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The Conservative Movement Punts on Gay Rabbis

haniyeh.jpg
Ismail Haniyeh grooms himself after hearing the Conservative movement’s ruling on accepting homosexual rabbis

Leadership is hard. Decisions have to be made and consequences, good or bad, will follow. The decision-maker is therefore responsible for the outcome of his/her decisions.

The Jewish Theological Seminary, JTS, is the place where the leadership of the Conservative Judaism movement finds its leaders because it is the primary training school for Conservative rabbis. The Rabbinical Assembly is a body directly linked to the JTS because its rulings affect the training and eventual careers of the rabbis trained by the JTS. The Rabbinical Assembly continues to influence rabbis after they leave the JTS, and in fact wields a great deal of influence upon the laws and philosophy of the Conservative movement.

Here is a concise synopsis of Conservative philosophy written by Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson and quoted by the Rabbinic Assembly. In part, he writes:

It is precisely this traditional approach – which combines fidelity to inherited tradition and the courage to integrate necessary change – which motivates Conservative Judaism today.

In other words, Conservatives believe in preserving tradition and its essence or reasoning, but within the context of this tradition, are willing, when necessary, to effect changes. (More info about Conservative philosophy can be found on this, our old post).

Apparently, after years of watching Christian denominations tear themselves apart over the issue of acceptance of homosexuals in their ranks and the ranks of their clergy, the Conservative Movement – which is quite large at a million and a half members and 750 congregations across North America, but has been shrinking over the past two decades as people migrate to Reform or Orthodox – thought it would be wise to follow suit.

I know, I know, they were more concerned about the perceived injustice of treating homosexual members of the movement as non-equals to the heterosexual members. What pushed this matter to the forefront has been a vocal group of homosexual movement members, their supporters and some rabbinical students who pushed hard to have the movement recognize this as an area of deficiency and essentially forced the movement to confront the fact that a decision about homosexual rabbis had to be made.

The issue was studiously delayed and ignored for years, in large part because of its divisiveness. You see, no Jew who reads the Torah can escape the plain language of the verse that forbids a man to lie with another man as if he were a woman because it is an abomination to God. Needless to say, when this topic was off the table, one didn’t have to put much thought or – heaven forbid – actually visualize the meaning of this Torah verse. On the other hand, once it’s a topic to be discussed, not only does one have to take a, uh, penetrating look at anal sex, which you can see examples of at websites similar to www.videoshd.xxx, but of course also begin to assess other forms of homosexual sex. And then compare them to heterosexual sex. And then all of a sudden all one can think about is people sweating and moaning and grunting in various states of ecstasy, except that, hold on, it’s TWO MEN! AAARRGGGGGHHHH!!

Now, we automatically know that even if those two men are having, you know, fun, they really shouldn’t be cuz the Torah says they shouldn’t be having fun. It’s an abomination after all. The SOME Orthodox of all streams know this well because they actually read the Torah and halacha (Jewish law) regularly and study it and when they visualize two men engaging in…you know…they immediately start thinking about stone sizes and the different impact of such objects against the tender, pink, perky and moist flesh of homosexuals when hurled at different velocities. After all, it is unequivocally forbidden for men to lie with each other as if one were a woman. That’s right, the Orthodox reject homosexuality, refuse to address it, pretend that it is virually non-existent among their members and will never, ever, ever, consider accepting homosexuals in their communities or as rabbis. EDIT: …except for some Orthodox who will feel deeply sorry for homosexuals and consider their sexual activity an abomination but will consider them deserving and worthy of assistance to help them refrain from said abomination so they can live otherwise normative Jewish lives. Of course, they do accept lesbians since they, by definition, cannot be men who lie with other men like women. On the other hand, Orthodox lesbians get, um, screwed, anyway because as women they cannot become scholars of Torah or rabbis. They are supposed to be hidden, along with the other women, behind the walls or barriers lest the God-fearing men who would never consider accepting homosexual rabbis get all hot and heavy and distracted from their discussions with each other prayers in synagogue.

The Conservatives don’t have this problem. They refrain from visualizing stones and their impact on flesh and are open instead to visualizing lesb…uh, never mind. They are open to reinterpreting halacha and tradition when necessary. So what if the movement is suffering, has lost momentum and watches its less devout members go to Reform or Reconstructionist and its more observant members leave for Orthodox? So what indeed? It’s an obvious time to cause schisms and sow confusion in the movement. The leadership at the JTS and the RA decided that it was time to evaluate whether the movement should accept homosexual rabbis. As Arnie Eisen, the new chancellor of the JTS stated in a press release,

Let me note that this critical phase of the discussion, and the very debate itself, is a hallmark of JTS — and Conservative Judaism more generally — of which we can be proud. We have the burden and privilege of this debate not because we are in the middle, but because of our commitment to halakhah on the one hand and full immersion in the culture and society of the present on the other hand. We are dedicated to thoughtful change as an essential element of tradition — which is not to say that the change proposed to us now is right or necessary, but that the process of considering it thoughtfully, whatever we eventually decide, is to us inescapable and welcome. One could say that such debate defines us — and that, well-conducted, it strengthens us. Of course debate on this and similar matters has the potential to wound us as an institution and a movement. It also, however, has the power to remind us of what we stand for, and why despite our differences — or even because of them — we choose to stand together.

That’s right, it’s a tough subject and they have decided to tackle it regardless of the challenge it poses to Jewish tradition. You’ll notice, dear reader, that while he acknowedges the challenge, he believes it actually strengthens the movement. Of course, he is ignoring the fact that four members of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) which is the RA body that tackled this subject and gave its psak (ruling) resigned immediately after the vote.

That’s right, they resigned from the most important halachic body in the Conservative movement. Why did they leave after the vote? Because they believe that accepting homosexuality as equivalent to heterosexuality in the Jewish religion is clearly and obviously against not only halacha, but also Judaism’s core source, the Torah, not to mention millenia of tradition.

But wait, it gets more interesting. You see, the four resigned after their own proposed ruling was accepted! That’s right, in perfect talmudic logic, their 1. opposition to homosexual rabbis was noted and accepted. Also accepted was 2. the right of homosexuals to become rabbis. And also accepted was 3. a ruling that suggests that homosexuality is not a natural trait and that therapy could change homosexual sexual behavior.

Did you see that? 1 and 2 and 3. If you read Eisen’s press release, he describes how he will now proceed to go out into other parts of the scholarly Conservative commmunity to discuss the rulings before deciding whether to allow the ordination of gay rabbis at the JTS (something he has said he personally favors). Why does Eisen have to go out to research further? Because the CJLS PUNTED and refused to make the kind of decision leaders make.

The members of the committee were not unhappy with the outcome since most of the positions held by its members received favorable votes. Even the four members who resigned got their way. In fact, in many ways this is the perfect solution and conclusion because they leave the entire issue open-ended and in theory can continue to delay the day of reckoning when many members of the movement have to decide whether this is a big enough issue for them to consider leaving to other pastures.

One member of the CJLS spoke to the press and said:

“Most of our congregations will not be of one mind, the same way that we were not of one mind,” said Rabbi Epstein, also a law committee member. “Our mandate is to help congregations deal with this pluralism.”

In case you’re not clear, what he’s saying is, “We punted, and now our members and their synagogues can decide for themselves.”

Maybe he thinks it’s a good idea. I think it’s a bad idea. I’ll quote myself from an email that I wrote earlier today:

I do think this will be very difficult for the movement in the long run. It won’t kill the movement but will weaken it considerably. The irony is that they didn’t decide anything, they simply disagreed among themselves and handed the problem over to individual congregations. That’s where divisions will appear in time since most congregations don’t have the ability to contend with such a divisive issue without alienating many people on whichever side loses. In my congregation, I know we would probably prefer to tackle boring topics like updating the sanctuary, getting new young families, improving the school, etc. instead of arguing over how we should or shouldn’t deal with the homosexual community. I mean, running a congregation in an assimilating world is hard enough without having families and committees discussing the permissibility of anal sex.

A vacuum exists in leadership and authority within the Conservative movment which has allowed this situation to happen. The division we are seeing at the top is emblematic of a state of confusion about what the movement believes and what it stands for. This is natural because as a movement in some decline and watching the spectre of assimilation rear its ugly head, it is natural for it to become a scared movement that is afraid to lose even more members.

Fear is sowing confusion and weakening convictions. This is a recipe for disaster, especially in this movement where the layperson doesn’t possess the same depth of knowledge of Jewish sources as the typical Orthodox layperson. This is a movement where the leadership at the top is important in establishing parameters for members. Will 750 congregations now have to go through the same impossible series of decisions that the RA couldn’t decide upon? How exactly do the leaders of the movement expect this to happen when they, among the most knowledgeable authorities in the movement, couldn’t come to a single conclusion? Do they not understand the politics and pressures that congregations and their rabbis already face? Do they not see the imminent fights and splits that will occur in some congregations? It won’t happen right away because congregations don’t replace rabbis every year. But it will become an issue at large and will fester for years to come.

113 Comments

  1. Nathan

    12/8/2006 at 8:03 am

    Let me see if I understand. You would simply have preferred them to come up with one stance no matter how controversial to one side or the other?

    In seminars at my synagogue, our rabbi said people would react this way to the decision (he properly predicted this outcome) and his rationalization seemed ok to me: this multiple answer tradition is Talmudic in nature.

    If it ends the conservative movement, maybe that is ok.

    I know I am Conservative because I see Refom as atheists and Orthodox as racist, bigoted, hate mongers. I know there are a lot of people like me who are ok with the middle ground and prefer to have the decision made by people we pray with everyday not Rabbis in some board room, somewhere. This ruling (rulings) mean we can do that. Thusly, I see this punt as a good thing.

    Thankfully, I have a liberal minded Rabbi and a liberal congregation in this regard.

    I am about 20+% through the Talmud and I am struck with how inventive Rabbis can be when they want to. Dismissing rules, making new ones, pulling things out of the air (seemingly) to make a law that people must follow to be good Jews. If they could do it then, we can do it now. It is completely unclear, at times, how the stated law has much of a basis in anything other than how the vowels are placed. The fact that ambiguity is allowed in some places and not in others is simply BS to me. You are left with the conclusion that this is a religion of invented laws not G-d Given – not at all.

    But I refuse to take the slipperly slope down, some rules matter, and talking about them, reinterpreting their place in our daily lives did not and should not have ended 1000’s of years ago.

    As one of my fellow congregants put it: I can imagine a G-d up there shaking his head in disapproval equally for how much we got it wrong by taking it too far and how much we ignored his simple rules.

  2. Danny

    12/8/2006 at 8:37 am

    You’re incorrect on two points. First, prohibition oh homosexuality has nothing to do with Talmudic rabbis; it’s the Torah. Second, criticism addressed to the USCJ is not so much about its attempt to re-write Torah, but their decision to allow minor congregational rabbis to do so at will. USCJ did not establish a new rule, but left it to the congregations which are in no way qualified to handle theological discussion. You can read Shoher’s opinion at http://samsonblinded.org/blog/archives/235

  3. Tom Morrissey

    12/8/2006 at 11:57 am

    Middle, it’s awkward to line up with the more fundamentally-inclined members of the Jewlicious commentariat. But once one opens the door to combining “fidelity to inherited tradition” with (some sliding-scale degree of) accommodation of cultural change, one ends up with what Conservative Jews confront on this issue– open, profound disagreement.

    One may ask: Why shouldn’t they, like the Episcoplians, simply agree to disagree? Why not leave it up to local faith communities, or individual believers? There’s a lot to be said for such an approach, messy though it may be.

    Evidently, the Orthodox take a strict approach to Scripture on these issues, as does the Catholic Church. And I can tell you, as a religious ed teacher in my local parish, for my kids the Church has lost the argument on all kinds of issues of sexual ethics.

    So, regardless of the approach taken, some people will be alienated and leave. All things considered, though, I’ll take clarity and consistency with Scripture, and an explicit, countercultural posture, any time.

    Lots of Catholics are troubled by Church teaching on sexual ethics– but the consistency of the Church commands their respect. The greatest, and truly fatal danger: when adherents lose respect for their leaders and their pronouncements.

  4. yoseph crack

    12/8/2006 at 12:04 pm

    well, but every ratified issur in the Torah is because the talmudic rabbis kept it. They didn’t see fit to keep alot of stuff in the chumash going, I.e., strongly discouraging chalitza, not breaking the necks of donkeys whenever un identified corpses are found, the prohibition on meat outside of the holy places, not to mention all the temple stuff.

