Homosexuality and the Torah Community

by Rabbi Yehuda Oppenheimer

This is a difficult topic.

I have started to write this essay several times, in several different ways, over the past few weeks, and abandoned it after being unhappy in the direction it was going.  There are many complex issues that come into play, and it has been difficult for me to articulate a nuanced, “middle of the road” approach that does justice to the subject matter, proudly upholds Torah principles, and at the same time avoids writing that which will hurt the easily offended.

I am referring to the tension between Torah observance and those who harbor same-sex attraction.   This issue has been in and out of the front pages over recent months, mostly to the detriment of Torah Jewry.  The Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v.Hodges establishing same sex marriage as a constitutional right, resultant  proclamations about Homosexuality, and the terrible attack and consequent Chilul Hashem in Jerusalem at the “Gay Pride” parade have all made life difficult for serious and sensitive Torah Jews who feel under attack when standing up for Torah values, in a world that celebrates “Gay rights” and cynically exploits the actions of a venal insane person in Jerusalem to tar all Orthodox Jews as being insensitive, ruthless, homophobic bigots.

I have read and seen (and written) various lectures and statements decrying the Supreme Court decision, and articles disassociating ourselves from the acts of that lunatic.   I have also, unfortunately, seen statements by various Rabbis that have gone way too far in supporting the LGBT agenda and beating our breast for our sins in this matter.  One prominent Israeli Rabbi  gave a widely publicized lecture at a memorial for the victim, stating “Our [The Orthodox community as a whole] hands have spilled this blood”.  The Executive Director of the Rabbinical Council of America was photographed speaking from the rainbow draped amud of the “Gay Synagogue” in New York, saying that we stand in solidarity with them, which was a source of great embarrassment for many RCA members. 

What I have not heard is a positive approach that deals with the underlying issues and how we, as serious Torah Jews, might think about them.  And I understand why I have not seen it – for the same reason that I will have a hard time getting this article published.   Frum people do not want to discuss it.   Many are revolted by the topic, fear having to discuss it with their children, or feel that the mere raising of the topic somehow violates the proper bounds of Kedusha and propriety.  

To which I say, in an ideal world, perhaps they are right. But we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a world in which this topic is in discussion in the media, government, business, and everywhere one looks, every day. We can either choose the ostrich approach of burying our heads in the sand, or we can try to come up with a way of thinking about these issues that is honorable and dignified, and articulates how the Torah cares about individuals and the struggles they go through, while at the same time setting up standards for morals and values and human conduct that are timeless and eternal. I want to do my best to make an attempt to help begin this conversation. If we do not, we will continue to be increasingly trashed by society around us, and be written off by those within us who need our love and understanding. It is my fervent hope as I write these lines that something akin to the attitudes expressed below would be accepted by all Torah Jews as a way in which we approach these issues, talk about them in any public forum, and educate our children.

In order to begin talking about this, several points need to be made.  There is no getting around discussing sexuality in general when approaching this subject, and we must be open and frank.

1. Sexual Attraction, or the stimuli, feelings, images, or fantasies, or whatever it is that cause one person to feel sexual attraction to another, whether Heterosexual or Homosexual, is not a rational subject.  It cannot be said that “it is rational” or that “it makes sense” for a person to desire and even crave  sexual pleasures, no matter how “normal” we assume it to be.   In fact, if one were foolish enough to try to describe the heterosexual act to a small child, their reaction would probably be “yuck!”, and amazement that a rational person would contemplate doing something so “weird”.   Nothing having to do with sexuality has any claim on the intellect.

But yet, as we all know, the Almighty in His infinite wisdom has created us with a deep desire for such activity — indeed it is one of the most powerful drives that always has, and always will, motivate human behavior across all of society.  Why do we have this desire?  Certainly for procreation…but there must be much more to it, or He could have made it far less powerful.   Perhaps to remind us of our lowly spiritual status.  Perhaps to provide a special bond between husbands and wives.  I, of course, do not pretend that we mere mortals can possibly know.   The bottom line, however, is that all normal humans have deep-seated sexual desires that cannot be explained rationally, and yet are nevertheless irrefutably powerful.

2. There are a relatively small but significant number of people in our society who are sexually attracted to the same gender, and not to the opposite gender.   Any history of the world, whether in the Tanach or otherwise, will show that there have always been such people.   There have also always been long-standing debates as to whether the cause of this was nature or nurture, i.e. whether it is an inborn desire or the result of factors relating to the person’s upbringing and life experiences.  For practical purposes, for most self-identifying homosexuals today, that is a moot question, as it is virtually never a conscious choice made by the individual to be a homosexual.  The important fact is that they have a sexual attraction to the same gender, and not to the opposite gender.  As before, this is not any more or less “rational” than attraction to the opposite gender.  It is just a fact of life, that some people have that disposition.

