WRESTLING WITH GOD AND MEN: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition

Steven Greenberg, Author . Univ. of Wisconsin $35 (312p) ISBN 978-0-299-19090-3

Defying more than 3,000 years of Torah tradition and belief, Greenberg, an Orthodox rabbi who recently publicized his homosexuality, embarks on a thorough, if questionable, trek to reevaluate the overt biblical prohibition of male-male relations. Central to his argument is a rereading of Leviticus 18:22, "Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abhorrence" (JPS translation) to be understood as "And (either a female or) a male you shall not sexually penetrate to humiliate [;] it is abhorrent." The story of Sodom's destruction, the love between David and Jonathan and the creation of Adam and Eve figure prominently as sources of new and interesting perspectives, yet they are all based on subjective evaluations that bear no textual confirmation. While he is obviously well versed in Torah knowledge and rabbinic law, Greenberg admits that he is "not a disinterested party on the matter of homosexuality"; indeed, many of his arguments stretch the truth or omit vital segments of biblical text to reach their desired conclusion, and, in addition, are fraught with expressions of unease such as "maybe" and "perhaps." This is not to say that his attempt bears no fruit. He effectively portrays the plight of closeted and openly gay Orthodox Jews who struggle daily with their sexual desires and with the knowledge that the Torah and the rabbis forbid homosexuality. While Greenberg's controversial biblical claims on this long-taboo topic may infuriate some and gratify others, his book arouses deep empathy for Orthodox homosexuals. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 12/22/2003
Release date: 02/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 330 pages - 978-0-299-19093-4
Paperback - 316 pages - 978-0-299-19094-1
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