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Posts Tagged ‘SSA’

Closet Claustrophobia

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

If you knew how much trouble I had getting gay men to be interviewed by me, you would doubt that the term “gay” applies to them. Their elusive hesitance, their resistance to revealing any identifying information including their phone numbers and the need for my repeated reassurances that I would respect their privacy and exercise discretion further evidences that they are not happy with their former identities and associations and have chosen a different path because “gay” and homosexual are not necessarily synonymous. In fact Dan (not his real name) was quick to confirm my assumptions. He felt it was very much an oxymoron to be gay and happy in his life.

“In my experience the whole symptom of being gay was an outcome of being unhappy and trying to be happy and repair whatever is wrong inside. It’s really sad. I’ve seen an enormous number of people really hurting out there.”

Although very personable, positive and charming, Dan, in his early thirties, now a student at a Chareidi yeshivah in Israel comes from anything but a simple past. Both his parents were very emotionally unstable, a good cause for their divorce when he was almost three, leaving him without a father and with a very unstable mother prone to anger attacks. This and the lack of any other family or peer support made for a very lonely world without much support in difficult times. He also suffered two incidents of sexual abuse. Although sexual abuse doesn’t necessarily result in homosexuality and there are many people with SSA (same sex attraction) who haven’t been victims of it, it was another incidence of trauma to overcome. One of the therapists that Dan consulted is of the opinion that homosexuality is very much related to post traumatic stress disorder.

Dan first noticed his attraction to men at aged 13 although he didn’t start to have relationships with men until his early twenties. He went through a period of turmoil and confusion and had a terrible relationship with his peers. At 20, he moved to the big city to enable his gay lifestyle. He identified with it and lived a gay lifestyle although he wasn’t terribly promiscuous because of his picky nature. He was fairly open about his preferences. “On a scale of 1 till 10 on the gay scale, I was a 10.”

It wasn’t until Dan became more religious, ventured into yeshiva and was confronted with the Torah prohibition in Leviticus that he started to reconsider his life and realized he couldn’t integrate his accepted lifestyle with Torah.

“I felt that if I got involved in gay relations I’m going to really get it. Not the healthiest of mindsets,” he quips. “I had the realization that if Torahis true and my gay identity is not true then I have a problem.”

Dan set out to solving this problem with a great deal of resolve to be consistent with his new life as an orthodox Jew. He’s spent most of the last decade in yeshiva. Like therapist Adam Jessel mentioned in the first article of this series, that can go a long way in helping men who have not had healthy, stable relationships with other men.

“I realize that people actually like me and see me as a normal man. I don’t feel it but I feel it’s true. The main problem of people with SSA is self-image. If everyone around me perceives me as a normal person, I see that my own previous inadequate self-image is false.”

The only person who knows of his struggle is the other person at the yeshiva who is also dealing with it. They were roommates at one point and they discovered their common situation because Dan was speaking with Adam Jessel and his roommate overheard.

Struggling with SSA, says Dan is always a work in progress, like a recovering alcoholic.

A year after going to yeshiva, he started working with his therapist and also joined a group led by Adam Jessel. “The work is getting to the core of what the issues are.”

“The problem isn’t sexual, it’s emotional,” says Dan. Now when he is attracted to a woman, it’s a personality attraction. “The first time I was excited by a woman, I was really surprised. I couldn’t wait to tell my friend.”

He dated a while ago and found he was not yet ready. “I hope that pretty soon I’ll be able to start dating. I’m becoming more accessible. It’s a long-term project. This is not for the weak-hearted. But the rewards are priceless – like being able to look at yourself as a normal human being, making friends and not being scared of other people.

“I was not leading a happy life but I would never have made a connection between being miserable in life and being gay. It was only when I started therapy that I realized these are related. Gay behavior is the tip of the iceberg. It’s a reaction that comes out of the loneliness and pain deep inside. I’m far happier now. Going through the process to me is worth all the money in the world.”

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 1/30/09

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Last week’s column featured an overview of Light In The Closet: Torah, Homosexuality and the Power to Change, a recently released publication by Arthur Goldberg (Red Heifer Press).

In the interest of fair-mindedness, we present the following transcript of an interview with a (frum) SSA male who congenially shares his own personal perspective of the book. (For the record, our guest has no connection, nor has ever had any contact with Mr. Goldberg or with JONAH.)

Rachel: What was your initial gut reaction to [the existence of] the book, before actually reading it?

