Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Differing Declarations On The Orthodox Response to Homosexuality

Last year in July, many rabbis (the majority of them Modern Orthodox) banded together to publish the Statement of Principles regarding homosexuality within the Orthodox community. You can read that statement here.

An alternative statement referred to as The Torah Declaration (otherwise known as the Declaration on the Torah Approach to Homosexuality) has been created. This declaration is signed by those who are more to the right in the Orthodox world (it does include prominent YU rabbis such as R' Herschel Schacter and R' Moshe Tendler).

There are several differences between the two statements. The major difference is that in The Torah Declaration, the rabbanim declare that same-sex attractions can be modified and healed through reparative therapy. In contrast, the Statement of Principles signed by those who are Modern Orthodox asserts:

    Whatever the origin or cause of homosexual orientation, many individuals believe that for most people this orientation cannot be changed. Others believe that for most people it is a matter of free will. Similarly, while some mental health professionals and rabbis in the community strongly believe in the efficacy of “change therapies”, most of the mental health community, many rabbis, and most people with a homosexual orientation feel that some of these therapies are either ineffective or potentially damaging psychologically for many patients.

    We affirm the religious right of those with a homosexual orientation to reject
    therapeutic approaches they reasonably see as useless or dangerous.

I am not sure which statement I am most in accord with. The empathic, humanistic side of me thinks the Statement of Principles is more correct. On the other hand, I think that those who put their names to The Torah Declaration are willing to flaunt society and stand up for what they believe is true and right, including their belief that God would not create someone who has no chance for marital happiness in this world. I applaud the people who wrote and signed The Torah Declaration and yet don't feel that I (not that I am in their league) could sign on to it.

I guess the question is whether God could create someone who has gay feelings but is mandated by the law not to act on those feelings or whether he would simply not have created someone who is only attracted to/ has feelings for the same sex in the first place. The Torah Declaration says God would not create someone who could never act upon his feelings. My philosophy of Judaism is one that includes pain, suffering and striving as valid paths for finding God, so I'm not sure that I see that as so definitive. I can imagine a God who creates someone who is attracted to the same sex but is charged not to act on those feelings. Why is that not a challenge like any other challenge?

46 comments:

Agur bin-Yakeh said...

I agree with the conclusion to which you seem to incline. I simply do not see any basis in Torah for the assertion that "God would not create someone who has no chance for marital happiness in this world."

Agur bin-Yakeh said...

For every mitzvah in the Torah, whether aseh or lo taaseh, you will be able to find cases of people, even great tzadikim, who were unable to keep those mitzvos, due to inherent and/or circumstantial factors. If a person is ready to charge God with being unjust in the case of a person who is deprived of marital happiness (whether due to homosexuality, birth defects, background, appearance, financial reasons, etc.) then such a person should be prepared to charge God with unfairness in all areas of life.

Agur bin-Yakeh said...

I haven't researched the point I'm about to make, but it is definitely worth thinking about.

There are two types of hermaphrodites in halacha: an androginos, who possesses both sexual organs, and a tumtum, who possesses neither sexual organ, but whose genital area is a solid mass of flesh. Both individuals have the halachic status of safek (i.e. a state of legal doubt as to whether such an individual is to be regarded as a man or a woman), and this safek has many ramifications.

One of these ramifications is marriage. The Rambam in Hilchos Ishus 4:11 writes: "When a tumtum or an androginos consecrates (i.e. is mekadeish) a woman, or when either of these individuals is consecrated by a man, there is a safek as to whether the consecration is binding, and because of a doubt, a get (divorce) is required." The Raavad critiques the Rambam's ruling and says: "Why does he say that they require a get out of doubt? Isn't it true that they aren't legally capable of being married at all?"

Apparently, there is a dispute: according to the Rambam, the status of such a marriage is doubtful and a divorce is required by halacha; according to the Raavad, such individuals cannot be married at all. Both the Rambam and the Raavad would agree that such individuals are not halachically permitted to live a married life.

Now, I'd like to ask those who believe that "God would never create someone who has no chance for marital happiness in the world" how they make sense of the cases of tumtum and androginos. Surely such individuals have been created by God - and yet, God prohibits them from being married. And yes, these cases are much rarer than cases of same-sex attraction, but that doesn't change the question.

I think it is clear that God DOES create individuals who - for whatever reason - will not be able to enjoy marital happiness.

(Incidentally, the Rambam writes in Hilchos Issurei Biah 1:15 that an androginos is permitted to marry a woman, in spite of the aforementioned halacha. Although I'm not sure how that works out, it does seem that a tumtum cannot get married, so the point still stands.)

Berish'l said...

Agur,

On your last point: homosexuality might be different because a tumtum cannot have sexual relations at all, while a homosexual can by committing a sin.

Moreover, a tumtum can have surgery (I think?) and change his predicament.

Anonymous said...

Agur bin-Yakeh,

Check out this amazing piece that discusses the science and halachic issues surrounding such people.

http://www.science-halacha.com/refuah/refuah_eng_E1.htm

The last part at the bottom starting from point 8 discusses marriage in detail. All the different types of situations CAN get married halachically. The Rambam and Nodeh be’yehuda give very clear permission for hermaphrodite and androgynous to marry.

