No, Judaism Doesn’t Believe People Can Choose Their Own Gender

In a recent essay in the New York Times, Rabbi Elliot Kukla writes that Judaism’s “most sacred texts reflect a multiplicity of gender,” and in fact “nonbinary gender is central to understanding Jewish law and literature as a whole.” Drawing on various talmudic passages, Kukla finds support for his concerns about the fate of young transsexuals, as well as reason to oppose various legislative measures in certain states. Tal Fortgang is unconvinced:

“There are four genders beyond male or female,” [Kukla] writes, “that appear in ancient Jewish holy texts hundreds of times.” These are tumtum (one whose genitals are obscured), androgynos (intersex), aylonit (an atypically developed female), and saris (a eunuch). The Talmud, rigidly legalistic as it tends to be, is frequently interested in how to categorize these rare individuals within ancient Judaism’s highly gendered structures of Temple service, ritual purity, and much more. (By reifying categories that are relevant only in a highly binary and gender-role-driven society, Kukla thus inadvertently makes the opposite point from what he intended.)

But if Judaism has long “recognized” progressive ideas about gender, and transgenderism has always existed (but is only now being set free in the West, like left-handedness, which appeared more frequently once the taboo against it vanished), why do we have thousands of years of Jewish history, liturgy, commentaries, and rabbinic responsa that fail to mention this? The Talmud has a law for everything; where is the law of the male who thinks he is a woman?

Read more at National Review

More about: Gender, Judaism, New York Times, Talmud, Transsexuals

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy