Thoughts on Judaism

Monday, September 05, 2011

Just Wrong

Note the title linked article which describes a frum West Bank Rabbi's innovation, matching Orthodox homosexual men with Orthodox homosexual women to build and raise families. The commentary has largely been criticism from questioning the Rabbi's credentials to those who say that he should be focusing on changing their sexual orientation, rather than helping them.

This criticism illustrates grandly how Jewish leadership works today. First, there are these icky foreign things that infest the Jewish house called gay people. Ewwwwwwwwwww! Since they are icky, they cannot be frum. So, they cannot really be frum and Orthodoxy, which is the perfect word of G-d, could not possibly accommodate such things. Second, any Orthodox Rabbi who disagrees with these undeniable facts must have something wrong with his credentials, or worse, his own Jewish lineage. No true Jew would see these things differently than we do. Third, ignore the problem. Homosexuals are abominable according to Torah and we must pretend that they do not exist. (Actually, male homosexual relations as sodomy are forbidden as foreign religious practice "to'eva", but homosexuality, deriving sexual pleasure from members of the same sex, is not mentioned in the Torah for either sex. Female homosexual interaction is discouraged as ma'aseh emori, but not definitively dealt with in halacha.) When they come to asking how they fulfill their Jewish lives, given the obstacles in Orthodox society, we need to stick our fingers in our ears and sing a niggun. This is not our problem and you are not our problem. (And my 35 year old son who isn't married just hasn't ... uh, uh ... found the right shidduch yet ... that's it ...). Now that the defenses are up and we can deal with this in terms of helping someone else solve their icky issues with our sage advice.

Fourth, invent some solution that seems overly obvious to someone who has never looked the details of the issue. Let's convert gay people to straightness, or let's "cure" their sickness.
Fifth, when reality or (as the evil world secular culture call it G-d forbid) "science" says that this cannot be cured away or converted away by willpower, we need to reject the reality and insist on our obvious solution. Just another case where science and society do not know what they are talking about when the answer is clear.
Sixth, create a couple testimonials to testify to our solution to trot out when the entire world comes to say that we are daffy. (Pray the gay away, people. Yankel did it.)
Seventh, ostracize anyone who tries to come up with a real solution, implying that our solution could have been ineffective or incorrect.

This is the primary Rabbinic solution to everything, from homosexuality, to Internet family safety, to frum child molesters, to evolution and age of the universe, to frum poverty. Ignore, create imaginary science to define the situation, find a couple of crackpots in the science world to certify that your idea is not provably wrong (or failing that, find fundamentalist Christians who are scientists and already doing some the crackpot work, why reinvent the wheel?), create imaginary solution based on imaginary science, tell everyone else that they are not frum enough if they do not accept your conclusions. Question their credentials and lineage.

And I can tell you how this plays out today in the frum world. The gay man denies that he is gay and stays in the closet. (The open gays leave or cloister themselves away from the frum community.) Either he does not marry and lives a life of frustration in this area (problem solved, right? For us Rabbis, anyway) or he marries a straight woman, trying to deny his gayness for awhile, has a few kids, divorces, and then finally comes out, ruining the lives of his wife and children.

How would a rationalist Rabbi assess the effort mentioned above? Here is a thought.

We have these people who are frum or would like to be, but there is an obstacle in their way. Kiruv Rabbis want said people in the fold, practicing Torah and Mitzvos. Creative kiruv Rabbi finds a way to integrate them, without ruining lives or basing their interaction on dishonesty or resentment. Support Rabbi's efforts and congratulate him on a job well done. Encourage gays and lesbians who want to be frum to look into his program to see if it might be right for them. Then pretend that the gays and lesbians are actually real Jewish people and mekarev them without prejudice or reference to their sexuality. Introduce them by their names, instead of as "my new gay friends".

Something about our Jewish leadership is just wrong.


  • Yeah, it's a terrible problem that these individuals are faced with, and I don't see a solution that guarantees maximum happiness to any of these individuals, unless of course they truly feel they can achieve a maximum degree of happiness living an atheistic life, or concocting their own personal version of Judaism to accommodate their desires (and ignore the internal contradictions inherent in such an approach).

    I think that the most productive thing to do with these individuals is to encourage as much mitzvah observance as they feel they can take on/maintain, and emphasize that this is precious in God's eyes. God's tally sheet is unknown to us, but those who transgress under duress probably have a greater justification than those that do not.

    Regarding actualizing their personal physical desires there are many "choices," but none that I perceive that lack a downside. Though it sounds barbaric, I will list a choice that I rarely hear articulated, really for the sake of completeness, not because I'm insensitive to the fact that it may sound offensive: men (at the very least) who would like to reduce the temptation to act out their desires should perhaps consider using medications that attenuate the libido. To me a life without such desires is pretty lousy, but actualizing sexual feelings is not the highest priority in any serious ethical system I know of, including Judaism.

    On the other hand, I am married, and attracted to women--so even though I am certain that my romantic relationship with my wife is not the most important determinant of my happiness, it is arguably an essential part of it (I'd have to think about that one).

    By Anonymous SC, at 1:07 PM  

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