The Torah does not abandon or condemn ANYONE to a life of loneliness without the possibility of marriage/connection. The theory that homosexuality can’t be changed would be THE ONLY such situation of either loneliness or violating Torah law. Hashem is too merciful and loving to ever do that. We see it clearly from every other situation.

Shades of Gray said...

"The Torah Declaration says God would not create someone who could never act upon his feelings"

I haven't fully processed this document yet, but to it's credit, it is sensitively and carefully written and supported by an impressive group of people.

My questions are:

A)What about mamzerim or agunos?
How about retarded people who may never mary?

True, these are not people created in direct opposition to do something against a halacha, but they may as well have the same challenges, and one may say "ein Hakadosh Barach Hu Ba" etc.

B) Also, it is adding an item of faith in the Torah/Science issues(granted, they belive it's well-supported).

I find it easier to simply say that currently there may not be an easy solution that works for everyone and avoid making or broadening any ikkarim in emunah which then need to be reconciled with, even if well supported by, science.

I find the RCA statement easier which didn't make it a theological issue:

"On the subject of reparative therapy, it is our view that, as Rabbis, we can neither endorse nor reject any therapy or method that is intended to assist those who are struggling with same-sex attraction. We insist, however, that therapy of any type be performed only by licensed, trained practitioners. In addition, we maintain that no individual should be coerced to participate in a therapeutic course with which he or she is acutely uncomfortable.

We pray that God will ease the way for all who struggle with a full heart to feel His presence in their lives."

Agur bin-Yakeh said...

Berish'l,

Regarding your statement "a tumtum cannot have sexual relations at all" - I guess that depends on how you define "sexual relations." After all, an act of lesbianism is not considered biah (an act of sexual intercourse) - and yet, it is still prohibited by the Torah (at least, according to the Rambam). In light of that, I'm fairly certain that a tumtum would be able to have SOME form of "sexual relations" even if no actual biah is involved. That would be an interesting question to look into.

Agur bin-Yakeh said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for the article. You are correct that there are poskim who permit such individuals to marry. However, there are other poskim who prohibit this (as the author of the article acknowledges, but doesn't cite). The point I raised would still apply to them.

Regarding your statement "The theory that homosexuality can’t be changed would be THE ONLY such situation of either loneliness or violating Torah law. Hashem is too merciful and loving to ever do that" - I suggest you read a short blog post I wrote several years ago.

If you don't have time to read it, I'll summarize the main point here. The Ralbag and Rambam both write that the laws of the Torah, while binding on all, were "designed" based on the majority - not the minority. Thus, the Rambam writes that a given Torah decree or precept will be beneficial on the whole even though it will be ineffective or injurious to certain individuals.

My question for you is: Do you agree with the Ralbag and Rambam on this point? Do you believe that it is possible for Hashem to give laws which are good and beneficial for most people, but are not beneficial - and perhaps even harmful - to certain individuals?

Yosef said...

Chana, I have to disagree with you here. I think this "Torah declaration" has a lot of problems. I don't know whether reparative therapy works or not. But I do know that the theological propositions made by this declaration are untenable.

"The Torah makes a clear statement that homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle or a genuine identity by severely prohibiting its conduct."

Wait, because homosexual relations are prohibited, homosexuality can't be an identity? How does that follow?

This illogical piece of reasoning dovetails nicely with the most egregious part of this declaration:

"The concept that G-d created a human being who is unable to find happiness in a loving relationship unless he violates a biblical prohibition is neither plausible nor acceptable."

Why? First of all, who said that a loving relationship and happiness is something the Torah expects? If anything, the idea of a loving relationship is a modern concept that haredim borrowed from the secular world.

Also, it's fallacious to say that because the Torah prohibits homosexual acts, it must be possible to change one's orientation.

And as noted already here, God does create a lot of people who won't be able to experience marital happiness. That doesn't mean their must be a cure.

It irks me that these rabbis are so sure that their interpretation of the pesukim is correct. Maybe it is. But maybe someday scientists will be 99% sure that reparative therapy does not work in most cases. Will these rabbis change their interpretation and say that only the act is prohibited, not the orientation? Or will this become like other Torah/science issues in haredi theology, where they are wedded not just to the notion that the Torah/Talmud must be correct, but that their self-imposed interpretation is the only viable one because any other doesn't fit with their worldview?

In other words, is it actually the Torah they are following, or are they the ones whose views of homosexuality have been influenced by generations, maybe centuries, of Christian approaches to the issue?

Yosef said...

Also, I think the way they categorize the signatories is offensive. "Roshei Yeshivas, Ravs, & Rabbis" then "Chabad Rabbis" then "Yeshiva University". As if the latter category aren't also Roshei Yeshiva? It's actually almost laughable.

Shoshana said...

"flout" not "flaunt"

EJB said...

