Homosexuality and the Torah Community

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21 Responses

  1. Bob Miller says:

    This is part of a general problem. The yetzer hara takes many forms, but remains the yetzer hara, in whatever form it adopts. As human beings in the Image of HaShem, people can’t meekly surrender to feelings. Some are challenged or tortured more than others, and their reward for not acting out urges is correspondingly greater. Of course, general society can’t comprehend self-restraint anymore. It can’t even relate to the language of restraint.

  2. Menachem Lipkin says:

    I think a crucial aspect of this article is the admission, against a backdrop of people trying to dissociate from it, that “A great deal of work must be done in our communities to improve in this area, as there is no question that there are many people who feel it not only acceptable, but even obligatory, to speak disparagingly of homosexual individuals, as if this is what the Torah requires of us. There is no question that this attitude has been the cause of much unwarranted pain and angst, and sometimes cruelty against our fellow Jews. It is partially from this attitude that a monster such as Yishai Schlissel was bred, and this clearly must stop.” Finally someone is willing to understand that even “lunatics” can be nurtured and that the community must take at least some responsibility for their behavior.

    • Bob Miller says:

      By their actions, all sorts of people earn our disparagement. We in any Orthodox community don’t all go around stabbing them. Schlissel had a major problem regardless of whom he chose to stab, and the society and community should have kept him in jail for his previous offense and/or done something tangible to straighten him out.

    • Rafael Lawrencebergface says:

      Menachem and Rabbi Oppenheimer – Haviv Rettig Gur, writing in the Times of Israel, points out that the Chareidi community and its media were silent about the parade. There were no speeches, there were no marches or protests and the Chareidi papers didn’t report on it. So what did we do wrong (according to Mr. Gur its by omission, which again proves my point that the Chareidi community can do no right). They didn’t discuss it all. Further, at the parade was an organization protesting that ideologically is religious zionist, The murderer is the only “chareidi” to commit this crime, the same guy! Who has mental issues. I disagree with Menachem and I am sick of tired of the Chareidi community being expected to exclaim “mea culpa” for everthing, In all my years, I have never heard any drashos decrying homosexuals, or attacking them. None! I hope, Menachem, that your comments are directed at your community, the DL community, which frankly, besides the neo-Conservative/OO left, does have activists decrying the “Gay Agenda” and homosexuality in Yerushalayim Ir HaKodsh. Finally, I would conclude that in logic, I don’t believe that if we are accused of feeding the kanoim, that distinguishing between the Gay LobbyAgenda and individual homosexuals will help. Technically, the same message might come out. Of course, I don’t believe any message is coming out that leads to violence, but I believe this distinction is a hard one to make.

      • Yehuda L Oppenheimer says:

        To Rafael – you may be right t (I am not sure you are, I definitely saw posters that had been hung up praising Schlissel after the fact http://tinyurl.com/pashkavil ) but there were definitely major protests in previous years. Perhaps the Chareidi community took the wiser approach of trying to ignore the parade, and thus hoping it would garner less attention.

        In any case, that was not my point. My point was, and is, that there is a culture of mocking and ridiculing homosexuals just for who they are, even if they are not part of an in your face gay pride type of effort, which certainly should be condemned. It is not there are “drashos decrying homosexuals” or any official statements to that effect. It is a culture in which it is the norm that when the topic comes up in conversation or in learning, there is a clear denigration, ridiculing, and abusive joking about homosexuals, with little understanding or appreciation for the pain and difficulty that, through no fault of their own, these fellow Jews have been saddled with.

        I was thinking about this more on Shabbos, when i saw that just before the end of Parshas Ki Tetze, the Torah says that unethical business practices are a toeyva. I wonder whether all those who get so worked up about the toeyvah aspect of homosexuality are equally repulsed by those who cheat in business and financial matters.

        May we just have more love and tolerance for each other, and thus blunt the teeth of those who are making an agenda of pushing back against abuse of gay people in our community.

      • Rafael Lawrencestein says:

        Rabbi Oppenheimer,

        There are no parades promotion unethical business practices, asking that we normalize such things. There are no activists lobbying for legislation as well as pushing forward social change for the acceptance of cheating in buisiness. One has an organized movement behind it – the other is reviled. Further, the repulsion does not have to be the same just because the Torah describes both as being a “toievah”, but it can be argued is based on the punishment meted out according to the Torah. Anyway, from reading your piece, I thought that you point was that you are for acceptance of homosexuals as individuals but you protest the “gay rights movement” and its protests and parades as a violation of Torah norms. Is my reading of your piece incorrect?

