03 June 2012

The Image of God Problem for Same-Sex "Marriage"

A phrase that I see used in many different Jewish pieces, I come across a phrase that I truly think is way too-overused (and perhaps in not so appropriate contexts, as well), that of "image of God", which is a translation of צלם אלהים (tzelem Elohim).  This phrase comes from Genesis 1:27, wherein it says (English translation): "And God created the person in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."  There are a lot of different ways of using, taking, and understanding this verse (e.g. check out the rabbinic statements relating to this in the beginning of Genesis Rabbah), which could be explored at a different time....
     However, as the current Kulturkampf continues regarding those who would like to expand marriage to also include people who are of the same sex as each other, when reading about same-sex "marriage" these days - at least in Jewish contexts - I often come across, in one way or another a mention or perhaps even an argument involving the phrase "image of God".  What seems amusing to me, though, is that the "image of God" is both male and female, as presented in Genesis.  If people using this term truly valued the "image of God", this would logically lead one to not only privilege heteronormativity, but also entirely devalue people of the same sex coming together in any way, as the "image of God" necessitates two people of opposite sexes.  
     Basically, I am urging people when speaking, tweeting, blogging, writing, etc. their opinions about this topic to seriously consider what "image of God" means before deploying it....

10 comments:

Adam Zur said...

they don't mean tzelem elokim. They mean the "dignity of man" and then they twist the words of the Torah to mean what they what tit to mean.

city said...

nice posting.. thanks for sharing..

Steven Radcliffe said...
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Steven Radcliffe said...

"...male and female He created [the species]" ?

Steven Radcliffe said...

I will try airing something under this post. "zachar mishkevei ishah" -- vayikra 20:13 -- this is a double construct, isn't it? I read several conservative responsums in the past years, and not one of them pointed this out. Is this too learned a point, even for fellow rabbis? It might imply a kind of male distinguished from other males, and the injunction in the text might have been telling these two kinds of males not to mix with each other. But a later generation might not have wanted to acknowledge this other kind of male, who would have to be a Jew in order for this societal law to apply to him (unless the authorities thought they could apply their laws to foreigners also.)

Steven Radcliffe said...

Or - I don't remember any of them pointing out the 'double construct,' like 'beit melech yerushalyim,' for example.

Drew_Kaplan said...

Steven,
That's a creative re-read of the text, but Lev. 20:13 is not a double construct (which is probably why none of the CJLS responsa mention the possibility. זָכָר is the direct object in the sentence (as immediately preceded by the direct object marker אֶת) with מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה being the forbidden adverb of יִשְׁכַּב.
I will give you credit for the creative re-read, but even if it were to be, then a male who is penetrated is still to be sexually off-limits to other men (or, it could be alternatively stated, that men are not supposed to be sexually active with men who are penetrated).

Steven Radcliffe said...

Drew,
Are you saying that a construct cannot be a direct object (she saw 'the gate of the temple') ; and also that a construct can function as an adverb without a preposition like "b'" preceding it ? A good weekend to you.

Steven Radcliffe said...
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Steven Radcliffe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.