3. This realization was brought home to me by a long, difficult, and painful conversation that I had many years ago with a friend of mine whom I had been quite close to in Yeshiva.   He confided to me that although he was generally a happy person, and one who always tried to look at the bright side of matters, he was deeply conflicted and sad. He had been dating for some time, trying to find his bashert, but severely hampered by the growing realization that he was not attracted to any of the women that he was meeting, nor any other woman.  Instead, although he had been fighting the thoughts for a long time, he acknowledged that he was very attracted to men.  He was not happy with this realization – indeed it pained him greatly as he was fully aware of the Torah’s prohibition against Homosexual activity and the importance of the mitzvah to marry and have children – but it was very real for him nonetheless.  He knew that surrendering to this urge meant that he would never be able to feel whole as an Eved Hashem, nor would he be fully accepted in the Torah world that he loved.  And yet, forcing himself to continue on the path to marrying a woman would quite probably lead to lifelong sexual frustration, an unhappy marriage, and many forms of existential misery.   I cried for him then, and tears come to my eyes when I think of him now.  Unfortunately we lost touch – I do not know which path in life he chose ultimately – but I suspect it was not the one that stayed within the normative Yeshiva world.  My point in telling this story here: for most homosexuals, their predilection is not a matter of choice.  It is hard to imagine anyone growing up within the Orthodox world who would choose to have this tendency, as it means that they are then faced with a terribly painful burden, which they probably wish that they did not have.  They are certainly not to be blamed, let alone ridiculed, mocked or in any way looked down upon simply for having this predilection.

4. As mentioned, the Torah in Vayikra 22:18 (and elsewhere) expressly forbids a man to lie with another man as with a woman, calling it a תועבה , commonly translated an abomination.  It is clear that the Torah does not cast homosexual feelings or desire alone as an abomination, but prohibits  acting upon those feelings.  Obviously, it would be far preferable if a person did not have a desire for an action that was forbidden by the Torah.  But what the Torah absolutely forbids are actions, not un-acted upon desires.

This is not nearly as strange as it sounds.   This state of affairs – having a desire that may not be acted upon – is one that is familiar to virtually everyone.   All of us have a Yetzer Hara, or negative inclination, that causes us to desire actions that are forbidden.  Whether it is in matters relating to money, or forbidden foods, or speaking Lashon Hara, or forbidden sexual relationships, we all have desires, at least occasionally, for that which the Torah (or other legal or moral codes) forbid.   We are used to the idea that despite the fact that I may be very physically desirous of engaging in a particular activity, I am forbidden to act upon it.

One might ask, however, is not the fact that the Torah forbids a particular activity ipso facto proof that desire for that activity is in itself sinful and despicable?  Rambam (in his introduction to Pirkei Avot (Shmoneh Perakim) i differentiates between two types of sins.   There are (a) sins that we inherently know are wrong and immoral such as murder, thievery, and hurting other people.   A person who desires these is sinful, and as long he/she desires to engage in such activity they are a sinner and in great need of introspection to rid oneself of such desires.  However regarding sins that are (b) not inherently immoral, but are only forbidden because our Father in Heaven has forbade us to engage in them (what we would call a חוק ) it is not forbidden to harbor secret desires for such sins.  He quotes the Sifri which says “A person should not say ‘I cannot (it is revolting to me) to eat a mixture of milk and meat, or to wear shatnez, or to engage in forbidden sexual relations ‘, but rather ‘I certainly can [engage in the prohibited], but what can I do – my Father in Heaven has forbidden me to do so’”.  (A discussion of how this relates to the mitzvah of Lo Sachmod, Do not Covet, although an important part of this discussion, is beyond the scope of this essay).

It may be different in degree, and far more difficult to deal with, than the various “Yetzer Hara” urges that heterosexual people have to deal with, in that such a person may in fact have to live a life of celibacy and suppressed desires with no “kosher” sexual outlet, but it is not different in kind. Everyone in this world is given some burdens by the Almighty in the form of a Yetzer Hara that they are challenged to fight and not submit to.  A person who consistently triumphs over the Yetzer Hara is a tzaddik;  one who struggles with it, and is not always able to act perfectly, has a great deal of company, to one extent or another, with the rest of us.  Only the Almighty Himself, who assigned different challenges and burdens to each of us, can judge and weigh the difficulty of the burden vs. the effort made to withstand temptation and overcome it, whatever that temptation may be.

