Shabbos 65 Lesbianism in halacha 

In this Daf, we are told that the Amora Shmuel’s father, also a great authority, would not allow his unmarried daughters to sleep together on the same bed.

The Gemara discusses what his concern was.

First , it suggests that he  supports the  view  of Rav Huna that women who have sexual contact with each other ( נשים המסוללות זו בזו ) are not permitted to marry a kohain   (in fact specifically a kohain gadol according to Rashi.)

It could thus be that he was worried that if they sleep in the same bed, they might come to sexual contact, which would cut out their chances of marrying one if they so desired.

It should be noted that even if they were not permitted to marry a kohain or a kohain gadol, that would not necessarily mean they did something wrong – a kohain gadol can only marry a virgin, which excludes a widow who certainly has done nothing wrong, and a kohain cannot marry a divorcee, who has also done nothing wrong  .

The Gemara rejects this suggestion and asserts that he does not necessarily agree with this, and he would permit a woman who had slept with another woman to marry even a Kohain Gadol.

The Gemara explains that he simply did not want them to become used to close bodily contact with other people in case they started doing the same with boys while they were unmarried still.

It seems to  follow that  at least according to THIS sugya, there is no actual Torah prohibition for women to sleep with each other , as if there was, that should have been enough reason for Shmuel’s father to stop his daughters sleeping on the same bed fully clothed.

This fits in well with the fact that there is no specific verse in the Torah prohibiting sexual activity between females, unlike the verses which seem to clearly forbid any such activity between two men.

However, just like we do not make halachic ruling from verses alone, we also do not make halachic rulings from one Gemara in isolation.

To get a bigger picture of this issue, it is necessary to study in depth all other sugyos that relate to this issue and study the rulings of the early poskim on the subject, at a minimum.

A look at the parallel sugya (Yevamos 76a)  and the Rambam (Issurei Biah 21/8), shows that this issue is not so simple, but that’s perhaps for another time – this is a daf post after all, not a teshuva or halakhic ruling.

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf . They are not intended as psak halacha .

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