Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Homosexuality - view of Rav Moshe Feinstein

Igros Moshe(O.H. 4:115):
The first thing you need to know is that homosexuality has the severe punishment of stoning and kares and it is also called disgusting by the Torah itself. It is one of the most debased sins and it even is prohibited for non‑Jews. This knowledge is a strong bulwark against the yetzer harah. Secondly it is inexplicable that there should be a lust for it. That is because in the creation of man himself there is no natural lust for homosexuality… The desire for homosexual relations is against natural lust and even the wicked do not have a desire for it itself. Rather their entire desire for it is only because it is something prohibited and the yetzer harah seduces them to rebel against the will of G‑d. This knowledge of what is the will of G‑d is a powerful protection against the yetzer harah. You have already defeated the yetzer harah in that you believe in G‑d and all the 13 principles of faith and the entire Torah. With this you can defeat the yetzer harah in this that it seduces you to rebel against G‑d and to anger Him. There is an explicit verse in HaAzinu “That with abominations they provoke Him to anger” [Devarim 32:16] Rashi says an example is homosexuality which is a sin which causes G‑d’s anger. He also says this regarding magic which interferes with the Heavenly family as is stated in Sanhedrin (67b). Thus the explanation of this verse is that it causes you to deny the decrees of Heaven and to act to anger G‑d – chas veshalom! The third thing is that homosexuality is an embarrassment even to the common man. Because the entire world – even the wicked - ridicule those who are homosexuals. Even in the eyes of the wicked who participate in these acts, he looks down on the one who did it with him and ridicules and insults him. This awareness will greatly strengthen you against the yezter harah. …Awareness of how debasing a sin is, is a good advice to strengthen oneself against the desire to do a sin which is disgusting and ridiculed such as this one. Because not only is it against the Torah which prohibits it with the most severe punishment, but it is also the greatest embarrassment to his whole family. The greatest advice to overcome this is to learn Torah in depth. This will save and guard you from all sins – even from the thoughts of sins as the Rambam states at the end of Hilchos Issurei Bi’ah: “Greater than all this, turn oneself and ones thoughts to words of Torah and expand one’s mind in wisdom.” So surely this will save you from the yetzer harah of this despised sin.


  1. I do not have the book in front of me but I remember he has more than one teshuva about this subject. In the other teshuva I remember he described homosexuality like any other toiva, without considering that it could be a mental and physical condition, he also shows lack of compassion by saying that the shoel (questioner) has no one to blame but himself.

  2. I do not understand this whole thing. There are people who's desire for the same sex starts from a very young age. Moreover homosexuality exists in the animal kingdom so why would one say that it should be biologically unnatural for humans to have this disposition.

    The fact that the torah forbids this is not a contadiction. After all we are supposed to rise above our animal impulses whatever they are. One can be attracted to a married woman. It is obvious that the yetzer hara is at play here, however it should not be considered against the natural order of things. After all one's senses to not distinguish between mutar ve assur. One has to use one's brain to keep their body in check.

  3. Homosexuality only occurs within the animal kingdom as a form of dominance, of one creature dominating another completely. Much like the prison scene.

    As far as the causes of homosexuality, whether it be choice, physical predisposition, mental predisposition, genetic. Those are all a matter of extreme controversy within the scientific and psychological communities.

    For instance one of the early studies done "proving" that homosexuality was genetic, the one performing the study stated, "If I cannot prove a link between genetics and homosexuality, I will lose all faith in science." You think he may have been biased at all?

    In a like manner there has yet to be any solid scientific study done on the issue. Even the Kinsey study, believed homosexuality to be a psychological aberration. At the time homosexuality was considered to be a psychological disorder, and continued to be until 1974.

    So all things considered, I think that while R' Feinstein's Teshuva may not appeal to our "modern" sensibilities, it has definite merit. It does not express ignorance of a subject, but rather his stand on several controversial issues.

  4. I've read this teshuvah before, and every time I see it, I have trouble understanding it, since what R' Moshe describes to be homosexuality, that "their entire desire for it is only because it is something prohibited and the yetzer harah seduces them to rebel against the will of G‑d" is so different from what I've seen whith friends/acquaintances who have come out of the closet.

    Now, there are, indeed, homosexuals who see themselves as the avant garde of a "new morality" and are at the forefront of those trying to undermine the importance of the traditional family. However, the ones I know personally just have this desire -that aren't shared by most people -and they just have to deal with it in some way, either by acting it out or suppressing it. They're not out there all the time to make a big statement, certainly not consciously trying to "anger G-d" so to speak.

