rabbi rothYou might have been asking yourself what By Rabbi Joel Roth has been doing since he stepped down from The Conservative movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. Apparently: writing for the JTA.

He recently wrote an insightful op-ed, letting the public into his thoughts regarding the recent Conservative movement’s handling of their Big Gay Issue. His overview, which he handles surprisingly succinctly for a Rabbi, mentions no personal feelings about homosexuality but rather looks at the halachic logic (or, in his view, lack their of) with an almost clinical sense of dispassion from the actual subject.

Roth’s conclusion that this decision was made using faulty halachic logic, along with last years UJC biennial keynote address from JTS professor Rabbi Neil Gillman which stated that the Conservative movements should stop calling itself halachic (referenced here and here) given that only 10-15% of it’s adherents even observe the basics of Shabbat and Kashrut, makes one wonder if the Conservative movement would not be better served by defining itself as influenced, rather than bound by halacha.

Nonetheless, no matter what your feelings on the the halachic legitimacy of homosexuality, it bears repeating that the state of being gay is no sin. Even if you follow the traditional viewpoint that the act of male homosexual sex is not permissible by Torah, a persons inability to keep one mitzvah is no reason for them not to keep as many of the others as they can, and certainly no reason to push them away from involvement in Jewish community life.

In other gay religious news, the New York Times has this article about the struggle of Gay Evangelicals in their quest for acceptance and partnership.

This, of course is coming out at the same time as evangelical leader leader resigns after admitting to engaging in gay sex.

It’s interesting times for gays and religious folks alike.

About the author

Laya Millman

27 Comments

  • The overarching problem with how most religious traditions deal with this issue is they don’t want to really deal with it.

    Everyone seems to be in two camps. Either they accept it blindly or they reject it blindly.

    As a gay man, my wish is for any group to seriously consider the following realities:

    1. Queer people exist, and most of them seem to be queer naturally, as opposed to being sexually abused as children, mentally ill, or pure evil sent by Satan.

    2. Queer people want to be involved in religious communities, but many refuse to be 2nd class citizens because heterosexual people in charge don’t take the issues seriously.

    I understand that rethinking the legitimacy of a sexual orientation permeates through all sorts of traditions, including family, proper sexual behavior, and gender roles. But, G-d put us here for a reason, because we exist. And I do not believe we were created so that we can lead lonely lives with no companionship and no healthy form of sexual expression. That’s simply an easy way out of the issue, created by heterosexual people who cannot understand this situation.

    Judaism would do a great service to itself, and society, if it seriously looked at where LGBT folks can legitemately and honestly fit into the Jewish community.

    Throughout history, even the Orthodox have revisited Torah and reinterpreted Jewish law on various things, including making it permissible to ride any elevator on Shabbat, as long as there are certain requirements met. It’s time we did the same for this unnecessarily devisive issue.

  • I guess I should care what he has to say.

    But, resigning is lame. Stay and hold the line and speak for the conservatives in the Conservative Movement.

    I have no idea how to reconcile my own sense/feeling that by demarginalizing gays, communities can help lift gays out of our current state.

    But at the same time tradition matters. It matters a lot.

    It is hard for humans to say they have love and compassion for someone, but also hate what they do and not let the hate cross over.

    I ask that you think about this: when I pray I often wonder about why I was made gay. What challenge have I been given? Yo, G-d what gives! Give me clarity to see your plan for me and help me be the best Jew I can.

    One thing I notice is that I have a lot more time to volunteer because I don’t have kids. So I do, maybe that is the plan?

    But I never feel like G-d hates me for being gay. I wish I could say that about me fellow human beings.

  • It is indeed unclear still why there is such an overreaction to the gay issue in the Orthodox world as whole.

    They are able for example to accept large donations from men who did not keep the Sabbath, who had their business open on the Sabbath and Holidays.

    But if you disagree w/ some position of theirs, you are attacked as being an Ortho basher.

  • Yeah, see even he admits this movement isnt real Halakha.

    I just don’t know where this guy can find work now. Probably not a wise decisions on his behalf.

  • Laya:
    it bears repeating that the state of being gay is no sin
    – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    … because only through blind repetition can this canard be supported.

    Decades after repeated genetic studies and other studies have proven that there is no genetic basis for homosexuality – that gays are NOT “born that way”.

    Nor is sexual orientation immutable.