      • mk says:

        Re Parshas Ki Tetze?
        Noticed this Shabbos something very striking pointed out by Rav Hirsch.
        “For all that do those things (false weights and measures) are an abomination (Toeva) to Hashem. The Torah declares not only the act, but the person, an abomination.
        Rav Hirsch does not stress this, but to the best of my knowledge, regarding other offenses, including homosexual relations, the Torah declares the act a toeva, not the person.

      • Torah Jew says:

        1. Stam Toevah in the Tanach refers to Mishkav Zachar (as is seen in many chazals)
        2. All the aryaus are refered to as toevah, and thus Mishkav Zachar is referred to as toevah (of toevahs)
        3. Finally and most importanly when you see a cheaters parade we’ll talk

  3. tzippi says:

    Rabbi Oppenheimer, I’ve long been saying that in today’s world we need to develop a vocabulary in dealing with this issue: we absolutely cannot ignore it. Thank you for adding your voice to the discussion. A few thoughts:
    1. That the world obsesses over the act of one lunatic – which no rational person or group has endorsed – is not our problem. There could and should have been as much press over the Hatzalah members who were there. (Of course that Schlissel wasn’t closely guarded that day is very disturbing and worthy of some ink being spilled.)
    2. Classic Jewish thought, IIRC Ramchal, teaches that all the relationships we have – child/parent, sibling, friend, spouse – are to help us develop different aspects of our relationship with G-d. Physical attraction leading to a desire to cleave closely to another person can logically be translated to the desire we should have to cleave to G-d. (Though on that level is not one many of us relate to as much as to the other levels.)
    3a. We need to have a vocabulary to explain why our viewpoint doesn’t equal bigotry on a level with racism. For others, for our children, and even ourselves.
    3b. And we need awareness in case anyone close to us has to deal with such attraction. As a parent, what I want most for my children is that they live halachic lives, with integrity and simcha. I am heartened that there are leaders to whom young people can turn to help them on their journey. My hat’s off (figuratively, of course) to the courageous men and women who are trying to do so, and I have compassion for those who struggle, and don’t make that effort.

  4. dr. bill says:

    I assume that given the public statements by many on the right (that need not be repeated), Rabbis Lau and Dratch felt the need to make public comments. Nonetheless, I wish the public record was less filled with rhetoric. Instead Rabbis and professionals should deal with the numerous individual situations that arise in their personal communities, and limit/abjure public pronouncements. If we could all desist from public proclamations for a decade or two, we may eventually find something more responsible to say generally.

  5. Yosef G says:

    A good start to a very important discussion.

    Side note: I’m not sure where this originated from, but the rainbow symbols has nothing to do with the dor hamabul. Good for drashos, but not based in reality.

  6. Daniel Weltman says:

    http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2015/02/10/3621375/regnerus-sullins-same-sex-parenting/ – I do not disagree with the thrust of your article necessarily – but beware of quoting bad research.

    [YA – Good advice, Daniel. But beware as well of reports poking holes in individual studies when there may be many more available. The buzz I have heard in the academic world is that there is a huge difference between outcomes in lesbian “marriages” than in the male gay equivalent – largely because the former show more stability. Even so, there are other studies supposedly showing that the lack of a male role model (or female role model) is injurious to the child. Because I can’t name the studies, I’m not asking you to take these contentions seriously, but to wait a few weeks till Ryan Anderson’s new book comes out, which reportedly will offer a summary of the available material. (It is already available on Kindle; perhaps a reader who has seen it can comment.)]

  7. Sholom S says:

    Rabbi Oppenheimer,
    In the first half of your essay, you concede that homosexuality is no less “rational” “moral” or “normal” than heterosexuality, that the prohibition against gay activity is another חוק, like shatnez or kashrut, and that people don’t choose to be gay.

    Well then in that case, your opposition to the gay rights movement in section C is thrown out. If being gay is morally equivalent to being straight, then why shouldn’t gay people have the same rights as straight people? Why shouldn’t openly gay people be able to serve as teachers or in the military? Why should any rational, moral person abhor same sex marriage?

    Now since you don’t believe homosexuality is immoral, your non-biblical arguments against it are half hearted and easily refutable.

