A Talmudic Exposition: Men in Black

Homosexuality most likely existed even in the ancient rabbinic communities. The rabbis were undoubtedly familiar with Greek  and Roman culture, where homosexuality was considered a perfectly acceptable lifestyle. [1]

Although the Sages worried about their students sexually acting out,  they pragmatically suggested that if one could not control one’s sexual “appetite,” he should wear dark clothes and go to a place where nobody knows him and do whatever his heart desires, “rather than profane the name of Heaven openly.”[2]

Traditional commentaries tend to think the rabbis are referring to heterosexual sex, but this assumption is unwarranted. How do we know that the rabbis were not also alluding to homosexual lay people, or perhaps more specifically–scholars?! A person’s sexual appetite surely is not limited to just those looking for heterosexual sex, and this point ought to be fairly obvious. In Talmudic times, the Sages knew they could not realistically micromanage their followers or especially their colleagues; they feared that the greater the scholar, the greater likelihood would be his disgrace.

It seems to me that the rabbis feared that a homosexual scholar might prove to be a source of embarrassment and scandal if he acted out his urges within the local community. Regardless of the specific context,  one thing seems fairly clear: there are people who cannot or will not control their libido–regardless of their sexual preferences.[3] For such people, the rabbis offered a practical way out so as to preserve their community’s dignity. Continue reading “A Talmudic Exposition: Men in Black”