Yosef - While I disagree with the statement's choice of words, they referred to the YU system rebbeim as "Yeshiva University" to show that the statement is endorsed by a wide spectrum of orthodoxy. They similarly separated Chassidishe Rabbonim, who may also have been Roshei Yeshivas, from the first listing.

Shades of Gray said...

"It irks me that these rabbis are so sure that their interpretation of the pesukim is correct. Maybe it is. But maybe someday scientists will be 99% sure that reparative therapy does not work in most cases. Will these rabbis change their interpretation and say that only the act is prohibited, not the orientation?"

Take conflicts between Chazal and Science. Some kiruv approaches like to seize on a statement and show that it matches current science. Yet, on the other hand, one interprets something not literally like the Maharal, or one says nishtaneh hateva. The two approaches seem to conflict.

Instead, take the approach of R Schwab to Moshiach coming after 6,000 years, which I like. Would you intepret it now as literal and put your faith on the line? Actually, R. Shimon Schwab in his essay on the calendar is not willing to say it's literal, and says we will know when it happens:

"They will see with own eyes whether the statement (Rosh Hashanna 31a, Avodah Zara
9a. Sanhedrin 97) that "the world will exist only for six thousand years and then be destroyed" is meant to be taken literally, or has a different interpretation, as do many Aggadic pronouncements."

In a different context(believing in miraculous stories) , R. Avigdor Miller was quoted by Dr. Yitzhok Levine:

"Our minds are strained enough by what we are required to believe. To
add anything more is unwise."

I'm not saying that one shouldn't struggle to work out these issues of Science and Torah--I believe one certainly should--but one has to also be sensitive to the difficulty involved, and perhaps if you can avoid making something a matter of faith--as does R. Schwab in a different case-- it has a benefit.

Shades of Gray said...

Another question:

What about homosexuals before reparative therapy was invented? The approach would say with certainty that there is a cure, just we don't know what it is.

So there are two separate issues:

A) Does hashkafah force one to say there must be a cure?

B) Even if A) is Yes, now that reparative therapy exists, is this it, or perhaps it hasn't been invented yet?

Anonymous said...

While I disagree with the statement's choice of words, they referred to the YU system rebbeim as "Yeshiva University" to show that the statement is endorsed by a wide spectrum of orthodoxy.
=========================
did they say this somewhere?
KT
Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

The Torah Declaration includes the following:

"The only viable course of action that is consistent with the Torah is therapy and teshuvah. The therapy consists of reinforcing the natural gender-identity of the individual by helping him or her understand and repair the emotional wounds that led to its disorientation and weakening, thus enabling the resumption and completion of the individual’s emotional development."

Thus the signatories are making an implicit factual claim that a homosexual orientation is the result of a weak gender identity, emotional wounds, and retarded emotional development. This claim is presented without any scientific or theological support whatsoever. It is also believed to be false by nearly all medical and psychiatric experts, not to mention homosexual people and their families and friends. It is really shameful and sad that in the 21st century so many prominent Rabbis would sign their names to such pseudoscientific nonsense, especially when real people's mental health is at stake.

Cymbaline said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I don't understand why we are extrapolating what God would or would not do from any of this.

God gives lots and lots of people terrible and tragic lives. Would it be a shocker if He made some people who, for reasons only He knows, had an inclination toward necrophilia and could only know emotional satisfaction that way?

Not at all. He's God, He pretty much does what he wants. Some people seem to have a need to justify what God does to themselves, so that they can rationally believe that everything God does is good.

I would say just the opposite, what God does is good by definition. You, the observer need to either accept that you won't always understand it or change your definition of good. See Nedarim 51.

Any other approach is a slippery slope because you're always going to run into 'tragic' situations you simply can't explain.

It is true the Rambam says you need to make sense of what Hashem does, but that is a far cry from trying to understand why he does what he does.

Anonymous said...

Shades of Gray and a few others asked this question that the FAQ on the Torahdec.org website responds to:

Question 1:
It states in the Declaration, “The concept that G-d created a human being who is unable to find happiness in a loving relationship unless he violates a biblical prohibition is neither plausible nor acceptable. [Difficult struggles are part of this world, but]… Impossible, life long, Torah prohibited situations with no achievable solutions are not.”

How can you know for sure what G-d’s plan is for someone? People have all kinds of difficult lifelong struggles, how can you be sure that being an “unchangeable” homosexual is not part of G-d’s plan? Perhaps Hashem wants such a person to have a difficult life and nevertheless obey His commandments and stay celibate his entire life? How do you know that this is not one of the many difficult nisoyens (trials) that G-d sets out for people?

Answer:
This is a very crucial question because it touches upon our core understanding of Hashem’s relationship with us. It also brings up the question of how much we can actually understand about suffering in this world. In order to have clarity on this issue we have to define the kinds of suffering we are talking about and break them into separate categories.

Let us start with two categories:

1.Difficult situations where there is no desire that would violate Torah law, even if one falters due to his or her difficult circumstances.

2.Difficult situations where if one falters there is a direct Torah violation.

