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Frum & Gay

**Welcome to the ten minute post. Yes, that is right. This post was composed in ten minutes. Let's see if it actually makes sense.**

The impetus for this particular post is a result of the discussion taking place
over at A Whispering Soul. I'd like to pick out a couple of sections and briefly comment on them.
"The Orthodox community has been notoriously slow in dealing with issues they are uncomfortable with, or which they would like to pretend do not exist (domestic abuse, childhood sexual abuse, etc.). With regard to the issue of homosexuality, I am certain there is a great deal of homophobia that comes into play in the Orthodox world. The advice normally given by Rebbeim in the past to "just get married and it will go away" clearly indicates a lack of understanding of the issues involved on the part of the Rebbeim, not to mention being horribly unfair to the individual concerned and their unsuspecting spouse.

With the recent coming out of the principal of Flatbush Yeshiva, who has stated that he can no longer be Orthodox, and the film Trembling Before God, which explores the lives and struggles of "gay Orthodox Jews, " and with more young Orthodox Jews coming out, Orthodox Jewry is being confronted with the issue like never before. In the last year alone, I have heard four different shabbat sermons delivered at different shuls on the topic. Most advocate compassion. While that is a start, it is not enough.

No, I don't know what the answer is, because there is no answer. I have a hard time believing that HaShem would seemingly be so cruel as to expect someone to lead a life without love or a life of celibacy, but the Torah is also fairly clear. In the end, we don't know HaShem's reasons, and really it doesn't matter what the reasons are. I guess what I would like to see is for Orthodoxy to better understand the issues involved and see beyond the homophobia; to set up a framework to allow those who want to stay Orthodox but not indulge their sexuality to not feel left out of the community; and not to shun those who struggle."
I appreciate MCAryeh's candor and his sensitivity. It is not a black and white issue, no matter how badly some people might want it to be. If you maintain the immutability of Torah than the matter would in theory have an easy answer. You can be homosexual, you just cannot act upon the desire.

To me it is not that simple. I cannot accept nor believe that there is an omnipotent creator who set up this sort of stumbling block for people. I cannot accept nor believe in answers such as "G-d has a plan, we just don't know what it is."

Comments like that tend to infuriate me. I once heard someone tell a group of survivors something similar. I wanted to throttle him. Are you trying to tell me that survivors of one of the greatest horrors ever seen by mankind should be comforted because they are part of some unexplainable celestial plan.

No Way. It is unacceptable.

At some point in time you have to wonder about it all. You have to ask yourself if the concept of immutability is valid and even if it is, has man corrupted it. That is, if man is fallible have we gotten it wrong. Have we made a mistake in our understanding and interpretation and are we passing this mistake down through the generations.

What do you think?

Comments

I have dear friend who is orthodox and quite conservative. We get into awful fights over this issue. It might be "clear" what the Torah says, but again, who is interpreting it - man. The Torah is clear on many other taboos or moral issues, but they don't seem to raise a flag as much as homosexuality.
Stacey said…
What do I think? I think that you and I are on the same page.

I find it heartbreaking that Orthodox Jewish homosexuals are made to feel that they are heretics.
Leah Gayle said…
The Torah is clear because the Torah is clear - nothing involving any "interpretation" about it. The reason homosexuality was until recently considered a mental illness is because - drumroll, please - it is one. It's a form of attachment disorder and many people have been cured of it. The Yeshiva culture actually aggrivates the tendency by preventing young men from marrying at the biological age when God/nature/evolution intended them to do so, in their late teens. The fact that society has adopted some sort of weird unnatural extended childhood for human beings doesn't change the fact that we are biologically programmed otherwise. The rampant sexual abuse and instances of homosexuality coming from the Yeshiva culture is a direct result of trying to impose restrictions on human sexuality that God never intended. It's that simple. The urge for sex is natural and trying to supress it causes mental malfunctions. That's just the way it is.
Anonymous said…
http://www.jonahweb.org/cms/e/index.php?option=content&task=category§ionid=3&id=9&Itemid=33

You should check out what the Rabbis are saying
Jack Steiner said…
Sweet,

Interpetation is what it is. Who do you follow, Beith Hillel or Shammai.

Stacey,

It is shameful.

BB,

You are welcome to make as many moronic statements as you like. I won't prevent you from looking like an ignorant fool.

Your comment is only semicoherent. I know, I am not being nice, but I have a hard time suffering this kind of ill-informed rhetoric.

Our Rabbinical sages explain that because mankind has been endowed by our Creator with a free will, everyone has the capacity to change.

Sure, I'd like to change my eyes from green to blue. Furthermore I'd like to grow another four inches in height. It sounds like my formal education was incomplete, I can change because I want to.
Rebecca said…
I'm not sure I really shared my views so clearly at mc's page. I don't judge ppl. They can do what they want. I don't agree with gay marriage though. to me, the definiton of marriage is a union of a male and female. I don't have a problem with gay ppl living together or forming a union and calling it something else. That is fine. In regards to Mc's point, I don't think someone can be homosexual and also call themselves an orthodox jew, that just doesn't make sense.
And stacey, I don't mean to make them feel like heretics. I have many friends and family that do not follow all the laws of judaism and therefore consider themselves conservative or reform. I love them as much as my orthodox friends and family. It doesn't matter to me. It just doesn't make sense that someone that is homosexual (something that unfortunately for them, is against the torah, just like eating a cheeseburger) to call themselves orthodox, because they are not. Other than that my opinion is to each his own and I respect that as much as I can.
Elie said…
I have a lot of thoughts on this topic, probably too many for a comments section. I am considering a post of my own, but a couple of brief points:

- To say that the written Torah is not against homosexual relations is just intellectually dishonest. If one takes a non-orthodox view that this law in the Torah doesn't apply anymore, or is too difficult to keep, there are fair approaches and I can respect them. But it's untenable to say that Orthodoxy and homosexual relations are compatible, anymore than Orthodoxy and eating pork, or Orthodoxy and driving on Shabbos.

- That said, I agree that Orthodox people often have viscerally negative feelings about homosexuality far out of proportion to their approach to other Torah prohibitions. I.e., if you are accepting and tolerant of fellow Jews who eat cheeseburgers and drive on Shabbos, but are disgusted by homosexual Jews, the problem is you, not halacha.

- I don't understand why God would give someone a homosexual desire and not allow it to be fulfilled. But I don't understand why God would give a man a desire for another man's wife, or why he let Hitler survive his infancy, or why he allows tsunamis... or why he took my son from me. Unless you are prepared to doubt God's existence altogether, stating that one of his rules seems "unfair" is no proof that it's an incorrect rule, since so many "acts of God" that are very visible and apparent every day also seem unfair. It's utterly useless to ever try to understand God's plan. The great challenge is to maintain faith in the face of unfairness and tragedy.
The first problem I have about gay people is that through out the history of the world homosexuality was considered something that is different and not normal. The Torah clearly states that One shall not lay with a male as one lays with a female. This can be interpreted as black and white or it can be interpreted as meaning that if you don't lay with a woman than there is no way that the way you lay with a man is wrong. Right after the Torah calls this an abomination. Orthodox Jews believe in the Torah, so if someone is OPENLY breaking the Torah than they clearly cannot be considered Orthodox. Someone who is openly violating any Torah commandments OPENLY and in public is not considered and orthdox jew either. Why should an exception be made for Homosexuals? I have a problem myself. If I see an extremely attractive woman or if any normal male sees an extremely attractive woman the first reaction is to want to go over to them and get to know them a little better. Although that would be the thought process we know that we are Torah observant Jews and cannot do that so we don't. If we cannot have 100 wives then why can they be gay?? A normal male has a stumbling block just like them. The only difference is a normal male does not act!!
Jack Steiner said…
Hi Rebecca,

I understand what you are saying, it is a fine line that is tough to navigate.

Hi Elie,

Obviously I don't have any incredible answers to offer, but I very much appreciate your comments.

I suppose that one of the core problems I have is the intolerant attitude some people have towards homosexuals.

The first problem I have about gay people is that through out the history of the world homosexuality was considered something that is different and not normal

This is factually incorrect. Look at the Greeks and the Romans among others and we can see examples that disprove this.

Someone who is openly violating any Torah commandments OPENLY and in public is not considered and orthdox jew either.

I'd be very careful about making these types of proclamations. It wouldn't be hard to pick this apart.

We could get into the usual disagreements about kashrut, as in there are places that not everyone accepts their certification.

Politics infects everything.

If we cannot have 100 wives then why can they be gay?? A

It is not the same thing, these are apples and oranges.
Bill said…
This is the first time I have heard this issue discussed from a Jewish perspective. Thanks for posting on this Jack.

I am sure you are tired of hearing the endless Christian debate on the topic, but here is a really good thread that highlights some rational Christian thinking on the topic.

http://toward-jerusalem.blogspot.com/2006/07/divorce-and-same-sex-relationships.html

I thought I would include it here as the relationship between the faiths should not be as far appart as it is. (personal opinion)
"This is factually incorrect. Look at the Greeks and the Romans among others and we can see examples that disprove this"

I don't think you are right about this. Even though it went on with the Greeks and the Romans it was not accepted by everyone and still considered wrong.

"It wouldn't be hard to pick this apart.

We could get into the usual disagreements about kashrut, as in there are places that not everyone accepts their certification.

Politics infects everything."

What do politics have to do about being a homosexual and calling yourself an orthodox Jew? How is my statement easy to pick apart? PLease do so because I want to know how soneone can be orthodox and openly break Torah commandments. I would also like to know why you think that breaking commandments in the Torah is politics.
Jack Steiner said…
I don't think you are right about this. Even though it went on with the Greeks and the Romans it was not accepted by everyone and still considered wrong.