Anonymous: Frankly, I was absolutely stunned that such a book existed – especially with so much detail on every aspect of the topic. Before I even leafed through it, I wondered if it had a solution to such an impossible dilemma. I was also surprised at the size of the book. I never realized that so much could be written on the subject.

Being well read and well versed in the topic, and a professional writer to boot, was there anything about the volume that can have actually impressed you?

Believe me, Rachel, as a gay person, I did not want to be impressed with this book. I was leafing through it, desperate to find material that would be laughable and ridiculous – and found nothing of the sort. I continued to leaf through it, hoping to find that the author was narrow-minded, ignorant and bigoted. That is what I was HOPING to find. Instead I found a well-researched, sensitive analysis of a subject. This book, without a doubt, will become THE definitive work on the subject of changing sexual orientation.

I was also impressed that the author did not insult gays. The book was not at all demeaning. In fact, there seemed to be genuine respect for gays as human beings. That’s not what you would expect from what some would describe as a Bible-thumping perspective.

Of the 500 plus pages, would you say that most, some or little held your interest?

The entire book held my interest. The section on the causes of homosexuality was chilling. The religious prohibitions were explained in all too vivid detail. Initially, I thought the whole socialist gay agenda was a tad over the top. But the author buttresses his case with plenty of information.

I must say, however, that he seems to be overly concerned about gays having a positive self-image. There are many out there who are quite happy with their lot, and they are not necessarily promiscuous. In some cases, they are celibate.

Having acquainted yourself with the book by happenstance [I introduced him to my copy], would you seek to acquire it for your personal library, use, or the like?

Yes, without question. I would like to own the book for reference purposes, and . . . there were some parts of the book that were hauntingly accurate….

What kind of reader would be most likely, in your opinion, to benefit from the information in this manual?

I personally believe that this book would be of great benefit to anyone, in his 20s, 30s or even 40s, who is unsure, unhappy and ill at ease with his sexual orientation.

How do you think this publication would benefit the heterosexual reader?

It would help to demystify the conflicted gay man or woman. It would do nothing to inform them about gays who have come to terms with their imperfections.

It is important to add that the book will enrage many SSA individuals who will not appreciate being told that they are mentally ill and suffering from arrested development. The reason that they will be so upset is because it will ring true and they just don’t want to go through the anguish of once again questioning themselves and losing the self-esteem that was so difficult to build in a hostile and unaccepting environment.

Had this book been available for your consumption 30 odd years ago…

I would have laughed it off. In my 20s, I often said that if there were a pill that could turn you straight in one day, I would refuse to take it. Now I feel different and more mature. Less selfish… less interested in instant gratification. I would take that pill . . . as I am starting to grieve at never having had children or grandchildren.

What did you note, in your humble opinion, to be the most valuable aspect of Light in the Closet?

It was the section that deals with developing a loving and intimate relationship with a male in a non-sexual context. There seems to be something so amazingly satisfying, fulfilling and comforting about that possibility.

Anyone would agree that the author invested a tremendous amount of work and time in this painstaking project. Do you see him reaping the fruits of his labor?

Was it worth it for the author to do all this, you ask? Yes. It will help his organization and it might make a real difference in the lives of those who don’t want to be gay. But like weight loss and alcoholism, the success rate will never be what the author would like it to be.

If you would need to describe the book in three words, which three would they be?

Sensitive, caring and powerful.

Dear Readers,

It is our sincerest hope that our column has helped promote a clearer understanding of one of man’s most daunting challenges, and that those plagued by SSA (same sex attraction) will strive to overcome rather than succumb to their physical inclinations and thus distance themselves from Yiddishkeit – only to lament having done so in their later years.

We are most grateful to our guest for graciously sharing his insightful evaluation of Light In The Closet with the readers of this column

And last but by no means least, Mr. Goldberg is to be congratulated for his monumental achievement, which is sure to illuminate the lives of many. We wish him much hatzlacha in all his noble endeavors.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 1/23/09

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Dear Readers,

Since this column’s inception (the newly named and inaugurated “Chronicles of Crisis” in November of 2004), we have confronted and addressed a diverse set of issues. Invariably, our goal has always been to alleviate the suffering among our people.

An ultra-sensitive topic that has over time raised much controversy, both in respect to the sensibilities of our readers and in defining the malady as well as determining its cure (debate has in fact raged as to whether it is a malady or if a cure is in actuality achievable), is now disseminated in a newly released publication titled Light In The Closet: Torah, Homosexuality and the Power to Change.

