The University of Wisconsin Press

Gay & Lesbian Studies / Judaica / Religion


Wrestling with God and Men
Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition
Rabbi Steven Greenberg

Winner of the Koret Jewish Book award for Philosophy/Thought, awarded by the Koret Foundations.

For millennia, two biblical verses have been understood to condemn sex between men as an act so abominable that it is punishable by death. Traditionally Orthodox Jews, believing the scripture to be the word of God, have rejected homosexuality. In 1999, Rabbi Steven Greenberg challenged this tradition when he became the first Orthodox rabbi ever to openly declare his homosexuality.

Wrestling with God and Men is the product of Rabbi Greenberg’s ten-year struggle to reconcile his two warring identities. In this compelling and groundbreaking work, Greenberg challenges long-held assumptions of scriptural interpretation and religious identity as he marks a path that is both responsible to human realities and deeply committed to God and Torah. Employing traditional rabbinic resources, Greenberg presents readers with surprising biblical interpretations of the creation story, the love of David and Jonathan, the destruction of Sodom, and the condemning verses of Leviticus. But Greenberg goes beyond the question of whether homosexuality is biblically acceptable to ask how such relationships can be sacred. In so doing, he draws on a wide array of nonscriptural texts to introduce readers to occasions of same-sex love in Talmudic narratives, medieval Jewish poetry and prose, and traditional Jewish case law literature. Ultimately, Greenberg argues that Orthodox communities must open up debate, dialogue, and discussion—precisely the foundation upon which Jewish law rests—to truly deal with the issue of homosexual love.

This book will interest not only members of the Orthodox faith but all religious people struggling to resolve their belief in the scriptures with a desire to make their communities more open and accepting to gay and lesbian members.

Through his deep love and respect of the Jewish tradition he challenges us all to reread our canonical texts in order to create room for an alternative vision of the religious community.”
—Tova Hartman, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Not only brings new and fresh thinking about our current debate over homosexuality but interweaves theology and history with Greenberg’s own personal journey. . . . As useful for Christians as it is for Jews. . . . I heartily recommend this book to Christians who wish to take their Hebrew scriptures seriously and who are willing to examine their own responses to this raging debate.”
—The Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

photo of Rabbi Greenberg

Rabbi Steven Greenberg is a senior teaching fellow at CLAL, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, New York City.

You can visit Rabbi Greenberg’s web site at

The award-winning documentary Trembling Before G_d, which includes interviews with Rabbi Greenberg, takes an intimate and personal look at homosexuality in Hasidic and Orthodox communities as told through the stories of their gay and lesbian members. Trembling Before G_d, currently on tour around the world and just out on DVD, will be meaningful to all those interested in Rabbi Greenberg’s story and the larger issues of Judaism and homosexuality. The web site for information about this film is

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

the cover of Greenberg's book is white, with an illustration of a naked man wrestling with a nude male angel.

New in Paperback, updated
March 2005  
LC: 2003020568 BM
312 pp.    6 x 9

ISBN 978-0-299-19090-3
Book icon Paper $21.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-19094-1
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ISBN 978-0-299-19093-4
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