Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and the Ordination of Openly Gay Men – Very Mixed Messages

News broke last week that Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT) refused to ordain an openly gay student. The student, Daniel, declared himself gay late into his first year of YCT’s four-year program. Unfazed by Daniel’s coming out, YCT continued with its plans to ordain Daniel. R. Dov Linzer, president and rosh yeshiva of YCT, explained:

Daniel came out to us as gay at the end of his first year… he continued as a student for the next three years, and… we were fully intending to give him semicha (ordination). We were prepared to be the first Orthodox rabbinical school to award semikha to an openly gay man.

Last year, well after he had come out as gay, Daniel served as rabbinic intern at ASBI, an Open Orthodox congregation in the Chicago area, and ordination was projected as scheduled. However, approximately six months ago, Daniel became engaged to his boyfriend, Judah, in a very public manner (at a rock concert), and Daniel then moved in with Judah. Although months passed without a word from YCT about this incident, YCT stated last week that it could not ordain Daniel at the end of the school year. YCT did not specify the exact reason for its decision, but it is clear from the words of R. Linzer that Daniel’s engagement to Judah was the cause:

(W)e were fully prepared to give him semicha until certain circumstances arose over a few months ago… One of the big challenges for us as a rabbinical school is that there is a difference between communal inclusion, and between what it means to be ordained as an Orthodox rabbi. So much more is expected and demanded from our rabbis than from our laity.

R. Linzer posited that YCT did not have an issue ordaining Daniel as openly gay, but that a higher standard must be applied to someone who is to receive ordination.

This did not sit well at all with the majority of YCT students, nor with some YCT faculty members and YCT graduates. In an apparent effort at damage control, the day after R. Linzer announced his decision not to ordain Daniel, R. Linzer paid a visit to a gay Reform temple, trying to placate the homosexual and transsexual community.

Reflective of the overwhelming support among Daniel’s peers for his being ordained, a fundraising campaign was launched by Jewish Queer Youth in order to pay for an alternative ordination, and much more:

As you may have heard, after a 4-year commitment, our dear friend and community member, Daniel Atwood, has been told that he is no longer eligible to receive Semikha (rabbinical ordination) from YCT. This is an understandably hard time for Daniel and his fiancée, Judah. They have asked for some privacy and time for self-care.

At the same time, many of us have been asking ourselves, “What can we do and how can we help?”

Well, there is a way.

A program in Israel has offered to give Daniel Semicha if he is able to come to Israel and meet their requirements. Additionally, individual rabbis in the US have offered to grant him US Semicha once he fulfills the Israeli requirements. However, Daniel and Judah do not currently have the funds to travel to Israel and take on this opportunity.

JQY, together with the Jewish queer and allied community, is raising the funds to cover these expenses. Daniel deserves a Semikha celebration, like the rest of his YCT classmates, to which he can invite his family and friends. Funds raised in this campaign will help pay for a dignified Semikha ceremony that reflects Daniel’s hard work, dedication, and commitment to our community.

We are asking for your help!

All fund raised will be used for this endeavor, and every donation is completely tax deductible. Please give what you can – even a small amount will show Daniel that you care. If you cannot give, please share this campaign so Daniel can know how much he is loved and supported.

Estimated budget:
Israeli Semikha (travel and accommodation): $3500
US Rabbinic Semikha: $500
Semikha celebration: $1000
Total estimated funds needed: $5000

The campaign has thus far raised almost $11,500 (from approximately 400 people, in only four days), and among its donors are scores of YCT and Yeshivat Maharat students, a senior YCT rabbinic leader, and well-known fringe-Orthodox public figures. (You might be surprised to see a few of the names in the list of donors.)

R. Avi Weiss supports R. Linzer’s decision not to ordain Daniel, but former YCT president R. Asher Lopatin opposes the decision. In addition to the majority of YCT students and numerous prominent Open Orthodox leaders supporting the ordination of Daniel, two well-known YCT graduates have announced that they will henceforth officiate at “Orthodox gay weddings”, with enthusiastic support from the Torat Chayim Open Orthodox clergy organization.

Although YCT will not be ordaining Daniel, R. Linzer announced that YCT has plans to ordain (openly) gay students in the future:

We are committed to beginning a transparent process that will culminate in Spring 2020 that will bring in all relevant voices – from the LGBTQ community, from rabbis, lay leaders, and poskim, to provide clear direction of how to best chart a path forward so that, while it did not prove possible in this case, we will be able to grant semikha to gay students in the future.

Taking a step back, we must ask how this all came about. To be precise, why did Daniel and his supporters – the majority of the YCT/Open Orthodox orbit – expect ordination to be granted to someone who is not only openly homosexual, but is engaged to and living with his boyfriend?

I am afraid that the blame lies directly in the lap of YCT leadership, who created a monster, and is now faced with the consequences. Please allow me to explain.

Rabbis Weiss, Lopatin, Linzer and others in their realm have created a culture that is not only tolerant of open homosexual expression, but that welcomes and sanctifies it. As R. Linzer wrote last week:

We have always been, and will continue to be, staunch supporters and advocates for members of the LGBTQ community. Our rabbis in the field are at the forefront of creating welcoming synagogues, schools, and spaces for LGBTQ individuals and their families.

We believe that God does not want human beings to live a life alone. “It is not good for man to be alone,” (Gen. 2:18), applies to all people, gay or straight. We know that if one of our children were gay, we would want him or her to share his or her life in a full and meaningful way with someone they loved and who loved them back. How to square this with halakha can often be a profound challenge.

And R. Weiss:

Weiss has also written that a gay Jewish couple should be able to build a life together in the confines of an Orthodox community. In a chapter of his new book called “Welcoming LGBT+ Jews,” Weiss said that Jewish law does not allow gay couples a religiously consecrated wedding, but that it’s unreasonable to deny them a relationship.

“To demand that gay people not have a life partner is, for many, akin to a death sentence,” he wrote. “While halakha limits kiddushin and nissuin (betrothal and marriage) to the relationship between a man and a woman, we must do all we can to find a way for halakha to help guide gay couples to live in loving partnerships.”

