R Gidon Rothstein / This past Shabbat, Jews all over the world read the lists of prohibited sexual acts in Parashiyot Acharei Mot and Kedoshim. That reading could and should spark many important conversations and realizations—about the Torah’s view of sexuality, about the role of the different relationships in our lives, about the meaning of the death penalty, about karet and its ramifications, and more.One central such conversation, in our times, is about homosexuality. Increasingly, those who struggle with this incarnation of the yetzer hara, the evil inclination, and those close to them, wonder aloud why it is that Orthodoxy is so “homophobic,” so opposed to people who are doing their best to live good lives, but have a sexual inclination that differs from the ordinary.

Why Homosexuality Is Different in Our Times

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Guest post by R. Gideon Rothstein

Rabbi Dr. Gidon Rothstein is the author of We’re Missing the Point: What’s Wrong with the Orthodox Jewish Community and How to Fix It, Educating a People: An Haftarot Companion as a Source for a Theology of Judaism, and two works of Jewishly-themed fiction, Murderer in the Mikdash and Cassandra Misreads the Book of Samuel.

This past Shabbat, Jews all over the world read the lists of prohibited sexual acts in Parashiyot Acharei Mot and Kedoshim. That reading could and should spark many important conversations and realizations—about the Torah’s view of sexuality, about the role of the different relationships in our lives, about the meaning of the death penalty, about karet and its ramifications, and more.

One central such conversation, in our times, is about homosexuality. Increasingly, those who struggle with this incarnation of the yetzer hara, the evil inclination, and those close to them, wonder aloud why it is that Orthodoxy is so “homophobic,” so opposed to people who are doing their best to live good lives, but have a sexual inclination that differs from the ordinary.

The question bears answering. Since I’ve written about homosexuality in this space before (link), I want to note already that I see the answer I am about to give as also explaining why the topic exercises me so much, why I feel it needs to be addressed as often as possibly productive.

What I Won’t Say

One unproductive avenue, I believe, is to anchor the discussion of homosexuality in the claim that the Torah sees it as worse than other arayot, other sexual sins, because it is labeled a to’evah, usually translated as an abomination. This claim, by the way, is made both by those who dislike the possibility that the Torah attaches special opprobrium to homosexuality as well as by those who believe it is true, that homosexuality is worse.

Important Torah scholars, including mori ve-rabi R. Aharon Lichtenstein, have questioned whether we can be certain as to the Torah’s intent in using that word in this and other contexts. Focusing on the word to’evah launches a messy, convoluted, and (in my experience) futile debate about whether this sin is worse than adultery, incest, bestiality, or any other prohibited such act.

It does bear repeating, a fact often lost, that all of these wrongs are so serious that God determined that a single willful transgression of any one of them—and others besides, such as eating on Yom Kippur—deserves death, in the absence of teshuvah. We don’t need to assert that homosexuality is worse than any of those others to see it (and all those others) as religiously problematic in a life-forfeiting way.

We are so far from administering punishment in Jewish courts, and so accustomed to excusing sin in various ways, that we have lost sight of this. Many of us have become so accustomed to understanding the roots of sin, to being forgiving of others’ flaws in humble recognition of our own, both appropriate parts of a reaction to sin, that we have lost the recognition of just how terrible these sins are. I’ll return to that below, but allow me to pause to note the distinction between private and public sin.

Ashrei Nesui Pesha, Kesui Chata’ah, Blessed Are Those Whose Sins are Hidden

In 1976, a homosexual asked R. Moshe Feinstein zt”l how to repent (Iggerot Mosheh, Orach Chayyim 4:115). R. Moshe’s view of how to handle and resist such urges might not appeal to some people today, but I only mention it to note that R. Moshe answered this question as he would any other, with encouragement and advice on how to regain control of this area of life and repair a relationship with God.

Would that all of our dealings with homosexuality be like that. One important aspect of why homosexuality today in fact obligates a different response hinges on the difference between a private individual approaching a rabbi or friend with a personal difficulty, or joining a support group held without fanfare in a local Jewish institution, and what happens with homosexuality today.

Truly private sin—the kind where no one knows about it other than God, the sinner or sinners involved, and perhaps a confidant or posek, in the name of learning how to deal with a sexuality that must never be indulged—always demands simple compassion and assistance.

There likely are many such homosexuals still left in our community, and I wish them success in their struggle with an enormous challenge. Whatever I say from here on has nothing to do with any of them, or any other private sinners, of whatever sort. We are all sinners, more or less, and have no right to look down on others for their particular private failures. We can only wish them, and us, the strength and fortitude to bear their personal challenges in serving God.

Even if we accidentally discover their secret sin—unless it calls for action to protect others, such as if someone is selling nonkosher meat as if it were kosher—it remains just that, secret, between them and God. A particular Jew doesn’t marry? It’s sad, for many reasons, but unless we have something helpful to do about it (really helpful, not intrusively helpful), it’s none of our business. I doubt any of us are on such good terms with God that it’s our job to ferret out others’ private failings.

Public Homosexuality

For many today, though, homosexuality is no longer private. People “come out” about their inclination to sin, and expect those around them to respond understandingly and acceptingly. I recently met a man whose personal religiosity I have no cause to question, who told me that his son had “come out” to him, nervously. He told me, further, that he and his wife had responded with some indignation that the son feared this would change their love for him.

Parenthetically, I have no problem with parental love staying steady in the face of whatever a child does. I do suspect that there are other sins, even sexual ones, where the parents would still have loved the son, but reacted differently. If he had confessed to having decided that he was, in his unalterable inclinations, an adulterer, someone who only found pleasure in seducing married women, or a slanderer, a spreader of vicious gossip, I doubt he would have received the reaction these parents assumed they should give their son the homosexual.

The larger point is that homosexuality is no longer private, and that is why, I suggest, we need to react differently to it than to other sins.

In Dein Dor

Allow me to tell a story, not directly about our topic. One of my first rebbeim, R. Ezra Bick, told me of R. Akiva Eiger, zt”l, having excommunicated a man who publicly insulted him. After the man asked forgiveness and R. Eiger removed the cherem, the man said that he had thought he had to take the position he did, as a matter of the honor of Torah.

R. Akiva Eiger replied, “In dein dor, ich bin kavod haTorah, in this generation I am the honor of Torah.” (I note that I only tell the story since R. Akiva Eiger was right, not arrogant. It’s not always clear who such people are, and some assert the title undeservedly, but in every generation, there are people whose honor is intimately connected with that of Torah itself).

Another story: R. Yitschak Ze’ev Soloveitchik, zt”l, known as R. Velvel or the Griz, was well-known for his opposition to Zionism. On the other hand (at least in the version of the story I remember), when a movie theater near him was going to open on Shabbat, he wasn’t moved to protest. Asked about the difference, he said the movies were a violation of the Torah, whereas religious Zionism, in his view, was a ziyyuf haTorah, a forgery of the Torah.

And, finally, a speculation I have heard from many and find personally convincing. In the 1940s in the United States, many, many prominent gedolim spoke and wrote forcefully about the necessity of a mechitzah in an Orthodox synagogue, the prohibition of praying in a synagogue without one.

After the fact, it is unclear why mechitzah should be so central—to some, it is not even clear that mechitzah is a Biblical requirement. I don’t mean to question the necessity of mechitzah, only to note that it is not clear from traditional sources why it became the focus of so much rabbinic attention.

The common answer, which I think both true and importantly instructive, is that in their time, (in their dor) mechitzah was the battleground of Torah. Many wanted to create a ziyyuf haTorah, a forgery of the Torah, that it was acceptable, in some way, for an Orthodox synagogue to forego a mechitzah, and the leaders of the time properly rushed to the ramparts for battle.

The Battleground of Torah

In my view, that is where the Orthodox community stands with homosexuality today. It is common, in Jewish history, to live in a society that has accepted a morality counter to that of the Torah. It forces us to remind ourselves—and to work to transmit to our children—our contrary view, our being a nation that dwells alone, that follows a different moral standard, that answers to a higher authority.

This repeated element of Jewish life becomes that much more difficult when other Jews, who claim to adhere to the same Torah as we do, begin to import and accept that alien part of outside society’s morality. I stress that I am not opposing adopting outside ideas; I am opposing adopting those that are in flagrant contradiction to the Torah’s dictates and values. Then, the battle is about maintaining a proper communal understanding of what God wants from us.

Imagine, for example, that the 1970s fad of open marriages and “swinging” had caught on, so that a significant minority of Americans were engaging in wife-swapping, and society at large had come to believe there was nothing wrong with it, for those who chose to engage in it. That would be a new temptation for Jews, having to remind ourselves of the sanctity of marriage in a society that had abandoned it. It would mean that some Jews would likely give in to the temptation of trying it, of tasting this new pleasure that the intelligent, sophisticated people around them all thought to be fine. Observant Jews would have to work to hold the line against this encroachment on our morality.

It would become that much harder if couples who were members of Orthodox communities, who claimed to be Orthodox Jews, not only fell prey to engaging in such activities, but began to insist that the Orthodox community accept them, and treat them with respect and understanding.

Lost Battles and Battles Still Underway

I fear some readers will think to themselves, well, we do accept such sinners. We have, in many Orthodox Jewish communities, become accustomed to welcoming, without comment or judgment, those who violate the Torah very publicly, at all levels—from Shabbat desecration (which is, arguably, worse than homosexuality, since the Talmud sees one who violates Shabbat publicly as being someone who has rejected the whole Torah), to gossip and slander, to eating out at non-kosher restaurants, and all the way down the line.

That leads some to say, you can tolerate all those forms of sin, why not this one?

The answer lies in the words in dein dor, in this generation, and in the concept of ziyyuf haTorah, forgery of Torah. The Jewish community has, over the last two centuries, been forced to confront a world in which most of our fellow Jews are not attempting to observe the Torah. Leaders of past generations have had to find ways to walk a line that allows us to express our love of our fellow Jew even as we are saddened by their lack of observance.

That is true, it seems to me, only for those sins where the recognition that a sin is wrong has already been completely lost. Where there is still room to argue that point, it becomes incumbent upon us all to do so.

If I lived in a community where everyone—as far as any of us could tell—observed Shabbat, and a well-educated person in that community (or a newcomer) began to publicly violate it, that would be a battle to fight. We would start by remonstrating with that person softly and privately, as Rambam tells us, but we would have to continue combating that behavior until we won. Or until we lost so fully that further battle would be futile.

If we were in a community where no one lied—as the Talmud tells us of the city of Lod—and someone began to lie, that would be a battle to fight (as it was in Lod, where they asked the first such person to leave their community). When mechitzah, or Biblical criticism, or academic Talmud, or psychological determinism was at the forefront of the fight over what was authentic or not within a Torah community, those each became battles to fight.

Once the battle is lost, once large percentages of the Jewish community have lost sight of what the Torah asks of us, those who still understand the ideals of the Torah (I am making no claim about success at keeping that Torah; the question at hand is remembering the ideal, not who is better or worse at fulfilling it) are forced to fall back, reminding themselves of the truth even as they are polite and welcoming to others who are not only ignorant of the truth but often willfully reject it.

There may come a time when that is true of homosexuality, when so much of the Orthodox community has lost sight of a simple fact of the Torah’s view of a proper life, that that, too, will become a matter for those who still strive to keep the whole Torah to know privately but not comment on publicly. That day has not yet come, and those interested in upholding and promoting a life lived in proper service of God should, I believe, be manning the ramparts to make sure that that view, that realization, is not lost.

Towards Returning Homosexuality to an Ordinary Arayot

Many, many people are bedeviled by wrongful urges, especially sexual. I don’t write out of the pretense that I could do better if faced by such urges, or that I do better in my own private life with whatever wrongful desires I may or may not have.

But a proper sexuality is one of the linchpins of the life the Torah tells us to set up. That view itself, that underlying understanding, is under attack in our day, and in the battle being fought, there are casualties along the way. When we meet such a casualty, a private individual who has bought into the external world’s views and has been led to sin, we need to respond with all the compassion we can muster, to help him heal this wound in his spiritual persona.

Yet even as we care for the casualties, we must continue to wage the war, in the hope that here, at least, we can preserve the proper understanding of what it is God wants from us, as expressed openly and unequivocally in the Torah.

About Gidon Rothstein

147 comments

  1. Back at the beginning of March in Daf Yomi we came across the first discussion of homosexuality (B. Shabbat 149b). I was struck by that passage which unambiguously placed the biblical injunction against male homosexual sex in an abusive context: a King using it to subjugate his captives. The Koren Steinsaltz note captures the point:

    Nebuchadnezzar and Zedekiah – The exposition about Nebuchadnezzar’s homosexual activity is based on the following verse, which is not quoted in the Gemara: “Woe to one who gives his neighbor drink, who puts your venom in and also makes him drunk so that you may look upon their nakedness” (Habakkuk 2:15). This is interpreted as an allusion to Nebuchadnezzar’s practice of intoxicating his male guests so he could engage in homosexual relations with them (Maharsha). This basic storyline is one that was familiar in talmudic times, due to current events. The memoirs of the early Roman emperors are replete with stories similar to these about Nebuchadnezzar.

    It seems to me the answer to the headline of this post – Why Homosexuality is Different in Our Times – is due to a change in our understanding of the science. And I expect the emerging halachic challenge is on a different plane than the one addressed by R. Rothstein and may ultimately need to be addressed by evolving our definition of Mishkav Zachar. Perhaps Shabbat 149b will help a future posek do that.

  2. Just to clarify, is this about fighting gay marriage? Discouraging people from coming out? What exactly does this “battle” look like to you?

  3. “Asked about the difference, he said the movies were a violation of the Torah, whereas religious Zionism, in his view, was a ziyyuf haTorah, a forgery of the Torah…Yet even as we care for the casualties, we must continue to wage the war…”

    A further analogy to the Griz’s view on Zionism may bring out a point in conducting this “war”.

    R. Reuven Grozovsky, IIRC, discussed in “Bayos Hazeman” that there were different “tachsesei milchamah”, war-tactics, amongst those of anti-Zionist hashkafa. But it came to a point that everyone rejected the tactics of what the Neturie Karta has currently evolved into.

    The Jewish Press and the “Text and Texture” blog published “Homosexuality And Halacha: Five Critical Points”, which summarized in its ending paragraph that we are “afraid that disproportionate condemnation of this phenomenon gives unproductive focus to a red herring”, and in its beginning paragraph stated that “… while we view such developments from an adversarial perspective, great thought must go into the process of developing an appropriate response.”

    I suppose everyone agrees that “great thought must go into the process of developing an appropriate response”, and one must be careful, for example, when publicly blaming tragedies on homosexuality. It’s not quite the same as the Neuteri Karta analogy(such messages of public mussar have been done in different ways by people of different stature), but such “war tactics” have sometimes backfired.

  4. IH raises a good point, and I wish to perhaps elaborate.

    Often the discussion about halakha and homosexuality centers around the notion that homosexuality – or the homosexual act is merely that – an act. The Torah forbids it, and that’s it. But every halakhic discussion I’ve seen fails to address the current reality, that often people are looking not to just engage in homosexual relations, but to establish a lasting relationship with someone from the same sex. It’s not that they have homosexual inclinations or “taivas,” rather they have a different sense of identity and different needs. Just like one wouldn’t simply call a heterosexual’s desires/wants/needs for a partner of the opposite sex merely an “inclination.” It’s about something bigger than that – companionship, identity, love, etc.

    Thus, IMHO, any comparisons to adultery or bestiality are always flawed – I’ve never heard someone identify themselves as an adulterer or seeking a fulfilling love relationship with specifically an animal or married woman. Yes, there may be an inclination towards such a situation, but that is not the same as the homosexuals (of today at least). Can homosexuality be simply an “excuse” for sexual experimentation and temptation? Yes. But if you read the personal stories of homosexuals, it’s often about something more personal and existential. That is often the reason they are looking for compassion, acceptance and validation.

    Perhaps R. Rothstein will respond that such an attitude is merely a product of our culture and that is what we must wage war against. So I ask: Is our goal to proclaim that homosexuality is all about the homosexual act (and forbidden) and nothing to do with the lifestyle or life that a homosexual often seeks? That these homosexuals just have inclinations towards sexual relations that they must stop and control, but their desire to love and be loved aren’t real?

  5. IH: Wow! Redefining mishkav zakhar. That’s a big claim.

  6. Gil — Can you point me to the textual source for your definition of Mishkav Zachar?

  7. It’s late and I’m tired. The only thing that comes to mind is Kiddushin 22b. I’m sure there are more sources.

  8. Thus, IMHO, any comparisons to adultery or bestiality are always flawed – I’ve never heard someone identify themselves as an adulterer or seeking a fulfilling love relationship with specifically an animal or married woman. Yes, there may be an inclination towards such a situation, but that is not the same as the homosexuals (of today at least).

    1. Maybe you haven’t heard of it because the bigotry toward such people is so pervasive that they don’t “come out of the closet”?
    2. People certainly have “fulfilling love relationships” which are incestual.

  9. I have two issues with what was written.

    The first is that it really is just changing the argument to retain the status quo. According to R’ Rothstein, in prior generations – and, for many, the current one – homosexuality was considered particularly bad because frum Jews did not understand the Torah appropriately (they would have relied on the toevah argument he sees as not useful). Now, homosexuality is particularly bad because it is public (e.g. gay secular marriage).

    Se we are exchanging one halachic argument in place of another to get to the exact same conclusion. And its not even necessarily a good argument because if the battle is already “lost” it doesn’t apply anyway. And the battle may well be “lost.”

    The second point I have is, well, what exactly is R’ Rothstein arguing for? What policy? Kicking out the homosexual? In his own words, what R’ Rothstein wants is that homosexual persons in a couple not be accepted or treated with “respect and understanding.” What does that mean???

