Rabbi Kenneth Auman once clearly delineated the difference between rights and obligations in the conception of Judaism and the halakha. I think a similar distinction ought to be made here.
God owes us nothing. We owe God everything. If not for Him, we would not exist. We would not live, breathe, feel or think. The only being in the world to whom we can and must pledge ourselves wholly is God. Everyone else may fall away.
Thus, there is no such thing as our deserving anything within a Judaic conception of the world. Were we to spend all of our lives occupied in nothing but the total service of God, we would still be unable to repay Him for the goodness He has bestowed upon us. For people who have good parents, you know this feeling as well. I could pay my parents back all the money they spent on me and it would still not suffice. There is no way to ever repay. I can only live in their debt and express my gratitude in any way I can.
If you look at the advertisements in magazines like InStyle, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, W, Redbook, Vogue and Lucky, you will note a common theme. The advertisements continually end with the words, "Because you're worth it." Or alternatively, "You deserve it." America is a country which desires to make you believe that you should spend money to satisfy all your desires and needs because you are worth it. And on the surface, that seems to be a very satisfying philosophy. There shall be no people with low self-esteem in America; we have magically whisked them away. In their place, we shall have people who always believe that they are 'worth it.'
I look at these advertisements and laugh at them. Firstly, because I find it demeaning to be told that I am supposedly worth a very expensive bottle of Olay lotion. I am a human being created in the image of God; I am worth far more than that. Secondly, because I don't believe in the conception that we deserve anything. We deserve nothing. What God gives to us is a gift.
This is something that the Rav, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, understands entirely. This is why he developed a philosophy of sacrifice. Everything balances in the Rav's philosophy of dignity in defeat. We are permitted to eat kosher but not non-kosher. To engage in relations with our spouse but not with others. We must abstain from having relations when our wives are niddot. We can work during the week but not on Shabbat. Everything is a balance. And this philosophy, according to the Rav, helps train us so that we can accept dignity in defeat even when that defeat is not of our own making. For example, when it is the halakha that binds us and nothing else.
As he writes:
- Dignity in Defeat
If man knows how to take defeat at his own hands in a variety of ways as the Halakhah tries to teach us, then he may preserve his dignity even when defeat was not summoned by him, when he faces adversity and disaster and is dislodged from his castles and fortresses.
What is the leitmotif of the strange drama that was enacted by Abraham on the top of a mountain when, responding to a paradoxical Divine summons to take his son, his only son, whom he loved, and offer him in a distant land called Moriah, he surrendered his son to God (Gen. 22)? It was more than a test of loyalty that Abraham had to pass. God, the Omniscient, knew Abraham's heart. It was rather an exercise in the performing of the dialectical movement, in the art of reversing one's course and withdrawing from something which gave meaning and worth to Abraham's life and work, something which Abraham yearned and prayed for on the lonely days and dreary nights while he kept vigil and waited for the paradoxical, impossible to happen. And when the miraculous event occurred and Abraham emerged as a conqueror, triumphed over nature itself, the command came through: Surrender Isaac to Me, give him up, withdraw from your new position of victory and strength to your old humble tent, all enveloped in despair and anxiety, loneliness and gloom. Abraham, take defeat at your own hands, give up heroically what you acquired heroically; be a hero in defeat as you were in victory.
Abraham obeyed. He realized that through this dialectical movement a man attains redemption and self-elevation. And the improbable happened; as soon as he reconciled, as soon as he gave Isaac up, the forward movement, the march to victory was resumed again. He received Isaac from the angel and the pendulum began to swing to the pole of conquest.
This drama is reenacted continually by the man of Halakhah, who is dignified in victory and defeat. The Halakhah taught man not contemptus saeculi, but catharsis saeculi.
Halakhah wants man to be conqueror and also to be defeated- not defeated by somebody else, not defeated by a friend, not defeated by an outside power, for there is no heroism involved in such a defeat; such a defeat, on the contrary, demonstrates cowardice and weakness. Halakhah wants man to be defeated by himself, to take defeat at his own hands and then reverse the course and start surging forward again and again. This directional movement, like a perennial pendulum, swinging back and forth, gives exhaustive expression to man's life and to Halakhah. [Emph mine.]
Is this important for mental health? I believe so. Of course I cannot spell out here how this doctrine could be developed into a technology of mental health, but I believe this doctrine contains the potential out of which a great discipline of the Judaic philosophy of suffering, an ethic of suffering, and a technology of mental health might emerge.
What I have developed is more a philosophy of the Halakhah. How this philosophy could be interpreted in terms of mental health is a separate problem, one that is quite complicated. But I believe that the trouble with modern man and his problems is what the existentialists keep on emphasizing: anxiety, angst. Man is attuned to success. Modern man is a conqueror, but he does not want to see himself defeated. this is the main trouble. Of course, when he encounters evil and the latter triumphs over him and he is defeated, he cannot 'take it'; he does not understand it.
However, if man is trained gradually, day by day, to take defeat at his own hands in small matters, in his daily routine, in his habits of eating, in his sex life, in his public life- as a matter of fact, I have developed how this directional movement is applicable to all levels- then, I believe, when faced with evil and adversity and when he finds himself in crisis, he will manage to bear his problem with dignity.
-Out of the Whirlwind by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, pages 113-115
I consider myself a compassionate person. The fact that my heart went out to those bound by the halakha when it comes to the LGBT movement particularly was a demonstration of this, I believed. Then I met Jordan and he, as usual, proved me wrong. Jordan was in fact more compassionate than me! "What of someone who is a kleptomaniac?" he asked me. "He has an urge, perhaps even an illness that makes him want to steal. Do you feel compassion for him?" I shook my head no. "What you have done is made a mental judgement that one kind of suffering is worse than another," he rebuked me. "Who is to judge the strength of desire? Who is to say that one desire trumps another? The same desire that a man may feel to love and cling to and totally mold himself with another man may express itself in the man who wants to steal. How can you know the strength and power of desire to decide that some are reasonable and some are not?"
"But," I argued, "the difference is that this has to do with living one's entire life. To live your entire life alone? Celibate, without anyone to share it with in that way? It seems cruel. Also, consensual homosexuality hurts no one whereas murdering or thieving takes someone or something away from someone else."
"Then tell me," he says, "what if someone has an impossibly powerful desire to eat treif? Do we say it is not a sin? Do we form a support group for those who eat treif, decide to have a Mechalelei Shabbos club in shul for those overpowered by that desire? The strength of one's desire proves nothing. Unlike you, I feel for everyone who suffers desire like that. The woman who has not been given a get and is an agunah; suppose she gets remarried without her get. Do I feel for her? Of course I do. Would I start a support group in shul for women who remarry without gittin? We cannot do so."
And he was right. I had decided, simply based on my own personal feeling, that the desire an LGBT person feels for someone else was more important and thus more heart-wrenching. I felt compassion for them when I would not feel that way towards others who broke the law. I had bought into the Western judgment which believes that we all deserve to be happy - or at least to engage in the 'pursuit of happiness' and also deserve to fulfill all desires so long as they don't harm others. But this is not the truth. We deserve nothing of God. Should He bless us, if we are lucky enough to live beautiful, fulfilled lives, we shall be the luckiest people in all the world. But if we do not receive these blessings, can we really accuse Him, tell Him that we deserve that perfect life, that we are somehow entitled to it; it's coming our way? I don't think so.
The reason I went to the event entitled 'Being Gay in the Orthodox World' is because I don't believe in going beyond the law. The law says a man who sleeps with another man like he would lie with a woman is committing a grave sin. It does not say that we must refer to that man as a 'faggot' or act cruelly to him. Most yeshivot, and YU is no exception, are homophobic. I went to the event because I thought it was important that people see that people who are homosexual are just like you and me. They are our classmates and our peers. And thus people would learn not to be needlessly cruel, to go beyond the law in their cruelty with words and actions.
I love people who happen to be attracted to members of the same sex. I find much to love in them. Some of my best friends are gay. But I cannot condone, countenance or believe in 'giving up' parties where people want me or anyone Orthodox to be okay with the fact that they are breaking the law (assuming they are acting upon their desires.) I will never be okay with that. And that means I may make decisions you will not like. When my child asks me about the kid who has two daddies, I may explain that according to Judaism it is forbidden, that s/he can love and appreciate the people and nonetheless know this is not in accordance to the law. I love many people who break Judaic law. The distinction here is that you absolutely know that this is not what God desires and you have made a decision to put yourself first, not to struggle any longer, not to strive to sacrifice even though it would be immensely painful to you, simply because you 'deserve to be loved.'
My heart goes out to all who struggle. But if the struggle is over, if you are 20 years old and have made a rational decision to break the halakha, that saddens me. I think you are too young to give up the fight just yet. You cannot tell me it is impossible to live a celibate life. I know women in their 60s who are virgins and will never touch a man for as long as they live. It is not because they don't want to. It is because they fear God. Is it awful, miserable, unhappy and lonely not to fulfill your love for another? Absolutely it is. But it is not impossible. And to me, the rationalization that you deserve to act on your feelings contra God because they will make you happy will not stand up.
This does not mean I would shun you or hate you or otherwise not love you as a person. But I will believe that you are doing wrong, that this is a sin, and you cannot expect my support of this sin. I love you. I don't believe in calling you names. I believe it is important for people to realize that you are human and struggling and to empathize with you. But we have been created by God, given the incalculable gift of life, and it is our job to attempt to repay through sacrifice. Even if we hate it. Even if we are angry with God. Even if we feel that He is cruel. And I cannot support anyone who has decided the struggle is over and the decision is made. I do not believe that is what Judaism is about. There is no point at which we simply give up. We are living for God and for this reason we must struggle to do as He wills.
The woman for whom I am named was murdered because she was a Jew. If she can die for being a Jew, must I not struggle with all I have, with all I am, to live as a Jew? To hate the times that I fail to serve God as He wishes? To try my utmost to do so, even when He hurts me, even when I am angry with Him, even when all I want is to run from Him? If I must give up my life for Him, must die for Him, then can I not give up my dreams for Him, my would-be spouse, my unfulfilled love?
We have raised a generation that does not understand why they must die for God, and thus it follows that they find it extremely difficult to live for Him. As a member of this generation, I feel with you, alongside you. I know how it hurts to live for God. I know the pain and the anger and the hatred, how you feel raw inside, the words unexpressed, the silent scream you wish He could hear. I know that anger because I live with it. But what I cannot do, what I cannot accept, what I will never accept, is that it is a legitimate choice to decide not to live for God. You may feel it to be a necessity, the only way you will stay sane, the only way to survive and I cannot judge you for that. But the point of view that states that it is legitimate to make such a decision-that I should see it as normal and think nothing of it, that it is acceptable to decide that you will not live for God- that I cannot accept. And if you wish to tell me such a point of view is legitimate, I will fight you with everything that I have. Because Jordan would take a bullet in his head for his Judaism and for God, and after knowing such a person, I cannot accept that we ought to be satisfied with anything less.
303 comments:1 – 200 of 303 Newer› Newest»
from your screed:
"But I cannot condone, countenance or believe in 'giving up' parties where people want me or anyone Orthodox to be okay with the fact that they are breaking the law (assuming they are acting upon their desires.) I will never be okay with that. And that means I may make decisions you will not like."
that's a pretty big assumption that you put in parentheses -
(see above "assuming they are acting upon their desires.")
Why make that assumption?
None of the panelists said indicated or implied that they are "acting." Why do you infer that?
It seems to me that you set up a few straw dogs (like many sermonizers) and then as you knock them down, you act (like many sermonizers) as though you answered or solved some other question/problem when in fact, you haven't at all.
Like rabbi herschel shachter who is quoted to have said "any homosexual activity is prohibited by the Torah," your own words betray your misguided attitude on the subject.
"Any homosexual activity?" Really? Holding hands with the man I love? That's homosexual activity - but it is certainly not prohibited by the Torah. In fact there is but one act prohibited by the Torah and that is mishkav zachor which the G'marah expalins to be anal intercourse. PERIOD. That's what the Torah, i.e., the d'oh-raysah isur, forbids. That is the only capital offense - not marching in a parade, not holding hands, not even engaging in oral sex.
Homosexuality is a late 19th century construct - that is why it is simply ignorance and a terrible Rabbinic carelessness to opine that the Torah calls homosexuality an abomination. Even as we speak, ignorant Rabbis believe this to be true - i.e., the very ones who are supposed to be most precise in their usage of words suddenly become so careless with words - the only explanation I can think of is bigotry which is a kind of ignorance in its own right.
The following is more regarding the general point in the beginning of your piece; I'll have to respond more specifically to the point about homosexuality later, when I can gather my thoughts more.
There is a vision of Judaism in which self-denial is the highest of virtues, and suffering over it is to be praised, as one must bring themselves to the inflexible level of halacha. In this vision, the rabbi says that the young couple may not use birth control, no matter what, regardless of their needs as individuals; that the college student must go to YU, regardless of his academic interests; etc.
There is also a vision of Judaism in which this is not the case; in which halacha is brought to the human realm, not the reverse, and it can only be decided by taking into account real human life; in which there exist leniencies, even rare ones, for the time and people for which they are needed. There is the vision of an individualistic Judaism, in which a person has his or her individual strengths and needs, and halacha is not independent of those individual factors, but rather can only be understood when taking them into account. In this vision, the fact that a bride-to-be has wanted to be a doctor for her whole life is the most relevant factor to a psak on birth control; etc.
Granted, halacha becomes a balancing act between the two visions. But let's not pretend the former is the only one.
I think I wrote you about this subject and my attitude towards it back around last Tisha B'av...
In your wonderfully articulate manner, I think you have incorporated parts of what I was trying to say then - but you have done it better than I did.
duvduv - actually, at least one of the panelists did make comments intimating that they were acting on their desires. Also, where in what you uncharitably term a screed do you see the assumption you condemn being made about any of the panelists, specifically? The rest of your comment is tendentious, and doesn't seem to relate directly to the initial post.
"Really? Holding hands with the man I love?"
Just to correct the record, the answer is yes, it is assur.
Just wondering duvduv is oral sex with your sister permitted?
"Really? Holding hands with the man I love?"
Just to correct the record, the answer is yes, it is assur.
On what Halachic authority do you base that statement?
"On what Halachic authority do you base that statement?"
I don't think that's the standard of dialogue on this blog. From my experience, statements of Halacha are usually supported with a specific citation.
dman, if you're ever lucky enough to get a girl friend holding her hand would be assur too.
Anonymous 3:34 -
Do you know the meaning of the word "assume"?
I am married with four children, one of whom is a student at YU (not saying which campus); two others are classmates of Chana's siblings.
Wow..It expresses my feelings exactly. Thank you for being brave enough to say this.
I am tired of being deemed "intolerant" or "closeminded" for believing that someone else's belief/attitude is wrong... Thank you for stating your view based on legitimate Jewish sources, rather than your own personal feelings and emotion behind it.
dman are you allowed to hold hands in love with a your girl friend?
God owes us nothing. We owe God everything. If not for Him, we would not exist. We would not live, breathe, feel or think.
We're supposed to be grateful for that?
Hi - haven't read through the entire post just yet - but the first few paragraphs resonate well with me. I noticed it too on the videos and think similarly to what you stated regarding the mindset of 'deserving'
Thank you for emphasising the point.
I like your post, a lot. I think it is very intellectually honest. The fact that you are able to both love and disagree with someone so strongly shows that you have a great amount of courage and strength.
That being said, I am just confused as to where this is coming from. I'm pretty sure that no one on the panel said anything about "deserving" anything. The entire theme was about sharing our experiences (validation) in a way that didn't argue for one thing or another, but just for the audience to understand where we are coming from... It seems like you set up a point of view that we didn't even talk about (one of legitimization), just so you can then reject it.
As for your counterargument, I'm not going to argue why homosexual behavior should be permitted, because I already know that that's a position I won't easily be able to defend. However, I want to respond about Judaism as a whole: Yes your argument is strong and well supported, but it suffers from being a bit too extreme. Here's why I think that: (from what I learned in YU Bibles :)) a) Kohelet - teaches to reject asceticism and enjoy the world that God has created. Granted, you should do so within the limits of halakha. But there is definitely an idea, in Judaism, of partaking in worldly pleasure rather than abstaining from them, as Christianity teaches. For this reason, I don't believe "We deserve nothing," to be true. b) Job - if you're dealt a bad hand, you are supposed to challenge God! Job was praised for it in the end of the sefer. Okay, God respond that we can't fathom his ways. But the very act of questioning God when we are struggling is another theological ideal in Judaism. For this reason, I also don't think "and it is our job to attempt to repay through sacrifice. Even if we hate it. Even if we are angry with God. Even if we feel that He is cruel," is true.
"I am tired of being deemed "intolerant" or "closeminded" for believing that someone else's belief/attitude is wrong..."
No one said this. Get over yourself. (Then again, if someone actually does say this to you, just tell them that the president of the tolerance club said that they're wrong ;) just kidding). The whole idea of toleration is about disagreement and conflict that people cope with in order for society to function: "tol⋅er⋅a⋅tion [tol-uh-rey-shuhn] 1. an act or instance of tolerating, esp. of what is not actually approved;" I can only view your comment as another straw man, which you create solely to make the other people seem like "the real bigots." Hence, what you say may be a fallacy, but not close-minded or intolerant.
"I'm pretty sure that no one on the panel said anything about "deserving" anything."
Avi, note that the following is attributed to Jonathan in Chana's previous post:
"I also deserve to be loved and craved."
Shabbos 13a, Rambam Issurei Bia 21:1, Even Haezer 20:1.
"The woman for whom I am named was murdered because she was a Jew. If she can die for being a Jew, must I not struggle with all I have, with all I am, to live as a Jew?"
Chana, this is a brilliant post. Absolutely amazing.
To the "Anonymous" who keeps harassing Dman:
FYI, many Jewish people in the world do appreciate sources for Torah tzivuyim, not because they doubt the Torah, but because they like to share their knowledge- down to the core- with others. His question was honest; now do us all a favor and don't comment unless you have anything useful or pertaining to the post to say.
Just to play devil's advocate for a moment, there is a diffence between the urge for a relationship and other urges. When man is created, God looks at him and says "lo tov heyos ha'adam levado, e'eseh ezer k'negdo". In contradistinction to every other created being, man was deemed to be "not good" until he had a mate. In "Family Redeemed", Rav Soleveitchik pointed out that "lo tov heyos ha'adam levado" does not mean, "it is not good for a man to be alone", but rather, "a man who is alone is objectively in a state of 'not good'". In other words, man can only find objective completion when he has found his "significant other". Unlike other desires that man has, the need for a relationship is an ontological need, not merely an emotional or physical one.