R. Lopatin has also taught that the Biblical axiom of “It is not good for man to be aloneapplies to homosexual relationships. (The fact that this verse was stated in regard to a female companion/wife, and the words at the end of this Biblical narrative, “therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife” (Gen. 2:24), seem to have eluded these YCT leaders.)

R. Dr. Daniel Sperber, who sits on the Yeshivat Maharat Advisory Board and who is a leading proponent of ordination for women, is a senior Open Orthodox leader. R. Dr. Sperber suggested that there is a way to create Orthodox gay marriage-type unions. As reported in Haaretz:

Sperber thinks there may be a way around this. “The problem is with the word ‘marriage,’” he notes. “Perhaps they can call it something else like a ‘partnership.’”

R. Benny Lau, a very left-wing rabbi who is involved with the Open Orthodox movement, made news last year by delivering uplifting remarks at an Israeli “Orthodox gay wedding”. (Although R. Lau’s initial break with normative Orthodoxy was marked by his hiring female clergy for his congregation and then supporting the ordination of female clergy in the US, he has since left the pulpit rabbinate to lead the 929 Daily Bible Study program. The vast majority of 929’s teachers are non-Orthodox clergy, with the Orthodox component being comprised of controversial fringe-Orthodox personalities, with a few exceptions.)

R. Weiss publicly supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, as did many other members of the Open Orthodox clergy (for example). One senior YCT rabbinic leader and several other Open Orthodox clergy members attended the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, and YCT graduates and other Open Orthodox clergy have coordinated and supported the celebration of homosexual lifestyle events and shabbatonim. Although YCT leadership has on occasion stated that it could not condone homosexual intercourse and that homosexual unions cannot be called “Kiddushin” (halachic marriage), it has created a culture that is robustly positive about gay identity and relationships.

It thus comes as no surprise that, after having been taught for years (both formally and by the examples of its leaders) about the noble right of homosexuals to have loving relationships that are akin to those of heterosexuals, and that God Himself has apparently mandated and sanctified same-sex unions as per the (grossly misapplied) verse of “It is not good for man to be alone…”, YCT students have absorbed and acted upon this lesson and are now shocked that YCT seems to be dishonoring it. YCT’s leadership has sent very mixed messages and thereby engendered an atmosphere of immense confusion.

Furthermore, as cited above, YCT has not backed away from endorsing gay unions and the ordination of openly homosexual people; it is merely that openly gay ordainees are expected by YCT’s leaders to uphold a higher standard. Students who have been taught the virtues of gay relationships, and that these relationships are divinely sanctioned, now ask why a higher standard is suddenly expected, as a seemingly random and arbitrary bar to professional and personal religious fulfillment appears to have been capriciously thrown into the path. Having been fed a worldview that acceptance and honor must be accorded to homosexual expression and relationships, YCT’s students and graduates are now being told something that does not seem to jibe with this, and they are reacting with frustration and rejection.

The chickens have come to roost. The monster created by YCT leadership has defied the leadership and taken it firmly to task, based on the leadership’s own teachings. (Please see this, written by a Yeshivat Maharat student who points out the apparent contradictions between her Open Orthodox education and YCT’s present actions.)

Rather than continue on its path of forging ahead with ordination for openly homosexual people and celebrating gay relationships, YCT leadership would do well to instead promote the type of lessons that are presented here by Rabbi Avraham Edelstein.

The foundation of Torah life is not personal rights, but is, rather, surrender to Hashem. I must again invoke the words of Rav Soloveitchik zt”l from a 1968 address to RIETS Rabbinic Alumni (published here on pp. 113-119), in which the Rav noted that the Torah records that the Patriarchs erected altars, but usually omits mention of sacrifice thereon:

Apparently, the mizbe’ach (altar) of the Avos (Patriarchs) was not for the purpose of offering a live sacrifice. The mizbe’ach symbolized submission, their own surrender. Because the highest sacrifice is not when you offer an animal. It’s very easy when you offer an animal. The highest sacrifice is when man offers himself.

What do I mean “offers himself”? The Torah hated, condemned, human sacrifices… It’s one of the most reprehensible abominations. Yes, physical human sacrifice was rejected, but spiritual human sacrifice – submission and surrender, acceptance of God’s will, to abide by His will even if His will sometimes runs contrary to our aspirations, His will sometimes makes no sense to us – [that was valued and required]. We can’t understand it, it’s incomprehensible. We are full with questions, we can point out so many contradictions. [But] if we surrender and submit ourselves, actually this is the highest.

And that’s what Avrohom (Abraham) taught himself, and he taught others. This means “vayiven sham mizbe’ach” (“he erected an altar there”) actually. Whom did he sacrifice? His own independence, his own pride, his own comfort, his own desires, his own logic, his own reason. He believed. If one believes, it is an act of surrender, sacrifice…

Rather than trying to fit the Torah into contemporary values, we must submit to the Torah’s own eternal values and make them ours.

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70 Responses

  1. dr. bill says:

    Broad pronouncements on this topic from either side are not productive. Let poskim and professionals make focused decisions on individual cases without immediate fanfare and worldwide comment. I doubt this issue will be understood well enough for more generic policies in my lifetime.

  2. too tired says:

    (You might be surprised to see a few of the names in the list of donors.)

    I don’t see a single person by whom I am surprised to see has donated.

  3. Norman says:

    Dr Bill who are the Poskim you’d like to see involved in this issue?

  4. Yossi says:

    Dr. Bill,

    You’re talking in riddles; what are you referring to?

    • David F says:

      That is precisely his point. Writing half-sentences full of innuendo and referring to unnamed but highly important individuals…
      Obfuscation of the highest order.
      The truth is that what YCT has done is simply indefensible and deserving of complete condemnation. Dr. Bill has condemned Charedim for far less and saw no need for poskim to weigh in. Suddenly on the issue of ordaining homosexuals, it’s too unclear for mere mortals to weigh in and declare it wrong.

