“Coming Out” and the Orthodox Rabbinate

אלו קרבנו לפני הר סיני ולא נתן לנו את התורה דינו – Had God brought us before Mount Sinai and not given us the Torah, it would have sufficed. (Dayenu, Pesach Hagadah)

How would standing at the mount but not receiving the Torah have been of value? What was to be gained by trekking to Sinai for Shavuos and, once there, with immense anticipation and wondrous preparation and introduction, not hearing the Word of God?

The answer is that the experience of standing before a mountain ablaze with holy fire and other divine phenomena, coupled with an intense aura of submission to Hashem, would have instilled in us a vast appreciation of the inestimable greatness and significance of the Torah and a profound sense of awe and commitment to its Author. Stated otherwise, the spirit and values of the Torah, and our duty to yield and surrender to them as expressive of divine authority, are of core import, independent of fulfillment of mitzvos.

As we approach Shavuos, we must consider recent challenges to this foundational concept.

Last Shabbos, two synagogues in Lower Manhattan hosted an LGBT shabbaton. The local Orthodox rabbinate, including Rav Dovid Feinstein and Rav Reuven Feinstein, appealed to the synagogues not to host the shabbaton and to neighborhood residents not to attend it:

All Jews, whatever their challenges or levels of observance, are welcome in all of our shuls.

However, the basic mandate of the Orthodox synagogue is to promote fidelity to our Torah and our mesorah. Sadly, Eshel (the LGBT organization behind the shabbaton) demands that we change the Torah’s timeless standards to accord with prevalent secular attitudes.We are saddened that the Stanton Street Shul and the Sixth Street Community Synagogue have unilaterally chosen to associate our community with an organization which we cannot consider to be Orthodox, one whose stated aims are at odds with the verses of the Torah itself…

No Jewish institution that allies itself with such a group can rightfully claim to be Orthodox. We call upon Stanton Street Shul and the Sixth Street Community Synagogue to publicly distance themselves from Eshel and its decidedly non-Orthodox worldview…

Despite the letter, written gently but with resolve, the shabbaton was held, and a petition protesting opposition to the shabbaton and supporting the hosting shuls’ rabbis was then circulated. In fact, one of the hosting shuls’ rabbis told The Jewish Week:

The rabbis who made the statement do not have the monopoly over Orthodoxy or the Torah. Disagreements are healthy and welcome, but they must be voiced with respect. Decisions about what is best for each shul will rightfully differ, but they should be left to the synagogue leadership, and no one should be subject to public shaming.

Whereas the letter of the local rabbinate was anything but personal, and it was about values rather than about people or politics and was not a vilification, the above reaction painted the letter as an attack and the local rabbis as unwarranted encroachers. Furthermore, the reaction failed to respond to the substance of the local rabbinate’s argument.

It is extremely noteworthy, as emphasized in the earlier-linked Jewish Press article, that the local rabbis began their protest letter with, “All Jews, whatever their challenges or levels of observance, are welcome in all of our shuls.” No one banned anyone from shul. Rather, what was being opposed was the public expression of values in shul when those values offend the Torah’s values.

Several days later, further pushing open LGBT inclusion, a popular Open Orthodox activist and leader posted:

Orthodox folks who are deeply opposed to LGBT inclusion in our community, you can bash me publicly, you can tell those of us pushing for more respect that we’re “not really Orthodox rabbis,” but don’t you dare state that these vulnerable people created in the image of G-d are “abominations,” “worshipers of baal (idolaters),” “need reparative therapy,” and are “deserving of the death penalty.” In continuing to state such horrific things on Facebook (& elsewhere), you are putting lives at risk, destroying the Torah & making G-d a refugee from the world! I beg you, make me your punching bag, rake me over the coals, but lay off the children-at-risk! For the love of G-d! JQY, Eshel

This same person then posteda delightful interview with the 1st black, gay, Yiddish opera singer” and commented about the opera singer: “Oh yeah & on top of all that, he’s married to the terrific R Mike Rothbaum!

It is clear that the issue here is one of validating and even celebrating homosexuality. No one is alleging that people who are believed to be homosexual are being barred from shul attendance or participation; rather, a quest for public legitimization is underway.

In another article, also published this week, that argues in favor “gender fluidity” in the Orthodox community, we read:

The standard Orthodox insistence that people simply learn to accept the behaviors expected based on their biological sex is inhumane and anti-soul.

We have thus been told by the above people militating for the LGBT cause that public LGBT expression is something that Orthodoxy has no right to oppose, that those who oppose it are attackers, and that homosexual relationships are something to celebrate. (Please also see here.)

Others around the Orthodox orbit seem to feel that the correct position on this issue is less than clear. Here is the approach of an Open Orthodox seminary:

“Is our priority as rabbis to the Orthodox community, or to all of klal yisrael? Should women be ordained as rabbis? Should same-sex couples be permitted to have an aufruf in our synagogues? Should Israel be actively working towards withdrawing settlements from the West Bank? Should a rabbi discuss politics from the pulpit? Is Judaism the sole arbiter of Truth?”

These were just some of the challenges that confronted us from our very first day of Yeshivah. No, but literally. On our first day of Yeshivah, the entire school participated in a “Vote with Your Feet” activity. A moderator, Rabbi Dan Milner, would read a prompt, and we would distribute ourselves around the room according to our reaction. “If you agree, head to one side; if you disagree, head to the other.” Everything in between conveyed the spectrum of our persuasions.

Each of us came with our opinions and personal convictions. We were passionate, we were eager. We were convinced that the answers to these questions would guide our rabbinical careers. For many of us, these were the questions with which we had been grappling for years; for others, these were new, uncharted waters. The activity was exciting and intimidating, comforting and overwhelming, reassuring and perhaps even frightening.

From our very first day in Yeshivah, we were invited into this conversation. And we quickly realized that it was the questions, not the answers, which defined our mission. While answers are personal and transient, questions are universal and eternal.

Rather than unequivocally taking a stand for Torah values, this institution treated the idea of an aufruf for a same-sex couple as an open question that can be disagreed upon.

