Jewish Exegesis Methodology and Leviticus

On the basis of the exegesis of Baraitha d'Rabbi Ishmael in the Sifra, on Leviticus, written in the mid-second century of the Common Era, Rabbi Ishmael says:

"The Torah is interpreted by means of thirteen rules.... When a generalization is followed by a specification, only what specifies applies (Miklal u'frat)."

In our texts of Leviticus the generalization is the text; "A man shall not lay with a man," ואת זכר לא תשכב and the specification is the text; "as you would lay with a woman" משכבי אשה.

Based upon Rabbi Ishmael's method of Jewish Torah exegesis, we can clearly see that the biblical passages in Leviticus 18: 22 and also in Leviticus 20: 13 can not refer to true homosexual activity at all, as at least one of the males is a heterosexual or perhaps a bisexual male. Otherwise the text need not supply the words, "as (you would) lay with a woman."

To translate that prohibition, therefore, as applying to any homosexual relationship is to exit the realm of divine ordination and enter instead the realm of subjective, mortal homophobia.

The ancient rabbis must have had some sense of this problem when they ruled two thousand years ago that any homosexual sexual activity short of anal intercourse is not included in the biblical prohibition (Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot 54a-56a; Sotah 26b; Niddah 13a; Maimonides, Perush L'Mishnayot on Sanhedrin 54a).

Why did they bother to offer that qualification if it was so clear to them that homosexuality was forbidden?

Also, lesbianism, according to Jewish law, was never prohibited; Maimonides, who personally abhorred such behavior, ruled that; it is neither a biblical nor a rabbinic prohibition. (Perush L'Mishnayot on Sanhedrin 54a.)

In fact, the rabbis in the Gemara (BT, Tractate Yevamot) specifically say that the passages in Leviticus refers to an androgynous being and not to male-male sex.

Since the rabbis' interpretations are the basis of halakhah, anyone claiming that Judaism is against homosexual orientation based upon that passage is simply incorrect.


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