Dman, my 6:46 comment was addressed to you.
If a parent brings a child into this world only to neglect him and allow him to be harmed, we call that parent abusive. Yet we are suppose dto be grateful to God for the same?
A few years ago there was a post somewhere that I can't find now about derech eretz and homosexuality. It described two classroom lessons, one from the teacher about how the male homosexual act is not forbidden because it is gross or because it is wrong but it is forbidden because the Torah says so and no other judgements should be made and the other from a student who had just visited a college telling another student he coudln't tease another classmate by calling him gay because it is offensive to gay people like the ones that exist at the college he visted. Does anyone know where to find the post?
Wow. Words can't do justice to the sheer awesomeness of this post.
Avi - Having just finished a semester with Rabbi Angel where we discussed Kohelet, I feel an urge to mention a few points: Kohelet is totally against the whole idea of "deserving." As it says in Kohelet 7:13-15 - the world can be a very twisted place from the human perspective (which is what the megillah is all about; viewing the world from a human, non-navi vantage). Life in our world ISN'T fair, righteous people can suffer and wicked people can prosper (I'm not going to define either of those terms here). We, as humans can't begin to fathom what any of it means, because we AREN'T G-d, and that is G-d's response to Iyov in ch.38 (which you referenced), and we have no right to charge Him with doing something wrong, because He is utterly beyond us.
Anonymous 7:26 - a person can clammer all day about G-d not being fair, but Kohelet is quite clear - lots of things in our limited human perspective are unfair, but that's reality. It doesn't make it any easier, but we can't take G-d to task. He has his reasons.
The central point of Kohelet is exactly as Chana said: every single thing we have in life is "matat Elokim" a gift from G-d (see 2:24, 3:13, and others). We don't deserve anything we have, even the good things that one might think are a reward for righteous behavior have not necessarily been bestowed for that reason.
I will admit to being very bothered by the dilemma that faces the panelists, but I totally agree with everything Chana wrote here. Kohelet, in speaking for all of mankind (not just Jews), really puts us in our place regarding the belief that we deserve anything. It's a difficult concept to swallow, but Kohelet is right.
a person with a feeding tube hooked up to his stomach, due to his inability to swallow without chocking, how is he suppose to enjoy the world? by eating and putting himself at risk because god wants him to enjoy the world?
Doesn't Kohelet also say it is preferable not to be born?
The idea that we deserve nothing from God who created us feels abusive. This isn't about fairness or about rewards for righteousness but about being denied basic needs and then being told we don't deserve them and then being instructed to be grateful.
Why when it is God we are told we can't understand His ways but when it is a parent we identify the behavior as unacceptable?
the bottom line of kohelet, after all the contradictions, is es ha'elokim yira v'es mitzvosav shmor, ki ZEH kol ha'adam. not fun, not money, not wisdom, not partying, or any of the other themes suggested in kohelet. there is only one perspective to all the world has to offer, only through a scope of es ha'elokim yira.
If you witnessed a parent screaming at his child, "You deserve nothing!" and not providing the child with food, shelter, clothing, and necessary medical care and not protecting the child from harm you'd be incensed and wouldn't be recommending the child be grateful to the parent for this abuse and as the child wonders why his parent brought him into the world only to be treated like this - the classic "I didn't ask to be born" - you'd wonder the same.
"Job was praised for it in the end of the sefer."
Job was praised because despite his bad hand, he still didn't sin
"But the very act of questioning God when we are struggling is another theological ideal in Judaism."
no it's not.
"The idea that we deserve nothing from God who created us feels abusive."
Yes. This is the problem with this vision of Judaism. People are also created with deep psychological needs, including the need to be loved. Demanding that people deny their deepest psychological needs and identity is tantamount to belittling those same things, which borders on a psychologically abusive worldview. What is sad is, Orthodox Judaism does not need to demand this type of self-denial; see my post way above. What it should be about is a balance between reaching the law, yet the law also being determined (within a certain framework, of course) by what people need.
Some of you are living in a version of R' Shimon bar Yochai's cave, assuming that human needs can always be invalidated as needed, because "we don't have a right" to them being fulfilled. This is not particularly productive; it's not about rights, it's about needs, and psychological needs are very real.
How does that general point work in an Orthodox framework for homosexuality, where the actual act is prohibited by the Torah? But I do not believe the answer involves judging when a person has "given up too easily," or that they are ungratefully demanding too much of God by wanting to meet the psychological needs that you presumably believe that same God gave them.
Anonymous 8:30, you clearly either have not read Job or did not understand it. Job's friends are blamed because they claimed they understood how God works, and everything that happened to Job was deserved; Job is praised because he insisted on his righteousness and struggled with his pain, even though he is eventually told he is trying to understand what he cannot.
In addition, see R' Hayyim Angel's "Through an Opaque Lens" for a treatment this as a model of how Orthodox Jews treat suffering, and yes, struggle with God.
JewGadFly- You are correct that there is flexibility within the framework of halacha, but that flexibility is built into the halachik system. There are certain times when G-d's torah, and system of laws allows leniencies, but when it does not, we do not have the right to fabricate it. The Torah says you can't act on homosexual instincts, so you can't - period. There are not built in leniencies and no ways around it. Does it stink - yes. Can we ask questions - yes. But let us not pretend that because there certain lenience built into the system we can decide what is best for humanity and usurp G-d's authority.
It’s very convenient to take an ascetic approach to Judaism when it comes at the expense of others. The notion of abstaining from sex in the service of G-d is completely un-Jewish. Jews acknowledge that it is not good for man to be alone and celebrate sexual union between two individuals. We should not make demands of others that would be difficult for us to do ourselves. If you found out from a halachic standpoint that you were never allowed to experience any sense of sexual satisfaction for the rest of your life, would you be able to stay celibate?
You mention Rabbi Soloveitchiks concept of balance, where is that balance for frum gay people? Yes, heterosexuals must abstain from sex with others and from sex during niddah, but ultimately they are able to have their appropriate sexual outlets and derive sexual satisfaction from them, whereas frum gay people have none.
I’m not sure who your friend Jordan is, but there are so many flaws in his logic that it borders on the absurd. Perhaps we should be compassionate towards individuals who feel compelled to steal, however, that needs to be balanced by a sense of accountability for the persons action, since stealing comes at a cost to another individual, as you yourself mentioned.
Treif and Chilul Shabbos there is no comparison to. Going back to the notion of balance, there are outlets to eat meat within the confines of halacha, and doing whatever youre restricted from doing on shabbos over the rest of the week. People don’t suffer from depression, feelings of isolation, and suicidality over being unable to eat a hamburger at McDonalds, if they did, they probably had bigger things to worry about. Having a support group specifically for women who get married even though they are agunot may be objectionable, but having a support group for agunot at a shul would be the height of compassion, and yes, in the spirit of compassion, we may want to consider not throwing a woman out of that group if she decided that a lifetime of loneliness was too big of a nisayon for her.
Yes, we should be grateful to Hashem for all hes given us, and yes, it is beautiful to take the approach that we do not deserve anything and should be humble to accept our lot, but that’s only an approach we can apply to our own lives, not an approach we can demand of others while we fully enjoy the benefits of sexual fulfillment. Could you imagine a white person going over to Rosa Parks and saying “You should be grateful to be able to sit in the back of the bus, you don’t even deserve that”? I am extremely disappointed by this post. I hope that the next time you are on a date or enjoying a romantic evening with your spouse, you take a moment to think about the frum gay 20-something sitting alone in his room with thoughts of ending his life.
I suggest you re-read your transcripts...No one said that they deserve anything other than compassion from their peers and loved ones.
We reiterated how WOMEN, deserved to be craved and attracted too. and so, they did not deserve to be lied to, or tricked into a marriage with a man who still struggles with homosexuality.
It was a girl who told me that I deserve the same, but of course I agree, that in life you are not entitled to anything. My brother has autism, I do not need to be lectured on how sometimes life is unfair. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't do everything in our power to do to make sure that we dont cause more suffering by creating taboo's, causing silencing, or denying support groups. Inferring otherwise is just cruel.
Analogies are important. the wrong ones can be deceptive and harmful. Comparing being gay, to being a kleptomaniac is terribly faulty, because with kelptomania you are hurting someone else...If we show compassion to kleptomania or erase the taboo of stealing, this may be kind to the klepto, but it is cruel to the victim. So we can not use "ben adam lechaveryo tactics" to be compassionate to kleptomania, because this is unethical and cruel to victims. Homosexuality is not an ethical crime against anyone. With two consenting adults, no one is hurt, and no one is victimized. It is a Chok, much like eating shrimp, (which actually is also called a Toeva.)
This same argument is why comparisons to bestiality, rape and incest are all wrong. All these crimes are a use of force against someone or thing that can not consent properly. There is a victim. and therefore, exhibiting compassion, enabling the sinner, or taking away the taboo, serves to hurt the victim more. (even if that victim is an animal...it does not have a choice). This is not the case with consenting homosexuality. and hence is a bad analogy that just sounds silly...and is a little insulting!
Part 2, continued from above.
An analogy to shabbos is also faulty. Besides the obvious fact that Shabbos violators do enjoy a sense of acceptance to most modern orthodox people, the analogy to gay people does not hold water. A gay person speaking about what its like being gay in yeshiva, isn't saying that he violated anything. In fact, our presentations did not include any details about our private lives, let alone transgressions. Our rabbi's teach us, that the Prohibition refers to a specific sex act. If u want to use shabbos transgressors as an analogy, it would be only to publicly speaking about their sodomy. which this was not. No body is asking for compassion because they can't commit sodomy. Many gay couples don't even do that act, and frankly, being out, doesnt mean we share the specifics of what we do in our bedrooms...we still are tzniut! So until you see a panel about people who want to commit sodomy, or a support group centered around accepting sodomy, do not use the shabbos violation analogy, because it does not make sense, and confuses people.
None of the panelist talked about acting out any issur. And it would be closed minded and insulting to presume that you know what i do or dont do in my bedroom, or any of the other panelists. Certainly, while in Yeshiva, I followed the rules of the school, and abstained from any sexual contact, which is a rule for both straight and gay students. Again, your assumptions are baseless, and not nice, and are probably Motzie shem ra.
The best analogy is one that I brought up at the panel. We must use Agunah as a guide on how to show compassion to gay people. Gay people, like agunot are hallachically stuck, through no fault of their own. Rabbis can not throw pesukim out of the torah, but they can show compassion and talk about this issue, and do as much as they sincerely can to lessen the suffering. With Agunah, There are support groups!, these support groups are sanctioned by the OU, RCA, and most Rabbanim.
Are these support groups, groups for women who want to break hallacha? why do they need support?, why do we bring up this issue, and demand public compassion? Because we know, that even if we can not change hallacha. It is important to be active in our empathy. To hear the suffering in our community. and to do what we can, with in the framework of hallacha, to be lessen hurt, isolation and despair.
This is why This event was so important. This is why support groups like JQYouth.org are integral, and hallachic, and should be supported by all torah jews. So let's start using the analogy of Agunah as a guide for our compassion.
Thank you all again for coming, and if anyone wants to continue this conversation privately with me, my email address is Zackmax123@aol.com
You owe myself, the panelists, all frum people, and your readers an apology for your last post. It was written with bad analogies, misleading arguments, terrible presumptions, and a withholding of compassion to those who..."deserve" it.
Channa - I don’t think it is fair to impose personal feelings of gratitude onto someone in pain, who is going through feelings of turmoil. Their questions are valid…G-d often does not seem to be fair – and there is not a good answer – at least not one that we can fathom. When you’re in such excruciating pain and confusion, the thought of being thankful for breathing, and life, and all the little things that we must appreciate, only adds to the pain. Someone who has seemingly been scathed by G-d is not in a place to feel the sense of gratitude that you feel. But that does not mean that we can give up. That does not mean that because life doesn’t seem fair, and because one might have to live celibate in order to remain a Torah Jew, or because of any other pain that one might be experiencing, that we have the right to give it up. Our grandparents had questions when they were in pain. They had question when they were packed in to cattle cars. They had questions and they may have even felt the same lack of gratitude that we may be feeling. They had question when they were gassed, and when they were slaughtered by the crusades, and when they were enslaved 210 in Egypt. They all had questions, but what made them great, is that they accepted that they don’t have the answer. Throwing it all away does not give us answers, it may reduce the pain(albeit temporarily,) but it will not give us the answer’s were looking for. Humility is realizing that we’re not as smart as we think – these questions have been asked – and although they have not been answered - after hundreds of generations, it would be quite haughty to think that we’ve somehow grown smarter than those who have helped build up this world.
In response to Mordechai -- I think the aguna case is the most comparable to homosexuality. And I think for both cases there are three levels.
The first level is the most painful decision, but the correct decision – which is remaining celibate. That’s what the Torah requires – I’m not saying it’s easy, but that’s challenge that G-d decided that you’re capable of living up to. A person who live up to this level deserves the highest of praise, and is in no need of our sympathies/empathies/legitimization – such a person is a true Ztadik.
The second level is the one of trials and tribulations. That is, we are all human – and we all have our own challenges. One’s goal is to be totally halachik and follow in G-d’s ways, but unfortunately there are always bumps. We are not okay with the bumps, and we do everything in our power to avoid sin(especially in the realm of arayot which is one of the hardest areas to follow, but also the most important) and although it may sometimes be very wrong - we mess up. Such a person deserves our empathy and our support. Such a person deserves to be helped in his struggle and deserves to be legitimized. This person who legitimately is trying his best to get closer to G-d, but is struggle, certainly needs our help in this struggle. You can call it gay support group, a gay strait union, or whatever you want – people in this category need a community to help them overcome this challenge to reach there goal of following the Torah.
The third category is the gay or aguna who decide “the hell with it, this is who I am and I’m going for it,” such a person does not deserve our sympathies, and – although this may be politically incorrect – deserves to be ostracized (at the very least at the community level). Not because he’s and outcast, or because he’s different, not even because he’s and abomination, but because he has chosen to forsake G-d’s Torah. A Jew who says the heck with it, “I’m eating cheeseburgers the rest of my life”, or “tfillin’s not my thing, but I’ll take the other’s,” deserves to be ostracized as well. The severity of violating homosexuality is important, but more important is the decision to forsake one of G-d’s commandments.
There was one problem with the forum. Before the forum each panelist should have gotten up and said “I may struggle, I’m not perfect, but I plan to struggle to overcome this.” If that had been said than every person on this forum deserve our help, and our deepest sympathies…but we do not have forum’s for people who are ok with violating Shabbat, or ok with violating eating pork, and we would not even have forums for women who are ok with violating the laws pertaining to agunot.
If these panelist were in the third category than this was an incredible chilul Hashem, and had no right taking place in our yeshiva.
My belief and hope is that each participant was of the first or second category in which case this forum was a necessary, and a way to help klal yisroel better serve G-d, and unite through struggle. I’ve spent much time crying for the pain you must me going through, and I hope that G-d helps you through everything, alieves you’re pain, and that you should all experience simcha and the achdus of klal yisroel.
"Then tell me," he says, "what if someone has an impossibly powerful desire to eat treif? Do we say it is not a sin?
Ummm-Yes, we say it is not a sin. We say we would like to eat treif but what can we do, our father in heaven has forbidden it. If enough people felt this way and needed help resisting the urge to act on it, I suppose we would set up support groups to help resist.
I found a Tradition article which discusses two issues I wondered about yesterday:
(1) Rambam in Shemonah Perakim( "sicliyos" and "shmiyos")in connection with homosexuality, regarding the application of Sifra in Kedoshim of, "do not say, 'I do not want to eat meat together with milk; I do not want to wear clothes made of shatnez (a mixture of linen and wool); I do not want to enter into a prohibited sexual relationship..."
(2) The phenomenon of hetersexual people having(weak) homosexual inclinations at times
This is a quote from part of the article:
"It is interesting to speculate why the Torah stresses that homosexual acts are an "abomination" (Lev. 18:22; 20:13) along with the other prohibited abominable sexual acts (Lev. 18:26-29), just as it labels unkosher food "abominations" (Deut. 14:3). But that is neither here nor there. The Torah forbids these because they are quite normal but - in the Torah's view - improper. Sometimes we can understand the reason for a prohibition; indeed, the argument against homosexuality is a cogent as that in support of kashrut. But whether or not we understand the rationale of a specific prohibition, we can assume that any Torah prohibition implies that it is something which is part of the common human situation that is being prohibited.
Thus we need not even argue against the psychological position that holds that many healthy people have homosexual thoughts at one time or another. The Torah's position is that the normal quality of any impulse is irrelevant to its ethical or halakhic character. Homosexuality and seafood are abominations and hence forbidden because the Torah says so; the Torah does not necessarily forbid them because they are by their nature - like feces- repulsive.
This position is reassuring for the religious adolescent plagued by homosexual thoughts. If he is crazy, there may be no hope. If he is basically normal - struggling in this area as all people do in one area or another - then there may well be a chance for him to lead a rich, halakhically valid life. Halakha's opposition to the pro-homosexuality campaign being waged in our secular society does not target the claim that homosexual impulses are normal. On the other hand, halakha's position is that the normalcy of an impulse is not its license. On the contrary, the ability to retreat from one's natural impulses is at times the hallmark of mental health and halakhically ethical conduct. Thus, halakha rejects the current proposition that sexual fulfillment is the summum bonum of life, arguing that a halakhically ethical life often denies the heterosexual as well as the homosexual the possibility of total sexual fulfillment. "
I am wondering if R. Moshe's writings on homosexuality(linked below) would disagree with the above statement that "the Torah does not necessarily forbid them because they are by their nature - like feces- repulsive". However, the position of R. Moshe("therefore there is no need for any rationale to explain why it is an abomination that the whole world despises") would also have to be able reassure the struggling, celibant, homosexual of his inherent goodness despite having tendencies for natrually repulsive behavior, whether or not, the Sifra, above, applies.
two unmarried men who consentually have sex and keep that private do not hurt anyone
an agunah who does not remain celibate however can become pregnant
"You owe myself, the panelists, all frum people, and your readers an apology for your last post. It was written with bad analogies, misleading arguments, terrible presumptions, and a withholding of compassion to those who..."deserve" it."
Mordechai, you yourself survived the yeshiva system. Do you really think the 'shame on you' approach is going to work with me? You see it did not work on you. Guilt trips, shame-on-you speeches, the fact that you clearly only approve of a certain form of open-mindedness...that is your concern, not mine.