The Torah’s values and laws must be accepted and affirmed regardless of how society feels about them. Rav Yosef B. Soloveitchik zt”l remarked concerning our topic:

A philosophy of [homo]sexualism is being preached throughout the Western world, to such an extent that a certain rabbi came to me and said, “How can we defend ourselves against it?” I told him, take out a Chumash and read a pasuk. ואת זכר לא תשכב משכבי אשה. (“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman.” -Vayikra 18:22) We are on the defensive, you understand. Why? And the same is true of abortion and so forth. (1974 Boston shiur, published here on p.92. Please also see Rav Soloveitchik’s Clear Stand on Homosexuality.)

In a shiur delivered in Sivan/5732 (1972), Rav Soloveitchik stated:

There are no secular ethics; ethics are decreed by God, and man cannot legislate his own moral laws…

Either man accepts the authority of God as legislator of the moral norm, be it individual or social, or he gives up his attempts to mold a moral conscience and to organize (or organizes? – AG) a society upon the foundation of a man-made relativistic morality… Just as one may neither separate the social norm from the theological faith premise, similarly, one should not try to accept the theological faith premise without embracing the rest of the Commandments…

Teach them how to surrender one’s intellectual pride and arrogance and commit oneself to the Almighty, even though his reason is unable to comprehend the moral necessity and practical utility of the Chok (law whose reason cannot be understood by people)…

That is the basic reason why secular ethics has failed. Because the element of Chok is not understandable and not comprehensible to secular man. When everything is reduced to Mishpat (law that resonates with people), there is no morality.

Rav Soloveitchik ruled that although one should counsel homosexuals who come for help, such counseling may not validate homosexual relationships.

The truth is that rabbis across the globe confidentially counsel homosexuals, and people who are believed to privately harbor homosexual proclivities are commonly included in minyanim and other shul activities. But to countenance public LGBT expression as something Orthodox, as an identity to communally share, or as a celebration, is anathema to Torah values. Those who seek to introduce public LGBT expression into the public Orthodox realm are in fact imposing the intolerable and should not be surprised when their agenda is strongly rejected. It is no different than attempting to introduce any other agenda into an ideological system with which that agenda is incompatible, yet here we deal with not any ideology, but with the Holy Torah and an immutable, divine value system. As such, the level of offense and the nature of the affront are far more acute.

Rav Aharon Feldman, shlita, penned a must-read letter to a ba’al teshuva with a clear homosexual orientation. Navigating the delicate path between forbidden homosexual activity and being a committed, frum Jew, Rav Feldman creates a blueprint and lays forth a mandate for such a person to remain in the community and to be a vital part of it – not by in any way legitimizing homosexual activity, but by moving beyond it and committing to a life of Torah and mitzvos and productivity for Yiddishkeit and K’lal Yisroel. This stands in stark contrast with those who seek to revise traditional Torah values and validate that which the Torah strictly prohibits.

We are at a real crossroads, and perhaps at a dangerous precipice. Will we accommodate that which the Torah condemns, even if such accommodation is limited to values and ideals and not technical halachic violation, or will we be brave like Avrohom Avinu and take a quite unpopular stand, upholding Torah values and beliefs, while attempting to raise others in tandem and draw them close to uncompromised Torah commitment?

Will we emulate the example of our forebears and approach Sinai in a quest to devote ourselves to the Torah’s values? If we cannot do so, we forfeit our claim to the Torah. But if we can do so, valiantly and audaciously defying societal trends in the face of scorn and condemnation, we will merit to receive the Torah and perpetuate its ethos and eternal and holy message for all future generations.

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83 Responses

  1. Yonah says:

    Once again R. Gordimer offers his own words as the best argument against the view of himself and his allies.  There is such an alarmist defensive posture in general, much like Trump with the Mexicans, that there is no ability to be fair or compassionate in an individual case.  And the Torah above all insists that we not judge with false measures, that we not corrupt our judgments with our cultural predispositions. What does R. Gordimer (or R. Feinstein) know about Eshel, its organizers and attendees? They know simply that they refuse to disavow or suppress their “abominable” orientations… This itself might be inaccurate, as I am sure there are Eshel attendees who are precisely committed to suppressing their sexuality in one way or another, in conversation with their religiosity or for other reasons.  But furthermore, this “knowledge” of Eshel says nothing about what the gathering is, who the people are, what kind of struggles they have had, how important and indeed life-saving such an empathetic chevra can be.  And it says nothing about what kind of relationship the organizers have with the rabbis of these shuls, a matter that is apparently not worth looking into. Instead it seems that these imperious representatives of haredism are pulling a Trump on their twitter feeds, categorically overruling a local rabbi without offering or providing a full analysis (not to mention an understanding of the heart).  So the “gadol” reduces himself to a katan, and whatever influence or effect he could have had for the good over this shul, this rabbi, or this organization, disappears in a puff.  And then we have R. Gordimer to bring it home, and to amplify the message so that we see that he really is.  That rabbinical letter was not “an attack” and it was not a personal shaming!  This is a necessary chok, a geder l’netzach netzachim–that we must always, always respond blockheadedly and with public announcements that forfeit and ruin, l’hatchilah, the possibility of actually affecting or improving the decisions of our local shuls, rabbis, and congregants, by steamrolling them in public (but without official status of public shaming, because of this or that pilpul).

    The best thing to come of this is that those of us interested from an anthropological or sociological perspective can better understand the forces that have helped to produce Christianity and other Torah offshoots over the ages.  And as a psychological case study, R. Gordimer is better than Arthur Miller’s Cotton Mather. B”H.

    Happy Matan Torah!

    • Shmuel W says:

      And I read this twice, other then some nastiness I have no clue what you are saying in your criticism of r’ Dovid and r’ Rueven and r’ Gordimer.

      • sb says:

        That’s because his entire remark is  smoke screen. Yonah knows very well that ESHEL is not simply  a support group, to help those who identify as gay, lead a frum lifestyle. So he lambasts all those who disapprove their inclusive motto, by implying that dissenters don’t know what they are talking about and/or don’t understand the consequences of their actions.

        It’s typical liberal speak. And like most, Yonah can’t accept that there are people who are wiser than him, and not only understand the matter a hand but understand the real consequences of the values he holds dear.

      • Richard says:

        Do tell what Eshel is besides an organization that helps gay folks live a frum lifestyle.

      • Bob Miller says:

        This use of “frum lifestyle” reminds one of kosher-style restaurants.   Nostalgic feelings + defiance of halacha.

