Thursday, June 14, 2007

Homosexuality in Halakhah VI

In previous posts (I, II, III, IV, V), we discussed whether homosexuals are inculpable for sinful acts because they fall into the category of annusim, someone coerced into doing something, this time coerced by their strong, lifelong desires. I came across a fascinating responsum from R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, regarding enlisting in the army as a chaplain, in which he carefully delineates, with great lomdus, the distinction between piku'ach nefesh and ones. Here is one of the differences (Community, Covenant and Commitment, p. 36):

Secondly, there is another characteristic which is essential for the understanding of ones or coercion -- namely that the crime be perpetrated under the impact of immoral interference of another human being who suggested to the agent the sinful action. Maimonides sharply discriminated between natural necessity, which denotes the force of mechanical factors under whose influence human behavior is often determined, and coercion, which applies to an act under compulsion caused by one's fellow man. If one acts under [the] stress of cruel nature, although his act is necessary because he is too weak to fight against powerful, sometimes overwhelming, forces, he is, however, not considered to act under constraint, for his freedom of action is not completely canceled. The individual chooses what to do, how to act, and both the initiative and decision are his. Only immoral human intervention and an attempt to exercise dominion over another's will renders the act of the coerced person involuntary.
From the editor's introduction, it seems that this entire responsum was written in English, which is surprising given its complexity and that it was addressed to R. Shmuel Belkin.

As to R. Soloveitchik's conclusion, it is: "We may therefore, say that enlisting as a chaplain in the armed forces is permissible according to the Halakhah" (p. 56) and "[I]t is our duty to meet the challenge of the hour and see to provide the armed forces with as many chaplains as our quote requires" (p. 57).

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Favorites More