Judaism’s Stance on Gender Is Clear, Despite Attempts To Rewrite Torah

As published in Newsweek.

In 2020, various Jewish progressives organized a tendentious campaign of statements, articles, and even rallies insisting that Judaism permits—indeed, demands—unfettered abortion. I observed then that “few things have been said about Judaism by its purported adherents that are more clearly untrue.” Now, following a new wave of opinion pieces and even news articles over the past few months, it seems necessary to add another item to the list: the notion that Judaism recognizes a range—perhaps even a “multiplicity”—of genders.

These claims popped up almost overnight, like mushrooms on a damp field after too much rain. Left-wing clergy, parents of prepubescent children, and even a sitting member of Congress all tried to obscure the obvious and promote the preposterous.

The idea of a “gender identity” distinct from biological sex is, of course, entirely modern. But there is an even more obvious reason why “gender identity” cannot be found in Torah or millennia of Rabbinic literature. Or, it should be obvious, at least, to anyone able to read even the first chapter of the Jewish Bible, in any of the over 700 languages into which it has been translated.

Genesis 1:27 declares (in English translation): “Male and female He Created them.” The following chapter explains that male and female were Created together, and then separated so that husband and wife might rejoin, once again becoming “one flesh” through the forming of their offspring. And that is the sum total of what the Bible has to say about “gender identity:” that men and women are distinct Creations, complementary to each other, each made the way G-d wanted them to be.

What the rabbis still needed to address, of course, were birth defects and other physical aberrations, to understand how affected individuals should observe Jewish laws that differ for men and women. Since the four such phenomena described in the Talmud are mischaracterized by those who now promote modern notions of gender identity, it is worth briefly describing each of them in turn.

A saris is a eunuch, or one who has been castrated. This is the only one of the four examples discussed in the Talmud that could result from either acts of man or acts of nature. For a Jew to do this, however, even to an animal, violates, according to a commonly used 13th-century compilation, Commandment number 291 of the 613 Commandments found in the Torah.

The other three phenomena are all exclusively accidents of birth. An aylonis is a woman who is unable to develop physically, whether due to lacking a womb or a hormonal imbalance. An androgynous exhibits both male and female biological characteristics, and a tumtum, by contrast, has a membrane of skin covering the pubic region, such that his or her sexuality cannot always be determined.

The Talmud records a case of a tumtum who cut the membrane open, and went on to father seven children. Far from being some sort of early transgender procedure, this story proves that a tumtum is indeed of one or the other innate biological sex—it is just that it is masked.

Advocates often latch on to one singular phrase, “Rabbi Yossi says, an androgynous is a Creation of its own” [Bikkurim 4:5], yet, amazingly, do not finish the sentence: “and the rabbis could not prove conclusively if he is man or woman.” In other words, this discussion of a minority opinion makes clear that the determination is an objective one, to be made by neutral judges. The individual’s subjective self-perception is irrelevant; the only question is how he or she was Created by G-d.

This is the sole context of all such Talmudic discussions, which the advocates deliberately ignore. Not only is there no recognition of “gender identity” in Rabbinic literature, but aberrations are neither desirable nor a human choice; rather, they are unfortunate physical defects which legal decisors must address.

As stated at the outset, Judaism teaches that G-d Created male and female so that they might partner with Him in creating a next generation. Surgical and pharmaceutical interventions do not render a woman able to produce sperm or a man able to conceive, gestate, and deliver a baby.

No one can claim with a straight face that procedures resulting in permanent infertility, ongoing medical needs, and shortened lifespans are sanctioned under the moral beliefs of Judaism. All they do is deprive a person of healthy biological function while giving him/her a superficial resemblance to the other gender. Far better for a person to come to embrace what Divine Wisdom has bestowed upon each and every one of us.

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13 Responses

  1. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    An excellent exposition of this controversial question.

  2. D K says:

    Well said.
    It’s so sad that science and L’Havdil, the Torah, are hijacked for the sole purpose of spreading unproven theories dreamt up by those who want to forward their own agendas.

  3. Bob Miller says:

    The Torah commands such respect that Jewish heretics, such as Sadducees, early Christians, Marxists, and Reformers, have felt obliged to falsify it by mistranslation or reinterpretation. whenever that suited their purposes.

  4. William Gewirtz says:

    you write:”The Talmud records a case of a tumtum who cut the membrane open and went on to father seven children. Far from being some sort of early transgender procedure, this story proves that a tumtum is indeed of one or the other innate biological sex—it is just that it is masked.”

    That individual tumtum or all?

    • nt says:

      All, by definition.

      • William Gewirtz says:

        if you can explain all relevant sugyot with that “by definition” I would be interested. the editors can share mt email and we can discuss. as you might imagine, i believe you are clearly incorrect.

  5. cohen y says:

    There is Never in judaism any possibility whatsoever for gender change after birth!
    ( tumtum or androgynous included)

    Ignore the media propaganda tropes .
    We need to Continue to Call a spade a spade
    The Nashville shooter Was A girl !- even if/when a boy wannabee!

    “In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
    “We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”
    This was obvious a few short seasons ago

  6. C Chaya says:

    he sun did not shine
    It was too wet to play
    So we sat in the house
    All that cold, cold, wet day
    I sat there with Sally
    We sat there, we two.
    And I said, “How I wish
    We had something to do!”