      • Richard says:

        The only difference between Eshel and kosher-style restaurants is that Eshel members actually want to keep halakha. Seems like a key difference.

      • Reuvein Wolf says:

        “The only difference between Eshel and kosher-style restaurants is that Eshel members actually want to keep halakha. Seems like a key difference.”

        You mean all halachos with one exception. A key difference, indeed.

    • Arthur says:

      Why do supporters of OO so frequently attempt to link criticism of their positions to Trump?  This has become a new form of logical fallacy for internet arguments.  As Yonah’s comment demonstrates, it’s such a thoughtless, knee-jerk and, almost always, totally inapt cliché.

      • Yonah says:

        It is quite apt to liken this sort of rabbinical statement, and its associated Gordimer-buttress, to a twitter feed. Compared to true statements of gedolim, they lack recognition or respect for nuances in different Jewish kehilot of which they are not a part, of individual cases, and of processes that take time to evolve and reveal themselves.  These are the same strategies that condemned kiruv and really any modern development in Jewish culture, even if it was/is perfectly acceptable within halacha (but is not part of the mesorah/minhag).  True poskim have the long-term in vision, and they do not play games (yes, like Trump often does) with public statements about this or next week’s bogeyman. It’s the definition of katnus; not their principles, which in fact I have great sympathies for, but their methods, which have little to do with communication, and less with ahavas yisroel. For the record I have no direct association with Eshel, though I know people involved and have seen that it is a good influence on their lives.  I am not associated with Open Orthodox either, but I don’t see them as a threat either. Klal yisroel reveals the will of G-d over time, and if they or the Women of the Wall are carrying an important chelek of that will then they will survive; if not they will fade away.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      This is how the demand for tolerance leads to a demand for acceptance which then moves to destroy any dissenting view as homophobic. Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric about diversity, empathy and suppression of desires.  This is part of the intellectual road to serfdom that aims to destroy any and all institutions, and especially the normal heterosexual family that stands in its way as the canary in the coal mine

  2. joel rich says:

    quite a  long piece – I’d say once you can raise the question “Is Judaism the sole arbiter of Truth?””, there’s nothing left to discuss.  In the language of math, if you can’t agree on the axioms,  don’t expect to have the same theorems  (and yelling louder won’t convince anyone)

    KT, Shabbat shalom  and chag sameach

    • Bob Miller says:

      One would expect rabbis claiming to be Orthodox to share the same set of Jewish axioms.

      • dr. bill says:

        they might if they were ever created; they were not.  judaism is not an axiomatic system. judaism deals with what is true; axiomatic systems deal with what is provable.  those who understand the difference tend to be less “axiomatic” about their beliefs.

      • joel rich says:

        I suppose it may be a matter of semantics but I understood the comment to mean It is possible that there is something that Judaism determined to be false and some other system Determines to be true and that the result is a true statement for us   I don’t think any definition of orthodoxy can accept this possibility.

        Kol tuv

      • dr. bill says:

        not really.  we have our own set of beliefs – things we consider true.  we do not assert them to be provable from some axioms.  we believe in the truth of an afterlife; we do not claim it provable from some axioms.  we do not cook meat and milk; it is not a theorem derived from more basic axioms.

        i was being very formal, using words like true, false, provable, etc. in the very strict sense they are used by logicians.

        there are areas of halakha where logical thinking with axioms is useful, but for the most part calling halakha an axiomatic system has limited utility.  those familiar with formal proofs would be hard-pressed to find one even in MT outside of isolated areas like Kinnim or Kiddush haHodesh where certain elements of what might be construed as formal proof can be found.

        if one chooses to call fundamental beliefs axioms, I won’t argue.  but without theorems and formal proofs, what is the point???

      • mycroft says:

        “we do not assert them to be provable from some axioms.  we believe in the truth of an afterlife; we do not claim it provable from some axioms”

        It is my understanding that the Rav felt that if one accepted the axiom that there is a just God then one could prove an afterlife.

        I know essentially nothing about logic but I heard his logic is as follows-

        Given that there is a just God-then this world makes no sense- the problem of theodicy-then a just God by necessity has to make accounts whole and thus there must be an afterlife. Note of course, that this logic is counter to much of Chareidi, Hassidic arguments that everything is for the good we just don’t understand it. The Rav is saying this world is not just.

      • dr. bill says:

        mycroft, that is a nice argument not a proof.  there could be other explanations as well for God’s goodness/fairness.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        I think that if you look throughout Chumash especially as explicated by Rashi and Ramban and most of the major Mfarshim you will see many axioms and basic hashkafic fundamentals of how a Jew is supposed to act and think at all times, the importance of transmission of the same to the next generation,  how and what is a proper and improper interpersonal relationship, as well as the consequences for the transgression of the same. I think that your statement borders on apologetics.

      • dr. bill says:

        we see things in ramban and rashi called axioms only in imprecise/colloquial language.  in my editions of rashi and ramban i have yet to discover an axiomatic system – an approach to hashkafic beliefs yes, an axiomatic system, no.  and how you think any of this borders on apologetics would require me to decipher your mode of thinking – not gonna happen.

      • mycroft says:

        Judaism has some axioms-that there is a just God being one of them

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Dr bill-when you claims that “we see things in ramban and rashi called axioms only in imprecise/colloquial language” and “in my editions of Rashi and Ramban i have yet to discover an axiomatic system”, one must disagree. The fact that the same are not enumerated therein is IMO irrelevant simply because the axioms and hashkafic fundamentals especially expressed by Rashi and Ramban are obvious to anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Rashi and Ramban. One need not have a PhD in academic medieval Jewish studies to decipher that which which expresses the Yesodei HaEmunah to anyone who learns the same after having parked the secular parts of one’s mind at the door of the Beis Medrash.I would add that Masecta Avos also contains numerous axioms, all of which were considered to be the axiom emphasized by the Tanna quoting the same. Your contention that the ideas stated by Rashi and Ramban are imprecise and/or colloquial IMO cannot withstand a serious critique based on the clear and explict views of Rashi and Ramban in many Parshiyos in the Torah unless one discounts the same as “imprecise/colloquial.”

        For additonal discussion of axioms-Look at the Shoresh HaMitzvah of any Mitzvah om the Sefer Hachinuch, especially Mitzvah 16. 

