TOEVAH, ABOMINATION & HOMOSEXUALITY

 

The following is a reply from me (Avi Dolgin) to a posting on a Jewish discussion list (the prior posting, a reply to someone's contention that Toevah referred to forbidden Temple practices, is quoted below). The opinions (and scholarship, whatever its worth) are my own. Your conclusions, or your increased scholarship, are your own.     A.D.

 


 

With reference to the Torah term "toevah", referring to homosexuality and other practices (see the quoted portion below):

 

>>Now, whole books have been written about this stuff, but basically Leviticus 18:1-3 and the Deuteronomy 23:17-18 set the scene for arguing that the other Levitical passages are based on idolatrous, same-sex pagan temple prostitution. Scholars argue that the word for "abomination" (toevah) is used to refer to the pagan practices of other nations. You brought evidence from Leviticus and Deuteronomy. I will likewise only refer to Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Leviticus 18:26, 27, and 29 refers to all of the sins in the chapter (incest, relations when the woman is menstruating, adultery, sacrificing children to Molech, sex between two men, and bestiality) as "toevot". Deuteronomy 14:3 refers to forbidden foods (animals that don't chew their cud and have split hooves, aquatic animals that don't have fins and scales, certain birds, animals that die of themselves, and cooking a kid in it's mother's milk) as "toevah". Deuteronomy 17:1 terms as "toevah" bringing an animal sacrifice that isn't physically perfect. Deuteronomy24:4 describes as "toevah" a situation where a man divorces his wife, she marries another and is again divorced or widowed, and he remarries her. Deuteronomy 25:16 calls dishonest business practices "toevah". Is it the opinion of the scholars that all sexual offenses (not just male-male ones), forbidden foods, maimed sacrifices, remarrying a divorcee who has been married to someone else, and cheating in business are also only prohibited in the context of pagan temples?

 

The first instance of the use of the term occurs when Moses, speaking to Pharaoh, describes the form of ritual that the Hebrews will practice (if only allowed to do so) as "toevah" to the Egyptians (Exodus 8:22). The second occurrence, also in the exodus story, is similar.

It would be absurd to suggest that Moses considered our practices as "abomination". He does, however, recognize that they are foreign to the Egyptians.

 

The list of things described as "toevah" (see the quote above) are of a similar nature, They are foreign, in this case to the Hebrews. The translation of "toevah" as "abomination" is clearly wrong. While it may be that Jews have been instructed not to practice male homosexuality or remarrying your ex, it doesn't follow that these things are inherently evil, disgusting, perverse or whatever other baggage the incorrect term "abomination" implies. It is also true that some foreign practices on the banned list (eg- passing your children through fire) seem pretty self-evidently wrong. However, the Torah often instructs us to avoid wrong action (see some of the ten commandments) without using the term "toevah".  Toevah is not identical to ethics - it is related to culture.

 

Folks may legitimately use the Torah to criticize homosexual practice as "toevah", but only if those same folks are prepared never to indulge in the "toevot" of eating shrimp, having sex while the woman has her period, etc. That would appear to rule out most Bible-thumping Christians, as well as a lot of Jews.

 

 

 

 

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