Examples of situation 1 would be someone who was born blind, without a leg or perhaps has cancer (Hashem yerachim). Those are truly tragic and difficult circumstances that can affect a person’s entire life and greatly limit some of the things that many of us take for granted. However, as difficult as such a life may be, there is no inconsistency with living a Torah lifestyle. In fact there are special dispensations within halacha to deal with the blind, disabilities and the terminally ill that take into account their circumstances and to guide them halachicly.

In these situations there is no question of a compulsion to violate Biblically prohibited law. All the special circumstances are dealt with in a halachic framework. (I.E. doing a melacha (prohibited work) on Shabbos for a person with a medical emergency is not a Torah violation but rather a mitzvah, etc.)

(Continued next comment)

Anonymous said...

Situation 2 would encompass someone born with a nature that will only be satisfied by committing a Biblically forbidden act. That could be someone born with an unchangeable murderous bloodthirsty nature or hypothetically if we say a person is born homosexual and can not change, then in both situations the person seemingly can ONLY find satisfaction by violating a Biblical prohibition.

We know this to be factually not possible based on the following Gemaras:

T.B. Avoda Zora 3a. “Because the Holy One, blessed be He, does not deal imperiously with His creatures.” The Gemara explains that Hashem does not play cruel tricks on His creatures and create impossible situations that would cause Torah violations.

The Chofetz Chaim uses this Gemara as an example why someone can not say that their desire for loshen hora is so strong that it can not be overcome. Hashem does not create impossible Torah situations that lead to violations.

So how do we explain someone who was born with a bloodthirsty nature? How is that not a cruel trick being played on a person? The following Gemara explains how that works:

T.B. Shabbos 156a
If one was born under Mazal Mars, he will spill blood;
Rav Ashi: He will be a bloodletter, bandit, slaughterer or Mohel. (He can channel his disposition for something neutral, for Aveiros, (negative) or for Mitzvos (positive).)

“The Vilna Gaon in Even Shelaima 1:7, building on T.B. Shabbat 156a, implies that every [inborn] drive has some form of outlet that is acceptable within Torah.”
[This Vilna Gaon quote is from Nishma.org]

The following is a direct quote from a public letter written on July 4th 2008 by Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky regarding homosexuality:

“Our Sages teach us that every human being is capable of changing for the better. Those who make the false claim that human beings cannot change their tendencies are comparing them to animals. Indeed it may be very difficult to change one’s nature, but it is definitely possible if one so desires.”

From these sources we see that situation 2, where someone is born with an inborn unchangeable drive to violate Biblical law is not possible. Hashem does not play tricks by saying something is forbidden, and then creating people with a drive that only can be expressed with what He has forbidden to them. However, other struggles like situation 1 are possible and do not cause impossible Torah situations

Shades of Gray said...

“Our Sages teach us that every human being is capable of changing for the better. Those who make the false claim that human beings cannot change their tendencies are comparing them to animals. Indeed it may be very difficult to change one’s nature, but it is definitely possible if one so desires.”

Does RSK agree with Rav Aharon Feldman's letter on the topic?

"Accordingly, a Jewish homosexual has to make a commitment to embark on a course where he will ultimately rid himself of homosexual activity. It is not necessary that he change his sexual orientation (if this is at all possible), but that he cease this activity. It is obvious that for many people this will be difficult, and will have to be accomplished over a period of time. But it must be done and it can be done.

Family and children are important in Jewish society but one who does not have these need not feel that he is not a full-fledged member of the community. The verse in Isaiah 58, which is read by Jews all over the world on every public fast-day, is addressed to the homosexual:

Let not the saris (who is physically unable to have children) say `I am a dried up tree.' For so saith G-d to the sarisim who keep my Sabbath, who choose what I desire, and who keep my covenant: I shall make them in My house and within My walls a monument, a shrine, superior to sons and daughters. I shall render their (lit., his) name everlasting, one which will never be forgotten.

Can a homosexual be expected to live as a celibate? I believe a Jewish homosexual can accomplish this if he decides that the Jewish people is his "wife and children." It is possible to do this if he throws his every spare moment into devotion to the welfare of his people. There are many areas where he can do this.

Because he does not have a family, a homosexual can make serious contributions to Judaism which others cannot. For example, bringing Judaism to smaller communities where there are no facilities for raising a Jewish family."

Shades of Gray said...

A second excerpt of RAF's letter:

"The fact is that neither homosexual or heterosexual activity has the capacity to grant happiness to humans, as even a cursory glance at our unhappy world will demonstrate. The only activity which can give us happiness is striving towards reaching the true goals of life. Life is not meant to be an arena for material satisfaction. It is to be used to carry out G-d's will by coming closer to Him and serving Him by keeping His commandments.

Sexual activity, by which the family unit can be built, is only one of the activities with which a man can serve God. But someone who does not have this capacity still has a whole life and unlimited opportunities to serve God.

I have written at the outset that it is important for you to come to terms with your homosexuality. But to do so it is vital to change your orientation away from the manner in which Western culture views life and and instead see sexuality in its proper perspective.