  5. dr. bill says:

    norman, competent poskim who traditional jews turn to with non-trivial sheailot. these sheailot are not answered on an internet blog.

    yossi, the psak, like the devil :), is still in the details. broad pronouncements on either side are not helpful. this area still has many unresolved factors that are subject at worse to politics and at best to an opinion as opposed to a firm factual basis. otherwise intelligent people have made some less than coherent assertions. i cannot to be more specific.

  6. Sam says:

    I am seriously just trying to understand – can someone explain to me from the YTC perspective how it is possible to sanction gay relationships? it is not just a matter of not getting officially “married” , there is an explicit issur in the Torah for homosexual relations. Clearly any homosexuals living together in a loving relationship will be violating this. How do YCT people get around this? Do they condone living together as long as there is no sex?

  7. Gavriel M says:

    Rather than trying to fit the Torah into contemporary values, we must submit to the Torah’s own eternal values and make them ours.

    It is unhelpful in the extreme for Rabbi Gordimer to yoke opposition to homosexual advocacy within Judaism to a MO neo-Brisk ideology, since first of all, many Jews think this ideology is philosophically bankrupt and, secondly, it implicitly concedes that there is nothing actually wrong with homosexuality. There is absolutely nothing ‘incomprehensible’ about the prohibition on behaviour that is unsanitary, unhygienic and spreads far more disease than anti-vaxxers. Nor is there any need to invoke an ‘act of surrender, sacrifice’ to explain why the Jewish community refuses to incorporate people who relentlessly attack the pillars of all human civilization by claiming that normal homosexual intercourse is equivalent and equal to objectively disordered perversion.

  8. Bob Miller says:

    All YCT plans for the future are flexible and depend on which way it thinks the wind is blowing. All its grads are equally unsuited to being rabbis. Selecting one or more of HaShem’s mitzvot for deletion is apikorsus as always.

    • dr. bill says:

      Bob, you touch on a debated topic in how we ought to behave. the wind as you call it contains innovative ideas, both positive and negative. If you, as the Rav ztl believed, maintain that halakha is the floor, not the ceiling, societies have created ethical perspectives, opposition to slavery or polygamy to cite two clear examples, that we would be, and in one case we were, wise to appropriate.

      We are all aware of how change occurs in halakha. A consensus emerges that until now, X was the norm, but not that Y is clearly the case, we should behave differently. What matches that paradigm is debatable; scholars who study meta-halakha can debate that. we do not know what we will eventually conclude about the wide spectrum of same-sex attraction. If you think there is nothing we can learn that would be impactful in any way, then we disagree. I cannot claim to predict what future insight definitively discovers. But I hope that advancement in our knowledge should not be categorically discounted.

      Until then, i propose letting those who we turn to with complex sheailot, and those professionals, they consult with deal with individual cases while the rest of us refrain from adding unhelpful viewpoints to the discussion.

      And if you think your characterization applies to Rav Linzer, try meeting him. By accident, I sat next to him as someone laced into a speaker whose (rather liberal) views were troubling, even to me :). I said to him, that was just desserts for an ill-advised halakhic view, and he nodded strong agreement.

      All hareidi Jews are not responsible for the measles hillul haShem and all YCT graduates are not deserving to be put in one bucket.

      • David F says:

        Lots of words and pixels wasted trying to complicate something that is eminently simple. There is no defense for this and no special poskim need to convene. It’s wrong and we all know it.

      • Nachum says:

        Here’s the thing: There are hundreds of thousands of charedim in the world. There are a few dozen YCT grads. It’s a lot easier to generalize.

      • dr. bill says:

        Nachum, Generally speaking, there is little need to generalize about very small populations; often their individual characteristics are unique. In larger groups, the repeated nature of various occurrences leads to easier stereotyping. But, you raise an interesting thought – how can so small a group create so large a reaction?

      • DF says:

        Dr Bill – you ask how so small a group can create so large a reaction. The answer is, it hasn’t. The high overwhelming majority of orthodox Jews never heard of YCT. its only bloggers in need of copy who write about it, and eggheads like us who comment for fun.

        More seriously, it does not pay to intellectualize behavior that we know instinctively to be wrong. Say what one will, be as understanding as you like – at the end of the day, homosexuality is unacceptable, and that’s the end of the discussion. Anything else is just needless surplusage.

  9. Bob Miller says:

    No doubt there is a spectrum of views within the YCT orbit. It’s still the wrong orbit for Torah Jews. Years ago, I read an analysis of Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” as a concept. It can mean (1) out there and available to everyone or (2) impossible to pin down or capture. Sure, halacha must be applied to changing world conditions. I doubt that human nature has been transformed. Regardless, if a decision is not properly anchored in objective halacha, as opposed to halacha twisted by the blast of some zeitgeist, it’s not for us.

  10. DF says:

    This is what happens, every time, when an organization is built on the platitude of “tolerance” and simply doesn’t have the fortitude to just say “No.” Eventually they get pushed further and further until even they have to say no, at which point the whole reason for their existence gets discredited. As the great sage Odgen Nash once said:

    Sometimes with secret pride I sigh,
    To think how tolerant am I;
    Then wonder which is really mine:
    Tolerance, or a rubber spine?

    • dr. bill says:

      my rebbe RAL ztl said it better: “don’t mistake tolerance for a lack of principle.” Unfortunately, there are no simple hard and fast rules. Since RAL generally did not read literature before it was 100 years old, I wonder if he made an exception for Nash.

    • Nachum says:

      I said this a long time ago: Successful Modern Orthodox bodies, like the OU or the RCA or YU, were not *founded* to be Modern. They were founded to be Orthodox, and were either unconsciously Modern from the start or sort of became Modern without planning to be.

      But if you *found* yourself to be modern, especially in, say, 2019 and not, say, in 1886, you’re going to have problems.