The sheer wealth of information crammed into this 575-page book is mind-boggling. The author spent five years compiling the impressive tome and, to his credit, virtually no question seems to have been left unanswered. Myths are explored, concerns are confronted, and disputes are elucidated upon – by any stretch of the imagination no easy undertaking in this volatile arena.

As the title indicates, the Torah’s delineation of the subject matter, plus everything else that pertains to human sexuality and behavior is thoroughly covered and meticulously documented.

Arthur Goldberg, co-founder and co-director of JONAH (Jews Offering Alternatives to Homosexuality) has managed to complete his compelling task without air or flair, which contributes to the book’s genuine essence.

The author is as candid about himself as he is about the subject he tackles with candor and forthrightness; he freely admits to once having been a “…social liberal adhering to the politically correct view that people with these issues were ‘born that way…’”

Mr. Goldberg offers a concise outline of his goal early on in his manual: “This book is…intended to serve a dual purpose: (1) to give hope and direction to strugglers who are still thrashing around in a closet of confusion and despair; and (2) to educate the Jewish community at large to a better understanding of the issues, and to an awareness of the great need for their guidance and moral support.”

Indeed, this book should serve as a source of enlightenment to those who are completely unfamiliar with the SSA struggle yet prefer to evade the issue altogether… and who will perhaps be inclined to stop reading this article at about this juncture. Taking a moment to recall the anguish of the SSA sufferers who have previously bared their pain and frustration in this space may conceivably move the uninformed to want to know more.

This volume should moreover become a permanent addition to the libraries of those who, by virtue of their position in the field of education, are prone to be confronted with the issue of SSA. Even those confident in their knowledge of this affliction may be in for a surprise.

By the end of the first chapter, it is already made clear that the author has taken on a cause he passionately believes in. “Isolated and alone, unaware that help, healing and support are within reach, many of these strugglers do not know which way to turn. They are told by gay activists, ‘You can’t change;’ by ultra-conservatives, ‘You are loathsome;’ and by the majority of psychologists and psychiatrists, ‘Accept your gay feelings and act upon them – even if this might be in conflict with your internal values.’”

He then wraps it up in his straightforward style: “Such attitudes are not merely wrong. They are contemptible, immoral, irresponsible and potentially lethal.”

Each successive page turn of Light In The Closet has the potential of peeling away the layers of darkness enveloping the hearts of young men and women who grapple with their sexual identities and of bringing light and healing to their existence.

By this time, I can envision the skeptic reader sharpening his pencil in readiness to charge me with being in collusion with the writer and/or publisher of the book. Please allow me to spare you the trouble and remove any and all suspicion: For the record, I have absolutely no affiliation with JONAH and have, for that matter, neither spoken nor ever met with the book’s author, Arthur Goldberg. As for the publisher, Red Heifer Press (whom I humbly beg to forgive my heretofore cluelessness), this is the first I’d ever heard of them.

To quell further misgivings, I alert our reading audience to the book’s prominently featured haskamos (endorsements) from eminent rabbinical figures, such as Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Rav Noach Weinberg, Rav Michel Twerski, and Rav Zev Leff.

And so it is not simply I who see this work as an extraordinary accomplishment. The book’s detail is astounding, as is the research that the author has obviously punctiliously carried out. Best of all, this gold mine of information is now handily accessible to both the “informed” and uninformed. Ignorance can create a barrier to understanding, and Light In The Closet sheds light on a subject that has intimidated many with the “fear of the unknown.”

Most importantly for the frum sufferer, the Torah perspective throughout the book is breathtaking. The third chapter, for instance, deals with sexual morality as defined by the Torah and Talmud, while the seventh discusses what the Torah says about female homosexuality. The second and fifteenth chapters are devoted to case histories and testimonials, and the eleventh delves into the Jewish process of “Return, Rebirth & Healing.”

For the benefit of the reader who may argue that this analysis projects but a heterosexual’s point of view, I have personally taken the liberty of acquiring an SSA male’s perspective – from a well-known media personality thus inclined for over 35 years now.

Stay tuned.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communitites – 11/21/08

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Dear Rachel,

I have a problem that I don’t believe has ever been addressed in this column. To give you some background, we are a typical Modern Orthodox family. I feel that we have always done the “right thing” − sent our children to the right yeshivot, camps and seminaries and are affiliated with and attend the local synagogue.

