More on the Eshel Shabbaton – And Weekly Digest – News and Essays In and Out of Orthodoxy – Parshas Naso 5776

Shortly after posting “Coming Out” and the Orthodox Rabbinate, R. Ysoscher Katz of YCT posted a defense of the recent Eshel shabbaton on the Lower East Side and a stinging attack on the rabbis who opposed it. Here is my response.

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Last week’s installment of Weekly Digest – News and Essays In and Out of Orthodoxy can be viewed here.

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71 Responses

  1. R.B. says:

    Rabbi Gordimer,

    About the siddur kiddushin by R’ Shai Piron, can you better explain what the issue was? I understand from the article, though it was not entirely clear to me, that he had the chassan and kallah recite the sheva brachos themselves.

    Also, can you briefly explain how, al pi halocho, this is problematic and whether this in fact render the kiddushin/nisuin null and void?

    Thank you in advance.

    • Avrohom Gordimer says:

      Yes, it is reported that the chosson and kallah themselves recited the berachos, which is not in conformity with tradition. It would not impact the Kiddushin and Nissuin, but the apparent departure from traditional protocol is seemingly why Rav Yosef reacted as he did.

  2. D.T. says:

    Rabbi Gordimer,

    In your response to R. Ysoscher Katz’s article, you stated that “people need to be welcomed, to be understood, counseled and helped.” Can you help me understand, from your perspective, what would be an appropriate way for Orthodox institutions to welcome, understand, counsel, and help LBGT people?

    Thank you.

    • Avrohom Gordimer says:

      I think that, as it relates to their LGBT identity, it should be done privately – many rabbis privately work with LGBT people and address their challenges. And as it relates to LGBT people in general but does not relate to their LGBT identity, they should be treated like anyone else in shul.

      • dr. bill says:

        I fundamentally agree.  I have always felt that, at least in the interim,  what is best is to let Rabbis and psychologists deal with the many individual situations that arise.  Hopefully, a way forward will eventually/slowly emerge.
        As to the multifaceted problems raised by the LGBT community, it is fair to say we have no solutions.  However, the challenging rhetoric is not helpful.  Many have made fools of themselves with claims that such people cannot really exist in a just/fair God’s world.  Guess what – they do and the language occasionally used to address the problem may contribute to many if not almost all leaving religious life or worse.  I would not want that on my conscience.

      • D.T. says:

        Thank you for your response. I’m still not sure I understand. When you say it should be done, privately, do you mean that these people should not openly express their LGBT identities?

        Also, what should be done privately? In what ways, specifically, should LGBT people address their challenges?

      • Avrohom Gordimer says:

        My pleasure. I don’t think that people should publicly express their sexual situation, and I feel that lgbt people should seek out a highly competent rav and counselor to help them with their struggles.

      • D.T. says:

        Thank you again! I apologize for pushing, but unfortunately, I still don’t feel like I have a complete grasp of your opinion and I’d really love to understand your position. What specific advice do you believe a rav and counselor should give an LGBT person born into the Orthodox community?

      • Avrohom Gordimer says:

        My pleasure. The type of advice would need to be determined by the rav or counselor – someone (unlike me) with specific expertise in it. But I think that the path charted by Rav Feldman as cited in my article of last week would be along the lines that should be advised.

      • D.T. says:

        Thank you again for your patience with this! It appears as though Rav Feldman recommends a gay man either remain silent about his orientation and practice celibacy or begin a relationship with a woman. Is this an accurate assessment of his position?

        Do you see any other options for LGBT people who wish to remain Orthodox?

      • Avrohom Gordimer says:

        My pleasure. Rav Feldman stated to the person with whom he corresponded that the person could not deny his homosexuality, but yes, celibacy vis a vis other males is required. It is clear that if one slipped and violated, he should still strive for celibacy and of course uphold all other mitzvos throughout.

      • D.T. says:

        Thank you. I’m glad that my reading of Rav Feldman is correct.

        I’m afraid I’m still not sure what the answer is to my second question. Is Rav Feldman’s opinion the only option for LBGT people who cannot deny their sexuality?

      • Avrohom Gordimer says:

        My pleasure. Regarding the celibacy issue, I don’t see any acceptable position other than that of Rav Feldman. Regarding other aspects of LGBT identity on a private level, one would need to consult with a high-level rav for advice.