5. The questions that then arise are (a) what is a serious Torah Jew who harbors such feelings to do in life?, (b) How are we as Torah Jews supposed to treat such brothers and sisters?, and (c) What is a proper Torah attitude regarding the LGBT agenda and “Gay Rights Movement” and the Same Sex Marriage decision, etc.  What public stance is appropriate for us who proudly and unapologetically stand for Torah values, while not being seen as insensitive to the plight of homosexual individuals who suffer prejudice, ridicule, mockery and abuse through no fault of their own, and feel deprived of the right to equality in employment, marriage, and general civil life?  These are not easy questions, and each of them alone can take up an entire essay.  I will comment briefly on the first two:

A. This needs much sensitivity and thought.  Some in the Torah community have advocated reparative therapy, an approach championed by an organization named JONAH, with the goal of “fixing the problem” and changing the individual into a person with heterosexual desires. They claim to have the approbation of some Gedolim, although that letter was written a long time ago. Many Rabbis, including the RCA, have taken public positions opposing them, and in June a New Jersey Court convicted them of fraud in a very disturbing decision. In my view, a helpful approach was taken in a public letter by Rav Aharon Feldman שליט”א Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisroel to a Baal Teshuvah, in which he sensitively articulated how a Homosexual person can have a special role to play in the Torah community.  In short, it requires great empathy on the part of Rabbinic and community guides to help that person be all they can be in a Torah Kehilla.

A very important resource is the book Judaism and Homosexuality: An Authentic Orthodox View, by Rabbi Chaim Rapoport which greatly expands on many of the themes in this article, and should be required reading for anyone serious about the subject.

B. As far as how we in the Torah community are to treat our brothers and sisters who are “different”, based on what I have written above, I think the answer is simple: ואהבת לרעיך כמוך, “Love Thy Fellow as Thyself”, the overarching Torah principle. 

As individuals, they should be accepted, respected, and given the same kavod as anyone else – as long as their sexual orientation is, as it should be – a private matter.   Just like we relate to everyone else in the community as our brother and sister, with equal dignity and equal respect, and without inquiry into their private and intimate lives, so to ought it be for them.   As a Rabbi in several positions, I have known, or strongly suspected, that some who attended services were Homosexuals.   They were treated the same as everyone else, and unless they chose to speak to me privately about the matter, the issue was never raised.   I welcomed them into the shul and my home with love and admiration, knowing that they have a difficult lot in life in which, despite the circus that exists in the outside world, they have chosen to treat as it ought to be – a private matter between them and Hashem.  I deeply believe that this is the only legitimate Torah approach.

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. It is imperative that our schools and shuls take a leading role in educating our young people that the mere fact that someone has a tendency towards homosexuality must not, G-d forbid, be a cause for hatred, but rather we must have love and empathy for those who have been given this difficult burden to bear.

C. As for a proper response of the Torah community to the efforts of the LGBT activists, this is where it gets difficult.  Due to a variety of factors, the “Gay Rights” movement has become the “Civil Rights” movement of our generation.  As is well known, activists have been all too successful in promoting an agenda that seeks to have homosexuality (and other “queer [their word] orientations”) recognized as morally, legally, and humanly completely equivalent with the traditional Biblical heterosexual view, i.e. that the Ribbono Shel Olam created us such that a Man should cleave to a Woman and be as one, and not to another Man.

Supporters of this movement have made incredible strides over the past generation, whereby societal attitudes have shifted from an overwhelmingly negative attitude towards homosexuality and abhorrence at the notion of Same Sex Marriage to where we are today. These days, if you are not an advocate for Gay Rights, supportive of Gay Marriage, and aghast at any attempt to exclude homosexuals from being school teachers, serving in the military, members of the clergy, or any other public position, you are derided as a homophobic bigot who is worthy of contempt.  

Over twenty years ago when I was working as an engineer at AT&T Bell Labs, our group was called in one day and read a corporate policy that stated that AT&T considers people of all sexual orientations as completely equal in every way, and if any employee does not agree to this, they are homophobic, and should go see a therapist for counseling to assist in ridding themselves of this phobia, as it may affect their continued employment at AT&T. (!)

I trust that this is not unique to AT&T. It is becoming the norm in the society we live in, certainly in liberal New York City.  And if you think Eretz Yisroel is any better, think again. I was recently astounded to read that Tel Aviv (not San Francisco) had been voted in 2011 as the “World’s Best Gay City” , whatever that means. It is pervasive and increasingly considered the correct and moral position; indeed in the eyes of the intelligentsia to be anything but fully supportive of the LGBT agenda is to be a nasty, unforgiving, unenlightened bigot who stands for repressing and harming vulnerable people etc. etc.