There are, as you mentioned, support groups for agunot. There are not support groups for women who remarry without gittin. Maybe there are support groups for mamzerim. But surely not for people who create mamzerim. There can, as you suggest, be support groups for homosexuals- but not for people who choose to act on their homosexuality. Those who are acted upon- whether by a husband who will not give a get, because they were born of an adulterous union or because a gene determines that they are gay- such people can and should be supported. Those who choose to act themselves - whether to get remarried without a get, to commit adultery and have a child by it or to act on their homosexuality- these are not people who should be publicly supported for that is the same as supporting the sin they have actively chosen to commit.
I will certainly not apologize for telling the truth as I see it. I will not apologize for saying that we exist to serve God and that God created this world to bestow goodness upon us (see Ramchal.) I will absolutely not apologize for believing that we should live for God even as we would die for God, no matter how difficult that might be. And I am astounded that you believe you have the right to do what was done to you to me. Because what you want is to silence me, to make it so that I do not say or think these words...and I find that extremely hypocritical.
"Then tell me," he says, "what if someone has an impossibly powerful desire to eat treif? Do we say it is not a sin?
"Ummm-Yes, we say it is not a sin. We say we would like to eat treif but what can we do, our father in heaven has forbidden it. If enough people felt this way and needed help resisting the urge to act on it, I suppose we would set up support groups to help resist.
Joel, it's clear that Chana meant to say "what if someone has an impossibly powerful desire to eat treif and eats treif?" This can be seen from the following line "Do we form a support group for those who eat treif".
"It’s very convenient to take an ascetic approach to Judaism when it comes at the expense of others."
If you know Chana well, you know she would never do that. And you would know the extreme loneliness she experienced, and the isolation due to her high school experiences.
If anyone has a right to write a post like this, it is Chana. You are welcome to disagree with it, but please don't accuse her of not being empathetic.
"With two consenting adults, no one is hurt, and no one is victimized. It is a Chok, much like eating shrimp, (which actually is also called a Toeva.)"
I think there is much written on it, some of which I quoted from above. But not everyone would agree that homosexuality is only an irrational "chok". R. Lamm is quoted in R. Freundel's article on homosexuality as saying that,
"These actions are repulsive in and of themselves; no rationale or explanation is necessary. Rather, the divine aspect within the human being is automatically and instinctively repelled by these activities. The fact that any number of individuals are possessed of a deadened spiritual sensitivity that allows them to accept or even participate in the acts in question, does not mean that the spiritually sensitive individual allows his revulsion to be diminished nor does he apologize for that revulsion."
Even the hetersexual act is also not automatically non-repulsive and non-animalistic just because it's between two consenting adults, and there are necessary conditions when it's turns from bad, to neutrual, to good.
For that matter, eating is animalstic as well. The gemara and midrash(Chagigah/Bereshis Rabbah) say " man is like an angel in three[four] ways, and like an animal in three[four] ways", and mentions "eating" as one of those ways. Indeed, if God would have consulted with humans or with Martians, and not the angels(it's probably good idea, in general, that he didn't ! ), they perhaps might have said create the world in a different way.
As far as Orthodox celibant homosexuals, I have much sympathy for them, as Dr. Pelcovits said at the conference "al tadun es chaveircha ad shetagiah l'mokomo". FWIW, when I first read "A River of Tears and a Day in My Shoes" in the YU Commentator, the author came across to me as being very spiritual because of his struggle, as least as much, if not more, than the average "normal" yeshivah student.
Chana, your indignation at Mordecai is very revealing. You berate him for trying to shame your views, but your views are truly shameful. If somebody chooses to eat treif it is between them and Hashem. If a Jew decides to violate Shabbat, it is between him and Hashem. If a man decides to climb in off the ledge, or take his head out of the oven and actually live his life as a gay man, it is between him and Hashem.
You really have no right to judge any of these acts. To tell a gay man that he deserves support ONLY if he remains alone and miserable while deserving condemnation for living a full personal life, is presumptuous at best and cruel at worst.
It is so easy for you to sit around in your traditional world with your traditional dreams while judging the righteousness of others. But as a gay man, the image of a wise old man with 12 children sitting over a Humash 800 years ago pronouncing edicts which affect my life and my ability to live, just seems ludicrous.
The attitudes you are espousing serve only to alienate Jews who are trying to do as much as they can. After reading all this garbage I am closer than ever to just not being frum at all anymore.
This is the tragic end result of the judgmental rhetoric seen in response to the amazing forum we all witnessed the other night.
"If a man decides to climb in off the ledge, or take his head out of the oven and actually live his life as a gay man, it is between him and Hashem."
Alex, I agree with you- if the man does so discreetly and privately then of course it remains Bein Adam L'Makom. In contrast, if he chooses to make it an issue of the community at large (as it has been made) and seeks acceptance of not him as a person but rather the fact that he is committing this sin, I do not think Orthodox Judaism can grant him this acceptance and that is the point I was addressing. It is the individual's call to take this issue from one between himself and God to one that the community as a whole must address. I have done nothing shameful in stating that such an issue, once made communal, is fine if all that is desired is that we treat people as people, but not fine if the idea is that we should progress to a point in time where the halakha is stretched, twisted, perverted or changed.
I think you may be over stating you case.
He didn't say "I deserve Oil of Olay".
What if he said, "I deserve to eat?"
What if a mamzer or an agunah said, "I deserve to be loved?"
I think the sacrifice that the halacha is asking of these people is much greater than what is being demanded of you and me and we should criticize with a little more humility.
Keep on trucking, Chana. You're saying the (right) things, and they're worth saying.
Chana, I know you to be a compassionate person. Therefore, your declarations about God and our existence surprise me. Now, maybe it is because you, as you acknowledge, have good parents that you can write about owing God for all the goodness He has given you. But us? Can you understand how hurtful those absolute statements are to people who do not have any goodness in their lives?
(This isn't about homosexuality, breaking halacha, or the rest of the post.)
"He didn't say "I deserve Oil of Olay". What if he said, "I deserve to eat?"
That's a valid point, and it's the same as a happily married individual discussing some issue of sexuality with an older single ; the former is not experientially the same as the latter, and is not talking from the same position.
But the caveats surrounding the YU event is that there are *conflicting* concerns, to help gay people be part of a non-gay community, but still not erode the community's abhorence for the homosexual act, which they have a right to have(Dr. Pelcovits said at the conference that this wasn't the intention and neen't happen).
So if Orthodox Jews need to have some sort of appropriate compassionate attitude for even practicing gays because it's "bein adam l'makom", certainly the opposite is true, that gay individuals should understand the Orthodox concern about not eroding community attitudes towards halacha.
>God owes us nothing.
Your anthropomorphic understanding of God is almost laughable. God is not a bigger, badder version of your Daddy.
>Thus, there is no such thing as our deserving anything within a Judaic conception of the world.
Wow, and you're a Judeo-Calvinist to boot...
Very beautiful and heartwarming as usual - firng on all cylinders. First of all, I don't see what all of you commenters are criticizing. All she said was: 1. God says don't do x. 2. It is one thing to even do x (wrong though it is, as God says not to), but 3. It is quite another thing when you claim that x is okay and must be accepted as okay, for then you are in fact rejecting Gods word. It is the difference between desiring to steal or even being a Kleptomaniac - the difference between this and between - stating that Kleptomania is okay. That is all she said - if you have a problem with this, then your problem is not with Chana; your problem is with God. All she is doing is stating Gods word and saying "don't say that it's fine to go against Gods word". Now to what I wanted to say. First a quick clarification and then a poem. You state that western society believes 'that we all deserve to be happy... or at least the pursuit of happiness'. In fact we are ccommanded by God to be happy. Rather the problem with the western view is that they don't really pursue happiness; they pursue stuff. Happiness in this culture is a euphemism for acting upon all desires, pleasures, and acquiring all stuff - in other words happiness is simply a euphamism for hedonism. Not for true Happiness - kind acts, charity, conection to God, health and physical pursuits for the purpose of serving God, thinking properly for the purpose of doing Gods ill in Happiness... A quick anectdote about 'the pusuit of happiness' - the founding fathers actually were going to write 'pursuit of property' in the constituion. The reason they changed it to pusuit of happiness was because of the disagreement over slavery. They knew that the slave states would not join if slavery was banned, but they didn't want to constitutionally enshrine and thus sanction slavery forever; lest future generations be unable to make it illegal due to slavery as property being a constitutional right. It didn't turn out to matter because the Dread Scott case defined slaves as property anyways, but it's interesting anyways. Point being, aperson is a soul of God and thus deserves and is commanded to be happy; in fact, as Rambam states prophecy can only occur when one is in a state of joy - that is, true connection of the faculties to the soul - to God occurs when one is in a state of joy. Therefore, the problem with 'pursuit of happiness' is that it's really just pursuit of property. It's clear that you basically said as much, I just wanted to clarify lest somebody misread and God forbid think that happiness is wrong or anti jewish...continued below...
Chana, Why do you insist that these panelist were somehow seeking your "permission" to be gay? They were merely enlightening us as to the burdens and pains which are exacted by halachic adherence. When I say it is between them and Hashem, I mean that even if one publicly declares that he is gay and admits his failings in Halachic compliance, you still don't have a right to judge. I cannot force you to "approve" , but as a compassionate human being I can expect you to understand. Is my adherence to Halacha so important to you that you would hurt my psyche should I decide I cannot comply?
Pretty long for a quick clarification, I know; now for the poem. I think the following poem perfectly states Rav Solovaeitchiks statements about defeats in life and I think you'll enjoy it. It is 'If', by Rudyard Kipling. If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you. If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you but make allowance for their doubting too.
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, or being lied about don't deal in lies, or being hated don't give way to hating, and yet don't look too good nor talk too wise. If you can dream and not make dreams your master. If you can think and not make thoughts your aim. If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same. If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken twisted by naives to make a trap for fools. Or watch the things you gave your life to broken and stoop and build them up with worn out tools. If you can make one heap of al your winnings and risk it all on one turn of pitch and toss. And lose and sstart again at your beginnings and never breath a word about your loss. If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they have gone. And so hold on when there is nothing in you except the will which says to them hold on. If you can walk with crowds and keep your virtue, or walk with kings nor lose the common touch. If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you. If all men count with you but not too much. If you can fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run. Yours is the earth and everything that's in it - and which is more, you'll be a man my son.
Alex: it is not Chanas judgement nor your judgement that matters, it is Gods judgement; and when we shuffle off this mortal coil then we will understand the beautiful perfection of Gods' judgemnet. A question: Do you think that the criterion for determining what is halachically permissible should be, that which the person feels is not too hard for them? If so then there is no halacha and there is no Torah. There is only Alex's whims. Do you worship God or do you worship the mirror. If a parent tells a 2 year old don't do x then the 2 year old needs to listen, because the parent loves the child and knows what is best for him. God tells us what to do and we must follow. even if like the 2 year old, we don't understand it. Another Question: why do you assume that your own thoughts and feelings are infallible? That is, How do you know that your thoughs and feelings are not lying to you? Thoughts lie. Just because a thought or feeling crooses your mind does not make it true; nor does it even make it true to you or for you. Thoughts may enter through eroneous programming, so to speak, or eroneous input i.e. societal conditioning and unconcious environmental influence. Most of you guys commenting are unaware of it, but you're just spouting programming that has been unconciously laced into your brains by the environmental input which you are constantly being bombarded with. Chana is strong enough and or smart enough to withstand these influences. You are unaware they even exist. Please don't take your ignorance, frustrations, faulty programing, or negative conditioning out on Chana. If you have a problem with the Torah, take it up with God. But I garuantee you that God will win the argument, God will have the last word, and in the end you will fully understand the error of your ways, and will see the eternal perfection of Gods ways.
Chanah- Firstly, I like your post. Second- I agree with you about G-d not owing us anything. However, I have a slightly different angle on it. I always watched the Loreal commercial's on TV and thought, "Cus you'r worth it" was totally not a valid reason for me to buy the product. I deserve a lot of things- I deserve a vacation because i work hard, I deserve new clothes and shoes because i make money, i deserve some time to myself because i am tired. Yet, I Yet I have responsibilities that hinder me from doing a lot of the things i Deserve. Does god prohibit me from deserving things- no? But I can take deserving and go over the top with it and it can then be taken out of context and cause me to sin. So there are limits and bounderies set up, to HELP us so that we do not sin. we are allowed to desire and we are allowed to deserve, we are just not always allowed to act upon our desires. Does G-d want us to live our lifes without pleasure no? But the Torah way of life was set up in a way that although we can not do certain things to derive pleasure, we can do others. However, do we have our own struggles in which we do not completly follow the Torah? Yes. I do not know a single person who keeps all 613 commandments. i do not even know anyone who keeps half of those.But we keep them as personal struggles between us and G-d. The difference is that the people on the panel came out publicized to everyone, their struggle. If I came out today on a public forum and said " I was not shomer negiah, I have eaten not kosher, I have been michalal shabbas (these are all heresay) I might be chastised and looked upon differently. I would not be condoning what I did, but I would be asking for an understanding that i am not perfect and we all have struggles and maybe yours is not as great as mine but this is a weak poinbt in me and I need you to understand that. You do not need to understand the act, you do not need to understand why I did it, you just need to understand that it is a struggle and it is one I need to struggle with with G-d.
Now for a complete tangent- Mordechai, Agunos are given compassion not only because of their situation that they can not remarry and are agunos ,but also because their situation was brought upon them by people in their community - therefore, the community feels morfe of a responsibility to help more.(As a side note, every organization that tries to help, is riddled with corruption too)!!!!!
"Most of you guys commenting are unaware of it, but you're just spouting programming that has been unconciously laced into your brains by the environmental input which you are constantly being bombarded with. "
Precious. Just precious.
"and you will see the eternal perfection of Gods ways."
As has been pointed out by numerous people above, the message of at least a couple books of Tanach is that you won't. Ever. And God, as presented there, gets annoyed when people claim
As an Orthodox Jew, you are most likely bound to view homosexual acts, among many others, as prohibited. But don't attempt a theodicy of it, ok?
Re: Joe above--I wasn't arguing for halachik leniencies regarding homosexuality. My point was to argue against Chana's conception of what Judaism demands of us, and thus to argue against the tone with which she treats homosexuality (i.e. judging people for wanting fulfillment of psychological needs by referring to "rights"; deciding when a person should or should not have "given in;" etc).
Chana- Firstly, I like your post. Second- I agree with you about G-d not owing us anything. However, I have a slightly different angle on it. I always watched the Loreal commercial's on TV and thought, "Cus you're worth it" was totally not a valid reason for me to buy the product. I deserve a lot of things- I deserve a vacation because i work hard, I deserve new clothes and shoes because i make money, i deserve some time to myself because i am tired. Yet, I Yet I have responsibilities that hinder me from doing a lot of the things i Deserve. Does god prohibit me from deserving things- no? But I can take deserving and go over the top with it and it can then be taken out of context and cause me to sin. So there are limits and boundaries set up, to HELP us so that we do not sin. we are allowed to desire and we are allowed to deserve, we are just not always allowed to act upon our desires. Does G-d want us to live our lives without pleasure no? But the Torah way of life was set up in a way that although we can not do certain things to derive pleasure, we can do others. However, do we have our own struggles in which we do not completely follow the Torah? Yes. I do not know a single person who keeps all 613 commandments. i do not even know anyone who keeps half of those.But we keep them as personal struggles between us and G-d. The difference is that the people on the panel came out publicized to everyone, their struggle. If I came out today on a public forum and said " I was not shomer negiah, I have eaten not kosher, I have been michalelet shabbas (these are all hearsay) I might be chastised and looked upon differently. I would not be condoning what I did, but I would be asking for an understanding that i am not perfect and we all have struggles and maybe yours is not as great as mine but this is a weak point in me and I need you to understand that. You do not need to understand the act, you do not need to understand why I did it, you just need to understand that it is a struggle and it is one I need to struggle with with G-d.
Now for a complete tangent- Mordechai, Agunos are given compassion not only because of their situation that they can not remarry and are agunos ,but also because their situation was brought upon them by people in their community - therefore, the community feels more of a responsibility to help more.(As a side note, every organization that tries to help, is riddled with corruption too)!!!!!
I agree with you about G-d not owing us anything.
Can someone please explain this to me? Why doesn't God owe us anything? Does God not owing us anything mean God has no responsibility towards us? God gives us life and then that's it? God gives us life and then can neglect our basic needs?
Yes, Chana may have her own struggles, but "shes a nice person" is not an argument, its merely a distraction. I wasn't evaluating her character, just her words, and so far I haven't heard a coherent argument in response to the points i made. As Mordechai mentioned, her logic rested on very poor analogies and comparisons, and judging by this post, she did not sound very compassionate and empathic.
Again, you can not judge a person until youve walked in their shoes, and if you understood the plight of the frum homosexual, you would understand how even the subtlest of accusations and lack of compassion can combine with a lifetime of exposure to homophobia to lead an individual to go completely off the derech (is that a preferable outcome?) or worse, contemplate suicide. Of course no one is saying anything about violating halacha, these individuals mentioned nothing about their sex lives and theres no reason to assume that they are violating halacha. Raising those loud alarm bells about how you can not sympathize with them in case they do violate halacha isnt helping anyone and undoes a great deal of the benefit that this event provided to closeted frum gay people.
In the meantime, if anyone has a coherent argument to my original comment posted at 9:03, i'd love to hear it.
Concerned, about your 9:03 comment, yes, man should not be alone, but at the same time there are sexual acts and unions that are forbidden, so should the former be used to negate the latter or should some solution be found that satisfies both? Also, do not ignore the suffering of unmarried heterosexuals who have no prospects.
JewishGadfly: re: 'fulfilment of psych needs as rights..deciding when one should or should not have given in' - I wasn't judging the person. Only God knows this. I was stating that the person should not shortchange him/herself by giving up or by accepting their thoughts at face value without question. Her is why. The odds of overcoming an extreme dificulty may be slim, but, the moment a person gives up, the odds become zero. Perhaps relative to this persons abilities God did not expect them to succeed; perhaps the best they ould do was not give up. Perhaps not giving up, in andof itself would be an incredible good deed. The point is, I was not judging the person nor whether they felt they should give in. I was stating that giving in should not be glorified as in those on stage, and that giving up is always wrong. The reason is stated above, no matter how bleak the odds seem (emphasis on the word seem, because we don't really know the odds, we just know the perception that our brains project), no matter how bleak the odds seem, the scond you give up, the odds of successs drop to zero. And perhaps at the end of the day, the test for the person was simply whether or not they would give up.