    Sorry, Laya – this doesn’t bear repeating, not at all.

    Not unless you can cite evidence to back it up – besides a plaintive/dismissive round of “but EVERYbody Knows it’s so”.

    And repeating it is evidence of mindless groupthink, an unwillingness to venture beyond the limits of correct thinking impressed upon you by your teachers and the media.

    This website is not religiously motivated – so the usual hand-waving dismissals won’t work. In fact, it’s run by scientists with impeccable credentials – including work for the UN. It nicely summarizes – and dissects – the pseudo-scientific claims used to dress “gay rights” up in the mantle of scientific inevitablity.

    No, this lie does NOT bear repeating – considering how the “born that way” lie has closed like a shackle over so many innocent lives.

  • News Flash Ben-David:

    We’re not Christians.

    We are a religion of action. While Christianity says thought is equal to deed (ie “whoever looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” Matthew 5:28), we do not. Homosexuality as a sexual orientation is no more a sin than is thinking about hitting the town Friday night.

  • I, for one, think it’s a good thing that no genetic basis for homosexuality has been found. Why? Because people would seek to eradicate it. On the flip side, there is no “heterosexuality gene.”

    The fact that we have biological equipment to reproduce is not proof enough that we all should be, or have the ability to be, hetero. What makes someone (identify as) heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or anything else is _desire_. Who you are sexually attracted to–and who you want to be romantically involved with–distinguish sexuality from your biological “sex.” Sexuality is the state or quality of being sexual, it does not presuppose the person with whom you want to cuddle with.

    Gay men are just as virile as hetero males–they can produce children if they have sex with a female. Lesbians are just as capable of conceiving as het women. Your sexuality does not rule you out of the biological process. The idea that when one is gay one is will not, or rather is “unable” to, have children is the result of a social belief. A belief that children should only be conceived within the boundaries of a male-female relationship–ideally, one that involves marriage. The singular 10-minute incident necessary to create another human life does not a sexual identity make.

    Also, as Ben-David says, sexuality is not immutable. And, that goes both ways. Heterosexual people are not hardwired to desire the opposite sex. Sexuality itself, its expression and one’s beliefs towards it (for yourself and for others) all fall along spectrums of degree and time.

  • Unfortunately, the web site that you point to, Ben-David, is not based in any actual, solid scientific method. It is simply a group of studies put together through interview with people who have subjected themselves to reparative therapy. This “therapy” doesn’t actually do anything to sexual orientation; it simply creates an “aversion” to something one used to do in the past. The methods used to do this are, at best, inhumane.

    You can use this kind of conditioning to a dog, to keep it from barking. The instinct to bark doesn’t go away, just the behavior. What you then create is a dog, filled with anxiety, unable to express itself in the only way it knows how.

    What you should point to, instead, is the vast body of research (physiological and neurological)) showing the variations in sexual orientation and its development. These studies have been conducted by people from all sorts of different backgrounds. Unfortunately, they do not create propoganda websites, so I am unable to throw out some links offering simple answers to complex questions.

    And none of them says there is a “gay gene.” Rather, sexual orientation seems to arise from a complex array of factors, just like most other human traits, minus the color of our eyes, skin, and hair etc.

  • Unfortunately, the web site that you point to, Ben-David, is not based in any actual, solid scientific method. It is simply a group of studies put together through interview with people who have subjected themselves to reparative therapy. This “therapy” doesn’t actually do anything to sexual orientation; it simply creates an “aversion” to something one used to do in the past. The methods used to do this are, at best, inhumane.

    You can use this kind of conditioning to a dog, to keep it from barking. The instinct to bark doesn’t go away, just the behavior. What you then create is a dog, filled with anxiety, unable to express itself in the only way it knows how.

    What you should point to, instead, is the vast body of research (physiological and neurological)) showing the variations in sexual orientation and its development. These studies have been conducted by people from all sorts of different backgrounds. Unfortunately, they do not create propoganda websites, so I am unable to throw out some links offering simple answers to complex questions.

    And none of them says there is a “gay gene.” Rather, sexual orientation seems to arise from a complex array of factors, just like most other human traits, minus the color of our eyes, skin, and hair etc.

  • In regards to a belief that Conservative movement is not Halakhic, if this is true, then there is no form of Judaism that is. Not unless you believe that the Shulchan Aruch is Torah, or that certain rabbis are gods.