    There is no good research that suggests two male or two female parents are any less able to raise healthy well adjusted children. And it’s strange that you call the traditional marriage between one man one woman a Torah value, given that most of our revered Torah personalities had multiple wives.

    Arguing that gay lifestyles promote promiscuity is an argument in favor of allowing them to marry, to encourage monogamy.

    And what if more young impressionable people with homosexual tendencies choose to be gay (as if that’s a real likelihood)? If they’re not doing anything immoral, and they have a chance to find love and live a normal happy life free of stigma and shame, what’s wrong with that?

    • Rafael Lawrencebergface says:

      Okay, so what are your arguments against from the Bible? Or, is what you wrote above are views you actually subscribe to and how do you reconcile them (or maybe you don’t) with Torah and halochoh?

      • Sholom S says:

        Rafael, I’m not going to debate that here, and my views on the matter are not relevant. My point was simply that you can’t say the Torah prohibition against homosexuality is irrational (a חוק), and then try to rationalize it.

  8. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    People in today’s general society have a problem with the very expression of the position that people need to restrain their desires. The objective in the world today, which has certainly adversely affected our frum society as well to our detriment, is called “having it all”. You can’t have it all. We are born, live and die with only a miniscule percentage of our desires and curiosity satisfied. The second problem is the inability to understand the distinction between public and private, which makes modesty almost a lost cause outside our very closed circles. We are against Gay Pride just as we would be against equivalent Straight Pride, a large number of people exhibiting overtly heterosexual behavior on the street. The world, except for the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious minority, doesn’t get that. In such a situation the hareidi world has taken the only reasonable approach, to be silent and stay far, far away. When such things are not going on, it is possible to discuss modesty in public forums to anyone who can still get it, but only under calm conditions.

  9. DF says:

    The statement of the Talmudic sages, that the generation of the flood was only condemned when they began writing marriage contracts between men (i.e., homosexual marriage) is, I think, well known. Completely unknown, but very relevant, are the comments of the 19th century Rabbi Z. W. Einhorn (Maharzu) thereupon:

    דור המבול לא נמחו מן העולם עד שכתבו גמונסיות לזכר ובהמה – מהרז”ו: שטעו בדעתם המשובשת שמאחר שנבראו בעלי יצר ויש להם כח מחוייבים לילך אחר יצרם באיזה אופן שיהיה והפקירו עצמם ליצרם

    Translation of Maharazu: “They [the generation of the flood] made a mental mistake. The reasoned that since they had been created with desires, and had the ability to fulfill those desires, they thus were obligated to satisfy those desires, no matter where it led them. They thus allowed their desires to get the better of them.”

    Isn’t this still exactly the crux of the matter today? Whether you call it a “gene”, if you’re of one mindset, or a “proclivity”, if you’re of another, clearly the homosexual has the desire for homosexuality. Yet as the Mahrazu writes, people use the mere desire itself as a license for sin, as though arguing, “why would we be created this way, if we couldn’t fulfill our desires?” It’s a false argument then, and it’s a false argument today.

  10. Torah Jew says:

    The Rambam clearly states in the Moreh Nevuchim that Torah’s ban on homosexuality is logical.

    ALso since you acknowledge that there are people that are fluctuating you should advocate in favor of organizations that help them and not cave in to the gay terrorists. Jonah had no chance of winning that trial, the judge disqualified all expert testimony, and ruled that if Jonah ever said homosexual desires were a illness it was fraud, under those circumstances it was impossible for them to have a chance because they were before a kangaroo court.

  11. Torah Jew says:

    To claim homosexuality is a Chok (against the Rambam, the Ramban and all other meforshim) one would also have to deny the psychological and health problems that come along with it.

  12. Shmilda says:

    Rabbi Oppenheimer: In the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision, my concern has shrunk to the most narrow and personal. Specifically, how to productively participate in the workforce while not accepting the prevailing orthodoxy celebrating same sex relationships and self-identification. Whether an attorney, engineer, baker, or plumber, many of us today find ourselves in situations similar to what you recounted occurring during the 1990s(!). How to remain employed, suppress a contrary opinion, and not feel embittered or persecuted at self congratulatory pride month celebrations, and the like.

    Yes, this is a very difficult issue to navigate with teenagers, and yes, it portends even more popular acceptance of promiscuity. And of course, we should be nice to people irrespective of their bein adam lamakom sins. But we have to make peace with ourselves before we can be examples for the next generations.

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