      • joe36ct says:

        “I don’t think that people should publicly express their sexual situation,”

        No, you don’t think that LGBT people should publicly express their sexual situation.  Straight people express it publicly their entire lives.

      • D.T. says:

        Thank you for this clarity, Rabbi Gordimer. A lifetime of celibacy sounds like a rather daunting challenge, wouldn’t you agree?

      • Avrohom Gordimer says:

        My pleasure, D.T., and yes, it can be an extremely daunting task. But that is what the Torah mandates, despite what may be an immense challenge.

      • D.T. says:

        Given the immensity of the challenge, would you agree that it would require an extraordinary amount of emunah?

      • Avrohom Gordimer says:

        Perhaps, but such is what the Torah mandates, among numerous challenges that require an immense amount of emunah.

      • D.T. says:

        What other challenges require the same level of emunah?

        What percentage of gay men do you think have the immense amount of emunah to commit to a lifetime of celibacy? Or Jews in general?

      • Avrohom Gordimer says:

        We seem to be an an impasse, and this will be my final post on this topic, but many various other challenges can exist that require very firm emunah, whether it is an issue of parnassa (people having to lose their jobs due to refusal to work on certain days, or due to the nature of the jobs), sexual fidelity in general (being “shomer negiah” for someone with very strong hormones, or someone not raised frum), and many more areas of life.

      • Arthur says:

        It’d seem to be the same challenge as is faced by unmarried hetro men, or maybe even more apt, those who are locked into sexless marriages (for whatever reason, like medical).

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Straight people, at least in the Torah committed world, do not walk around expressing their “sexual situation.”Like it or not, a marriage between a man and woman is viewed as the definition of a Bayis Neeman BYisrael, as opposed to a domestic or civilly approved relationship between two people of the same gender.

      • Arthur says:

        Yes; contributing to many of these difficulties is the disappearance of any sense of busha in mainstream society.

    • R.B. says:

      D.T. – I don’t know why you keep pushing R’ Gordimer to answer your loaded questions, unless of course you don’t like the answers. The fact is that if Eshel operates in a way that it makes LGBT members feel that they don’t have to live a celibate lifestyle (as difficult as that must be) and can live in a relationship involving sexual relations, maybe predicated on some OO misinterpretation or application of “oness” or the like, than that organization is not Orthodox. Period.

      Joe36CT – as a response to your comment below: assuming you are correct, and ignoring Pride Month and the Pride Parade, which are open celebtrations of homosexuality, that is the norm because it is according to Torah and halochoh, whether you agree or not. Why should it not be that heteros are open about their “sexual situation”. Further, Eshel is modelling itself after the new ideal in our society: be open, be out there, loud and proud, sexual identify politics. Is that what we want to import into the frum community?

      • Reader says:

        Rabbi Gordimer is a nice guy, as is Rav Feldman shlit”a of Ner Israel. But I think they are being too conciliatory to the toeivah people. Once someone accepts the phony claims that there is such a thing as ‘toeivah identity’, it becomes a lot more difficult to defend the Torah position forbidding toeivah activity.

        The solution, I believe, is to reject the whole idea of a ‘toeivah identity’, and affirm the option for them to undergo therapy, and be cured of their illnesses. Of course, they would make a lot of noise about that, because they know that that undermines their position in a great way. Therapy, however, is indeed a viable option for them. It just needs to be monitored and improved. Alleged abuses of/with therapy in the past do not discredit the idea in general, just like people getting killed by unsanitary and primitive surgery in the past, say a hundred years ago, didn’t discredit the idea of modern scientific and properly controlled surgery in general.

      • Richard says:

        Are you confident enough in the effectiveness of therapy to marry off your daughter (or yourself, don’t know your gender) to a man who has been cured of his same sex attraction?

      • Reader says:

        Have you ever purchased a reconditioned appliance?

      • Richard says:

        I don’t really understand your response, but yes, I have. I am convinced enough about the process they use to recondition, I’ve had good experiences with refurbished equipment in the past, and many of my friends have had fine experiences with reconditioned appliances. I’ve heard of few bad outcomes when purchased from a reputable source.

        I’m wondering if you can say the same about reparative therapy. And I’m wondering what your basis for that confidence is.

      • dr. bill says:

        As i noted above, the results of these “therapies” and the claims that gays would not exist in a just God’s world has been debunked by modern science.  There is no evidence that gay and transgender issues have ever been understood to their current depth.  you can label that understanding just liberal hogwash, but do not expect anything but disdain from the vast majority of Jews.  telling folks to return to the closet, except for an occasional talk with their rabbi/therapist, would lead to sad consequences – vehamavin yavin.  and please don’t argue that it is our liberal society that is responsible.

        sadly not having a credible solution is leading many to condemn those who are trying to address the issue.  it is time for more compassion and less rhetoric.

      • Reader says:

        Would you marry off your daughter to a young man who, G-d forbid, had cancer, a heart attack, kidney disease, etc.?

        You might, or you might not. Many people would prefer someone without such a medical background. Does that mean that they don’t accept modern medicine, or that the person shouldn’t get medical treatment? Of course not.

      • Reader says:

        dr. bill:
        the results of these “therapies”………. debunked by modern science. There is no evidence that gay and transgender issues have ever been understood to their current depth.”
        The fact is that science around this issue has been heavily politicized, as the toeivah people have threatened those who expressed positions they didn’t like with regard to it. The Torah understands human nature, including these issues, way better than contemporary politicized “science” in the area.
        “telling folks to return to the closet, except for an occasional talk with their rabbi/therapist, would lead to sad consequences – vehamavin yavin.”
        If someone has a serious condition, G-d forbid, and then is treated for it, of course they must be properly and adequately monitored for years to come to prevent a relapse, G-d forbid.
        Claiming that anything less than full acceptance of the toeivah agenda would (G-d forbid) lead to “sad consequences”, is a red herring. Leaving aside right and wrong (if that could be done), the fact is that capitulation and acceptance of the toeivah agenda is no panacea, and has led to numerous tragedies, disqualifying it as a viable solution anyway.

      • dr. bill says:

        Reader,  I assume next time any of your friends needs a brain scan, you will make sure to have a baal koreh read the images; perhaps some perek in chumash holds the key to the recommended treatment.  You are turning Judaism into primitive mysticism.  Yes, there is a politicized agenda, but there is also a good deal of hard science.  Give this formidable issue much more time; even on much simpler issues a rabbinical consensus does not always emerge quickly, if ever.

      • ROBERT LEBOVITS says:

         Dr. bill: “Yes, there is a politicized agenda, but there is also a good deal of hard science.” 

        There is also a good deal of junk science such as “studies” that promote the notion there is a gene for homosexuality. As well there is scientific support and numerous personal reports for the ability to experience sexual attraction where it did not appear before. A case in point would be the wife of the current mayor of NYC who was an avowed lesbian in her 20s when she wrote all about her coming out and relief that she hadn’t made the terrible error of marrying a man. In her 30s she reassessed her sexuality and decided she could marry and have a family after all.

        I don’t know whether the in depth exploration of sexual functioning in recent years has been as illuminating as you suggest. Over the decades I have been less and less impressed with “hard science” in the fields of medicine and mental health in light of how many certainties of a generation ago have been proven wrong by further examination (Transfats anyone?).


      • dr. bill says:

        Robert Lebovits,
        Despite your usage of anecdotes, I hope you never have to deal with a child/grandchild, a gorgeous 7 year old blond girl, who tells everyone that she is a boy; you might quickly become a believer in modern science.  (Then again you might go to a voodoo doctor or some other faith-healer and stick with anecdotes.)
        Science and medicine (and a fortiori more subjective areas) invariably make errors as they move forward; yet we know more every generation.
        Chazal made errors, believing in the science of their day.  Everyone makes errors, but if you are faced with the need to decide, you follow the most convincing evidence available at the time.   Sadly, permanently homosexual and transgender individuals exist that medicine, as we know it today, cannot “change.”

      • ROBERT LEBOVITS says:

        Dr. bill: “I hope you never have to deal with a child/grandchild, a gorgeous 7 year old blond girl, who tells everyone that she is a boy; you might quickly become a believer in modern science.  (Then again you might go to a voodoo doctor or some other faith-healer and stick with anecdotes.)”