    • rebc says:

      az men redt shoin fun Odgen Nash, we must fully introduce him

      “How odd of God to choose the Jews”

  11. Michael says:

    It appears that YCT draws the line when it is undeniable that the prospective ordinee “lives together” with a same sex partner.. Daniel’s mistake in their eyes was to very publicly make this apparent. Until then it’s a nudge, nudge, wink, wink attitude of we don’t ask what happens behind closed doors. It’s a version of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. He can come out of the closet but telling the world that he is in a relationship crossed the line and put them on the spot (In what form, shape or other could they allow this is they continue to profess to be Orthodox).

  12. YEA says:

    “To demand that gay people not have a life partner is, for many, akin to a death sentence.”

    Barbra Streisand recently took this reasoning to its logical conclusion when she stated regarding Michael Jackson’s abuse of children, “His sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA he has.”

    • Tim says:

      Equating nonconsensual child abuse with a loving, caring CONSENSUAL relationship, gay or not, is morally apprehensible.

  13. Bob Miller says:

    In engineering, a tolerance, or a set of tolerance limits, defines a range of acceptable values. Not everything is or will become acceptable.

    • Nachum says:

      Which is why, to the SJWs, “tolerance” is a dirty word here. It’s full-fledge acceptance and celebration or nothing. YCT and its rabbis will learn this the hard way.

  14. Sharon says:

    Can any gay Orthodox Jews anwer some questions for me? I worry that I am offending some people by asking questions, but I really think many could understand more If there was some serious discussions.

    1. Is it possible for gay Orthodox Jews to be celibate, like most priests are?
    2. People often say that just as pedophiles cannot be gratified according to their desires, because to fulfill their desires is criminal and cruel to others, gay Orthodox Jews can manage to live unfulfilled lives for a greater good. What is your response to this? If it is impossible to not act on desires, is that true for pedophiles too?
    3. Why is it necessary for gay Orthodox News to be public about being gay? I am not suggesting they lie to people, but why is it something to advertise?

    • Ari says:

      1) I would argue that most priests are not celibate. And I would think that the current crisis in the catholic church indicates that arguing about what’s possible from the catholic church isn’t really a good place to start.
      2) The fundamental difference is that children cannot give consent to sexual encounters. At all.
      3) Not sure what you mean about being public. Yes, if you want to be a “gay rabbi”, you want to be public. but most folks just want to be. I would try this experiment. For the next week, don’t talk at all about your husband, boyfriend, or any relationship at all that might reveal that you are straight. Keep it all to “How bout those mets”. See how that goes for you.

      • Chochom B'mah Nishtaneh says:

        1) Sharon’s point was not praising Catholics, her point was that it is possible to remain celibate. Do you have any basis at all for your argument?

        2) The fact that children cannot give consent is not the issue nor her point. Her point is that if it is forbidden, as it is by the Torah, cannot we expect people to try to live up to that requirement. Regardless if they feel unfulfilled. According to your “reasoning” you would advocate relations out of wedlock, which are ossur (including paying for “fulfilment”).
        3)This is specifically about people loudly and proudly pronouncing they are involved in relationships forbidden by the Torah. Publicly advertising such relationships means that you are proclaiming the Torah incorrect.

  15. Steve Brizel says:

    We should not be surprised that YCT has acted in this manner . I would not be surprised if YCT retreated from what can best be described as a trial balloon in the face of SJWs latest assault on Halacha. We should never hope that any Posek will permit the impermissible and declare An explicit Torah prohibition as no longer binding or invent a meaningless ceremony to satisfy the Zeitgeist of our times RL

  16. Steve Brizel says:

    I predict that YCT will retreat from this trial balloon of a decision under the pressure of social media

  17. Steve Brizel says:

    I predict that YCT will retreat from this trial balloon of a decision under the pressure of social media. That decision which will be rooted in pleasing the Zeitgeist as is every decision of YCT should be seen as yet another departure from normative Halacha. I challenge those who predict as if they were granted either prophecy like predictions of Halachic evolution in this area of Halacha to show us that How in the face of massive evidence that Chazal were aware of and rejected both Greco Roman hedonism and paganism and celibacy as equally flawed and no substitute for a Bayis Neeman BYisrael we err in not remembering and emphasizing that Rambam included Arauos in Sefer Kedusha of the Yad

  18. Sharon says:

    Thank you for responding. OK, maybe priests are a bad example. Do we as a community expect an aguna to remain celibate or do we say, oh well her husband is an MIA so we can’t expect her to never have a relationship with another man? Do gay Orthodox Jews think the aguna situation in halacha should be changed? Why or why not?
    Re the people who are attracted to children…you didn’t answer the question. Since children can’t consent to a relationship, a pedophile either has to never fulfill their desires OR modify them…right? So you think this is impossible for them? Or is it possible because they know children can’t consent (meaning they know what they want is WRONG), so they have to live without it. How is knowing the Torah said that gay relationships is wrong different? Interestingly, the Torah doesn’t say a relationship with a 12 year old girl is wrong, secular law does, and we all seem to respect that.
    I would like to add that I am very sympathetic to the plight of gay Jews. It is very hard to imagine feeling a certain way and being told that those feelings are wrong.

  19. ari says:

