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Posts Tagged ‘homosexuality’

Rav Soloveitchik’s Clear Stand on Homosexuality

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

A rabbi who studied at Yeshiva University recently posted a blog where he commented on the prohibition of homosexual relations in Vayikra 18:22, “[E]very time I encounter these two verses, I feel I understand them less.”

Y.U. recently commemorated the twentieth yahrtzeit of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik (zt”l), the rosh yeshiva most associated with this institution. A man of immense integrity and Halachic loyalty, Rav Soloveitchik had no such problems understanding the clear, Divine language of the Torah. Speaking in 1974 about how “it’s quite in vogue to be heretical,” Rav Soloveitchik related the following:

A philosophy of [homo]sexualism is being preached throughout the Western world, to such an extent that a certain rabbi came to me and said, “How can we defend ourselves against it?” I told him, take out a Chumash and read a pasuk. V’es zachar lo sishkav mishk’vei ishah. [Vayikra 18:22] We are on the defensive, you understand. Why? And the same is true of abortion and so forth.

Rav Soloveitchik likewise observed in Man of Faith in the Modern World:

We think we know the motivations for the prohibitions against stealing, murder, adultery, and false testimony and for the positive commandments which reflect a sensitivity to the rights and welfare of others. They seem to be morally uplifting and socially stabilizing. In fact, however, their moral reasonableness is often in question in our modern world. The campaigns to legitimize abortion, euthanasia, adultery, and homosexuality are examples of the unreliability of the social conscience…

Specific to sexual morality, Rav Soloveitchik emphasized the universal nature of such standards. He noted in The Emergence of Ethical Man with reference to the Seven Noahide Laws,

It is worth mentioning that both prohibitions (bestiality and homosexuality) apply to non-Jews too and form part of a universal religion that is based upon the concept of man and personality.

Rav Soloveitchik elaborates in Abraham’s Journey on our duties to the gentile world in this area:

Our task was and still is to teach the Torah to mankind, to influence the non-Jewish world, to redeem it from an orgiastic way of living, from cruelty and insensitivity, to arouse in mankind a sense of justice and fairness. In a word, we are to teach the world the seven mitzvot that are binding on every human being.

What Rav Soloveitchik said in 1974 is truer than ever: normative Judaism is on the defensive in the modern world. The answer to this hostility is not to abandon our internal and global duties. The answer is not to pretend that HaShem is ambiguous where He is perfectly clear—an act equal parts arrogance and cowardice. May Rav Soloveitchik’s example give us focus and strength in days ahead

Societal Abandonment of the Bible as a Moral Guide

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Recently, one of the original sponsors of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio – changed his mind. He now supports same sex marriage. DOMA defines marriage applicable only to a man with a woman. It does not extend marital benefits to same sex marriages. This act was passed and endorsed by President Clinton who has also recently changed his views about it. Many states now have passed legislation that allows same sex couple to get married.

I have long ago stated my views about homosexuality and my opposition to gay marriage. The short version is that homosexuals should be treated like the human beings they are. And that we not focus on who they are attracted to. To the extent that they might engage in behavior that is forbidden by the Torah is not anyone’s concern. Unless they do so proactively with the intent of promoting it as a legitimate alternative lifestyle. That has to be opposed as would promoting any sinful act.

And let me be clear about the sinfulness of the forbidden homosexual act. There are some gay activists that have a certain familiarity with the bible that want to reinterpret it as somehow permissible. The very idea of doing such a thing gives new meaning to the word rationalization. It is the height of absurdity to say that an act is biblically permitted when the bible clearly forbids it. The bible says what it says. You can’t rationalize it away no matter how much you would like to.

My opposition to same sex marriage is based on the fact that by its nature marriage is a religious ceremony celebrating the holy union between a man and a woman. Even though there is such a thing as civil marriages, in my view the source of all marriages is based on a religious idea. I don’t believe that there would necessarily be an institution called marriage without the bible.

Civil unions are an entirely different animal. The argument might be made that all legal rights granted to a male-female union should be extended to a same sex union. But in the phrase ‘marriage ceremony’ the very word ceremony has religious ritual overtones.

But this is not my issue today. What troubles me is the Zeitgeist of ridding the world of the idea that homosexual behavior is forbidden by God. It is becoming increasingly fashionable to view a clear act forbidden by the Torah as completely permissible and even laudable in that it is an expression of love that helps cement a loving relationship.

This is not a problem if one is an atheist. Or even a deist. It is not a problem if one is even generically religious without subscribing to any biblical doctrines. It is entirely libertarian. It is entirely humanistic. And even compassionate. But in my view as a bible believing Jew, it is wrong.