How does Judaism look at the reason for someone having been born or turned into a homosexual? Life is meant to be a set of challenges by which we continuously grow spiritually. Any physical defect curtails the enjoyment of life, but, on the other hand, meeting the challenge inherent in such a defect can be the greatest source of joy and accomplishment. Challenges are what life is all about, and homosexuality is one of these challenges.

It is difficult for us to understand why certain people were given certain shortcomings as their challenge in life and other were not. We cannot fathom God's ways but we can be sure that there is a beneficence behind these handicaps. When these shortcomings are met they will grant us a greater satisfaction from our lives and a deeper devotion to G-d than if we were not given them.

A homosexual has an admitted defect, namely that he cannot have a family, but one which need not hamper his development into the human which G-d would want him to be. When the challenge of the shortcoming is met, the reward will be that much greater."

Shades of Gray said...

(Cont.)

Even if one says, for the sake of the argument, that RAF might have changed his opinion, it should be no worse than R. Shimon Schwab's view of the calendar, which I referred to above, ie, the issue is at some level, an open question.

Anonymous said...

Shades of Gray,

RAF did change his approach when he found out and encountered many people who have succesfully gone through reparative therapy.

See his book, "The Eye of the storm" Chapter 28 about homosexuality (Page 229-239)

Shades of Gray said...

"RAF did change his approach when he found out and encountered many people who have succesfully gone through reparative therapy."

That's what I thought might be true, but it seems to show that on a theological level, it's not kefirah to think otherwise.

QueenOfSheba said...

im not an orthodox jew- im only now beginning to study your faith, so i dont know how welcome my tarded opinions might be. and my opinion is thus:
God gives us natural sexual urges to procreate and express love towards each other within the bounds of heterosexual marriage. Its a natural urge and isnt at all bad until man decides to put his own spin on it. The same goes with any other natural urge- hunger, thirst, even having to pee. BUT sex is to be had with your heterosexual spouse, youre supposed to eat and drink in moderation without becoming gluttonous, and you should definitely be peeing in a toilet and not something crazy- like in your car. Just as with any other natural urge, it is our charge as His children to shed the natural man (for a time) and deny ourselves until its appropriate to satisfy those urges.

With homosexuality, man has corrupted a WONDERFUL urge that GOD has given us to express our love toward out spouses. its just misdirected sexual urges: A young boy or girl DECIDES to fantasize about members of their own sex instead of the opposite sex and (just as with any other urge) if you think about it and fantasize about it enough, you'll eventually begin to believe that you just cant do without that particular thing (whether good or bad). If im fasting and allow myself to entertain thoughts of how delicious cheesecake is, i WILL break my fast and get me some cheesecake. And if i sit around thinking about how ripped Tyrese Gibson is and how our babies will be perfect shades of chocolaty goodness if i could just kiss him ONE time, I WILL end up committing adultery with someone who looks as close to Tyrese Gibson as possible. Just sayin

Also, sorry if i offended anyone- if everyone thinks im being retarded, ill totally take down my post without complaint.
and i LOVE this blog and your comments- im learning sooo much. thanks.

Reuven said...

"Impossible, life long, Torah prohibited situations with no achievable solutions are not."

There are some excellent counterexamples to this claim on this forum already (androginos and tumtum didn't occur to me) but it may be worth pointing out a few more:

Someone who lived in ancient Greece would never learn that Homosexuality is evil, and have no reason to reject the practice.

Similarly, anyone living in rural India in the modern era, likely commits Avoda Zarah every day of his life, and will never escape. (He will gain neither the tools to contact the outside world or to question his lifelong faith.)

Many Orthodox Jews reject Judaism out of the sincere belief that that it is false, discussions with Rabbis and other educated Jews fails to sway them.

These three cases are worth thinking about, but people will try to limit the statement to Jews and likely deny that the third category exists. (Or say we're only talking about an urge to sin not tinok shenishba [which is obviously not an appropriate term for the last case but would tend to be the one used].)

So two final cases:

A Homosexual Orthodox Jew who approaches his doctor and then his rebbi/morah d'asra both of whom unequivocally tell him not to undergo therapy. (Shall we throw out asei lecha rav? Easy question, perhaps, for the Hareidi rabbis, who can simply dismiss the rabbi in question, harder for a YU Rosh Yeshiva to say someone is halachically required to reject Rabbi Blau or Rabbi Kahn.)

And what about an Aguna?

(I should also note that the approach taken by the Torah Declaration, that "I believe X and therefore reality must conform to my beliefs", has been shown to be utterly misguided so many times that you would hope that the signatories to this declaration would have known better.)

Anonymous said...

Reuven,

An agunah can get a heter meah rabbanim, I think. And someone who gets bad advice from his rebbe might not be at fault, but he definitely can get another opinion.

Charlie Hall said...

" the rabbanim declare that same-sex attractions can be modified and healed through reparative therapy"


This is a false statement. There is no such effective therapy today. And I can't believe that halachah would permit making such a false statement.

Charlie Hall said...

"What about homosexuals before reparative therapy was invented?"

While homosexual activity has been documented for thousands of years -- "homosexual" as an identity appears to be a recent construct.

