The 2005 film Brokeback Mountain features two manly sheepherders, Ennis and Jack, who sleep out in the wild on a remote mountain range, in a single tent – at first under separate blankets. But in a moment of passion, the two discover the social construction of the norms for male sexuality in an very immediate way – although Ennis spends the rest of the film struggling between his desire and societal expectations.
However, those canny sages of old, the tannaitic Rabbis, already knew about such things. Although it isn’t uneqivocal, the Mishnah declares its approval for ‘brokebacking‘.
“Rabbi Judah says: an unmarried man may not herd cattle, nor may two unmarried men sleep under the same cloak. But the Sages permit it.”
(Mishnah, Kiddushin 4:14)
Well, that’s a very practical approach to legislating same-sex relationships, isn’t it? After all, the Rabbis probably realised that if they were to clamp down on such things altogether, how many manly sheepherders would be still putting up their hands to herd sheep in remote mountain ranges?
Moss JA and Ulmer RB, “Two men under one cloak” – the Sages permit it: homosexual marriage in Judaism.” Journal of Homosexuality 55.1 (2008): 71-105