Instead of saying that you think I am wrong, prove it. Show me where homosexuality was considered wrong. Talk to me about Greek society that worshipped the body. Talk to me about a society in which young boys fellated older men and it was considered acceptable.

What do politics have to do about being a homosexual and calling yourself an orthodox Jew?

What do politics have to do with it? Well the reality is that politics have everything to do with how things work. Politics are part of why Satmars have their interpretations of Torah and Breslovers have theirs.

Politics are part of why some minhagim are considered acceptable and others are not.

C'mon.
MC Aryeh said…
Jack, I understand where you are coming from. It is issues like this which make it hard to be Orthodox sometimes, but if I believe, and I do, I don't feel I can pick and choose. They don't call it Godwrestling for nothing. That said, I would never tell a holocaust survivor, "God has a plan, we just don't know what it is". I may believe that, but to say it to someone who has been through that would be incredibly insensitive. I think the same applies to those who have same sex attraction...and laws or no laws, there is no excuse for homophobia...
Jack Steiner said…
MCA,

Don't we always pick and choose.
"What do politics have to do with it? Well the reality is that politics have everything to do with how things work. Politics are part of why Satmars have their interpretations of Torah and Breslovers have theirs.

Politics are part of why some minhagim are considered acceptable and others are not."

Clearly you can not tell the difference between Torah and politics. Satmars and Breslovers do not have different interpretations of the Torah. The have different customs and traditions of they way they are. They use the same interpretations as everyone else, Shulcahn Aruch ...

The Greeks were not the only group living on earth at the time. Their beliefs were rejected by many and not considered normal, Hence the Chanukah story. If everyone view was that the practices of the Greeks were normal they would still be a world power today and the rest of the world would have embraced their ways.
Jack Steiner said…
Actually FWQ you have yet to construct an argument based upon fact and logic. All you have are silly remarks that you think support your position.

Prove that the Greeks POV was rejected. Want to talk about the Hashmonaim, a Jewish taliban who went after Jews who disagreed with their POV with great ferocity.

Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel had their disagreements as have millions of Jews about interpretation.

If you want to be taken seriously yo have to do better than this tripe.
Anonymous said…
Very interesting post. Thank you!
Anonymous said…
How about that, I tried, but still this system puts me on it, blogger comment system, by name, I should have been more alert to begin with, really don't want any visitors but wanted to say this regarding your post on this big subject. Please ignore me otherwise.

But I think about the subject of the post, this, it is a problem between the Human and the Angelic, the Human can have and live with mercy, compassion, and forgiveness, regardless of the offense, (short of damning G-d), and the Angelic cannot, too systematic and rote in their thinking and doing. So for the Jew, as for all of us, that is the problem here, mercy and acceptance without spreading the obvious error (sin), or hard cold and even mean Angelic response, automatic and unmerciful?
Shelli said…
if you ever want to know what ANY culture was doing at ANY given time... Look at their RULES.

Each and every rule that is in leviticus was made because people were doing it.

Every rule and law we have today is made because people were doing it.

There are many statutes in Leviticus that we do not follow today - we no longer sacrifice animals, and in fact, look at ways to humanely slaughter animals, to make it as a way to be closer to HaShem.

When we baker Challah, we offer a PIECE. That is a Rabbinic INTERPRETATION - NOT what the Torah commands us to do.

WHY is it OK to have your lights on a timer and still consider yourself Shomer Shabbes? The lights are still turning ON, by an act that YOU created. Personally, I believe that since the Torah was written BEFORE Edison, that it's OK if I turn the lights on on Shabbes.

I'm not going to get bogged down in details, because that takes time away from my studying and experiencing Shabbat with my family. You know, my Bi-Racial, Jewish Lesbian-semi-frum-family with an adoptive daughter.

And we're really happy, too.

And observant.

And there's no self loathing, which, sadly, is happening to a lot of youth in the Orthodox community. It's hard to be joyful for Shabbat when you are taught to hate yourself.
gabtug said…
Let me clarify some misconceptions here.
1) There are rules, and there are application of those rules.
This explains why above one can use a timer to turn on lights, but not turn lights on on shabbos. There is a great distinction. Look in the gemarah for how point 1 applies.

2) Talmud/Our sages comes out strongly against gays for obvious reasons - because utlimately the purpose of the sexual urges is to prompt us to get married, become 'unified and one' in this world, and to procreate to ensure that there is a next generation.

If you say we should not listen to our Sages, the Torah says to listen to our sages.

If you say that the Torah we have now is not the Torah we had at Sinai, and that we have 'interpreted it wrong', then yes, you are a heretic.
And I quote Rambam's 13 principles of faith principle #8:

'I beleive with complete/perfect faith that all the Torah that exists now in our hands is that which was given to Moshe our teacher may peace be upon him.'