        Actually as a child psychologist I have worked with young children and their parents who exhibited behavior and interests more stereotypical of their opposite gender as well as expressing an identification with the opposite gender. My routine recommendation to parents has been to accept the child’s actions and allow interests to develop organically without imposing some sort of strict limitation or demands for conformity. Some of those children went on to present a homosexual orientation; some did not. Certainly, there is no inevitability as some activists proclaim.

        In multiple conversations with colleagues who work with sexual identity issues there is a powerful reluctance to openly discuss our clinical experiences that do not jibe with the current “common wisdom”. All research in this area is politicized and anyone who presents evidence indicating a less than positive consequence to a gay orientation is subject to hostile scrutiny and possible defamation. I referenced the anecdote about the mayor’s wife only as a counterpoint to the media attention given to other celebrities who are highlighted because they made the move in the opposite direction, from straight to gay.



      • dr. bill says:

        But i assume you will acknowledge the existence of homosexuals for whom “therapies” would not be effective?

      • YbhM says:

        dr. bill, you seem to have abandoned your sharp  remarks (“voodoo doctor” etc.) to Robert Lebovits.  You should take them back explicitly and admit that you were engaging in inappropriate and condescending rhetoric.

      • dr. bill says:

        i will consider it a few weeks after ,,,, freezes over.  undoubtedly current attitudes allow marginally same sex attracted individuals minimal need to modify their orientation; that does not in any way impact on the existence of those whose orientations are more fundamental.

  3. Steve Brizel says:

    Once again, I don’t understand a currently quoted view of R Riskin. R and C have never been more than a beachhead in Israel in terms of members-past, present and future, and have adopted a strategy of seeking from the HC of Justice what they neither have succeeded in attracting on the ground or in developing any sympathy beyond the leftist secular and academic elites, and are identified with the far LW of Israel on many political issues. IMO, R Riskin offers no convincing any argument that either the Charedi, DL and RZ movements should not be engaged in attempting to win over the hearts and minds of any would be R and C members,  fighting in the Knesset any changes in the “status quo” ( but not in the street except by means of an Asifas Tefilim) and in ignoring the facts on the ground that R and C have been viewed as American importations to Israel by most traditional Israelis who view either a Charedi or DL syngagogue as the house of worship that they would attend.

  4. Eli Blum says:

    Rabbis Adlerstein and Broyde on the Satmar vs. NY State struggle – should be required reading for everyone. I’m surprised Rabbi Adlerstein hasn’t posted it here on Cross Currents.

  5. Steve Brizel says:

    Junk science, whether relating to global warming, population growth or sexual orientation, deserves to be viewed with a strongly skeptical eye-especially when the purported science suppresses other equally and long standing POVs. One cannot deny that much of what constitutes the GLBT agenda was viewed was viewed as part of a spectrum of psychiatric disorders in the DSM until the pressures of GLBT groups led to changes that caused the deletion of the same in subsequent editions and the refusal of insurers to pay for therapy for anyone refusing to accept same gender attraction.

    • Reb Yid says:

      “Junk science, whether relating to global warming, population growth or sexual orientation, deserves to be viewed with a strongly skeptical eye-especially when the purported science suppresses other equally and long standing POVs”

      There’s nothing “purported” about any of this science.  One could debate, of course, whether global warming is happening at a 1.3 or 1.8 % annual rate (or whatever the estimates are, as I ), but that is quite different from denying that global warming is happening at all, which your remark appears to suggest.

      You are entitled to your own opinions but not to your facts, which can clearly be demonstrated and proved scientifically.

      • Steve brizel says:

        There is a huge body of evidence that supports each of the above cited instances of junk science. The opponents engage in suppression system of any opposing views

      • Reb Yid says:

        Actually, the scientific method is all about replication and the testing of theories and hypotheses empirically.  Unlike religion, which cannot be disproved or disproved but rather believed as a matter of faith, science allows us to reject and refine hypotheses while confirming others until such time as they may later be refined or otherwise.

        Using global warming as one example–the body of literature that has appeared in peer-reviewed academic journals (which is also part of the scientific process) is staggering.  If you can rebut these with other evidence, literature, etc. that conform to the scientific method, trot it out and let’s take a look.