    I responded to Sharon’s questions in a sociological vein because it struck me that’s she asked them. From a halachik perspective, how could it possibly matter what Catholics do or don’t do?
    A few clarifications therefore:
    1) It strikes me as pretty straightforward that homosexual relations of any sort are forbidden by halacha as understood by anyone to the right of YCT. It’s not just a verse in leviticus. I don’t mind being known as gay, I don’t even mind if some of you would call me a faggot. Being called illiterate or delusional would really bother me.
    2) i think that pedophiles can keep themselves from acting on their desires. I think that gays can keep from acting on their desires (at least some). However, I think that society has an obligation to protect children because they powerless. And I think that there is a big difference between homosexual acts and acts of pedophilia. of course, the torah doesn’t necessarily see it this way.
    Indeed, as you point out, Torah allows what most folks would consider pedophilia today. I honestly don’t know if there has ever been a formal ruling parallel to the herem of Rabbenu Gershom on this issue. given the various molestation scandals that have arisen, it’s not clear that there is.
    3) What gets me most (as a gay who finds the study of torah to be his fundamental connection to Judaism) is not that the Torah expects certain folks to be celibate (which, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m planning to ignore going forward), it’s that defenders of tradition don’t acknowledge this.
    In the Torah declaration on homosexuality (found at I read these lines:
    Struggles, and yes, difficult struggles, along with healing and personal growth are part and parcel of this world. Impossible, life long, Torah prohibited situations with no achievable solutions are not.
    This strikes me as wrong. A few examples:
    1) Yibum and Halitzah (an issue that was not agreed upon until very recently). If a woman doesn’t like her brother-in-law, what does she do?
    2) Agunot (which you mention – and which the traditional halachic approach strikes one as less than ideal)
    3) Mamzerim – Biggest issue of all. Once upon a time, a lack of detailed knowledge about people’s background “solved” the issue in a kind of don’t ask don’t tell way. further, the psak of rav moshe kind of solved the issue for large numbers of non-orthodox issues. In an era of 23 and me,, and the chief rabbanut’s list of suspected mamzerim, it seems to me that this is a prime example of “Torah prohibited situations without achievable solutions.”
    So, to sum up, I get it that I’m a sinner according to traditional halacha. I don’t think that therapy exists that will make me straight and, as in all things, I must acknowledge that I might be wrong. After all, there are more things in heaven and earth etc. But I would argue that the Torah’s view on intimate relationships differs from modern understandings on many more issues then just homosexuality.

    • Nachum says:

      And a conservative point of view- and religion is, by definition, conservative- would assume that modern understandings are often very wrong.

  20. SteveBrizel says:

    We read the Parsha of Arayos on YK because our adherence to that Parsha is what separates us from the immoral practices specified in great detail therein . No apologetics or wishful thinking about Halachic change or evolution can change that fact

  21. Bob Miller says:

    The solution to problems generated by the yetzer hara is to overcome it with effort and HaShem’s help. Accepting all one’s urges as guides to life is paganism—there was once a clever snake with this point of view.

  22. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Bill-please name one Posek who is respected across the board from the Charedi to the DL/MO/RZ worlds today not in future generations who has the shoulders to implement or to even to begin to implement such a vast halachic change that you implied should or would RL be in the offing. Noone affiliated with YCT or its sympathizers or fellow travellers in Israel that you tend to cite would IMO has the requisite broad shoulders to satisfy that requirement. Moreover, no responsible Posek has the interest in rendering all of Hilcos Ishus, and Kiddushin simply Hilchesa LMeshcica simply to satisfy the contemporary Zeitgeist that has as its target the Jewish family.. Wishful thinking is wishful but wishful and dangerous thinking predicated on the fact that slavery and polygamy are no longer part of our world strikes me as an example of slippery slope logic at its worst

  23. Steve Brizel says:

    Ari wrote in relevant part:
    “Indeed, as you point out, Torah allows what most folks would consider pedophilia today:

    Please set forth proof of the same in relevant detail, citing proofs from the Torah, Talmud and Poskim

  24. Sharon says:

    The Torah allows 13 year old boys and 12 year old girls to marry (and to marry adults, not same age boyfriends or girlfriends). Case closed.

    • Nachum says:

      Well, technically pedophilia refers to (adult) attraction to *pre*-pubescent children. If the subject of the attraction is older , there are other terms, and such was not considered illegal or even odd up until recently- and still isn’t in much of the world.

  25. Sharon says:

    Thanks for the answer Ari.
    But you still didn’t answer my question.
    Sounds like as a gay person, you dont think it is possible for you to be celibate.
    Can a pedophile be celibate? I’m not asking if he should be….of course we all agree he should be to protect children. In asking if it is a realistic expectation. If yes, can gay people also fight their desires? Sounds like your answer is pedophiles have to fight their desires because they are illegal….but gay people don’t because their desires are legal. So why do gay people not view the halacha as a law that makes what they want to do illegal?

    • Eli says:

      I’m not Ari but I have a similar situation and can venture a response to Sharon.
      It is indeed possible to sublimate or nullify sexual urges for a lifetime, and this is the basis of monastic life in many different cultures. Sometimes it is not so successful, because it is extremely difficult and it requires a high level of continuous devotion and self-sacrificial practice. Traditionally, such a lifestyle has been considered opposed to the ideal life of a Jew, which is supposed to be “in this world” and not nullifying of it. But that was before homosexuality became visible. Now that it is visible and has become more of an identity possibilty, it is a temptation to adopt this solution en masse and say that according to the Torah all gay people should be celibate. But rarely if ever has such a drastic pronouncement been made by halacha with such wide implications for so many people regardless of their character or context. And I’ll tell you one thing that is for sure: those people for whom there is a real struggle (between Torah and their natural desires) will be extremely unlikely to adopt a monastic lifestyle when it is being callously and insensitively dropped on then by ignoramuses who claim to represent the True Word of God. Yes we all know what Leviticus says. We all know that we are supposed to have marriages between men and women. But what if you can’t. What if you need to live a secret life if you are ever to have an experience of togetherness? What if you are obligated to make a black and white decision between Torah life and acknowledging your deep inner impulses. The external ones will rarely win in such a case. And we will lose people from Judaism, from life with Torah. This is a casualty that is necessary to understand. It is the opposite of kiruv. I’m not saying it’s “wrong” — just that those who claim every gay person should be celibate should recognize the implications of their statements.

      There are those who dedicate themselves to celibacy. In fact I am one. I don’t talk about sexuality much, I rarely have relationships, I do not masturbate. But if someone had told me that this was the only path available to me I very possibly would never have come to it. It was a deeply personal path I walked of relating to God and myself, and it is still not over. If I fall in love tomorrow with another man, some things could shift. But what will not shift is my commitment to being very sparing with my seed. Contrary to the opinions of know-it-all’s here and elsewhere, many gay people are not at all sex maniacs and many do not even engage in anal sex at all. But if you tell them that they cannot and should not ever have a feeling of sexual satisfaction, you will be ignored, because intimate decisions like that don’t get made like that. And in my view, halacha doesn’t get made like that either. Halacha gets made with regard to real life situations, in communication with real life poskim. If poskim are unwilling to “give an inch” and just stick to the forced celibacy line, you will end up with fewer and fewer of these people with commitments to upholding or perpetuating the tradition, or with positive associations with Judaism. If you are ok with that then by all means continue in that line of thought. But the insensitivity to individual situations is not only going to turn gay Jews away. It will turn away those many people who believe that the Torah is essentially a compassionate pact, not a bludgeon.