  3. Shmuel W says:

    Yasher koach r’gordimer. Na’aseh venishmah defines us and though everyone has challenges but if we do not keep that core mandate then we have lost our existence as the am hanivchar. Part of the problem is OO/NC derives it value system not from toras hashem but from secular western values which they then try to force onto the torah r’l.  Being intellectually assimilated will lead to other forms of assimilation as well. The solution is to engage in the study of torah and its values in depth. Perfect start for Shavuos 🙂

  4. R.B. says:

    “Is Judaism the Sole Arbiter of Truth?” This is the crux of the issue with OO. They don’t believe it to be so and this question is rhetorical, if anything.

    OO is in the process of replacing Torah as their guide for life with other, almost consistently, liberal social values. As I have pointed out many times before, I want to see where OO draws the line: do they have red lines when its comes to their liberalizing trends? As of today, I have not seen one public declaration, announcement, or injunction issued by the leaders of the movement that says “genugt!”, enough, “we have pushed too far, we have pushed ourselves far out of the mainstream, to the absolute fringes. Instead, the envelope continues to be pushed, and pushed some more, with no end in sight. Can the MO tent continue to stretch that far, when one wall of the tent is being pushed and pushed: eventually the peg is going to be pulled out by the force of the pushing and tent will collapse. If I may say so, I just read that a Rav in EY just banned girls under 5 years of age from riding bikes for tznius reasons. To me, a Canadian “chareidi” this psak is a shande, and discloses a certain mentality that is both dangerous and disturbing. However, what OO is doing the flip side of the same coin, though it appears to be more palatable because it involves accommodation, not exclusion, and fits with our society mores and values. It is the same thing, the same excess, just coming from the Left. I say: “genugt!”.

  5. Richard says:

    Echoing Yonah, did R Gordimer or any of the rabbis who wrote the letter contact Eshel?

    • Chochom b'mah nishtaneh says:

      If Eshel purports to be an orthodox organization, which would mean Fealty to Halacha and Torah, then they would need to be the ones approaching the Tabbonim, not the other way around.


      Certainly when you are going to the neighborhood of probably the greatest Posek currently in America, HoRav Dovid Feinstein, שליט״א.

      The tone Yonah uses in reference to HoRav Feinstein belies his fealty to Torah and Halacha and, reasonably assuming, that he represent Eshel, that Organization’s as well.

      • Richard says:

        Of course Eshel should approach rabbonim, and they do all the time, but it is irresponsible to release a statement condemning an organization without having first contacting them. I hope that Eshel initiates a follow-up with Rav Feinstein.

      • Chochom b'mah nishtanah says:

        So you acknowledge they did not do what they should rightfully done, approach R Feinstein.  I am sure it is obvious as the nose on your face why that is.

        Yet you ask why the Rabbonim did not approach them.


      • Richard says:

        I don’t agree that Eshel has to approach Rav Feinstein before having an event near his yeshiva. As much as it seems you would like Modern Orthodox rabbis to submit to the will of haredi rabbis, Rav Feinstein doesn’t have veto power over what happens south of 14th street. Eshel approached Orthodox rabbis of Orthodox shuls downtown (or perhaps the rabbis approached Eshel, I haven’t seen anything in articles to indicate who initiated) who thought that this was a good thing. It’s not necessary for either the local rabbonim or Eshel to get permission from other shuls’ rabbis.

        I think that Eshel should be having conversations with rabbis  across the spectrum of Orthodoxy regularly. If something good comes of this, it will be a dialogue between Eshel and Rav Feinstein in which both parties will learn.

        Basically, It’s not irresponsible to have an event at one shul without consulting another shul’s rabbi. It is irresponsible to condemn an organization as “not Orthodox” without ever having contacting them.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        I don’t think that the issue is a “follow up” with RDF or”that Eshel should be having conversations with rabbis  across the spectrum of Orthodoxy regularly”, but rather that all Jews should be Mvatel Rtzonecha Kneged Rtzono, That is part and parcel of what Kabalas Ol Malchus Shamayim and Kabalas Ol Mitzvos

      • R.B. says:

        I guess an appropriate question to ask is: if R’ Moshe Feinstein zt”l were still alive, would Eshel have consulted with R’ Moshe? Or, would R’ Moshe be considered a “Chareidi” posek?

      • Richard says:

        You think that everybody who wants to have an event in downtown Manhattan has to ask Rav Feinstein for permission. I don’t. And no, I don’t think it would have been different were Reb Moshe alive. I’m not disqualifying them because they’re haredi; Reb Moshe’s works are obviously required reading for every halakhic Jew (I haven’t yet studied RDF’s work). I’m saying that neither has to be consulted before every event that is held in their neighborhood. It’s unclear to me why you would assume that to be the case, except for some assumption about haredi hegemony or daas Torah which the two MO rabbis don’t share.

      • mycroft says:

        About 3 decades ago for a few years I had the pleasure of attending Daf Yomi at the Agudah headquarters-it was a few years before and after the fire at their headquarters. It was a big pleasure having the maggid shiur be R Elimelech Bluth. He would occasionally disgress with what RMF had to say. A point he made a few times that Rav Moshe stated that homosexuals are just plain reshayim nothing different about them.

        Obviously, that is problematic in modern science which has homosexuality likely to have a greater genetic component than diabetes does.

        BTW another saying of RMF quoted is that Conservative Rabbis are reshayim-contrast that idea with that of the Rav that they are in general mistaken.

        Thus, IMO if we were lucky enough to have RMF around today Eshel would not have consulted with him. One in general doesn’t consult with those who call you wicked.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Look at your 2:50 post of today-you belittle the fact that RYE Henkin and RMF Zicronam Livracha were viewed as the rabbanim of the LES, the role to which RDF and RRF(as well as R Siff)have assumed over the years. It is manifestly clear that Eshel decided to hold the event at the shul in question without either considering the need to consult with the Rabbanim of the community, because they would never agreed that such an event should take place on the hallowed ground of the LES.

