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What do the Torah, Talmud, Kabbalah say about people that "are gay" or have the desire to live that way? I'm not asking if it's a sin. I'm wondering how they "became gay" and how they can change?

(I'm referring to the view on "gay" people that says there is a strong desire for men to have sex with other men, and that these men have no desire to be with a woman. And that goes against Hashem plan for creation, and as any other "problem" why should we not heal that issue the same way that we try to heal the rest of creation).

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In general, the Torah is not so concerned and doesn't judge how people feel or what their desires are. It is mainly concerned in how we act. Nowhere does the Torah consider feelings for same-sex people to be a prohibition. But the Torah is concerned about actions and as is well known homosexual male intercourse is forbidden.

The gmara in Kiddushin 40a explicitly says that Hashem doesn’t regard a bad thought that doesn’t lead to action as an action (artscroll comments “hence there is no punishment for the thought”), another gmara (end of Bava Batra 164b) says all men think of sin every single day.

On the other side later in Kiddushin 40a the gmara says that thoughts of sins one has performed and now considers permitted are punished and in Shabbat 64a we see the army returning from the war in Midian offered a korban to atone against their lustful thoughts. Also relevant is R Chaim mi Volozhin who writes (Nefesh HaChaim, gate 1, ch. 4) that the body is like a mishkan, the mind is the kodesh hakodashim and thinking unclean thoughts is a desecration even greater than defiling the Kodesh Hakodoshim since the Mishkan is physical and the mind is even more holy and spiritual.

For more on the Torah perspective on thoughts vs. actions see here, here and there.


The questions of how people became gay and how to address the situation are contentious. Specific issues are the root cause of the situation (nurture vs. nature), the ability (or not) for gay people to overcome their inclination, the extent to which they need to undergo therapy and the need (or not) to accept once identity as gay.

For further reading on a Torah approach to same-sex attraction see e.g., in Hakirah here, here and there, and R Eliezer Melamed here.

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    Along those line I would add: "kedoshim tihyu", "v'ahavta et hashem...", "Et hashem elekecha tira", etc. I assume you're trying to say something else but I'm not sure what it is. It is very clear that the Torah, Talmud, Kabbala, et al, are quite concerned with more than just actions. – Loewian Feb 7 '16 at 23:09
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    @Lowian one does not transgress lo sachmod until doing an act of taking the item of affection. Ahavas Hashem is described by Rambam as searching for greatness of Hashem which will bring you to love Him, specifically because one is not in control of who he loves so the Torah could not possibly be forcing a feeling upon a person. Your question about Rambam's 13 ikarim is a good question, but on the Rambam himself, in light of his own comments concerning ahavas Hashem. – user6591 Feb 8 '16 at 0:16
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    @Loewian Kiddushin 40a explicitly says that Hashem doesn’t regard a bad thought that doesn’t lead to action as an action (comments artscroll “hence there is no punishment for the thought”), another gmara (end of Bava Batra 164b) says all men think of sin every single day. Although it is true that (1) avoda zara might be an exception but not relevant here, (2) later in Kiddushin 40a it says thoughts of sins one has performed and now considers permitted are punished and (3) in Shabbat 64a the army returning from the war in Midian offered a korban to atone against their lustful thoughts – mbloch Feb 8 '16 at 10:53
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    @Loewian I also see a difference between planning for sin and certain preferences which are the topic of the question here. The first is clearly forbidden, the second is less clear. Although I know R Chaim mi Volozhin (Nefesh HaChaim 1:4) writes that the body is like a mishkan, the mind is the kodesh hakodashim and thinking unclean thoughts is a desecration even greater than defiling the Kodesh Hakodoshim since the Mishkan is physical and the mind is even more holy and spiritual. I was not condoning unclean thoughts, rather emphasising the primacy the Torah brings to actions over thoughts – mbloch Feb 8 '16 at 10:54
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    @Loewian I edited the answer to clarify this - thanks for pushing – mbloch Feb 8 '16 at 11:00
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In terms of actual prohibitions:

1- Male homosexual sex is prohibited to both Jew, and under the covenant G-d made with Noah, to non-Jews as well.

2- Male homosexual intimacy that is not prohibited under #1 is prohibited to Jews under the same kinds of laws that prohibit masturbation.

3- At least some forms of female homosexual sex if not all are prohibited by the Torah to Jews. (See Rashi, Yevamos 71a; Rambam Issurei Bi'ah 21:8)

4- There is a prohibition for both Jews and non-Jews to contract a marriage between two men, two women, and one that includes a woman and more than one man. This is derived from the verse "כְּמַעֲשֵׂה אֶרֶץ-מִצְרַיִם אֲשֶׁר יְשַׁבְתֶּם-בָּהּ, לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ -- as per the actions of the Land of Egypt which you live in, do not do" (see Rambam ibid.) Notice this prohibition condemns Egypt for contracting such marriages, because the prohibition is on non-Jews as well as Jews.

There is never a prohibition against a desire. (The topic of the 10th commandment and whether it is actually against the feeling of jealousy would take us too far afield, but it is NOT generally taken that way among commentaries.)

So, there is no prohibition against desiring gay relations. Nor against wanting to live monogamously with a partner of the same sex. Acting on the desire is the sin; not having it.

BUT, there is still a difference between having a desire, and self-identifying as someone who has it. In other words, the only kind of "Gay Pride" that would be consistent with the Torah would be pride in the knowledge that Hashem thought one was capable of the challenge. Most of us are not, and therefore spared the whole battle against a desire for this particular prohibition. The fact that Hashem thought someone's soul could handle that kind of work says something. The bottom line is, though, that it's a desire that requires channeling and sublimation, as does any other desire to commit a sin.

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Rabbi Yaakov Haber notes that the medrash says that Adam cohabited with every animal before cohabiting with Eve whereupon he said 'zos ha'paam etzem me'atzamai'.

He explains this is because woman is the most dissimilar being in existence to man so it is unintuitive for a relationship to exist between them.

However when the relationship does exist, because of their dissimilarity, they become together a new entity.

So that homosexuality is a relationship between likes and heterosexuality is a relationship between dissimilar beings which requires a certain activation energy to overcome the natural repulsion between them and fuse into a new whole.

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    How are women more dissimilar to men than poison dart frogs are? When you say Adam tried every animal, does that include female ones as well? Certainly a female aardvark is at least as dissimilar as a female human. – Double AA Feb 9 '16 at 0:04

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