      • Gavriel M says:

        The traditional view is not that you should be celibate. That, as well as being unhealthy both mentally and physically is bitul mitzvat asei. The traditional view is that you should get married to a women.

        There are a lot of paraphilias out there. None of them individually are as common as homosexuality, but, altogether, we’re talking about at least 10% of the male population who are into weirdo stuff. Some of them are have open-minded wives, but most learn to do without. Hell, we don’t even have to talk about perverts because a lot of men with normal sexual desires are married to unattractive women. You know what they do? They close their eyes.

        John Maynard Keynes, after a life of unusual promiscuity even by the standards of his community, got married to a woman and lived happily and faithfully. She even conceived a child. It’s perfectly doable even without the motivation of the Torah.

    • Eli says:

      I personally doubt that anyone actually has a “pedophile” identity / orientation that is exclusive of other forms of attraction. What they have is some sort of twisted or abused part (like Michael Jackson) that has produced in them this desire, among others. But pedophilia must be resisted and treated and punished by society not because of its origin and etiology but because of its effects. There is no possibilty of consent with children, and there is a lot of possibilty of long-term psychological and developmental damage. Whether therapies are successful or not in altering or abating the desires, whether such people are able to embrace other aspects of their sexual identity or not– these things must nonetheless be tried, or else such a person who acts on these impulses should be in jail.

      adult homosexual relations are fully consensual. therefore they do not properly fall under the jurisdiction of the government, unless if that government is theocratic. religions may exclude such relations from their canons and governments may indeed follow that cue but the fact remains that you will not prevent people from choosing to be in intimate relationships that feel good and make sense for themselves and their partners. It would be bad public policy as well as inhumane to attempt to forcefully convert or jail such people (as has been the case in different countries at different times). The question is, given a moral objection to such relationships, how does one express through government or religion one’s “opposition”? The progressive answer is “what happens in my bedroom doesn’t concern you.”. And in a cosmopolitan society this is a good answer, because as Jews for instance we don’t want people telling us what to do with regard to Nidah or Bris Milah or whatever. But what about when these relationships start to appear in shul communities? Not asking for official marriage or semichah, just being a part of the learning and davening and general culture of a shul? Well, each shul and its rabbi will have to make a choice, much like governments. What “sins” are worth drawing a hard line in the sand and saying “No people of this sort are allowed in”? What about financial crimes? Laxity in kashrut? or only the three major sins, which include giluy arayot? But if we are to be strict on giluy arayot then perhaps we should be harsh with those who engage in premarital sex as well. This is the choice that community rebbeim have to make in different cases, and each gay person and couple is a different case. Are they trumpeting their sexuality? Have they tried to change and gone through great struggles even to allow themselves to be in a relationship, or to come back to shul? Do they uphold some version of the Torah law even in their sexual life (as in, avoiding anal sex, etc)? There are many factors to consider, and one is the spiritual health of the community when they gang up and rush to judgment of an individual or a couple based purely on their homosexual orientation. When we rush to judge others we are generally also rushing to issue ourselves a major heter in some area we have major flaws. The answer is not to stop judging but to remember that only the most trained and m spiritually sensitive of our rabbis are qualified to make such judgements, after closely reviewing the case. Without knowing the details of a case I don’t know why any self-respecting Jew would write an article about it or a comment about it that is a blanket condemnation. It is chilling to observe because it brings back shades of the Holocaust, when in fact Jews and gays were lumped in together and dismissed together because they were deemed unfit en masse. God forbid that the Jewish people should ever use their words to push for such a terrible uncompassionate reality.

  26. Steve Brizel says:

    Sharon please show us where Chazal and Rishonim and Poskim allowed permitted or applauded such marriages as opposed to cherry picking how such cases are theoretically possible . merely citing what might be theoretically possible is hardly proof of anything let alone deserving of being considered “case closed”

  27. Steve Brizel says:

    Sharon with respect to Agunos the RCA PNA has been adopted almost de jure in the MO world

  28. Steve Brizel says:

    Sharon proof please from the Talmud Rishonim and Poskim as to what is practiced as opposed to what is theoretically permissible by cherry picking sources

  29. Sharon says:

    Steve my great grandmother was married at 13 to an 18 year old. I don’t think that was pedophilia the way we define it today. Women died at 40; at 12 they were 1/4 through life (kind of like a 20 year old bride today when women live to be 82). My point is the Torah didn’t say having two wives was an abomination, or sleeping with a 12 year old etc. So our views are not shaped exactly by the Torah. We do have cultural influences. That was my point. Sorry if it was unclear.

    As usual, I can’t get an answer from gay people about pedophilia as a philosophical issue. I always get, “oh children can’t consent.” I want to know how gay people view the “wrong” desires in others that they don’t support and what solutions they propose for those people. I can never get an answer…do they think therapy can work for those people but not for themselves? That pedophiles can be celibate but they can’t? That desire can’t be thwarted forever only for them but not for others?

    • rk says:

      I, a gay person, will try to take a stab at it.

      I understand your position that just like a secular value system doesn’t allow pedophiles to act on it despite its immutability, the traditionally Orthodox value system doesn’t allow homosexuals to act on it despite its immutability. To start by talking about pedophilia, it seems to me that there is increasing evidence that pedophilia is a sexual orientation that is hard-coded and can’t be therapized away. In a secular society that believes that acts of pedophilia are wrong because they harm nonconsenting children, it might be optimal to have pedophiles “come out,” or at least be part of support groups that will prevent them from acting out. But secular society, consistent with its values, will push strongly for pedophiles to be celibate.