Anonymous 2:50 re: 'why does God not owe us anything...God gives us life and then can neglect our basic needs?' - God does not neglect anyones needs. It is simply that God knows your true eternal needs, whereas human beings look at the physical world as their needs. In reality all these things that we think of as our needs are silly because they are all, along with our physical bodies, going to end up as dust; so they are not the real needs since they are so temporary. This life that we percieve as life is only the shadows of the real reality, and we only see these shadows and percieve them as reality and thus we make calculations using our faulty and limited input and thus come up with faulty myopic conclusions - as anyone inputing data into a computer simulation knows "Garbage in, Garbage out" (Bruce Bueno De Mesquita). The best way to look at it is a nice statement I heard from someone "You are not a human being having a spiritual experience, You are a spiritual being having a human experience". The spiritual real you is eternal; the human you is just there until it goes back to dust (and will come back in tchiyat hamatim). Point is: God is not neglecting anyones needs; God simply knows your and all of our true eternal needs.
Sorry I don't buy it. Health is not a "silly" need. Neither are food, shelter, clothing, love and care and lack of neglect, freedom from immeasurable anguish and abuse. Saying needs are not being neglected because God attends to "true eternal" needs is a cop-out. You'd speak out against the humans who through their actions or lack of actions allow this to happen, but you do not fault God, in fact say God is attending to people's needs? This makes no sense. Thank you though for responding.
Concerned said: No one is God forbis stating that anyone commit suicide. They are wonderful people just like everyone else. All that is being said is that a certain activity is wrong. All that is being stated is the fact that God ays action x is wrong, nothing more or less than that was stated in Chanas' blog. No one is being unsympathetic, however sympathy is not a synonym for acceptance of an act as correct. I can be sympathetic to the plight of anyone, that doesn't mean that I must state that their actions are perfect. regarding your saying that it isn't helping anyone. 'Kol Yisrael Aruvim Ze Laze'. If I see someone doing something detrimental to ther life should I not speak up, for fear that it might be uncomfortable for them. So too if I see someone doing something detrimental to their soul It would be disgusting of me to neglect it. Of course it is more comfortable to not say anything, but what is comfortable and what is right doesn't always go together, in fact it rarely does. These people are not fragile, that is why they were so comfortable in public. One should not be comfortable with sin, and if they are then I hope that these comments do make them uncomfortable in the same way that I hope I am made uncomfortable when I do bad things lest I not be aware that I am doing bad. No one is sugesting that they, God forbid hurt themselves, nor that they leave torah or other mitzvot; in fact, in Gods eyes, as I have said before they may be 1,000 times better then me. But, their accepting and giving up, comfortable though it may be, is wrong. That is all that is being said here. All of you are coming at this from different angles trying to attack this simple truth from God. Different angles and ditractions aside, the goal is the same - to convince or to remain convinced that the crroked is straight and the straight is crooked. The problem for you is that the simple truth remains - God says so, take it up with God.(btw 'straight' is not any referance to homosexuality euphamisms, I just mean making the right wrong and the wrong right. Anyways, seeya.
Why take it up with God, when God seems to have so many people who apparently know just how to explain everything for Him?
Anonymous: in fact, from a perspective of the reality of the inevitability of death, they are actually all silly needs; and I'll prove it by posing a simple question. What is the difference today between socrates and a baby born the same day as Socrates but who died at 1 years old and was sick all his life? the answer - nothing. From the perspective of the reality of where all things end up , it is actually all silly. The only thing that gives it all meaning, is the fact that God said do x don't do y. It is this that is eternal. and that is why the nazis were evil, and that is why we should take care of our health. that is why these things are not silly. For were it not for God and our eternal soul, then these things would be silly, for why take care of health when in reality it is the samne end as one who does not take care or why is murder wrong if the person will die anyways. But the same thing that makes it not silly - God - is the same thing that makes accepting or giving up not allowed. Therfore, it is actually all of your positions that says that their suffering is irelevant, for if you disregard God then all of their suffering is irrelevant as it will mean nothing in 100 years. On the other hand, if you wish to give meaning to their struggle then the only way to do this, given the reality of death, is to say it will mean something in eternity with God. Once you say this then you cannot so cavealearly disregarg or throw away Gods word as Gods and the souls eternity is ultimately what gives meaning, sincde without it there is only death and ultimate meaninglessness.
Anon 2:50- G-d, does not owe us a thing. There is a difference between responsibility and owing. I am responsible for my children, i need to make sure they have food and clothes and are healthy etc. Do I only give them those things because i owe it to them? no, I brought them into this worlAd so i need to make sure they are taken care of. But i do not owe them a thing. Do i owe them goodies and prizes and treats? No, I give them the things they need (and sometimes want0 because i love them and love seeing them happy etc. but when I do not give it to them, or give them things they do not want (ie. medicine, shots etc) do i love them less? Do I now "owe" them (something more and better) because i am putting them through something painful? No, everything I do/ don't do is out of love even if they do not see it that way.
anon-3:21 I was not writing about agunot in connection with G-d. I prefaced with "now for a complete tangent" and only brought it up in response to Mordechai who was comparing the plight/situation of agunot to frum gay's. Please do not use my words and twist them. Also please use the name i refer to, there is a reason I did not write my full name.
JewishGadfly:LOL Funny, but Aren't you aware that I know everything :) Your sarcasm is nice, of course, why should God adress people who have no desire to listen for fear that it'll disturb the comfortable cocoon of foolishness. Oh snap. see that sarcasm back atcha. lol, this is fun but I think I'll turn in. Good night all. And God bless you :)
What is the difference between two Jews born the same day 100 years ago, one has parents who nurture him and educate him and do not allow others to hurt him and take care of his health and teach him how to be a good person to himself to others and he grows to be a self-sufficient man modest who quietly helps and guides others and continues to learn and teach and is respected and makes a family and is content and when he has troubles sometimes extreme the rest of his life is not already in shambles and he has support and is able to continue and the other man has everything the opposite, what is the difference is the first man is able to add to the world and the second isn't and suffers all his years and maybe even takes because of all his needs. You say none of this matters you are negating everyone's existence in this life whether that means accomplishments or suffering and that is offensive. Jews are supposed to be concerned with this life not olam haba.
Thank you for clarifying that by not owing you did not mean is not responsible for. Do you think God has responsibilities like you describe you have for your children? What do you think when God doesn't seem to be carrying out those responsibilities?
Concerned said: Last thing before I go to sleep, concerning your 9:03 post. I also agree with you that celibacy is not the correct path. These people have a soulmate just like everyone else. Rather they must work on themselves and marry the right person like everyone else, and buld a family with that person. They don't get to be celibate and they don't get to be with men. If I don't like kosher food, I don't starve myself and I don't eat nonkosher food, I eat kosher food and I will grow more acustomed to it. You may say well if you don't eat then your going to die, well if you don't procreate then all your future generations will die. Think of all the statisyically improbable things that had to happen for you to exist, now are you going to break the chain because it's doesn't feel as good? So at first they won't be so enthralled by the other, so what? Ther are many worse fates in this world than a wife, kids, and a stable life. Though Al Bundy might disagree. Of course you're all like 5-10 yrs younger then I so you probably don't know who the hell Al Bundy is anyways.
I eat kosher food and I will grow more acustomed to it.
The kosher food will not be hurt that you do not truly desire it.
Anonymous: I am concerned with and love this life, it is a precious gift from God. I was simply making a philosophical point, which is that God and our soul of God gives ultimate meaning to everyone and to this life. Thus since it is God that gives meaning therefore we all have meaning and therefore we must all follow Gods rules. Life is infinitely meaningful, because it is from God. I was saying that if they wish to reject God then they are rejecting all meaning in and for their lives. We do not disagree at all, it is simply that to fully flesh out and my point would take tens of pages, not a comment box. So sorry if it's not clear. But let me state clearly, I disagree with nothing you've said. But philosophical ideas can not be so easily expressed.and I don't have the patience to rack my brain and to type all that much.
ser, your point about agunot and people was interesting
it connected for me with the other issues
i did not attend to twist or mis-use your words
if i did, please forgive me, i will try not to do it again
i am sorry about the name issue as well
chana, please delete the other comment and repost it without the name in it, without the comma and the two words after it
Anonymous: 1. your soulmate will ultimately be far more hurt without you. 2. the human being can grow accustomed to anything and after a while the persons desires will change. Furthermore, you don't know what the other person is like. Perhaps she is going through the same thing and will understand, after all they are soulmates. In any case she will be far better off then without children or with marrying the wrong person and thus living a life of hell. So, yes that is what the person should do.
1:45/5:23, thanks for your responses. I wasn't referring to rejecting God or halacha at all but rather about owing God being grateful to God and God's responsibilities.
Again, I reiterate ... the gays in the forum are not talking about whether they are right or wrong. They are just saying they are in pain.
Chana is INSISTING, as if to get it on the record in order to protect her shidduch potential, or keep her spot in Olam Habah, that these gays that can't survive their trial of celibacy and same ssx attraction, are not derserving of validation.
Frankly, given the life I have led as a closeted gay frum Jew, I really do not care if Chana believes I am a sinner. But in a forum that was ostensibly about support and understanding, she is demonstrating quite the opposite.
This was a bait and switch. Her initial attitude in the posting of the transcript felt open, non judgmental, and supportive. Who got to you Chana? Threats? What set you off on your hurtful judgmental holier than thou tirade? We'd all like to know!
"that these gays that can't survive their trial of celibacy and same ssx attraction,"
sorry, you are not trusted to room-up with another man, and remain celibate, just as i'm not trusted to room-up with a girl a remain celibate. as a gay you have the obligation to remain far far away from men.
chana didn't do any bait or switch. same-sex attracted individuals, like many other groups are very defensive, and treated everyone as for or against, and anyone that does agree with them %100 is automatically against.
Anonymous, why do you act like I am insisting on your "blessing" of my union? I really don't need it! I don't care if you are "for or against" anything. I just want to be understood.
You are so hung up on the fact that I am being anti-halachic but you really don't care about the consequences of such derision.
Before I came out to myself and my family, I was depressed and unproductive. I was dating women (shomer negia of course -thank G-d) and breaking hearts all the time with the inexplicable break up speech. I was "buying dinner for strangers" (thats what I called blind dating) for years until I could not stand myself and the pain I was causing others.
I was being set up on dates by everybody, being so eligible on the UWS. But I was becoming more and more suicidal about the loneliness and fear of alienation. Yet, I continued my frum life (and still do) but ultimately one has to be true to who they are.
We are given one life and spending mine lying about myself and play acting with my friends as they get married and disappear one by one until everybody is happy but me, was unbearable.
This was not a test by Hashem, rather this was an untenable situation where ANY choice made would have been anti-halachic. Should I have married somebody and possibly ruined her life? Isn't lying wrong? Or should I have found love and fulfillment as a gay man? That was my dilemma.
No nissayon in the torah EVER put our Avot in a position like this. Even Avraham, when asked to sacrifice Isaac (kill vs disobey G-d) never actually had to commit the act of murder. G-d had enough empathy to not force him to do it. I don't remember Hashem ever stepping in while I was proposing to my girlfriend and suddenly giving me the proper sense of passion and attraction. There was no "ram in the bushes". There was just emptiness and loneliness. I broke her heart too.
I hope you can see what we are dealing with here, and the effect attitudes like yours have on the untold numbers of people that are in your life who may struggle without your knowledge.
anon 5:10- yes, G-d has responsibilities, but it is not for us to judge what they are. Just like we don't always like the decisions/things our parents always do, even though they are out of love (but we don't see kit at the time). G-d is definitely fulfilling his responsibilities, even if in your eyes,He is not, because you feel you are suffering.
so don't date girls, don't break their hearts, admit you cant have a union with females, that does not allow you to have any sort of union with males. however sad that might make you.
Joel, it's clear that Chana meant to say "what if someone has an impossibly powerful desire to eat treif and eats treif?" This can be seen from the following line "Do we form a support group for those who eat treif".
yes, but that's not what the panelists said. setting up a strawman etc.
ya, ya, ya, your life is worse than the holocaust survivor that saw his entire family killed in front of his eyes.
. And if you wish to tell me such a point of view is legitimate, I will fight you with everything that I have. Because Jordan would take a bullet in his head for his Judaism and for God, and after knowing such a person, I cannot accept that we ought to be satisfied with anything less.
Interesting closing line in general, but I suggest you consult the following gemara before comparing a lifetime of torture with taking a bullet in the head:
תלמוד בבלי מסכת כתובות דף לג עמוד ב
דאמר רב: אילמלי נגדוה לחנניה מישאל ועזריה, פלחו לצלמא!
(Free translation-Rav said- Had Chanania, Mishael and Azaryah been whipped (me-rather than thrown into the furnace) they would've worshipped the idol.)
joel you are miising chans point-
if ones life is fuly given over to god in that way then nothing excuses or legitimizes
so if ones arms would to be chopped off, thereby subjecting them to constant lack of motor ability, may they bow to the idol?
don't compare the lack of sexual outlet, to constant whipping that will only end when the idol is served.
Amazingly well said.
joel you are miising chans point-
if ones life is fuly given over to god in that way then nothing excuses or legitimizes
December 25, 2009 9:54 AM
so if ones arms would to be chopped off, thereby subjecting them to constant lack of motor ability, may they bow to the idol?
don't compare the lack of sexual outlet, to constant whipping that will only end when the idol is served.
We seem to be going in circles - I am not saying anything excuses or legitimizes - I said that
1. Feeling but not acting is what HKB"H expects of us across the board
2.constant torture is recognized by Rav as a nisayon that may be more motivating than the threat of execution. (BTW you may want to look at how poskim compare physical and mental pain)
You may disagree with me or with Rav, but I don't think I am misunderstanding.
In her 12:04AM post, the Blogger makes it even clearer how the main article is really discussing two separate issues: the internal struggles of each person, and public policy. As an Orthodox Jew I have no problem with the last few paragraphs of the main post; we are faced with unequivocal prohibitions and cannot publicly condone their violation within an Orthodox Jewish framework. If, as the blogger is insisting in her latest update, that her problem is with the public policy issue, then the last few paragraphs , plus a change in the very title of the article, would have sufficed for an elegant, thoughtful original post.
However, the first half of the post is (extremely?) problematic, besides for it being superfluous. As others have pointed out, the analogies, conveniently presented in the voice of a friend, to forbidden foods and stealing, fail both in degree and kind. As Joel Rich pointed out, if forbiden foods were a struggle akin to the issue under discussion, and for as many people, we would certainly have support groups for it in shuls for those struggling, if perhaps not for those who have chosen to no longer struggle.
Similarly, the anecdotes about 60-year-old virgins are irrelevant; furthermore, the Blogger really can't say that she knows for certain what those people have ben dealing with and how they have been dealing with it. 20 years just as 60 years could be too soon or way too late. Similarly, ascribing the emergence of this issue in our time to the "western world" and the influence of the American advertising industry is a bit too Templars to appear in an otherwise dignified article.
As it attempts to speak to the hearts of the individuals undergoing this ordeal, the first part of the main post falls flat in its compassion (notwithstanding professions of love that are to come) and in its philosophy. Indeed, the last paragraph, which attempts to express a love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin idea of compassion, is tangled in self-contradiction. ("only way to survive, I cannot judge you // I cannot support ... point of view is legitimate I will fight you"). As to philosophy, the conception of God having no obligations towards his creations is not borne out by theistic logic alone nor by all streams of Jewish thought. Rather, as the Blogger herself has expressed in the past and now -- "I know the pain and the anger and the hatred", there is a tension and a struggle between living for the Torah and living for God, and between living for oneself and living for God. Someone in the comments scoffed that the panelists could have a struggle anywhere near as wrenching as that of those who went through the
Holocaust. Perhaps that is, finally, an apt analogy. And those who went through the Holocaust went in one of two directions, in a choice that the greatest authorities trembled to pass judgement on. Sadly, this post comes to too facile a conclusion for what is perhaps one of the most difficult issues of our time.
To Anon 3:33, I agree that one shouldn’t negate the other, a solution should be found, and it’s the responsibility of the Rebbeim to grapple with this issue and try to come up with one. Awareness was the first step towards that, which is what Tuesday nights panel accomplished.
However, it is incorrect to say that unmarried heterosexuals have "no prospect", no matter who they are and no matter how hard it is to find someone, they can at least live with the hope of one day not only finding someone, but having their entire family and community celebrate with them the joy of that sexual fulfillment.
Homosexuals are being told to accept the fact that they should stay celibate, for these individuals there is no hope of ever having a sexual outlet within the confines of the frum community, and if they decide that its too difficult a challenge, they face judgment and criticism by others as simply having decided to “give up”, and end up losing their communities, which makes their nisayon much more difficult.
Anon 1:45, Yes, if you see your friend committing an aveira you should tell him/her to stop. However, in an issue involving pikuach nefesh, if a friend said that for some reason they need to eat a cheeseburger or else they would feel like there was no hope for them and theyd either leave frumkeit altogether or commit suicide, what would you tell them? Would you add a layer of guilt to their distress by telling them that they are doing something that is disgusting in the torah?
My response would be “If this is something you need to do, do it but then come to shul afterwards and maybe discuss it with the Rabbi” Things that involve life and death need to be treated differently, and this issue does.
Yes, the speakers did not seem fragile, however, if you heard their speeches they all had periods when they were extremely fragile. All mentioned experiencing depression and one mentioned seriously contemplating suicide, and he even said that his friends not treating him the way Chana suggests treating frum people who live a gay lifestyle is “the reason hes alive today”.
People seem to be fixated on this idea that the speakers are publicly admitting to committing a sin. Not a single one mentioned committing mishkav zachar. Whatever happened to being “dan lekav zchus”? We need to assume the best of our fellow Jews, not the worst.
In regards to your 5:12 comment. Unfortunately, I know so many frum gay men who married women, their spouses don’t know about their attractions to men, and not a single one has remained faithful to that woman. If you know a woman who is willing to take that risk I know plenty of guys who would be interested in marrying her, can you let me know if you do?
Otherwise I don’t think it is fair to seal a woman to that sort of fate. Not to mention that the clandestine sexual encounters of the husband sometimes end up giving the wife STD’s. Ive heard horror stories of women who did not know that their husbands were having affairs until they gave birth, they found out through the mandatory testing of every newborn that their infant was HIV positive, as were they and their husband. You could say that maybe that’s the husbands nisayon, to not have affairs, but it seems unfair to give him a nisayon that comes at another persons expense.
Let me just add that I think its wonderful that this dialogue is able to happen here. The entire purpose of Tuesday night was to get people talking and thinking about the issue, so in that sense this dialogue is indicative of enormous progress in the frum world. Its a shame that these questions weren't asked of the speakers on Tuesday night.
BREAKING NEWS: President Richard Joel and Menahel Rabbi Yona Reiss Issue Statement Addressing Religious Proscription of Homosexual Activity
in an issue involving pikuach nefesh, if a friend said that for some reason they need to eat a cheeseburger or else they would feel like there was no hope for them and theyd either leave frumkeit altogether or commit suicide, what would you tell them?
im sure you know the halacha is u may eat a cheeseburger in the case of pikuach nefesh, however arairos is yeharog v'al yavor. so you ask what about suicide, dont you know the story in the gemara of the 400 girls, and 400 boy that jumped in to the water, rather than be sex slaves in rome?
did it ever cross your mind you aren't %100 gay? maybe for every 99 men you are attracted to, there is one woman?
by becoming a frum gay, you take away your only chance of a legitimate partner, this forum encouraging people to recognize themselves is actually counter productive.
Chana is honest and on target. She intuits that the main agenda of JQY is gay activism.
As Mordechai knows, democrat that he is, JQY is his "baby" and raison d'Etre. What happens in and after those sessions isn't necessarily kosher.
The argument used is pikuach nefesh. Accept gays or when they kill themselves, society is complicit in murder.
Mordechai is a drama queen.
1.I have no interest in silencing you, I think your blog is great...asking for an apology for misleading analogies, faulty logic and lack of compassion, is not silencing. How dare you compare my engagement in debate with you to the way people treated me as a child, I am literally in tears!
I was kicked out of schools, told not to speak my mouth lest i get kicked out of the house, pressured to hid what I was feeling!, Made to feel like i was Evil!, encouraged to lie to unsuspecting women!, had to break my mothers heart! had family members stop speaking to me!, And this was all when i was a CHILD!, when I was not sexually active at all!, but I was still gay.
THE FACT THAT YOU COULD EQUATE ME CRITIQUING YOUR ANALOGIES AND LOGIC, WITH THE WAY I WAS TREATED AS A CHILD, SHOWS YOUR RADICAL LACK OF EMPATHY AND UNDERSTANDING ON THIS ISSUE.
you say "I will not apologize for saying that we exist to serve God and that God created this world to bestow goodness upon us (see Ramchal.) I will absolutely not apologize for believing that we should live for God even as we would die for God, no matter how difficult that might be."
This is not what I asked you to apologize for! How intellectually dishonest of you. We all believe that God created the world and is there to bestow goodness and all that, What in the world does that have to do with anything? I think the analogies to kleptomania and shabbos violators are baseless, and i explained clearly why. Besides faulty, these analogies are hurtful and misleading, and this is what I requested you apologize for. I never asked to silence you, I requested the opposite actually.
2. Finally, to your last point about the Agunah support groups, (which is the best analogy, and the ones we should continue to use). You simply know nothing about Agunah support groups. The support groups that exist (and i've worked with many) do not require you to be celibate, they dont ask or assume anything like that. The assumption that Agunah support groups only give support to those agunahs who lead a completely celibate life is ridiculous. JQYouth and GLYDSA and other gay support groups don't support or condemn any persons private consensual behavior. We don't judge people unless we could walk in their shoes. Its about people, their struggles, and their suffering.
Much like in the panel, we did not endorse or discuss what we do in the bedroom. That is not what this is about, and that is not what support groups are about. Even the Gay Center in NY, does not have a "sodomy support group".
Let us keep this Agunah analogy, and use it to endorse these similar and wonderful support groups for gay frum jews. I sincerely believe that this analogy will help many Orthodox people better navigate through this difficult issue.
Lastly, I apologize if you were offended by my strong language. It is an emotional issue for me, because this is my life. (you see, apologies are not silencing, they are Menshlich)
With respect to President Joel:
Richard Joel's job is solely to raise money for the Yeshiva. He had to put out a statement like this, lest donations would suffer. The truth is, he knew about the event in it's infant stages, he green lighted every step along the way, and his representatives at the event itself, were very pleased. This is merely a strategic PR move. Actions speak louder than words, and this event took place, was a huge success, and there will be more to come. (Lesbian Panel, next semester, and Yeshivish panel this summer, all still at YU!)
Alex - The answer to you're question is that the frum community has an obligation to help those who remain part of the community. If you have decided to openly declare that some of these laws don't apply to you, than you are no longer part of that community. It is the same as in any society with laws. If someone is struggling with a law, they can go to rehab, if they decide they are above the law and can decide for themselves what's right and wrong, they go to prison and are separated from the rest of society. If you are part of the frum world, than you deserve our empathies, and if you decided that in this relm you can openly violate these laws, than you have no right to demand respect from our system of laws; a Conservative or Reform Jew has no right to demand understanding and acceptance from within an Orthodox setting or framework(even if they happen to keep some of the mitzvot.) That does not mean we cannot respect them as human beings, or that we cannot treat them with dignity, but on a communal level, Conservative Jews, Reform Jews, and yes even openly active homosexual Jews, are not an "us", but a self declared "them." We all struggle, and one who stays within "our" laws, and struggles to follow all of them, and needs help fulfilling some, because yes, sometimes they are excruciatingly painful, is more than welcome to do so. Such people should be welcomed with open arms. But unless one declares openly that they will strive to follow ALL of the laws(especially arayot wich is yeharayg ve’al yaavor), even if it’s a struggle, and even if they may have slipped up in the past, than on a communal level – you cannot demand our understanding or our empathies.
And let me reitrerait to those frum Jews who are "closeted." If you wish to struggle to follow the Torah, we will love you and help you and cry with you, and do everything in our power to help you. I would hope that there is no stigma towards those who have homosexual fealings... but if you choose to openly be gay, and accept that this is an ok thing to do, and that it is not a challange that can be overcome and one must strive to somehow oevercome, than there are many secular help groups that you can turn to, but the orthodox community is not one of them.
Ugh. Some of the anonymous people here have written things that are just repugnant. Grow up a little.
I'm straight, but can't understand the lack of both reason and empathy towards homosexual experience here. Nor can I understand, as Alex pointed out, how an event about understanding was turned into one about judgment. It's funny, I thought the phrase was "al tadin et chavercha ad sh'tagia limkomo," not, "judge people based on theoretical principles with no thought at all given to how you would feel or act in their shoes." Joe, I didn't hear anyone demand understanding, though I heard them request it; it's your religion that demands empathy from you.
Anon 12:32, there is no comparison between people who are about to be forcibly raped and commit suicide to prevent it, and people who are fighting their own internal feelings of attraction, of course one would be more likely to kill themselves when forced to do something against their will, homosexuality is not against someones will, telling someone to abstain from any sexual contact for the rest of their lives is against their will, and may be part of the high rate of suicide for gay teens.
As for ye'hareg ve'al ya'avor, isnt this an issue of s'feik s'feika? The first question is what the posuk refers to when it says "mishkevei isha" which can be read different ways and that commentators feel the need to explain. The second sofek is whether homosexuality falls under the category of "arayot" which is also up to interpretation, so given those two questions is it still yehareg veal yaavor?
Aside from that, are you really recommending that the frum gay teenagers should commit suicide out there if they feel that they may act out sexually with a member of the same sex?
Joe, that sounds like a catch-22 if I've ever heard one, you say you are willing to cry with a person and empathize with them, but that they should not announce to anyone that they are gay? If that's the case then how to you expect to provide the support that you say you are so willing to provide? For people to receive that level of support so that they could try to live a halachik life and "overcome their struggle" (i'm not sure what that even means), they need to be able to publicly announce that they are gay.
Just a thought...
Does anybody realize that the Mikvah usage statistics indicate that only about 52% of frum women in NYC use the mikvah regularly. that means that 48% of menstruating frum women and men are not following a D'orayta commandment. I suppose we need to find out who they are and make them feel the shame for this violation. They really should not be welcomed into the general community...
Or... do we just assume that we cant know what is going on in peoples bedrooms. If we know that somebody is not going to the mikvah (ie if we track their cycles in shul) should they be excommunicated?
just a thought!
I am extremely concerned with the statements of self-proclaimed gay men that have such a skewed perspective of orthodoxy. For example,
"It is so easy for you to sit around in your traditional world with your traditional dreams while judging the righteousness of others. But as a gay man, the image of a wise old man with 12 children sitting over a Humash 800 years ago pronouncing edicts which affect my life and my ability to live, just seems ludicrous."
No one is advocating seeking out transgressors.
But if an organization were to form with supports groups and all, proclaiming their pride at not going to the mikvah then yes you can expect a reaction.
You genuinely believe the popper orthodox respond toward agunos who rachamana litzlan were denied gets but nevertheless got married against halacha should be sympathy? Sympathy for what? The fact that their previous husband is a rasha and made their life hell? Or for the fact that they HAD to remarry? I don't understand.
It is you who is using skewed analogies. Please do not compare a self proclaimed Gay group, to an aguna group. It is absolutely disgusting. There is a huge and fundamental difference between an aguna support group and a Gay support group. An aguna, by definition is one who is chained to halacha [and her previous husband] - that's what the word means. The reason that there is no entrance exam to see if they keep halacha or not is because by definition keeping halacha is important to them. If they remarried they are no longer chained down. They are no longer agunot, they are sinners and would not join such a group.
Can you imagine for a second if someone wanted to start a pornography panel or group in YU. I imagine it would not have a showing of 500 people. Because it's repugnant, and un-G-dly. If there were a shmirat einayim panel, than there such a group would be strongly encouraged.
I'm very sorry, for the suffering you have to go through. Really I am. But don't pretend that you are looking for legitimization/validation, or whatever you want to call it. You are looking for justification - it's in the name, a gay panel.
If you want to make fair analogies, than please carry it the whole way through, and do not try and vilify G-d and Torah fearing public.
If you want to be honest with the principle you claim to be fighting for, than it should be called an aguana group - an aguna group for men. In fact I think that would be a terrific idea. The reason that we are so torn by the potential fact that the panelists were violating sins, is because the panel was named after a sin. If you want to start an aguna group for men, for those who are struggling with homosexual feeling, but committed to Torah(that doesn't mean that they are perfect, that means they are committed to the ideal of reaching the goal of fully following the halacha,) than by all means start the group. Make the panel. Talk to the orthodox world, who I hope would be willing to start a group to support such people, just as we support women aggunot.
We support people, not people's sin. We have no obligation to cradle you, and make you feel justified with unjustified actions. No one can judge another person and how they deal with their tests, but don't pretend that that makes us obligated to condone it. I can try and respect such people, and try to understand them(I have friends who are gay), but on a communal level, please don't preach you're self righteousness. You made yourselves a they by calling it a gay group.
When you're ready to start a men’s aguna group, please give us a call so we can come out and support those gay's who don't desecrate our Torah, and who are in the closet and suffering and in desperate need of our help and support.
please give us a call so we can come out and support those gay's who don't desecrate our Torah, and who are in the closet and suffering and in desperate need of our help and support.
So are you saying that if they suffer quietly in the closet (and don't act on it) they deserve our support but if they suffer out of the closet (and don't act on it) they don't?
Nope. I said if they are committed to Torah, and to striving towards keeping the Torah, than they should be publicly supported, as people who have homosexual inclinations, but strive to overcome them. They are certainly much greater than I if they can live up to this test.
I meant that they are currently in the closet but should not have to be. They should be supported as male agunot, who are true tzadikim.
You guys are making this more complicated then it is. Chana was not talking about sympathy or no sympathy, degree or no degree... The ultimate point of her blog was a simple one - that is, if God says something is wrong then it's wrong, and therefore, it would be improper of us to declare it right, no matter how we feel, because that would mean thaat we are worshiping ourselves and not God. The simple point she made was that no amount of feeling can turn a wrong act into a right one. Now, as to how you will be judged, that is between you and God, and perhaps in Gods' eyes your far better then I am. That is not the point, the point kosher remains kosher nonkosher is nonkosher, kosher sexual acts remains kosher nonkosher remains nonkosher. The Torah does not change depending on your feelings - Gods' judgement of you may change depending on your feelings and burdens and obstacles, but the torah and the mitzvot do not. That is the only point of the blog. Let me also tell you, that you should never contemplate suicide, suicide is stupid, To hell with other people and what they think; you are not here to please other people, however, you are here to please God and thus ultimately to please yourself when you will understand everything after this life. God didn't put us here for the purpose of satisfying every desire, that's what animals do. We may satisfy desires in a manner designated by the torah- and this is actully the happier way in the long run anyways. But you are here to do gods' will and fulfill your purpose. Question: Did God put you on this earth to havsex with a man? is this your purpose? Then why are you revolving your whole life and brain and thoughts on the basis of who you like sexually? Is this all life is about? You're here to do what God says, not to do whatever you feel like. The only point of Chanas blog was to say that your desires, no matter how strong, do not change the Torah. It certainlt may change judgemnet, but doesn't change the mitzvah. That is a simple truth and I don't see how it can be argued with. That is why I believe your minds are coming up with all sorts of distractions which Chana obviously doesn't believe anything bad about you. In ordder to distract you from having to face the main and only point - Your feelings don't change wrong to right. Once you accept this truth then you must decide if you will chose your feelings or if you will choose Gods commandment. I the end if you choose the former then you are choosing pleausure and lack of pain over God, that is what it boils down to. Now, that is actually what we all do when we sin, but don't call it a mitzvah, it is in fact the same dynamic as every sin - choosing pleausre over God. If you're going to sin then sin, but just don't fool yourself into thinking it's not a sin. Because once you do this then there is no hope of teshuvah. So at least be honest enough with yourself that it's a sin so that one day you may return to God. And never say anything stupid like suicide, your a wonderful holy human being with a soul created in Gods'spiritual image, you have no right to snuff out the life of such a beautiful and holy being no matter what feelings or struggle or sins occur. Btw those feelings arise from sin, if you do the hard things and struggle and overcome sin - that is when you feel true happiness and strength and passion for life. Shabat Shalom.
Chana was not talking about sympathy or no sympathy, degree or no degree... The ultimate point of her blog was a simple one - that is, if God says something is wrong then it's wrong, and therefore, it would be improper of us to declare it right, no matter how we feel, because that would mean thaat we are worshiping ourselves and not God.
And again, reading the transcript, I didn't get the sense that the point was that what God said is wrong is right, only that it is painful to feel the desire to do what God has told us is wrong.
It would be nice if it were so simple as Anonymous 1:45 says "kosher is kosher and nonkosher is nonkosher" but the fact is that in deciding on kashrut, there are many gradations and much more gray and not nearly as much (as some would like it to be)of black and white (glatt, cholov yisrael, the legendary chicken brought to the town Rabbi, etc. etc.)
I specifically distinguished between the single isur d'oraysah of mishcav zachor which is anal intercourse and all the other stuff about men having "homosexual activity" with men (and women "sporting with each other") is of human creation (and that process, like it or not, is still going on).
I have yet to see any halachic source that prohibits two men holding hands with each other. I doubt the early Anonymous can do so though he submits that doing so is obviously asur.
I say, put up or shut up, no offense intended.
Shabbat Shalom and
P.S. no time to get my comment through google - don't know why my password isn't working - that's why I'm labeled on top as anonymous
Tuvia's comment of "Shabbos 13a, Rambam Issurei Bia 21:1, Even Haezer 20:1." is the source you were looking for.
Note that Mordechai seems to question whether if mishkav zachor would be categorized as arayos covered by the issur kurva. I don't know why he'd make this distinction.
Thank you for this post. I'm always glad to see more cooroborating evidence that to be Orthodox is to be a bigot or a fool or both.
"Tuvia's comment of "Shabbos 13a, Rambam Issurei Bia 21:1, Even Haezer 20:1." is the source you were looking for." - The Shipper
This is a fallacy of accident/generalization. The Rambam says this is referring to one of the עריות, and uses feminine terminology like " עימה".
Proving that homosexuality is one of the עריות is not easy...it's not included in the ones in Vayikra.
Shabbas 13a has nothing to do with homosexuality.
I couldn't cite your Even HaEzer source but I'm fairly certain it's similar to Rambam.
>We owe God everything. If not for Him, we would not exist. We would not live, breathe, feel or think.
How do you know that?
I hesitate to comment, but I hope that approaching it in this manner may help anyone on either side of this issue look at it from a new point of view.
I will say that the post begins speaking about how, "Several of the panelists on the "Being Gay in the Orthodox World" panel articulated a belief which I believe is extremely flawed." In carefully rereading, I find one reference to such a statement. In context, I also think that word is appropriate; the women he was dating did, in fact, deserve--ideally, at least--better treatment from him. And yes, he does deserve love--ideally. It is a basic human need, and if we speak of deserve in that sense, it seems simple enough—but in panels, sadly, we assume words are meant one way when perhaps they were another.
Chana, I have read a great deal of your blog today. I greatly enjoy it, your style and clarity of writing. But it appears, in reading this, that your emotions may have influenced how clear you were and how well you expressed yourself. I feel that Yosef in many ways has made the best commentary, though unnecessarily harsh in places, and I would encourage people to read that comment with an open mind and attempting to separate emotion--as much as possible--from intellect while doing so.
Mordechai's comments are emotional, I don't understand how anyone could not understand that--and Chana, while I believe I know exactly what you mean, the way it was expressed was, as said, not one of the best ways you have expressed yourself in other posts. As a straight woman, I can only look at this from a distanced perspective. I also believe that because this post can be read in ways that I doubt you intended that Mordechai does deserve an apology--especially for your very emotional response comments to him.
Ah, but it's that word, again--deserve. On what basis? I suppose I think, or guess--all right, I assume, that horrid word--that in another case, if you were reading it, you might write something similar to what I am writing now. Because you are a loving and compassionate human, yet by the very fact that you are human (and thus capable, as are we all, of what I so often think of as the non-sin, that which causes pain as much as any deliberate sin with none of it intended, miscommunication) that this post can be read as the writing of a different sort of person.
All I see when I read it is a woman who is conflicted between her mind and her heart and her soul and trying to do what she believes God demands, commands. And while reaching a point where she has reconciled those within herself to the degree she must for her own peace, she has expressed that, in parts of the post (and not the entirety) poorly due to her own humanity and pain.