  6. Yosef Goldberg says:

    I would like to commend Rabbi Gordimer for his speaking out so eloquently on an issue that needs addressing.  I would like to add the following comment.  There is a famous section in the Biblical Commentary Akeidas Yitchak (R. Yitzchak Arama) in Parshas Vayeira, where R’ Arama addresses a proposed solution to a problem that existed in 15th century Italy.  There were cases of young men who were either visiting non-Jewish prostitutes or were having forbidden relations with married women.  A proposal had been made to introduce “kosher” houses of prostitution wherein the prostitutes would be Jewish girls who would keep Taharas HaMishpach.  Rabbi Arama vehemently protests and explains that this was the sin of Sodom and Gemorah – the institutionalization of wrongdoing.  He says that if an individual does a sin, no matter how grievous, it is still a private and personal sin.  However, when even the smallest sin is given official sanction, then it becomes a Chillul HaShem.   Officially sanctioning what the Torah prohibits is tantamount to a Chillul HaShem.  This piece has been quoted through the ages by established poskim.  One can be and should be as compassionate as possible.  However, understand that there are limitations.

    • dr. bill says:

      I hardly agreed with R. Gordimer before your (scholarly) words of support.  It is precisely the sort of rhetoric your comment represents that is troubling.  Comparing Eshel to a house of prostitution with a hechsher is paradigmatic of a twisted logic that desecrates our tzelem Elokim.
      Attacks on organizations like Beit Hillel that include a number of talmidei chachamim of world-class stature tend to make me distrustful of what is written on cross-currents.
      Instead of attacking, finding methods to move forward in ways that one what deems as acceptable would be more welcome.  Previous efforts by Rabbis who R. Gordimer supports have been largely debunked; assertions of what God could not have created challenges age-old Jewish hashkafot on what befalls mankind.
      This and a few other topics are new and I don’t expect fully baked rabbinic responses in the near future.  I knew of a few homosexuals while at YU in the 60’s; now they are much more numerous, the children of family and friends.  Telling them to go back into the closest and to suffer (and die) silently is not an option IMHO.

      • Chochom b'mah nishtanah says:

        The Torah considers male homosexual sex as a more grievous sin than visiting a house of prostitution.

        So the commenter was actually being generous.

        It is comments such as yours that prove that OO has completely segregated itself from Torah and Halacha in favor of the societal whims of the day.

      • Richard says:

        Does Eshel encourage male homosexual sex?

      • Chochom b'mah nishtaneh says:

        When the Executive Director proudly proclaims on their web site that he lives with his male partner, what do you think it means.

      • Richard says:

        Wow, shows where your mind is. What I think it means is that he lives with his partner.

      • Arthur says:

        It means he has a male partner with whom to live.

        Are you unable to distinguish between having a roommate, a chaver, a chum, and having a male partner?

        Are you unable to distinguish between having one and living with one?

        Are you unable to distinguish between doing so privately and doing so publicly?

        We are not idiots.

      • Richard says:

        I know nothing about R Greenberg’s sex life. I would assume they live together because they love each other and think it would be awkward and difficult to live separately while raising a kid. I don’t assume that they live together because it enables anal sex. That seems to me to be a strange (and perverted) assumption.

      • Chochom b'mah nishtanah says:

        He has an admitted same sex attraction and he is “living” with his partner.  At a minimum, there is an issur Yichud in such a case.

        And it is different than a whusband and wife during the period of Niddah, because how would you have the hetter of “eineh domeh mi sheyesh lo pas b’saloh”?


        But the truth is that you comment is completely disingenuous.

        And it is clear why he trumpets this on his home page.  Your responding otherwise says where your head is at.

      • Richard says:



        Are there poskim who say that there is an issur yichud in this case? Genuinely curious.

        I’m not being disingenuous. I am 100% sure that him trumpeting that he lives with his partner is not because he wants to brag about all the sex he’s having.

      • Chochom b'mah nishtanah says:

        Is there anyone who doesn’t?  It seems to be plain from Rambam hilchos issurei biah, perek chof beis and in SHulchan Oruch Even Hoezer, siman Chof Daled.

        And I am not sure if he wants to brag about the sex he is having, but he sure is about living together. There is a specific meaning to those words. And you need to stop being disingenuous about what that means.

      • Richard says:

        The SA there doesn’t seem to be referring to same-sex attracted men but to all men (especially given that gay-identified men was not really a thing back  then). I don’t think it’s widespread to follow his suggestion. Correct me if I’m wrong. I don’t have the nosei keilim handy. The MT seems to be more sticking to the gemara’s opinion that לא נחשדו ישראל על משכב זכור, which I assumed was normative. Which halakha are you referring to?
        I’m in my 20s. I have a lot of (straight) friends who are not frum and are moving in together before marriage. Are they having sex before marriage? Maybe. If they are, I assume that they were having sex before they moved in together. If they’re not, I assume that they are still not after moving in together. When they told me they were moving in together, I didn’t assume that it was because they wanted to have sex. Similarly, are R Greenberg and his partner having anal sex? I don’t know. But I can say confidently that if they are, they were before they moved in together, and living together has nothing to do with their sex.

        I still don’t understand why you think living together is code for sex. If you don’t think that, I’d love to know what the specific meaning of living together is that you’re referring to. I’m really not being disingenuous. I know that living together (and publicizing it) means that he is proud of doing something that you think is improper (namely, having a same-sex partner), but it’s not an endorsement of male homosexual sex.

      • dr. bill says:

        read the teshuva; rabbi arama gives an interesting twist adding the element of chillul hashem.  see also the ibn ezra on the aseret hadibbrot who gives a “non-halakhic” view.

        besides aishet ish and niddah are (more than) comparable to mishkav zachor which eshel has not endorsed.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        The issue is not what Issurim Eshel has “not endorsed”, but rather its mission and agenda as stated in the annexed linkhttp://www.eshelonline.org/about-new/our-mission. AFAIK, there is no group that seeks to rationalize and legitimize  either the Issur Eshes Ish or Nidah as accepted conduct for anyone who is Orthodox. I would suggest that marginalization of the issur by comparing the same to Eishes ish or Nidah ignores the fact that all three are mentioned in Parshas HaArayos, and that the Gemara spends much time in Yevamos , Sotah and Kerisus and elsewhere as well as the Rishonim in delineating the severe nature of the  violation of each Bmezid and Bshogeg, and the penalities involved therewith.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        DR Bill wrote in relevant part:

        “This and a few other topics are new and I don’t expect fully baked rabbinic responses in the near future.  I knew of a few homosexuals while at YU in the 60’s; now they are much more numerous, the children of family and friends.”