    If one really wanted to be picky about it, one could say that the biblical line doesn’t describe EXACTLY what is forbidden, except as “laying a guy like a girl.” what is there’s a shinui? fucking a guy DIFFERENTLY than one might a lady?

    As if to say, it’s might be more of a question of whether or not that which was the concern behind the anti-gaysex rules originally have changed. We do have prescedent to say that they do change sometimes (lo kidorot harishonim) And although the same Torah is true and guides all generations, is it not totally in the hands of the rabbbis of every community to decide what still right at any given time?

    “but left it to the congregations which are in no way qualified to handle theological discussion.”

    What makes them unqualified?

  5. Ephraim

    12/8/2006 at 12:44 pm

    You know, Middle, I’m really getting sick of your anti-Orthodox soft core snuff porn. Don’t you have anything better to do than to publish anti-Orthodox screeds? It’s really tiresome. Your middos are showing. You should cover them up.

    I don’t understand why you guys are so exercised about this “ruling” anyway. You don’t respect the halacha in any case, so why is this particular issue any different than, say, allowing driving on Shabbat?

    “The Torah says, the Torah says”…..I mean seriously. The Torah says you can’t light a fire, collect firewood, or go more than a certain distance from your homes on the Shabbat. Do Conservatives pay any attention to these clear Torah prohibitions? Not so much, I guess.

    So why all the fuss about faygelechkeit? It’s just another Torah prohibition. You’ve ignored all the others, what’s one more?

    But your own post, with it’s sweaty reach-around fantasy, betrays you. You’re the one who’s constantly thinking about it, obviously.

    And you guys still don’t get the difference between institutional standards and personal behavior. You’re hopeless.

  6. Sona

    12/8/2006 at 1:31 pm

    As a less serious aside, I thought the photo caption was great. On another occassion, you could use the same photo with the caption “Ismail Haniyeh tries to image how he would look wearing a kippa’.

  7. Sharon Papo

    12/8/2006 at 1:44 pm

    The Torah forbids a man to lie with another man as if he were a woman because it is an abomination to God. I think that this verse, like most verses in the Torah, can have many interpretations. The way I understand this verse is that nobody should be intimate with anybody and pretend they are with someone else. One should be present with whom they are making love/having sex with. If not, it is not honoring to yourself, the person you are intimate with, or God.

    As someone who grew up active in the Conservative movement, it is sad that I felt I had to leave the movement. I am married to a woman (fyi: we were married by two Rabbi’s- one Conservative and one Reform). Our love is not an abomination (even if we were two men it would be absolutely holy). Although I have found some very open-minded pockets of the Conservative movement, I refuse to join a spiritual community if my marriage and family is not recognized and welcomed, and I cannot look around and see out gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered Rabbis. I refuse to be a second class citizen. I look forward to the day when the Conservative movement can take a strong stand of inclusion and fully embrace same-sex marriages without making a homophobic statement in the same breath. Having homosexual rights does not take anything away from heterosexual rights. There is not a scarcity of rights to go around.

  8. tzipi

    12/8/2006 at 2:34 pm

    Sharon Papo – would you be comfortable in a community that was accepting of gay couples and their families but still did not see gay rabbis? Like, does it take having gay rabbis for you to feel accepted or could just a more welcoming attitude make a difference? [I’m not asking to attack, I am interested]

  9. themiddle

    12/8/2006 at 4:31 pm

    But your own post, with it’s sweaty reach-around fantasy, betrays you. You’re the one who’s constantly thinking about it, obviously.

    Made you uncomfortable, did I? Go to failed messiah and look at all the links I didn’t provide out of a sense of fair play. The issue for the Conservative movement was one of inclusiveness versus exclusivity. What happens when you’re a gay male and Orthodox, Ephraim?

    Tom, I’m The Middle, you’re pointing out precisely why this is such a difficult issue.

    Danny, your first comment is incorrect, I wrote something different. We are in agreement on the second point. Reread what I wrote.

    Sona, thank you!

    Nathan and Yoseph, congregations are “qualified” to debate anything and presumably their rabbis are well trained to provide counsel. However, the greater issue is that this is a divisive and difficult issue, so much so that the most learned leaders of the Conservative movement couldn’t come to consensus. Well, in some ways it is easier for them because they are providing declarations from their ivory towers. On the ground, Yankele and Betsy are now going to have to debate this issue with Chana and Yossi down at the synagogue. Yankele hates gays and Chana, Yossi’s wife, thinks the world of gays and believes anybody who dislikes them is a bigoted pig. Whereas they used to play mah jongg on ladies night and the men used to make latkes on chanukah for the men’s group; whereas they used to come to shabbat morning services and see each other and had their kids running around the shul during services; whereas they used to give their time to the synagogue and movement and celebrated their special life events there, not to mention the sadness of illness and death, suddenly, they have to debate the place of homosexuality within their community and faith. Of all the fault lines that could divide a congregation, why this one? Does this one define Judaism so deeply that it should play such an incisive role? Think about how the Christian movements that have tackled this issue have suffered because of it.

    In my opinion, since the issue cannot be ignored, the leadership needs to make a decision and provide guidance. There will be those who might leave the movement as a result, but it won’t be because they have just argued or fought with their co-community members.

  10. Ephraim

    12/8/2006 at 6:49 pm

    Middle:

    I don’t deny that Orthodoxy stands firm (ha ha) on its refusal, as an institution, to accept non-halachic practices. This is not new. And it still doesn’t bother me either.

    But you missed my point. Why should the Conservtie movement, which doesn’t hold to any serious observance or normative halacha, have such problems with this “ruling”? It’s just another rejection of normative Jewish practice in the name of “inclusiveness”. Why should there be any stink about it just because it’s about faygelehs? I mean, why not accept patrilineal descent a la the Reform? The Reform are at least honset about their rejection, on principle, of the idea of halacha having any validity. It seems to me that Conservatism is pretty much on the same road now.

    An institution can only adapt so far and remain what it is. Regardless of what individual people may or may not do, Orthodoxy cannot legitimize a practice which is obvously against plain Torah teaching.

  11. Lauren

    12/8/2006 at 7:18 pm

    This whole issue just sucks, cause homosexual sex really is prohibited by the Torah, but (most) conservative Jews are not personally bigoted towards gay people and don’t want to align themselves with the intolerant, vitriolic religious right.

  12. ramon marcos

    12/8/2006 at 8:51 pm

    What really sucks is trying to apply all the different moral edicts in Torah to modern day mores. A lot of work. Especially with that fine line between what the Pentatuech “prohibits” and what it tacitly or not so much “condones”. Like concubines and indentured servents. As long as the concubine is not a slave per se.

    Torah prohibits mishkav zakhar in the physical sense and technically the prohibition is limited to anal sex. Lesbianism isn’t even mentioned. Sharon brought up a good point about how that fairly non-moral prohibition has been interpreted morally by Jewish scholars. This may be interesting for some:

    http://www.myjewishlearning.com/ideas_belief/sex_sexuality/Overview_Homosexuality/Sex_Homosexuality_Halakhah_Gold.htm

    Just as scholars need to interpret the U.S. constitution and do so from the spectrum of literal to allegorical, they sometimes work off different ends of that spectrum depending on what best justifies their personal beliefs. So it goes with Torah. Ephraim can go get all the concubines he wants. He doesn’t have to if he doesn’t want to. But he can because Torah doesn’t say no. And if he gets pissed enough at me he can kill me in self-defense and head off to a city of refuge – which, not surprisingly, you can now find on Googel maps. 🙂

  13. Oyster

    12/9/2006 at 3:23 am

    Of all the fault lines that could divide a congregation, why this one? Does this one define Judaism so deeply that it should play such an incisive role?

    Precisely my point. This issue is getting all the press, but Conservative & Reform Judaism are just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. When are either movement going to take bold moves to stop this endemic and intensifying plague of assimilation? That’s the elephant in the room that no one is addressing DIRECTLY.

  14. Balaam's Donkey

    12/9/2006 at 10:44 am

    Ephraim,

    Your repeated use of the term faygeleh convinces me that you deserve to have your orthodoxy offended in whatever way TM happens to choose intentionally or otherwise.

  15. Tom Morrissey

    12/9/2006 at 10:44 am

    The issues here are not one, but several: should gay people be accepted as members of the community? Should their unions be religiously sanctioned? Should that take the form of “marriage”? Or some other form? Should a distinction be made between supporting, say, civil unions at secular law, and traditional, religious notions of marriage? How about gay clergy? And what about homosexuality itself?

    Here’s where the Episcopalians screwed up. They conflated all of these issues. To the gay-rights types, and the many, many folks in the middle (like Middle?) who’d preferred the issue went away, or, alternatively, dealt with as quietly as possible, the issue of gay clergy amounted, de facto, to erasing age-old moral teachings on homosexuality. In effect, hetero- and homo- assumed effectively equal moral status.

    Middle’s example if a very good one. Mr. and Mrs. Episcopalian saw their leaders turn the gay-clergy issue into a referendum on tossing out all of the old moral rules on sexuality– sub silentio, as it were. No wonder the ECUSA conservatives hit back hard.

    I think it’s possible to recognize gay unions for civil-law purposes and support that, and welcome gay people– addressing these issues discretely– without tossing out the Torah. But the ECUSA made a mess of it, and Conservative Jews seem poised to follow suit. Oy.

  16. ck

    12/9/2006 at 12:29 pm

    This is all seriously kind of interesting. I mean there is no doubt that just about every Jewish congregation, Orthodox, Conservative or otherwise, has gay members. Similiarly, I have no doubt that there are already several gay Conservative and Orthodox Rabbis.

    Man on man sex is clearly proscribed, to one extent or another, in the Torah but so is eating shellfish. Even more abhorrent are things like violating the sanctity of the sabbath, or mistreating your fellow man. And yet… there isn’t a big fuss made about sabbath violators. There isn’t a big fuss made about lobster eaters.

    Nope. The most burning issue in the Jewish world today revolves around two guys gettin’ it on. And why? Well, it seems to me that the leadership in the Conservative Jewish movement is top heavy with men. And some men seem to be inordinately concerned about their sexuality. They simply cannot deal with feygalehs the way they would deal with sabbath desecrators or lobster eaters because dealing with queers in a compassionate and rational manner might call into question their own sexuality. I mean what’s this marry/ordain gays but no anal sex bullshit? As if…

    And just in case you think I’m picking on Conservative Jewish leadership, the same applies to Orthodox Rabbis who deal with this matter like 2 guys getting it on is the worst thing in the world. It isn’t.

    Just throwing in my 2 cents there.

  17. ck

    12/9/2006 at 12:36 pm

    re. Balaam’s Donkey comment: I belong to a facebook group called Feygelah. It’s a Montreal based Jewish GLBSTGTV group that I helped with some graphics work and parade stuff. Uh oh! Open season on my cherished beliefs too?

    I mean TM implied that all Orthodox Jews are murderous, Nathan called the Orthodox “racist, bigoted, hate mongers.” Is there any reason at all I shouldn’t get offended? Well, despite all that, I don’t. I can’t hardly fault people for there ignorance and stupidity and I know there’s very little I can do to change their deeply held, albeit totally innaccurate opinions. So I just keep on keepin’ on. Shavuah Tov!

  18. Ben--David

    12/9/2006 at 12:38 pm

    Let me get this, uh, straight:

    The Conservative movement accepted the notion that homosexuality is an abberrant behavior that responds to therapy – while SIMULTANEOUSLY allowing untreated homosexuals to become rabbis?

    Middle – it’s not just you: your whole movement is Muddled.

  19. Dave

    12/9/2006 at 12:42 pm

    Homosexuality is explicitly considered to be sin in the Torah. It is far worse than not eating kosher beef. There is a hierarchy of laws. Torah laws take precedence over Rabbinic laws, and ethical laws are more important than the ritual laws. All the laws in the Torah are important and I think one should strive to keep them, but some laws are more important than others. This is de facto (although not de jure) recognized by most Jews of whatever stream. That’s how I live my life and I am sticking to it.

  20. Balaam's Donkey

    12/9/2006 at 12:58 pm

    CK,

    my response was quick and not completely thought out, and of course i see your point. but can you honestly tell me that the group you worked with was using the word in the same way that it was being used on here?

