Note: In the following post I take as a given that homosexual activity is a transgression against the Torah, and that homosexual attraction involves a desire to sin. I know this offends some; feel free not to read on.
One of the more interesting questions to emerge in the debate about homosexuality in the Orthodox community is this:
Judaism teaches that we have Free Will. If same-gender attraction has a biological or otherwise involuntary basis, then hasn't Gd created an overwhelmingly powerful, Free Will-robbing drive to commit a sin?
Or, to put the shoe on the other foot: Can you believe that Gd would prohibit an activity for which a Jew has a powerful involuntary drive?
To my mind, the answer is Yes and Yes. It is entirely possible for the general doctrine of Free Will to co-exist with the possibility of an overwhelming, involuntary drive for a specific sin.
Consider the following three sources:
R’ Eliyahu Dessler, Michtav meiEliyahu, Kuntrus haBechirah Perek 2:
כל אדם יש לו בחירה, היינו בנקודת פגישת האמת שלו עם האמת המדומה, תולדת השקר. אבל רוב מעשיו הם במקום שאין האמת והשקר נפגשים שם כלל. כי יש הרבה מן האמת שהאדם מחונך לעשותו, ולא יעלה על דעתו כלל לעשות ההיפך, וכן הרבה אשר יעשה מן הרע והשקר, שלא יבחין כלל שאין ראוי לעשותו. אין הבחירה שייכת אלא בנקודה שבין צבאו של היצר הטוב לצבאו של היצר הרע.Every person has choice, meaning the point at which his personal truth encounters imagined truth, the product of falsehood. However, most of a person’s actions occur in a place where truth and falsehood do not meet, at all. A person is trained to practice much truth, and it will never dawn upon him to do otherwise. Similarly, a person may practice much evil and falsehood without comprehending, at all, that it is inappropriate. Choice is relevant only at the point which is between the forces of the yetzer hatov and the forces of the yetzer hara.
R’ Tzadok haKohen of Lublin, Tzidkat haTzaddik 43, based on Moshe’s defense for the Jews after the Golden Calf (Berachot 32a), in which Moshe compared the Jews to a child who has been given all of the desires and means for sin, and abandoned to the advances of evildoers:
פעמים יש אדם עומד בנסיון גדול כל כך עד שאי אפשר לו שלא יחטא, כדרך שאמרו חז"ל: מה יעשה הבן שלא יחטאSometimes a person will face a test which is so great that it is impossible for him not to sin; it is as the Sages said, ‘What could the boy do, to avoid sinning?’
Talmud, Bava Batra 16b:
אין אדם נתפס בשעת צערוOne is not held responsible for actions taken during his moment of pain.
So Rav Dessler acknowledged that there are times when a person is drawn into transgression by forces that are beyond his control [note that he was discussing environment rather than biology], and he will not have free will in such cases.
And Rav Tzaddok said that there are tests one cannot pass; one may well be set up to fail. Of course, he concludes his discussion by saying that one can never know that he is facing such a test, and so one must always try – but the point remains that Gd may well create a prohibition that a given person, in a given situation, cannot observe.
And the gemara in Bava Basra states explicitly that people may well face situations in which they are not held responsible, because of overwhelming conditions.
Note: NONE of this is meant to in any way permit, exonerate or otherwise sanction homosexual activity. My point is not to raise the banner of אונס, of extenuating circumstances, and suspend the rule of halachah.
My point is only to say that the existence of a biological or otherwise involuntary basis for homosexuality does nothing to undermine the doctrine of Free Will.