murder someone to save a life). Similarly, Judaism allows the bystander to use lethal force if necessary to prevent an attempted rape or murder; but the bystander has no business using force to prevent consenting adults from doing whatever they want. (See Rambam, Laws of the Murderer & Preservation of Life, 1:10--11).

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Hmm, somehow my answer yesterday didn't make it through. Anyway I was going to mention that Embarassment is compared to murder, and thus such a sign would be worse! –  avi Jul 26 '11 at 13:24
    
I like your answer way better than mine. Just one point, a more severe punishment is at times in order to have forgiveness on this world. –  Gershon Gold Jul 26 '11 at 19:12
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Does this imply that a homosexual act between Jews is "worse than" the same act between non-Jews? (A Noachide court can only administer decapitation, not stoning.) –  Daniel ben Noach Jul 27 '11 at 4:20
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@Daniel, I don't know how we figure out the whole "worse than" thing. Presumably in general, more is expected of Jews. I don't think you can compare forms of death penalties from Jews to Noahides, as Noahides have no distinction. Decapitation is both the most severe and least severe for them; only Jews have this complex gradation with added nuance. –  Shalom Jul 27 '11 at 13:31
    
And that because in ancient time, even death penalty is "not enough" The chinese also have death by a thousand cut and the rome has crucifixion. Not because they're not jewish, but because in ancient time government need stronger incentive to keep people inline. –  Jim Thio May 8 '12 at 2:48

It's is not so simple to compare sins or to measure which is worse than what, they are both very terrible, you shouldn't do any of both.

anyone saying that it is or isn't should prove it. (another question would be what kind of proof). without proof just dismiss.

in any case the problem with homosexual male activities is not only of wasted seed. the act itself is toeva.

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Just to be clear on the usage of the term "toeva - abomination", a term which is often thrown around by the anti-same-sex-marriage crowd to indicate that this sin is much greater than others, it is a term which is used over 100 other times in the Torah referencing things from non-kosher food to blemished sacrifices. I have never seen anyone protesting outside of McDonalds... –  Adam Simon Jul 28 '11 at 14:53
    
To be clear, I am not coming to equate these, or any, issurim, but rather trying to put things in the proper context and make sure we are all honest in our proofs and usage of Torah sources. –  Adam Simon Jul 28 '11 at 14:55
    
Yes it is true that in Judaism MALE homosexuality is a more severe sin than murder because we judge it by the form of punishment. To see which sin is more serious we judge by the punishment. Unlike a mitvah,a good deed has no form of seeing which is greater as the reward is not revealed. Also there were two cemeteries where the high Jewish court would bury those killed in capital offenses. The cemetery for murder was a less criminal spot as opposed to where a dead homosexual was buried in the more serious crime cemetery.So yes that sign did speak fact. –  Heshy Oct 4 '11 at 4:52
    
@AdamSimon While we're keeping each other honest, words with the root ת.ע.ב. appear in the Torah only 31 times many of which are duplicates (eg. Deu 18:12) or not referring to specific sins (eg. Gen 46:34). Note also that neither eating non-shechted cow meat nor eating meat with milk is on that list, so I don't see why you bring McDonalds as an example. Finally as you well know non-Jews are not obligated in various laws of kosher which might be toeva to Jews, but they are in various laws of sexual conduct. I'm all for putting things in context, but I insist it be the actual context. –  Double AA Oct 23 '12 at 17:58
    
@DoubleAA Point taken, edit "McDonalds" to "Red Lobster" and although non-Jews may be obligated in laws relating to sexual misconduct, I'm not sure the Torah refers to them as a Toeva for gentiles or only for Jews... –  Adam Simon Dec 2 '12 at 18:52

Although one might think to conclude that homosexuality is worse than murder based on the specific punishments court can impose upon them (stoning for homosexuality and decapitation for murder), this simplistic understanding is not borne out upon further investigation. I know I shouldn't just quote on this site, but no one says it better than the Rambam himself:

(my translation of Rambam Hilchot Rotzeach 4:8-9)

8: One who kills someone and there were not two witnesses who saw it together, rather they saw him individually, or alternatively he killed without being given warning, or the witnesses failed the interrogatory checks of the court: all these murderers are placed in a room and fed plain bread and water until their stomachs shrink whereupon they are fed barley until their stomachs break and they die.

9: We do not do this to the rest of those obligated in the death penalty. Rather, if they are obligated in the death penalty -- they are killed, and if not -- not. For even if there are sins which have stricter punishments than murder, they do not have the aspect of the destruction of society [lit: world] like murder. Even idolatry and illicit sexual relationships and the desecration of the Sabbath are not like murder for they are between man and God; murder, however, is between man and his fellow man. Anyone who has this sin in his hands is Definitely Evil. Even all the mitzvot he did his whole life will not counterbalance this sin to save him from punishment...

Consider also the Rambam in Hilchot Rotzeach 1:4 (again my translation):

4: ...And there is nothing the Torah was so particular about as much as murder, as it says (Numbers 35:33): And do not pollute the land...for the [spilling of] blood will pollute the land...

So it seems the sign holder didn't really know what he was talking about.

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protected by Double AA Feb 26 '12 at 8:51

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