Our children are all in the “shidduch parshah,” which has been grueling, to say the least. I read letters to your column from other people complaining about their children’s inability to find their match, and the trials and tribulations they have to endure.

Well, we would trade with anyone to rid ourselves of our particular “tzores.” Our daughter who is in her mid-twenties has been dating for several years with no luck. She initially dated enthusiastically, but as time went on, she showed less and less interest in pursuing any prospects that were suggested to her. We soon realized that she was not dating at all.

A turn of events transpired that I do not wish to relate since it is not relevant to the letter, but the bottom line is that she disclosed to us, much to our shock and dismay, that she thinks she prefers females to males.

I am sure I do not have to tell you of the devastation and mortification that my husband and myself were consumed with thereafter. As you can imagine, there was the hysteria, panic and tears that you would expect with a frum family in which this was previously unheard of. (Her siblings are to date unaware of the situation.)

She agreed and even wanted to speak with a therapist to sort out her feelings, which she claims she has been harboring for a number of years but had not really ever acted upon.

I am sick to my stomach on many levels. Firstly, I am still having trouble even believing this could be true. I can’t imagine what the future could hold for her if she chooses to live with this decision. The therapist seems to feel that unlike male feelings of homosexuality, which are physically based, female homosexuality is more emotionally based, that perhaps if she were to find the right male partner who would fill her needs she could be satisfied and even fulfilled living with a husband.

My daughter does not necessarily agree with this, although she would agree to continue dating males if something would come up. Truthfully, I don’t know if this is lip service meant to take the pressure off of her.

I don’t know where to turn. We do not feel that we can go to our rav since it would firstly be too humiliating, and secondly it might affect what he would have to tell any outside party if they were to call for references about our daughter or any of our other children for a shidduch.

I don’t know how the Torah holds with regards to this issue. I don’t want to turn her away (although we are very tempted to) because I don’t want her to veer from Yiddishkeit. Oddly enough, she still wants to remain as observant as ever with other aspects of Halachah. (I don’t see how she can do this, being currently involved with a non-Jewish female she happened to have met in school.)

We love her very much and frankly could not stand the thought of losing her. But the fact remains that my husband and I could never accept this. I can’t eat or sleep and my work is suffering gravely as well. Please give us guidelines as we are living day-to-day in misery and despair.

Miserable

Dear Miserable,

The ache in your heart makes you wish you were in the shoes of the mother who had written to this column about the plight of her single daughters − yet she admitted to pangs of envy as she witnesses young mothers with babies in tow. This is not meant to minimize the scope of your predicament, but focus just briefly, if you will, on a mother who has tragically suffered the loss of a daughter. She may envy you − for yours is still here for you to hug and to communicate your love to, and hope is very real of her becoming “well” again.

The fact that there is no solid scientific evidence of any biological factors that would contribute to the feelings your daughter is harboring should bolster that hope. Her desire to remain frum should further infuse you with optimism, for “frum” means adhering to G-d’s plan for mankind; if she is sincerely committed to frumkeit, she will inevitably face the reality that it is a man and woman who are commanded to cleave to one another − whose love and union constitute a true bayit ne’eman.

Any urge, however, to push your daughter down the aisle to the chuppah with a nice young man should be placed on hold for now. For your daughter’s sake, it would be unfair to pressure her into shidduch dating while she works on sorting out her feelings and before she develops a new perspective.

Professionals in the field would explore whether an SSA tendency could be an outcome of a traumatic childhood experience. Other circumstances that can conceivably engender in the female subject the belief that a woman has the potential to be more loving, supportive and understanding: insensitive behavior on the part of callous or immature men on dates, abusive and intrusive male figures during adolescent years, or a lack of a mother’s unconditional love.

Any of the above is not likely to surface in family discussions − therefore self-examination via appropriate therapy is absolutely vital to get to the root of your daughter’s fears and her feelings. An outpouring of your love for her and a steadfast emunah in Hashem will help you all survive this difficult time.

You can overcome, and with G-d’s help you will.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 6/29/07

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Feeling with “Feeling Hopeless” (Chronicles 5-4)

Dear Rachel,

After reading the letter from “Feeling Hopeless,” I was compelled to write. For I, too, was a girl form a religious home who married young (in the early 1970′s). From the beginning there was something wrong with the physical aspect of our relationship – the ‘norm’ for engaging in marital relations was once every six to eight weeks, always at my instigation. I had no clue as to what was wrong or how to fix it. In those days I had no idea of where one went to deal with a problem like this.

We went on to have B”H five healthy children (a nes in itself), but the physical relationship never got any better. My husband’s excuses were that he was too tired, too busy, the house wasn’t clean enough, he didn’t like my tone of voice, etc. It made for a lot of arguing. I talked my heart out and tried to explain that intimacy is the glue that holds a marriage together, but he didn’t want to listen. Magazines only spoke about men’s desires and how women should look to please them. Jewish publications extolled the mikvah system for keeping desire fresh between husband and wife. The overwhelming message was that men have desires, and if there was a problem, it had to be the woman’s. This only reinforced what my husband was saying, and I spent much of my time crying and trying to figure out what was wrong with me.

About 15 years ago, I heard of a frum sex therapist. I made an appointment and my husband came along, though he really believed the problem to be me – I was too demanding and expected too much. As in the case of “Feeling Hopeless,” my husband swore that SSA was not a factor. Things improved slightly but slipped back to where they were after a few months. This pattern continued for the next five or six years, through a number of other therapists. Finally, emotionally exhausted, I decided to see what would happen if I stopped being the initiator. All physical activity between us stopped, and that is how the situation has remained for the last ten years. Almost three years ago, I read a newspaper piece about asexuality and realized that this is what the issue has been all along.

My husband is a wonderful, generous man who loves to give gifts and can’t understand why that is not “enough.” His logic: Being a good provider and expressing his love with gifts should be sufficient. As he is getting older, physical problems are coming into play, but unlike other wives, I cannot mourn for what I never had. For me, the emotional wasteland is torture. Judaism recognizes the place of sensuality and sexuality in a marriage. It is the Catholic ideal that holds that celibacy is the norm.

Almost 40 years later, I feel that I have been cheated. The bedrock foundation of a marriage is the closeness between a husband and wife, and I feel that this has been denied me. My heart truly goes out to “Feeling Hopeless” because sometimes the loneliness, the need to be touched or hugged, is overpowering. To this day, this is not the kind of problem I could have confided to my mother or mother-in-law when they were alive, nor could I share this with my sisters, and certainly not with my friends. Neither am I aware of any support group that deals with this problem.

Two or three times a year I visit a therapist for a chance to express my profound sadness and sense of loss. Should “Hopeless” decide to stay in her marriage, she must be prepared for a very lonely emotional existence. There is only so much time and energy to devote to children or grandchildren; my sadness is always lingering under the surface. My husband does realize that if our problem had been resolved at some point, our marriage could have been a much happier one.

I wish I had an answer. I wish “Feeling Hopeless” luck and salute her courage in writing to you. I wish there had been a forum such as yours for me all those years ago.

Keep up your good work – hatzlacha!

Wishing it could have been different

Dear Wishing,

Your story is a sad one. G-d only knows how many of us experience this type of emotional anguish in our marital relationships and suffer in silence.

You went all out in trying to get your husband to understand where you were coming from – to no avail. Yet, when you went for therapy, there was some reprieve, some slight improvement. This would indicate that “asexuality” is a conditioning of the mind, as in ‘mind over matter.’

The human mind is a powerful thing – once set, it is not easily swayed. However, the sporadic upswings and your five beautiful children testify to your husband’s capability of exercising his conjugal rights, albeit with some prodding.

Each partner in a marriage has an obligation to satisfy the other’s need for intimacy. (Of course it helps when a husband and wife are on the same page regarding the various nuances that come into play…) Even with the interference of advanced age and illness, how much exertion is required of a spouse to express his affection by way of a touch or a hug?

Granted, being a good provider is important. And gift giving is an endearing bonus. But the true essence of love cannot be measured by currency. When two hearts connect and the two halves of a soul come together, the desire to be one – imbued in us by G-d – is exhilarating. What a pity to shun this beautiful gift from our Creator and forgo the ultimate in marital harmony!

Thank you for sharing. Maybe, hopefully, your heartfelt words will steer a misguided soul in the right direction.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 1/26/07

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories by e-mail to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215.

To all women, men or children who feel that they are at the end of their ropes, please consider joining a support group, or forming one.

Anyone wishing to make a contribution to help agunot please send your tax-deductible contribution to The Jewish Press Foundation.

Checks must be clearly specified to help agunot. Please make sure to include that information if that is the purpose of your contribution, because this is just one of the many worthwhile causes helped by this foundation.

* * * * * * * * * *

Dear Rachel,

It is not often that I find myself writing to a columnist, but in this instance I felt the need to let you know that your response (Chronicles Dec. 8) to “I did not choose to be what I am” (Dec. 1) was right on target.

I write to congratulate you for keeping a proper perspective of the big picture and for not letting emotions blind you. You are to be commended for your spiritual fortitude and courage in taking the correct stance without fear and with trust in Hashem and His ways.

The Torah is the very code that defines compassion – its guidelines compassionately steer us away from the excruciating pain of a homosexual lifestyle.

I wish you continued hatzlacha in your noble work.

Anonymous father of an SSA

Dear Rachel,

Could not wait to read your response to “I did not choose” The article was written b’tuv taam. The fact that we always get steadfast responses in The Jewish Press, al pi haTorah, is mechazek and excites − in that we do have the “right way.”

I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Keep up the good work.

SSA Agunah

Dear Anonymous Father and Agunah,

Thank you for your words of chizuk. I humbly submit that it is with the help of G-d that I persevere with a task that is both challenging and rewarding.

I avail myself of this opportunity to thank all the readers, including the author of the letter (Did not choose), for taking the time to convey their positive feedback.

My prayers are with all of you who are in pain … to be granted a complete refuah.

Reaction to The Plight of Agunos:  A Male Perspective (Chronicles 12-29)

Dear Rachel,

G-d bless the person who wrote the article (Male Perspective of Agunah plight). I’m someone who went through the exact same thing. I was married with two children, thrown out of my house after six years of marriage, and I was accused of things that are unprintable.

To make a very long story short, I remarried (thank G-d). She got married (to the person that she was seeing while we were still married), had a baby and got divorced again. I guess my point is that it is so true that man is deemed guilty until proven innocent. And just because she decides that she doesn’t like you anymore, suddenly you become this monster abuser.

Not sure what else to say I’m not too good at this as I’m not much of a writer, but the guy who wrote was right on.

Been there, big time

Dear Rachel,

I think it’s great that you feature both genders’ views on this sad issue. Men and women alike can be very mean and heartless during the Get process, hurling nasty accusations at each other.

The best thing to do when one divorces is to get out fast and walk away. Nastiness just serves to prolong the agony and hurt the children (if there are any involved). I lost a bundle of money refusing to drag out the proceedings for my child’s sake. I sure could have used the bucks, but no amount of money would have been worth the mental stress our son would suffer.

The blame game has to end − by the spouses and their families. Accept that the marriage is over, pick up the pieces and move on. Stop the destruction!

No one seems willing to cease this madness. And the kids are the ones who end up losing out!

Been there, too

Dear Been There’s,

The impression one may get from reading your letters is that it’s all fire and brimstone out there. Many couples, to their credit, part ways amicably and sensibly. Unfortunately, there are also many who cannot see clearly through the thick haze created by anger and bitterness. The fallout of all the ugly mudslinging, by supposedly mature adults, is devastating all around.

A profound lesson to take to heart:

A tailor once delivered a new garment to the home of Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Schneerson (Rashab), who was then only four years old. Noticing that a remnant piece of cloth remained in the tailor’s possession, the child pulled at it, thus causing embarrassment to the apologetic clothier. When his mother reprimanded him for shaming the tailor, the Rashab wept bitter tears.

A while later, the youngster asked his father, the Maharash, how one would go about atoning for the sin of embarrassing another. Unfamiliar with the incident, Reb Shmuel Schneerson asked his son what specifically he was referring to. The child fell silent.

When his mother asked him why he did not answer his father, the young Shalom Dov Ber replied, “Not enough that I caused a person shame, should I compound it with lashon hara about him?”

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 12/08/06

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

Response To ‘I Did Not ChooseTo Be What I Am…’ (Chronicle 12-1)

Dear Choose,

Needless to say, I cannot speak for you. I neither know you nor have I ever – thank G-d – walked in your shoes. I do hope for your sake that you have availed yourself of a proper course of psychotherapeutic evaluation with a competent therapist who can offer you, as a frum individual, the best chance for change. Essentially, such approach is comparable to the physically sick person’s pursuit of medical attention in quest of a cure.