      The reason that basically everybody in America, including Orthodox people, push for celibacy more for pedophiles than for gays can really only be explained by the consent issue and by non-Torah values. It’s not just gay people who view pedophilia as more “wrong.” Many (most?) Orthodox communities would not be welcoming to a known pedophile, despite the fact that Torah values don’t really condemn such acts, as you’ve observed. Why is that? It seems that the broader culture influences us, whether we like to admit it or not. So this explains why many do feel the desire to be welcoming to gay folk where they wouldn’t feel the desire to be welcoming to pedophiles. Your question basically only makes sense because we’re operating with extra-Torah values!

      It seems increasingly obvious that homosexuality cannot be therapized away, as well. Can a gay person be celibate? Sure – it’s possible, if likely unhealthy, but under a traditional Torah value framework, that would be the desired outcome. Do note, though, that it is in the Torah community’s interest to persuade the potential offender to be celibate, and that will be a steeper climb with a gay person, who can easily leave the Torah community and join a society where their sexual identity is not stigmatized, משא”כ with a pedophile. Do also note that they’ll be doing way more aveirahs on net there than if they stayed Orthodox but were gayly coupled. So if you assume that the Torah us to maximize the mitzvahs in the world and minimize the aveirahs, it makes more sense to be gay-friendly than pedophile-friendly, even without bringing in the consent issues.

      I would challenge you to answer some questions to me about the difference between mishkav zachor and boel niddah. Consider a couple that doesn’t keep niddah. Clearly, they are able to keep niddah, but they don’t, for whatever reason, and the rabbi knows it. (Or at the very least, the rabbi assumes it, just like he assumes that a gay couple is sexually active despite not knowing it.) Should they be given a family membership? Should their kids be admitted to yeshivas? Should an Orthodox rabbi marry them? It seems to me that the answer to all of these is yes in many, many Orthodox circles. Why is this, and why is this couple treated differently than a gay couple, also assumed to be violating giluy arayos? I’d love to hear your answer on this.

  30. Steve Brizel says:

    I stand by my prior posts and your comparison of the age of some women today when they get married

  31. Shades of Gray says:

    “we will be able to grant semikha to gay students in the future..”

    The Torah says that homosexual relations are spiritually damaging, however one understands, or does not understand why it is so. A separate issue is how to understand the element of compulsion or distress of gays, which doesn’t reach a level of “ones” under normative halacha. While individuals without the nisayon can’t judge the private life of a gay in the sense that they would handle such a challenge better, granting smicha would be redefining the meaning of smicha/rabbanus which is supposed to include being a role model for others. This is only a step above redefining kidushin to allow it to “sanctify” gay marriage.

    As a partial analogy, unless one is sure that they would sacrifice to keep Shabbos in America in the 1920s, a contemporary individual can’t pass judgment on those who didn’t. But that doesn’t change the fact that the act is chilul Shabbos and is spiritually damaging. Presumably there were halachic social consequences for having a lifestyle of chilul Shabbos even under such adverse conditions, including not being a rabbi, which would only be a step above making “kiddush” on act of chilul Shabbos.

    On a social level, Orthodox homosexuals benefit from being part of an understanding, Orthodox community. There is a “social exchange”, a give and take for being part of any community, which in this case, means that people in a homosexual relationship keep their private life private to the extent possible–certainly not being a rabbi as a practicing homosexual.

    Similarly, some of the Open Orthodox could be part of the Orthodox Big Tent, but they need to participate in the social exchange, and give up certain things in exchange for benefits of a community. In this vein, R. Gil Student wrote in “Why Orthodoxy Needs Its Left Wing”(Jewish Link, 2/16), “For decades, a great compromise kept a polite lid on disagreements…In this way, the fringe did not pose a challenge to the mainstream’s values.”

  32. rebc says:

    I would like to say at this point , that I am pleasantly surprised by the tone and content of the conversation ( debate?) in Dvorim HaNa”L, in what seems to be an issue of Unstoppable Force vs Immovable Object.

    By that I mean, OTOH, Torah explicitly forbids sexual acts between men ( women? not so much) . OTOH, gay people are “born that way”, I don’t think anyone can honestly believe in 2019 that homosexuality is a choice.

    I would like to summarize what I think are the gray areas, the answers of which are well above my pay grade.

    1. Is it practical and halacha-compliant to be in same-sex relationship without intercourse?
    2. As with other Torah prohibitions, if one doesnt violate openly and explicitly, but can be presumed to be violating by virtue of the fact that they “live together”, does that violate Torah law, in letter or spirit?
    3. What would the most liberal MO response be to ” Am I supposed to be celibate for my entire life”?
    4. If we’re going to be completely accepting of gays as individuals , does that apply to gay couples “living together”
    5. Is there any principle of “passive acceptance”, i.e. if we do accept gay couples, is that communally and individually condoning sin?
    6. Will this issue cause a schism in Orthodoxy, and if so, what is the ultimate fate of the “accepting ” camp, will there be other similar issues in the future, such as trans questions?
    7. Finally, what would you say to your son/daughter, father/mother, grandfather, etc. if they came out to you as gay; How would you advise and guide them? Is it the sort of thing that people are up in arms about, but change entirely once it affects someone they love.

  33. Moshe says:

    1 no
    2 violates spirit of the law
    3 ?
    4 no
    5 yes
    6 OO is somehow ok with something we all know is not ok. This is misplaced compassion. I feel very sorry for gay people. And hetero singles in their 40s too! But still….where will this end? Trans people can cut off body parts and we will all be expected to cheer, those with body dismorphia who want to be disabled will cut off their arms and we will all pretend that is normal too, all in the name of compassion…there is not always a good answer, and being a frum gay person is a problem with no answer….
    7 I would say I love you and hurt with you. And I am sad that your life is painful. Many other Jews have had hard lives too. I have a cousin with terrible disabilities that preclude marriage…I hope that your life is meaningful and good. But some things are just the way they are…two men may want a child, but they can’t produce one with each other. That’s just an unfair fact. And the Torah says you can’t have a relationship with your sister, even if you fall in love with her and your relationship won’t hurt other people. Many times in life we can’t have what we want. My dream was to be a doctor but I wasn’t good at science….etc etc

    • rebc says:

      Thank You Moshe for clarifying. Obviously , you are at a very high pay grade, and I’m assured that everyone takes great comfort from your certainty.