        I should mention that last summer I was on a kosher cruise to Alaska (breathtaking, by the way).  It is astounding to see the maps of all of the glaciers tracking how much they melted in such a short span of time, after relatively little such movement for so long.  What really brought it home for me was cruising Glacier Bay, seeing one such large chunk crash into the water, and then hearing a tremendous roar from the reverberation.

        If we bury our hands in the sand and deny the possibility that human beings and human “development” might be playing some role in all of this, our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will look upon us with disgust.


  6. Elly Shevin says:

    Some of us exceed the speed limit. Some of us are overcome by lust and eat a bit of treif. Some of us wear shatnes. Some of us sleep with members of the same sex. We’re told not to concern ourselves with the relative weights of different mitzvos. Should we do that for aveiros?

    My late Rav, Eliezer Cohen z”l used to wonder if, given that we now understand sexual proclivity is neither a matter of choice or a treatable disease, whether Hashem who creates all really wants to condemn any of his people to a life devoid of love and pleasure.

    This is hard to reconcile with the pesukim, and those of a mystical bent might say that enforced loneliness and celibacy is the consequence of sins in an earlier life. But R. Cohen was a dyed-in-the-wool rationalist, and it troubled him.

    As he would have said: not so pashut.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Actually, the Mishnah in Avos tells us not to differentiate between a mitzvah kallah and a mitzvah chamurah.  We all commit Aveiros and each Aveirah has its means of teshuvah. Denial of teshuvah is denial that man is a spiritual being created Btzelem elokim with Bchirah Chofshis-free will.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      One cannot deny that the Torah and Talmud do not view either enforced loneliness or celibacy-which other faiths view as the pinnacle of spirituality-as desirable spiritual states. Man acts Bztelem elokim when together with a wife-not two men and not two women-they create a family and pass on the bedrock values  of Torah Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim to the next generation.

    • Chochom b'mah nishtaneh says:

      It seems that you are saying ch”v that Hashem’s understanding has changed based on the latest politicized “scientific” findings?

      That the Torah’s truth’s are not eternal.  Because it seems to me that is very clearly what you are saying.


    • Arthur says:

      Should we celebrate aveiros?

      Show we make them a source of personal and/or communal “pride”?

      Should one publicize that they commit aveiros, in shuls no less (and every other opportunity)?

      Should one do whatever they can to make people feel comfortable about committing them, treat them as legitimate choices?

      C’mon. Enough with the clever games. Nobody is fooled.

      (Btw, satisfying lust with treif is kinda weird.)


      • Steve brizel says:

        No. We should always emphasize that man has free will to either reach great spiritual heights but only via adherence to Torah and mitzvos

      • Richard says:

        When you go to a wedding of non-frum people, are they celebrating aveiros?

      • Steve Brizel says:

        All weddings are simchos, but there is a huge difference between a Chasunah of a couple who will build a Bayis Neeman BYisrael and a wedding where the only Lashon HaKodesh recited is under the chupah and a few minutes of simcha dancing

      • Richard says:

        I was referring to the presumption that they won’t be observing nidah.

      • R.B. says:

        No, but the wedding itself is not the aveirah, though it may lead to this aveirah. Also, non-frum couples, can, at any time, start keeping hilchos nida, so there is hope for that couple. According to Eishel and similar minded groups, this situation cannot be changed. This is why I never understood the argument that if we permit mechalelei Shabbos to attend our shuls, we can do the same for open homosexual couples. Obviously, the difference is that where one may one day decide to keep Shabbos, the other has committed to a forbidden relationship and wants to others to accept them in their relationship without any motive to change things.

      • Richard says:

        It seems to me like it’s totally parallel. Just having a gay partner can’t be any different halakhically than having a male roommate. The problem would be the presumption of forbidden sexual activities. Having a non-frum opposite-sex partner might be slightly more forbidden, given yichud issues, but the real problem would be the presumption of forbidden sexual activities. And just like a non-frum straight couple can stop committing sexual sins, so, too can a gay couple do the same.

      • R.B. says:


        In reply to you, many poskim do not oppose making shidduchim and chasunahs of couples who won’t keep taharas hamishpacha, though some require that the kallah goes once to the mikvah prior to the chassunah. Accordingly, there is actually no issue attending a non-frum wedding.

