Photo Credit: Rabbi Daniel Landes' Facebook page
Rabbi Daniel Landes ordaining Daniel Atwood, May 26, 2019

Last Sunday, Rabbi Daniel Landes, a student of the late Rav Soloveitchik ztz’l, a former Director of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and New York City, and a founding faculty member of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and of the Yeshiva of Los Angeles, gave semicha (rabbinic ordination) to a 27-year-old, openly homosexual Orthodox Jewish man named Daniel Atwood, JTA reported (but not in so many words).

Just before Passover this year, Rabbi Dov Linzer, dean of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in Riverdale, founded by Rabbi Avi Weiss and one of the most thriving Orthodox rabbinical seminaries in the US, refused to ordain Atwood, a fourth-year student who had been openly gay since his first year at YCT. Rabbi Linzer took the chicken’s path when he told The Jewish Week, “Out of respect for all our students, the yeshiva does not discuss particular students and why any student may or may not be receiving semicha.”

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With that anemic statement, the honorable dean missed an opportunity to explain why it was not appropriate for an openly homosexual man, especially as said homosexual man is engaged to marry another homosexual man, most likely under a chupah — to be ordained and then be employed as the spiritual leader of a Torah observant congregation.

One of the most interesting Jerusalem rabbis—if not always correct on halachic issues—Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo, told JTA that while he couldn’t cite a rabbinic source, he believes that the prohibition on homosexual acts only applies to those who are “purely heterosexual.”

In other words, if your natural inclination on the sexual spectrum is to be attracted only to men, you can’t be faulted. It’s easy to attack this view, because it introduces a slippery slope that can turn Orthodoxy not just into a Reform kind of tradition, it can make it outright pagan. But there is a point to be made here, based on Maimonides’ view in his Guide to the Perplexed that the reason the Torah prohibited things like shatnez, men and women wearing each other’s clothes, and homosexual acts had to do with their being features of pagan worship (avoda zara).

In other words, if you are a heterosexual man participating in a homosexual act you deserve the death penalty not for the act per se, but for the pagan worship.

But, of course, as we have learned from King Solomon’s sad lesson when he acted according to what he thought was the meaning of certain commandments rather than obey the text of the commandments as is – we are not permitted to declare that since we figured out the purpose of a commandment we can sidestep it.

However, I could cite one Talmudic source to support Rabbi Cardozo’s speculation which does not include relying on Maimonides’ pagan theory. In Sanhedrin 9b, Rav Yosef says that if a man was raped by another man, he and a kosher witness can combine their testimonies against the active homosexual offender. However, if the act was approved by the victim, this means he is a wicked man who is disqualified from testifying. At which point Rava intervenes, citing the principle that a man is not allowed to incriminate himself, which means that his testimony is accepted.

The conclusion is that being a willful homosexual does not make the victim a wicked man – because all we know about his proclivity came from him, and as long as he is the only source, he may be openly homosexual and serve as an acceptable witness.

There is a huge difference, though, between being accepted as a witness against your rapist and being ordained by Rabbi Daniel Landes at the Jerusalem Theater before 200 guests. That was the real reason why YCT rejected Daniel Atwood, and why the left has been celebrating his ordination. Atwood is demanding to be recognized as a halachically-ordained rabbi who declares his defiance of a Torah commandment.

That cannot be.

In an op-ed titled “We Orthodox Jews desperately need gay rabbis,” Rabbi Daniel Landes wrote various versions of what I wrote above, most of which stressed the need to accept the homosexual Orthodox Jew as member of the community, which has been a given in most modern Orthodox communities around the world. We won’t let you have a chupah in our shul, but if you and your homosexual spouse show up Shabbat morning, we’ll give you an aliya.

But them Landes strays so far off the most liberal path of known Jewish Orthodoxy, writing: “Gay Orthodox rabbis will be able to ask more from their ‘congregants’ (sic.) than straight ones in all sorts of religious and communal areas, for they possess a shared experience and language – and thus credibility. A gay Orthodox rabbi presents a role model for young people who report that they are sorely alone in deciding the course of their lives. A gay Orthodox rabbi will be someone to emulate, to debate and to confide in as they mature.”

And that, folks, is the essence of the plan the left has in store for Orthodox Jews. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s a natural progressive dialectic, assimilating our values in the values of the culture at large. This assertion on Landes’ part, which puts in question the validity of appointing any prison chaplain who hasn’t stabbed anybody, is not only un-Orthodox (pun intended), it is un-Jewish.

I have argued in the past that since the historic semicha was interrupted some time in the fifth century CE, no rabbi, technically speaking, is ordained, which opens up the possibility of receiving halachic decisions (certainly advice) from learned women, whether we call them “Rabbi” or not. But these women don’t advocate transgressing Torah commandments!

It appears that Rabbi Landes removed himself from the boundaries of Orthodox Judaism with his defiant “ordination.”

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