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The Queering of Leviticus

The national LGBTQI group Nehirim is hosting a three-day conference in San Francisco on how to ‘queer the text’

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That whole thing about Leviticus clearly forbidding sexual relations between two men? Open to interpretation.

At least that’s what Oregon-based Rabbi Debra Kolodny, Executive Director of Nehirim, the national LGBTQI group, says, based on the idea of “queering the text.”

“Queering the text,” Kolodny says, “looks for the chidush [a new idea or way of understanding a text], the innovation, the insight that’s never been imagined before because the lens we’re looking for today never existed before.”

Kolodny says contemporary liberal Judaism is at an historical moment in which it can combine its knowledge of history, sociology and sexuality to thousands of years of Jewish tradition to reveal “something that couldn’t be revealed even 20 years ago because we didn’t have the experience under our belt.”

“Queering the text” refers to any number of paths for looking at scripture and is “the lens through which we look at our text,” says Kolodny.

She cites Leviticus: “A man should not lie with a man.”

“How are we to be in relationships with these texts that are difficult?” asks Kolodny. “In that way queer theology is no different than any other way of looking at the text. That’s what Jews do.”

An example of “queering” is in how Leviticus, the text authoritatively cited when discussing traditional Judaism’s prohibition against homosexual relations between men, can be reexamined.

Kolodny describes one way in which the text can be seen through a chidush in which the text would not forbid homosexual relations or unions.

First, she explains, the Hebrew word “toevah,” used in Leviticus, has been mistranslated as “abomination.”

Continue reading on The Times of Israel