        This was also the case during the 1970s-Yet, noone ever dreamed of legitimizing the prohibited or of the march to suppress traditional family values by feminists and their comrades in arms-the GLBT world.

    • Arthur says:

      Hasn’t there been “kosher” prostitution from time to time, including in NYC, or is that just myth?

  7. lacosta says:

    if someone wants to live a full homosexual life [ ie sexual activity ,family life etc ]  , standard O has no place for him .  non-O judaism has mainstreamed him.  OO has essentially thrown in its lot with the latter , and further shows what we already know about the YCT students and their relation to halacha….

  8. Bob Miller says:

    What exactly now defines the Orthodox Rabbinate?

    Can it include

    1.  Those rabbis who reject our written and oral Torah (as it is, not as they wish it to be) in any way to any degree?

    2.  Other rabbis who condone or support their heterodox speech and actions?

    No!   Regardless of their motivations, pedigrees, social ties, brilliance, or what have you, the rabbis in groups 1 and 2 need to be ostracized.   Not politely ignored, not just argued with, but ostracized.  And, regardless of their influence and numbers, good riddance.  As for these rabbis’ followers, we need to present the case for Torah to them by all practical means, but not by flattering their leaders.







  9. Bracha says:

    Rabbi Steven Greenberg
    Executive Director
    Rabbi Steven Greenberg has worked with communities around the world to make Orthodox Judaism more inclusive of gays and lesbians.  He is the author of the groundbreaking book, Wrestling with God & Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition (University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), which won the Koret Book Award for Philosophy and Thought. Steve is one of the founding Co-Directors of Eshel and serves on the faculty of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. Steve is also a Senior Teaching Fellow at CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.  He lives with his partner Steven Goldstein and his daughter Amalia in Boston.  Contact Steve at [email protected]

  10. Steve Brizel says:

    The real issue is that of the demand by LGBT groups that any dissent from their demands for acceptance, which was a logical hop, skip and jump from mere tolerance, is viewed as homophobic, as well as a demand in the context on the LES that the rabbonim and community that condemned the Eshel event simply ignore and disregard an explicit Torah prohibition.  That was the issue IRRC, as R Mayer Twersky defined it after a “symposium” at YU, and it is obvious that acceptance means that thou shall not dissent from a PC norm.

  11. Chochom b'mah nishtaneh says:

    Well I guess we know that Mycroft would not support Eshel.

    They apparently do not file a 990.

    What is interesting is that they do not even appear as an exempt organization on Guidestar, which lists Even those that are exempt from filing 990s

    While their mission is transparent, their compliance with regulations are decidedly less so.

      • Chochom b'mah nishtaneh says:

        So it is an insignificant organization.

        how does someplace with multiple executive directors get by with less than 50k?

      • Richard says:

        No idea. You should ask them. And perhaps also apologize for alleging that they don’t comply with tax law.

      • dr. bill says:

        don’t assume that organizations with leaders who are dedicated, with many contributing sweat equity, are insignificant.  organizations where the family running the organization pays itself handsomely before contributing much of the rest to some tzedakah are not the ideal despite their “significance.”

      • Chochom b'mah nishtanah says:

        Al which is not in conformance with GAAP and 990 regulations.

    • mycroft says:

      I would not support Eshel because I do not believe homosexuality is proper-I would similarly not support an organization made up of mechalei Shabbos in Orthodox schuls.

      Al regel achat I tend to agree in general with the statement signed statementofprinciplesnya.blogspot . I would much prefer a discussion of that approach than one that openly glorifies an approach that is against the Torah.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        The Statement of Principles (“SOP”) is noteworthy for who signed and who did not-namely not  a single RW of RIETS , as opposed to its signatories-most of whom who can be fairly stated to represent the LW and the far LW of MO, more than a few of whom are identified with OO as per many of the discussions here.

        With respect to the content of the SOP, IMO, the content of paragraphs 3,5, 9 and 12, in particular warrant much discussion as to the contents therein and the overall message is quite PC in nature which ranges from the parve to  the apologetic to the overly simplistic. Here are a few points to consider:

        1) Paragraph 3 -we live in a world where there is much cultural and academic hostility to the notion of a traditional family with children, which should be the optimal goal of any family in the Torah world regardless of one’s hashkafic POV, and requires restatement and re-emphasis as often as possible. ( I would suggest that seeing children marry and enjoying time with grandchildren whenever, but especially at such times as a Pesach seder is what is meant as “yiddishe nachas”, as opposed to illusory nachas gained by admissions and graduations from the PC governed universities of the 21st Century-but that is an entirely different discussion which I would leave for another time and place.) We should never apologize for the goal of rejoicing over the creation of a Bayis Neeman BYisrael and the raising of families to whom who we are attempting to transmit the eternal values  of Torah , Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim to  the next generation.

        2) Paragraph 5-Regardless of the shift in the world of psychology and psychiatry which has now legitimized the previously deviant-the Torah has a view of such  behavior that is binding and eternal, and which RYBS explained  is emphasized every YK at Mincha because the Parsha of Arayos is one of the elements that make and identify Am Yisrael as an Am Kadosh. We need to emphasize that Arayos comprise one of the two areas of Halacha that are the contents of Sefer Kedusha of the Mishneh Torah.

        3)Paragraphs 9 contains an unduly restrictive view of what is and who is defined as “mrutzeh Lkahal”. The SA and the Achronim stress that merely having technical knowledge of Nusach HaTefilah is hardly the sole qualification for being a Baal Tefilah. In a similar vein, merely having a photographic memory of Shas, Rishonim and Poskim without the requisite Midos Tovos and Yiras Shamayim as described by Rambam in Hilcos Deos does not mean that an extremely skilled intellectual technician without the requisite Midos Tovos and Yiras Shamayim is a Talmid Chacham. Yes, Tocho Kboro is not part of the entrance requirements for any would be talmid to the yeshiva as noted in Brachos, but the Midos Tovos and Yiras Shamayim are codified by Rambam in Hilcos Deos as the basic elements of the personality and persona of a Talmid Chacham.