    (And I am not sure which side of the argument R’ Rothstein is on when he compares religious Zionism to homosexual couple equality.)

    As I said, behind all the words, this seems really to be an argument for maintaining the status quo, even as the status quo was not about a ziyyuf haTorah or any battle.

  10. Kiddushin 22b

    Interestingly, Gil, the context there also seems to be an abusive power relationship. Maybe my amateur lateral thinking has some legs after all…

  11. But every halakhic discussion I’ve seen fails to address the current reality, that often people are looking not to just engage in homosexual relations, but to establish a lasting relationship with someone from the same sex. It’s not that they have homosexual inclinations or “taivas,” rather they have a different sense of identity and different needs. Just like one wouldn’t simply call a heterosexual’s desires/wants/needs for a partner of the opposite sex merely an “inclination.” It’s about something bigger than that – companionship, identity, love, etc.

    I think Jonathan raises a good point. For a heterosexual, it’s easy to view a homosexual relationship as being just about sex. But, as I look at my own relationship with my wife, I see that the overwhelming majority of that relationship is about other things: building a life together, raising children, trust, communication, sharing dreams, concerns, helping the other, etc.

    Shlomo raises a good question: eople certainly have “fulfilling love relationships” which are incestual — but I think those kinds of examples fail to address the issue of what Jonathan is raising — and I don’t see a stira between prohibiting incestuous relationships and acknowledging Jonathan’s ideas.

    The difference is this: Jonathan isn’t talking about prohibiting relationships with certain people (close relatives, non-Jews, a convert marrying a kohein, etc.) — but the situation where person A is only attracted to others of a certain gender, and every person in the world of that gender is considered off-limits. And, indeed, that’s what makes homosexuality different from all the other ervos listed in Acharei Mos.

  12. the situation where person A is only attracted to others of a certain gender, and every person in the world of that gender is considered off-limits. And, indeed, that’s what makes homosexuality different from all the other ervos listed in Acharei Mos.

    Not true. It’s just that people exclusively attracted to, say, animals, are very rare and we just consider them to be mentally ill. (Sound familiar?)

  13. Shlomo – between 1% and 5% of the population is homosexual. Jews as a percentage of the US population are 2.1%.

    If you’re going to draw analogies, you should be looking there rather than fishing in the murky waters you’re in.

  14. IH,

    (1) it would seem to me the burden is on you to show that the biblical prohibition has ever been understood as relating only to abusive power dynamics. in that context note the analogy to “mishkevei ishah.” now, if you want to argue that heterosexual relationships were inherently heirarchical at the time and even “abusive,” where does that leave the rest of the torah’s prohibitions on heterosexual conduct?

    (2) the first thing that comes to mind for me is “ploni reva’ani liretsoni” in the sugya of palginan dibura. in context it(i am absolutely forgetting the cite for that, sorry.)

  15. “the situation where person A is only attracted to others of a certain gender, and every person in the world of that gender is considered off-limits. And, indeed, that’s what makes homosexuality different from all the other ervos listed in Acharei Mos.”

    I don’t really understand why this should matter, in the end. There are plenty of ppl who, due in whole or in part to torah restrictions, cannot find a life partner whom they love. I know a lot of single, heterosexual jews (mostly women) in their 30s and 40s, some of whom will never get married. Further, some of those would have found a life partner if they had not been limited to frum jews. What about a 50 year old kohen? It is possible he will find a kohen-elligible woman, but just as likely that he will not find someone precisely because of the Torah’s restrictions. The only difference between these people and someone gay is that the gay person knows in advance that they will not be able to find a partner within the confines of the Torah, whereas the other people can hold out hope until it becomes, retrospectively, clear that adhering to the Torah has prevented them from marrying.

  16. Emma — I have done no serious research on this and have no plans to do so. I shared my lateral thinking as a possibility — particularly because I think the science seems to be heading to a profound conflict with halacha. [Unlike the role of women, which is primarily sociological, here there is an explicit Torah prohibition].

    It is up to the Poskim to sort this out, but it would not surprise me if this was part of a future re-think if/when the science is such that current apologetics (such a represented in this post).

    That said, if someone has a textual knockout punch to counter my lateral thinking, I am happy to adjust my thinking.

  17. what is the conflict?

  18. …such that current apologetics (such a represented in this post) run out.

  19. Thank You Rabbi Gideon Rothstein! This is a beautiful, well written and well explained article that is spot on target as it is correct.

    I am a long time reader of Hirhurim/Torah Musings and I rarely agree with the contentious issues discussed here (whether discussion and comments by R. Student or his readers), and I don’t even remember the last time I read something here that was agreeable, and this piece of yours is a true masterpiece.

  20. Thank you ADCWonk for your support.

    I do want to clarify that I’m not advocating a change in the halakha or even acceptance of the aveirah, rather I’m seeking a comprehensive approach that takes into consideration the issues I raised. Ignoring them or responding to homosexuals that it’s just about sex is insensitive, dishonest and wishful thinking, IMHO.

    Shlomo – I would like to see some actual evidence about your claim that people are exclusively attracted to animals. Even if it exists, the fact that it’s rare may certainly make a difference. Moreover, I think we can all agree that a family structure could technically exist between two males or females, but between a human and animal?

    Also, your point about people having fulfilling relationships which are incestual is besides the point – one could have a “fulfilling relationship” with a non-Jew too. My point is that many homosexuals can ONLY have a fulfilling relationship with a person from the same sex. Moreover, whereas a heterosexual male may fall in love with a non-Jewish woman, I don’t think he would claim that he’s only attracted to non-Jewish woman. The same is not true for a homosexual male – he in fact does claim to only be attracted to males, which according to halakha are entirely off limits.

  21. Not true. It’s just that people exclusively attracted to, say, animals, are very rare and we just consider them to be mentally ill. (Sound familiar?)

    No, it doesn’t. I’m talking about building a relationship and a home — I think you’re talking about sexual practices.

    emma wrote: I don’t really understand why this should matter, in the end. There are plenty of ppl who, due in whole or in part to torah restrictions, cannot find a life partner whom they love.

    You bring up good (and painful) examples. But, still, it’s a different case than where every single acceptable partner in the world is ossur from day one.

    Please note: I’m suggesting any accommodation — I’m only trying to elaborate on Jonathan’s point about why I think this is different from all the other ervos.

  22. Emma — At its bluntest, the halachic conflict will be when/if the science demonstrates that God created a non-trivial percentage of his creatures such that they cannot fulfill his commandments; and in fact, must be put to death if they act as designed by Him.

  23. What commandments? The one to marry? As I mentioned, lot’s of ppl don’t marry, often for reasons having to do with the commandments. The one not to have homosexual intercourse? Well, they can in fact fulfill that one, just at great personal cost.

  24. Emma — Pass. I’ve said my piece.

  25. “The only difference between these people and someone gay is that the gay person knows in advance that they will not be able to find a partner within the confines of the Torah, whereas the other people can hold out hope until it becomes, retrospectively, clear that adhering to the Torah has prevented them from marrying.”

    That’s a very big difference. Similarly, that impacts on why the analogies to adultery, incest tc. miss the point. Adulteers don’t say that the only person in the world they can have sex and an intimate loving spousal relationship with is another person’s spouse. They do it because they enjoy it and they can have such relationships with permitted people. Gays can’t. Period. And that’s a big difference.

    I am also interested in hearing what R. Rothstein proposes; e.g., what should a shul do if a young man who has “come out” who grew up in the shul and whose parents still are members starts coming to shul. Should the rabbi, who knew him since he was born give him a warm good shakos. Should he get an aliyah after he graduates like all other young men do (assume that’s a shul custom). Should the parents’ friends invite the whole family, including him, for a Shabbat meal? Some specifics from R. Rothstein would help, I think, to better understand his position.

  26. “That’s a very big difference.”

    Why? One person is cruelly strung along, only to find out that apparently God’s plan for them involved living alone, the other one at least has the opportunity to plan accordingly. We see a difference because we think the heterosexual ppl I described at least had a “chance,” but wfrom a God’s eye view what is the difference?

  27. “I am also interested in hearing what R. Rothstein proposes.”

    Me too.

  28. emma –

    You should be very careful before you suggest one can know “God’s plan.”

  29. fundamentally, i agree, but i used the term because it is as much god’s plan as being gay is.

  30. Until the 2nd half of the 20th century, the view of most Christian theologians was that “God’s plan” was for Jews to suffer until they fulfilled His plan for them to become Christian.

  31. the alternative is to say that people who failed to get married are themselves at fault? or is there some third way?

  32. “Emma — At its bluntest, the halachic conflict will be when/if the science demonstrates that God created a non-trivial percentage of his creatures such that they cannot fulfill his commandments; and in fact, must be put to death if they act as designed by Him.”

    Not really.
    http://www.hakirah.org/Vol13Rapoport.pdf
    Rather than making absolute claims about the possibility of
    sexual reorientation based on supposedly inviolable dogmas about
    the nature of divinely imposed challenges, I would recommend that
    rabbis preach a more nuanced and true-to-life formulation. Such a
    statement would concede that G-d has clearly imposed on some
    people, whether they are heterosexual, homosexual, asexual or bisexual, “lifelong, Torah prohibited situations with no achievable
    solutions.” This position is not essentially connected to challenges of a sexual nature. For example, Divine Providence has historically placed many people in positions in which they have had to live their entire lives in extreme poverty in order to remain loyal to the commandments mandating the observance of Shabbos. Many couples have
    been deprived of the blessing of children and as a result have endured acute lifelong suffering, simply because G-d created them
    with a biological nature to ovulate prematurely: in such a situation
    those who do not transgress the laws of niddah remain childless for
    life.22

    Also, what if science demonstrates that there are pedophiles who have an exclusive desire for children and can’t be cured? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedophilia#Limitations_of_treatment

  33. Last two lines in previous comment were mine not from Hakirah.

    “Until the 2nd half of the 20th century, the view of most Christian theologians was that “God’s plan” was for Jews to suffer until they fulfilled His plan for them to become Christian.”

    So your view of Judaism as man made religion in need of evolution is the same as your view regarding Christianity? Interesting. (Parenthetically, it’s ironic that if you were involved in one of those interfaith dialogues you’re so fond of with the catholic church, *you* would be trying to convince *them* that Gay sex isn’t forbidden http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Francis#Same-sex_marriage . Catholic Israel has apparently come further than Catholicism.

  34. As an aside, that Hakirah article drew praise from Marc Shapiro in a post where he miraculously discovered something beyond the limits of Orthodox theology.
    http://seforim.blogspot.com/search/label/Marc%20B.%20Shapiro
    As an aside, R Shmuel Kamenetsky clarified his position in the last volume of Dialogue where he basically agrees with R Rappaport that not all Homosexuals can be cured.

  35. Shades of Gray

    “Rather than making absolute claims about the possibility of
    sexual reorientation based on supposedly inviolable dogmas about
    he nature of divinely imposed challenges, I would recommend that
    rabbis preach a more nuanced and true-to-life formulation”

    Are the Rabbonim of the “Torah Declaration” setting up an ikkar of emunah(technically a sub-ikkar) ? Do those who take the position believe it can be proved or disproved? I believe the term is “falsifiable”.

    The Rambam said he would reinterpret masseh bereshis if one of the Greek philosphical views made sense. Lubavitch Meshichists switched their views about a dead Moshiach after the Rebbe died. L’havdil, I doubt anyone would make a dogma about what would happen at 6,000 years(R. Shimon Schwab writes in his chronology essay that we will know when it happens).

    If the rabbonim who make it a dogma believe it is subject to disproof and falsifiable, then it’s a pretty confident position, like the confontation between Eliyahu and the Nevei Ha’baal.

    The other side of the hashkafic coin, besides the issue of God setting up someone with a compulsion to go against the Torah is a practical, political one. Orthodoxy’s public condemnation or “battle”, at some level, would seem less strong. After all, as severe as the sin is, it is a nisayon that fortunately, no Orthodox spokesperson has. This leads to issues of endorsing reparative therapy, as well as the issue of differences in types of people with SSA, some who can change easier then others.

  36. just because homosexuality can’t be “cured” today, doesn’t mean there can’t be a pharmaceutical way to “cure” it in the future. The ways we treated psychiatric conditions in the early 20th century are much much more abhorrent and destructive then reparative “therapy” is today. The fact that research will or wont be done for this is more due to politics than anything else (ala deaf culture and their “dislike” of cochlear implants)

    the reason therapy is in quotes is because I don’t believe its therapy. the reason cure is in quotes is because I don’t believe people who identify as a homosexual want be cured / view it as something that should be cured.

    This later point indicates a fault line in how different religious people relate to homosexuality. Is someone a not so uniquely sinner and therefore we should have sympathy on him, but his behavior is not correct or his behavior is perfectly acceptable. This later person (with IH being an example) basically arguing that the biblical sin of homosexuality does not exist today.

  37. No, it doesn’t. I’m talking about building a relationship and a home — I think you’re talking about sexual practices.

    And some will say that your vision of a relationship is too exclusionary – let us say, too “anthroponormative”.

    Shlomo – I would like to see some actual evidence about your claim that people are exclusively attracted to animals. Even if it exists, the fact that it’s rare may certainly make a difference.

    From Wikipedia on “Zoophilia”:
    “The Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine (Vol. 18, February 2011)… states that there are several kinds of zoophiles:… 8. Regular zoophiles 9. Exclusive zoophiles”. Also “Exclusive desire for animals rather than humans is considered a rare paraphilia” but “Zoophiles will not usually seek help for their condition, and so do not come to the attention of psychiatrists for zoophilia itself.”

    I do not relish the prospect of investigating this topic further…

    And homosexuality is also quite rare. Perhaps zoophilia is more rare than homosexuality, but if we are committed to universal equality and opportunity, why should that matter?

  38. Nothing in the Torah tells us that we should have the same attitude to all the arayot, nor does it make sense that we would. Adultery, incest bestiality, and homosexuality are all different socially, psychosexually, emotionally, and phenomenologically.

    Rothstein talks about homosexuality as if it is merely the sexual taboo of the moment to be broken. This is simply not the case. It is our understanding of the nature of homosexuality, particularly the way it (like sexuality in general) is experienced as a cornerstone of the formation of one’s identity and self-understanding that demands that we look at it differently and respond to people who, understandably, openly identify themselves as homosexual differently. To do what Rothstein asks I think essentially demands from homosexuals that they see themselves as fundamentally loathsome; that is not fair to them, and is not what the Torah demands of us.

    (But after all the years I spent studying academic Talmud I suppose no one should take me seriously anyway.)

  39. Also, what if science demonstrates that there are pedophiles who have an exclusive desire for children and can’t be cured? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedophilia#Limitations_of_treatment

    Well lucky for them the Torah is silent regarding pedophilia.

  40. “Nothing in the Torah tells us that we should have the same attitude to all the arayot, nor does it make sense that we would. Adultery, incest bestiality, and homosexuality are all different socially, psychosexually, emotionally, and phenomenologically.”

    That’s irrelevant. To quote this post: “It does bear repeating, a fact often lost, that all of these wrongs are so serious that God determined that a single willful transgression of any one of them—and others besides, such as eating on Yom Kippur—deserves death, in the absence of teshuvah. We don’t need to assert that homosexuality is worse than any of those others to see it (and all those others) as religiously problematic in a life-forfeiting way.”

    =====

    “Rothstein talks about homosexuality as if it is merely the sexual taboo of the moment to be broken.”
    Where?

    “This is simply not the case. It is our understanding of the nature of homosexuality, particularly the way it (like sexuality in general) is experienced as a cornerstone of the formation of one’s identity and self-understanding”

    Do a-sexuals cease to exist?

    “that demands that we look at it differently and respond to people who, understandably, openly identify themselves as homosexual differently.”
    It demands??! What about patrilineal ‘Jews’ with a Jewish identity? Does that make demands also? (If you’re answer is yes, that’s fine. But what on earth makes you Orthodox?)

    “To do what Rothstein asks I think essentially demands from homosexuals that they see themselves as fundamentally loathsome;”

    No it doesn’t it demands that they stop identifying themselves by who they have sex with.

    “that is not fair to them, and is not what the Torah demands of us.”

    Nice. Any other chiddushim?

    “(But after all the years I spent studying academic Talmud I suppose no one should take me seriously anyway.)”

    I don’t care what you studied. Just try to make sense.

    A line from Cyril Domb comes to mind. (When he opposed Louis Jacob’s candidacy for Chief British Rabbi) “When a Jew of the United Synagouge finds something he disagrees with, he assumes something is wrong with him. When A Conservative Jew finds something like that, he assumes there’s something wrong with the Torah.” (My paraphrase. I Don’t remember the exact quote.)

  41. There are 2 types of guest posters that Gil allows: those who respond to comments (not every one, but to some of the more serious ones) and those who post and disappear. I find the second type particularly unsatisfying.

  42. Gidon Rothstein

    I apologize for my silence, I am sorry, I was considering my response. The truth is, there’s so much to say, I am considering offering a whole additional post.

    Let me say this, briefly: I think the practical things I want to advocate start with our underlying attitudes, of which I think there are two central ones: 1) There is nothing unique or special about homosexuality, except that the general culture has such a different view of it from that of Judaism. In terms of obligating people to suppress essential parts of themselves, I think that’s true for lots of Jews, in terms of their temperaments and their appetites.

    The response to that is that sexuality is different, but I think that there are many forms of sexuality the Torah requires us to suppress (or that society does). We have no problem denying the sexuality of those who find their sole satisfaction in incest or pedophilia, and that’s because we see those as really wrong, whereas many of us don’t see what’s wrong with homosexuality. But that doesn’t matter to the question of whether we do or don’t require people to suppress their sexuality– if the reason is good enough, we all agree that people can be required to deny or suppress their sexuality, so the argument is only about what’s a good enough reason.

