I wanted to share a dvar Torah on this week’s parsha by Sigal Samuel (link below). It was posted in the Dvar Tzedek column of the American Jewish World Service website. In this dvar Samuel discusses the halacha which forbids men dressing like women and vice versa. She points out, interestingly, that the Talmud and Rashi interpret this halacha as referring to dressing like a member of the opposite sex in order to get access to a space which would otherwise be off limits. In other words they interpret the halacha as referring to dressing like another gender as a disguise, for the purposes of deception. This is fascinating for a number of reasons: 1) it’s interesting that the Rabbis did not associate this halacha with “forbidden” sexuality or transgender behaviour per say. If this is correct, then it supports the idea that the original halacha cannot be confidently interpreted as being about cross-dressing. If cross dressing didn’t occur to the Rabbis living in metropolitan Graec0-roman and Babylonian cities, then how likely is it that was what our Sherpherd ancestors were thinking? 2) if translated to our context this law would not apply to homosexual or transgender people per say. In fact, homosexual people or transgendered people might be in violation of the halacha if they hide their true sexuality in order to deceive. Admittedly this interpretation relies on the fact that we do not view homosexuality as forbidden by the Tanakh, which I don’t. (I think the wording of the law against ” a man lying with a man as though with a woman” is too ambiguous, and the Rabbinical interpretations too questionable, to be confidently applied in a matter which has become so important. The other values and laws of the Torah and the early Rabbis must therefore be brought to bear. These values are a humble approach to making things forbidden and thus creating hardship, and humane-ness. I believe these values in today’s society would result in humility, full acceptance of LGBTQ, non-discrimination, and extending celebration and affirmation as to any other member of the Jewish community.
Here is the original article: