Jewish law and gay marriage

Different strokes for different folks, I know.

While Jewish law does not accept same-sex relations, I understand that some people perceive themselves to be homosexuals. I am not homophobic, and do not at all intend for this letter to be an indictment of homosexuals. Anything consensual that adults do in the privacy of their own home is between them, and not for others to try to understand or judge.


However, when a Reform rabbi publicly condones this behavior by “marrying” two homosexual men, and makes a contentious comment in the process; and when the Jewish Light chooses to publish this (May 28 commentary), I must respectfully protest.

For the Reform rabbi to draw a parallel between the relationship between the biblical Jonathan and King David, and that of the two grooms at their ceremony at a temple here in St. Louis, is unfortunate. While it seems validating, and I imagine is touching to some, I believe that it is misleading.

Everyone indeed should study the Bible, and draw from it his or her own insights and inspirations. But this should always be done in good faith, and true to the (con)text of the verses and to history. Tainting Biblical personalities in an attempt to justify a controversial agenda, is fiddling with the truth. Moreover, publicly expounding upon such revisionist ideas “in the sight of God, this community, the Jewish people and, …. of all people”, perilously de-legitimizes our legendary leaders in the minds of many.

To be sure, this interpretation is not new, and is based on the work of critics who take liberties with the reputation and integrity of our forefathers.

For a true understanding of our sacred sources, we stand on the shoulders of our sages; Talmudic giants who had an encyclopedic working knowledge of these texts; of our oral transmission and tradition; and of the keys needed to unlock their deeper meaning. The complexity, consistency, honesty, and purity of their insights, is truly remarkable. Reliance on Biblical exegesis by anyone other than these towering personalities will, I am afraid, lead us down the wrong path.

Thankfully, many of our sages’ brilliant writings have been preserved for contemporary scholars and students to explore. In doing so, these scholars and students will observe that none of our commentaries even hint at the thought of Jonathan and King David having anything other than a uniquely strong bond (yes, of love…) between two best friends; two brothers-in-law and brothers-in-arms.

And remember, we are speaking of the greatest of our heroes, of King David no less, our eternal king; a prophet and importantly, the ancestor of our future Mashiach (Messiah)!

True, even King David and his children were but human and not at all perfect, and the Bible and our sages make no bones about that. Misrepresentations about them, on the other hand, shake the foundations of our faith.

Furthermore, referring to whatever agreement the “couple” made as a “Ketubah” (marriage contract), is also not appropriate. Reportedly, the program booklets that were provided at the ceremony stated that “historically the ketubah was meant to protect wives in marriage and define the obligation of the husband to the wife. We have chosen a ketubah that connects us as equals…” Unfortunately, this perspective misses the point about what a real ketubah represents, what a

traditional Jewish marriage between a man and a woman entails, and the beauty of the fine balance of role, responsibility and respect for one another, in that wonderful relationship. This statement, most probably unbeknownst to the person who wrote it, again is fiddling with the truth…

Just a tiny taste of what I am speaking of: The Hebrew word for marriage is “kiddushin”, derived from the word kadosh, which means “holy”. That best captures the nature of the bond in marriage between a man and a woman, the prerequisite to the creation, in partnership with God, of new lives.

I wish both gentlemen well, really, and hope that whatever path they choose in life will lead them to happiness, and success in their pursuit of real meaning and truth.

It is regrettable that the Jewish Light ran this article at all, and that it published these errant notions. In doing so, it no doubt unwittingly, promulgated misunderstandings about our national heroes, and about the Jewish perspective on marriage.

J. Straus, MD

St. Louis