    Second point: while homosexuals who’d like to be Orthodox are seeking all sorts of ways to find a legitimate form of it, there really isn’t such a thing, and we need to be more vocal about that, to remind ourselves of that truth. If homosexuals form a non-sexual but very close friendship, to give them as much of the experience of partnership as possible, that’s halachically problematic for many reasons (among them: yichud is an issue for homosexuals, like it is for heterosexuals; such friendships are probably an “abizrayhu” of homosexuality, which is a “yehareg ve-al ya’avor” and is probably also a violation of “ke-ma’aseh eretz mitsrayim lo ta’asu,” the prohibition to act as the Egyptians and Canaanites did.

    Third, for practical issues: 1)I think Orthodox Jews should be rejecting any public expression of homosexuality. If someone identifies themselves to me as a homosexual– not someone close to me, or someone seeking private counsel from me, but someone “coming out” making their homosexuality public– I think we need to be working to return that to the private sphere. We can encourage such people to seek counseling with private therapists, to handle their struggle, but we should not be giving them any kind of public voice.

    So, too, in public settings, such as synagogues and schools, I think we need to require any homosexuality to remain completely private. This isn’t the place for specifics, but I think a school that had a homosexual couple ask to send their children would need to have long and difficult conversations about how such an arrangement could work. As for a synagogue, I don’t see how it can work at all– as soon as a couple identifies as a couple, they are making a public statement. If they want to not identify as a couple, there are probably ways to do that, and that can also be a topic for a long and private conversation. In public terms, though, I think the community needs to be making clear that, with all the sympathy we have for the struggle, especially in this cultural context, this is not anything we can offer approval of in any way, implicit or explicit.

    Finally, and perhaps least importantly, but I think significantly, as a matter of symbolism. I believe we should not use the word “gay.” It is a word made up by homosexuals, as an acronym for “good as you,” and its goal is exactly that. There is nothing pejorative about the word homosexual, and there is no reason not to use it. To use the word gay is already to concede half the battle.

    Again, sorry for the delayed response. I don’t mean to disappear, I simply have a hard time formulating my thoughts as quickly as the people who post.

  43. “‘gay’ . . . is a word made up by homosexuals, as an acronym for “good as you,” and its goal is exactly that.”

    Do you really believe that? Ask anyone 30 years older than yourself and I believe they will confirm that “Gay” was a pejorative term for homosexual men in the 50s/60s (or so). It was “reclaimed” by such men themselves, in a direct attempt to appropriate and turn around that pejorative use. It was not “made up” as an acronym, though I do not doubt that someone somewhere used the acronym at some point to propel the shift in connotation from negative to positive.

    See, e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay. (of course, that’s just wikipedia. if you have actual historical sources i would be happy to change my mind…)

  44. I’m as opposed to casual use of the word “gay” in this context as the next normal person, but a good rule of thumb is that if you ever see a “true” etymology of a word as coming from an acronym, it is certainly false. “Gay” was used to refer to sexual deviance by the late 1800’s, and obviously comes from the word that means “happy” today (or did until recently). I’m not sure it was ever used as a pejorative in the way emma states, but it was certainly “liberated” at some point. I have to say that “good as you” is a new one to me, but, again, certainly false.

    Speaking of sexual deviance, I also have to take issue with the following line of R’ Rothstein:

    “except that the general culture has such a different view of it from that of Judaism”

    The “general culture” is uneasy at the least, if not outright hostile, to homosexuality. If we think otherwise, it’s either because most American Jews live in big liberal cities or because we’ve bought into media elitist presentations. Indeed, many people have, but outright acceptance of homosexuality is probably limited to that elite which attempts, with one extent of success or another, to form mass opinion. There’s a good line in Tom Wolfe’s story “Ambush at Fort Bragg” where one redneck character, confronted by a Barbara Walters-type character, exclaims, “You like them so much, tell me this: Would you like one of your kids to be one?” The reporter’s producer, who indeed harbors such fears about one his son, can only sputter a response in his own head, because, of course, he’s right. (Yeah, yeah: The response I often get is, “Well, I know it would be hard for him if he was.” Nonsense. You don’t want your kid to be gay because deep down, in a place you and the culture think you’ve buried completely, you know it’s unnatural. Unfortunately, Hirhurim comment threads seem awash with people who are Orthodox- or at least don’t trumpet the fact that they’re not- who have done such a good job at burying it that they will never admit- and indeed may be past realizing in their conscious mind- that homosexuality is abnormal, or even that Judaism and God have a problem with it. Sad. I await the inevitable attacks on me.)

    Joseph: In wishing for post writers who respond, well, be careful what you wish for. 🙂

  45. I hear your arguments. But I think this post is missing an understanding of the anguish of the Orthodox Jew struggling with homosexual attraction. Should we really relate to him or her with the harshness that other generations showed to the Religious Zionist, or to the mechitzah-less synagogue? I am not aware of a tendency for young people to r”l attempt suicide because their Zionism or egalitarianism were rejected.

    Similarly, you seem to advocate that the Orthodox Jew with homosexual tendencies remain in, or return to, the “closet.” I think any discussion of such a recommendation should take into account the psychological toll of bearing this burden in secret.

  46. Gidon Rothstein

    First, sorry if I got the etymology of “gay” wrong; nonetheless, it’s a word, like queer, that in our time is used as a positive characterization, and we don’t need to accept that, I think. As I said, homosexual is perfectly neutral and there’s no reason not to stick with that.

    Nachum, I do live in a liberal city, but if you simply watch what’s happening in the US (and the US is a relatively conservative Western country), you’ll see that the country and culture as a whole is becoming more positive. In our entertainment– which is enjoyed across the country– in our representatives, and even in our supposedly conservative circles, the idea that we should accept people for who they are, at least as regards homosexuality, is rapidly becoming the norm. Dick Cheney, for example, has come to that view; so has Rob Portman. When I say the general culture, I am not speaking out of my big liberal city window, I’m reflecting what’s going on across the country. And, again, the US is relatively conservative on these issues.

    Ilana, I feel you didn’t read my post carefully enough. I was careful to say that the private anguish and struggle of such Jews does require our compassion; what I called for fighting against was the public expression of it. Indeed, I largely do think Orthodox Jews with homosexual tendencies should return to “the closet,” except that that locution implied they were giving in to those tendencies in that closet. Let’s remember that it’s not me who says they have no legitimate outlet for those tendencies, it’s God. So the question isn’t whether they can or cannot act on their tendencies, it’s whether their struggle to suppress those tendencies, their struggle to live as God has told them to, is one they carry out in private or in public. I agree there is psychological toll to bearing a burden in secret– I was open to their sharing their struggle with therapists or close confidantes, I only opposed having this be done in public.

  47. R. Rothstein has now told us — and I appreciate the fact that he has responded — how we should act communally, or at least has given us indications about that (school, shul membership). But what about us as individuals? So i repeat some of the questions in the personal realm that i asked before. For me at least, hearing R. Rothstein’s approach in this area would help me to better understand what he means by having compassion for the private anguish and struggle.

  48. Setting homosexuality itself aside for a moment, what is the justification for confidently speaking of “the Torah’s view of x”? There are enough instances of things described as positive if not compulsory in the Torah which, due to their incompatibility with widely shared moral principles and sentiments are marginalized via interpretation, whether halakhic or homiletic, enactments, or simply ignored and marginalized as essentially non-normative. Why should homosexuality be any different? For good reason we don’t go around saying that the Torah’s view on the West Bank is that we should slaughter all the —–s save for virgin female children. Nor do we talk of the Torah’s view on taking foreign women captive, the Torah’s view of marriage as embracing polygamy and concubinage. The Torah’s view on rape (marry the rapist, compensate the father) etc etc. And if a Rabbi got up at the pulpit and said, “you know what, ideally we would round up all the open homosexuals, conduct some trials and execute them, because that’s the Torah’s view uncorrupted by modern sensibilities” then I think we would rightfully be aghast. So when it comes to the Torah’s view on things that conflict with our deepest understanding of how we ought to relate to each other as human beings today in the 21st century, we are following a long tradition of adopting a deliberate agnosticism as to what the God’s view is. I know the torah forbids homosexual acts, beyond that I put little stock in their being an absolutely normative “Torah’s view,” and I refuse to sacrifice my intellect and moral sensibilities on an altar built on the naive notion of their being an unmediated and robust view of homosexuals to which we must all subscribe.

  49. There was one part of R. Rothstein’s response that I found particularly important:
    “If homosexuals form a non-sexual but very close friendship, to give them as much of the experience of partnership as possible, that’s halachically problematic for many reasons (among them: yichud is an issue for homosexuals, like it is for heterosexuals; such friendships are probably an “abizrayhu” of homosexuality, which is a “yehareg ve-al ya’avor” and is probably also a violation of “ke-ma’aseh eretz mitsrayim lo ta’asu,” the prohibition to act as the Egyptians and Canaanites did.”

    This honestly tells us that we’re not only speaking about telling gays that they can’t ever have sex; we’r telling them that they can’t ever have the personal, non-intimate, loving relationship that those of us privileged to be married have with our spouses. And that’s why I think the analogies to pediophilia, bestiality and adultery are not only insulting but are wrong.

  50. Gidon Rothstein

    Joseph Kaplan,

    If a man comes to me privately and says he’s got this struggle, and what should he do, I would a) recommend he find someone to share his ups and downs with regularly, whether a friend or a therapist (or myself, if that’s what would make him feel comfortable). b) I would brainstorm with him as to how he can make his life better. I personally believe there are a range of homosexuals in terms of how much of it is genetic and how much is psychological or cultural. I think there’s also a range of intensity of sexuality, in people in general (some people feel the need for more, some for less, etc.). Certainly for a homosexual, exploring how much feels comfortable minimizing is a key part of the equation, and then, for the rest, struggling (and, sometimes, failing). If I were close to a homosexual, and he was trying to keep the Torah and then had an encounter where he gave in to temptation, I don’t have a problem with his sharing that with me or some other close confidante. It’s all about, to my mind, making sure that we treat this sin, this struggle, and this inclination as we would other sins– try to resist, develop a support system to help us resist (both by learning to focus elsewhere as much as possible and simply resisting when there’s no other option), and a similar support system for when we fail, to allow us to get up and try again. As, I hope, we all do with the various sinful inclinations we struggle with.

    MJ, I have to head out now for a couple of hours, but I intend to respond when I get back. Please do not see the delay as me ignoring you.

  51. MJ, can you name one instance of something the Torah says is forbidden that your “moral sensibilities” tell you isn’t- apart from this, of course?

    Has it ever occurred to you, by the way, that your stance is, in fact, the immoral one?

  52. MJ, can you name one instance of something the Torah says is forbidden that your “moral sensibilities” tell you isn’t- apart from this, of course?

    Charging interest.

    Depending on interpretation, sparing Amaleki.

  53. Gidon Rothstein

    MJ and Hagtbg,

    This is an important set of issues and, from my perspective, one on which we’ve been misunderstanding the situation for a long time. I think there are many, many instances when we can confidently speak of the Torah’s view of x, as I believe I showed in my recent book, “We’re Missing the Point: What’s Wrong with the Orthodox Jewish Community and How to Fix It.”

    I don’t accept, by the way, that there are examples of things the Torah sees as positive or compulsory and we reject them for their lack of compatibility with widely shared moral principles. I agree that hundreds of years of rabbinic decisions worked out ways to circumvent the prohibition against charging interest, but that’s a truly complex topic (feel free to read my teacher, Rabbi Dr. Haym Soloveitchik’s work on pawnbroking and interest, and see how the rabbinic authorities inched their ways towards those areas of permissibility. More than that, note that all of those worked within the existing system, not by simply reinterpreting or wishing away sources.
    More than that, though, in the case of interest the nature of what the Torah prohibited had changed. If a fellow Jew who needs a personal loan to tide him over comes to me, I still believe poskim would be bothered by my having him sign a “heter iska” or taking any of the other avenues to charge him interest. What seems to have happened– and, again, it’s a complex topic–is that a different type of interest developed, a business interest, and poskim came to accept that that was truly different from what the Torah had meant to object to. If you think about it, the “heter iska” defines the transaction as a business partnership instead of a loan. We may assume that’s a legal fiction, but it’s a legal fiction with legal meaning, and it tells us something about this loan.

    I agree, MJ, that we don’t go around saying some parts of the Torah’s view for many reasons, 1) for how different they are from what’s around us, and the offense they would cause others if we said them, and 2) because many of those things are only applicable– as the halachic process has it– if we have a return to a Jewish monarchy operating according to halachah. But that doesn’t (or shouldn’t) mean that we think it’s not true. If you ask me, when a Jewish king returns, we would conduct war as the Torah prescribed, and we would take on Amalek, if we could identify who they were, as halachah prescribes (note that in each of those cases, halachah already has leniencies that many people don’t know. For example, Rambam held that as long as people with whom we were at war were willing to adopt the Noahide laws and pay taxes to us, we would be allowed to declare peace with them, and live with them peacefully.)
    As for the Torah’s view of marriage as embracing polygamy and concubinage, I am comfortable with the idea that there are things the Torah permitted that we no longer take advantage of, but that’s different than allowing ourselves what the Torah prohibited. The Torah’s view on rape, by the way, doesn’t preclude a Jewish king or court adding further punishment to stop that– the Torah was legislating what we have to do (and, by the way, both the father or the woman herself can reject the marriage if they so chose– the Torah’s prescription was a way to solve a problem that rape created, but there was no obligation to take advantage of it).

    No Rabbi would speak about rounding up anyone, because that’s never ideal, whatever sin it is. But if we had an halachic society and some group of people began flouting Torah law in public, we might have to round up people, in the name of combating a social problem. Shimon b. Shetah killed eighty witches in a day (or some number like that). It’s never ideal to kill, always a tragedy, but I think you mistake what Torah values still uphold today if you think that an halachic society wouldn’t do that, if forced into it by public and willful flouting of the law.

    Part of the problem with MJ’s reference to “our deepest understanding of how we ought to relate to each other as human beings today in the 21st century,” is that it gives the advantage t human understanding over God’s understanding. While I completely accept the Oral Law, I know that many don’t, so I won’t go there. Homosexuality, and many other issues, is an explicit, unequivocal verse in the Torah, dictated by God to Moshe Rabbenu. As the Talmud tells us often, when God says something and when humans say something, to whom should we listen?
    The Torah doesn’t just forbid homosexual acts; it forbids “coming close” to homosexual acts. More than that, the tradition interpreted the prohibition against acting like the Canaanites and Egyptians as referring to men marrying men and women marrying women. And there’s no debate about those interpretations, at least not until the 21st century, when Jews decided that the outside world knew better, and out of their discomfort with what tradition says try to reinterpret or warp it such that they don’t have to accept it.

    “I refuse to sacrifice my intellect and moral sensibilities on an altar built on the naive notion of their being an unmediated and robust view of homosexuals to which we must all subscribe.” I encourage you, MJ, to study the sources a little better. There’s not a lot of debate about this stuff– it’s not like I’m cherrypicking the sources I like. There’s an issur yichud for homosexuals, there’s a general principle of keeping away from those things that tempt ourselves, there’s the idea of “abizrayhu” of prohibited relationships. To allow for any kind of homosexual behavior in halachah involves twisting longstanding, unequivocal, and universally accepted sources.

    It makes life tougher that it’s so, but that’s the way it is.

  54. It seems to me that R. Rothstein’s thinking out loud is davka because the broader society has broken through Nachum’s outdated conception of this as a conservative vs. liberal issue. It is evident from poll trends and the increasing volte faces of conservative politicians – as noted by R. Rothstein – that American (and Western) society no longer judges homosexuality as a moral deviance.

    The challenge for Modern Orthodoxy then is how to balance the civic context, in which homosexuality is tolerated, from the halachic context in which it is not – while at the same time claiming fealty to both and, further to the essence of Modern Orthodoxy, that the two can be synthesized into one coherent way of life.

  55. R. Rothstein,

    I still do not understand what you are trying to argue. There are a few possibilities I have come up with:

    Societal standards have (not entirely but to a large degree) gone with lightning speed from persecuting homosexuality to tolerating it to treating it as equal to heterosexuality.

    (i) You therefore want Orthodoxy to retrench and be even stricter about the prohibition of homosexuality and make it even clearer then in previous generations that we have no tolerance for either the act itself or people acting in a way that tries to accommodate the urge, beyond living alone or with a woman. (This would be somewhat hard to do given the strong norms against homosexuality.)

    (ii) You therefore want to counter the “Morethedoxy” position of trying to do the utmost to make the homosexual feel welcome while keeping to halachic parameters and are arguing to maintain the status quo, whether or not it works on principle. (Despite the title”homosexuality is different in our times”)

    (iii) You therefore want to counter the very minority position offered by Steven Greenberg that homosexuality is not in fact per se forbidden biblically.

    Let me make another observation. I believe that the twenty-something Modern Orthodox today will not accept a stricter view against homosexuality today and are far more tolerant on this then even 10 years earlier. If you are proposing a stronger position here, then what you are really calling for is another wedge between the rabbinate and the laity.

  56. Gidon Rothstein

    Hagtbg,

    Not sure what hasn’t been clear. I am certainly noting that “Societal standards have (not entirely but to a large degree) gone with lightning speed from persecuting homosexuality to tolerating it to treating it as equal to heterosexuality.”

    I am, indeed, therefore lobbying for “Orthodoxy to retrench” but not to be stricter about the prohibition, only to be as strict as necessary. But, yes, to make it clear that the act itself and trying to find ways to get close to the act are in conflict with halachah, and should be treated as such. When you say “that we have no tolerance,” I fear you mean that we’ll be as strict with people who fail, and I don’t mean that. I mean that we don’t allow for (or push back against) any attempts of going from seeing that many of us fail to live up to our ideals, and move from there to saying it’s all right to do x or y.

    I do want to push back against the trend to make the homosexual feel comfortable, if by that we mean that the homosexual will openly announce his or her orientation, the same way as I wouldn’t want to make any public sinners comfortable. I don’t think we make Shabbat violators feel comfortable, even today; I think we don’t make an issue of their sin, even as we are open about our hopes that they will refrain from this sin. And, as I said in the original piece, if people start being open about any sin that has until now not been the norm, I would think we wouldn’t want to watch that calmly, either.

    I certainly want to counter any claim that homosexuality is not prohibited by Torah law; I even want to counter the claim that activities that aren’t actual intercourse might be allowed by Torah law.

    As for your final observation: I suspect you are right about the twenty-something Modern Orthodox today, and I attribute that to a failure of Jewish education. The fact that you’re probably right means that those 20 somethings are not developing their attitudes about the world through consultation with Jewish sources or rabbinic leaders, they are doing so through their understanding of the world, which is more heavily influenced by the general culture and secular education. And that is certainly one of the things I am most exercised about, and am hoping we will find a way to change, find a way to create a community which starts with Torah and the Torah’s ideas, and moves from there to engaging with the broader world, more clear-eyed about what parts of that world fit well with ours and what do not.

  57. I am not advocating reinterpreting anything. I am arguing that there are times when morality, as human beings understand it today, dictates that we sequester our attitudes from our beliefs. I believe that homosexuality is halakhicly forbidden. My attitude towards homosexuals, however, stands apart from that belief, just as my attitude toward rape, polygamy, genocide, and a number of other things stand entirely apart from how they are presented in the Torah.

    Has it ever occurred to you, by the way, that your stance is, in fact, the immoral one?

    Absolutely and quite often. It has also occurred to me, in nearly every instance, that the ultra conservative/extreme/literalist view on something is correct and is what God really wants of us. Maybe women shouldn’t really learn gemara. Maybe that women who suffers as an agunah is fulfilling God’s will and we should not pressure her ex to give a get. Maybe God would prefer if my wife wore a burka or that my four year old daughter wore gabardine tights in the summer. Maybe the arguments in Vayoel Moshe are correct and there should be no sovereign Jewish state. Maybe I shouldn’t read newspapers or study philosophy or wear khaki pants with my tzitzis tucked in. Maybe I should worry about demons, have sexual relations as if compelled against my will, only drink cholov yisroel, and not ride on mixed buses. For every one of these there is a good case to be made that what I do and think is wrong; that I am acommodationist and not at all a godly person; that all this modern thinking and behavior has left me spiritually bereft.

    Much of my life is mired in existential doubt because I have no idea. My relationship to God mediated by Torah (written and oral) is one of radical epistemic uncertainty. But I cannot get around that by mistakenly equating faith with certain knowledge. So I muddle along and when conflicts like this arise I don’t attempt a synthesis; I am a pragmatist who must prioritize. At the moment I am quite certain that excessively marginalizing those who openly identify as homosexual (I think the halakhah itself marginalizes them enough) is harmful to them; that accepting them within the community without explicitly condoning homosexual acts is not detrimental to the fabric of the community I am part of. I am doubtful that the kind of marginalization that R. Rothstein advocates would do anything positive in terms of the communal good. I believe that if we want to work toward conducing a robust view of sexual ethics within our community we would surely do better to focus our attention elsewhere.

  58. I attribute that to a failure of Jewish education

    This reminds me of the story, Putnam tells in American Grace:

    Across this range of Christian denominations we see a disconnect between the leaders at the pulpits and the people in the pews. Most Christian clergy see salvation as exclusively Christian, while most Christians have a more – if not completely – inclusive view of who will be saved in the hereafter.

    The clergy-laity disconnect was made clear to us more vividly than is possible with a dry statistical report on who believes what. Early in our research for this book, one of us (Putnam) spoke about our work to a group of Lutheran theologians from the Missouri Synod, one of the evangelically inclined denominations within Lutheranism. They were shocked that such a high percentage of Americans believe that there are many ways to get to heaven. One theologian spoke up firmly that those who believe that are simply wrong. And judging from the murmurs of approval from the group, he was not alone in his opinion. In an attempt to reconcile this apparent heresy, another member of the audience proposed that, surely, Missouri Synod Lutherans do not take such a casual view toward salvation. What ensued was social science research in real time, as an on-the-spot analysis of the 2006 Faith Matters data stored on Putnam’s laptop revealed that 86 percent of Missouri Synod Lutherans said that a good person who is not of their faith could indeed go to heaven. Upon hearing this news, these theologians were stunned into silence. One wanly said that as teachers of the Word, they had failed.

  59. Gidon Rothstein

    IH,

    That’s a great story. Here’s the problem: Why would I think that the uneducated masses have a better idea of how to get into heaven than those who spend their lives studying God’s word? Even more so for Jewish tradition, when there has never been a time in history that the laity has accepted the most basic messages that are explicit in the Torah.

    This is sort of my answer to MJ; while I am sorry for his continuing existential tensions, it seems to me that he refuses to see the difference between those questions that are settled, or 90% settled, and those that are still very much in doubt. It’s one thing to worry that maybe I shouldn’t be teaching my kids as much of secular culture as I am– that’s a tough question, with legitimate claims on either side, and where in the middle we end up isn’t ever a certainty. So too with whether and how much of our charity dollars to give to which causes. I am not claiming there aren’t tough questions.

    But, as IH points out, we live in a world (and I think this has been true in every generation of human history) where many people are treating clear and settled questions as if they were unsettled. It’s one thing to grant that the tradition is opposed to all expressions of homosexuality, and then to wonder what the best approach is towards homosexuals. I can hear the argument that being more welcoming is, in the long run, more effective (I disagree with it, and think history shows that when that welcoming shades over into acceptance, it’s actually worse in the long run, but that’s a different question).

    But, as the comments on this post show, that’s not our situation now. Now, we have many, many putatively Orthodox Jews who allow themselves to believe that something explicit in the Torah isn’t really true, or shouldn’t be, or is behind the times, or whatever. That’s a deeper problem than homosexuality, that’s evidence that we’ve forgotten that God wrote the Torah and that God is smart enough to know what should be unequivocally prohibited (with the death penalty attached) and what shouldn’t.

    And, by the way, it seems to me that anyone who entertains these ideas, that the outside world has homosexuality more right than the Torah does, should be worried about whether they, by doing so, are violating the prohibition of “lo taturu acharei levavchem ve-acharei eineichem.” And I mean that in literal halachic terms, not homiletical ones– if the Torah prohibits something, it also prohibits entertaining the thought that that thing shouldn’t be prohibited. Just a thought.

  60. Why would I think that the uneducated masses have a better idea of how to get into heaven than those who spend their lives studying God’s word?

    Perhaps Rav Kook can help you there (e.g. http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2011/08/rav-kooksuperior-morality-of-masses.html)

    [That is assuming one accepts today’s Orthodox masses are uneducated which is far from clear.]

  61. In one paragraph you write: “I am, indeed, therefore lobbying for “Orthodoxy to retrench” but not to be stricter about the prohibition, only to be as strict as necessary.But, yes, to make it clear that the act itself and trying to find ways to get close to the act are in conflict with halachah, and should be treated as such.”

    The next starts: “I do want to push back against the trend to make the homosexual feel comfortable, if by that we mean that the homosexual will openly announce his or her orientation, the same way as I wouldn’t want to make any public sinners comfortable.”

    Do you not see that as contradictory? Be as strict as necesary but make you sure the homosexual is uncomfortable?

    Also, it seems you are making the orientation sinful, when that is biological.

    And aren’t you really calling, practically, for homosexuals to not be Orthodox when you advocate the orientation itself should make them uncomfortable? How are you addressing the very points that led to the “Morethedoxy” position in the first place?

    I have to say, where I live the people who eat dairy out or are not so strict on Shabbat do not announce it from the bima but they do let their friends know this fact. I believe this has been the way of things for decades in many Modern Orthodox areas. It strikes me that the situation with homosexuality that you are describing is not that much different.

    Now, we have many, many putatively Orthodox Jews who allow themselves to believe that something explicit in the Torah isn’t really true, or shouldn’t be, or is behind the times, or whatever.

    If people have that view – that something explicit in the Torah isn’t really true- it would be because that view you condemn is the very basis for the Oral Law itself and rabbinic Judaism. Interest is clearly forbidden biblically and citing to centuries of responsa doesn’t change that fact. The question of whether the halachic process allows such an out here is a separate discussion from whether Jews ought read the Tanach literally as though they were Protestant.

  62. Gidon Rothstein

    IH,

    I don’t truck in R. Kook, because I don’t have any expertise as to what he said or meant. I do know that I have, several times, been stimulated enough by what someone claimed R. Kook said to go back and check in the original, and have repeatedly found that he is misquoted or selectively quoted.

    Hagtbg, I don’t see the contradiction, nor did I say make the homosexual feel uncomfortable. What I said was make the public declaration of one’s homosexuality something that makes one uncomfortable. Nor did I say anything about the orientation, what I said was about acting on the orientation. What I meant was acting on the orientation in any way–like developing a really, really close friendship that is sexless, but is otherwise what one would have in a married partner– is prohibited, as far as I understand.

    Homosexuals aren’t only telling their friends and family, they’re trying to get the word out, in the name of helping other homosexuals feel more comfortable. And, as I wrote in the original piece, if I lived in a place where no one ate dairy out, or where all people were at a certain level of Shabbat observance, I’d be opposed to people telling even their friends about their laxity, except in the context of feeling so guilty about what they were doing that they needed an outlet and a confidant. What you’re describing is a world where some sins have already stopped feeling sinful to enough of the population that there’s little we can do about it. I am trying to avoid adding homosexuality to that list.

    Your last paragraph, I have to say, seems to misunderstand the nature of the Oral Law. The Oral Law doesn’t reinterpret the Biblical prohibition against interest, it reveals to us what the Torah’s words meant. We don’t read the Torah like Protestants because we have a tradition of meaning, ensconced in the Oral Law. That has no bearing here at all, where the Oral Law tells us to read this prohibition exactly as it appears.

  63. I have been checking out Hirhurim for some time and in spite of my chareidi leanings (or perhaps because of them) find the content rather interesting.

    I must say the I think the post was fantastic and the responses to the commenters even better.

    I have never posted before and hope to never post again. (Although it seems to be addictive.)

    I simply must make the following observation. I assume (and if I’m wrong I’ll stand corrected), that R’ Rothstein is a Rabbi. If so, I find it appalling how he is being addressed here. Is there no kavod hatorah?? Where I come from one questions a Rabbi – one doesn’t challenge a Rabbi. One doesn’t write “Perhaps Rav Kook can help you there” as if he’s talking to the guy on the next barstool. Rather one writes, “R’ Rothstein, regarding your (or better, The Rav’s) comment about the masses, it seems as though from the writings of R’ Kook (citation) one sees otherwise…”
    Many other such examples in the thread.

    Additionally, it seems to me as though the posters don’t WANT to understand R’ Rothstein’s point. All his replies should not have been necessary. I am not sure why he is wasting his valuable time with people who have made up their minds not to listen.

    Finally, IH wrote:
    “It is evident from poll trends and the increasing volte faces of conservative politicians – as noted by R. Rothstein – that American (and Western) society no longer judges homosexuality as a moral deviance.

    The challenge for Modern Orthodoxy then is how to balance the civic context, in which homosexuality is tolerated, from the halachic context in which it is not – while at the same time claiming fealty to both and, further to the essence of Modern Orthodoxy, that the two can be synthesized into one coherent way of life.”

    This to me, and I hope you’ll excuse me, is perhaps the most inane comment I’ve ever seen. If this represents the thinking of MO – and I don’t believe it does – than perhaps we need to discuss the possibility of prohibiting the use of their wine. I don’t feel I need to elaborate.

  64. ” the same way as I wouldn’t want to make any public sinners comfortable. I don’t think we make Shabbat violators feel comfortable, even today;”

    My sense of the metzi’ut is different. The MO Shuls that I know have openly mechalleley Shabbat as members; we give aliyot to relatives of bar mitzvah boys who openly violate Shabbat; our schools certainly admit children of such families — all things you do not wish to do with gays who have “come out.” So while we do not condone the behavior of Shabbat violators, I don’t see how we make them uncomfortable in the way that you wish to make gays uncomfortable.

  65. Gidon Rothstein

    Menashe,

    Thank you for your kind words.

    Mr. Kaplan,

    I agree with everything you just wrote; as I noted in my post, I think we handle it that way because we’ve lost the battle on keeping people aware of just how serious those violations are. When I said we don’t make them comfortable, I meant we don’t condone their behavior in any way. I can imagine a time when we would decide to treat homosexuals that way, because it’s become so common (like Sabbath violation). But, like Sabbath violation, the Jewish community will be poorer off for that coming to be.

  66. Since R’ Gidon is getting beaten up here, although admirably defending himself, let me add my voice to Menashe’s in agreement with with R’ Gidon’s message. I don’t think we need to be as deferential as Menashe suggests, but on all other things I agree with him, including the need to discuss wine.

  67. I don’t think R. Rothstein is getting “beaten up.” There is a vigorous and respectful discussion, with those agreeing with what he wrote, those disagreeing and those asking questions. I commend R. Rothstein for participating as openly as he has but think it’s unfair to imply that he’s being “beaten up.”

  68. I meant beaten up in the sense of facing a lot of challenges. Nothing more.

  69. R’ Rothstein,

    What I said was make the public declaration of one’s homosexuality something that makes one uncomfortable.

    What is public and what is private? You appear to have a very narrow view as to what is private and an overly broad view as to what is public. To you, admitting to your parents that you are homosexually oriented is a public act and, in fact, a springboard for your article. (section header: Public Homosexuality) Most people would not consider that public; that would make all family exchanges public acts.

    What I meant was acting on the orientation in any way–like developing a really, really close friendship that is sexless, but is otherwise what one would have in a married partner– is prohibited, as far as I understand.

    Lets say its as prohibited as these rules in a similar heterosexual relationship (since it is based on those rules)? Lets say, therefore, that we should treat the two the same? If you are calling for a public shaming element of any kind for a homosexual in that situation you are calling for a FAR stricter penalty for the heterosexual counterpart then currently exists.

    What you’re describing is a world where some sins have already stopped feeling sinful to enough of the population that there’s little we can do about it. I am trying to avoid adding homosexuality to that list.

    And I am saying that that you are perhaps against bisexuality but, were to apply the same standards to heterosexuals as you want to with homosexuals – essentially strict shomer negiah and yichud – you would lose 98% of the modern Orthodox singles over 25 and probably a majority of the charedi.

    You are simply calling for a double standard on the basis because one is the majority and one affects a small segment of the population.

    The Oral Law doesn’t reinterpret the Biblical prohibition against interest, it reveals to us what the Torah’s words meant.

    Exactly right. The Oral law tells us what the Torah’s words mean. Even if left is right and right is left. “Against interest” adds nothing.

    That has no bearing here at all, where the Oral Law tells us to read this prohibition exactly as it appears.

    Correct. Except it means that there is very little that is “explicit” because there is very little that can be understood by reading one line.

  70. Additionally, it seems to me as though the posters don’t WANT to understand R’ Rothstein’s point. All his replies should not have been necessary. I am not sure why he is wasting his valuable time with people who have made up their minds not to listen.

    At the end of the day, R’ Rothstein will at the least have sharper arguments from all of this.

  71. Gidon Rothstein

    I have to leave this discussion for the next little while, let me offer one last reply to hagtbg.

    I agree that the question of public and private is an important issue here. It interests me that you see the young man telling his parents as a private thing, when clearly they didn’t take it that way, since the father then told me, who sees him perhaps once a year, and has no deep relationship with him! The young man wasn’t telling his parents a private thing, he was enacted that drama known now as “coming out,” part of your public announcement of who you’ve realized you are. That’s not private at all. Were I a confidant of the father and he told me this, that would be different. Had the young man begged the parents to keep this to themselves, that would be different. Family discussions that are private are the ones that family members expect to stay in the family.

    I don’t doubt that there are many challenges facing the Orthodox community regarding heterosexual relationships among unmarrieds; in some, I agree with you that we need to be more public about our opposition (my memory is that rabbis of shuls that host many singles, where inappropriate activities are becoming public knowledge, have, in fact, protested publicly that those activities are unacceptable).

    I think you’re right that many singles have become accustomed to violations of halachah that are deeply problematic. There, too, are those violations public or private? While you and I “know” that this conduct is going on, do we know who is doing it? Do those people make a public spectacle of the fact that they have given in to their inclinations? If so, I agree, we should protest it. But I suspect that it’s known that this community is acting this way, but it is still true that people don’t out themselves as acting in this way. That’s a different kind of situation– that
    s like where a community has stopped going to mikveh, but no one in particular announces they don’t go. Still a problem, but a different kind.

    I’m surprised at your assessment of charedi singles; I wonder if it’s true. You think a majority of charedi singles over 25 aren’t keeping those halachot anymore? Wow.
    No double standard, still that question of public/private, of seeking legitimation or not.

    You wrote, about the Oral Law: “Exactly right. The Oral law tells us what the Torah’s words mean. Even if left is right and right is left. “Against interest” adds nothing.”

    I don’t know what you mean, sorry. By explicit, I meant that wherever the Torah says something, and tradition gives us no reason to doubt it, what’s written is explicit. That seems clear to me, and I’m puzzled by what doesn’t seem clear to you.

    That’s it for now, I’ll be back late this evening.

  72. milhouse trabajo

    hagtbg great job defending the masses moral compass, and R Rothstein, please check up the R Kook sources, which also have similar precedents in chassidic writings. While I agree with R Rothstein’s stance that the orthodox community cannot support gay marriage/outing based on the current halachic regime, is it possible for there to be a special limited change for Eis Laasos Lashem?

    What do you think about the innovation of Boaz in making a limited drasha against the status quo (i.e. assumed mesora) and pashtus of the torah in order to allow Rus (Ruth) to be come a giores?
    While the majority of commentators (and simple reading of talmudic and midrashic sources) find his drasha to have not been any halacha l’moshe misinai, but an actual novel drasha (and perhaps based on an Es Laasos Lashem type halachic justification), he chose to essentially reinterpret halacha as necessary, presumably based on his moral underpinnings (Rus was such a good person and it must be that the Divine intent was that she could join Klal Yisrael).
    Note that Boaz made this decision even when HE was the one to marry her and get hanah from his decision(per R Chaim Shmulevitz in Sichos Mussar “Aveirah Lishmah”, possibly in breach of “aveirah-lishmah”/Es la’asos principles as noted in the Gemarah’s (Nazir) questioning of the legitimacy of Yael first committing an aveirah with Sisera before killing him in Shoftim). Of course, we see who comes out of this innovation, David and mashiach. As several different Midrashim note, David was feared to be both non-jewish and/or a mamzer and therefore was an outcast, and had to battle that for a long time

    the question is, when there is a huge moral conundrum like there is today with Homosexuality, suicides and so much suffering, is there room for a gadol like Boaz to get up and reinterpret the relevant homosexuality sources (some have tried a number of tenuous reinterpretations, but then again, Boaz’s Moavi velo Moavis is pretty tenuous especially considering the other similar prohibitions having no such distinction)?

    R’ Rothstein, do you care enough about good well meaning people who were born this way and are now given an almost death sentence of life suffering in solitude without fulfillment to try to help them within precedents we do have? or is it just too late for anyone in our generation to innovate like Boaz did? something to consider this Shavuot, when we read this ancient story of halachic courage, presumably for a reason.

  73. What I meant was acting on the orientation in any way–like developing a really, really close friendship that is sexless, but is otherwise what one would have in a married partner– is prohibited, as far as I understand.

    What are the sources for this? I haven’t seen them.

  74. Now, we have many, many putatively Orthodox Jews who allow themselves to believe that something explicit in the Torah isn’t really true, or shouldn’t be, or is behind the times, or whatever. That’s a deeper problem than homosexuality, that’s evidence that we’ve forgotten that God wrote the Torah and that God is smart enough to know what should be unequivocally prohibited (with the death penalty attached) and what shouldn’t.

    The fact that something is explicitly prohibited, explicitly permitted, or explicitly dealt with in a certain way in the Torah is not wholly determinative of how we ought to think about it today, be it interest, warfare, genocide, rape, slavery, concubinage, childbirth or even homosexuality. The difference is that for certain things attitudes evolved over hundreds of years, and in the case of homosexuality over less than half a century. We seem to be able to tolerate major discrepancies between what is written in the Torah in regard to certain things and our current attitudes towards those things in a variety of cases, all while recognizing that God Wrote the Torah; why not here?

    If we are really going to adopt, in toto, the scale of values based on the punishments given for various transgressions, then perhaps as Orthodox Jews we should advocate that rape (as long as its man on woman) be treated as a crime only requiring monetary compensation? Wasn’t God smart enough to tell us what is unequivocally prohibited (with the death penalty attached) and what is more along the lines of stealing someone’s sheep or knocking out an eye?

  75. Fascinating article-but I think that the real issue is that the so-called secual revolution in the US has created an environment akin to why the Talmud viewed Hilcos Nidah as a refresher for intimacy-in the absence of any legal or social restrictions on consensual relations between the genders, then the acceptance of homosexual relationships were viewed as the next social frontier.

  76. “…should be worried about whether they, by doing so, are violating the prohibition of “lo taturu acharei levavchem ve-acharei eineichem.” And I mean that in literal halachic terms, not homiletical ones– if the Torah prohibits something, it also prohibits entertaining the thought that that thing shouldn’t be prohibited. Just a thought.”

    This is quite shocking to me. Can you sharpen the difference, if any, between “entertaining the thought that the thing shouldn’t be prohibitied” and “entertaining the thought that the prohibition does not apply to the situation at hand”? I ask this now that avera lishmah has already been brought up.

    regarding the wisdom of the masses, while no doubt the majority tradition is elitist (do not mean that pejoratively), there are still ideas like hanach lahem leyisrael … benei nevvim hem. plus there is a sizeable cultural footprint of stories of simple jews doing things that seem “wrong” to one rabbi, but the bigger rabbi realizes that they reflect something deeper than the original stickler could see. (eg, boy with flute on yom kippur.)

  77. R’ Rothstein, please answer this question:

    How do you see a single homosexual Orthodox man growing old in a way that is not profoundly lonely and saddening?

    And if you think that will even happen one time because of taking a stricter position halachically then the bottom line (and that is basic position of your article), how can you harm someone’s life like that on the basis of some broader societal “battle?”
    *********
    It interests me that you see the young man telling his parents as a private thing, when clearly they didn’t take it that way, since the father then told me, who sees him perhaps once a year, and has no deep relationship with him!

    That is an unfair categorization. First off, I don’t think we exist in a world where propriety is that unless you asked that something be private it is public. On the web, it is considered to be bad form to post a private message without permission.

    Does the son control the father, that the fathers actions are therefore the sons? Had the father not wanted to say something then he didn’t have to? You make coming out to ones parents inherently public and that strikes me as something that just can’t be right.

    It seems to me your real issue is that the father wasn’t so ashamed that he would raise it with you.

    And the father may well have had reason to tell you. Maybe you tried to set this guy up and the father was trying to save you time. How do you avoid that issue with a single male in the Orthodox community?

    Family discussions that are private are the ones that family members expect to stay in the family.

    Thats like saying that if someone told their family member they were depressed and they ended up killing themself, the fact that that the family might chose to talk about it (to fight suicide) meant that the person meant for the initial conversation to be public.

    I agree with you that we need to be more public about our opposition (my memory is that rabbis of shuls that host many singles, where inappropriate activities are becoming public knowledge, have, in fact, protested publicly that those activities are unacceptable).

    That’s not my position. That would be my position if we want to drive single people away from shul. And yes, there are rabbis where the majority of singles are not fully adhering to the rules of yichud and shomer negiah make a speech a time or two or three a year about how that is wrong.

    I think you’re right that many singles have become accustomed to violations of halachah that are deeply problematic. There, too, are those violations public or private?

    By the definition you use, public.

    While you and I “know” that this conduct is going on, do we know who is doing it?

    Me? No. Their friends? Often yes.

    Do those people make a public spectacle of the fact that they have given in to their inclinations?

    Again, by your definition, yes.

    If so, I agree, we should protest it. But I suspect that it’s known that this community is acting this way, but it is still true that people don’t out themselves as acting in this way. That’s a different kind of situation– thats like where a community has stopped going to mikveh, but no one in particular announces they don’t go. Still a problem, but a different kind.

    According to your view, if someone tells someone else they don’t go to mikvah, it is public. Since I assume it comes up sooner or later, I assume in those communities that too is public.

    I’m surprised at your assessment of charedi singles; I wonder if it’s true. You think a majority of charedi singles over 25 aren’t keeping those halachot anymore?

    Keeping those halachot anymore? I didn’t say that. I didn’t say Modern Orthodox are not keeping halacha. I said strict yichud and shomer negiah. What you are implying is that the Modern Orthodox are behaving no different then the general population. I believe that is not mostly true.

  78. R’ Rothstein –

    I didn’t go through all of the comments, so I apologize if you addressed this issue already in the earlier comments:

    It seems here that there are conflicting values. On one hand there is the value of protecting authentic Jewish values from being misconstrued. And other hand is the importance of compassion towards those whose natural tendencies make them feel like outcasts in their own communities and families.

    I do recognize the dangers inherent with walking the fine line between accepting the person and accepting their actions. However, I fail to see how your concern trumps the importance of compassion.

    You argue quite cogently that today’s situation demands that we tighten up on homosexuality. However, I would argue that in today’s judgmental culture and with all the public displays of sinat chinam and violations of bein adam l’chaveiro, there is nothing we need more that to err on the side of compassion and unity. The truth us that in any cultural situation, it should take a potential disaster of tremendous proportions for us to ever think of casting aside members of our communities because of things they do bein adam l’makom.

  79. R Rothstein raises very important issues, but ignores the origins of his premise-the sociological changes that were inaugurated by the decisions of the Supreme Court vis a vis “reproductive rights”, and the striking down of state laws banning homosexual conduct as well as the fact that we live in a world where one can unfortunately with a click of a mouse either read or visualize much of the prohibited conduct discussed in Acharei Mos-Kedoshim and many sugyos in the Talmud.

  80. Talk about forcing one’s political views into serious discussions of halacha and Jewish policy. Blaming the Supreme Court is both irrelevant and childish and diminishes from a serious discussion.

  81. Gidon Rothstein

    So much to catch up on; my fault for being away from the computer for so long. Here goes, and I’ll try not to be too brief:

    To millhouse trabajo: I don’t begin to see the Et Laasot here– et laasot (and averah lishmah, by the way; see below) is when a violation will contribute to better Torah observance, not allowing us to dispense with a mitzvah of the Torah. As for Boaz, I don’t have the sugya at my fingertips, but I think what the rishonim say is that he made a limmud on a question that hadn’t been dealt with before, and found a legitimate way to read the verses, realizing that the reference to Amoni didn’t include women. I don’t see where you think the room for such an inference would be here– this is a question dealt with over and over throughout Jewish history, in cultures similar to this one and in cultures different from it– why would I think there’s room to treat it differently?

    The point is, Boaz didn’t change the Torah, he realized that people hadn’t understood the Torah correctly until then, on a topic they hadn’t studied well up until that point (I believe I once heard R. Schachter say this about one witness being believed to confirm a husband had passed away as well).

    Milhouse also takes it to be a huge moral conundrum, but I object to that phrasing–there’s no moral conundrum unless you allow the external morality to make you doubt the Torah’s well-established morality (which was not the case with Boaz and Rut either). It is the fact that people see this as a moral conundrum that reveals they’ve lost sight of their connection to Torah values, and they strongly suspect that outside values are better than the Torah’s, and that’s one of the aspects of this that

    I also object to the idea that it’s a death sentence–that, too, shows that we have absorbed an alien view of what sexuality is. I have no problem with those views within Torah that stress the value of a healthy sexual life and relationship with one’s spouse, but there are many people for whom, for various reasons (such as, most simply, they never find a spouse, or find and lose one at a young age) don’t have sexual lives.

    Shlomo, as I’m pretty sure I said in an earlier comment, “yichud” is prohibited for homosexuals with other males (it may be, in our times, that it’s prohibited for all men, but we have not yet been that machmir). Developing a relationship to substitute for a sexual desire seems to me to qualify as the “abizrayhu” that the Gemara prohibits, the attempt to find a way to assuage one’s sexual urges in a different way, and the Gemara considers it a “yehareg ve al yaavor.” Marrying a person of the same gender is “maaseh eretz mitsrayim,” without regard to whether there’s a sexual relationship.

    MJ, much of your comment has been asked and answered, and we once again disagree about the nature of the halachic process. I will say that I believe much of sexuality is a cultural construct, and that if a society decided that monetary punishment sufficed to forestall rape (since that is, obviously, one obligatory goal of punishment, to forestall crime), I wouldn’t have a deep problem with that. I also note that there’s no reason an halachic society couldn’t punish rape more severely than monetarily– the Torah doesn’t limit the punishment to the monetary, it sets the monetary as a necessary part of that punishment.

    Emma, considering whether a prohibition applies in a certain situation is an academic discussion, generally held outside of the situation (but sometimes under the pressure of trying to figure out how to handle a situation). What I was talking about was someone thinking about their being homosexual, and trying to find ways to give vent to those urges. Unless and until they’ve found permissible avenues for so doing– which I contend they won’t find– their entertaining thoughts of other men, etc. is a problem of lo taturu.

    The stories about “hanach lahem le-yisrael” don’t seem to me to be generalizable, and certainly the story of the boy with the flute, beautiful as it is, is not one we can apply at all broadly.

    Hagbtg, I admire your stamina. I see anyone growing old lonely as profoundly saddening, I’m just not sure that that allows violating prohibitions in the Torah. There are many ways to develop relationships that make for a fulfilling social life, although without the sexual element. This happens, for example, among some observant singles who have given up on marriage, and it happens among some widows and widowers who don’t intend on remarrying. It’s not for me to prescribe, but there’s nothing about being forced out of a sexual existence that has to doom one to loneliness, depending on what a person does to create a social circle that satisfies some of that.

    I’m not harming anyone’s life– the prohibitions come whether I say them or not; I only objected to people living those struggles out on the public stage.

    Which brings me to your repeated misunderstanding of what I said about public and private. I agree, if the man told his parents in confidence, and they blabbed, that’s on them, not him. My point was that I was enough of a stranger to this man– and no, I wasn’t trying to set up his son– that his telling me (and my experience of what’s going with other Orthodox homosexuals, and what “coming out” means to them) wasn’t a violation of a confidence. The young man had told his parents as part of publicizing his status and situation.

    If a family member told his family he was depressed and didn’t kill himself, and the family told all and sundry, I strongly suspect the depressed person would feel a confidence had been betrayed. Once the person, sadly, killed himself, there’s no one’s confidence to betray, and then there are good reasons to share the story. (Just as, for example, there may be good reasons for Orthodox therapists to tell of the struggles of homosexuals who have come to them for therapy– this isn’t publicizing one’s own homosexuality, it is addressing a challenge in the community, as happens with other communal problems).

    You missed my point about private and public with the singles as well. If only close friends know, as part of sharing a struggle to keep the Torah and failing, that’s private. Even so, if enough private confidences are being shared, the community will “know” it’s going on. If a private person tells me something, I might share it without any identifying details, to make the community aware of our members’ challenges. So, too, if 20% of singles are failing to keep the Torah (or more, or less) and telling friends in confidence, they are not being public about it, but the issue will become known.

    Yair Daar, I didn’t say we shouldn’t have compassion; I said compassion should be expressed directly to the people involved, and in private. The search for public recognition and acceptance isn’t one that calls for compassion, it calls for a reminder that all of this is, after all, sinful. The compassion is for the sincere attempt to keep the Torah fully, part of which is keeping one’s sins to oneself (as the rest of us generally do).

    That’s it for me. I might not get a chance to check back until tomorrow night. Thanks for the comments, everyone.

  82. I am curious if R’ Rothstein is aware of the high stakes in this discussion. It seems that sexual repression of homosexuals in our society can wreak havoc on closeted homosexuals. It may even be sakanas nefashos. If not in the literal sense (it can cause suicide) at least in the figurative sense with one’s self esteem and personality completely in the balance. Would that not require us to conform our thinking to allow for systematic compassion as opposed to redoubling efforts to exclude them and risk those dire consequences?

  83. In my Jewish education in the 80’s-90’s, homosexuality was an issue which was very infrequently brought up. Now that it has become a civil rights issue, we are going to somehow harp on it? To what end? Should we be hanging giant “Hashem Hates Homos” signs on our synagogues? This will only serve to distance people from Torah. And yes, since genocide became unacceptable, we tend to talk less and less about eradicating Amalek literally.

  84. Furthermore (yes, I left the previous comment, and I’m not sure why my name doesn’t show, so I’ll sign this), homosexuality is indeed “different in our times.” 40-50 years ago, the idea of being gay was far more identified with the sexual act, rather than the other aspects of intimacy. Now, gays are getting married and starting families, with a commitment often unmatched in the straight community, and so “waging war”, as you have put it, means fighting commitment and families, which is a the losing side to be on. Orthodox rabbis realized decades ago that charging into people’s bedrooms was the antithesis of propagating Torah. Now is not the time to start. Or are you also wistful for the days of gangs of zealots striking down those who intermarry?

  85. This is Yossie Bloch, by the way, and I think we might have been in Yeshivat Har Etzion at the same time.

  86. I would like to second efink’s comment.

    R’ Rothstein, you seem to be completely ignoring the damage done to someone who is forced to stay closeted. There is a major difference between someone who is m’challel shabbat for ideological reasons and someone who feels that their entire persona is rejected by the community. It would be like shunning someone from the community for being m’challel shabbat b/c of OCD.

    So I guess the question is, do you a) disagree with the premise that keeping people who are homosexual closeted can do major psychological damage, b) agree with this premise but think that your concern trumps this one, or c) none of the above.

    If your answer is a) then I’d like to know your sources (not that I am knowledgable on the subject) and if it is b) can you explain why your concern overrides the other?

    Thanks.

  87. I see anyone growing old lonely as profoundly saddening, I’m just not sure that that allows violating prohibitions in the Torah.

    Who was calling to violate “prohibitions in the Torah?” You specifically are calling to be stricter then the Torah concerning homosexuality because of your fear of tolerating a ziyuf l’Torah.

    There are many ways to develop relationships that make for a fulfilling social life, although without the sexual element.

    Is that what you are doing?

    It’s not for me to prescribe, but there’s nothing about being forced out of a sexual existence that has to doom one to loneliness, depending on what a person does to create a social circle that satisfies some of that.

    You are, in fact, prescribing it. So explain your plan.

    My point was that I was enough of a stranger to this man– and no, I wasn’t trying to set up his son– that his telling me (and my experience of what’s going with other Orthodox homosexuals, and what “coming out” means to them) wasn’t a violation of a confidence. The young man had told his parents as part of publicizing his status and situation.

    So what that he told them with the intention that he didn’t care who they told? That still doesn’t make it a public conversation. If was the father that publicized to you and not the son, whether or not the son was okay with the father telling. What makes the father the son’s shliach in your mind?

    You missed my point about private and public with the singles as well. If only close friends know, as part of sharing a struggle to keep the Torah and failing, that’s private.

    Why does privacy depend on whether the function of the conversation was to share a struggle of keeping the Torah?

    So, too, if 20% of singles are failing to keep the Torah (or more, or less) and telling friends in confidence, they are not being public about it, but the issue will become known.

    You make it sound like unless you specifically told someone the conversation is to be private, then its public. That is now how I believe it works.

  88. Gidon Rothstein

    Efink and Yair Daar,

    Psychological damage has many components to it, and how we react to challenges we face is a mixture of the objective situation and our choices as to how to react to that situation. I hope you don’t honestly believe that just because someone reacts extremely to whatever pressures are put on them, we have to give in and let them handle it however they declare necessary (there are so many counter-examples, but one of the biggest successes of homosexuality has been to insist that it’s different). And, by the way, if someone violated Shabbat because of his or her OCD and then insisted that the community accept and ratify the right to violate Shabbat because of that, I would object to that as well.

    What we can do is work to help homosexuals deal with their situation– as we do with all those who have a sexual tendency that society still thinks of as wrong. It needs saying again and again, but we all agree that we require some forms of sexuality to stay hidden and suppressed, so the argument isn’t about whether that can be done, it’s about when it needs to be done. Whatever you’re going to ask me about homosexuals, ask about how you would respond to someone who wanted public acceptance of the fact that God made him or her in some other sexual way that you see as wrong.

    So, Yair, my answer is that staying closeted presents a challenge to homosexuals for sure (as it does to all those who keep their other sins closeted). There are many ways to deal with that challenge, and it is up to the homosexuals, and their support systems, to find private ways of doing so, as they would with any other sin that society still recognizes as a problem.

    Yossie, Nice to hear from you. I don’t have any reason to believe that God hates homosexuals, but I do know that God doesn’t want homosexuality to occur, in any of its forms. As you could see from earlier comments, I don’t think homosexual families are any big boon, and it’s not a question of charging into people’s bedrooms– they are bringing their bedrooms to our attention, and very insistently so! And, by the way, other than the barriers of dina de-malchuta, the fact that we don’t have a Davidic king, etc., I’m not sure why you’re so comfortable dismissing simple halachot on the books, just like any other ones. That ease of rejection is such a big problem in the Jewish world– so many of us, as this discussion shows, no longer feel bound by plain, simple, undisputed halachot.

    Hagbtg, I think we’re going in circles, so I’ll respond just this last one time. I am not in any way being more strict than the Torah, and it’s profoundly odd that you could write that. What I said was that we need to be scrupulous about making the Torah’s rules clear, since so many (read these exchanges) have lost sight of them.

    As I pointed out several times, removing the sexual element (assuming we trust that it’s really removed; remember that the Gemara held that “ein apotrofos le-arayot, there’s no way to police sex”) does not remove the problems in homosexuality or homosexual lifestyles. Look back for details, I don’t choose to repeat them.

    My plan is that anyone who decides or realizes that he is a homosexual resign himself to a life without sex, and then find a way, in consultation with confidants and therapists, to build as fulfilling a social life as possible, but not one that concentrates on male company any more than female company, and allows as many social outlets as possible.

    With the father/son story, it’s really becoming a fixation. You don’t see that when people “come out” today, they mean it as a public statement? It is part of letting the world know who they are, so they don’t feel closeted, as other commenters pointed out. The father wasn’t his messenger or not, he was just sharing public information. Your insistent attempt to deny that, in a situation you weren’t part of, shows how stuck you are in your own worldview. You have to trust me, this kid was coming out and didn’t care who knew. Start from there, don’t argue facts you don’t know.

    I didn’t say anything about which conversations are defined as private, I said that on many issues, people don’t care who knows, and those conversations are public. In general, matters of sexuality are assumed to be private, so conversations about them would be assumed to be private. But not “coming out,” that’s the whole point of it, it’s a whole drama the homosexual world has come up with in which the world is required to confront and accept this person’s declaration of his sexuality.

    Joseph Kaplan, I hope I’ve put enough time into this to satisfy you. I think we’ve reached the end of productive conversation, so I’ll bow out now until the next time a conversation starts. Be well, everyone.

  89. The challenge for Modern Orthodoxy then is how to balance the civic context, in which homosexuality is tolerated, from the halachic context in which it is not – while at the same time claiming fealty to both and, further to the essence of Modern Orthodoxy, that the two can be synthesized into one coherent way of life.

    Menashe: This to me, and I hope you’ll excuse me, is perhaps the most inane comment I’ve ever seen. If this represents the thinking of MO – and I don’t believe it does – than perhaps we need to discuss the possibility of prohibiting the use of their wine. I don’t feel I need to elaborate.

    R. Student: I don’t think we need to be as deferential as Menashe suggests, but on all other things I agree with him, including the need to discuss wine.

    R. Student and Menashe: do you take same position wrt to someone who accepts the basic tenets of modern science and struggles to synthesize them into a coherent way of life? (Let’s say that modern science = old universe + darwinian evolution). Do we need to discuss their wine (alternatively, is there position “inane”)?

    This is an honest question: I can understand that there are differences between the two, but in order to discuss them further, we need to understand your starting point.

  90. The previous post with the gobbledygook userid was by me. Name should be coming out right now.

    David Ohsie

  91. Truly, I was not entirely clear until this last posting what exactly R’ Rothstein was asking for. And I still don’t understand the context.

    I agree with R’ Rothstein’s main points: The Torah, both written and oral, clearly forbid homosexuality. I agree with him that, as a forbidden act, it must be taught as a forbidden act.

    So R’ Rothstein is just arguing that forbidden = forbidden (my choice c above). Okay. I did not and do not understand the context in which it is arising that makes this a profound statement. I can only assume there is some serious movement to make it deemed permissible, as opposed to an issue of being as compassionate as possible within the halachic framework. Can anyone shed insight on that?

    Concerning coming out as gay… I must confess I have no experience with the situation… however, don’t blame me for your bad or poorly-expressed example. Coming out to your parents and coming out publicly are not the same thing, either logically or in popular culture.

  92. I said I do not want to comment again – and I don’t. I think R’ Rothstein has done an outstanding service to anyone actually willing to listen to what he is saying.
    (I would also like to thank Gil for backing me up on my previous post).

    However since you claim to be asking an honest question, I will try this – succinctly – only once. (I, unlike you, do not want to discuss the differences…) So here goes:

    We do not need to “balance”, “claim fealty” nor try to “synthesize” any idea which is explicitly prohibited in the written Torah with a “halachic” Judaism as a “coherent way of life”. Period.

    One who promotes any attempt to do so is one whose wine I personally would avoid.

  93. Sorry.

    Change that to;

    One who promotes any attempt to do so is one whose wine I personally would avoid sans approval from a competent halachic authority.

  94. Since I have obviously poorly expressed myself, I wish to clarify a few points:

    1. I fully agree that, painting in broad strokes, halacha forbids homosexuality.
    2. I am not saying that halacha must change.
    3. I am saying that when/ if>/b> the science continues to solidify that homosexuality is God’s design and not a free will choice, that will be a major challenge to halachic Judaism. And that we have found ways of dealing with such challenges in the past.
    4. I am also saying that, separable from the science issue, there is an increasing hashkafic challenge to the concept of Modern Orthodoxy in the sense of the Wikipedia definition of:

    Modern Orthodox Judaism (also Modern Orthodox or Modern Orthodoxy) is a movement within Orthodox Judaism that attempts to synthesize Jewish values and the observance of Jewish law, with the secular, modern world.

    .

    specifically, that once same-sex marriages are legalized, then it becomes harder to maintain the position that modern secular civic society is compatible with halachic Judaism. E.g. New York State has now legalized something that R. Rothstein cannot reconcile with his principles.

    My bottom line is that the status quo in terms of Orthodoxy’s response to civic status of homosexuality is intellectually unsustainable in the longer term (as this post and its comments demonstrate).

  95. hagtbg- he is arguing against any acknowledgement or acceptance of homosexuality in the public sphere [compassion in private only]. in addition, that if they do come out that they should be treated differently – in a negative sense.

    I assume (or he implies) that a teenager who comes out should be ostracized or rebuked from the jewish community in public. He should not be allowed to engage in team sports (or even swimming not allowed in male locker rooms or communal showers]) with other males because of yichud, negiah etc or even dancing at a simcha. what other conclusion can one draw from “rejection of all public expression of homosexuality including those who do not engage in the sexual act.”?

  96. Since I have obviously poorly expressed myself, I wish to clarify a few points:

    1. I fully agree that, painting in broad strokes, halacha forbids homosexuality.
    2. I am not saying that halacha must change.
    3. I am saying that when/if the science continues to solidify that homosexuality is God’s design and not a free will choice, that will be a major challenge to halachic Judaism. And that we have found ways of dealing with such challenges in the past.
    4. I am also saying that, separable from the science issue, there is an increasing hashkafic challenge to the concept of Modern Orthodoxy in the sense of the Wikipedia definition of:

    Modern Orthodox Judaism (also Modern Orthodox or Modern Orthodoxy) is a movement within Orthodox Judaism that attempts to synthesize Jewish values and the observance of Jewish law, with the secular, modern world.

    .
    specifically, that once same-sex marriages are legalized, then it becomes harder to maintain the position that modern secular civic society is compatible with halachic Judaism. E.g. New York State has now legalized something that R. Rothstein cannot reconcile with his principles.

    My bottom line is that the status quo in terms of Modern Orthodoxy’s response to the civic status of homosexuality is intellectually unsustainable in the longer term (as this post and its comments demonstrate).

  97. [Gil — I would be obliged if you delete the mis-tagged IH on April 30, 2013 at 2:22 pm that I corrected at 2:24pm.]

  98. IH, what do you think of the quote from R Chaim Rappoport on the previous page of comments. a related excerpt:

    “I would recommend that rabbis preach a more nuanced and true-to-life formulation. Such a statement would concede that G-d has clearly imposed on some people, whether they are heterosexual, homosexual, asexual or bisexual, “lifelong, Torah prohibited situations with no achievable solutions.”
    This position is not essentially connected to challenges of a sexual nature. For example, Divine Providence has historically placed many people in positions in which they have had to live their entire lives in extreme poverty in order to remain loyal to the commandments mandating the observance of Shabbos. Many couples have been deprived of the blessing of children and as a result have endured acute lifelong suffering, simply because G-d created them with a biological nature to ovulate prematurely: in such a situation those who do not transgress the laws of niddah remain childless for life.”

    from: http://www.hakirah.org/Vol13Rapoport.pdf

  99. We do not need to “balance”, “claim fealty” nor try to “synthesize” any idea which is explicitly prohibited in the written Torah with a “halachic” Judaism as a “coherent way of life”. Period.

    One who promotes any attempt to do so is one whose wine I personally would avoid sans approval from a competent halachic authority.

    Menashe, of course you aren’t required to answer my question, but you did sidestep it (which is also within your rights :).

    Do you think that acceptance of the basic conclusions modern science (e.g. old earth + darwinian evolution) and synthesis of those ideas with the Torah fits your category? Do you consider that to be an attempt to ““synthesize” any idea which is explicitly prohibited in the written Torah with a “halachic” Judaism as a “coherent way of life””.

    This is not a “gotcha” question. I know that their a large number of Orthodox Jews who would claim just that. In fact, it might be the predominant view among those that are “Orthodox” (let’s say using avoiding turning on lights on Shabbos as our barometer).

    I would say that if one does take this position about modern science, then the positions of those who are struggling to synthesize on this topic will sound “inane”: it’s a simple Kal V’Chomer. For those who have or attempt to “synthesize” modern science into their Torah worldview, some further discussion between the points of view may be possible.

  100. Emma — I don’t think that is intellectually sustainable. There is a vast difference between not having children and being prohibited from having intimacy.

    יח וַיֹּאמֶר יְ-הוָה אֱ-לֹהִים, לֹא-טוֹב הֱיוֹת הָאָדָם לְבַדּוֹ; אֶעֱשֶׂה-לּוֹ עֵזֶר, כְּנֶגְדּוֹ.

  101. Fixing the formatting:

    We do not need to “balance”, “claim fealty” nor try to “synthesize” any idea which is explicitly prohibited in the written Torah with a “halachic” Judaism as a “coherent way of life”. Period.

    One who promotes any attempt to do so is one whose wine I personally would avoid sans approval from a competent halachic authority.

    Menashe, of course you aren’t required to answer my question, but you did sidestep it (which is also within your rights :).

    Do you think that acceptance of the basic conclusions modern science (e.g. old earth + darwinian evolution) and synthesis of those ideas with the Torah fits your category? Do you consider that to be an attempt to ““synthesize” any idea which is explicitly prohibited in the written Torah with a “halachic” Judaism as a “coherent way of life””.

    This is not a “gotcha” question. I know that their a large number of Orthodox Jews who would claim just that. In fact, it might be the predominant view among those that are “Orthodox” (let’s say using avoiding turning on lights on Shabbos as our barometer).

    I would say that if one does take this position about modern science, then the positions of those who are struggling to synthesize on this topic will sound “inane”: it’s a simple Kal V’Chomer. For those who have or attempt to “synthesize” modern science into their Torah worldview, some further discussion between the points of view may be possible.

  102. David,

    Darwinian evolution is not in synthesis with the Torah. It states the opposite of explicit verses in the Torah. Hence it is wrong. The is no reason to “balance it” with the Torah. The fact that “modern science” may (or may not) accept it is irrelevant.

    “Old earth” is a different subject. Many have attempted to show how this is not a stirah to the Torah. (G-d created the world old, the mabbul aged everything, the Gerald Schroeder theory etc. etc.)I am not well enough versed in the subject to have an opinion. Please don’t dig up 40 other examples instead. I think the point is clear.

    IH,

    The fact that G-d designed people with urges for physical pleasures that are prohibited by the Torah is an obvious reality. Had he not designed people such, there would be no need for the world as we know it. This is not a “major challenge to halachic Judaism”. It is the ABC of Judaism.

    The definition of;
    “Modern Orthodox Judaism (also Modern Orthodox or Modern Orthodoxy) is a movement within Orthodox Judaism that attempts to synthesize Jewish values and the observance of Jewish law, with the secular, modern world.”
    means that we ought to use Modern science and technological advances in consonance with Orthodoxy.
    NOT that every immorality, stupidity or whim dreamed up by each generation’s modern secular society needs to be synthesized with the Torah.

  103. R. Rothstein, As I told someone this morning while discussing your post and the comments, what I appreciated most about your participation was the seriousness with which, in your responses, you took the comments of those disagreeing or questioning your presentation.

  104. Joseph Kaplan wrote:

    “Talk about forcing one’s political views into serious discussions of halacha and Jewish policy. Blaming the Supreme Court is both irrelevant and childish and diminishes from a serious discussion.”

    Why? look at the decisions of the court since the mid 1960s-the notion that the Bill of Rights has penumbra that would support a judicially created right of privacy cannot be discounted as one of the main factors that has given support and legitimacy to the “sexual revolution”, and what is permitted between consenting adults.

  105. When one couples the decisions of the Supreme Court, the “sexual revolution”, and the APA’s decision to drop homosexuality , etc from the DSM, those changes cannot be discounted as the bases for legitimizing what had never been viewed as such at any time in American history.

  106. IH-Wikipedia strikes me as poor source for anything but a definition or reference out of desperation. Please provide a source for the definition of MO, as opposed to the scraped together definition in Wikipedia.

  107. Menashe — Given your position on Darwinian evolution (with its puts and takes since 1859), you could never accept the scientific data that increasingly demonstrates that homosexuality is not a choice. So, we’re at an impasse as we have no common language.

    It is interesting to note that Feminism in Western Society also dates to that same time period. As I shared on Motzei Shabbat in last week’s News thread, I read this paragraph in a review of the Met’s “Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity” exhibit in the latest NY Review of Books over Shabbat (emphasis mine):

    And yet women’s lives were changing in this period: from now on they were free to rid themselves of the constraints of bustles and crinolines, if they chose; during the day, they could go out unaccompanied, spend hours in the new Parisian department stores, or even sit down all alone, on the terrace of a café, this being perhaps the clearest illustration of the new freedom they were accorded. It was not merely a surface change: in the 1880s, schooling became mandatory for girls and universities began to admit women. They could become doctors, professors, or lawyers. New laws made it easier for them to divorce.

    I gather the whole of modernity is something you think is largely “not in synthesis with the Torah” and to be avoided.

  108. Steve — http://tinyurl.com/d73eubh for a start.

    For those for whom the primary and secondary day school is the emblem of their acculturation, the officially integrationist Yeshiva University whose motto is Torah U Madda (Jewish learning and secular science) represents the higher educational counterpart to the insular contra-acculturative yeshivas. Thus, there are yeshiva Orthodox and Yeshiva University Orthodox who represent recognizably variant attitudes toward contemporary American life and culture.

  109. “There is a vast difference between not having children and being prohibited from having intimacy.”

    Is it really so “vast” for everyone? And is being prohibited from intimacy really worse than living in dire poverty (the other example)? And is no one else prohibited from intimacy (eg, agunot, including of the classical variety; mamzerim)? How many married people in the past had the sort of intimacy we now assume everyone is due? To me that last point is the actual point of tension here, of which homosexuality is just one incident.

  110. Emma — I’m sorry, but I think your apologetics do not pass muster. But, this is not a debate between the two of us — it’s whether the next generation(s) of Modern Orthodox buy into it and the evidence is that they don’t (which R. Rothstein thinks is due to an educational failure).

    As conservative Republican Senator Portman recently stated: “I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, personally, I think this is something that we should allow people to do, to get married, and to have the joy and stability of marriage that I’ve had for over 26 years,” he told CNN. “That I want all of my children to have, including our son, who is gay.”

  111. IH-Heilman, a sociologist, and Gurock, a historian, are well known for their POVs that underscore their works on American MO. TuM, like Centrism and synthesim, and the newer slogans that the YU PR office developes are nice advertising, that generate books and seminars by think tanks. Their works do not reflect the fact that throughout Jewish history, every new hashkafic development can be judged by a very simple litmus test-does adherence to the same by subsequent generations supplement or supplant or provide a rationale for a lack of adherence to the core principles of Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim.

  112. Menashe — Given your position on Darwinian evolution (with its puts and takes since 1859), you could never accept the scientific data that increasingly demonstrates that homosexuality is not a choice. So, we’re at an impasse as we have no common language.

    IH- This is exactly why I asked Menashe the question. His assumptions and Pov are so far from yours that the two of you never even reach the issue under discussion. Menashe, this is no way an attack on you; I’m just trying to elucidate where your opinions diverge to get to a mutual understanding of positions.

  113. Is it really so “vast” for everyone? And is being prohibited from intimacy really worse than living in dire poverty (the other example)? And is no one else prohibited from intimacy (eg, agunot, including of the classical variety; mamzerim)? How many married people in the past had the sort of intimacy we now assume everyone is due?

    Here is a gedanken experiment that I think would be apt: suppose that someone had a condition that caused them to be hungry unless they ate lobster at each meal. They would not suffer any direct medical harm if they don’t eat the lobster, but they will get progressively hungrier in the same way that another person will get if they did not eat at all. I think that this is the sort of thing that we are talking about. (I think that this analogy can also help to explain why otherwise normal people can continue to take addictive drugs that are obviously damaging, such as nicotine).

    Also, the halacha does seem to recognize this: a man (with some exceptions) is required to get married, whether or not he has the capacity to have children, in order to avoid the assumed transgression of halacha that would otherwise result.

    And is no one else prohibited from intimacy (eg, agunot, including of the classical variety; mamzerim)?

    The halacha does give almost all agunot and mamzerim a way out; those that don’t have one get a lot of attention from the community (maybe less that they should) to solve the problem. If 1-2% (or more) of the population was in that position from birth to death, we would have a different set of circumstances to deal with.

    Neither of my arguments here resolve the issue, but it puts the issue in the right context.

  114. Darwinian evolution is not in synthesis with the Torah. It states the opposite of explicit verses in the Torah. Hence it is wrong. The is no reason to “balance it” with the Torah. The fact that “modern science” may (or may not) accept it is irrelevant.

    Menashe, thank for your straightforward answer. Based on your reply, I’ll make a couple of points. You won’t agree, but perhaps can get a finer understanding of why the opposite side may not be inane or heretical.

    1) For someone with a certain type of level of education that would probably be quite typical of American Jews as a whole, evolution (as one example) is as certain that the fact the earth is a spheroid that rotates daily and revolves annually around the sun and the germ theory of disease (to pick two examples). Denying evolution would be similar asserting a flat earth or that an imbalance of the black bile is throwing you off kilter. They don’t believe this because they want to throw off the yoke of Torah; they believe this because the methods of science have proven themselves in practice and evolution is one of the best supported results. You may disagree entirely with their position, but this is their point of view.

    For those people, saying that evolution is not in synthesis with the Torah is logically equivalent to saying that the Torah is not in synthesis with the facts and must be defective. Hence, there is reason to proceed with caution: a mistake in your reasoning by itself introduces an unnecessary weakening of potential Torah adherence.

    2) In the past (and continuing to the present day), there are those who maintained, with some evidence, that heliocentrism was not consistent with the Torah, well past the stage where heliocentrism was well established. Those well-meaning people were and are utterly wrong, but this was not a fringe opinion of some odd authorities. The reason that a vast majority don’t take that position today is not because of their interpretation of the pesukim, but because it is foolish to maintain otherwise for scientific reasons. Again, a reason to proceed with caution.

    3) Relating this to the topic at hand: there are those that take a very “Chok” view of the Torah: it is good because God says so, period. Others are more inclined to the positions of the Rambam and Ramban that all Mitzvoth have reasons and are here to help man in one way or the other, and that we can broadly understand these reasons. In this context, many (most?) people looking into the issue at hand believe that the Torah prohibition on homosexuality would imply that person choosing to engage this behavior is simply making a bad choice; certainly (according to those people) no significant percentage of the population could possibly be genetically or congentially inclined to a very strong attraction to the same sex in the same way that the vast majority are inclined to a very strong attraction to the opposite sex. And whatever the circumstances, it can’t possibly be (according to this thinking) that the Torah would condemn a significant percentage of all adherents to a life of shame and pain specifically because of a Torah law.

    4) It is apparent to many people today (who you many not agree with), that in fact the general societal taboo against homosexuality has condemned a large number of people to a life of shame and pain. That fact (if true) of course provides it’s own evidence that these people are genetically or congentially inclined, because they have not profited from their choice, if there really was a choice. And in addition, it is clear (from a scientific PoV) from twin studies and other evidence that there is some genetic component involved.

    5) The result of 3 & 4 together is a source of conflict for those who have both a scientific and Torah worldview. It is not that they are comparing Torah values with the values of modern secular society and trying to reconcile them. Secular society probably considers Shabbat observance somewhat or wholly foolish, but this is not something that is bothersome in any way.

    What is bothersome is the apparent contradiction between what we seemed to have discovered in recent times by empirical means vs. what seems to be implied by the Torah. This is very similar to the conflicts around modern scientific discoveries (in your view, falsehoods). And in these areas, it is very important to proceed with caution for the reasons stated in #1 and #2. I believe that this is most likely what IH was getting at, although I certainly don’t want to put words into anyone’s mouth.

    Hopefully this description can help you understand how someone can be completely dedicated in both their Shabbat observance and belief in the Torah, but still hold positions that from your PoV border on heretical. Maybe you can even enjoy a wider variety of wine with a wider variety of hosts.

  115. Emma,

    And is no one else prohibited from intimacy (eg, agunot, including of the classical variety; mamzerim)?

    Does anyone here know any multi-generational mamzer family? I ask this seriously. You talk about other subgroups cut off from intimacy and I ask whether it has actually worked out.

    Of course you can get some individuals to comply.

    And is being prohibited from intimacy really worse than living in dire poverty (the other example)?

    You take away any human need and push it to extremes and you can have that debate. People need intimacy. People need food. People need shelter.

    If you are truly starving, do you care about intimacy? I don’t know. Does it matter?

    I do think that if your basic needs are met, a normal person lacking intimacy but with a lot of money, food and a great house could easily be less happy then the poverty-stricken individual with a family. There are several haredi communities that accept poverty, as a matter of normative policy, to achieve the good life.

  116. I initially broke my self-imposed rule to never post only because I felt the need;

    1. To protest what I felt was the trampling of kavod HaTorah. (A Rabbi being personally addressed with disrespect and even outright derision).

    2. To protest what I felt was a post from a reader containing blatant kefirah.

    I stated then that I did not want to post more than once and now I remember why.

    1. I simply do not have time for this.

    2. The overwhelming majority of posters, myself included, have their mind made up before they start the “discussion”. Hence, although entertainment is provided for those who check out the site, the “combatants” get nowhere.

    As I say, I do not have time for this and, like R’ Rothstein, feel we have passed the point of productive conversation. I will reply one final time since, David, you do seem to be quite sincere, and if someone wants to pick up the slack for me after that, gezuterheit. If not, please do not construe my silence as shtikah k’hoda’ah.

    IH,

    You wrote: “Menashe — Given your position on Darwinian evolution (with its puts and takes since 1859), you could never accept the scientific data that increasingly demonstrates that homosexuality is not a choice. So, we’re at an impasse as we have no common language.”

    I clearly wrote that the ABC of Judaism is to control one’s G-d-designed urges. This is so regardless of whether scientific data is accurate or not.

    David,

    I appreciate your sincerity.

    That said, your point 1 makes no sense to me. There is no known school of thought in our times that I am aware of that maintains that the earth is flat. Evolution is highly controversial even outside of Judaism, let alone Orthodox Judaism. Hence, I don’t see the comparison.

    I don’t agree with your point 3 at all. The Gra and countless other sources tell us that the entire tafkid of a Jew in this world is sheviras hamiddos.

    Regarding point 4: As R’ Rothstein pointed out, no-one is condemned to a life of shame and pain. Like any other inborn overwhelming urge people encounter daily, beat it and get over it. If you need therapy, get therapy. If you need a friend or Rabbi to confide in – do so.

    As I told IH in my last post, there is no “contradiction between what we seemed to have discovered in recent times by empirical means vs. what seems to be implied by the Torah”.

    The fact that science has proven that G-d created different people with different urges prohibited by the Torah is something we were aware of well before science proved it. Nothing has changed.

    I’m left stuck with my limited variety of wine drinking hosts. 🙂

  117. Menashe — I only hope your beliefs are never challenged by the reality of a homosexual child, close cousin, grandchild or nephew/niece. It is when reality bites, as it did to Senator Portman and countless others, that rigid beliefs become more flexible and we find a way to reconcile the seeming contradiction we are discussing. Kol tuv.

  118. “You take away any human need and push it to extremes and you can have that debate. People need intimacy. People need food. People need shelter.

    If you are truly starving, do you care about intimacy? I don’t know. Does it matter?”

    hagtbg, i was referring to r. rapoport’s formulation. the point is that halacha does as some ppl to suffer to keep it. always has. so what exactly makes this case different? now, when it was impossible to hold a job without working saturdays, frum communities did not shun ppl who did so, as far as i know, while keeping the public standard of the community clear, so perhaps that is a better model than r rothstein thinks.

    my basic point all along is that the halacha-imposed suffering of orthodox gays is not a different sort of problem, boiled down, than the halacha-imposed suffering of anyone else, or really than the suffering, period, of anyone else (especially due to inborn characteristics, like disabilities).

    The difference has to do not with the type or nature of suffering but with the fact that one issue is the subject of a “culture war,” and the others are not. That’s why IH is ultimately correct that the issue is the attitudes of non-gay orthodox young ppl, not gay ppl themselves per se.

  119. The overwhelming majority of posters, myself included, have their mind made up before they start the “discussion”. Hence, although entertainment is provided for those who check out the site, the “combatants” get nowhere.

    I agree with that generally, but in this case, what I was hoping to do is to enable a person in your position to understand how someone with complete fealty to Judaism could take a position that you find so obvious contradictory to Judaism, and thus enable you to partake in their wine while you continue to disagree with them.

    That said, I understand that your potential non-response to this comment is not an acceptance.

    That said, your point 1 makes no sense to me. There is no known school of thought in our times that I am aware of that maintains that the earth is flat. Evolution is highly controversial even outside of Judaism, let alone Orthodox Judaism. Hence, I don’t see the comparison.

    It is hard for you to believe this, but in fact evolution is not remotely controversial from a scientific perspective. The entire field of biology is completely based upon it. It is controversial in precisely the same way that heliocentrism was at one time controversial: it upsets people’s previously held beliefs about the world.

    My point in #2 (which you didn’t comment on 🙂 is to show that, like the Catholic Church, Jews have been down this path before and have had to retract. (BTW there are still those Orthodox Jews today who promote geocentrism for precisely the same reasons that you oppose evolution). Again, my point here is not to convince you, but to show you that:

    1) We have been down precisely the same path before and eventually the “reconciliation” of Torah with a scientific discovery (heliocentrism) has been so thoroughly accepted that people don’t even realize that there was once a controversy.

    2) The people that believe in evolution do so for the same reason that they believe any other universally agreed upon scientific fact. They are not “rebelling” against the Torah.

    I don’t agree with your point 3 at all. The Gra and countless other sources tell us that the entire tafkid of a Jew in this world is sheviras hamiddos.

    Again, *you* may not agree, but go ask orthodox people and you will find the view prevalent that a) it is impossible that homosexuality could be genetic or congenital and b) it can be “cured”.

    I believe that the reason is simple: the Torah’s ways are pleasant. Yes, there is a “shviras hamiddos”: e.g. by your bestial nature want to associate yourself freely with many women (from the male PoV). Instead you have to (at least in modern times) dedicate yourself to one. You want to take what you can, but instead have to respect other people’s property. You want to play, but you have to study. In other words, you have to become civilized and in a particularly Jewish way. But the result is ultimately one that makes you happier than an uncivilized man.

    (I would also add parenthetically that, rightly or wrongly, most people don’t take the Gra as their role model in their personal life. Rav Moshe would be more like it).

    Regarding point 4: As R’ Rothstein pointed out, no-one is condemned to a life of shame and pain.

    Again, we have a factual issue here. You don’t agree, but it is quite apparent to your opponents that this has in fact been the result of society’s taboo on homosexuality throughout history. An example doesn’t prove anything, but you might read up about Alan Turing to get a feel for what happens out in the real world. I think that if you look around and actually ask people who have “come out” how they felt about themselves you will find this to be a recurrent thread.

    I’m left stuck with my limited variety of wine drinking hosts. 🙂

    If you wish :). But I suspect given the broadness of your criteria that you have a few more “kofrim” as drinking buddies than you might expect :).

  120. Joseph Kaplan

    Emma’s point about Shabbat is very relevant to R. Rothstein point about how the community should react towards those who do not hide their sexual orientation. When many people worked on Shabbat (many because it was that or poverty), rabbis did not condone that behavior not did they stop speaking about the importance of shmirat Shabbat. OTOH, All were welcome in shul, aliyot were given to all (men), those who violated Shabbat were not shunned and their children were admitted to yeshivot and talmud torahs; indeed, many shuls instituted hashkama minyanim so those who wanted to go to shul on Shabbat but opened their store in the late morning could do both. This compassionate, understanding attitude and approach was, without condoning sin or reducing the ideal to which the community should strive, was quite different than R. Rothstein’s “manning the ramparts.”

  121. Gidon Rothstein

    Sorry to break my own rule, but Mr. Kaplan, I think you’re eliding an important difference. When people were too poor to resist the temptation of working on Shabbat, they never tried to argue that it should be ok for an Orthodox Jew to live that way– they were violating the Torah and they knew it, and so did everyone else. I find that very different than our context, when we are witnessing the burgeoning attempt to make this a part of the accepted Orthodox world. Homosexuals explicitly don’t want to be thought of as sinners who we’re trying to keep part of us in the hopes that they’ll change one day to live a more Torah observant lifestyle– Shabbat violators fully understood that was the context (and, as it happens, not a few of them returned to Shabbat observance once they retired). Those seem to me to be significant differences.

    I recently was speaking with a teacher at a high school, who agreed that if he had the child of Sabbath violators (or people who eat nonkosher) in his class, he wouldn’t modify his presentation of those halachot. He’d say “this is what we believe, and others who act otherwise aren’t keeping the system as we understand it.” It was clear to him that homosexuals and/or their relatives would not be comfortable with a parallel presentation for their situation, which seems to me to also support my position, that there is something different to what is happening, and that’s why it needs to be responded to differently as well.

    I don’t mean to privilege one comment over another, but this one seemed to leave room for a productive comment.

  122. Been following this thread and here is what I see. (Written or implied…)

    R’ Rothstein: The Torah says homosexuality is prohibited.

    IH and David: Yeah, but they’ll feel bad.

    Menashe: Tough luck. Its still prohibited.

    IH and David: But if we make them feel bad they’ll feel like outcasts.

    R’ Rothstein and Menashe: Get therapy and move forward. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

    IH and David: But you don’t understand – its really, really hard for them!

    Menashe: Tough luck. Its still prohibited.

    IH and David: BUT SCIENCE SAYS ITS HARD FOR THEM!!!!

    Menashe: Tough luck. Its still prohibited.

    David: But other things we thought were heretical turned out okay.

    Menashe: Those things weren’t open verses in the written Torah given to Moshe on Har Sinai. (My answer for him).

    Did I get this right?

  123. shaul shapira

    Emma — I don’t think that is intellectually sustainable. There is a vast difference between not having children and being prohibited from having intimacy.

    So you accept forbidding a married couple being prohibited from having children but not prohibiting gay sex? Can you elaborate on the “vast difference”?

    Also, once you’ve trucked in wikipedia MO article, can you clarify where you stand on R Avi Weiss’s three benchmarks?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_Orthodox_Judaism#Conservative_Judaism

    1) Torah mi-Sinai (“Torah From Sinai”): Modern Orthodoxy, in line with the rest of Orthodoxy, holds that Jewish law is Divine in origin, and as such, no underlying principle may be compromised in accounting for changing political, social or economic conditions,[29] whereas Conservative Judaism holds that Poskim should make use of literary and historical analysis in deciding Jewish law, and may reverse decisions of the Acharonim that are held to be inapplicable today.[28][30]
    2) Rabbinic interpretation: (Modern) Orthodoxy contends that legal authority is cumulative, and that a contemporary posek (decisor) can only issue judgments based on a full history of Jewish legal precedent,[29] whereas the implicit argument of the Conservative movement is that precedent provides illustrations of possible positions rather than binding law. Conservatism, therefore, remains free to select whichever position within the prior history appeals to it.[28][31]
    3) Rabbinic legislation: Since the (Modern) Orthodox community is ritually observant, Rabbinic law legislated by (today’s) Orthodox rabbis can meaningfully become binding if accepted by the community (see minhag).[29] Conservative Judaism, on the other hand, has a largely non-observant laity.[28][32] Thus, although Conservatism similarly holds that “no law has authority unless it becomes part of the concern and practice of the community” [30] communal acceptance of a “permissive custom” is not “meaningful”, and, as a result, related Rabbinic legislation cannot assume the status of law.

    I asked you once and you replied that you “weren’t playing”. But it seems important to this topic for you to clarify in light of you’re remark that “there is an increasing hashkafic challenge to the concept of Modern Orthodoxy in the sense of the Wikipedia definition of: Modern Orthodox Judaism (also Modern Orthodox or Modern Orthodoxy) is a movement within Orthodox Judaism that attempts to synthesize Jewish values and the observance of Jewish law, with the secular, modern world” vs R Weiss’s point one.

  124. shaul shapira

    “Menashe — I only hope your beliefs are never challenged by the reality of a homosexual child, close cousin, grandchild or nephew/niece. It is when reality bites, as it did to Senator Portman and countless others, that rigid beliefs become more flexible and we find a way to reconcile the seeming contradiction we are discussing. Kol tuv.”

    I share your hopes. I would only add that it wouldn’t change the truth one iota. As R Aviner pointed out during the Shalit-deal-debate:

    http://www.ravaviner.com/2011/10/redeeming-captives-in-exchange-for.html

    Question: And what if you were the Prime Minister or the Minister of Defense? It seems difficult for them not to succumb to the pleas of the parents of captive soldiers.
    Answer: Someone once argued with me: “Let’s see what YOU would do if you were the mother of a captive…” We do not resort to arguments such as these. We need to clarify issues according to the truth. If I were the mother of a captive, I would certainly be in favor of the exchanges. But this fact does not transform the “exchange of prisoners” into a proper (kosher) act. This is human weakness, not objective truth.

  125. Jay on May 1, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    Did I get this right?

    In a word, no. 🙂

  126. Let’s try this a different way. My strategic solution domain is shaped by two immutable principles:

    1. The seal of God is Truth.
    2. The seal of science is Truth.

    Anyone who does not accept that these two principles are immutable assumptions will think my logic faulty. But, if you do accept them, then you should have faith – as I do – that a Posek will find a way to resolve the issue within the framework of the (Orthodox) halachic process.

  127. milhouse trabajo

    IH, u are right that this approach is unsustainable, but we all know that we no longer have chachamim, so people today cannot look past the last generation (as opposed to Chacham Einav Berosho). no internet is also unsustainable.

    R hagtbg, you said
    “I agree with R’ Rothstein’s main points: The Torah, both written and oral, clearly forbid homosexuality. I agree with him that, as a forbidden act, it must be taught as a forbidden act.”

    is that really clear? must we teach everything? why not just employ SHev Veal Taaseh for the positive “safeguarding” requirement, so that the rabbis (due to all of the important issues and dangers well known to the posters here) simply turn a blind eye and don’t discuss, and schools don’t ask who the mother is, and everyone lives in peace until the Great Day when maybe we come to a conclusion.

    The rabbinate is fine with turning a blind (public) eye to many issurim and has legislated against the fulfillment of numerous biblical requirements (shofar on shabbos, no tefillin on 2nd day yom tov etc.) and we currently follow these biblical changes without applicable reason, so layoff the safeguarding just for this issue. the point is that the rabbanan Does Not have an absolute obligation to teach all of the Torah’s words as binding, just like any positive obligation that can be subverted by the well-defined terms of SHev Veal Taaseh.

    I personally think a reunderstanding is necessary (Yossie has shown that well), but at the least, be a Jew and have some Rachmanus! Don’t talk about it, don’t make declarations and don’t lobby against other people’s issues!

    R Rothstein, Boaz is generally off topic, but to respond, the simple reading and even interpretations in the artscroll are that Boaz innovated and changed the status quo by saying Ruth wasnt off limits. That is a possible source for innovations today when the simple reading of a verse that was never rigorously attacked by moral thinking (and morality is decided by mortals, not a hard-to-read book) now is at odds with our morality, possibly like the way Boaz handled the Ruth/Naami issue. Of course Boaz is pre-Talmud, but as R’ Elchonon asked, just because it was accepted isnt a reason that it is binding, as that power should also allow “unaccepting” (possibly in extreme situations as necessary, with a change of morality, sorta Eis-laasos-like).

  128. milhouse trabajo

    wow, when i posted i seem to have missed like a ton of posts. IH, great job!

  129. IH said:

    Let’s try this a different way. My strategic solution domain is shaped by two immutable principles:

    1. The seal of God is Truth.
    2. The seal of science is Truth.

    I accept both of those. One possible conclusion from those premises is that if science fails to falsify the idea that some people can only have sexual relations with people of the same gender, and that the Torah forbids it, that the Hashem may create certain people who are prohibited from ever having sex.

    If you want to show some other conclusion, you can’t just state the principals above. Appeal to something within the Torah context to set against the prohibition of (male, anal) homosexual activity – darchei noam, chai bachem, kavod haBriyot, something. Or limit the scope of the prohibition (as I just did).

    But if you start with your two premises and with no further reasoning conclude that therefore we must be able to resolve the issue in some way that is satisfying to 21st Century Americans you are basically using underpants gnome logic.

  130. llennhoff — See my earlier comments for several go’s at that.

  131. IH-
    “Let’s try this a different way. My strategic solution domain is shaped by two immutable principles:

    1. The seal of God is Truth.”

    That is so vague as to be meaningless. It could just as well be stated by a Karaite , Christian or Conservative who believes that maamad har sinai is C”V an authentic myth.

    “”2. The seal of science is Truth.”

    No major quibbles there. (Though science at one time believed in the ether etc. And Science does not = scientists etc)

    “Anyone who does not accept that these two principles are immutable assumptions will think my logic faulty. But, if you do accept them, then you should have faith – as I do – that a Posek will find a way to resolve the issue within the framework of the (Orthodox) halachic process”

    That is a total non sequitor. Science can prove that there are those who can never have a heterosexual relationship- therefore what?
    You seem to have accepted a-priori that everyone must be able to fulfill their sexual urges in some permissible way. Yet you agree that Pedophiles cannot. (The analogy to pedophiles is valid to extent that it shows that some people will be Halachically required to remain celibate. I don’t think Joseph Kaplan’s critique has any relevance to that.)

  132. Ths issue is intimacy and family. Well before any of the mitzvot, God tells us:

    יח וַיֹּאמֶר יְ-הוָה אֱ-לֹהִים, לֹא-טוֹב הֱיוֹת הָאָדָם לְבַדּוֹ; אֶעֱשֶׂה-לּוֹ עֵזֶר, כְּנֶגְדּוֹ.

    If/when science can prove that He designed some of us such that intimacy can only be achieved with someone of the same sex, I argue that is a halachic challenge that will be met by a future Posek.

    The argument from evil (e.g. pedophilia) is a red herring. And as someone pointed out in the thread, pedophilia is not halachicly forbidden so it really does your argument more harm than good, Shaul.

  133. shaul shapira

    IH-

    “Ths issue is intimacy and family. Well before any of the mitzvot, God tells us:

    יח וַיֹּאמֶר יְ-הוָה אֱ-לֹהִים, לֹא-טוֹב הֱיוֹת הָאָדָם לְבַדּוֹ; אֶעֱשֶׂה-לּוֹ עֵזֶר, כְּנֶגְדּוֹ.”

    You should keep quoting. It says right around there “ve’davak Be’ishto’- from which the Oral law tells us that even Noachides are forbidden from engaging in Gay-sex.

    “If/when science can prove that He designed some of us such that intimacy can only be achieved with someone of the same sex, I argue that is a halachic challenge that will be met by a future Posek.”

    It’s already been met. Just not by Orthodox ones. What makes you think that any future ones will? Don’t you think Morethodoxy (the orthodoxy that anyone can edit) would have provided us with one already. (And I don’t mean Zev Farber’s ridiculous attempt to claim Oness.)

    “The argument from evil (e.g. pedophilia) is a red herring. And as someone pointed out in the thread, pedophilia is not halachicly forbidden so it really does your argument more harm than good, Shaul.”

    It is absolutely not a red herring. It proves that even you accept that certain people cannot engage in sexual relations. Even if they have no desire for an adult heterosexual relationship. That’s all. Hashem creates Gays? He creates pedophiles too. So what? We all have nisyonos. That doesn’t make something muttar. See R Aviner above.

  134. shaul shapira

    Just to clarify further

    “The argument from evil (e.g. pedophilia)”
    I agree that Molesting children is evil. Pedophiles who an urge but restrain it are no worse than anyone else.

    “And as someone pointed out in the thread, pedophilia is not halachicly forbidden so it really does your argument more harm than good, Shaul.”

    I know of no posek who would mattir child molestation. The entire controversy is about reporting it afterwards to the police.
    In any case, it has nothing to do with my argument, which to quote myself, is that, “even you accept that certain people cannot engage in sexual relations. Even if they have no desire for an adult heterosexual relationship”.

    Gutshabbes.

  135. I just want to make it clear that “milhouse trabajo” is not Milhouse. I do not agree with “milhouse trabajo”‘s position. And while on the immediate subject at hand my sympathies lie more with those who are arguing with R Rothstein, on the bigger issue of the correct attitude to Torah I agree with Menashe, and am shocked at the attitude displayed by MJ and a few others. The Torah defines what is right and wrong. Our consciences are fallible, while the Torah is not; so when they conflict we need to try to adapt our consciences to the Torah, not ch”v the reverse, and if we can’t do that then we need to just accept that our conscience is wrong in this instance, and ignore it.

    If you have a GPS system that is usually reliable but does have some known bugs, then you generally do rely on it, but if you ever come across a contradiction between it and the actual road signs then you know that you ran into one of the bugs. You don’t try to “reconcile” them, and you certainly don’t ignore the road signs to follow the GPS.

  136. On the immediate issue at hand, what R Rothstein and many others seem not to get is that there are many Jews with a homosexual yetzer who want to be part of the frum community, so that they can remain frum. To remain shomer mitzvos without a community is nearly impossible; sooner or later something has to give, and one quickly finds oneself abandoning everything. או חברותא או מיתותא applies in ruchnius even more than in gashmius. One of the most important functions of a community, even if it’s not stated, is mutual chizuk. Now if someone is single, it may be easy to operate on a “don’t ask don’t tell” basis; but even that requires, after a while, a community that consciously keeps to the “don’t ask”. But what if someone has a partner? Keeping that fact a deadly dark secret is work, and it’s even more work if the partner is also Jewish and shomer mitzvos, and in the same community. It’s inevitable that everyone in the community will quickly know that the two are a couple, and if that means they must be excluded from the community then מה יעשה הבן שלא יחטא?

    I have heard first-hand from someone who went in to the Bobover Rebbe R Shlomo, and told him about his homosexuality, that R Shlomo advised him that if he could not remain chaste then he should try to find a partner, and preferably a frum one. First of all, this would provide mutual chizuk in the other mitzvos. And second, as any married person knows, after a while in a relationship things settle down, and they will end up doing fewer aveiros than if they were single and out picking up men all the time.

  137. I realise some might say הלעיטהו לרשע וימות, but I don’t think that’s really a valid attitude to these fellow yidden. Especially from anyone who is not himself a tzadik gomur.

  138. milhouse trabajo

    hi milhouse, never meant to steal your identity or anything. must say “i am shocked” too by your simplistic understanding of the Torah.

    “The Torah defines what is right and wrong. Our consciences are fallible, while the Torah is not; so when they conflict we need to try to adapt our consciences to the Torah, not ch”v the reverse, and if we can’t do that then we need to just accept that our conscience is wrong in this instance, and ignore it.”

    but you know as well as i do that a great portion of the torah is interpreted by the reader, and drash and and other principles use individual people’s logic and tendencies in making their determinations. your point seems to be that one cannot disagree with a static interpretation by the person of your choosing.

  139. No, MT, there is an objective Truth. There may be שבעים פנים לתורה, but there are also שבעים אחור. You need a zechus to find one of the שבעים פנים, and if you are not looking for the objective truth but for what you would like it to say, if your test for whether to accept an interpretation is whether it sits well with your yetzer, then you will not find them. זכה נעשית לו סם חיים, לא זכה כו׳

  140. Rabbi I apologize if my concern had been previously raised as I have only scanned the replies. My understanding (and an admitted oversimplification ) is that you are explaining that homosexuality is the present day public “battle line”. I would like to add that this is no ordinary battle line. If this line is crossed then quite possibly the whole city will fall. Many. Musssar Greats. (R Luzzato. R Hirsch). Have pointed out it is exactly here where we create transfer and transmit from generation to generation is where the Yetzer lies ready to ambush and destroy Even the Yetzer of idolatry, the redefining of Hashem himself is somehow tied into this precious space that Hashem has infused with so much pleasure. I think that we should be lulled into thinking that this battle line is drawn the same distance as other important lines say kashrut or Shabbos. Just the opposite I think panic cold sweat and utter maddening terror are appropriate emotions when we truly understand how close the enemy is upon us.

  141. milhouse trabajo

    Milhouse, so you know the objective truth, and have been zoche, but others dont? for the relevant example ive been using, boaz went against everyone else and said a pshat that noone prior had held and most people were still choshesh afterwords that Boaz was still not correct halacha (see the gadol hador achitophel’s attacks on Dovid’s legitimacy in midrash Rus and several related gemaras). yet at some point, people just accepted it. You haven’t explained why objective truth forces a reading that born homosexuals must suffer forever, and object truth cannot be decided based on a simple reading, considering all of the many verses that are taken out of their meaning by drash and or mesorah. basically, you couldnt say what objective truth is unless you had divine interaction. barring that, speaking of objective truth is a canard. we must interpret the torah as best we can, based on all the clearest principles we have. one of them, and a big one, is pity for the suffering stranger.

  142. MT, you are denying that there is an objective truth. You think Torah is putty that we are entitled to twist into any shape we like, because one interpretation is as good as another. To you R Nechunya’s prayer is nonsense: it’s impossible to be misled into a wrong interpretation because whatever we decide is by definition true! Nothing is objectively muttar or assur, tamei or tahor, this one’s or that one’s, so there’s nothing to worry about. This is the corrupt, wicked view that many members of the US Supreme Court have taken over the years, that the law is whatever they say it is, so they can say whatever they like. The truth is rather as one of the recent popes is supposed to have put it: when you speak infallibly you have to be very careful what you say, because you have to be mechaven to the truth.

    The first and most obvious requirement for any honest attempt to get to the truth is not to be hoping to find a particular outcome. If you go into the process hoping to find a heter, and lo and behold you find it, then you have to doubt whether you’ve found the truth.

    Who exactly says Boaz was mechadesh anything? Boaz revealed something he had received from his rebbe. “People” didn’t “just accept” it, the Sanhedrin accepted it. And Doeg and Achitofel did not challenge it because they honestly doubted it; if that were so they wouldn’t have been resha’im. They challenged it out of wickedness, because they wanted an excuse to rebel against their Divinely-appointed king.

    Halacha is not decided by pshat but by the authentic medrash halacha of Chazal (not silly “drashos” that we come up with today).

    And no, the clearest principle we have is not “pity for the suffering stranger”, it’s לא תשא פני דל ולא תהדר פני גדול

  143. This is an interesting and of course, legitimate Torah perspective.

    Of course, it does have the disadvantage of being irrelevant to the daily lives and inner reality of homosexuals themselves.

    It is true that Orthodoxy has rushed to the battlements on other issues of modernity. It is also true that, at least in the American context, it has lost every one of those battles. Non-observant Jews in every other country are still guided by Orthodox rabbis. Orthodoxy defines what it means to be Jewish. Not here. Orthodox congregations here are highly educated and highly committed. But that is mainly because all of the other Jews have already left.

    The question of whether to find creative ways to rule leniently and when to hold your ground is a profound one. It is extremely difficult to know which action will prove correct in the long run.

    As a non-Orthodox Jew, it is difficult for me to watch gay Jews seek acceptance and affirmation from Orthodox rabbis and to be crushed again and again by the same answers. I regularly encourage such people to abandon Orthodoxy and to see the inflexibility and even injustice of halacha in this area in light of other significant injustices and failures in that system. I encourage them to become more critical generally.

    But many of them refuse to do so because they are (unlike me) Orthodox in their hearts, minds, and souls and they still refuse to believe that the community they love is indeed so cruel and that no one will clear a path for them to live with integrity, dignity, and love.

    Why they should be so surprised that people are willing to abandon a small minority to suicide, depression, fear, self-loathing (etc) in order to maintain the boundaries of a system that works well for most others is confusing to me. They are Jews, after all.

    There is one thing I wish we could all agree upon. It is not possible to rule well on this issue without understanding homosexuality. And one cannot understand homosexuality without speaking, at length, with actual homosexuals. One letter from one person is not daas in this area.

    You cannot rule on the shabbos elevator without knowing exactly how it works. You cannot rule on the wheat for shmurah matzah without walking to the field to inspect it. You cannot rule on homosexuality without knowing exactly what it is, how it is experienced, how it is lived. If there is one thing I ask of you on behalf of my Orthodox friends, it is simply to seek more knowledge. Not from the media and not from me, but from those who for whatever irrational reason I cannot fathom, remain committed to Orthodox belief and practice.

    If I think about the pain that so many gay frum Jews live with, I become incredibly sad. But there is one thing that sustains me. Your statement is well and clearly reasoned. But it is as relevant to the actual world as the Catholic Church’s clear and reasoned statements that the sun revolved around the Earth. Like you, their theology was impeccable.

    But in the end, reality wins.

Leave a Reply