        4) Paragraph 10 while not inherently contradictory in its language,seemingly ignores the fact that every Jew is commanded to engage in Teshuva and to seek to continue moving upward in his or her Avodas HaShem, as opposed to reaching a stationary position.

        5) Paragraph 12 IMO cannot be reconciled with the normative Halachic position set forth in the opening sentence of Paragraph 3.

        One looks in vein therein for any discussion of how man is viewed as having free will as part of his Divinely created nature, what constitutes a Bayis Neeman BYisrael , and any discussion of  the consequences attached to transgression of Arayos that are obvious to anyone with an elementary knowledge of the sugya of Sheva Brachos in the first perek of Ksubos and Parshas Acharei Mos. IMO, the SOP constitutes the logical consequence when one segues from toleration to acceptance to suppression of the Torah view that condemns such behavior.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        There is no such “organization made up of mechalei Shabbos in Orthodox schuls.” The analogy would be the tolerance, legitimization, and acceptance of chillul shabbos as desirable with no room whatsoever for any expectation that a Mchallel Shabbos would , could or should become a Shomer Shabbos. 


  12. sb says:

    The one correct statement that you made is that the will of God is known over time. Both R&C were all the rage and over time we see nothing but degradation from them.  The obvious question is “how much damage did those movements do over time?” . How many were sucked into those movements never to recover? Hindsight is 20/20, but “true poskim” of those times knew the future for those movements and spoke out against them. Do you not think that they were not lambasted by people exactly like you who said exactly the same things? Were they not correct with their vision of what was in store for R&C?

    You may not be worried about these current movements, but “true poskim” are. And their wisdom (and Halacha) requires them to speak out and let the people know they are getting sucked into an abyss. And just like they were correct about R&C they are correct about these movements. Hopefully , before it becomes obvious to everyone, the damage won’t be as great This time around.


  13. Steve Brizel says:

    Great article! We now see that toleration  meant acceptance which, in turn, leads to the marginalization and dismissal of traditional Torah POVs and the claim that any “rabbi” who supports the GBLT agenda is entitled to as much of an opinion R “L as Gdolei Torah. I was a talmid of Rav Siff, and I can only imagine what his inner POV is -I remember that R Siff once spoke at a siyum Mishnayos and was introduced as living in the ghetto of the LES. R Siff responded that he did not live in a “ghetto”, which  We now see that toleration  meant acceptance which, in turn, leads to the marginalization and dismissal of traditional Torah POVs and the claim that any “rabbi” who supports the GBLT agenda is entitled to as much of an opinion R “L as Gdolei Torah. I was a talmid of Rav Siff, and I can only imagine what his inner POV is -I remember that R Siff once spoke at a siyum Mishnayos in my shul and was introduced as living in the “ghetto of the LES”R Siff responded that he did not live in a “ghetto”, which he rejected in a loud and vociferous way Kdarko BaKModesh but rather emphatically stated  he was proud to live in the same neighborhood as RMF, R Henkin and the Kapushnister Rebbe Zicronam Livracha and even before the rise of major sefarim stores in Brooklyn, was where one shopped for sefarim, bough talesim, kittleach, Tashmishei Mitzvah and Tashmishei Kedusha in such stores as H & M, Otzar HaSefarim, and Moe Penn.The Eshel gathering in a shul on the LES is a terrible disgrace( in the Mama Lashon- a shonde , bushe and cherpah, ) to the Makom Torah that was and is the LES.


  14. Reb Yid says:

    For Gordimer and his Amen chorus, it is all about the codified text, no matter what the context or how intervening years may offer yet additional contexts and interpretations.

    This has been the common theme central to Gordimer’s diatribes.  I suppose it’s nice to live inside this bubble, but that has certainly not the been the story of Judaism, “Orthodox” or otherwise.


    • Chochom b'mah nishtaneh says:

      For Reb Yid and the rest of the OO crowd, it’s all about the latest in the ever degrading moral code of the streets.

      The wternal nature of the Torah be darned.   ל״ע.

    • Shmuel W says:

      I await Reb Yid to have the courage of his convictions and not hide behind “reb Yid”. Until then he will remain irrelevant.

    • Reuvein Wolf says:

      Pray tell, what “additional contexts and interpretations” have the intervening years added to an explicit verse in the Torah?

  15. Y. Ben-David says:

    What I find  surprising is that while half a century ago, Orthodox Judaism was considered passe by non-Orthodox Jews and that Jews who did want some sort of tie to traditional Judaism on the one hand, yet, on the other had  whose main moral frame of reference was the prevailing liberal social environment in the US would most likely identify with the Conservative movement. Today, it is somehow “in” to be labelled “Orthodox” and yet, at the same time, look to the surrounding morally  relativistic Post-Modern culture as the final arbiter in determining what one’s own bedrock values are.  Of course, the prevailing social culture has undergone a revolution in that last half century.   Back then , had you asked liberals like Robert Kennedy or Martin Luther King what they thought of homosexual “marriage” or transgender bathrooms, they wouldn’t know what you are talking about, but today, even people who claim to hold to transcendent value system like the Torah are not willing to go against “politically correct” liberal values that directly contradict the Torah.

    The most important thing to keep in mind is that it is NOT possible to insulate oneself from the negative values of the surrounding American society. The most insular Orthodox groups are going to be effected because it is not possible to completely isolate the young people from these ideas. Two thousand years ago, long before there was modern electronic communications technology, new anti-Torah ideas like Hellenism made serious inroads among the Jewish youth. Today, with small devices that can easily be hidden making access to this available to anyone who wants it,  the Orthodox community is all the moreso vulnerable to it, even if the Rabbinic leadership tries to stamp it out.

    The fact is that American society is degenerating rapidly and it will INEVITABLY affect the Orthodox Jewish community, even the most insular.  This should serve as food for thought for those who (wrongly) think Orthodox Judaism is viable in the long term in the US, not even taking into consideration the spread of new forms of antisemitism, often propagated by Jews themsevles.l

    • tzippi says:

      Y. Ben-David, I’d move to E”Y in a heartbeat if we could.

      That said, there is nowhere that is a true bubble. I’m not sure why authentic Judaism is less viable for the long term in the US, ch”v, than anywhere else in the world.