    The sun did not shine.
    On that very sad day
    When they told Dr. Seuss
    “Would you please go away!”
    I sat there so lonely
    Was the news really true?
    And I said, “How I wish
    There was something to do!”
    But we could not shout
    Nor raise our voices
    And listened with tears
    To the president’s choices

    We canceled you, Seuss!
    That is just that!
    Get out Marvin K!
    And the Cat in the Hat

    You don’t run the zoo
    There’s no Mulberry Street
    There’s no Fox and no Sox
    To put on your feet
    And all I could do was to
    And I did not like it
    Not one little bit
    And then it went bump
    It looked kind of strange
    A liberal cat
    Who sounded deranged
    He came into our home
    That liberal cat
    And said, “Listen to me!
    And that is just that!”
    I’ll teach you new tricks
    Show you how to think
    Your old games and methods
    They really do stink

    I’ll throw out the old stuff
    And bring in the new
    No boys and no girls
    Just Thing One and Thing Two

    We have lots of lessons
    We’ll teach them to you
    “Your mother will not mind
    At all if we do.”
    And Sally and I
    Did not know what to say
    Our mother was out of the house
    For the day
    But the good fish said, “No! no!
    Make that cat go away!
    Tell that Cat in the Hat
    You do NOT want to play.
    “He should not be here
    He should not be about
    He should not be here
    When your mother is out!”
    But the press and the lefties
    Said, “Please have no fear!
    These tricks are not bad
    It’s what you need to hear
    “Why, we can have
    Lots of good fun if you wish
    With a game that I call
    Let’s cancel the fish!”

    “Put me down!” said the fish.
    “This is no fun at all!
    Put me down!” said the fish.
    “I do NOT wish to fall!”
    But the media laughed
    “The fish has no brains”
    The cat has it right
    And the rest are insane!

    “Have no fear!” said the cat.
    I will not let you fall
    I will hold you up high
    As I stand on a ball.
    “With a book in one hand!
    And a cup on my hat!
    But that is not all I can do!”
    Said the liberal cat…
    “I can topple statues
    Change names of all sorts
    Whether it’s products
    Or teams from the sports!”

    I can mistreat my aides
    Kill the unborn
    No one can stop me
    I’ll greet them with scorn

    I can close all the schools
    I can say what to learn
    I can make up a price
    What workers should earn

    He picked up my Bible
    And threw it away
    Saying, “C’mon boys and girls
    It’s the new way to play!

    “’Look at me!
    Look at me now!” said the cat.
    “With a cup and a cake
    On the top of my hat!
    “I can hold up TWO books!
    I can hold up the fish!
    And a little toy ship!
    And some milk on a dish!
    “And look!
    I can hop up and down on the ball!
    But that is not all!
    Oh, no
    That is not all…

    “I can make senators kneel
    I can smash all the shops
    I can scare politicians
    To defund the cops”

    “And no fish can stop me
    How about that!
    I’m the Governor now
    The Cat in the Hat!”
    That is what the cat said…
    Then he fell on his head!
    He came down with a bump
    From up there on the ball.
    And Sally and I
    We saw all the things fall!
    Yes, that will hopefully happen
    From the big charade
    And all of the games
    That those fat cats have played

    One day years later
    Our mom will come in
    The rain will have stopped
    On her face a big grin
    And she’ll say to us two
    “Did you have any fun?
    Tell me: What did you do?
    When it rained without sun?”
    And Sally and I won’t know
    What to say
    Should we tell her
    The things that went on there that day?
    Should we tell her about it?
    Now, what should we do?

  7. Shira Leibowitz Schmidt says:

    A book supporting the views explained by Rabbi Menken has been written by Dr. Miriam Grossman, an Orthodox child psychiatrist in NY. It is tItled: Lost in Trans Nation: A Child Psychiatrist’s Guide Out of the Madness It will be published – June 13, 2023 You can preorder from amazon
    and other booksellers. See Dr. Grossman’s website for more information. Below is a description:

    Throughout our country, atrocities are taking place in doctor’s offices and hospital operating rooms. Physically healthy children and adolescents are being permanently disfigured and sometimes sterilized. Those youth say they’re transgender, and we—their parents, teachers, therapists, and doctors—are supposed to agree with their self-diagnosis and take a back seat as they make the most consequential decision of their lives: to alter their bodies in order to, we are told, “align” them with their minds.

    Medical, educational, and government authorities advise us to support the “gender journeys” of still developing kids, including medical interventions with poor evidence of long-term improvement.

    This would not be acceptable in any other field of medicine. Indeed, the treatments our medical authorities and Washington call “crucial” and “life-saving” have been banned in progressive Sweden, Finland, and Britain.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Dr Grossmsn was featured in -“What is a Woman” which is a must see documentary on the junk science that is behind the castration and bilateral mastectomies of minors that is called “gender affirmance” surgery

    • Bob Miller says:

      I once heard someone say about a “rabbi” who made his living performing intermarriages: “He’d marry a pig and a dog if there was money in it.” Among duly accredited professionals, doctors included, we now often see this mercenary attitude, sweetened by made-to-order theories that conveniently stifle the voice of conscience. Even venerable professional associations have gotten into the act. Maybe the dollar is plunging in value because so many people revere it.

  8. mark says:

    Very well said, indeed.

    Eventually, and one hopes that it won’t be too long, this charade will be exposed for what it is. I never thought I would see an actual real-life The Emperors New Cloths play out before my eyes, but here we are. The tragedy is that so many people will suffer very real consequences until this madness is put to rest. Unsuspecting children and adults will be led to believe that this is a healthy alternative path and cause themselves untold misery. All the woke corporations will celebrate them until they find some other unworthy cause to pursue and they’ll be left out to dry with all the other failed movements and ideologies.

    Truly a painful thing to watch.

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