(Chana, despite my critique of the post when it comes to expression, I empathize with you and the position you find yourself in, and I know that the conclusion you have come to was, likely, not an easy one to reach. While I am not Jewish, I study Judaism for a variety of reasons, and my own religion is very traditional in many areas, this being one--it is a subject I have spent many an hour praying about and meditating over, and yet I find that I cannot reconcile the heart God gave me to feel for these people who are in pain with the words he spoke about how they must live. Is this my failing? Of course. I do not know what conclusion precisely I will reach, but I know I cannot approach religion as if it's a cafeteria and its teachings foods, only putting on my tray the parts I like. To others I know the answer seems clear, yet I would rather spend years making sure I came to a conclusion I could live with--one that would allow me to sleep in peace at night, knowing I could avoid anxiety over acting wrongly towards any over the issue and have followed my God's teachings and commandments both.)
Thank you for the beautifully expressed comment.
After reading Chana's two most recent posts, and also listening to the speakers give their speeches (via a link from one of the comments) - it's hard not to be pulled in every direction.
It also seems that in almost every comment, there is something worthy, many times combined with things that seem less worthy.
Even the comment by Daniel, which I found offensive, stating that "being orthodox was being bigotted or foolish or both" - was slightly worthy in the sense that some statements made by commenters did seem so (as did Daniel's of course)!
I personally felt interested and found it insightful to hear the young men speak of their feelings and experiences - it helped remind me on a specific and general level, to be less judgemental and more compassionate.
It's plain to see the pain and struggle of the panelists. But the only purpose or benefit I personally could see to the meeting, was to bring the issue out into the open where the community as a whole could see that it exists very concretely, rather than pretending the issue is hardly there.
But I am conflicted as many of the commenters are on how and when one should be supportive.
Thank you Chana, for the opportunity to help widen my understanding (or trying to understand) of humanity.
Perhaps I can start round 2 by bringing this back to a halachic issue. I haven't seen a response to exactly what the halachic problem is for someone to struggle and not act on their homosexual wiring. I have seen what I understand to be a call for them to struggle silently but not seen a halachic basis for this-I assume that it would be a meta issue that discussing such issues in public is problematic.
Let's go to the next step and assume someone is acting on it. What are the halachic parameters for how that individual should be treated on a one to one basis and within the community. You can trace halachic history concerningshmirat shabbat - at one point if you were a public shabbat violator, you were beyond the pale, some later poskim altered that because in their day it was not a sign of total rejection of the faith. Is this a sociological observation and if so how does homosexuality today play out? Can one say I am orthodox but i can't overcome this particular desire and not be beyond the pale, how does it differ from shabbat etc.? These imho are the questions we should be asking. To be sensitive to others' pain (in a situation which, according to current thinking, is beyond their control), even if we can't alleviate it, is basic judaism 101 (see the famous R'YBS story concerning the young female convert who brought a young man back to his jewish roots and then just before they were to be married they found that he was a kohain-all the Rabbi can do is sit and cry with them-but if he doesn't cry imho, he has failed R' Chaim's test for the main function of a Rabbi)
I just wanted to reiterate, how thankful I am that Chana created a space online for people to have this discussion. Like i said in my speech...Its the silence and silencing that is the enemy. What we are doing now is the most important, and most jewish thing that can ever be done. We are debating, discussing, sharing ideas and opinions and its great! Of course, it gets emotional at times. For me, you guys are talking about the value in my own life...so yeah, it's very personal. but the alternative is not having a dialogue, and that is just not acceptable. The very fact that this event opened these kinds of dialogues on so many blogs, sites, shabbos tables and communities, speaks to the huuuuuuuge success of the YU event last week.
2nd of all, Thank you Joe, for exploring the analogy of Agunah. Like i said, I think its the most helpful analogy to an orthodox communal response to this issue. I think analyzing this analogy can yeild great results, and from Joe's response, i think it already has.
1. you are correct in saying that the definition of those who categorise themselves as Agunot, are already bound by the hallachic restraint. But the same fact is true for those who still relate to themselves as orthodox gay people. We are bound by the hallacha, for that is what orthodox means. The same way that an Agunah support group, implies a bounding by hallacha, A gay support group implies that same bondage. If there was not this hallachic issue, and the communal complications that arise from it, no one would need to go to these support groups.
Furthermore, just like, in these agunah support groups, there are those who may or may not be sexually active (even though any sexual activitiy is prohibited for an agunah), they are still accepted into these support groups, and shown compassion. for we live by the idiom of not judging someone else unless you live in their shoes. And an agunah, is still an agunah regardless of her private choices in the bedroom, which is none of anybodies business. The same is said for gay orthodox jews.
Gay Orthodox support group are for people who grew up, or now feel bound to the hallacha. They can not let go or dont want to cut off their ties to orthodoxy. Frumkeit is a part of who they are. They deal with an unnecessary social stigma, which only makes their wounds hurt more. Just like support for agunot, our groups dont deal with justifying any private bedroom action, but instead work to reinforce the truth that we are not alone.
This is the way, most support groups work for people suffering. As I went to medical school, I can tell you, that I have worked in many support groups and we use the professional model. From Joes comments, it seems that he could use some education in how support groups work.
This is not to say, that the analogy works 100%, of course there are some differences, its an analogy...In agunah, there is also the aspect of punishing the husbands, and preventing men from doing this to women. So my analogy is only in respect to how the Orthodox world responds to these women who by no fault of their own, are stuck and can not re-marry or be sexual again. It is this compassion that I ask be bestowed on to gays.
But what is amazing about Joe's conclusion is that in fact WE AGREE. He says that not only is there a place for an Agunah like support group for gay men, but he would support such a group. This is exactly what we are trying to strengthen! And i am thrilled that i have your support and encouragement.
I also think we should have agunah like conferences, speeches, panels, articles in the mainstream Jewish orgs, papers and communities. Orthodoxy has shown great strength in showing compassion, and strength when taking on the issue of agunot suffering...despite the very stringent hallachic constraints. The same, can and should be done for gay people.
Regarding the prohibition of קריבי עריות for homosexuals:
Below is a portion of a letter R' Aharon Feldman sent to a homosexual. It goes without saying that Yichud among homosexuals is prohibited.
If you doubt the authenticity of this letter, ask R' Aharon Feldman.
The prohibition, lo sikrevu legalos erva, forbids hugging and kissing a woman who is an erva (someone intercourse with whom is punishable by Divine exicision [karet]) lest this lead to a forbidden sex act. The same would apply to hugging and kissing a male (who is one of the above-mentioned ervas) by someone aroused by males. The Shulchan Aruch rules in Yore Dea 157 that just as one has to give up his life rather than engage in intercourse with an erva, one has to give up ones life rather than engage in hugging and kissing an erva. In addition, it is forbidden to permit lewd thoughts to enter our minds, under the prohibition of lo sasuru acharey levavchem ve-acharei eyneichem and under ve-nishmartem mikol davar ra. There are many other prohibitions involved which I will not go into here. Recognizing the fallacy of these distortions requires that we recognize that Argument No. 1 is false; we can survive without sexual gratification. Undoubtedly, the situation of a male attracted only to males is an extremely difficult one. But despite the propaganda around us which would convince us that we have no choice but to follow ourdrives, we never lose the capacity for free choice. (See Rambam Hilchos Teshuv Chap. 8.)
chana i am always pleasantly surprised by your eloquence and depth of thought
Finally, and this point can not be emphasized more strongly.
Nobody would tell an agunah, to be discreet or closeted about her status as an agunah. That would be insulting and counterproductive. The opposite is true, we encourage agunot to come out and talk about this issue.
The only thing that should stay discreet is her private bedroom life. If she is having sex outside of marriage, it is not appropriate fro her to talk about it in public. It would be a violation of tzniut and a proclamation of an issur.
The same is absolutely true about gay frum people. They should not publicly talk about their sex lives and what goes on in their bedrooms. This is an issue that should be kept discreet and only mentioned in appropriate privacy.
However, look at the transcripts and the video!...We do not talk about our sex lives. What we do in the bedroom was NOT brought up. Look at our support groups! they dont mention sex, or even broach the subjects on these very private matters.
It's no ones business what i do in my bedroom and it will stay that way. However, the complications of dating women, when you know you are gay, or the experience of coming out to your friends and family, or the stories of being kicked out of yeshivas and communities. THESE DO NOT AND SHOULD NOT DESERVE TO BE KEPT DISCREET. There is no reason to be closeted about these things.
And that is the point of this event and the importance of coming out of the closet.
You understand that publicizing the Agunah issue is one of the pressure tactics used on the Rasha husband to get him to divorce his wife. What analogy does this have to the issue of homosexuality?
Mordechai should watch the transcript of his remarks. He directly alludes to what goes on in the bedroom, to imply that what goes on is private, but he's also making the point that "frum" gays aren't.
This is honestly the strangest discussion I've ever read.
People on this list keep fighting back against an argument that no one seems to be making!
No one is saying that hallacha should be changed!
yet everyone seems to be so passionately fighting back against that point.
No one said that because abstaining from gay sex is so hard...that is should be allowed
no one said that because people deserve love and happiness that gay sex should be allowed
no one said because people may be born gay or arent gay by choice that gay sex should be allowed.
no one said that because gay frum people deserve our compassion, and deserve support groups, and deserve not to feel silenced or closeted...that gay gay sex should be allowed.
No one ever made these points, yet for some reason the blogger and manny of you commmenters seem to be so passionately fighting against...noone.
me thinks you create a straw man, just so you can knock him down...
why not actually taking the points of the speakers and responding to them?
just a though :-)
EJB, I address that point, please read my second to last comment.
Ah, I did not see that you admitted the analogy is not perfect. But, do you not also see that agunot are shown compassion because they are victimized. Who victimizes homosexuals?
Furthermore, if Mordechai would be honest with the world about what really goes on at JQY, how those who are out and have let go of Halacha are validated, he might have less to sing about.
He is a gay activist encouraging permissiveness. If gay Jews will their entire estates to YU maybe the recent forum will be judged in fundraising terms a success. But, the only ones truly ready to embrace ovrei aveira are the Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Humanist, secular, Ethical Cultural movements. The Episcopals are ready for change. Unitarianism embraces diversity.
I don't know what it feels like to be transgendered, but the Torah protects k'nesses Yisroel, the majority of the Jewish people and its continuity, its purity, not promiscuity.
Do you know of any links to the letters of any of the Roshei Yeshiva back when Dr. Lamm allowed the homosexual club at Cardoza - IIRC one letter began "I see a kiyum of the pasuk 'asher nasi yecheta'"
EJB, for instances on how Gays are victimized please refer to the transcripts or videos of the events...that is what we mostly talked about. The point that binds us to Agunot, is that we both suffer not by any choice of our own, just because we wound up in this situation. No one chooses to be gay (at least no one that i know), and no one chooses to be an agunah. We both suffer. And we are both constrained by an immutable Hallacha.
As for the comments about JQY. There are 300 people in JQY. Most of them are closeted. Most of them are Frum. A lot of them are in reparative therapy. Some of them are married to women. Many are out, and many pursue homosexual relationships. While some members are no longer frum because they were so hurt by their communities, we do not judge them, because we are not in their shoes. never is any un-hallachic act encouraged by this org. What people decide to do in private is up to them and their local orthodox rabbis.
and yes, i do advocated and are active in my pursuit of fairness and compassion for homosexuals, and myself. What is wrong with that?
Lots of public support for the orthodox homosexual, via media, community gatherings and similar public forums, on a regular basis, seems to me to be immodest and threatens desensitization to the Jewish morals we hold dear.
There are delicate subjects in the Jewish community such as child molestation, that are sexual in nature, and are discussed regularly in public forums, so that there is an awareness and so that preventitive measures are taken, and help is given.
Yet I don't feel that there is an issue of immodesty in those discussions, and also - there doesn't seem to be any danger of desensitization.
But regarding the homosexual subject, I do think that there is a danger of desensitization. For example, I can just picture my teenagers saying.. 'Come ooonnn, Ma - what's the big deal, so he's GAY. So what? Tonsss of my friends are gay, and they're sooo frum. They daven three times a day, and really - just because they're gay, it's not like I'M gonna become one. Okay? So just chill."
Am I the only one that can 'hear' this side of a dialogue transpiring in the near future, if the gay subject becomes mainstream?
Once there's an element of acceptance - regardless if it's about 'the act' or not, I think there could be many different serious reprecussions.
I think it should be very carefully dealt with, in a way that ensures the utmost modesty and sensitivity.
The attempt to link homosexual discussion to (modern-day) discussion on agunos is a slap to agunos.
There are at least two major differences between the groups that explain why the community takes upon itself to stand strongly on the behalf of agunos in a public forum:
1) They were hurt specifically by members of the community, and the community therefore feels obligated to step up on their behalf to show that the community itself cares, even if particular members have done hurtful acts;
and 2) The publicizing of an agunah's plight is meant to publicly shame the person who is refusing a get in order to encourage them to do so.
Neither of those apply in this situation and to present the two as similar is insulting to agunos and insensitive to their situations.
also - the actual worry is not about my kids 'becoming gay' or anything particular in that hypothetical example in the sentence of a dialogue - it was meant to portray a general feel of easy acceptance.... and that isn't necessarily a good thing,..
"Most of them are closeted. Most of them are Frum. A lot of them are in reparative therapy. Some of them are married to women. Many are out, and many pursue homosexual relationships."
Not to split hairs, what's the difference between most and many? A lot is the least.
We are given free choice. Everyone will answer for their failures. But, just because someone is technically a borderline personality doesn't excuse compulsive gambling or fraud.
Where are Bernie Madoff's friends? Aren't there excuses for everyone "coerced" to sin?
The Sages urged the morally weak to dress in black and travel to another city, surreptitiously, anonymously. Why didn't they consider it important to have a Coming Out Day instead?
You are correct that I was ignorant as to how support groups works. I apologize if I made incorrect assumptions. That being said... Dina G.'s point cannot be ignored. The purpose of support networks, or public support, should be to help those who need help, but not to desensitize the Orthodox world to issues of sexuality or sexual immorality, which - tznius, as you said, still applies. There should be support group's for halachikly struggling men, and their should be public support to the extent that it encourages those who need help to seek it. But you once again are not honestly representing you're analogy - agunot have rallies, newspaper articles, and panels, in order to pressure their husbands - NOT to get sympathy. The Jewish community naturally feels sympathy towards those women, as they do towards gays. As most of the panelist pointed out, their friends, rabbi's, and families, were supportive and encouraging. The empathy was already there. There will always be those in any circle who are rotten people, and will not support with empathy(as you're experience displays.) The fact that some people are disgusting and don't treat people properly, doesn't mean we should desensitize our tzanua religion. These issues have always been dealt with in a less grandiose way than were expressed this past weeek. Should this issue be dealt with - yes. Should there be a public awareness and discussion of how to deal with these issues - yes. But empathy in the community is already there - and making it a public issue for the sake of making it a public issue is very dangerous. If you want a panel - there can be panels of community leaders discussing on how to deal with these issues and show community support, but having four people discuss their experiences in front of 500 people who are already empathetic, without discussion on how to solve issues, without clearly affirming halachik compliance(and in some instances insinuating the opposite,) is not an appropriate venue to reach the ends you claim to be seeking.
and the reason they don't advocate a coming out day, is because although we all sin, we do not take pride in it. We don't take pride in our sins, and we don't publicize them. While guilt is unhealthy, we should feel remorse and shame for wrong actions. Coming out days, taking pride in our weakness, is the against all things Jewish. We take pride in our strengths and overcoming our weakness, not in our flaws and the weakness we must still overcome.
Mordechai claims to have responded to those distinctions (and why they don't corrupt his analogy), but I don't see where he effectively counters your points.
EJB - Neither do I, hence the comment. :)
we turn a blind to pre-marital sex, and sexual activity, why is gay sex any different?
This is a beautiful post. Thanks Chana!!
Everyone with sexual urges understands temptation. Some resist, others falter.
Everyone masturbates, or so I've heard. Yet, Er and Onan are repeatedly referenced as reminders of how license is rewarded - vayamat.
Students at YU outing themselves see their struggle as another Stonewall, a victory for gay liberation. A Rabbanut rabbi in Israel has outed himself and is calling for validation. The trend is international, fashionable.
Only the callous are unable to feel the pain of anyone disenfranchised. Jewish communities will tolerate homosexuals if what they do is b'tsin'ah. Once the matter becomes politicized, gay pride, the Torah's mandate promoting family values, taharat ha-Mishpacha, trumps secular liberalism.
Is coming out a kum v'asei or shev v'al ya'avor?
Regarding the prohibition of קריבי עריות for homosexuals:
Below is a portion of a letter R' Aharon Feldman sent to a homosexual. It goes without saying that Yichud among homosexuals is prohibited. If you doubt the authenticity of this letter, ask R' Aharon Feldman...The same would apply to hugging and kissing a male (who is one of the above-mentioned ervas) by someone aroused by males.
With all due respect to the Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisroel(Feldman), I not only question the authenticity of this letter (published where?) but I also question the authenticity of his position, whose argument you don't cite. I only consider a position's arguments not the personalities behind them, unless I've seen the statement myself.
Check out Kiddushin 82a:
Mishna: Rabbi Judah said: An
unmarried man must not tend cattle,
nor may two unmarried men sleep
together under the same cover. But the Sages permitted it. Gemara: What is the reason? Said they to R. Judah, Israel are not suspected of either pederasty or bestiality.
- So yichud is permitted...by the mishna.
Rambam Hilchot Issurei Biah 22:2:
Jews are not suspected of a man lying with a man or bestiality. Therefore, there is no prohibition (for man and another man or an animal) to be alone together. However, he who does separates himself from another man or
animal is praiseworthy.
You can read the rest of the debate, very well summarized, here:
But homosexuality is never equated to an ערוה. In fact, it's more often equated with bestiality and Canaanitism (my word) than incest, the latter rendering children a ממזר.
By the way, the Rambam doesn't mention that yichud among two homosexual jews is prohibited, either.
Unfortunately, I can't concede to R' Feldman's position based on hearsay, especially when his arguments aren't presented.
You question R' Feldman's position based on the fact that his arguments were not presented. Many of his arguments were mentioned in the article you were nice enough to provide from the liberal lookstein center.
"However, this seems to have changed in the time of Rabbi
Yosef Karo, the author of the Shulchan Aruch (SOURCE #14). He first quotes the Rambam word
for word, but then adds that in these (his) times that there is great licentiousness, two men should not be alone together (or sleep in the same bed)."
Also, read the Ruach Chaim, which prohibits yichud among homosexuals (even if they have done "Teshuva"). You can find it at:
Note that R' Yosef Karo is more radical than what Rabbi Feldman wrote in many regards. He says that the issur yichud applies not only to homosexuals, but to all men in communities/times with homosexuality problems. The Lookstein Center seems to say Rambam would also prohibit Yichud, but he did not because homosexuality was not prevalent in his time.