Most SSA sufferers have evolved into their present predicament by circumstances having little to do with their inherent natures. Some have been affected by exposure to an abusive or oppressive parent figure or have suffered other psychological setbacks that have brought them to their current state of affairs. Then there are those who have alas sunk so low spiritually as to be easily influenced by a lifestyle touted in a decrepit secular society as being perfectly normal and acceptable.

A stable two-parent home, one parent of each sex, is the ideal atmosphere in which to care for and bring up the helpless infant and growing child. Full psychosexual maturity renders one capable of entering into a long-term intimate committed relationship with another adult of the opposite sex. A protest of “I can’t” or “I don’t want to” is indicative of failure in attaining that level of psychosexual maturation – the ‘highest’ level from a biological/scientific perspective, from which one has been diverted in childhood.

Having covered basic ground, let’s examine the points of contention you raised in your letter.

You say, “What I do not fathom is how the prohibition of a very specific behavior translates into Hashem not making people whose sexual orientation is homosexual.” Consider this: Adultery is forbidden. Is that to say that no man should ever be tempted to enter into an adulterous relationship? Quite the contrary – since G-d knew that man would be prone to misbehave, He instituted rules to keep him in line. While there are individuals who would never fathom crossing that line, some have natures that make it hard for them to abstain from doing so. In the same vein, there are businessmen who would never cheat, no matter how tempting the circumstance, while others struggle against a propensity for dishonesty. Needless to say, our Creator was well aware that SSA could jeopardize the quality of life as He meant for us to live it. Hence: the warning to steer clear of abhorrent behavior.

“It is the inherent desire of every woman to be desired by her husband.” With all due respect to your concern, this is like saying that every woman who has a baby automatically turns into a loving and caring mother. Certainly, most women need to be loved and desired (and appreciated) by their men. Yet, (as some of the letters to this column have attested), there are women whose love and respect for their man is powerful enough to keep their relationship intact, thriving and satisfying – regardless of the struggles of their SSA-suffering husbands. Naturally, the strength of the foundation of such a relationship is dependent on mutual openness and honesty at the outset. If a woman receives the attention and affection that she needs and deserves, she will remain by her partner’s side for better or worse, even to be his helpmate through his life-ordeal. Understandably, such resolve hinges upon an individual’s personality and stamina. If the parties involved are serious, mature, aware, and determined to make it work, it conceivably can, will, and has.

“Incurable” deafness, a physical disability, can hardly be placed in the same category as a disorder that consumes one with an unnatural desire for intimacy with one of his/her own gender. Hashem did not make you this way. Your “condition” evolved as a result of the psychological constellation of events in your growth and developmental stage – and, admittedly, has thus become your nisayon, your test in life.

Proof positive: If G-d had intended one to resign to his “state of homosexuality” and to accept it as his “fate,” the Torah would have provided guidelines in how to deal with the challenge – the same way the Torah explicitly prescribes allowances for the deaf-mute, the dimwitted and the minor (cheresh, shoteh v’katan). Other than stern admonition, one is hard-pressed to find divine reprieve for the SSA-afflicted. This is not to negate your struggle. But isn’t all of life a struggle? The stresses of life are many and varied, and temptation, granted, is very real. The nisayon hinges not only on resisting its pull, but also in altogether quashing the inclination.

Whatever form your demon assumes, whether it be SSA, pedophilia, alcohol/drug/sex addiction, a vile temperament, proclivity for deceitfulness, etc., whether blamed on circumstance or predisposition, your nisayon is to keep it at bay and – moreover – to conquer it completely.

Naysayers take note: Moshe Rabbeinu wrote, “Tosheiv enosh ad dako You turn man back until his afflictions weaken him, his pride is crushed and his arrogance turns to humility, and You call on him to repent” (Tehilllim 90:3) By having us confront challenges, Hashem summons us closer to Him, awakening in us the realization that we can depend only on Him to lift us out of our quagmire.

If we succumb to our animal instincts, what would differentiate us from the four-legged species? Ours is to draw a distinction between right and wrong and to use our intellect to that end – which calls for a dogged determination to crush the temptation and vanquish the desire.

Hashem admits to having created the yetzer hara – adept at zeroing in on our vulnerabilities and coming in for the kill – as well as the antidote to counteract its poison. His directive is indisputable. “U’bachartah b’chayim – life and death, I have given you and I exhort you to choose life” (Nitzavim 30:19).

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/response-to-i-did-not-chooseto-be-what-i-am-chronicle-12-1/2006/12/06/

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