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Dan Savage, prominent anti-bullying advocate, blasts the Bible in a lecture to high school students

Men, like women, are intimacy seekers. The men whom I know who had affairs had them primarily to find someone who made them feel good about themselves, made them feel desirable. Men cheat out of a sense of brokenness. That’s why the most common refrain among married men to their mistresses is, “My wife doesn’t understand me.” And he thinks that some other woman would, when all along he could have made the effort to open up emotionally to his wife and find new erotic opportunities, and the feeling that he is a success, within the confines of marriage and monogamy.

But advice givers like Dan Savage do their readers an injustice when they allow men to devolve back into the bad behavior that has all too long characterized the male species. They likewise do a disservice when raging at the Bible in front of impressionable youth rather than promoting further harmony between religion and reason, faith and modernity.

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Written in memory of Machla Dabakarov, the mother of a dear friend of Rabbi Shmuley, who passed away last year.

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17 COMMENTS

  1. While anyone can agree with the assertion that it is wrong to insult established religion, is it correct to give the impression that it is not the worst thing for a person to agree to do 611 of the 613 Mitzvos? If a person does want to eat shellfish, should they figure that they are at least observing the other 612? Should we view homosexuality as a condition that causes a stronger desire for breaking a commandment than the infidelity that Rabbi Boteach mentioned? Is an unfaithful spouse only transgressing one of the 613 or have they basically destroyed the family unit that the Torah so strongly values? Would most rabbonim agree that a person who commits homosexual acts is in a morally different category from one who lights a fire on Shabbos?

  2. 1. Gay people can marry and have children. Many do.
    2. The mitzvah against gay sex is halakha, a commonly-accepted rabbinical interpretation of an incredibly ambiguous couple of lines in Torah that probably had to do with temple prostitution, not homosexuality as we understand it today. Torah doesn’t change, but halakha does. There are many reasons this specific mitzvah is on its way out.
    3. What “most rabbonim” agree on is entirely dependent on which sect of Judaism they’re a part of.

  3. What Boteach is missing is that, oddly (but typically), Christians are offended when Savage says their Bible is used as a cudgel to beat a historically oppressed minority. Besides, the “b.s.” he points to are Torah prohibitions incumbent on Israel but that Christians believe they are exempt from; why are *Christians* offended by that? They believe the same thing!
    I know Boteach is running for Congress, and his voters aren’t all Jewish. He also writes a lot about Jesus nowadays. But the feigned outrage by the right about Savage’s remarks are much ado about nothing. (I suggest he and anyone else actually read/listen to what Savage said before they jump and react – Boteach admits he hasn’t even done that!)

  4. While anyone can agree with the assertion that it is wrong to insult established religion, is it correct to give the impression that it is not the worst thing for a person to agree to do 611 of the 613 Mitzvos? If a person does want to eat shellfish, should they figure that they are at least observing the other 612? Should we view homosexuality as a condition that causes a stronger desire for breaking a commandment than the infidelity that Rabbi Boteach mentioned? Is an unfaithful spouse only transgressing one of the 613 or have they basically destroyed the family unit that the Torah so strongly values? Would most rabbonim agree that a person who commits homosexual acts is in a morally different category from one who lights a fire on Shabbos?

  5. 1. Gay people can marry and have children. Many do.
    2. The mitzvah against gay sex is halakha, a commonly-accepted rabbinical interpretation of an incredibly ambiguous couple of lines in Torah that probably had to do with temple prostitution, not homosexuality as we understand it today. Torah doesn't change, but halakha does. There are many reasons this specific mitzvah is on its way out.
    3. What "most rabbonim" agree on is entirely dependent on which sect of Judaism they're a part of.

  6. What Boteach is missing is that, oddly (but typically), Christians are offended when Savage says their Bible is used as a cudgel to beat a historically oppressed minority. Besides, the "b.s." he points to are Torah prohibitions incumbent on Israel but that Christians believe they are exempt from; why are *Christians* offended by that? They believe the same thing!
    I know Boteach is running for Congress, and his voters aren't all Jewish. He also writes a lot about Jesus nowadays. But the feigned outrage by the right about Savage's remarks are much ado about nothing. (I suggest he and anyone else actually read/listen to what Savage said before they jump and react – Boteach admits he hasn't even done that!)

