Peninei Halakha

15. The Mitzva to Marry

The Torah’s commandments apply to all Jews. Even men and women with same-sex attraction have a mitzva to marry, to fulfill the mitzva of ona with love and happiness, and to procreate.

In previous generations, not getting married because of sexual orientation was almost unheard of. Presumably, this could be the case in our generation as well. Despite societal changes, many people who feel same-sex attraction can overcome it enough to happily and lovingly establish a family. Likewise, it is known that many people who experience same-sex attraction are capable of feeling attracted to the opposite sex as well. Those who find this difficult must use all possible means to divert their tendencies so that they can enter into a marital relationship faithful to the law of Moshe and Israel.

In practice, though, as long as a man deems that he cannot have a relationship with a woman, cannot commit to be faithful to her and give her the love and joy she deserves, then he is unable to get married due to circumstances beyond his control (ones). Only if he is quite certain that he is capable of committing to love his wife and to enter into a joyful physical relationship with her may he fulfill the mitzva to marry. The same is true for a woman. Only if she is quite certain that she can be properly responsive to her husband’s passion may she get married.

A man and a woman who both have same-sex attraction may decide to marry each other, be faithful, be great friends to each other, and try to observe the mitzva of ona to the best of their abilities. They may fulfill the mitzva of marriage in this way and raise a fine family.

The reward of those who succeed in overcoming their urges and who, out of deep moral responsibility, establish a committed, loving marital relationship and raise a family, is very great. As the Sages state, “According to the suffering is the reward” (Avot 5:23). They merit reward not only in the next world but in our world as well. This is because in order to overcome their urge, they must delve deeply into the foundations of love and morality. Doing so allows them to experience a deeper intimacy. It is reminiscent of the Sages’ statement, “Where penitents stand, even completely righteous people cannot stand” (Berakhot 34b).

They improve the world, too. Unfortunately, many people are swept away by their physical desires and end up sinning through adultery and promiscuity. They even base their marriage solely on carnal urges. When their desire for their spouse wanes, they return to satisfying their desires by committing adultery and other abominable acts. Ultimately, they are always disappointed, since any physical relationship which lacks a moral dimension and is not sanctified will end up in deadly dreariness. In order to perfect the world, it is necessary to engage in penitential acts that restore balance. We should emphasize the spiritual value of loyalty, friendship, morality, and the sanctity of the marital covenant. This is accomplished by the very same people who do not feel a natural desire for the opposite sex, and yet enter into a covenant to be faithful to their spouse, out of a desire to accept upon themselves the yoke of the kingdom of Heaven. Thus, the Sages declare, “People who act out of love and are happy in their suffering are the subject of the verse, ‘Those who love God are like the sun rising in might’ (Shoftim 5:31)” (Shabbat 88b).[18]

[18]. Rav Kook writes, “When he happily accepts [his situation], even though he will experience only a minimum of the pleasure expected from following the right path and serving God, and will suffer anxiety and bitterness as a result of his heroism in choosing the upright path…he succeeds in habituating himself to doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing, namely, God’s will…. Overall, the world does not give enough weight to spirituality, because so many people are submerged in materialism…but when this individual’s spirituality is added to that of the collective, his noble sanctity will water the spiritual desert. This will be the fruit of his labor, and he should be happy about it. When speaking of such people, who act out of love and are happy in their suffering, the Torah says, ‘Those who love God are like the sun rising in might’” (Midot Re’aya, Brit 1).

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

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The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman