Before we leave the subject of mishkav zakhur I would like to address a very human element into the discussion. It is very simple to make the bald statement that mishkav zakhur is forbidden - and certainly there are many gay men who refrain from anal penetration, most I would guess for reasons which are not religious. Also, bearing in mind that this paper is directed towards the religious Jew, it is reasonable to assume the he would want to subordinate his desires as much as he can to the dictates of Torah. However, for very many gay men the prohibition of mishkav zakhur is almost the equivalent of a prohibition of vaginal penetration in heterosexual sex. This demand that the Torah makes of them is very difficult indeed for them. On the one hand it is true that the Torah also imposes certain prohibitions on heterosexual copulations, the most obvious being the prohibition of sexual intercourse with a woman who is niddah. But the couple who scrupulously observe the restrictions of niddah know that full sexual relations will be resumed after the passage of eleven or so days. The prohibition of mishkav zakhur is, however, a blanket prohibition. Therefore I think that we must accept that however earnestly two religiously motivated gay men may try to observe the prohibition of mishkav zakhur there is a great possibility that sometimes they will not be able to withstand their יצר, their natural impulse. What should these men do in such circumstances?

This is a very hard question to answer for a rabbi who is committed to a halakhic thesis as expounded so far in this paper. Nevertheless, for reasons of intellectual honesty, halakhic integrity and sheer human kindness it is a question he or she may not avoid. I base my advice on a biblical verse [Proverbs 3:6]:

בכל דרכיך דעהו והוא יישר ארחתיך

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.

This verse is quoted in the Talmud [Berakhot 63a] with a very interesting comment.

דרש בר קפרא: איזוהי פרשה קטנה שכל גופי תורה תלוין בה? - "בכל דרכיך דעהו והוא יישר ארחותיך". אמר רבא: אפילו לדבר עבירה

Bar-Kappara stated the following midrash: which is a small verse upon which hang all the basics of Torah? It is "in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths". Rava said: even when you sin.

What is Rava adding to the plain meaning of the verse which Bar-Kappara says is an essential part of Torah observance, something on which all the major issues of the Torah depend? He is saying that if, even when you sin, your thoughts and intentions are directed to love of God, He (God) will consider your action as worthy. In the Torah [Genesis 19:38] we learn how the two nations of Moab and Amon were generated by two acts of incest. Yet Rabbi Ovadyah Sforno, in his commentary on that verse, applies the thought that we have just enunciated here:

כי מפני שהיתה כוונת הנשים רצויה היה זרעם לשני גוים יורשי אברהם בקצת כאמרם בכל דרכיך דעהו אפילו לדבר עבירה

Because the intention of these women was worthy their descendents became two peoples tracing their descent from Abraham, as is implied in the rabbinical teaching, "in all your ways acknowledge Him" - even when you sin.

So, my advice would be that if occasional weakness results in mishkav zakhur, thank God for the deep love that prompted the act and for the deep emotional sense of togetherness and the ecstatic union of souls that in its turn the act generated. Go out of your way to relate to others with a shadow of that outpouring of love that you have been privileged to experience. Go and give צדקה charity to the needy or to a worthy cause as an expression of a deep gratitude to Heaven and a desire that others share a modicum of the happiness you have been vouchsafed. Be loving, kind and considerate to each other, and then try to emulate the ecstatic joy of the physical love you have experienced in your spiritual relationship with God - "and He will direct your paths". Also bear in mind sincere repentance and Yom Kippur.

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