    We haven’t had priests to tell us what to do for nearly two thousand years, so every one of us has a responsibility to continue the Jewish dialog with G-d, and better understand what is law. I’m proud our movement has finally evolved to allow any man or woman a chance to be a rabbi.

  • Daniel, we were left with a system that you choose not to accept. I think you’re confused.

  • No, this entire movement was never Halachic since it allowed driving on Shabbat. When you start your car it creates a spark which is lighting a fire, which is forbidden. Therefore movement = no longer Halachic. So I don’t know why all this comes as a major shock.

  • No Donkey, they didnt make it up – Maybe the Rabbi can explain how it works here.

    Conservative and Reform Rabbis brainwashed their youth into saying “they made it up”.

    The Mishna has always been the Oral Law.

  • “The Mishna has always been the Oral Law.”

    Since when? Since it was written down? Or until it was written down?

  • DK,

    I think you’re confused.

    The Oral Law is what Moses received on Sinai with the Tablets. He wasn’t up there playing pocketpool for those 40 days. It was later written down ,since Jews were already flying off the Derech, as a way to preserve Judaism so they can get back on track and have the rules easily accesible.

    Baruch Hashem we have it so all those who grew up in the Reform and Conservative movements can come back to Judaism.

  • Darling,

    The only time anybody tried to brainwash me was my four years in an Orthodox high school.

    It’s called common sense. But feel free to keep understanding the origin of rabbinic literature from that perspective.

    I’ll keep living in the real world.

  • hey TM,
    Of course Dinosaurs came first. and no G-d is not made of Atoms he is infinite.

    Donkey, Sunshine, best of luck to you

  • Laya squirms – but misses:
    We are a religion of action… Homosexuality as a sexual orientation is no more a sin than is thinking about hitting the town Friday night.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    … which neatly tries to sidestep my point while once again slipping in the (false) notion I pointed out:

    Layaleh, “Homosexuality as a sexual orientation” is a political construct – not medical, not moral. A fabrication constructed out of feint-and-parry media reports of junk science – we’re going on our 3rd or 4th decade now of breathless reports that “tantalizing evidence” is “about to prove” that homosexuality is caused by…. something other than psychological maladaption.

    Any day now…. any day…

    The website I linked to above debunks the major “scientific proofs” used as the basis for these false claims.

    The same junk science has been used to attack the traditional notion of family from other directions – for example, the steady stream of reports on chimpanzee behavior intended to convince us that committed, monogamous relationships are “against our nature”.

    It would be more to the point to say that Judaism does not support ANYONE’s attempt to base their identity on their material/sexual appetites or status.

    Or that Judaism expects everyone to resolve – or simply restrict – those aspects of their “nature” that are destructive to self and society – including heteros with wandering eyes.

    It is not only Judaism’s right to make these demands – that is its purpose as a moral benchmark.

    Judaism need not cater to those who are shocked – shocked! – by the notion that not everything that’s “natural” is normal, moral, or desireable.

    Judaism need not cater to those who cannot see anything beyond the carefully scripted pageant of victimology politics.

  • Uh, we don’t drive on Shabbat. We say it’s better to drive to a beit knesset than not to go at all. Contrary to popular belief, it is not Masorti doctrine that every man and woman is charged with shopping and eating bacon double cheeseburgers after lighting candles.

    Likewise, but vastly more critically, it is a very good thing to stop the practice of stripping a large group of Jews of a way to serve G-d.

  • It is absolutely uncanny Ben David, how you consistently do exactly that which you accuse others of. If you could see it yourself, you’d probably get a good laugh out of it.

    Who’s stating facts based on no more evidence than his own beliefs, just like he said he himself wouldn’t trust? Who’s sidestepping a discussion on sin and halacha with “scientific” claims that are completely irrelevant to this discussion?

    Why don’t you ask a Rav is the state of being a sabbath breaker is a sin on Tuesday.

    Ben-David. You and I have been over this a year and a half ago. You haven’t said anything new since then.

  • laya’s quite mistaken in #8. There is nothing sinful in sexual orientation, which is seen as morally neutral by Roman Catholics and mainline Protestant churches. (That’s likely true for evangelicals, too, but I’m not certain.) The moral distinction is made between conduct and orientation.

    On the other hand, laya, it’s terrific you’re reading the Gospel of Matthew.

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