Obviously, for us, the fact that the Torah forbids this activity and calls it a תועבה is reason enough to understand that it is very negative. Nevertheless, given this milieu, what can we say that will convince the unconvinced of the superiority of the Torah’s moral code?

It seems to me that there are several arguments that can be appreciated by fair minded people, as to why celebrating a culture of “Gay Pride” and forced acceptance of moral equivalence for homosexuality is a very negative phenomenon that should be opposed.

  • First and foremost is the sanctity of marriage and family. Although proponents of Same sex marriage would have us believe otherwise, it is the conviction of the Torah, and of most experts that children do best with having a male father and female mother in the home in which they grow up. It is of course true that not all heterosexuals are good parents; some are quite awful. It is also true that homosexual couples can be very devoted and sensitive parents. Nevertheless, traditional marriage is best for children, and best for society, as marriage is the foundation stone of the most basic society unit, the family.
  • Furthermore, it has been shown countless times that Homosexuality leads to a tremendous tremendous increase in promiscuity, whereby it is the norm to have a great many partners and where sexuality becomes a very central part of life, rather than a very special sidelight to the many important areas of human endeavor.

    Let us not lose sight of the fact that a staging a “Gay Pride” parade in Jerusalem is an outrage to the sanctity of the Holy City and hurtful provocation to deeply religious, both Jewish and Arab, who are incensed by it.

  • Additionally, the “Gay Pride” parades are harmful to those who do not share these values.  I do not for a moment condone what happened in Jerusalem. But it must be understood that the reason that there is a “Gay Pride” march specifically in the Holy City of Jerusalem, although many (most?) of the marchers do not live there, is to assert that Jerusalemites, most of whom, whether religious Jews or Arabs, are very upset that this march takes place in the Ir HaKodesh, must bow before the LGBT agenda.  Again, not to condone what happened, but a smart person does not poke an angry dog and not expect to get a reaction.  (Although they will never admit it, I am convinced that they were not altogether displeased that a religious fanatic helped them achieve far more publicity and sympathy for their cause than they would have otherwise received.)  For Jerusalemites who wonder what, exactly, these people are “proud” of, and who note that the original rainbow which LGBT have taken as a symbol came about in the aftermath of the Flood, which was a result in great part of enormous sexual depravity, it is an outrage that this parade is foisted upon them, and a violation of their rights to not have their Holy City sullied by what, in the value system of the Torah, is an abomination.
  • Finally – and most importantly – it is a problem for impressionable young people.   And that is, in my view, because of a rarely talked about reason.   I do not believe that sexual orientation is a binary matter; you are either heterosexual or homosexual, you are either attracted to the opposite gender or the same. 

    Apparently, most people are firmly heterosexual, and a minority are firmly homosexual.  However there is a gray area in between, of people who could go one way or the other, given their experiences and choices. 

    To illustrate, it is a well known fact that there are people in every prison, and virtually every single gender dormitory (Including unfortunately all too many Yeshivos) where people who otherwise would clearly be heterosexual, either experiment or act out in a homosexual manner in that environment.   I know this from another close friend, who reported to me that as a teenage bochur in a major Yeshiva, he was “horsing around” and wrestling with another boy when, to his horror, he found that he was aroused.   He never saw himself as having homosexual tendencies, and was abhorred at the thought of it.  But the fact was that he had this unnerving experience.

    My point is that as young people explore their sexuality it is vitally important that they not be getting the message from society that heterosexual and homosexual lifestyles and choices are equally moral and valid choices.  If they do, there will be many young people – from that middle group who are not “hard-wired” one way or the other, who would never have otherwise made the choice to be homosexuals — who may now explore it, much to their detriment, surely from a religious perspective.

    This, to me, is the greatest danger of the Supreme Court decision.  (I discussed the negative Constitutional and aspects of that decision in another essay).  By granting full equality and status to Same Sex marriage; by removing all taboos and granting full societal approval of the LGBT lifestyle, it will have the very negative effect of influencing impressionable young people to pursue a homosexual lifestyle who otherwise would have never considered it seriously.

To anyone still reading this manifesto, I appreciate your staying with me.  Maybe you have additional thoughts on the subject – I am most interested to hear about them in the comments.

The values of the Torah are under attack.  Standing up for the Torah unapologetically in a way that upholds the dictum that “Her Ways are Ways of Pleasantness” is our life’s challenge, especially when it is not simple or easy.  Let us show that we are up to the challenge of Loving our fellow, and making the Name of Hashem Beloved to All.

Rabbi Oppenheimer is the Rav of Young Israel of Forest Hills, and an attorney. This work first appeared on his blog, Libi BaMizrach.

You may also like...

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.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This