intersexuality in the mishnah

“In the Mishnah, Rabbi Yosi makes the radical statement: “androgynos bria bifnei atzma hu / the androgynos he is a created being of her own.” This Hebrew phrase blends male and female pronouns to poetically express the complexity of the androgynos’ identity. The term bri’a b’ifnei atzmah is a classical Jewish legal term for exceptionality. This term is an acknowledgement that not all of creation can be understood within binary categories. It recognizes the possibility that uniqueness can burst through the walls that demarcate our society. The Hebrew word bria (created being) explicitly refers to divine formation; hence this term also reminds us that all bodies are created in the image of God. People can’t always be easily defined; they can only be seen and respected, and their lives made holy. This Jewish approach allows for genders beyond male and female. It opens up space in society for every body. And it protects those who live in the places in between.”

– “Created by the Hand of Heaven: A Jewish Approach to Intersexuality” by Rabbi Elliot Rose Kukla and Reuben Zellman


“Six recognized genders in Old Israel”

Zachar: Usually translated as “male” in English.
Nekevah: Usually translated as “female” in English.
Androgynos: A person who has both “male” and “female” sexual characteristics. [Source: 149 references in Mishna and Talmud (1st-8th Centuries CE); 350 in classical midrash and Jewish law codes (2nd -16th Centuries CE).]
Tumtum: A person whose sexual characteristics are indeterminate or obscured. [Source: 181 references in Mishna and Talmud; 335 in classical midrash and Jewish law codes.]
Ay’lonit: A person who is identified as “female” at birth but develops “male” characteristics at puberty and is infertile. [Source: 80 references in Mishna and Talmud; 40 in classical midrash and Jewish law codes.]
Saris: A person who is identified as “male” at birth but develops “female” characteristics as puberty and/or is lacking a penis. A saris can be “naturally” a saris (saris hamah), or become one through human intervention (saris adam).  [Source: 156 references in mishna and Talmud; 379 in
classical midrash and Jewish law codes.]

Source:  Classical Jewish Terms for Gender Diversity by Rabbi Elliot Kukla, 2006

Our Sages non-judgmentally explore the role of intersex people in regards to many facets of ritual and civil law such as circumcision, redemption, oath-taking and menstruation.

The midrash, in Bereshit Rabah, posits that Adam, the first human being, was actually an androgynos. While in the Babylonian Talmud (Yevamot 64a-64b) the radical claim is made that Abraham and Sarah were tumtumim, gender non-conforming people. According to our tradition the first human being and the first Jews were gender outlaws. This teaches us that it is those that transgress the apparently rigid lines of Judaism that have caused the tradition to grow.

Rabbi Elliot Kukla, Parashat Vayechi: Beyond Stick Figures “Like look, the first man was intersex. The first Jews were intersex. Fuck people who say religions are transphobic and intersexist when they really mean that western christianity is transphobic and intersexist.”

what does judaism say about lgbt people?

“Within Judaism, there are many shades of LGBT acceptance and rejection.

Rabbi Denise Eger, the rabbi of the West Hollywood Reform synagogue Congregation Kol Ami, is one of the first openly gay or lesbian rabbis. She was ordained in 1986, then came out in 1989; the following year, Reform Judaism began ordaining openly gay and lesbian rabbis.

Eger says that Judaism has evolved on the issue of LGBT inclusion, particularly with the Reform movement’s long record of support for LGBT rights.”

“Twenty-five years ago fewer than a dozen Jewish clergy publicly identified as LGBTQ. Today 200 rabbis, cantors, rabbinic pastors and clergy students in every denomination lead congregations, teach at universities, lead and teach at seminaries, run Jewish organizations, manage chaplaincy departments at hospitals and more,” Nehirim’s executive director, Rabbi Debra Kolodny, said in a news release announcing the event.

“We are thrilled that so many will clergy will join us for four days of meaningful dialogue about theology, leadership, and how we can help heal the wounds created by religion around sexuality in the Jewish world.”

National Museum of American Jewish History – LGBT Stories: a Collecting Project

What is this for?

Have you witnessed same sex friends as they stood under a huppah together?

Has your family added an orange to their Seder plate?

Do you have handbills, pins, letters, posters, t-shirts, banners, ritual objects, or other things related to the experience of LGBT Jews in America?

Please share your story with the National Museum of American Jewish History.

NMAJH is seeking to document the personal stories of LGBT Jewish Americans, and to connect visitors with LGBT Jews’ stories of courage, community, and traditions old, new, and renewed. This Tumblr was created in the summer of 2014 as a way to share stories about American Jewish LGBT life. We encourage visitors to this page to post and share stories and images of their Jewish American and LGBT experiences here. Museum curators may contact you in the future as they prepare exhibitions and other projects.

What are you looking for?

NMAJH is always looking for personal and community stories to deepen the Museum’s presentation. We really hope to learn about a wide range of objects and stories related to Jewish LGBT Americans including – but definitely not limited to – the following things:

  • Photographs
  • Ritual objects/Judaica related to any of the different branches of Judaism
  • Diaries, letters, and other personal writings
  • Printed materials and tools related to the movement for LGBT equality: Handbills, Brochures, Tickets, Newsletters, Books and booklets, Typewriters, Megaphones, Tape recorders, Cameras, Clipboards, Petitions, Banners and picket signs from parades or rallies, Clothing & personal gear – t-shirts, buttons, kippot, patches, conference tote bags
  • Artifacts related to Stonewall or reactions to those events
  • Material from the 1980s, reactions to the AIDS crisis
  • Material related to Day without Art and World AIDS Day
  • Material related to key political and government figures (personal or public artifacts like campaign ephemera related to Harvey Milk, Frank Kameny)
  • Material related to commitment ceremonies and marriages in the current battle for equality in marriage, and from legislators/lobbyists working for gay marriage rights
  • Children’s books & other materials related to same-sex parents
  • Material from gay-friendly clubs/bars and other hang-outs
  • Concert programs/movie tickets and other cultural ephemera
  • Ritual artifacts that incorporate established or reinvented
  • Jewish traditions”

queers of faith

say it with me now

queer people of faith exist

queer people of faith matter

queer people of faith have probably spent their entire life feeling excluded from their faith community “because you can’t be both” so let’s not make them feel excluded from the queer community “because you can’t be both”

queer people of faith exist

queer people of faith matter