Charlie Hall said...

"mamzerim "

A mamzer can marry a convert, or another mamzer. In fact, a male mamzer is chayev in pru urvu; the Torah is requiring him to try to create more mamzerim!

"An agunah can get a heter meah rabbanim, I think. "

Only a male agunah.

Sam said...

>"The major difference is that in The Torah Declaration, the rabbanim declare that same-sex attractions can be modified and healed through reparative therapy.... I think that those who put their names to The Torah Declaration are willing to flaunt society and stand up for what they believe is true and right..."

Why would it be praiseworthy to insist you are right when you are in contradiction with the evidence reality has to offer? Especially when your words have real impact on human lives?

It is not bravery to blindly insist that what you believe is true when it is not--and to thus cause suffering to others--because to admit otherwise would be unpopular in your social circles.

Sam said...

>"I guess the question is whether God could create someone who has gay feelings but is mandated by the law not to act on those feelings or whether he would simply not have created someone who is only attracted to/ has feelings for the same sex in the first place. The Torah Declaration says God would not create someone who could never act upon his feelings."

Again, why would a theological argument about what God would or wouldn't do have any bearing on an empirical question for which the evidence is clear? Especially when actual human lives hang in the balance, not angels dancing on the head of a pin?

This is like arguing about whether or not God would put the sun in the center of the solar system, rather than the Earth. The answer is to check if it's there, which it is--and then update your theological understanding to handle that fact.

Yosef said...

Dear all,

I am very familiar with the Torah Declaration and thank you for opening your minds and thinking about this topic.

You may not realize it but any serious study on the topic indicate that
Homsexuality is NOT inborn.

See:
1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14567650
2. http://mensstudies.metapress.com/content/12u7381583313360/

Look here on the site of the American Psychological Association site:
3. http://www.apa.org/topics/sexuality/orientation.aspx - go to page 4.
When you cut out the political correctness and their "advice" the bottom line is that they admit that despite all scientists’ efforts they were unable to find that it is inborn - and they tried.

The following are twin studies whose goal was to determine whether if one twin is homosexual whether the other is also. The idea is that ‘if’ it is inborn if one twin is homosexual the other should also be. At the very least in most cses we would expect that to be the case!
These studies included identical twins.
The results are clear: it is MOST often the case (up to 90% of the time in some studies) that when one twin is homosexual the other is NOT.

Twin studies:
4. http://www.jstor.org/pss/3813571
5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10743878


You will not find a serious study indicating the other way.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

Here is my email address in case I am not able to respond here.

Js3j@yahoo.com
Yosef

Sam said...

>"See:
1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14567650"

Keyword in this abstract: "The participants were 200 SELF-SELECTED individuals." Self-selection bias of this sort, especially when combined with retrospective self-report and participants highly motivated to report change, renders this study uncontrolled, invalid, and unable to be generalized. Sorry, but there is no legitimate evidence for reparative therapy being effective.

>3. http://www.apa.org/topics/sexuality/orientation.aspx - go to page 4.
When you cut out the political correctness and their "advice" the bottom line is that they admit that despite all scientists’ efforts they were unable to find that it is inborn - and they tried."

No, it doesn't. It says scientists cannot yet pinpoint the exact factor or combination of factors--i.e., a gene, a hormone, or a life experience--that cause a person's sexual orientation. This is true of just about any complex psychological process, such as a person's personality or chronic mood states. It's irrelevant, anyway: regardless of the exact combination of factors, whether genetic, epigenetic, or life experience, most people experience little or no choice in their sexual orientation, whether they are gay or straight.

>"http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10743878"

This study doesn't even say what you think it does. It says they did not find a statistically significant effect, most likely due to small sample size; the wide range in which the true values were estimated to fall includes the values determined in many other studies finding a genetic contribution. This is a statistical issue.

Generally, you also misrepresent the logic of twin studies.

I hate to sound harsh, but the fact that you have cherry-picked and misrepresented a literature you apparently have not read carefully says a lot.

Yosef said...

Not at all Sam,

Be critical that's the way to knowledge.

In this case you are wrong.

The bottom line is that it IS psychological as you yourself have stated:

" This is true of just about any complex psychological process, such as a person's personality or chronic mood states. "

Very true.

Once we understand that homosexuality is really psychological, as you do understand, we can move forward.

"self selected" - almost all studies are self-selected all that means is that they agree to in the study just as when you get a phone call and some guy asks if you are willing to participate in a study.

These studies have been accepted into refereed journals - they understand this.

Another think you misunderstand - All I need to show is that there do exist people who change (and I personaly know some aside from these studies).

After that I'm done.

Of course there are some who don't - its hard work and you have to want to change. Don't we all kow that there are alcoholics, sexual predators, people who enjoy drugs etc who don't change even when put into therapeutic programs?

the same is true with the twin studies: I'll I need to show is that there exist many many sets of identical twins who do not both have the same issue.

The fact that there are some who do is obvious! They both grow up together and learn one from the other and largely share similar experiences.

The point is that so many - a large majority who do NOT both have those inclinations.