    But perhaps where R' Moshe is coming from is a theological problem that homosexuality poses. A Ta'avah is usually understood to have some underlying constructive purpose. The sexual urge brings children, desire for wealth and honor builds up the world, etc. However, there's no obvious utilitarian side-effect for homosexuality. Perhaps this is the reason why R' Moshe is forced to conclude that the yetzer hara creates a ta'avah for homosexuality through an alternative source: from the desire for something prohibited.

    R' Moshe isn't paskening that that a homosexual is perforce someone who is consciously sinning to anger G-d. The teshuva is clearly directed at an earnest, frum shomer torah u'mitzvos man who is trying to deal with his homosexual urges. R' Moshe tells him "you can defeat the yetzer harah in this that it seduces you to rebel against G‑d and to anger Him." However, R' Moshe never tells this man that he's purposefully trying to anger G-d through homosexuality. R' Moshe is simply explaining to the man nature and source of the ta'avah that's causing him his troubles.

  5. What year was this responsa written?

  6. See here for a biography of contemporary Orthdox Rabbis who have dealt with this issue.


  7. Just because so,ething occurs naturally it does not mean it is natural.

    A boy in India was born with 14 fingers. It's still not normal, even though it happened naturally.

    Homosexuality is not a natural thing, even though there are some poor souls born with the inclination. Nevertheless, although it's not normal, it's also not a sickness and there is no reason for one who is so inclined to not control himself.

    Same exact issue as a pedophile.

  8. Rabbi Eidensohn,

    I have some questions about R' Moshe's view on homosexuality.

    Can one say that Rav Moshe was mistaken as to the nature of homosexuality and its causes? I am struck by the lack of sources for those assertions. Also, the assertion that there is no natural lust for homosexuality seem contradicted by the empirical evidence. There are many homosexuals who do not want to have those desires - for religious reasons, to avoid teasing by peers, or other reasons. At the same time, many (most) people who are wicked and want to rebel and do what is wrong (or what feels good) nonetheless do not turn to homosexual behavior. I can accept that some hedonists do so, but I know (directly - one, anecdotal, and from reading - many) people whose culture and religion condemn homosexuality who nonetheless find themselves with those feelings.

    My understanding of the Jewish view (obviously ignorant of this teshuva) has been to treat a homosexual as suffering from a difficult yetzer harah and have sympathy for him, at the same time as one condemns his behavior. This is particularly true for someone who shuns the gay lifestyle. Even with that view I can hardly imagine how one would counsel someone in that situation? Given how hard it is for a normal guy to control himself until he gets married - to tell someone they can never "wed", that it never ends seems hollow. But it is better than nothing, and it acknowledges that this is a taiva G-d gave them, different in degree but still perhaps of a kind with that most men have.

    But if I understand him right, R' Moshe would say that he only has the taiva because he doesn't understand Hashem's ratzon and he should sit and learn?!

    In sum:
    1. What are R' Moshe's sources?
    2. Might he be wrong?
    3. Is homosexuality qualitatively different from all other aveirot?
    4. What are the consequences of #3?

  9. it's obvious to anyone who has ever met a homosexual that their inclinations developed through nature/nurture, not through any willful desire. just like heterosexuals' inclinations.

  10. >The desire for homosexual relations is against natural lust and even the wicked do not have a desire for it itself. Rather their entire desire for it is only because it is something prohibited and the yetzer harah seduces them to rebel against the will of G‑d.<

    By this logic, homosexuality exists only because Hashem prohibited it. A form of "entrapment." If Hashen REALLY didn't want man to violate this prohibition, He wouldn't have announced that it was a prohibition.

    It's hard to conceive that a man as astute as R. Moshe--advised as he was by R. Moshe Tendler--would have said something this foolish.

  11. There are likely to be as many different forms of homosexuality as there are of cancer. Without doubt, some forms of homosexuality are entirely biological in the sense that the brain is wired to elicit a sexual response to same-sex, rather than opposite-sex, stimuli. Such an individual has no attraction whatsoever to the opposite sex, and is only attracted to some members of his own sex. He would therefore have a status of a "shoteh l'davar echad" - a pathology with regard to one matter only, and would therefore not be halakhically responsible for actions relating to that matter - See the t'shuvos of the Nodeh B'Yehudah and the Shagas Aryeh regarding the "Get of Cleves" issue. May I remind everyone that the determining characteristic of a Jew is his capacity for "rachmonis" - especially for those among us who are the most lonely, helpless and in need.


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