If one accepts the bible’s clear admonition against a forbidden act the way I do, they cannot be comfortable with the direction this country is going. It is one thing to be tolerant. That is a function of ‘live and let live’ – a dictum I subscribe to. It is not my job or right to tell others how to live, whether I approve of it or not. It is another to normalize a sinful act.

The forbidden act of homosexual sex is no different than any other act that is forbidden by God. Normalizing it and treating it as though it is permitted does not, I believe, smell good in the nostrils of God. It would be no different than normalizing biblical level adultery. Adultery is forbidden even if all partners are consensual as would be the case in an open marriage. Just because there is a lot of adultery between consenting adults in this country does not mean we have to turn it into a positive value. The same thing is true about the biblically forbidden act of gay sex.

The increasing pressure to repeal DOMA and encourage legitimizing gay marriage across the land is a move in that direction. It may satisfy humanitarians and libertarians. But is disconcerting to those of us who believe that it is wrong to place even a quasi religious imprimatur via what we want to call marriage to a union between members of the same sex. Because such unions imply that the sexual act that accompanies marriage is just as legitimate as the sexual act between a married heterosexual couple.

Well Intentioned, but Wrong to Condone Homosexuality

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

It seems that the gay marriage is becoming ever more acceptable in society. From an NBC news website:

In a move described by one scholar as “inconceivable” just two years ago, 75 Republicans have signed the brief to be filed in the case of Proposition 8, a California law banning same-sex marriage, The New York Times reported. The nation’s high court will hear arguments on the law in late March.

Four former governors, including Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, and members of President George W. Bush’s cabinet, such as former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, signed the brief, the Times reported. Some of those, such as Meg Whitman, who ran for California governor in 2010, had once opposed same-sex marriage.

I have stated my position on this issue many times. Even though it seems inevitable that it will become the law of the land – I am opposed to legalizing gay marriage. This has nothing to do with how to treat people who have same sex attractions. My position on that is clear. They should be treated as equals among us. And there ought not be any discrimination or disparagement of them. Nor should we judge them. It is not our job to judge what other people do in the privacy of their own homes. Even if we suspect sinful behavior. What two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home is between them and God.

When it comes to interacting with openly gay people, we have an obligation to treat them with the human dignity that every one of God’s creations deserve. They are no less created in God’s image than people who are attracted to the opposite sex. Who we are attracted to does not define who we are. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, we ought to judge people by the content of their character. Being gay is not a character issue.

But that does not make gay sex permissible or excusable. The Torah is very clear about that too. It is a very serious violation of biblical law. There is no way around that no matter how compassionate we try to be. It is for this reason that I oppose gay marriage. Because the implication of that is to place a public imprimatur on behavior that is sinful. It is in effect koshering a forbidden lifestyle. Making gay marriage not just value neutral but something positive.

This ignores the underlying sinful behavior – completely removing it from the category of sin. By definition marriage gives a societal blessing a gay couple implying that that gay sex is as moral as heterosexual sex. We are saying via legislation that we approve equally of both types of behavior. Gay marriage does not only permit gay sex – it virtually endorses it as a completely legitimate alternative to heterosexual sex.

I don’t blame gay people for wanting to be treated as completely normal in every way possible. No one likes to be stigmatized – even a little bit. The homosexual community wants the world to look at them in the same way as they look at heterosexuals. As complete equals living a sin free lifestyle – same as heterosexual.

Much as I feel for their plight and their desire to be treated as normal, treating gay sex a sin free sex is not what the Torah intended by forbidding it.

This has nothing to do with how to treat gay people. But it has everything to do with how we treat gay sex. We cannot say it’s OK to have gay sex when it is not.

I know there are people who disagree with me on both sides of the issue. I have little patience for bigots who would deny human rights to a gay person and refuse to grant them any human dignity. But on the other side of the issue – sometimes one can have too much compassion and end up completely rationalizing away sex between two men. There is no doubt in my mind that it is a biblically forbidden act no matter what the circumstances are.

And yet well intentioned people are trying to rationalize the sin away entirety. This is the case with Rabbi Zev Farber. About a year ago he wrote an essay wherein he came up with a novel approach to gay sex that would completely take away any culpability for sin by two gay men engaging in it.

While acknowledging that there has been an evolution of sorts even among Haredim with respect to treating gay people with compassion, he felt that both an Agudah Statement as well as an RCA statement fell short of treating gay people fairly. The implication of both statements is that gay sex is still forbidden and that they must live celibate lives to avoid sin. Here is how he stated his problem:

I once suggested the following thought experiment to a colleague: “If, for some reason, it became clear that the Torah forbade you to ever get married or to ever have any satisfying intimate relationship, what would you do?” My own reaction to this question is: although part of me hopes I would be able to follow the dictates of the Torah, I have strong doubts about the possibility of success, and I trust that my friends and colleagues would be supportive of me either way.