Sam said...

>""self selected" - almost all studies are self-selected all that means is that they agree to in the study just as when you get a phone call and some guy asks if you are willing to participate in a study. "

Self-selection bias means you did not randomly assign your volunteers to different groups, not that you had volunteers to begin with. I'm a PhD student in psychology and neuroscience, and I can assure you no legit study works like this one did, as would be covered in any research methods course.

Imagine you wanted to study the percentage of extraverts in the population. If you just have people volunteer for the study, obviously your numbers will be inflated, because extraverts are more likely to volunteer.

In this case, it is easy enough to assume that
a) the people who volunteered were already wishy-washy or unsure of their sexual orientation, and/or
b) they were particularly motivated to say they changed--for example they belong to fundamentalist Christian groups.

Plus, their retrospective self-reports are subject subject to memory biases. Once in a while, a terrible publication does get published.

Here is how a proper study would be conducted: you recruit volunteers. You then RANDOMLY assign the volunteers to a reparative therapy group, a control group, or a placebo group of some sort. After the therapy, you use a number of measures, including self-report and physiological measures, to assess change. No evidence for reparative therapy has ever been garnered this way.

Sam said...

>"Once we understand that homosexuality is really psychological, as you do understand, we can move forward."

Oy vey. "Psychological" does not mean "fake" or "all in your head." It means "relating to the mind and behavior."

Your sexual orientation is part of your psychological makeup, whether you are straight or gay. Like any other part of your psychological makeup--your temperament as an infant, your intelligence, etc--it is determined by a variety of factors including genes, epigenetics, and environment. It is not "chosen."

>"the same is true with the twin studies: I'll I need to show is that there exist many many sets of identical twins who do not both have the same issue."

Wrong. That is not the logic of twin studies. This would be true if and only if a psychological outcome were entirely determined by a particular gene or set of genes. This is true of nothing--not even disorders like schizophrenia, which have a relatively high heritable component.

Twin studies search for a genetic contribution, with the logic that if genes contribute, there should be a higher rate among twins than would be expected by chance. This has been found.

Yosef said...

Again Ill just quote from the APA that I provided a link to above:
" Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors." (emphasis mine)

You can dance around the facts as much as you want.

They tried and tried to find a gene or genes that contribute - all to no avail.

But you insist on saying: "--it is determined by a variety of factors including genes, epigenetics, and environment."
(emphasis mine)

really??

Please back that up.

Sam said...

You are emphasizing only the part of the sentence and you want to see. The correct bolding would be:

"Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors."

In other words, we don't know the exact recipe, as is true of anything--intelligence, temperament, etc. But we know something about factors involved. This can be demonstrated more simply, though: did you decide to be straight? No? Well, you went through the same process as gay people, then.

"They tried and tried to find a gene or genes that contribute - all to no avail."

Wrong. See literature cited below.

>"Please back that up."

Everything in a person's psychological makeup is determined by those things in development in some combination, along with pre-natal hormonal factors; there is nothing else, really, that it could be. You can do your own literature review, but for now you can start with the following smattering:

Sexual Orientation in a U.S. National Sample of Twin and Nontwin Sibling Pairs. Kenneth S. Kendler, M.D.; Laura M. Thornton, Ph.D.; Stephen E. Gilman, S.M.; Ronald C. Kessler, Ph.D. Am J Psychiatry 2000;157:1843-1846.

Born gay? The psychobiology of human sexual orientation. Qazi Rahman & Glenn D. Wilson
Personality and Individual Differences
Volume 34, Issue 8, June 2003, Pages 1337-1382

A linkage between DNA markers on the X chromosome and male sexual orientation. DH Hamer, S Hu, VL Magnuson, N Hu, and AM Pattatucci. Science 16 July 1993: 261 (5119), 321-327.

Minireview: Hormones and Human Sexual Orientation. J Balthazart. Endocrinology 1 August 2011: 2937-2947.

The neurodevelopment of human sexual orientation
Qazi Rahman. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews
Volume 29, Issue 7, 2005, Pages 1057-1066

Neurohormonal functioning and sexual orientation: A theory of homosexuality–heterosexuality.
Ellis, Lee;Ames, M. Ashley
Psychological Bulletin, Vol 101(2), Mar 1987, 233-258.

Yosef said...

You wrote lots of names of papers - please quote the specific conclusions.

None of these conclude that there is something genetic. They want to and if they would have found evidence they would lay it out there.
The fact is they have nothing.


I gave specific quotes.
what you highlighted "no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors."
-is what I am saying - they found zero the only thing they know for certain is that it has psychological factors.


You wrote:
"Everything in a person's psychological makeup is determined by those things in development in some combination"

How about alcoholism? Is that included in your 'everything' ? Yes or No?


I think you want to confuse the issue to those reading this blog.

Sam said...

Good grief. You ask me to back up what I said. I give you six citations you can look up as a start, all of which describe genetic and hormonal contributions to sexual orientation. Now you want me to summarize them for you. You can read them yourself, or search Google Scholar on your own.