      • Y. Ben-David says:

        It is true that these negative social/cultural/values influences come to Israel as well, but the difference between the US and Israel is that Jews are the majority in Israel and Torah observance is widespread within Israeli society and the Torah’s voice is heard in the media and among the general public at large. In the US, Jews are less than 2% of the population and Torah observant Jews are a minority within that. The pervasive anti-Torah values that permeate the media and the society at general drown out the tepid voices of the Torah community.  One can try to insulate one’s children from it but the din is so overwhelming that it is very difficult to do this. I see this in comparing how  Israelis relate to these negative phenomena as to how religious Americans do.  We see how much, if  not most of the Open Orthodox have adopted the “social justice” agenda, including things like homosexual rights and how they have joined, IN THE NAME OF ORTHODOXY the anti-Torah din I referred to.  Israeli society, including the non-observant is much more conservative and family oriented than American Jewish society. Here in Israel we are struggling to create a future more deeply based on Torah.In the US, THE BATTLE IS LOST. Just look at recent court decisions, for example.

  16. Reader says:

    Kudos to the Lower East Side Rabbis and R. Gordimer for speaking out.

    They are the ones with courage here, courageously speaking out on behalf of Biblical values instead of going along with the current (fickle) liberal orthodoxy.

    There is deception going on in these debates at times with people claiming to be Orthodox, who actually are not. Steven Greenberg is such a case. The same scam was used a few years ago in the propaganda movie Trembling before G-d, by its Conservative director Sandi Dubowski, who posed as Orthodox as well.

    Then there are others, such as Satmar raised Reb Ysoscher Katz and UK Lubavitcher R. Chaim Rapoport (who spoke recently at an ESHEL event and has lectured many times at YCT in the past) who pose as Chasidic, but are actually Open Orthodox or similar in outlook, kowtowing to the toeiva lobby and promoting their cause as well. People should not be fooled by Chasidic backgrounds, affiliations, and appearances. If someone puts on a long black coat or shtreimel for Shabbos, but speaks and writes like an OO/YCT leader, that is what they are. Disregard the externalities and focus on their messages.

    • mb says:

      Shame on Cross-Currents for posting this comment regarding R.Chaim Rapoport.

      You know, you guys are so machmir about this and that but when it comes to disparaging somebody, anything goes.

      • Reader says:

        Is it not true that R. Rapoport has lectured for years at YCT, mentoring YCT/OO in his lenient position on the matter? Is it not true that he spoke very recently at an Eshel weekend? Those facts can be confirmed online fairly easily. So why can they not be mentioned in a discussion like this?

        The thing with toeivah avaryanim is that if you give them a finger, they want a whole hand. Trying to meet them halfway, which R. Rapoport has been advocating for years, doesn’t work, as they keep on demanding more, and keep on moving the goalposts.

      • mb says:


        This is what you said,(I left out R.Katz, as I have no idea who he is, but I do know R.Rapoport, and your comments, which indeed include some truth,(yes he speaks at YCT. So what?) but so did Pravda. The rest is disgraceful.You have maligned a great man. (I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you know nothing else about him. ) And so have Cross-Currents for not deleting it.

        “Then there are others, UK Lubavitcher R. Chaim Rapoport (who spoke recently at an ESHEL event and has lectured many times at YCT in the past) who pose as Chasidic, but are actually Open Orthodox or similar in outlook, kowtowing to the toeiva lobby and promoting their cause as well. People should not be fooled by Chasidic backgrounds, affiliations, and appearances. If someone puts on a long black coat or shtreimel for Shabbos, but speaks and writes like an OO/YCT leader, that is what they are. Disregard the externalities and focus on their messages.

      • Yonah says:

        The thing with toeivah avaryanim is that if you give them a finger, they want a whole hand. 

        Yes, exactly: you keep giving them the finger, and all they want is to reach out with whole hand, towards yours.

      • Ben Bradley says:

        mb is quite correct in stating that your depiction of R Rapoport is far wide of the mark. He has written a book about homosexuality, about ten years ago now. Have you even read it before making your libellous comments about his opinions? Of course not, since if you had you would know that everything he writes is impeccably sourced in Torah and mesora. He is a talmid chacham with a fine reputation amongst scholars. Basing your opinion about him on where he speaks rather than what he says he is simply foolish. If you want to know where he stands just read his writings. That’s not rocket science.

        And Rabbi Gordimer – as the moderator for the comments on the this thread please bear in mind that this Reader fellow has just disparaged a major talmid chacham (with sefarim in lomdus and published teshuvos to his name) on your watch, otherwise known as epikorsus according to the gemara in Sanhedrin. Ironic, given your stand against epikorsus.

        I should mention that I have known R Rapoport for years. He does not need me to vouch for him.  Speak to any talmid chacham in the UK. Any at all.

      • mb says:

        Ben Bradley,

        Well said.

        I do not understand why Cross-Currents have not deleted Reader’s comments.

        Can you imagine if it was it was one of there’s?

        Shame on them

      • reader says:

        Actually I did see R. Rapoport’s book, and heard him personally speak on the topic at YCT a long time ago. That confirmed my suspicions that his position was way too conciliatory to the extreme left.

        By the way, I disagree with you that he is the paramount scholar you people seem to think he is. Have you seen his screed against Rabbi Dr. David Berger for his speaking out against Lubavitch messianism? Disgraceful how he went on the attack against a great scholar who courageously spoke out against the perversion of the messianic beliefs of our faith.

  17. Yonah says:

    I don’t think that tolerance or acceptance of gay lifestyles should be mandated on anyone, as Steve Brizel suggests below.  And I bet we’d overestimate the percentage of Eshel attendees who do hold by this view.  They seem largely to respect Jewish tradition and endeavour to fulfill its command despite a great contradiction within themselves.  This is a situation and a task that we could all learn from, and at any rate should not endeavour specifically to prevent from happening at a shul that is not ours.  All of us are ensconced deeply in the Roman exile, and the frummest among us would do well to realize that our sharpest diyukim and dikdukim do not even slightly remove that aspect of ourselves that descends from Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, that has absorbed the imperial attitude into our Torah-selves, and that would do well to be recognized, like our homosexual brothers and sisters, for the exilic quandary it bespeaks–divided against ourselves, badly in need of returning to our ikar avodah and to true ahavas yisroel, so that we may finally at long last welcome moshiach and build the house of prayer for all peoples.

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