At the time, I'm not sure why "lo sikrivu ligalos erva" applies to homosexuals, but I don't think that position is so far-fetched.
levovitz, were you cheating with guys while still dating a girl?
Anonymous.. I want to thank you for guilting me and shaming me into fighting against my homosexual inclinations. I have been in a relationship with a wonderful man for 6 years. I am as halachic as I was before I came out as a gay man. I am no longer depressed and suicidal. I can finally concentrate enough to be successful in my professional practice. I have reconciled with my family who accepts fully my partnership. I am now a fully adjusted adult male as compared to the emotional wreck I was trying to be what you would expect me to be. But now I see the light. I suppose you would prefer I break up with my partner and resume my halachic life. I am sure Hashem will be happy with that too. I just have to figure out how I am going to live the next half of my life alone, scorned and pitied for being single, with no hope for anything better in life. I think it will all be fine in the end though, because I will be halachik. Hashem will be happy with me. I mean, after all we are all CERTAIN exactly what it is Hashem means by 6 words in Vayikrah. Thanks for the support.
OK.. so I am going to continue fighting my homosexual inclination. I have as much attraction to women as I have to a sofa. So as a halachic Jew...
1. I will have to listen to voicemails from long lost relatives and friends who want to set me up with a "Nice girl". They wont take "NO for an answer BUT .. I am not supposed to "come out" to them so as not to "normalize" the evil homosexuality.
2. I would love to be chazzan for RH and YK but most shuls will not allow it if I am single. (no discrimination there)
3. I have to regularly take my anti depressants since I am going crazy with the pressure of celibacy. I guess if I learn more torah I will feel better.
4. I get to listen to Rabbis talk (and they do) about how one is not complete until they are married and have kids. (no hope of that for me.
5. I get to sit alone most Shabbatot since I dont have anything resembling a home or personal life.
I get to do all of this for the next 50 years or so.
Sounds nice. Thanks Hashem.
Oh yes its a Nissayon... how easy it is to say that.
Neither Rambam, R' Yosef Karo, and R' Chaim Falaji (Ruach Chaim, which you cite) say that yichud between homosexuals, specifically, is forbidden.
They DO say that either yichud is permitted or forbidden between ALL men, homosexual or heterosexual. This depends on the incidence of homosexuality of the times. Homosexuality, as a sexual orientation and activity, has always been around, and there's no way to tell if its incidence has risen or fallen through history.
Basically, my point is that no halachist points out homosexual orientation in particular for any halacha.
Many of his arguments were mentioned in the article you were nice enough to provide from the liberal lookstein center.
-Are you taking a cheap shot at liberals, the Lookstein Center, or me?
You question R' Feldman's position based on the fact that his arguments were not presented.
Correct...until I see his arguments or even less so, his opinion in writing (and not in a story book). Thanks for summarizing my opinion better than I can.
Aside: Based on your sources, I'm guessing that you're Sephardic?
I think sometimes it's easy to forget that as Orthodox Jews, we live for something higher than ourselves.
"Homosexuality, as a sexual orientation and activity, has always been around, and there's no way to tell if its incidence has risen or fallen through history."
Not according to the Lookstein article you quoted.
"Thus, in Spain and in Egypt of the 12th century, homosexual activity
was still not found among the Jews."
"First, that in the 16th century in Israel, there WAS homosexual activity among Jews."
"Neither Rambam, R' Yosef Karo, and R' Chaim Falaji (Ruach Chaim, which you cite) say that yichud between homosexuals, specifically, is forbidden."
To the contrary, the Ruach Chaim (based on the Shulchan Aruch, and I believe uncontested on this issue), writes that it is forbidden for a homosexual to be secluded with any man. See the end of Siman 24.
I started reading that Lookstein Center article with an open eye. But, but I was turned away after I read "the Midrash specifically says (SOURCE #16) that a Jew should NOT say I have no desire for that which is forbidden (pork or even another man), but a Jew SHOULD say what can I do, since God has commanded me not to act upon these desires."
This is a complete misrepresentation of the Midrash, as anyone who has read the Rambam (shemona perakim, moreh nevuchim) will immediately notice.
Re: homosexuality and עריות.
Chinuch 188 (second paragraph) SEEMS to equate משכב זכר and עריות.
After reading both the post, the transcript, saw what videos are available, and all 160 comments, it is pretty clear to me that that there is a profound lack of education in the Jewish community.
As Dr. Brill correctly points out, your reliance on the Rav and Rav Schachter as well as the majority of the commentator's reliance of these thinkers means there is a profound lack of understanding of what is going on. Their theogical depth is ingrained in Modernist thinking.
Most philosophical thinking, including theogical thinking (except in Judaism, and no one knows why) has moved into post-modernism. The Rav never used thinkers like Thomas Kuhn as touchstones.
Thomas Kuhn wrote about paradigm shifts in science, about what science finds acceptible versus not and how that happens. He also wrote a really interesting postscript about people with different paradigms who try to communicate to each other, and how this is in fact impossible- true translations of thought means you are fully involved in a different world.
This may be happening now.
Imposing structure on someone who believes in post-structural, non-binary societies is not going to happen. Go read Foucault on structure in societies. See what it means to birth power.
Plus, this blog has the inherent problem of being hyper-mediated. Chana, you cannot control the message bounced out easily anymore. As these comments show, you are in fact bringing down the structure of society. You are creating a venue to and material to bring down those ideas you believe in. Further, due to the nature of linkage on the internet, this material can be very widely seen by a variety of different people: People that will want to reshape society as they see fit for a post-structuralistic world.
Clay Shirky points this out very effectively in "Here Comes Everybody" about how the internet allowed lay Catholics to organize in the wake of a number of sex scandals en mass. He didn't recognize at the time that there was also parallel growth in the idea of lay parishes because there were essentially not enough priests in the US: The only way the church managed to control the situation when some of these parishes wanted to be Catholic but go nearly completely lay was to SHUT THEM DOWN. M'Darling, welcome to media and religion.
I suggest you might want to rethink what you write. Start responding to those of us who care about how Judaism will respond to a post-modern world, which is the essential part of the question being asked by the conference holders. Especially in a mediated space where those of us who know, will challenge you.
Otherwise, you ring hollow. You ring hollow because its clear that people will post comment after comment after comment, including those with halachic thoughts, postmodern thoughts, modern thoughts. If you want to bring it down to earth, find a way to bridge them...
I think you raise some great points. And for the most part, we agree on the key points. Which is huge progress for this discussion.
I just want to clarify, that with regard to the "bedroom", comment, it was to reiterate that the panel presentation was not about sex acts, but the experience of being gay in yeshiva. Being gay, doesnt require doing any sex act, the same way that Being straight doesnt require one to be sexually active. This distinction is important when talking about things publicly regarding tzniut and its essential in understanding why shabbos desecration is not a good analogy.
I agree, that sensitivity to the orthodox world is key. That is why we had the event moderated by Rabbi Blau, and stated clearly, that this event was not here to deny, re-interpret, or ignore any posuk in the torah. The same should be said of support groups, and is.
For those guys, who say that Agunah is so different, because we only are allowed to show the women public compassion,and make support groups, and write articles JUST BECAUSE WE WANT TO PUT PRESSURE ON MEN. HUH...R U GUYS NUTS?
R u guys seriously saying that sympathy and empathy and awareness of the Agunah issue is JUST to put pressure on the crazy husbands, and not because we care, respect and have compassion for the victims.
I am literally hearing Jews say, that compassion for agunot, is not enough to merit support groups, speeches and awareness.
Let me all inform you something, from someone who actually knows a few agunot...Unless you threaten a most "seruv"s physically, no amount of symposiums, articles, or support groups are going to make any crazy man who wants to hurt his wife give a get!
The rabbi's and social workers, and leaders, and community's response is to help the victims! They do what they can, to make sure they dont have to suffer more.
Evem if all these husbands were lost on a secret plane to no-where, the response of compassion and open-mindedness would be the same, and just as outpouring.
This is the Jewish and orthodox way.
and again, NO ONE, NOT ONE PERSON IS ADVOCATING CHANGING HALLACHA.
This is a good analogy to gay people...
Are you guys so keen on winning and making a point, that you just abandon all common sense.
"Let me all inform you something, from someone who actually knows a few agunot...Unless you threaten a most "seruv"s physically, no amount of symposiums, articles, or support groups are going to make any crazy man who wants to hurt his wife give a get!"
I don't think that's true. I don't have statistics onhand, but I've heard Rav Schachter say that social pressure (rallying outside the house, cherem, etc) has been successful (to some degree) in helping the agunah situation.
"The rabbi's and social workers, and leaders, and community's response is to help the victims! They do what they can, to make sure they dont have to suffer more."
To help the VICTIMS. Homosexuals have a huge nisayon, but they are not victimized in any way (unless you are claiming, cvs, that G-d victimizes them. But I'll assume you are not making that claim).
K-L - In my comment regarding Agunos, I specifically stated that there are at least two major reasons agunos are dealt with in a public fashion, with pressure on the men being one of those (and one that is at least mildly effective). This was to differentiate agunos as compared to homosexuality, a comparison some have tried to make on this thread. I don't believe any commenter here claimed the sole reason for publicly discussing agunos is to put pressure.
Either way, however, you are merely adding to the point that there is a clear difference between an agunah and someone who is gay.
Its logic. if you admit that compassion for the victims is enough of a reason to create support groups, awareness, articles, and community panels. then you should use this as a model for gays.
the analogy only fails, if the ONLY reason we show his active compassion by agunot is because of the added component of pressuring the husband. Once you admit that sympathizing with the women is enough, the analogy stands.
I recommend going to law school...it helped me with breaking down arguments. :-)
Also, why is no one answering the basic question...
WHO HERE ARE THE PEOPLE ADVOCATING CHANGING OR ALTERING HALLACHA THAT EVERYONE IS ARGUING AGAINST?
No one is even alluding to doing that, so why all the alarm-ism?
K-L - Then follow the logic I used above, which was reasonably clearly spelled out: "There are at least two major differences between the groups that explain why the community takes upon itself to stand strongly on the behalf of agunos in a public forum:
1) They were hurt specifically by members of the community, and the community therefore feels obligated to step up on their behalf to show that the community itself cares, even if particular members have done hurtful acts;
and 2) The publicizing of an agunah's plight is meant to publicly shame the person who is refusing a get in order to encourage them to do so.
Neither of those apply in this situation and to present the two as similar is insulting to agunos and insensitive to their situations."
It's a simple logical presentation of thoughts - a good law student should be able to follow it.
1. Ppl are arguing about the appropriate response to homosexuality (and if the YU panel was appropriate).
2. Alex advocated changing halachos.
"It is so easy for you to sit around in your traditional world with your traditional dreams while judging the righteousness of others. But as a gay man, the image of a wise old man with 12 children sitting over a Humash 800 years ago pronouncing edicts which affect my life and my ability to live, just seems ludicrous. "
Chana, I don't know you personally.You seem to have a gifted mind, as well as a gift for the written word. You are a seeker. You engage in these difficult topics, which is admirable. However, your simplistic, absolutist, holier than thou approach comes across as immature, pompous, screechy and emotionally shallow. Forgive me my bluntness, but implication and tone of parts of this as well as one in the recent past, can be hurtful. From what I have glimpsed in your writing, it sounds like you have an enormous capacity to develop and internalize the characteristic of humility and compassion. I bet you have magnificent potential.
In terms of the content of some of the comments, I believe aguna is a bad analogy. We must all pray for agunot and continue to support whatever we can in whatever way we are able in order to prevent such terrible circumstances from developing. However, it must be noted, agunot, by definition, at some point, experienced the normalcy and joy of getting married,until, sadly, it went sour. Also, often agunot have the satisfaction of parenthoood. Agunot are advocating for a second chance. On the other hand, orthodox singles share alot of similar struggles and feelings of loneliness, alienation, shame, depression and sometimes even suicidal thoughts, that orthodox people struggling with homosexuality experience. Allow me to be loud and clear: I think the pain and struggle of the homosexual does not compare to that of, as difficult as it may sometimes be, the orthodox single person. Not even close. My point is simply, that many of the painful symptoms are the same, although I cannot emphasize enough that I believe they are amplified exponentially for the struggling orthodox homosexual. Indeed, these respective challenges are qualitatively different. On a practical level,however, many orthodox singles also struggle with their celibacy, with their loneliness, with being treated differently in the community (let me reiterate that I do not see the two as comparable), with spending shabbos alone etc and so forth. I feel real pain for those struggling with the nightmare challenge of homosexuality. Sexuality is intrinsic to identity and who a person is inside. Who a person IS. It can't be compared to the violation of commandments external to oneself, such as shabbos or kashrus. At the same time, I do not believe in condoning homosexual behaviour or creating a major public support movement. Privately, I pray and feel their pain and think it important to open the channels for discussion of this terrible anguish suffered by some of our fellow brothers and sisters. However, I think it is important to do so as discreetly as possible, while honoring the traditional wholesome ideal of family sanctity and of family centered values that we hold dear and cherish in our community.
I no longer know who I am officially responding to so I will simply respond to all:
1. You ask me why I wrote this post when the event itself was not about people breaking halakha but rather about creating sensitivity to homosexuals within the Orthodox world. For this I will offer two reasons.
One: While the event purported not to be about actually breaking halakha and was for the most part not about that, the idea that certain panelists either are sexually active with partners or plan to be so was certainly implied.
Two: I am focusing upon the 'what comes next' aspect of this. And it seems to me, based on what was said and on what I know in general, that in many people's minds the 'what comes next' portion focuses upon changing/ stretching and/or ignoring the halakha. This is why I felt the need to address this issue publicly.
2. In this post, I am talking about the strength of DESIRE, not saying that a homosexual is a kleptomaniac. Please read carefully. In the same way that a kohen may desire a gerusha, a mamzer may desire a non-mamzer, an agunah may desire another man but is chained to her husband, so too may a homosexual desire another man. In all of these instances our hearts go out to the people; in none of them do we say that if they act on their desires it is okay and not a sin. It is still a sin. In our modern-day world, we have a limited view of what equals fulfillment and decide that sharing our lives with another person must equal fulfillment. What I meant to suggest and what Jordan suggested is that there are many other possible desires that are equally as strong (in a quest for fulfillment) that we are asked to put aside, not all of them in the sexual realm.
-What about the woman who is offered the job of a lifetime, an extremely fulfilling, once-upon-a-dream job but must work on Shabbos for it?
-Or the man who wants nothing more than to be a professional food critic but is limited by his kosher options?
-What of the girl who has always dreamed of being an actress in Hollywood but cannot wear shatnez, touch other men, do nude scenes or film/work on Shabbat?
Who are we to say that these dreams for life-fulfillment in the form of career, passion or talent are not equally as important as a homosexual's craving for a male companion in his life? Who is to say everyone puts spouse before career in the equation of what is most important in life? There are many who would not.
Thus, the homosexual is asked not to act upon his feelings in the same way every person is asked to sacrifice of himself to God. We all struggle. I would not say everyone's struggle is necessarily as hard as that of a homosexual Orthodox Jew's, but who is to say they are NOT as difficult?
3. My greatest difficulty is with regard to people who have thought and made a logical decision to break halakha. They have decided that rather than struggling with it and perhaps sometimes succumbing, they will simply not struggle anymore. Simply in terms of growth in the way God asks of us, I believe we are demanded to struggle, not to decide we will simply not keep a law for the rest of our lives. I think it is important to make clear that it is not legitimate from the halakhic standpoint to do something like that. That it is not a simcha when two gay men decide to marry one another and live this way for the rest of their lives.
4. Many seem to have misunderstood my use of the word 'deserve' in this post. I did not say that we are worthless beings and therefore do not 'deserve' things of God. God forbid. Rather, I believe that rather than everything we receive being something we are ENTITLED to, it is a GIFT. We are souls placed in this world to serve God and to grow closer to Him. He gives us tools to do that, which is what I term goodness. God gives each soul the challenges, difficulties and path it needs to come close to Him. Obviously, that is the reason there is a difference between divine and human justice- and why we are still meant to cry out to Him in pain when our burdens are so difficult. But to assume we automatically deserve our conception of a perfect life is to assume that we are finished before even beginning- that our task is accomplished. If that were so, there would be no reason to live.
5. I understand that many of you think I am cruel, a bigot, judgmental, unkind, unfeeling, cold and otherwise at fault. It makes sense that you would feel that way- what I am offering here is an unwavering stand, a point of view not subject to change based on the amount of pain I feel for other human beings. I believe that God's word is law and that we must respect His word as law. My point is not to pass judgment on individual homosexuals but to say I do not believe the Orthodox response can be one that will condone or minimize a sin simply because that sin was done out of pain. To offer love and support in a public way to those who struggle is something all should do. However, if one makes an open choice not to follow the halakha and then STILL wants to be accepted back into the community with open arms, I don't think that can or should be done.
6. I also think it is important to speak a little about shame. There is an idea of natural shame to sin before our Creator. When Adam and Eve ate from the tree, against their Creator's will, they realized they 'were naked and they were ashamed.' Why ashamed? Not of their nakedness but of breaking God's word; the realization they had no defense before Him. To speak openly about struggling with a desire to do sin is fine. But I am focusing on the aftermath, the next step, the people who wish to speak openly about living a lifestyle in which they commit sins. To be able to do this one has lost one's natural shame before the Creator, and I believe this is why the Roshei Yeshiva at YU and others would discourage such behavior and such gatherings. It is not because they don't wish to support people who are struggling and in pain. It is because they believe we ought still to feel shame before our Creator for failing to follow His word.
This is my point of view. I know you will not all agree, nor need you. You may think of me as you wish. My desire is simply to lay bare my thoughts before you as you would before God: I think it is important to speak the truth.