What's more, you still insist "None of these conclude that there is something genetic," despite paper titles like "A linkage between DNA markers on the X chromosome and male sexual orientation." Does reality make any difference here?

>they know for certain is that it has psychological factors.

This is getting frustrating. You are still ignoring the words "particular" and "determined." There is evidence of a genetic contribution to depression. There is also evidence of early life experience contributing to likelihood of having depression. There is also evidence that pre-natal hormone exposure changes risk of depression. What we don't know is exactly what particular recipe--that is what "particular factor or factors"--determines that some people get depression while others don't. Similar state of affairs for sexual orientation. Feel free to write to APA and ask what they mean, if you still doubt this.

What's more, you are ignoring that it is entirely irrelevant if there is a genetic contribution to homosexuality. Even if it were determined entirely by, say, early life experience, that doesn't mean that it is chosen any more than being good at math, having depression, or being straight would be chosen just because they were determined by early life experience.

Sam said...

>"How about alcoholism? Is that included in your 'everything' ? Yes or No?"

As opposed to what--alcoholism magically appearing in some people with no regard to their life experience, hormones, or brain development?

Human development is pretty complex, but exciting to learn about, and I highly encourage you to do so!

What is irresponsible, though, is acting as though one already has expertise in it--cherry-picking some quotes and making claims about the scientific literature--to back up a religious agenda. Reality can be tough; it doesn't change to suit what one wants to see.

Yosef said...

"Human development is pretty complex, but exciting to learn about, and I highly encourage you to do so! "

My friend I also have a Phd although not in your field but I have taken Neurobiology, bioinformatics, molecular cell biology and other courses. I'm sure you took more courses in this field than I did nevertheless we should not use names of courses and names of papers as proof - only the content.

Look, just as you admit that alcoholism and homosexuality are both a result of complex factors and just as they have never found a gene or group of genes for both of these issues (as well as many other issues as you have said).

Therefore, just as when someone who has an alcohol issue and wants to change approaches you for help you would advise them to go to an appropriate therapy ...
so too if someone has this issue and desires to change - believe me many do want want to have this issue - you should advise in the same manner that you advise for alcohol dependance.

Be consistent - that's all I'm saying.

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Anonymous said...

The "Torah Declaration" attempts to help Jews. But instead it hurts them because it promotes the view that people with same sex attractions can actually be "cured" or changed into people with only opposite sex attractions. It has adopted the view of reparative therapy that childhood damage causes homosexuality, and that it can be cured. The problem with that is that this is really just wishful thinking and not true. The very people that would be willing to forgo the prohibited behaviors often also would very much like to believe that they can actually "convert" not only the lifestyle but the actual attractions completely. They end up finding out years later after this approach that is not the case and are devastated. This results in some suicides and leaving the faith.

Aside from all the mainstream psychiatric, psychological, social work, the World Health Organization and counselling groups even many experts among people that have been involved in "reparative therapy" mostly agree on this. It does not work in changing orientation.

Dr. Abba Borowich, an Orthodox psychiatrist who practiced reparative therapy for Orthodox homosexuals for nearly 30 years concluded that this was an ineffective course of therapy which only increased suffering among his patients and their families .

Rabbi Chaim Rapoport, an ultra-Orthodox rabbi who is the author of Judaism and Homosexuality: An Authentic Orthodox View, has said, "I am not obligated to believe in a failed therapy because it fits my theology better."

According to those who do believe in such conversions, the sucsess rate is around 0.5%
http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_exod1.htm


The leader of Exodus the largest public group of people (several hundreds) who changed from a gay to heterosexual lifestyle admits that this does not include an end of same sex attraction for 99.9% of the group.
"There has been a change in our beliefs about orientation change focused therapy and we don’t believe it’s effective.”

Dr. Spitzer
“If people can recognize that being a homosexual is something that cannot be changed and that efforts to change are going to be disappointing and can be harmful, if that can be more widely known that would be very good. "

Another issue is that the Declaration group
led by Rabbi Kamenetsky, primarily relies on
and promotes
someone who is of bad character, who has a history of misleading people for profit, Arthur Goldberg of Jonah.
See
http://www.southfloridagaynews.com/news/national-news/547-ex-gay-is-ex-con.html

This organization has many problems
aside from a criminal history.
It can't provide any proof of change, It has relied on crackpot therapies that have included touching that is prohibited by the Torah, and it relies primarily, and in great detail on the idea that Jesus will provide the change.

I hope that in spite of what they must have experienced the twenty-five people
that have gone through the Torah Declaration path will have happy Torah lives, but those that want to be faithful to the Torah's sexual prohibitions can get help to succeed without quack therapy.

Orthodox religious therapists and rabbis have an alternative to this Declaration. See
statementofprinciplesnya.blogspot.com

Without having clear evidence that a treatment is effective you cannot in good conscience recommend an unproven treatment that can cause undo pain, suffering, and death as the signers of this declaration have done.

The many rabbis that signed this other statement are truly concerned for both the 0.5% and the 99.5% group and have not endorsed a failed therapy because it would fit better with their theology.