        Also, Yichud would certainly apply to two homosexual males, even if roomates.

      • dr. bill says:

        does your list really focus on real issues or is it representative of choices you can attribute to rabbi katz?  your representation of alternatives is not helpful.

      • Arthur says:

        Yes it does focus on issues, I think the heart of them, but to be clear, I was responding to the upstream comment, not to R’ Katz.

      • Elly Shevin says:

        Not all lusts are sexual, Arthur.

    • tzippi says:

      You ask whether Hashem really wants to condemn any of His people to a life devoid of love and pleasure. I have no idea if their situations are due to past lives and that’s not the major issue. The issue is, can one live with integrity and consistency if one accepts the validity and authentic transmission and understanding of the Torah? Can one find ways to express love and experience pleasure, even if not in this most satisfying way? I hope there are competent and compassionate rabbanim/rebbetzins/mentors/etc. to help people who want to try this alternative, yet profoundly meaningful, approach through their journey.

      • Elly Shevin says:

        It wasn’t I who asked, but my Rav–who, I assure you, had no intention of bringing a same-sex couple under a chuppah. He was determined to remain true to Torah, but didn’t want to ostracize gays either. It isn’t easy.


    Dr. bill: “But i assume you will acknowledge the existence of homosexuals for whom “therapies” would not be effective?”

    Many individuals who have an exclusive sexual attraction to others of the same sex have no internal struggle or interest in changing their orientation. I am unclear as to your point. The fact that we are endowed with desires that we are also forbidden to actualize is true of every human being. Every society – not only the one that adheres to halacha – identifies behaviors that are out-of-bounds however “natural” they may be. Whatever science may describe about human functioning is not the basis for the conduct the Torah requires of us.


    • YbhM says:

      <i>Every society – not only the one that adheres to halacha – identifies behaviors that are out-of-bounds however “natural” they may be.</i>

      As an extreme example, there are people who – through nature, upbringing or a combination of both – lack all empathy and guilt (I think professionals term them “psychopaths”).  As a less extreme example, there are people who have very poor self-control (sometimes termed “executive function deficit”) and are very successfully treated with medications.

      Contemporary Western society has decided that psychopaths should be institutionalized, that executive function deficits should be treated with drugs (since those affected otherwise cannot function well in a capitalist society), and that homosexuality and gender dysphoria are normal (because they “don’t hurt anyone”).  But these are value judgments rather than factual judgments.

      Indeed these value judgments are very unstable in Western society … changing dramatically from year-to-year.


    • dr. bill says:

      you answered my question in your first 18 words.  thank you.

      • YbhM says:

        > you answered my question in your first 18 words.

        The salient points however are from word 19 and onward.

        This insistent focus on treatability of SSA is a red herring.



      • dr. bill says:

        not in the minds of the RY who insisted that a just God would not create such an individual.  the implications of such a claim are mind-boggling.


  8. Ari Heitner says:

    A propos a number of the points raised above, so I will let this stand on its own:

    Someone I consider both a Rebbe and a friend was, many years ago, working for Aish in London (he no longer lives there) and was giving a weekly class to university students in Manchester. Somehow the topic came to homosexuality and nature vs. nurture. Two of the participants were arguing; one claimed homosexual orientation was changeable, while the other was outraged at the presumptuousness (my friend said he kept completely out of it). Said the latter, “How do you know?! How can you tell a homosexual person what his nature is?!” Said back the former, “Because I used to be gay!”

    Another (unconnected) Rebbe of mine said he has several dozen married students who in the past identified as gay; over several decades of teaching they were all maintaining happy hetero lives.

    Of course the possibility of such changes for even some fraction of those who identify as homosexual is verboten to consider.

  9. R.B. says:

    Rabbi Gordimer,

    You might wish to add this to tomorrow’s news posting. This illustrates two things: 1) that OO leaders like R’ Katz and R’ Herzfeld might be advocating won’t cut it for LGBT Jews (though they are working with Steven Greenberg of Eishel, who according to this Forward author allows homosexuals to engage in sex with halachic justifications) and 2) how much OO will have to do structurally to twist halacha and hashkafa into a pretzel to meet the demands of LGBT activists.


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