His point of course is that it is unnatural if not impossible to ask a human being to deny his sex drive no matter what his sexual orientation is. And yet gay sex is a forbidden act according to the Torah. The vast majority of educated opinion is that gay people cannot change their sexual orientation. His solution is to apply a Halachic principle called Oness (pronounced Oh-Ness) Rachmana Patrei. If one is forced to commit a sin, the Torah exempts him from any culpability. The obvious question is, why should a voluntary act of sex (of any kind) at any given moment be considered forced?

Rabbi Farber argues that when there is no Halachic outlet at all to satisfy one’s natural sex drive then at some point that drive takes over and must be satisfied. That makes it an Oness – forced. When a gay person succumbs – he therefore is absolved of any guilt. He is in effect forced by his own God given nature to act in a way that would be forbidden to heterosexual men.

The problem is that this argument eliminates the sin of gay sex in it’s entirely. Heterosexual men would hardly violate that law. And gay men are exempt from it. So why would the Torah even mention it? Furthermore this argument can be used for pedophiles too. It is well known that pedophiles too cannot not control their attraction to children either. Oness Rachmana Patrei! There are of course reasons to forbid sex with minors. But the Onesss is still there… and we should not discriminate based his sexual orientation. Is there a soul anywhere that would agree with that?!

To Rabbi Farber’s credit, he does not advocate gay marriage in Judaism:

To be sure, calling something oness does not make the action halakhically permitted; it is not. Moreover, adopting the oness principle does not mean that halakha recognizes same sex qiddushin (Jewish marriage) – it does not.

The bottom line for me is that I think he errs in his use of the Halachic device of Oness Rachmana Patrei. And I also believe that he errs in suggesting we encourage “exclusivity and the forming of a loving and lasting relationship-bond as the optimal lifestyle for gay Orthodox Jews who feel they are oness and cannot be celibate.”

It is completely wrong to encourage a lifestyle that is conducive to sinful behavior. But I agree that we ought not be judgmental about it when we see it.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Moshe Feiglin Walks Into a Gay Bar…

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

A recent article appeared in Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper (in Hebrew here) written by some guy who’s pretty decent, but doesn’t quite understand the concept of liberty all that well. To him, it’s a government guy saying he’ll fight for someone’s right to marry someone of the same sex, as if it matters who the government says you can marry at all, as if marriage were some sort of government institution. Marriage is whatever private people want it to be.

Moshe Feiglin himself does not fully grasp what liberty is, though he’s pretty close. According to him, the “status of the classical heterosexual family” has to be “protected,” as if saying that if the government does not actively “protect the classical family,” all of society will disintegrate into dysfunctional and total homosexuality.

What Feiglin doesn’t like, and I agree with him, is the government stealing money from one group and giving it to gay people. But the author of this article sounds like he’d like his own government goon to spend someone else’s money to promote same sex marriage with government funded advertising campaigns or something. I just want people to do whatever the heck they want to do without stealing money from anybody through government programs.

If the government subsidizes a gay couple (like gives them a tax break for being married according to the government), the people who don’t like gay couples get angry. If the government subsidizes a straight couple, the gay people who also want the subsidy get angry for not having “the right to be married”. It’s got nothing to do with a right to be married. It has to do with the right not to be stolen from. If straight people can get stolen from less (get a tax break) for being married, why can’t gay people? It’s always about money. Not marriage or love or tolerance. Let’s not forget that.

All Feiglin really should say is that the gay community should do whatever it wants, raise its own money, and stop trying to legislate laws which cost money and force unwilling people to pay for something they don’t believe in. And that as a Member of Knesset, he will make sure neither straights nor gays are being stolen from by government unequally.

Gay Jews, I call a truce! How about this: We the straight people promise to not get government to fund straight causes. You the gay people promise to not get government to fund gay causes. Then we can all go out for a drink at a mixed gay/straight bar. I’ll have the vanilla vodka with sprinkles and a cherry. You’ll have the whisky. Then we’ll go home and both do our familial thing, whatever that is.

The Ma’ariv article was a Kiddush Hashem. Whoever doesn’t see that and is wrapped up in the “homosexual abomination” thing, really does not have his eye on the ball of how healing this is. Moshe, thank you for doing this. Keep it up.

Here’s the link to my translation of the Ma’ariv article, on the homepage of Settlers of Samaria.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/settlers-of-samaria/moshe-feiglin-walks-into-a-gay-bar/2013/02/10/

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