  7. Dear Rabbi Shmuley,

    I think it is very nice for you to think you are helping the Gay Jews by saying they should look at the prohibition of homosexuality as they see that of lighting a fire on the sabbath or eating shellfish. I get it, but I think you need to go back to the texts and find ways to work with the texts and how we can interpret the biblical prohibition in other ways. Yes the bible does use the same word toevah/abomination 104 times and you suggest that people should not single out the prohibition of homosexuality. I think you are using an easy way out, rather than to look at other ways of interpretation. Take a position that is challenging!

    When you speak against Dan Savage and state “Everywhere we look today we find fanatics. So often we blame religion for all the extremists. But there are plenty of secular fanatics as well. From Savage’s offensive attack against the Bible and religion in front of High School students, he appears to be one of them.” I think you miss the point here. Religion has been used in many ways against homosexuals. The bible/religion has been used as a tool for hate. To blame people for having issues with religion is to not deal with the problem. It is no different than blaming a drug addiction on drugs. Look at the symptoms of the problem and deal with it. It is not Dan Savages opinion on open relationships, rather how religion has been used as a tool against way too many. It’s time for the Jewish World to work hard to make up for the abuse done over the years.

    Lastly, thank you Rabbi Shmuley for at least trying to find ways of dealing with this. I may not agree with what you stated, but I do respect that you are at least talking about it and trying!
    Rich Dweck

    For more on this issue- JewishPinkElephant.com.

  8. Irving, that is not what the Holy Bible says…clearly the converse is true. But of course, it is relevant ONLY if you read and trust and rely on the Bible as God's Holy Word…as I do.

  9. Dear Rabbi Shmuley,

    I think it is very nice for you to think you are helping the Gay Jews by saying they should look at the prohibition of homosexuality as they see that of lighting a fire on the sabbath or eating shellfish. I get it, but I think you need to go back to the texts and find ways to work with the texts and how we can interpret the biblical prohibition in other ways. Yes the bible does use the same word toevah/abomination 104 times and you suggest that people should not single out the prohibition of homosexuality. I think you are using an easy way out, rather than to look at other ways of interpretation. Take a position that is challenging!

    When you speak against Dan Savage and state "Everywhere we look today we find fanatics. So often we blame religion for all the extremists. But there are plenty of secular fanatics as well. From Savage’s offensive attack against the Bible and religion in front of High School students, he appears to be one of them." I think you miss the point here. Religion has been used in many ways against homosexuals. The bible/religion has been used as a tool for hate. To blame people for having issues with religion is to not deal with the problem. It is no different than blaming a drug addiction on drugs. Look at the symptoms of the problem and deal with it. It is not Dan Savages opinion on open relationships, rather how religion has been used as a tool against way too many. It's time for the Jewish World to work hard to make up for the abuse done over the years.

    Lastly, thank you Rabbi Shmuley for at least trying to find ways of dealing with this. I may not agree with what you stated, but I do respect that you are at least talking about it and trying!
    Rich Dweck

    For more on this issue- JewishPinkElephant.com.

  10. Great point about the Mitsvot as a whole Rav Shmueli. Many people do not realize that a Mitsvah makes us holy. Just studying the Torah connects us to the Creator and Am Yisrael and makes us Holy. Talmud Torah Keneged Kulam (The study of Torah is equal to all Mitsvot) – same as giving Charity. Usually it is the same people who say that sex is evil, when in fact sex is holy, as is child birth – they are both part of the first Mitsvah to be fruitful and multiply. Also, when a person cannot fulfill a Mitsvah due to real life circumstances they are exempt and the Mitsvah is considered fulfilled. Only we know in ourselves our limitations when it comes to fulfilling each Mitsvah – including the Temple service without the Beit HaMikdash.

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