  34. Bob Miller says:

    Did “Na’aseh V’Nishma”or “Kiymu V’Kiblu” mean “We’ll comply as long as it makes us feel better”?

  35. Sharon says:

    A man who is not fully Sabbath observant comes to shul and we welcome him in the hopes he will change and become more observant
    A married couple who don’t follow nidda laws come to shul and we hope they will change and become more observant
    We assume those people are coming from less observant backgrounds and do not yet know better…but their families and relationships can remain in the form they are even as they move towards greater observance
    The message to them is that we expect everyone to keep the laws as they are…
    A gay couple comes to shuI. We expect them to change… realistically that change must involve breaking up if they are to become more observant. So what kind of message is that? Not sure how we welcome them AND encourage them to break up. And let us be honest….the idea that 2 gay men live together and define themselves as couples but don’t ever break any laws is highly unlikely in contrast to thousands of hetero couples who do keep nidda laws

    • Eli says:

      for a moment it seemed that you were honestly trying to weigh this question out even-handedly, but it has become clear that you are just looking to confirm your inclinations, with a modicum of due diligence. Now you are an expert in the way gay men live together, and you cannot even imagine a gay couple growing closer to yiddishkeit and halacha by attending and being welcomed into shul, shiurim, etc. You don’t see any difference between pedophiles and gay people and you can now safely throw up your hands and say “I tried”.
      So you got exactly what your wanted out of this comment game, as did R. Gordimer out of this article.
      Next time save us all the time of having to respond to you.
      If you can dan lekaf zechut for every Jew except gay Jews and yet find this perfectly rational and consistent then I suspect you have some inner work to do. hatzlacha.

    • RK says:

      First, as Eli suggests, your last point isn’t accurate.

      But more generally, If the goal is kiruv, as it seems to me then it’s on you to figure out how we both welcome them and encourage them to break up. What do you think is the most effective way to do that? If you can’t think of a way to do this without saying “break up,” which will obviously be counterproductive, it might be worth exploring other options, like giving up on the “encourage them to break up” message, which we both agree won’t work, and sticking to the “keep all of the other mitzvahs,” which seems like it could. (Incidentally, I presume that we don’t attack the niddah couple with niddah kiruv immediately either.)

      Also, we haven’t even discussed their children. Maybe the couple is a lost cause. But perhaps their kids are straight. What is the best way of welcoming their children into a life of yiddishkeit?

      • RK says:

        Also, as a strategic note, I’m still not sure that what you’re saying justifies performing kiddushin for a straight couple that doesn’t keep or intend to keep niddah if the mesader kiddushin will not continue to be involved in their lives, which is something that happens all the time!

  36. Sam says:

    I struggle with understanding this whole issue
    Looks like others do too
    I don’t think insulting people who try to discuss it is the way to help other people understand your views
    I bet 99% of gay nonJewish couples do things that are not allowed…so isn’t it logical to assume most orthodox gay couples do those things too?
    If a man and a woman live together but are not married, do we assume the are celibate? Possible but hard to believe…doesn’t the Torah forbid a brother and a sister from living together? And if we met a pair of siblings living that way we say the very fact that they chose these living arrangements is wrong because it may lead to sin…so why can’t we judge gay couples the same way?77

    • Richard Kahn says:

      What percentage of straight non-Jewish couples keep niddah? Should we extrapolate from them?

      (Also, if by “things that are not allowed” you mean משכב זכר, the number is far lower than 99%.)

  37. Adina says:

    The Torah text is clear on the major issur.
    The oral Torah is clear on the minor issurim.
    Yes we can safely assume 99% of gay couples do things that are not allowed if we define prohibitions the way all traditional rabbis today and those from the past view them. It is a neat trick to focus only on one act when all physical acts are forbidden. The rabbinical student kissing his fiance in public is not traditional Judaism. We don’t need to know what else he has done or intends to do. The fact that there is even a discussion here shows how far away we are from the traditional Torah view.
    Finally, I understand from Rabbi Gordimer that none of this discussion is intended to add to the hurt of gay people. On the contrary everyone recognizes the problem and feels genuine compassion. There are older hetero singles who also suffer from celibacy. So I hope anyone reading this post and comments takes comments and discussion in the spirit of love in which it is intended. Nobody wants to hurt or belittle gay Jews, and I wish there was an easy answer.

    • RK says:

      Yup, agreed, not trying to pull a neat trick, though I’m not sure kissing is even a minor issur. I was just trying to correct the common misunderstanding that all male gay couples do משכב זכר, which isn’t even 99% common amongst non-Jews (עאכ”ו frum Jews). Whether we can halakhically assume 99% of gay couples do things that are not allowed is a question above my pay grade but it’s not so obvious and certainly less obvious than that we can safely halakhically assume that straight couples aren’t keeping niddah.
      Good to hear that your comments are offered in the spirit of love! I’d encourage you to think about ways that you can make your community more hospitable to gay people without allowing the forbidden.

  38. Steve Brizel says:

    Straight non Jewish couples are only commanded to keep Noachide laws which do not include Taharas HaMishpace but which AFAIK do not permit a gay relationship of any kind committed or otherwise

  39. Steve Brizel says:

    For those interested, while the measles epidemic deserves great attention against the specious claims of the anti vaccination crowd, one wonders when the mainstream media will devote any attention to the STD mentioned in the annexed link,

  40. Steve Brizel says:

    For those of us who enjoyed Zman Cheruseinu and have now had their first bits of Chametrz, we read Parshas Acharei Mos this Shabbos. This is what one advocate for diversity who spoke at Harvard yesterdaysays about those of us who take Parshas Acharie Mos and the many Halachos contained therein and explicated by Chazal seriously,

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