I received the following very interesting Guest Post by our friend, Yosef Hakohen, following up on my post about Aish.com's article on Homosexuality. (UPDATE: David has written a follow-up article, addressing many of the Aish.com commenters who criticized him for trying to change his homosexual orientation.) There, I brought up the tension between the two general approaches that people with a homosexual orientation should take. Is it better for them to try to become heterosexual and get married, or to just live an essentially celibate life of keeping the mitzvos without marriage, and certainly without forbidden homosexual relationships.
Dear Dixie Yid,(Picture courtesy of eternallycool.net)
A few weeks ago, you referred to an article that Rav Aharon Feldman wrote in 1997 concerning the struggles of Torah-committed homosexuals, and you mentioned that his article seemed to contradict the recent article on this theme which appeared on aish.com. You wrote:
"Aish.com has published a very bold and interesting article by a man named "David" who's a man in his 40's with a wife and children, who lived a homosexual life for a very long time. I was very surprised by his approach. I had read R' Aaron Feldman's article a few years ago, suggesting that homosexual men not attempt to marry women, etc., but rather to take advantage of their "inability" to get married and dedicate their lives to doing things for the Klal that "family men" can't really do because of the difficulty in traveling with a family at home. This is certainly a very different approach. And it is one that I was taught to reject as an option for homosexuals, back in my pre-frum days. I'd be interested to hear other people's reactions as well."
Before assuming that Rav Feldman would disagree with the article on aish.com, we need to first focus on the conclusion of Rav Feldman's article, where he wrote to his correspondent:
"I will add that I do not think that it is necessary for you to give up on the hope of someday having a family. The ways of Providence are manifold. For example, I was personally involved in a case of a woman who knowingly married a homosexual man in order to help him overcome his condition. They subsequently had a large family. It was only because they were both deeply religious Jews that they were successful. There is reason to hope that with your acceptance of living a life in the service of G-d, your problem as well will be overcome. Nothing is impossible if we merit Divine assistance; 'Can the hand of G-d ever be inadequate?' "
In his second article on this theme, Rav Feldman clarified his view, based on some new evidence regarding the possibility of changing one's sexual orientation. He wrote:
"Nevertheless, for the material and spiritual security and well-being of each homosexual, it would be best that he attempt to change his sexual orientation. With same-sex tendencies he will have to contend with a lifetime of struggle with his inclinations, and he will be unable to enter into a normal marital relationship and have a family. Many eminent psychiatrists believe that homosexuality is the result of an ill developed sexual identity due to childhood stress. Their view is that to the extent that other emotional problems can be healed, homosexuals can be healed as well. There are thousands of case histories of homosexuals who have converted to heterosexuality."
(The above comments appear on Rav Feldman's old website: http://www.jerusalemletter.co.il/ . These comments are from an editorial introduction to the issue of June 22, 2,000. It is available in the archives of the Jerusalem Letter.)
According to this clarification, someone with a homosexual orientation should "try" to change his orientation. I have one friend with a homosexual orientation who tried to develop a heterosexual orientation, but did not succeed. He feels good, however, that he at least tried; moreover, he decided that he would follow the Torah and live a celibate life. He now devotes himself to serving the Jewish community. I also have two other friends who originally had a homosexual orientation, but who were able to change. They are now both married!
Regardless of our sexual orientation, we each have a tikun that we need to do in this world.
May Hashem help each of us to do the tikun that we need to do.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen
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