Good morning all. What is wrong with you people? There is a saying that hell is a place where there is no reason, If so then ya'll who attack Chana are already there. You are irrational. You have no ability or desire to even make the attempt to look outside your self accepted talking point parameters. Arguments go in one ear and out the other. You do not search for truth; you search only for validation of your own regurgitated opinions. Anything or anyone who disagrees with you, even in the most cordial of ways, even with thr most logical of reasons is by definition, to you, ipso facto a hateful, homophobic, moron, who is attacking you. In fact they are attacking your perceptions which you have become comfortable with, thus throwing you out of your comfortable mental buble. A bubble which you can only keep intact by labeling anyone who disagrees an evil insensitive hateful fool. This allows you to easily throw any and all opposing arguments away without having to truly consider there validity or search your heart honestly. You are ruled by your subconcious in deed and in thought, it will not even let you consider anything that would diminish its pleasure seeking, instant gratification habits and addictions. I am confident that if a scan were done on your brains, your prefrontal cortex would be a shriveled mess due to unuse and your amygdala would be the most active part of your brain. Despite all these words, I really do wish you all the best, believe it or not' but to all of you who attacked Chana irrationally and without merit and accuse her of evil motivations and the like, to you I say - You suck. Pure and simple You suck. You're irrational. You're the reason I never discuss any substantive political or social issues with anyone, in real life. Believe it or not, I type this with a smile, I learned a long time ago to never be riled up or angered by morons. I only write this to tell you where you stand, as people. To inform you, of the brainwashed fools you have become. Because, a little honesty is nice to hear once in a while. I also write this because I love you and you need to hear reality, and I hope it will help you to be happy. Of course I realize what your responses will be. I can type them up for you and they will match word for word because I know how you think. I know the flawed circular patttern that makes up your mind. Howeve, I write this in the 1 in a 100th chance that at some point in the future one of you might wake up years from now after realizing where you are and remember the ideas in this post. Perhaps it might help you after you have been mostly destroyed by your foolishness so that you might begin to repair yourselves. And again, in case you forgot, to those of you who attacked Chana - You Suck. May God bless you tobe able to return to him.
Also, why is no one answering the basic question...
WHO HERE ARE THE PEOPLE ADVOCATING CHANGING OR ALTERING HALLACHA THAT EVERYONE IS ARGUING AGAINST?
No one is even alluding to doing that, so why all the alarm-ism?
It's in the air. See, for example, this post on a different blog: link.
Eh, Chana and Mordechai, in our postmodernistm existential discussion we confront, "how Judaism will respond to a post-modern world, which is the essential part of the question being asked by the conference holders," a crystalizing moment.
Point well taken. Mordechai and his most loyal neophytes are political activists. Ego plays a role in their agenda.
If the goal of support groups like Jewish Queer Youth is to combat homophobia, why limit the discussion to being frum and gay? Ban bigotry. March against discrimination. Raise your banner to promote social mixers for the sex starved elderly, the overweight, alcoholics, substance abusers.
But, I don't believe their life saving techniques follows the model of AA, with or without belief in a Higher Power. Is validating gay pride, the bar scene, therapy?
Chana is perceptive, sensitive and committed to a relationship with the Divine.
Others prefer temporal relationships in the flesh.
The Stevens of this world who discover community in partnerships have found their way, but is sociology integral to the Halachik process?
Those who bend their will to His are little lower than the angels. Those who bend over are bent.
I never advocated changing Halacha. I was only stating that it is very easy for a straight person to tell me what the Halacha says when it does not affect them directly ...
As for Chana's unwillingness to accept me with open arms into the community because I am a sinner, why not? What have you got to lose? What would be wrong with saying to my partner its nice to meet, you welcome to our shul? If
I am sinning .. that is between me and G-d. Being nice to me or my partner has nothing to do with it. Maybe the community should stop thinking that they are so damn important. Their rejection, though important to some (ie the panelists) only serves to alienate me from all the other halachot that I AM observing (maybe even more carefully than all of you - I havent missed a daily minyan in 15 years).
If you really believed that we were just talking about encouraging halachic living, then you would welcome me and my partner just as you would welcome a nonpracticing Jew. You would invite him for shabbat dinner, to a seder, help him do his aliyah etc - all in the hope of him becoming a BT. But because the real issue is bigotry and prejudice, I am supposed to keep my partner hidden. I am not saying that I could ever become "halachic" in that area of my life ever again, but I am not asking for permission or heterim. I am just asking to be treated with the respect that any human being is entitled to.
Obviously, this would not apply to sins that have victims, such as murder or rape .. or even the husbands of Agunot who deserve to be shunned.
Bottom line.... I may violate Halacha in this limited area because there is no other way for me to survive (I failed the Nissayon)
But since it IS a Nissayon ... I should not be condemned by fellow human beings for failing it.
When you say, 'I failed my nisayon', it sounds like a life-long sentence. Just as being a homosexual may be viewed by some (and by you) as a life-long sentence in the orthodox Jewish world, so does settling on the option for which you've settled.
Also, the thing is, you are young - I assume - and so maybe you're limiting yourself and your options by giving up forever.
Above all - I was trying to imagine in my own life, if there was ever a time that I've looked at my struggles and said - 'I've failed the nisayon.. forever'. I think that if I would say that to myself, it would have to be something utterly and ruthlessly painful and unsustainable.
And I DO struggle alot and am in pain, in so many areas. And I've fallen and failed so many times - but at this moment in time, I can't think of any situation in which I've given up.. forever.
Which makes me think that
1-either your (the gay) issue is so incredibly difficult, that it's just impossible to sustain and live with it at all, in the world in which you have been brought up
- and it makes me question the whole homosexual situation and wonder if it's an absolutely lost case for the Homosexual Jew - nothing to talk about.
2- you've given up too fast (even though it may have seemed 'slow' to you...)
I suppose I'll never know. But I wonder..
alex, it's one thing to fail a nisyon, we all do. it's another to temped yourself, stick it front of your face 24/7. would you considered a frum jew working in the porn industry (as a producer), and sinning occasionally, a mere nisayon? of course not, he brought it on to himself. im sure you say every day "vilo lidei nisayon..." yet you live with another man who you are attracted to!!! it's the equivalent of marrying a woman who is a permanent nidah, and then saying it was a nisayon and you slipped. what ever happened to ein apitrapos lioarayos.
Thank you for a wonderful and thought-provoking post, Chana.
I'm glad you brought up the mechalel Shabbos query. I think the difference in the attitudes of the Orthodox has to do with whether behavior can change.
A person who drives to shul on Shabbat can, with more knowledge, perhaps choose not to do so anymore. This is not a behavior they are necessarily passionate about, that they consider part of the very fabric of their existence and their happiness. It is not even necessarily a preconceived sin. It is merely a convenience. Such a convenience as a behavior can be changed and thus people operate under the thought that perhaps it will change.
If one is acting on one's homosexual feelings, however, this is a behavior that will very likely not change. Someone who chooses to do this considers this man/ his partner to be part of the fabric of his life and existence. No matter his involvement in other Jewish functions, this behavior is not likely to change. And whether one wishes it to be so or not, such a relationship is public, something all can see. So can Orthodoxy welcome people who are living an existence that openly speaks of a lifestyle of sin when it also seems that there is little to no chance they would change that?
I should define the word 'welcome.' I'm not saying that people would be shunned at shul, thrown out or otherwise ostracized. Nor am I saying people should be cruel or not nice! But I am saying that I don't think Orthodoxy can openly celebrate this person's behavior or use him as a role model in various scenarios. I don't think they can toast to two men getting married, for instance, or have a kiddush in their honor. If this man is the rabbi, I don't think he should continue being rabbi of the shul. Not because he doesn't have the knowledge base. R' Elisha ben Avuyah had such a knowledge base, too. But not everyone is a R' Meir.
Anonymous 1:45, please, please tell me you aren't in the field of psychology. Or philosophy of mind, for that matter.
Mentioning the names of a couple brain parts didn't make it seem any more like you knew what you are talking about (note: you didn't), especially when you abuse them so.
"Just like we don't always like the decisions/things our parents always do, even though they are out of love (but we don't see kit at the time). G-d is definitely fulfilling his responsibilities, even if in your eyes,He is not, because you feel you are suffering."
That is so incredibly condescending.
I am not going to get into Halachik arguments with you. Obviously you will win these based on the accepted interpretation of 6 words in Vyikrah. But, it seems from your tone that you have no idea what our lives are like, or you refuse to listen. I kind of feel sorry for you. I can only wonder what damage you would do to a kid of yours, should they turn out to be gay. (it is possible you know. My father, a Rav, was a bit surprised too)
Dina, You also dont really seem to understand the situation. It seems that I will have to choose option #1 because after 18 years of dating women and hurting them while having crushes on men. Then another 8 years of deep depression and inability to function personally, professionally, and intimately. I am now happy and stable, successful, and still FRUM. But obviously in your eyes I should "keep trying". Sorry, been there/done that. G-d certainly knows what is in my heart and I think appreciates that I have found a way to be productive on this planet while still serving his wishes. But if you think I should just choose option #1 and leave frum living... well maybe I may have to do that someday since I am basically invisible in shul anyway (not married with a secret lover).
I hope you all have happy lives while you sit in judgment over the rest of us.
The comments on this forum should not be construed as anyone's attempt to lord over another, to condescend. The matter revolves around what is appropriate for 'Am Yisroel - as a group. Jewish law permits actions which are shaveh l'chol nefesh, but this doesn't include extra-marital affairs. Gay or straight, we're all sinners; the way we discern differences between kodesh and chol is through contrast.
We aren't living in the Massachusetts Bay Colony or in a fundamentalist Muslim land. This is America. There is freedomo of choice. You can remain sane, do your thing, have your cake at the kiddush and eat it, too, but attendance at minyan is a social rite, religion as a contact sport. True spirituality, Chana discerns, will forever regret what Mr. Roth terms the human stain.
Our job is to clean up, to rise, transcend, not sink. Individuals will always do what is in their enlightened self interest, but as the Talmud states in Niddah, we are sworn before birth to maintain taharah. Sexual relationships in Judaism aren't an ultimate goal.
Sexual relationships may not be an ultimate goal.. But can you deny that an emotionally fulfilling relationship is necessary for survival? Can you look deep inside yourself and admit that you would write the very same words you write here even if you yourself happened to be gay?
I understand EXACTLY what you are saying. I emphathize, know your feelings, can relate.
However, the fact remains that we come into this world alone and leave alone.
There is no monopoly on love lost or won. But, everyone is built differently. Some are needier than others; some need to be needed. Not everyone has a tsaddik complex.
But, if you believe in neshomah, it's the Source of All we must confront and deal with, not the mores, ethos, or expectations of any tribal group or society.
Just my opinion. You be happy. Love God and Man.
Chana, excellent post - clearly articulated with a keen explanation of classical Jewish thought
a) The ideal Jewish response as described by the Torah to homosexuality, adultery, chilul Shabbos is the death penalty carried out in public view. There would be no forums of sympathy. Rather, beis din would execute the individuals for sins Bein Adam LaMakom. It's hard to deal with, but it's the truth.
b) Thus, the Torah is indicating that sins that have no victims are still corrosive to the culture. It is incumbent on the Torah society (which we don't have today) to end sins that are victimless.
c) On a lighter note, the Rambam clearly states that one should view the world as hanging by a thread and one's sins could condemn the world to destruction. Thus even victimless sins have repercussions. The whole world becomes victims of sins that are between Man and Hashem.
d) Judaism is an ascetic religion. The Ramban talks about being Naval B'rishus HaTorah. The ideal is to minimize physical pleasure to what one needs rather than indulging. Of course if one's needs fall outside Halacha, they would no longer be naval b'rishus HaTorah. They would be simply forbidden
e) Someone brought up post-Modernism. Introducing the concept into this discussion is laughable. Post-Modernism cannot be introduced into any discussion of Halachic Judaism because it purports the existence of multiple truths. Since we believe Moshe Emes, V'Toraso Emes as one of our big 13, we can never assume multiple truths. This is like citing paganism as a valid alternative to Torah thought.
f) Having over gay partners to a Shabbos meal would be akin to hosting two adulterous individuals in the hope to be mekarev them. If they wish to come separately without flaunting their clear disdain for my values, I would be happy to host them. But coming together reflects a disregard for my deeply held beliefs
Of course, I want your comfort and happiness - believe it or not - knowing that someone is comfortable allows me to feel more comfortable in my own life , while knowing that someone is in pain, is discomforting to me.
It's unfortunate that you projected judgementalism when you read my comment.
I felt sympathy and a desire to understand why you made the choices you did as opposed to other options you might have/ or have had, in life.
But just so you know - your bitter response evidenced your judgementalist attitude to my character. Judging me to be judging you.
I don't take it personally, of course, but you do seem very angry.
Also - I believe you are wrong on one count - and I know you are wrong on another:
I believe you can't know whether G-d appreciates your decision and productiveness- we can only do our best - as you write that you have - but I doubt it's our position to decide even remotely that we understand what His thoughts are about the actions we take in our lives.. or anything else. It seems to me that's just a way to try and make ourselves feel better, if and when we take that stance.
And I know you are wrong for feeling that I lord over you and other gays from my happy life.
Of course you don't know the happiness or lack of it, in my life, and certainly from what I've written, there is no lording.
and also, to be clear from my end-
sympathy does not equal condoning.
A mother has a child, a baby boy who she loves with every fiber of her being. The son grows older, becomes a teen, goes to high school, and starts become an adult. Along the way, however, this child gets addicted to drugs. The family tries everything to stop this addiction, but nothing works. The son won’t admit that he has a problem, so any attempt to fix it, are totally fruitless. Eventually the family decides that he must be kicked out of the house – not out of hate, not out of intolerance or out of bigotry – because they love him, and if excommunicating him is the only way to get appoint the cross that what he’s doing is wrong is kicking him out, than as painful as this may be – it is what’s best for child. The same is true, for a sibling who may be addicted to gambling, or a father who is an alcoholic. Even if this person is not hurting anybody but themselves, they will be removed from the house, until they admit that there is a problem…because the family loves them.
Modern society has preached acceptance and political correctness, but all the “happy” and successful actors in Hollywood show us how productive this mode of thinking is. Alex – nobody is judging you. Nobody is telling you that you’re a bad person. No one is saying that you’re less than us, or that we are better than you. But we do disagree with you. And in our belief, and the belief of our Torah, what you are doing is poisonous to your soul and to your service of G-d. As long as you are not willing to admit that it is problematic to live such a life style (and make efforts to fix them,) we cannot just pretend like everything is ok, and make you a full part of Jewish life. We can love you – and we do. We can empathize with you – and we do. But we cannot accept you or you’re decisions as they stand.
You will not agree with this post, and will certainly have an answer to rebut it – but that is exactly why we can’t accept you. Because you will always have an answer. Because their will always be a justification. I hope and believe that almost everyone in this forum only want what’s best for you, and would be more than willing to help in you’re struggle, but only if you can admit to yourself that it is a struggle. No one here wants you to suffer or feel pain. And it is out of true love and empathy that I write this post and hope and pray for you to live a long most productive and happy life.
From high on his horse, he said:
"f) Having over gay partners to a Shabbos meal would be akin to hosting two adulterous individuals in the hope to be mekarev them. If they wish to come separately without flaunting their clear disdain for my values, I would be happy to host them. But coming together reflects a disregard for my deeply held beliefs"
Get real. Feeding the hungry - not your religion? Where is your ahavas Yisroel?
To receive an invitation to your home, one must be vetted.
Do you bottle "da'as Toireh" for a living?
I for one will pass on the distinction.
Anon 3:51 - If you are so hungry that I need to feed you - I can drop the packages off at your home. I'm not asking you to starve.
But don't ask me to accept your values by inviting them into my home. I am more than willing to host you without your significant other. Why is it that you feel that is so offensive?
I wear a black hat, am married, learn. I'm not the one you'd have trouble with.
You're the one I wouldn't want to be around.
"don't ask me to accept your values by inviting them into my home."
What about faker meshulachim? They're welcome, and on your level.
I agree with Chana and Joe, and would just like to add a brief point:
The difference, Alex, between being totally welcoming (because it's not like, either way, one would be literally thrown out of shul) of a not-yet-observant Jew into shul and a gay person with his partner is twofold:
a) The not-yet-observant Jew, if he's coming to shul, PROBABLY hasn't forsworn himself from changing, as you seem to have regarding this one aspect in your life.
b) More importantly, the not-yet-observant Jew doesn't bring his cheeseburger or his chillul shabbos INTO shul and ask us to be nice to it.
Good luck with everything.
Are you hospitable to "faker meshulachim"? Something in the way you phrase it leads me to believe not. Why not?
Anon 3:51 - you didn't answer why you have a problem with my having my values in my own home and asking you to respect that.
The revolution is the recognition thatwe have to find God without looking it in the eye. God's laws are effectively in the hands of man, which puts them in the field of legal postivism (such of HLA Hart, and yes I've read him) or Legal Realism (such as Judge Posner, and yes I've read him too)
Introducing Postmodernism allowed me to do one basic thing: Allowed me to introduce the following: The bright line test, and it's failures.
If I have to face God, in a Rich and Meaningful relationship this Yom Kippur, where are the brigh line tests? If you do your reasearch (and people are conitnually publishing) even the Ramabam isn't so clear on his 13 ikkarim, and those are a radical from the previous era. the Gemara anthromorphizes God.
The idea of chadash being assur is contemporary. You can read blogs about paleo and unsual geriasot, because people like it. Academics are interesting characters... So saying that the Ikkarim are the line is very unhelpful, they are very stretchy.(Dr. Marc Shapiro comes to mind) So is saying stuff like Judaism is an ascetic religion- what of parts of the history of Chassidus? And what makes this read of the Rambam correct? It may not be a normative read.
The closer you look, the more you realize there is a lens that we read these text through that has to be taken off. I am not the Rambam, I am not the sages of the Gemara, but I have to stand before the Same God. What does it mean to walk in halacha if no can see publically there is no one consistent opinion about a "true" or "good" conception of what this path should be. How do we conceive of a community of beleivers in God in the Face of that?
And that really is a more central part of what is going on here. It's not about gay rights in the community- it's about how much do we expose about the variances within halachas, the fractures of communities, the lack of central authority and the power of individuals to construct halachic identities outside of what we thought for a very long time were central sources of power.
It's not about the Ikkarim (when was the last time you actually quizzed someone about the Ikkarim before giving someone an aliya)
It's about this vague sense of identity. What makes someone Orthodox or even Jewish, or anything, is not as pure as the Modern Reads that Rav wants us to reads these texts as. I'm sorry. Time to move on and see what we actually can do.
Welcome to the new world people! It's why saying Judaism is xyz makes absolutely no sense and sticking up a blog to talk about it makes the problem worse. Someone like me can pop in and ask all sorts of questions :)
Know Who You stand Before. If in fact, God is infinite, then in fact, you may have infinite possibilities for answers...
ShanaMaidel, your popping in and asking questions doesn't actually bother me at all, because you haven't actually said anything substantive.
I'm sure you have a lot of fun composing posts, though - give yourself a nice pat on the back, and good luck with that philosophy class.
Alex wrote: "Obviously you will win these based on the accepted interpretation of 6 words in Vyikrah."
Obviously your self categorization as an orthodox jew, is completely wrong. The discussion here is about orthodox gay, you are not orthodox. Why don't you come clean about that at the start.
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