Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.
The Political: In addition to the significant distinctions made, in the halachic realm, between the act and the actors, we need to distinguish between our halachic statements and our political activity. Politics makes strange bedfellows, especially in multicultural democratic societies like America. The pragmatic decision to support equal rights for gays in the political realm is not inconsistent with our view that the underlining activity violates Jewish (and Noachide) law.
We support religious freedom for all, even as we are aware that some might use this freedom to violate Jewish or Noachide law. Similarly, it is wise to support workplace policies of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, just as we support such non-discrimination based on religion, even though these laws equally protect, for example, pagans. Discrimination based on lifestyle choices may threaten our own liberties, including freedom of religious expression. This pragmatic argument remains true irrespective of one’s views on the philosophical claims for equal treatment in the workplace or entitlement to domestic partner benefits.
A similarly balanced approach should be taken with regard to gay marriage. If one believes a civil prohibition of same-sex marriage does not threaten our rights in the long term, then joining a political alliance opposing such, based on shared values or interests, seems reasonable. If, however, one views such a campaign as an infringement of civil liberties, or a potentially bad precedent that might endanger our interests in other areas of civil life, then one should not feel compelled to combat gay marriage.
Alternatively, one might even contemplate supporting the so-called grand compromise that will allow federal “civil unions” while strongly preserving religious-conscience exemptions from recognizing those unions. We currently continue to oppose the civil legalization of same-sex marriage, but as this debate develops it will remain important not to overly conflate our religious views with our political stands.
The Context: Within the larger cultural war roiling modern American society, gay rights sometimes seems like ground zero. This stems, in part, from how some religious groups view the issue, which in turn becomes absorbed into the media and popular debate as the “religious viewpoint.” Yet as with many issues (stem-cell research, for example), it remains crucial for Orthodox Jews to stake out our own genuine positions and not simply follow the lead of non-Jews.
The more significantly threatening aspect of American culture is the primacy placed on self-fulfillment, particularly in one’s sexual life. The dictates and mores of Jewish law frequently clash with the current American ethical mindset, which promotes exercising personal autonomy toward achieving self-fulfillment. Within the highly eroticized Western culture, the greatest manifestation of this mentality is heterosexual promiscuity, followed closely by high divorce rates and startling amounts of adultery.
While halacha certainly recognizes the role of sexuality in shaping one’s identity and human experience, it definitively limits sexual activity to marriage and encourages such activity within marriage. The Jewish tradition counsels self-sacrifice and restraint to an extent that our secular society deems unreasonable or untenable, even more so on sexual matters.
In this context, the threats to the Orthodox way of life are much greater due to the culture of rampant heterosexual promiscuity than to homosexuality. The attempt to conventionalize homosexuality, while harmful, represents a decidedly less threatening manifestation of the ethos of sexual self-fulfillment. Few people are drawn to a gay life without an initial internal inclination, whereas the vast majority of men (and a smaller but significant number of women) contemplate with some interest and desire the promiscuous heterosexual life that is normal in secular America.
As promiscuity becomes more culturally acceptable, greater numbers within our community will succumb. In that sense, the focus on homosexual conduct causes us to miss the major problems of sexual ethics in our society: the problem of promiscuity and its impact on dating, marriage, and divorce.
The Pastoral: It is extremely important that we strike a balance between the pastoral needs of people with difficult challenges in front of them and our need to provide clear ethical guidance to the community. Homosexual individuals within our community regularly experience anguish, suppression, and depression, sometimes to the extent of self-endangerment. These cases deserve our empathy and understanding, albeit not to the point of any compromise in our commitment to halacha and our belief in free will.
About the Author: Rabbi Michael J. Broyde is a law professor at Emory University and a Senior Fellow in its Center for the Study of Law and Religion.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
If the UN Grants national recognition to Palestine, why stop there? Tibet, Chechnya, Basque…
The decision to not publicly light the Menorah in Sydney, epitomizes the eternal dilemma of Judaism and Jews in the Diaspora.
Am Yisrael is one family, filled with excruciating pain&sorrow for losing the 4 kedoshim of Har Nof
Police play down Arab terrorism as mere “violence” until the truth can no longer be hidden.
The 7 branches of the menorah represent the 7 pillars of secular wisdom, knowledge, and science.
Obama obtained NO verifiable commitments from Cuba it would desist from acts prejudicial to the US
No one would deny that the program subjected detainees to less than pleasant treatment, but the salient point is, for what purpose?
For the past six years President Obama has consistently deplored all Palestinian efforts to end-run negotiations in search of a UN-imposed agreement on Israel.
It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.
For Am Yisrael, the sun’s movements are subservient to the purpose of our existence.
Israelis now know Arab terrorism isn’t caused by Israeli occupation but by ending Israeli occupation
Anti-Semitism is a social toxin that destroys the things that people most cherish and enjoy.
The higher the standard of review, the less likely it is the law will be constitutional.
Israel – the land and the nation – lost a giant earlier this month with the passing of Justice Menachem Elon, a monumental talmid chacham who served on the Israeli Supreme Court from 1977-1993, and as its deputy president from 1988-93, bringing a deep Torah viewpoint to the highest tiers of the Israeli judiciary.
We know that genuine halachically viable solutions to the agunah problem are hard to come by and might not even be within our grasp. But we also know the agunah problem can be functionally solved in practice, even if not in theory, and the solution is clear and obvious.
This short essay will develop five critical points for responding to the voices within the broader community that seek to accept and legitimize homosexual conduct, an activity that directly contradicts the dictates of halacha.
You may applaud the idea of ordaining women rabbis, or you may recoil in horror at the prospect, but the simple fact remains that women already serve the Orthodox world in clergy-like positions.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/homosexuality-and-halacha-five-critical-points/2010/03/17/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: