Torah for Today: What does the Torah say about.. Transgender?
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Torah for Today: What does the Torah say about.. Transgender?

Rabbi Ariel Abel is based in Liverpool

by Rabbi Ariel AbelTorah-For-Today-300x206

Vicky Thompson was a transgendered woman who vowed she would kill herself if she was sent to an all-male prison. Earlier this month, Vicky was found dead in her cell in Leeds’ Armley prison.

What does the Torah say about this? When Judah condemned Tamar to death for prostitution, it was pointed out to him that he was the patron. He backed down saying: “You are more righteous than I”.

This degree of open honesty is desperately needed in times to prevent avoidable tragedies. The Torah proscribes crossdressing and forbids the removal of male genitalia in both men and mammals. However, several prominent rabbis have discussed issues of transgender and their practical Halachic outcomes.

Joseph Palaji, a 19th century Turkish Halakhist, stated that a woman who changed completely into a man would not need a get to be released from a former marriage. Palaji even suggested that the blessing “who has made me a woman” should change to “who has turned me into a man”, although he issued a caveat, that it may be best not to recite anything in an “upside-down world, especially as this phenomenon is so rare.”

Thus, perhaps unwittingly, the opening chapter in the transgender Siddur was born. In the 20th century, Rabbi Waldenberg, author of Tzitz Eliezer, ruled that a transgender woman need not divorce his wife with a get as she could not possibly be described as a married woman vis-à-vis her ex-spouse.

Not every case of adopting a gender involves a conscious choice to replace genitalia. The leading Israeli halakhist HaRav Elyashiv ruled that someone born with undescended male genitalia after responding positively to female hormone therapy was no longer certainly a male, although some doubt still remained, and that once a transgender woman has an artificial vagina made, there cannot be said to be any Biblical transgression of the prohibition of the male homosexual act.

Further Halachic discussion on whether or when a gender reassignment may or may not be permitted notwithstanding, rabbinic authorities and religious communities should be the first to see to that transgender individuals are treated with the utmost respect and dignity. They should also ensure they retain every right conferred upon them by the Torah as a parent to have a fully integrated relationship with their children.

• Rabbi Ariel Abel is founder of the Lancashire and Liverpool Regional Community, with pulpits in two synagogues on Merseyside

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments