Close your eyes, breathe in deeply, now exhale slowly… That was easy, wasn’t it? Not for everyone…
Moreover, one must remember that good people sometimes succumb to the temptation of sin in many areas, including this one. We should further sympathetically appreciate how individuals with a homosexual orientation might yield to such temptations, as they have no licit outlet for intimate companionship. In this regard, his or her struggle remains much greater than that of the heterosexual adulterer or philanderer, who commits egregious immoral acts by rejecting permissible outlets for their desires. Our strongest condemnation should be reserved for these sins, which directly threaten the moral fabric of our community.
Finally, we must confront these issues in an open and clear manner. We will never succeed in properly educating our community – which is engaged economically, and to a certain extent, socially and academically with the broader society – without engaging in a frank and public discussion grounded in halacha, despite our natural discomfort with any conversation about these matters. While our multifaceted, holistic approach requires an appreciation for nuances and complexities, it remains, in our mind, the appropriate halachic response.
* * *
We have heard that the revered Rav Aharon Soloveichik, zt”l, when asked his thoughts on homosexuality, replied, “It is terrible. It is almost as great a sin as cheating in business.” Without being able to verify this story, and understanding that Rav Aharon might not have meant this in a technical halachic sense, this anecdote nonetheless highlights what we believe is a misplacement of priorities in the Orthodox world.
The Orthodox community currently faces two incredibly serious problems: heterosexual promiscuity and financial misconduct. We live, alas, in an era of scandals, an era in which chassidic rebbes go to jail for money-laundering and rabbis are arrested for selling organs, while blogs accuse rabbis who are running conversion courts of manipulations and sexual vices with candidates for conversion. These scandals reflect larger trends within our community of widespread betrayal and disloyalty: to the other gender, including spouses; to business associates; to the greater Orthodox community; and, ultimately, to Torah and mitzvot.
Halacha condemns homosexual acts, but the phenomenon of “Orthodox homosexuals” does not represent a major threat to the integrity of our community. Ultimately, we are afraid that disproportionate condemnation of this phenomenon gives unproductive focus to a red herring, leading to inappropriate responses to individual struggles and distracting us from the central problems truly plaguing our community.
About the Author: Rabbi Michael Broyde is a law professor at Emory University and project director at Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion.
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