  21. themiddle

    12/9/2006 at 1:47 pm

    Oh wait, you mean not all Orthodox Jews want to stone homosexual men? Color me pink with surprise! I guess lumping everybody into boxes doesn’t always work – you know, like when certain people talk about the destruction of Judaism through non-Orthodox movements…

    To my knowledge, male with male intercourse is a capital offense in the Torah. I realize this is not acted out in the real world, but let’s not beat around the bush here. If the Torah is nothing less than the word of God, there is no room for pussyfooting around this issue for the Orthodox Jew. It’s only when you get to considering that the Torah is man-written but divinely or otherwise inspired that you can explore alternative views of homosexuality. Right, ck?

    Ben David, I am in agreement that there is a muddled movement here. Needless to say, I disagree with your constant suggestions that my views are muddled, you extremist. 😉

    Balaam, your original comment was right. Ephraim was using faygeleh in a pejorative manner.

  22. ck

    12/9/2006 at 1:52 pm

    Dave… when a man lies with a man the way he would lie with a woman, this is considered a to’evah, an abominiation in the Torah. Other To’evahs desribed in the Torah include incest, idolatry, eating unclean animals (lobster, shellfish), and economic injustice. These all fall under the same category. Homosexuality isn’t forbidden in the Torah, just certain sex acts, and said sex acts are not “far worse than not eating kosher beef.” I don’t know where you get your facts, but they are wrong.

  23. ck

    12/9/2006 at 2:07 pm

    Balaam’s Donkey: Just because Ephraim was using a pejorative term does not mean we need to offend Orthodoxy. Offend Ephraim if you must, but leave everyone else out of it. TM wasn’t offending Ephraim’s Orthodoxy – he was offending every Orthodox Jew. How else am I supposed to interpret this:

    The Orthodox of all streams know this well because they actually read the Torah and halacha (Jewish law) regularly and study it and when they visualize two men engaging in…you know…they immediately start thinking about stone sizes and the different impact of such objects against the tender, pink, perky and moist flesh of homosexuals when hurled at different velocities.

    I know TM loses his ability to be nuanced when he gets agitated into a state of overzealousness. I know that he doesn’t really mean what he implies – that every single Orthodox Jew wishes nothing more than to kill all homosexuals – but still, I can’t help but be a little offended.

    TM: The sex acts proscribed by the Torah are punishable by death only under very strict conditions, conditions that make it nearly imppossible to execute – and that was when we had a duly constituted Sanhedrin. Under no circumstances is it permissible for an individual, Orthodox or otherwise, to take the law into their own hands and kill someone for being gay. And I can say this with full belief and full faith in the divine provenance of the Torah. Go figure TM…

  24. Tom Morrissey

    12/9/2006 at 2:11 pm

    Male-to-male intercourse is banned, true. But it’s no small consolation that a male rabbi and his boy toy are free to engage in a BDSM relationship. Whips and chains are Torah-friendly.

    This completely, uh, inverts my views of fundamentalism. (Legal query: does the Torah contain the equivalent of the 10th Amendment?)

  25. Dave

    12/9/2006 at 2:33 pm

    CK, I respectfully disagree with you.
    I know that many or all Orthodox people say that the how all the laws in the Torah are of equal importance. I disagree and I’ll always disagree. Call me a heretic, I don’t care. I will always believe that the ethical laws, laws of morality which are in the Torah, must be interpreted with far greater rigour than the ritual laws. Furthermore I will always consider that the Rabbinic laws are to be interpreted more leniently than the Torah laws.
    As you can see, by today’s definition I am certainly not Conservative.
    By reading your various posts on this website as to what you seem to consider being Orthodox is, I freely admit that I am not Orthodox.
    After having read some Karaite literature, I realize I cannot become a Karaite, because I think that they have lost a lot by rejecting the Talmud. However, I do agree with a lot of what they say, since I do think they have a good point about adhering to the “peshat”” meaning of the Torah text. I am also totally anti-mystical.
    So, call me a heretic traditional non-halachic anarchist Jew. But I am not Conservative or Reform.
    Sorry for this long personal digression.
    However I think that there are a lot of people who think the way I do.

  26. Tom Morrissey

    12/9/2006 at 3:46 pm

    Middle, you fool, there’s nothing whatever to interpret.

  27. themiddle

    12/9/2006 at 4:05 pm

    That’s okay, ck, just as not all Orthodox Jews really want to have capital punishment happen to homosexuals just because it says so in the divinely authored Torah, not all homosexuals have tender, pink, perky and moist flesh. You don’t see those guys coming here to complain about my generalization, do you? In fact, we both know there are gay Orthodox Jews and needless to say, they are conflicted about stoning their own tender, pink, perky and moist flesh.

    In the same vein, not all of the non-Orthodox are destroyers of Judaism, even though I have heard some Orthodox leaders and followers say that publicly. Heck, I have heard some ask people like, say, me, how I and my Judaism differ from those Christians who call themselves Jews for Jesus. Can you imagine? I want to be clear that with all the attendant difficulty regarding this issue for the Conservative movement, a great deal – actually, all – of the commentary I have seen by Orthodox commentators regarding this matter has been this self-righteous twaddle indicating that opening the doors to acceptance of homosexuality in this way is emblematic of the decline in values and Jewishness of the Conservative movement.

    While there’s plenty of room to disagree with decisions made in this matter by the Conservative movement, and disagreement and criticism are fair in this case, ultimately the goal was to find a balance and a fair way to treat all people respectfully. Sadly, that isn’t the manner in which the Orthodox world today attempts to treat either homosexuals…or Conservatives for that matter. I brought up what I did regarding the Orthodox in this post precisely because the difference needs to be clearly made.

    By the way, correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t it the absence of the Temple which makes capital punishment a very difficult rule to uphold?

  28. Sophie Landsman

    12/9/2006 at 4:52 pm

    We are all painting with a mighty broad brush here.

    Fundamentalists of any color are just that, I have no intention nor expectation of changing them, making them accept me or anyone else. I feel deeply for gay orthos and how they are suffering in a world that will never believe that their nefesh is something that G-d made beautiful.

    On the other hand, reformers, whether Conservative, Reform or otherwise will have to decide where they draw lines. In a world where it is safe to know that your kitnyot have not been contaminated, can you afford to eat them on Pesach? In a world where dressing in pants is not men’s clothing, can a pants suit be tsniut? In a world where two men or two women love each other, have a committed relationship, a family and love, can they be equal to heterosexuals in the eyes of our religion – because none of us know what HaShem will decide was righteous or not until we meet face to face.

  29. Oyster

    12/9/2006 at 7:38 pm

    Haniyeh is doing the classic, “uhhh… where’s my kippah?” hand maneuver.

  30. ck

    12/9/2006 at 8:22 pm

    I’m not going to get into a repetitive pissing match with you TM. The administration of capital punishment requires both a fully constituted Sanhedrin and a functioning Temple. Not only that, but there is no record anywhere ever of capital punishment being administered by a Jewish court or legal body against a Jewish person found guilty of engaging in homosexual sex.

    This “destroyers of Judaism” thing you’re on is an irrelevant cannard. I’m confident that as long as there are Orthodox Jews, Judaism will not be destroyed. Conservative and Reform and Secular Jews can do what they like.

    If all the commentary you’ve seen on the subject of homosexuality by Orthodox sources is “self-righteous twaddle” then you clearly haven’t read it all or you’re being disengenuous. Read some more. Homosexuality isn’t a sin – laying with a man as one lays with a woman is. Orthodox scholars have presented a variety of views on the issue – some have been patently hateful while others have been quite sensitive. For the record, I’ve heard many homophobic comments from non-Orthodox Jews (even Rabbis!!) and I don’t find that remotely relevant when discussing the entire spectrum of positions on the issue.

  31. Shlomo Weinbach

    12/9/2006 at 9:10 pm

    lol the Middle is clueless

  32. Ephraim

    12/9/2006 at 10:02 pm

    When people indignantly pile on the Middle for portraying all Orthodox Jews as hateful, murderous bigots, I’ll worry about calling homosexuals “little birds”.

    ck, keep on keepin’ on.

    Tom, interesting points in post #15.

    BTW, do Catholics see Episcopalians kind of the way the Orthodox view the Conservatives? I’ve always heard Episcopalianism described as “Catholicism Lite”.

  33. SN

    12/9/2006 at 10:21 pm

    It pains me to write this, as I just saw Brokeback mountain and I really felt for those guys…

    But the prohibition against homosexuality is clear and incredibly strict.

    There are ways to get around certain things- sexual transgressions- homosexuality, incest, beastiality etc are all in the same catagory and they are strictly forbidden.

    In fact, sexual transgressions are one of the few things in Judasim that YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO DIE RATHER THAN DO!!!!!

    there is just no way around it, no way to make it like “lobster eating” or even breaking shabbas.

    You can get into semantics or hate orthodoxy but at a certain point people need to either accept the torah or not.

    If a person is gay according to Judaism it is a big burden and strong desire which they are forbidden on acting on.

    I believe in accepting everybody into the community, no matter what they are struggling with, but if they are activly doing something which opposes the torah than they can’t be a spiritual leader of a Jewish community.

  34. ramon marcos

    12/9/2006 at 10:22 pm

    I have to back ck up when he wrote:

    “For the record, I’ve heard many homophobic comments from non-Orthodox Jews (even Rabbis!!)”

    The openly gay woman Rabbi at our Reform shul (I was raised Conservative, still consider myself one and prefer Conservative services – but I digress) started her own congregation after she was forced out as associate Rabbi from another Reform temple many of my relatives attend. Basically she came out and was forced out The discussions I (over)heard after it happened ranged from veiled to openly homophobic. The temple couldn’t fire her based on her sexual preference so they came up with a “legitmate” reason I won’t go into except that I heard the straight male head Rabbi was guilty of the same impropriety and went unpunished. What a rockin’ fun temple!! You don’t see that in Orthdox or Conservative shuls. Or do you?

    Besides illustrating ck’s point that homophobia not caring what movement it prefers, it also applies to TM’s rant about whether or not we prefer our sects… I mean branches of Judaism to be run like a federation or a republic. It doesn’t seem there’s complete uniformity in the way Orthodox congregations worship, although the differences may be more about emphasis or focus on different aspects (i.e. music, charity work, etc…) than Torah interpretation.

    Really, now that the JCM has actually voted and has actually decided to allow gay Rabbis and civil unions, will more homophobic Conservative Jews leave the movement than if the JCM allowed specific congregations to make their own choices? I guess we’ll see. But if tommorow Conservative Rabbis start flying out of the closet, the congregation will find a way to get rid of him or her if they want to. That’s how the Reforms apparently do it.

  35. Shlomo Weinbach

    12/9/2006 at 10:27 pm

    The Middle loves his Conservative Judaism! if you say anything proving it’s bogus you get blocked! look at what Happened to Netanya! The poor girl wrote a beautiful article and got zapped.

    Some free speech and some “100% Kosher” think you got. You speak Kosher and you get blocked.

  36. Oyster

    12/9/2006 at 10:43 pm

    CK:

    Oh, proscribed! Sorry, I was confused, thinking that you kept on saying, prescribed. 🙂

    Damned scribes… I’m actually anti-scribe. Not pro.

  37. Mas

    12/10/2006 at 12:19 am

  38. themiddle

    12/10/2006 at 1:35 am

    Very good Mas, thank you!!

    ck, take note that the article Mas links to is by Uri Cohen. If you look up his bio, he looks as if he’d be an excellent guest at Jewlicious 3.0.

    So let’s see what the Princeton rabbi has to say in his review of recent Orthodox scholarship on homosexuality (I picked a range at random):

    *Boteach, Rabbi Shmuel. “Reinterpreting Homosexuality as Human Sexuality.” Oxford-Judaism Mailing List, June 29, 1993. Available at http://shamash.org/tanach/tanach/commentary/oxford-judaism/homosexuality Reprinted as “Does Homosexuality Differ from Heterosexuality?” in his Moses of Oxford (London: Andre Deutsch, 1994), vol. 1, pp. 24-44.
    [This long article is the most sympathetic towards homosexuals, of all the Orthodox approaches. “If a homosexual comes for advice it is best to concentrate, sympathetically, on the fact that a human being may be in distress.” Homosexual sex isn’t deviant or against nature. It’s the Divine prohibition that makes it morally objectionable. “Homosexuality is a sin like any other sin: because someone eats a ham and mayo sandwich does not in any way impair their ability to participate fully in Jewish life.” Rabbi Boteach’s approach is the most liberal and controversial of those in this bibliography; see next entry.]

    *Boteach, Rabbi Shmuley. “Dr. Laura Misguided on Homosexuality.” The Jewish Week (New York), May 26, 2000. Available at http://www.thejewishweek.com/top/editletcontent.php3?artid=609 Reprinted in The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, June 16, 2000. Available at http://www.jewishjournal.com/archive/06.16.00/othervoices.06.16.00.html
    [In disagreeing with Dr. Laura’s opinion that homosexuality is deviant, he describes homosexual sex as a “religious law” and not a “moral law.” Like Shabbat and Kashrut, homosexual sex is prohibited not because it violates any ethical norms but because there’s a biblical injunction. Rabbis Adlerstein, Schochet and Tendler object strongly to this article.]

    Boteach, Rabbi Shmuley. “Response to Rabbi Moshe Tendler.” Oxford-Judaism Mailing List, June 6, 2000. Available at http://shamash.org/tanach/tanach/commentary/oxford-judaism/000606

    Bulka, Rabbi Reuven P. One Man, One Woman, One Lifetime: An Argument for Moral Tradition. Lafayette, Louisiana: Huntington House, 1995.

    *Dresner, Rabbi Samuel H. “Homosexuality and the Order of Creation.” Judaism, 40:3 (Summer 1991), pp. 309-321. Reprinted in Kristen E. Kvam, et al, eds. Eve & Adam: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Readings on Genesis and Gender (Indiana University Press, 1999). (His affiliation is Conservative.)
    [A close reading of parshiot Bereishit and Noach paints a picture of what God expects of humans: heterosexuality within the marital bond. Homosexuality violates this natural law.]

    Eidensohn, Rabbi David. “Homosexuality and Sexual Perversion” (August 27, 2002). This is Segment Five of his online book, Jewish Gender, Marriage and Sexuality. Available at http://www.sinaicentral.com/kedusho/Lion_Roars_Seg_5_homosexuality.htm (His website is called http://www.Kedusho.com : The Torah Approach on Sexual Matters.)

    Eidensohn, Rabbi David. “The Orthodox Homosexual — A Halacha Perspective.” Available at http://www.sinaicentral.com/kedusho/The%20Orthodox%20Homosexual.htm

    Eidensohn, Rabbi David. “Questions and Answers with Rabbi David Eidensohn.” Available at http://www.sinaicentral.com/kedusho/Homos-questions&answe.htm

    Feinstein, Rabbi Moshe. “Teshuvah leNikhshal beMishkav Zakhur.” In his Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chayim vol. 4, #115 (1 Adar I, 5736).
    [In this 1976 responsum to someone trying to do teshuvah for homosexual sex, Rav Moshe zatzal takes the strictest approach of those in this bibliography. The very desire for homosexuality is so unnatural, it must be lehakh’is — a rebellion against God.]

    *Feldman, Rabbi Aharon. “A Letter to a Homosexual Baal Teshuva.” The Jerusalem Letter, 1:5 (March 24, 1998). Available at http://www.jerusalemletter.co.il/archives/March24,1998/homow.htm
    This letter, with a slight change, appeared in Jewish Action, 58:3 (Spring 1998), pp. 69-70. Some clarifications appear in Rabbi Aharon Feldman, “Letters from Homosexual Friends,” The Jerusalem Letter, 3:1 (June 22, 2000). Available at http://www.jerusalemletter.co.il/archives/Jun22,2000/friends.htm
    [Not only is this letter of chizzuk sympathetic to the Orthodox homosexual, but it carries some weight since the author has since become the rosh yeshivah of Ner Yisrael. “Judaism looks negatively at homosexual activity, but not at the homosexual nature… A Jewish homosexual has to make a commitment to embark on a course where he will ultimately rid himself of homosexual activity. It is not necessary that he change his sexual orientation (if this is at all possible), but that he cease this activity.” A Jewish homosexual can live as a celibate “if he decides that the Jewish people is his ‘wife and children.’ It is possible to do this if he throws his every spare moment into devotion to the welfare of his people.” He concludes: “In your struggle towards reaching the goals of your life, remember that you are not unique: all of humanity is engaged in the same struggle. You were just given a different set of circumstances within which to operate.”]

    So the most sympathetic review, according to Cohen, is that of Boteach who essentially says that one should feel sorry for the homosexual because he is in distress, but that even so his sin is similar to eating unkosher food and therefore he can participate in Jewish life just like anybody else who might transgress in a relatively unfortunate but not debilitating manner.

    Another sympathetic review from Rabbi Aharon Feldman states “Judaism looks negatively at homosexual activity, but not at the homosexual nature” and suggests that the homosexual simply has to recognize that he must struggle against his nature. He doesn’t have to stop being gay, he just has to stop any gay activity.

    Note that these are the most sympathetic views. They relate directly to the views of two of the views voted in by the committee at the Rabbinical Assembly, one of which actually suggests that homosexuals need to go get help to resolve their homosexual proclivities.

    Yup, you are right ck, not all Orthodox Jews want to stone homosexuals. Some Orthodox feel really sorry for them and simply want them to stop the abomination even if inside them it causes a ton of turmoil. I guess both Friedman and Boteach would also have no problem with gay Orthodox rabbis and would be fine if their daughters were to be wed to such men. 😉

  39. ramon marcos

    12/10/2006 at 1:52 am

    My apologies – I meant to say the CJLS when I wrote the JCM as far as approving gay Rabbis and civil unions. In either case, I stand by my point that no matter who the final decider is, each congregation will find a way to invoke it’s own will. Not much different than the way the benchmark for the U.S. Constitutional dtake on pornography is: community standards.

    So now I would like ck to address this:

    “This “destroyers of Judaism” thing you’re on is an irrelevant cannard. I’m confident that as long as there are Orthodox Jews, Judaism will not be destroyed. Conservative and Reform and Secular Jews can do what they like.”

    But, of course, not in this particular post.

    Shlomo – don’t assume Netanya got blocked ’cause of her comments. The possibilities of certain technical internet-related conflicts may have contributed… all understandable of course, ck….

  40. Josh Cohen

    12/10/2006 at 2:05 am

    The Middle is an egotistical asshole with an attitude.

    I suggest you remove him as one of the bloggers.

  41. themiddle

    12/10/2006 at 2:14 am

    There, the post is edited so that we discuss the issue at hand instead of whether ck’s feelings are hurt. Heaven forbid that some of those Orthodox among us who have continued to beat up on Conservative Jews for years should feel bad. Nope, they need to feel good about themselves even when the Conservative movement takes a step that they know the vast majority of Orthodox will never take.

    Yup, heaven forbid that they be maligned in this post even if the average Orthodox community treats their homosexuals like dirt (the ones they know about since most Orthodox gays know better than to be open about their sexuality or simply leave the the community), because now I have been convinced that indeed, not all of them want to, you know, give’em that good ol’ capital punishment prescribed by the Torah. Nope. They just want the abomination to stop.

  42. ck

    12/10/2006 at 2:20 am

    There TM. You said it. “not all Orthodox Jews want to stone homosexuals.” Again, allow me to repeat that in all the long history of Judaism, there is not one single documented case of a man being executed for homosexuality or homosexual activity. Thanks for the review and thanks for noting that being a homosexual is not a sin (please take note of that SN). As for your last paragraphs, what was that you said about self-righteous twaddle?

    I spoke with a Rabbi (who shall remain nameless) who noted these distinctions. He had a pretty enlightened, well researched view on homosexuality. For instance, he scoffed at the notion that homosexuality was a choice that could somehow be “repaired.” He made distinctions between homosexuality and the notion of laying with a man as one would lay with a woman. He noted 3 general categories of men who engaged in what we call homosexual sex – 1) congenital homosexuals who have no interest in women, 2) bisexuals and 3) heterosexuals who, driven by circumstance (unavailability of women, prison etc.) engage in sexual activity with men

    He felt that the behavior of 2 and especially 3 were proscribed by the Torah but that the born homosexual, who was made that way by God and who was engaging in consensual activity was not in the same category.

    I thought that was a rather liberal, if not brave interpretation of the Torah. But the point is that halachah is not a lifeless monolith, nor is it meant to bend to the whims of prevailing norms either. The rabbi in question based his interpretation on newer, prevailing scientific understanding of a lifestyle that until recently was considered deviant and sick across the board.

    Conservative Judaism’s ruling bodies have engaged in some serious intellectual acrobatics to preserve the dubious notion that CJ it is a halachic movement. That’s really the salient point here.

    Oh and my feelings were never hurt TM, only my sense of reason. But thanks for the consideration anyway.

  43. Shlomo Weinbach

    12/10/2006 at 2:25 am

    Conservative IS NOT Halachic and never was.

    Why are we all pretending like it was?

  44. Jewnomics

    12/10/2006 at 2:53 am

    The problem that the Conservative movement faces is the very same problem that all off-shoot movements of Judaism face; indecisiveness. This is why their mottos changes with every generation and their credos are constantly adjusted to accommodate the “times”. Traditional Judaism however, recognizes the Torah to be divine and does not adjust its principals and laws (even if they seem “outdated” and or “inapplicable”). From the Torah perspective, there is no confusion or debate about this subject. G-d created man and woman in His image and set for them a holy union from the very beginning of time. To the Almighty G-d there is no act more worthy than procreation and there is no act more unholy than any act that runs counter to that concept. Homo-sexuality is amongst the most unholy of ACTS. It is not the actual tendencies that render these individuals as unholy but the ACT that renders their lifestyle unholy. It renders pro-creation impossible!!
    Orthodox/Traditional Judaism does not reject homo-sexuality because of one single verse in the Torah, rather it rejects the very concept of homo-sexuality as illegitimate and counter productive to creation, growth of humanity and establishing a holy kingdom of G-d on earth.

  45. ck

    12/10/2006 at 3:23 am

    If only it were that clear Jewnomics. There are what, 15 million Jews right? What’s to prevent a gay male couple from adopting if procreation is the key? And on what basis do you rank homosexuality as the most unholy of acts? Eating shrimp does not affect one’s ability to procreate and it too is considered an abomination.

    I mean what do you say to a homosexual who is a perfectly decent person in every respect? Can you really say that God considers him completely unholy? And don’t be making comparisons to incest and bestiality – those are sex acts that involve non-consensual sex.

    Is the decent, honest homosexual really less worthy than the sabbath desecrating heterosexual? The adulterous heterosexual? The treif eating heterosexual?

    Once you get past the notion that homosexuals are degenrate sex maniacs, or pedophiles intent on luring good people astray – that they are in every other respect, exactly the same as you and me – then you have problems. I don’t care what denomination you belong to.

  46. Shlomo Weinbach

    12/10/2006 at 3:30 am

    Problem is in America most of got suckered into believing the false forms of Judaism: Reform and Conservative.

    America was new to the immigrants so they wanted to give the new world life a shot so they tried to dummy down their Judaism and feel “American”. Problem is they dummied it down too much and all their grandchildren aren’t JEwish anymore and many that got “conversions” are invalid. Many people NOW are searching for TRUTH to the world and are coming back to Torah and trying to grab onto G-d in the proper way, while those that don’t are dying out.

    Conservative and REform can no longer provide satisfaction for the Jew that actually wants a relationship with G-d in the way it’s supposed to be. Now, the Conservative leaders are freaking out cause their memberships are dropping which means they’ll be out of a job soon. I think now Conservative saw you can’t BS Halacha anymore. You’re either Torah Observant or you’re not.

    What you are seeing now are those that care come back to Judaism while those that don’t keep falling further and further into the tunnel of secularism. There is no middle ground. you either live properly by Torah or you don’t.

  47. Shlomo Weinbach

    12/10/2006 at 3:35 am

    What is so hard with not having sex with a man if you have gay ideas?

    There are poor people that want to rob a bank but they don’t cause they have limits.

    There are men that love women that would love to have sex with every woman that passes by but no, they have self control.

    There are some people that want to start fights with people, but they don’t because they have self control.

    As with a homo, you just get the educated on why it’s wrong and try to get them to want to be with women, and sadly if that doesnt work just have them stay single without sleeping with men.

  48. themiddle

    12/10/2006 at 4:10 am

    ck,

    Of course your feelings were hurt. You said so above in comment 23 where you claim to have been a “little offended.” It’s okay to act hurt, ck, nobody will think you’re ga…uh, never mind.

    Okay, seriously:

    1. all Orthodox Jews who are observant must, by definition, agree that males who have intercourse with other males are supposed to receive a death sentence. The only way not to agree with this statement is to directly repudiate the Torah.

    Your dispute with that statement is twofold: one, you claim that many Orthodox do not wish to cause death to homosexuals. Two, you say that nobody has recorded an instance of such a punishment being meted out.

    2. Let’s deal with Two first: I read the same thing on Wikipedia and wondered how the hell the author knew such a thing. It’s not as if Jews haven’t lived in numerous communities spread out all over the world for two millenia. Even if European Jews kept meticulous records of their actions regarding homosexuals, which they didn’t, how do they know what happened in, say, Yemen? How do they know that some crazed but devout Jewish man didn’t take the life of another without announcing the reason? I’m afraid this idea that capital punishment has never been meted out is unprovable.

    3. Now let’s deal with One. Let’s say Wikipedia is right. Your argument thus far has been that, in fact, many Orthodox Jews simply don’t accept the capital punishment prescribed by the Torah and have found all sorts of ways to dance around the issue. In other words, the rabbis find ways around the problem. They didn’t kill gays and don’t want to do so now. Instead, as you well know, they may have ostracized those who were found out as gay. Marriage opportunities for them and their family members suffered gravely and those men were and are considered beyond the pale for the remainder of the community. Read some of the comments we have seen on this post already for clarification on this point.

    4. . You claim, rightly, that this abhorrent behavior toward homosexuals was not merely practiced among Orthodox (or observant in earlier centuries) but in the broader society. In other words, they were acting no differently than the society that surrounded them. You point out later that your nameless and thoughtful rabbi – I presume he is Orthodox – comes to an interesting set of views about homosexuals because of newer, prevailing scientific understandings of a lifestyle that until recently was considered deviant and sick across the board. You say this right after you write that halacha is not meant to bend to the whims of prevailing norms.

    But that, dear ck, is precisely what your story tells us. A world that used to abhor homosexuality has come to view it differently. According to you, many Orthodox Jews who used to abhor homosexuality have come to view it in a more enlightened fashion. Thus we get Boteach telling us not to ostracize the homosexual but rather to show empathy toward him, while Friedman tells us to not accept the unacceptable part of the person (homosexuality) but still accept the remainder of that person.

    They, like your nameless rabbi, who seems to be an educated and well-meaning person, have learned and absorbed from the broader world and are applying this learning to their views and interpretation of halacha and Torah.

    5. Two things immediately come to mind. First of all, it isn’t scientific progress on homosexuality that is driving perception, because most of the science actually has not been able to show homosexuality to be an inherent trait. Rather, I would argue that a liberal world that is coming along in terms of seeking equality for all, is becoming more understanding of homosexuality. I would guess that intense lobbying by homosexuals – including gay parades, by the way – is really what has had the greatest impact on whittling away public objections and abhorrence of homosexuals.

    If I am right, then the progressive voices we’ve noted among the Orthodox, including your rabbi, are actually influenced by the broader secular culture, not so much the science.

    Either way, they now have to marry their new perceptions of homosexuality to halacha.

    6. Two, this perspective is not, as you write, different than that of Conservative Judaism. After all, Conservatives come to conclusions in large part because they perceive that halacha is not a lifeless monolith and is not meant to be bent to prevailing norms. They do see halacha as reflecting prevailing understanding of the world such as provided by science. In other words, science and pragmatism will have much more impact on how they interpret Halacha than what Madonna, Tom Cruise and George Bush deem fashionable. You drive on shabbat because you have to get to shul. You allow women rabbis because there is no reason not to do so – some of them are smarter Torah students than the men and can still care for children and family while working. You don’t believe in six days of creation, except metaphorically, because you know that dinosaurs roamed the earth millions of years ago before man arrived on the scene. You allow homosexual ordination because a person should be treated like others if they don’t violate the Torah’s prohibition.

    Look at the conclusions of the committee at the RA: two out of three resolutions passed rejected homosexual rabbis or sought assistance to help them lose their homosexuality, and even the third resolution which accepts the ordination of gay rabbis prohibits the abomination of lying with another man as one would with a woman. Does this seem like they grabbed the prevailing wind and sailed with it? Of course not. They were completely and entirely aware of Torah and halacha and gravely took both into account in making their decision. They also took into account clearer perceptions, including pragmatic and big-hearted ideas, about homosexuality.

    7. Which leaves you with a problem. Either Orthodoxy is changing with the times, which would explain the favorable light that you claim for some recent progressive Orthodox perceptions of homosexuality, or Orthodoxy is standing steadfastly by previous perceptions of the homosexual within the community. If it’s the former, Orthodox is like Conservative, even if it claims to hold superior ground – it’s just that the changes don’t always come by committee and may not be happening in an open debate as we see at the JTS – if it’s the latter, then Orthodox is truly different than Conservative but then you, personally, would have to acknowledge that it is closed-minded about and unaccepting of homosexuality and treats homosexuals with outright hostility or, at best, sympathy laden with hostility.

    After all, you keep saying that Conservatives can’t pick and choose what they accept and what they reject. Ultimately, any Orthodox person who reads the Torah but doesn’t wish to have death overtake the homosexual who engages in anal sex is picking and choosing. I’m not trying to drive you to a more fundamentalist approach, merely to state that you’ve valiantly tried walking across, but have fallen off, the tightrope. You are picking and choosing, and so is Boteach and so is your nameless rabbi. It’s just that you prefer your picks and choices to those made by Conservatives.

  49. Oyster

    12/10/2006 at 4:14 am

    ck wrote:

    Conservative Judaism’s ruling bodies have engaged in some serious intellectual acrobatics to preserve the dubious notion that CJ it is a halachic movement. That’s really the salient point here.

    Furthermore, as my C rabbis pointed out this morning at shul, most people haven’t even read most of the ‘teshuvot’ approved by the Law Committee of the Rabbinical Assembly. They range from 40 to 90 pages! I’ll write up more of my experiences this Shabbat at C shul (Gayest Shabbat Evar!!) on Oy Bay later…

  50. ck

    12/10/2006 at 5:40 am

    Shlomo: Imagine you got whisked away as a child to a remote land where homosexuality was the norm and heterosexuality was considered deviant. Would you bend to those norms and engage in homosexual sex just to avoid approbation? I personally couldn’t imagine any circumstance where I might have sex with a man – it goes completely against my nature. Same with the homosexuals I’ve spoken to. Heterosexual sex is just not something they can do. It goes against their nature. Just think about that.

    TM: Man. Your style of debate is to overwhelm with baseless assumptions, cherry picked reiterations, etc. I told you I didn’t want to get into a pissing match with you.

    1. But here we go anyway: All Orthodox Jews have to agree that any man that lays with another man as he would lay with a woman is chayav mitah. Said sentence can only legally be carried out by a duly appointed Sanhedrin bolstered by a functioning Temple. Stop treating the Torah like a book of rules for simpletons. All sabbath desecrators are also worthy of capital punishment right? Wrong. Extenuating circumstances are permitted. One may violate the Sabbath to save a life.

    2. We are the people of the book. Everything we do is recorded. Capital punishment was rare indeed and if some “crazed but devout” man killed someone over some perceived infraction that’s not duly administered capital punishment, that’s murder. Your argument here is really beneath you. You think I rely on Wikipedia for my facts on Judaism? I live in Jerusalem – we have Rabbis everywhere. Some even have cell phones. So I repeat – there is no instance of capital punishment being administered by a duly authorized Jewish religious body against a man for engaging in homosexual sex. I’ve independently confirmed that. It’s really up to you to prove me wrong.

    3. In this point you stated “Instead, as you well know, they may have ostracized those who were found out as gay.” So? Ignorant people have ostracized converts. That’s a sin. Ignorant people have ostracized divorcees. There is no basis in halacha for this. Ignorant people have ostracized their fellow Jews on the basis of the color of their skin, their national origin, their socio economic status, the perception that they are too religious, the perception that they are not religious enough etc. etc. etc. None of these are halachic imperatives. There is no absis in halacha for ostracizing a homosexual. None. Ostracism by the ignorant is not the unique domain of orthodox Jews. PLEASE LEARN TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN HALACHA AND THE FAILINGS OF ITS PRACTITIONERS. Conservative Jews were supposed to only use the car to drive to shul – you gonna ostracize CJews who use it to take the kids to soccer practice? Please…

    4. In this comment you wrote that “You say this right after you write that halacha is not meant to bend to the whims of prevailing norms.” without mentioning that I also prefaced that statement with the notion that Halacha is not a monolith incapable of evolution.

    5. In the old days, you could hardly mention the existence of homosexuality in polite company. Homosexuals were considered pedophiles and degenerates. People’s assumptions about the nature of homosexuality were more than tinged by prejudice and ignorance which in turn bred hatred and fear. As people got more knowledgeable, as homosexuals emerged from the shadows it became clear that they were not monsters. This was not caused by gay pride parades! Orthodox voices of reason are not influenced by broader secular culture! That’s total nonsense. Rational, intelligent, thinking people are simply no-longer burdened by baseless ignorant assumptions about homosexuality. This presents a challenge and some people are trying to deal with it in a realistic manner. It’s not because we love their taste in shoes or decorating. Believe me, if you had lived 100 years ago, you would never let your kids anywhere near a homosexual. Things change – that’s progress. We know things now that we didn’t know 100 years ago. That’s the challenge we all have to deal with. And there’s plenty of science on the issue. Don’t be so dismissive.

    6. Conservative Judaism is de facto ruled by the whims of its laypeople. That’s how this homosexual thing will play out. The RA says homosexuality can be treated? Please. That’s ridiculous. Also ridiculous is the idea of ordaining homosexual Rabbis as long as they don’t have anal sex. Yup. That’s going to work.

    7. Some elements of Orthodoxy will no doubt steadfastly stand by old school interpretations and some will have more nuanced perspectives. ORTHODOXY IS NOT A MONOLITH. It’s possible for Orthodoxy to evolve without violating Halacha. I prefer my choices to be made by Rabbis and Torah scholars, not “leaders” led by the nose by the whims of their congregants.

    But that’s my choice. You can choose whatever you like. I’m really done arguing with you. These are issues we’ve dealt with over and over again. I’m never really offended by your opinion per se – just your really innaccurate broad generalizations about an Orthodoxy that you really, really don’t get at all.

  51. ck

    12/10/2006 at 5:45 am

    re #39: We don’t block anyone except for spammers. We have certainly never blocked Netanya. Just for the record.

  52. themiddle

    12/10/2006 at 7:39 am

    Good, if you’re done debating, I’ll enjoy continuing to comment.

    1. “If a man lies with a male as one lies with a woman, the two of them have done an abhorrent thing; they shall be put to death. Their bloodguilt is upon them.”
    Leviticus 20:13

    I don’t see extenuating circumstances there. I don’t see any equivocation. I guess that if they’re doing it so save lives, maybe then they don’t have to be put to death.

    2. Okay, here’s evidence. Last year at the gay parade in Jerusalem, an ultra-Orthodox man attempted to kill three people. It is true that he failed, and yet, I don’t understand why you don’t think other examples of this could not have happened over two thousand years. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3108498,00.html

    This year’s parade elicited threats of violence as well: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1554629,00.html

    Is there a functioning Sanhedrin and existing Temple to help these guys determine that violence is acceptable?

    I don’t think the burden is on me, ck. The burden of proof is upon you. It took me all of a minute on Google to bring you these two examples. Can you show that violence against homosexuals did not happen in the other 2000 years of Jewish life?

    3. In other words, your response is to say, “This isn’t halacha, it’s just observant Jews who are deciding to ostracize on their own.” What difference does this make? It’s another form of what I say took place. Besides, in one breath you say that halacha, despite abhorring homosexual acts does not condone punishing for these acts and expect me to take that at face value, but then also expect me to reject the face value meaning of the verse in Leviticus. Of course you’re going to have ostracism, and that has little to do with ignorant people. Rather, it is because they know what is prohibited that they would treat homosexuals as they have.

    4. I fail to see your point here.

    5. You seem to be in agreement with me, even if you don’t want to be. By the way, the gay pride parades have an impact like everything else. Orthodox may not be directly influenced, but there is an indirect influence through the society that surrounds them.

    6. The whims of the laypeople are not what drive Conservatives. Sorry. Silly remark on your part, nothing less.

    As for homosexuality being treated and encouraging people to avoid anal sex, I’m afraid those come out of the “progressive” Orthodox playbook. Take a look at the Atid review of Ortho literature on homosexuality above.

    7. I have bad news for you: the Conservative movement is led by Rabbis and Torah Scholars. Read this and tell me otherwise: http://www.keshetjts.org/sources/Roth-homosexuality.pdf

    8. I’m sad to say that telling me that I “don’t get it” isn’t going to get you very far. As I write there are many Orthodox homosexuals living in ruined marriages, having illicit relationships with men (many without anal sex, apparently) or living celibate lives because they seek desperately to fulfill the words of the Torah and the ideas in halacha about homosexuality. You might wish to figure out how to evolve your non-monolithic movement with its non-monolithic rules so that those poor folks get some reprieve.

    Ultimately it seems to me that we’re debating something very strange. I’m arguing that Orthodox view homosexuality in a very harsh light and as a result, homosexuals have suffered greatly in the past and continue to find their lives challenging. You’re arguing that indeed, Orthodox view homosexuality as prohibited and unacceptable. We’re in agreement. It’s just that you want to add that it’s not a malicious type of animosity to homosexuals and anyway, it’s legitimate within the context of Torah and halacha, even if in the same breath you add that at least one of those sources must be viewed with great sophistication lest we get too confused by the plain meaning of “being put to death.”

  53. ck

    12/10/2006 at 8:31 am

    Extenuating circumstances? Sheesh, what I have to be your Rabbi too? Look up alternative viewpoints on Google or Wikipedia. I’ve read plenty and had many interesting conversations on the subject. I’ve outlined some of these already. Maspik.

    I don’t understand you TM – are you really that clueless? Do you not see the difference between court sanctioned capital punishment and vigilante justice or misguided individual acts of violence?? You brought me 2 examples of extra judicial violence, meaning you brought me nothing – despite the fact that I clearly elaborated what I was saying. There’s no need for a functioning Sanhedrin to determine that the 2 examples you gave me were extra-judicial and illegal. Had anyone been killed it would have been considered murder.

    There is ample evidence that lay people play an inordinate role in Conservative halachic decisions. Never has a Conservative body ever made a decision in favor of the more stringent interpretation.

    You really ought to read up some more about capital punishment in Jewish law. It’s really quite simple – it hardly, rarely ever happens. That’s what I mean by un-nuanced. One execution in 70 years and the Sanhedrin would have been considered murderous.

    Homosexuality is still viewed as taboo by large chunks of the population. Even in Conservative/Reform circles. Stop making it seem like it’s all about the Orthodox and God’s Torah.

  54. Shlomo Weinbach

    12/10/2006 at 1:42 pm

    The Torah (yes, with the Oral Law)tells us RIGHT from WRONG.

    END OF STORY.

  55. Shlomo Weinbach

    12/10/2006 at 1:45 pm

    Unforunately, For some reason The Middle has a huge misunderstanding on what Judaism (Orthodox) is all about. The Death penalty was RARELY given out.

  56. Joeschmo

    12/10/2006 at 3:30 pm

    ck,

    I wasn’t here for a long time thank G-d. Its always a temptation to get involved in a conversation but I have to control myself so as not to waste too much time (the yetzer Hara is strong).

    The way I know how bad something is by its punishment not only by the word To’evah – abomination. eating unclean animals gets the punishment of whipping whereas incest and homosexual behavior get the punishment of death.

    ck again,
    There is no need to defend by saying that the death penalty was rarely meted out or that vigilanteism is different. The truth is that it is only after-the-fact that only a court can punish. Punishment by definition means after-the-fact. But to stop the profanation of G-d’s holy name that is impending one can and should take action. The stopping of the abonimation parade in Israel was necessary and applaudable. The truth is that it is an abomination and we have to view it as such.

    This is what Hanukah is all about – the fight between the maccabees, the followers of G-d: “Who is for G-d come to me!”- if you remember that from your youth (I won’t even ask if TM remembers that…) and the hellenizers – the conservative, reform, and assimilationists of today.

    TM,
    Are we supposed to care that you play on people’s emotions in your arguments? You write “To my knowledge, male with male intercourse is a capital offense in the Torah… there is no room for pussyfooting around this issue for the Orthodox Jew.”

    -Yeah so? Whose pussyfooting? If the word of G-d who took us out of Egypt, brought us to Israel and made a covenant with us is not good enough for you go join another religion like reform or conservative.

    Leave Judaism out of it!

  57. Sophie Landsman

    12/10/2006 at 4:18 pm

    Hey now! Christians can accept other denominations because they believe in the divinity of Jesus. Yes, there are splits, but hardly ever do they say that another denomination is not Christian because they interpret differently.

    There is no reason to claim that Reform or Conservative Jews are not Jewish.

    This is incredible arrogance. Judaism was not always practiced in the same way it has been by orthodox.

    Enough. This is a discussion about halacha, about the questioning and debate that has happened for thousands of years and hundreds of generations. Who are you to say that someone else is not a Jew?

    Shame

  58. Rabbi Yo

    12/10/2006 at 5:18 pm

    I don’t want to get too into the discussion, but just to point out some other areas—some might consider large areas—where CJ has taken a unique course and this latest move is just not surprising or startling.

    * Conservative Jewish religious authorities override Biblical and Taanitic prohibitions when perceived to be inconsistent with modern requirements and/or views of ethics. For example: driving to synagogue and videotaping services on Shabbat, abolishing the category of mamzerut (“bastardy”), nullifying biblical restrictions on *Kohen marriage and *the decision to count women in the Minyan.

    The issue of homosexuality is so charged and loaded, that it helps to understand that this decision is couched in the Committee on Jewish Law and Standard’s own logic, and none of us who grew up Conservative should be very surprised by this latest decision.

    This ruling IS COMPLETELY CONSISTENT with other CJLS rulings, which to the not Conservative Jew seem totally absurd, and to
    the Conservative Jew seem perfectly just.

    I understand why so many Conservative Jews have been up in arms about this issue for so long. Their leadership was falling behind on an area that should have been solved a long time ago. The reason it was not was because of anti-homosexual attitudes of your average conservative-shul going Jew. Lets face it, that there is great prejudice against homosexuals, and THAT is what prevented this committee from coming to these conclusions before. It was NOT that they could not decide on them, because they have had no trouble in the past and will have no trouble in the future, creating Conservative Judaism along the mores of society and keeping in line with dues paying congregants.

    My real interest in the evolution of the Conservative Jewish religion is not on issues where society has taken its course of judgment, because we know that Conservative Judaism will march in line with this—that is their philosophy. My question comes on issues that are completely different.

    I want to know what they will do about other areas of Jewish life that present unique challenges such as: Chametz she avar ha pesach (Chametz that was owned by a Jew during Passover), yom tov sheni (Second Day Yom Tov), terumah and maser (Tithing of harvest in Israel), Shatnez, eating fish and meat together, how long to wait after eating meat till you can eat milk, can something that is kalei bishul (cooks easily) be put into water that came from a kli rishon (primary cooking vessel), and so on.

  59. Joeschmo

    12/10/2006 at 5:28 pm

    Sophie,
    This is about truth whether you like truth or not.

    I didn’t say anyone is not a Jew – there are Jews who don’t practice Judaism its that simple.

    If they want to break the covenant G-d will deal with them but let them be straight
    – let them not say “I practice Judaism, I haven’t broken the covenant…” at the same time that they hold shrimp in one hand and shake hands with their homosexual friends with the other hand.

    Truth is what is important nothing else.

  60. Sophie Landsman

    12/10/2006 at 5:32 pm

    I believe these are your exact words Joe.

    “If the word of G-d who took us out of Egypt, brought us to Israel and made a covenant with us is not good enough for you go join another religion like reform or conservative.”

    Reform and conserv. Judaism are not other religions. And do not tell me for one moment that anyone can say, “I have never broken the covenant with G-d.”

    BTW – when did shaking hands with a gay man become traif?

  61. themiddle

    12/10/2006 at 5:34 pm

    ck, I’m confused. Should I be listening to you or to Joe Schmo? To Sarah Nadav? To Jewonomics? To rabbis who send their students out to put up posters advocating violence or explicitly promoting violence against the gay parade?

    Nowhere do I say that there were many killings of homosexuals. I don’t know of a single one. But your claim that there have been none is absurd. You don’t know. The Torah is clear. And sometimes, people take things into their own hands because they believe so deeply that they find circumstances to allow for mitigation of the laws they know. We call those people zealots, remember? They believe in the same things you do, they just believe so deeply that they pervert the meaning. If you want to change the terms of discussion to be that never has there been a Sanhedrin-sanctioned capital punishment of homosexual acts, I will completely agree. I also agree that indeed, the Sanhedrin would rarely agree to capital punishment.

    And don’t you get a little tired of constantly attacking the way I debate or my supposed lack of knowledge? You don’t agree with my conclusions? Fine. But give me a break with the other stuff already, I don’t tell you how to debate and what your base of knowledge might be or needs to be.

    Sophie, don’t let the JoeSchmos of the world get to you.

    Shlomo, it’s a black and white world, isn’t it? I think your missed the lesson on nuance. Shame, isn’t it, considering the heavy nuance that goes into the oral law and subsequently the Talmud.

  62. chutzpah

    12/10/2006 at 5:42 pm

    “The way I understand this verse is that nobody should be intimate with anybody and pretend they are with someone else. One should be present with whom they are making love/having sex with.”

    So all those years I came home from the mikvah and thought about Clooney or Bloomingdale’s I got NO mitzvah points? Great, now I really am going to hell.

    AND, if you are going to start picking apart the sanctity of the booty call, I am just going to have to find me another site to vent on.

    P.S. What’s up with Micheal’s low libido? That guy is too good looking to be indulging in a slipper fetish if it doesn’t involve a woman wearing high heeled feather covered ones!

  63. Dave

    12/10/2006 at 5:49 pm

    Actually, Joeschmo, unfortunately in organized religion, even in Judaism unfortunately, some things are about becomes politics ie. about power. Otherwise, you should welcome the Karaites as Jews. After all, although there are only around 30 or 40,000 of them worldwide, they believe in Torah Mi’Sinai, just as you do. From reading their literature, I am sure they accept all the Torah commandments, including the prohibition on homosexual activity. Oops, they don’t believe the Talmud is holy, so they”re heretics, so they”re not Jews. They”re not kosher enough.
    The kind of logic, that I”ve just mentioned, is the unfortunate logic of any organized religious group, in fact any political group that wants to hold onto power.
    I bet there are a lot of silent traditional Jews out there (like me), who accept the traditional Torah law on homosexuality and most other Torah commandments, but we can never be Orthodox, because we don’t accept what we consider to be the overly strict interpretation of what constitutes “work”” on Shabbat by the Orthodox, and a number of other things (which I consider relatively minor eg. not wanting to wear a kippah 24 hours per day, etc.). So we”re not kosher enough, so we”re not practicing Judaism.
    So, as a result, Orthodox Judaism loses the support of people who would join it, because it basically insists that all the commandments are equally important, and it insists on its interpretation of the commandments as being the only valid one.

  64. Shlomo Weinbach

    12/10/2006 at 5:51 pm

    TM once again you are confused on what you’re talking about.

    Sophie – Reform and Conservative are completely different religious with their own “theologies” these are no the Judaism of our ancestors that kept them Jewish for 2,000 years in the exile.

    I like how JDATE finally figured that out. They list the different Religions: Orthodox, Reform, or Conservative.

  65. Joeschmo

    12/10/2006 at 5:52 pm

    Sophie,
    Shaking hands is a manner of speaking. My point is that they make nice and tell their homosexual friends that what they do is OK.

    Thats what I mean by holding their hands. They contradict G-ds explicit word and tell others that its OK to violate the covenant.

    Sophie I can say that I never purposely broke the covenant. Is it possible that I did so accidentally? Sure. You can’t compare the willful violation with the one done due to the strong bad inclination that we all have.

    Similarly you can’t compare the private violation of one who can’t control him/her self with the public desecration of those who announce and encourage others to break the covenant.

  66. Sophie Landsman

    12/10/2006 at 6:27 pm

    First: Denomination is not the same as religion. We are all Jews (religion) of differing denominations.

    Second: The theologies that kept US Jewish for 2000 years did not include bedikah cloths striemels and sheitels. We adapt, we reform, we strengthen, we change.

  67. Shlomo Weinbach

    12/10/2006 at 6:44 pm

    Sophie, you’re confused again.

    Torah kept Jews together NOT The different types of clothes. Torah being accepting it came from Sinai with the Oral Law.

    Not this Reformism, Conservativism etc. you practice Sophism I practice Judaism.

  68. ramon marcos

    12/10/2006 at 6:53 pm

    Sophie, don’t take some of these comments too much to heart. You know the modern Orthodox have a wide spectrum of views on homosexuality and acceptance of followers of the other less fundamentalist branches. Putting ck’s little aside in #30 (“as long as there are Orthodox Jews, Judaism will not be destroyed) aside, I think it’s more about Orthodox Jews trying to bring their fellow Jews into what they consider to be the true fold. I never tire of it and almost find it flattering when someone deems me worthy enough for conversion. As long as it’s not Jews For Jesus.

    Imagine you, me, TM, ck and maybe even Joeschmo accidentally walking into a bar full of and run by anti-semites. None of us are getting served. When the pool cues start flying JoeSchmo and I will be swinging side by side. And after ck singlehandedly leads his band of multi-denominational Jews into some serious fascist butt-kicking, and he goes behind the bar to pour us some now free beers, he won’t not pour one for TM just because he’s a Conservative Jew. I’m sure after a few more beers they’ll probably get into it.

    Anyways, I prefer to think of Orthodox Judaism as represented by YU Chancellor Rabbi Lamm:

    “Moderation, a fourth characteristic of Modern Orthodoxy, means that we do not always assume that ours is the only opinion that counts.

    http://www.jcpa.org/cjc/cjc-lamm-06.htm

    Having said that, I sincerely hope none of us ever accidentally step into a bar filled with anti-semites.

  69. Sophie Landsman

    12/10/2006 at 7:00 pm

    Shlomo – read what I wrote.

    What I said was that Torah kept us together and that the clothes had nothing to do with keeping us together, yet orthodox Jews put an inordinate amount of weight on what we are (or are not) wearing as Jews. It is an analogy. It holds for a number of arguments. I am not saying “I am right and you are wrong” and yet, I hear this arrogance from communities that are not practicing Judaism exactly as it was 100 or 500 or 1,000 years ago.

    I also practice Judaism and I rail at you who seem to believe that you know better – if you are righteous, take comfort in that righteousness. Calling others names or diminishing the good faith efforts of others is lashon hara.

  70. ramon marcos

    12/10/2006 at 8:58 pm

    While my last comment awaits consideration (hello… is that you Rabbi Yonah? Netanya?) I do want to remind Sophie that Shlomo here really isn’t calling you a Gentile. He just likes the way you practice Sophism. Nice to have the solitary cry of a female voice in the midst of this jungle of male commenting.

    I do have one question for our Orthodox commenters. I ask this seriously and with no sarcasm intended and I hope no one gets offended:

    If we agree that the Torah prohibition of the abomination that is man on man anal sex is a prohibition of a physical act and not a state of being, why then would it not be possible for a gay man to become an Orthodox Rabbi as long as he refrains from said act?

  71. SN

    12/10/2006 at 11:33 pm

    CK- note taken about Boteach’s idea that homosexuality is not a “sin” but it is asur, a chet and chiav mavet. So I have no idea what he means by that.

    To be honest, you are sounding like an apologetic, something I never would have pegged you as. I think you would do well to check out the halacha.

    There are three categories of actions which a Jew is supposed to die before doing- Idol worship, Murder and Sexual immorality. If someone threatens your life you can cook a lobster by candlelight while playing music and mixed dancing. But you are supposed to lay down your life for the big three- and these are non-negotiable.

    You may not like to hear it but HOMOSEXUATITY IS CONSIDERED “SEXUAL IMMORATLITY” AND IS IN THE SAME CATAGORY AS INCEST, ADULTERY, AND BEASTIALITY.

    “Consent” has nothing to do with it. Our ideas of what it right or wrong, fair or unfair, love or lust have nothing to do with it.

    I can’t defend it and I won’t try to justify it- it just is. There are impulses that we are not allowed to act on. I’ll even go so far as to say that I think that it is sad and unfair but there is nothing within the realm of halacha that can be done about it.

    Stop trying to make orthodoxy palatable. Nobody wants to be the bad guy and nobody wants to leave anyone out. But this is an ugly truth of our religion that can’t be denied.

  72. themiddle

    12/11/2006 at 1:13 am

    I apologize for the delay in posting some of the comments. Our automatic spam filter seems to be truly in love with this particular discussion.

  73. Rabbi Yonah

    12/11/2006 at 2:16 am

    TM, what about Chametz She Avar Ha Pesach?

  74. Shy Guy

    12/11/2006 at 2:46 am

    ramon marcos:

    If we agree that the Torah prohibition of the abomination that is man on man anal sex is a prohibition of a physical act and not a state of being, why then would it not be possible for a gay man to become an Orthodox Rabbi as long as he refrains from said act?

    Who said such a case is not possible?

    It’s just not practical. Imagine a Rabbi being interviewed for a job claiming he has a lust for adultery but – not to worry – he’s a refrainer.

    Anyone want to be on the shul board that hires him? 🙂

  75. Shy Guy

    12/11/2006 at 2:50 am

    Rabbi Yonah, what about chametz she’avar alav ha’Pesach?

    SN, thank you for a most clear and concise post.

  76. Oyster

    12/11/2006 at 3:27 am

    Ramon Marcos: Don’t hold your breath for the Orthodox fundies here to actually think about your very reasonable question. Orthodox Jews who actually think and respect other Jews, like Rabbi Yo and ck, will probably engage you respectfully on such questions.

    SN: And who proclaimed those to be the “Big Three” that you should lay your life down for? Rambam. And who was excommunicated by Orthodox Jews? Rambam. Don’t mind me, just a simple Yid challenging the notion of a united, monolithic Orthodoxy. A myth that Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Jews perpetuate for their various motives.

    Oh yeah, SN? Ck is relating what he learned from an Orthodox rabbi. Are you a rabbi? Are you, as a presumably orthodox Jew, ready to proclaim your learning to be superior to an orthodox rabbi?

  77. Shy Guy

    12/11/2006 at 3:48 am

    The Rambam was excommunicated by some rabbis in northern France, whereas those rabbis were in turn excommunicated by some rabbis in southern France.

    Since when do we care about what the French think! 😉

    BTW, I believe it’s the Talmud, Masechet Sanhedrin, that states “yehareg ve’al ya’avor” for the 3 cardinal sins.

    Just a simple Yid, indeed.

    (Sanhedrin 74A, middle of the page, “Amar Rav Yochanan Mishum Rav Shimon ben Yehotzadak……”).

  78. ck

    12/11/2006 at 5:38 am

    SN: The state of being a homosexual is not a sin. The only sin is when a man lies with another man as he would lie with a woman. I thought that’d be fairly obvious.

    I struggle with Judaism’s treatment of homosexuality because being gay in my experience and opinion is not a choice – it seems to be something one is born with and is as immutable amongst homosexuals as my preference for female sex partners is with me. I really see it in the same way as the guy with no arms not putting on teffilin.

    Engaging in homosexual sex with a consenting partner does not seem to have any correlation to how good or bad a person is otherwise. The idea that homosexuals are innately evil, as expounded by some Rabbis of late seems, well, uninformed.

    I’m not an apologist. This for me is just like studying Gemara – we ask questions, we probe boundaries, we use logic and reason and precedent and knowledge to learn.

    Oyster, don’t be too harsh on SN. The unnamed Rabbi I had these chats with was just doing what I said above – exploring boundaries etc. Why? Well I’ll tell you some more about him – because of a personal tragedy that befell a close and beloved family member, contracting HIV and then full blown AIDS, the Rabbi explored the world of the HIV afflicted. He told me that everywhere he saw homosexuals tending to the afflicted, acting selflessly etc. etc. I don’t want to get maudlin, but it affected him. It got him to thinking, and here we are.

    And TM, again, allow me to repeat: There is no documented evidence of a single execution by a Sanhedrin of a Jewish man for homosexual sex acts. There does however exist documented information about all kinds of other executions, but not for gay sex. Why is that so hard for you to comprehend? Or to believe? Nonsense? Sheesh…

  79. SN

    12/11/2006 at 8:50 am

    I never said that the state of being a homosexual was a sin, and I don’t believe that it is.

    I should have said this earlier but I have no problem with a person who has homosexual desires being a rabbi.

    I’m not even sure how one defines “being” a homosexual and as far as I know- and I am not claiming to be a halachic expert- it is the act which is forbidden, not an identity choice.

    “Engaging in homosexual sex with a consenting partner does not seem to have any correlation to how good or bad a person is otherwise.”

    CK, “consent” really is a modern concept where everything is ok as long as the people doing it feel that it is ok, but I don’t think that it has any religious relevance. According to the torah, engaging in homosexual sex is a greivous offence.

    It doesn’t make someone “bad” to have desires- we all do. Only tzaddikim live above any kind of desire.

    Anone who is Orthodox and keeps halacha strictly has desires which are at odds the torah- There are people who struggle to keep shabbas, struggle with nidda and struggle to keep their hands off another man’s wife. There is no prohibition against a Rabbi having desires that are forbidden. I think that the most important thing is how they handle themselves.

    If a gay man decides to devote himself to torah and refrian from gay sex than he is making a huge commitment and I would be on the shul board that would hire a guy like that.

    In fact, we are the people who struggle with G-d and his laws by definition.

    Acting on it is another issue.

  80. Joeschmo

    12/11/2006 at 8:55 am

    ramon,

    The reason that they can’t become rabbis is similar to shy guys comment (#74) but more so. How can you allow somebody who espouses a sin and claims its OK to be a Rabbi? In order to make abomination palatable to the public?

    Furthermore I do not beleive there is such a thing as a born homosexual notwithstanding what ck says.

    It is something learnt, an acquired taste that develops over time. As Ive explained in the past, if a guy wore a dress then all of a sudden the homosexual wouldn’t be attracted to him/her? That is a fact. If he wasn’t recognizable he wouldn’t attractive. If he must first recognize that its a guy for attraction to come how did he first get attracted? The answer is that over time he associated his urge with a guy until he is at the point of immediate association as soon as sees a guy. Once an assocaition is made its difficult to break but break it they must.

    ck,

    maybe there is no documented evidence… but how many documented cases of other executions are there? one or two? Thats not enough for a statistical analysis. Second of all today where its accepted people do it more but then it was probably close to unheard of.

  81. Balaam's Donkey

    12/11/2006 at 10:12 am

    Oh my god.

    I’m blown away that people this ignorant actually know how to use a computer.

    Homosexuality is an acquired taste?

    NO, ASSHOLE!!! THAT’S BROCCOLI!!!!

    Have you ever actually met someone who is gay and talked to them about his or her orientation? I would take a wild guess and say no, if only to assume that they would steer clear of people who think this way.

    An acquired taste. Holy shit. Wow.

  82. Shy Guy

    12/11/2006 at 10:32 am

    Balaam’s Donkey said:

    Homosexuality is an acquired taste?

    Quite likely.

    Do you know how to use a computer to search for relevant materials? I wonder.

    BTW, I was born loving broccoli. 🙂

  83. Joeschmo

    12/11/2006 at 10:39 am

    Balaam,

    Why are you talking like a donkey?

    There is no substance in your words just that you personally don’t like what I said. It, in fact, is an acquired taste.

    It is acquired thorugh the constant thinking of their urges while looking at guys.

    In the same way that child molestors immediately associate children with their urges. That too developed.

    It is said in the Talmud about a certain known adulterer that he was aroused as soon as he say woman’s clothing.

    That too was acquired.

  84. Shy Guy

    12/11/2006 at 10:53 am

    Joeschmo said:

    It is said in the Talmud about a certain known adulterer that he was aroused as soon as he say woman’s clothing.

    “Womans clothing!”

    “Womans clothing!”

    “Womans clothing!”

    “Womans clothing!”

    Nope. I said it and it didn’t work for me. 🙁

  85. Joeschmo

    12/11/2006 at 11:13 am

    Shy Guy thank you for your link.

    Funny. I meant to write “as soon as he SAW womans clothing”

  86. Shy Guy

    12/11/2006 at 11:25 am

    Well now I tried sawing women’s clothing. None of them look happy about it but I have to admit this feels addictive.

  87. ck

    12/11/2006 at 11:41 am

    Good lord. How does one acquire a taste for gay sex?? Most Homosexuals will tell you they knew they were gay before adolescence. They’ll also tell you that given a choice they would never choose to be gay.

    Maybe its a virus! So like uh… BEWARE! BEWARE! You might catch the gay!

    Heh. This reminds of how people used to take plants and flowers out of a sick person’s room thinking that plants absorbed CO2 during the day but oxygen at night. And they wonder why they still have gay pride parades when such rampant ignorance still prevails. Oy.

  88. Joeschmo

    12/11/2006 at 12:02 pm

    ck, ck…they say that they knew before adolescence…

    Really… at what age did they know?

    Which pre-adolescent child did you hear tell you that they were gay?

    Why is it that its only post-adolescents who claim that they had these tendencies in their pre-adolescent days?

    Don’t be so naive.

    You write “How does one acquire a taste for gay sex??”- which part of comment #83 did you not understand?

  89. laya

    12/11/2006 at 12:26 pm

    It always amazes me how much people LOVE talking about homosexuality. What is this? Conversational crack to you people??

    JoeSchmo – maybe it’s time to listen to that Yetzer Tov and get back to those other things you were doing.

  90. Shy Guy

    12/11/2006 at 12:53 pm

    laya said:

    It always amazes me how much people LOVE talking about homosexuality. What is this? Conversational crack to you people??

    One could say the same about the topics on the subject started here by your fellow bloggers. We’re only responding.

  91. sophie landsman

    12/11/2006 at 1:00 pm

    Laya – yes, it is truly conversational crack. It gets people angry and overwhelmed because there are such diverse views on it.

    People who are gay can write about their experience both as a gay person and as a gay person in a primarily heterosexual world.

    Heterosexuals who have little experience with gays can talk about their views and have them backed up by a sentence written thousands of years ago in a different land, with different morays and cultures that practiced homosexuality that were hostile to the Jews.

    Supportive heterosexuals who generally have friends and family who are gay and know that it did not come about by thinking of their “urges” while looking at guys (???) can be the great bridge builders. Rabbi Boteach, and other straight rabbis and leaders like him can bring tikkun olam on this issue.

    Arguing is a great tradition in our religion. We come to new and sometimes wonderful interpretations of our culture. It is usually those who see through the pabulum that make our world a greater place.

  92. SN

    12/11/2006 at 1:03 pm

    Just to lighten the mood a little bit.

    These links might be in bad taste but they are hysterical. They are back from when the onion was still funny.

    ’98 Homosexual-Recruitment Drive Nearing Goal
    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/28970

    Gay-Pride Parade Sets Mainstream Acceptance Of Gays Back 50 Years
    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/28491?issue=4228&special=2001

    BTW, I would love it if someone explained to me how to make a link when posting a comment.

    Thankx

  93. themiddle

    12/11/2006 at 1:05 pm

    Laya, you don’t LOVE talking about homosexuality?

  94. tzipi

    12/11/2006 at 1:14 pm

    Joeschmo – if you see a woman who is dressed up like a man and is indistinguishable from a man (all of her female characteristics hidden), would you find her attractive because she’s still a woman even though she looks like a man? Or would you say to yourself, “Hey, that’s a dude; I am not attracted to dudes.” and then focus on the hot girl standing nearby instead.

    Don’t say that being gay is an acquired taste just because gay men may not be attracted to men who dress like and look exactly like women (according to your assumption).

  95. grandmuffti

    12/11/2006 at 1:16 pm

    It always amazes me how much people LOVE talking about homosexuality. What is this? Conversational crack to you people??

    Muffti loves the phrase ‘conversational crack!’

    But, Laya, is it really so surprising that people get excited about this issue? It’s a real test case and litmus test for how much stock you are willing to put in respecting halacha as its been handed down. It’s one thing to be told that you ought not do various things when they are things you can live a relatively happy life without doing (i.e. wearing shaatnez?) because it is isn’t a deep and entrenched part of your identity. One can integrate a lot of this with a modern, humanistic view of morality, especially when the main tenents of the modern view of morality is to have respect for others and to not do things that cause other’s harm. Avoiding eating shrimp, shaatnez and respecting/keeping shabbat are perfectly in line with those ideals.

    But the rules of regarding homosexuality are interesting precisely because they conflict directly with that modern view. And that makes them an interesting case – is it one where we ought to break with halacha because we think it is founded on an unrealistic conception of human sexual identity or is this precisely the point where we should show our faith and dedication to the tradition by allowing that tradition to trump our ethical and moral sensibilities.

    Big surprise then that people have strong feelings about this. Homosexuality is the stage but the theme of the play is one’s proper attitude towards halacha, the torah and the tradition.

  96. Shy Guy

    12/11/2006 at 1:30 pm

    SN, let’s see if this helps you and comes out viewable:

    <a href="http://www.cnn.com">CNN</a&gt;

  97. laya

    12/11/2006 at 1:38 pm

    Muff, i like where you’re going, but I gotta disagree with ya. I think the REAL litmus test for how much stock you’re willing to put into respecting Halacha is when it’s something that goes against YOUR nature. Straight people pointing fingers at gays is just too easy. If Halacha commanded all straigt men to take it up the ass, then we would see who respects halacha and who seeks compassion and acceptance for those who just cannot go against their nature.

  98. sophie landsman

    12/11/2006 at 1:41 pm

    BTW – thanks for the encouragement Ramon and TM – I’m an old hand at this and appreciate a good discussion of halacha – especially when everyone is being civil.

  99. themiddle

    12/11/2006 at 1:45 pm

    People on Jewlicious also seem to really enjoy discussing dinosaurs.

  100. grandmuffti

    12/11/2006 at 1:51 pm

    Point well taken, Laya. Muffti didn’t mean to suggest that this was THE real litmus test, and he agrees that what you offer is an even better one. However, Muffti does think that asking him to look at someone who acts out on his sexuality with a consenting partner, even within the context of a loving and happy relationship, as doing something evil really does go directly against what is either his nature or at least rather deeply held views about the nature and proper scope of morality.

    If halacha did command us to do that, however, Muffti would feel even better about his atheism! 🙂

    It’s not surprise, along these lines, that people on this (and other) sites love talking about how the universe came to be, whether or not there is a gene that makes you believe in God, and the like. Homosexuality is a source of conflict on the ethical side of things, scientific views of the universe, it’s nature and how it came to be cause conflict on the ontological side of things.

    So, Muffti can’t help but feel that in a sense, we are doomed to talk about these things over and over and over and over…

  101. Tom Morrissey

    12/11/2006 at 2:06 pm

    Ephraim– re #32, yeah, most Catholics, I’d wager, see Episcopalians as practicing a version of Catholicism– without the Rome part. The liturgy’s very similar, for example. (Proposed slogan: “The Episcopal Church. No Pope, No Problem.”)

    Sadly for the ECUSA and the Anglican Communion generally, their allergy to strong central authority is proving their undoing on the gay-rights issue. Their travails make an inadvertent case for having someone in a white cassock stand on a balcony, wave his hand, and shout, ‘basta!’

  102. SN

    12/11/2006 at 2:17 pm

    Shy Guy- I couldn’t see the CNN link that you posted.

    Try again.

  103. ck

    12/11/2006 at 2:17 pm

    re Joe Schmo’s comment #83: Looking at guys while thinking of urges can make one gay? With all due respect Joe, how does that work exactly? I’ve seen hot naked guys all my life – I played football, basketball, baseball and swam. I spent countless hours in the gym and at the Y, showering with naked guys was a regular activity. And yet… never had urges, never got turned on by guys. Never caught the dreaded gay…

    So please… seriously, how does that work?

  104. ck

    12/11/2006 at 2:25 pm

    Sarahleh,
    Here’s the code. Writing this code:

    <a href="http://www.YourWebsite.com">Your Web Site</a>

    will result in this appearing on the site:

    Your Web Site

    capish Sarah? Copy and paste the code and replace yourwebsite.com with the URL or address of whatever site you want to create a link to.

  105. grandmuffti

    12/11/2006 at 2:27 pm

    Yeah, Muffti and ck were roommates back in the day and he had to look at Muffti every single day. And, as posted below, Muffti is certifiably hot by the extremely demanding standards of students posting on rateyourprof!

    In fairness, though, Muffti thinks that Joe Schmo was claiming that the cause isn’t merely looking at hot men, but a confluence of having urges and looking at guys while having those urges. As he put it in #83:

    It is acquired thorugh the constant thinking of their urges while looking at guys.

    In other words, it would see JS is espousing a rather straightforward associationist psychology of sexuality.

    Muffti can’t see how that view could possibly be true given all we know about the complexity of the mind and the general inability of associationist psychology to explain nearly anything deep about the human mind (other than people will sometimes avoid stuff if you hurt them and like stuff if you reward them…but see Chomksy’s classic review of Skinner for reason to think that even in that sort of setting the success of this style of explanation is purely chimerical).

    But at least we should get the view right. Is the view right, JS?

  106. Joeschmo

    12/11/2006 at 10:12 pm

    tzipi re #94 and ck re 104 and mufti re #105,

    Mufti, you are basically right in explanation to ck but my point is very basic and not only applicable to homosexuality. Its applicable to the whole sexual urge as I will expalin below in my response to Tzipi.

    Tzipi, You are right I won’t find a woman who is dressed like a man attractive, but
    thats my point – I am not making a separate case for homosexuals. If you look at my comments 80 and 83 you will se that I also point to regular adulterers. In fact the associations are learnt all around.

    The Talmud says that (approximate quote) “there is one organ (limb) in the body that the more you give to it the more it wants.”

    -In other words usually a person is hungry when he/she needs food and once full thats it, but the nature of the sexual urge is different. A person is not hungary for it as for food which is a life necesity. But according to the thoughts is the urge.
    If a person wants to be holy and not be aroused easily they should avoid thinking about these things in general because focusing on it makes a person quicker to arousal in general.
    That is also one of the reasons that a person should marry early – because married people don’t have their minds wandering to these things like unmarried people.

    So you see Tzipi I am not singling out any group.
    ck, does that make it clearer?

  107. ramon marcos

    12/12/2006 at 2:47 am

    Laya – well-raised point. It’s the “insert controversial issue here” when debating the same old debate of inclusion and morality. It’s simply the hotbed issue not only in Judaism and Israel but also the Gentile and secular world revolves around sexual preference (and the side-issue of same-sex unions). Maybe next it’ll be abortion.

    Which is interesting because the first safe and legitimate abortion clinic started in my lil’ hometown (in ’35 I believe) was funded by the local Jewish Woman’s Council.

  108. Steves Rick

    12/12/2006 at 8:40 am

    “Stop trying to make orthodoxy palatable. Nobody wants to be the bad guy and nobody wants to leave anyone out. But this is an ugly truth of our religion that can’t be denied.

    that’s like saying a moderate Islamist should not fight against the sickness that is in their religion.

  109. Shy Guy

    12/12/2006 at 8:52 am

    Steves Rick Says:

    “Stop trying to make orthodoxy palatable. Nobody wants to be the bad guy and nobody wants to leave anyone out. But this is an ugly truth of our religion that can’t be denied.”

    that’s like saying a moderate Islamist should not fight against the sickness that is in their religion.

    Either a Muslim believes that every word of the Quran is divine or it isn’t.

    Islam copied the concept from Judaism.

    So, for someone like yourself, the Torah is make-believe or inaccurate, while for observant Jews it is G-d’s precise commandments, which highlight, how shall I put it, the sickness of your secularism. Yeh. That sounds about right.

  110. ramon marcos

    12/12/2006 at 9:34 pm

    ck asked –

    “Good lord. How does one acquire a taste for gay sex??”

    Well my friend, I just received an email with a wonderful link that will answer your question:

    “Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That’s why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today’s rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products.”

    http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=53327

    I just had a double soy latte and for some reason I can’t take my eyes off that foto of GM in the Sinai… can’t be…

    Anyways, Jim Rutz is at jimrutz.com.

  111. Soyster

    12/13/2006 at 1:41 am

    Soy Vey!

  112. ramon marcos

    12/13/2006 at 4:06 am

    Oyster – i don’t care that you proclamated… I just am happy you did it in Spanish!!

  113. Steves Rick

    12/13/2006 at 6:27 am

    Sg, what are you on about? Why do you need to crush someone like that? Sickness of secularism?
    People are free to be moderate, that is not sickness. Think for once please.

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