The AJN attack on Orthodox opinion

The AJN is perfectly entitled to have views. These are widely considered anti–religious for many years by many. In fact, each year we ask ourselves why we buy it.

Whatever the case may be, the AJN needs to acknowledge that nobody contends that homosexuality is an illness. It is a preference, call it a predilection. I don’t have it, so I can’t claim any expertise nor am I a therapist of any sort. The preference itself, as is well-known by the AJN is not considered sinful according to Torah Judaism (I don’t conclude man-made reformations of Judaism here as they are of minor interest if any). People are born with predilections. There is the nature vs nurture conundrum which is far from settled. Acting on the preference and performing the homosexual act is described as sinful by the Torah and Codifiers. There can be no argument about that fact in any form of Orthodoxy. Reformers have their own religion.

Now, many if not the vast majority of those professionals who see homosexuals professionally claim that the predilection is life long and cannot be altered. That may well be. There isn’t Science here, and extrapolation into the future is tenuous at best. Maimonides knew about predilections long ago.

The best counter case to nature, as quoted by arguably the most respected psychiatrist in the USA, Professor Abraham Twersky, and many others is the identical twin conundrum which has been studied extensively. All known biological markers were exactly the same, and yet one twin had a predilection and the other did not. There is currently no theory able to explain that. There is a minority view, and yes it is a minority (Dr Elon Karten comes to mind) that claims they have techniques which allow predilection change to materialise. Like Climate Skeptics they are attacked regularly. I’m not an expert, but as a Scientist, one would be a fool to think that in ten years time, our knowledge of these things will still be static. Accordingly, if Rabbi Telsner or anyone else subscribes to the view that predilection modification could occur, they do not deserve to be pilloried in the disrespectful tone of the AJN.

Pedophillia is also at least a predilection. Perhaps we will discover it is more likely a disease that is incurable except by using drastic means to make sure that those who seem to “enjoy” such things are simply incapable of (re)offending. In the meanwhile, one witnesses judges themselves releasing pedophiles back into the public after serving sentences, as if law makers believe they will be “safe” to society once  so released. Is that true? Evidence would suggest that re-offending is (too) common and perhaps techniques for rehabilitation are simply inadequate and not practical at this time.

Now, if Rabbi Telsner were to subscribe to an opinion that people with predilections can have them modified (and this could extend to those with life long fetishes), one can disagree, but one should not excoriate him in the way of the AJN, as a matter arising out of the Royal Commission.

Rav Schachter of the Modern Orthodox Yeshiva University always said that a “stock” Rosh Yeshivah or Rosh Kollel in general should not be a Posek (decisor) of Halacha because they sit in a cloistered environment and are often/mostly oblivious to the nuances of science and other disciplines. This was certainly the case in Lithuania where most Rabbi’s were not Halachic Decisors. There were some exceptions such as the Vilna Gaon and the Chazon Ish, but the late and great Chacham Ovadya Yosef did not consider the Chazon Ish a Posek of repute, because he sat cloistered and didn’t face the people, so to speak.

Either Rabbi Telsner has read some minority opinions or has been informed of such by some of his constituents. This can mean that the AJN, seeing itself to present current knowledge on such topics can disagree with the minority opinion, but it does not give then a license to excoriate a Rabbi for agreeing to such a minority opinion.

The last time I looked there were no Nobel Prize winners writing for the AJN, and aside from the occasional community brouhaha most of the news is stale, and unenlightening. Indeed we may have also recently witnessed an alleged breach of journalistic ethics which has allegedly resulted in a staff member being suspended initially. The mere fact that we are exposed to the weekly whining letters of Messrs Burd and Herzog, and others is bad enough. One could almost write their letter before reading it. I think the AJN do good things but there is room for improvement in some of its approaches. Yes, I know it’s good for selling papers, but Oilom Goilom believes everything.

The “what do you think” section is statistically unsound, and really just a copy of journalistic practice in low-level papers, like the Herald Sun and others. Is it going to make one iota of a difference if I know what the local butcher thinks of Bibi’s chances?

I’m digressing.

Back to the issue at hand. The AJN may not have liked elements of evidence tendered. As such, it should carefully analyse such in a calm and sanguine way. The majority of Rabbis are traumatised by the Royal Commission, and my sense is that things will never return to the situation before in respect to how they react if they are God forbid confronted with such information. We aren’t Catholics, and don’t have a box where one admits their sins and the Priest, Lehavdil, absolves the sin, says a few hail mary’s sends the perpetrator on their way and will never breach confidence.

It’s also not about Chabad. Don’t people read the internet? Modern Orthodox Rabbi Barry Freundel has pleaded guilty to secretly videoing some 57 women at the Mikva with secret cameras. Is he sick? Undoubtedly. Can he be rehabilitated? I don’t know. He will serve jail time. Does this paint all Rabbis as fetish-laden? Of course not.

Contrast this issue to the one about the “interfaith dialogue” we graphically saw and where Rabbi Ralph Genende as usual gushed forward with platitudes about how useful they were. Let’s look at the evidence AJN. What has ever changed because of these meetings. They were forbidden according to the scion of Modern Orthodoxy, Rabbi Yosef Dov Halevi Soltoveitchik for reasons which were absolutely sound then, and even more sound now. If it was a meeting to bring religions together to have a joint charity drive for the homeless,  or similar that’s fine. If it was about showing our religion to them and theirs to ours, what’s the point? Tolerance can be achieved without any interfaith dialogue as long as nobody considers us as monkeys behind trees that have to be killed. Was I blind, or did the AJN not notice that there was no muslim representative in the picture at that “feel good” meeting, or did I miss something.

Anyway, to make it clear, I usually do not agree with Rabbi Telsner but on some matters I don’t think he deserves the anti-religious excoriation meted out to him.

AJN and especially Rabbi Ralph Genende of the moderate left wing: check this out for a reality check while you read the Chazal quoted by Rashi הלכה עשיו שונה ליעקב. (Whiteout anyone?)

I’d love to hear the AJN and/or Rabbi Ralph’s commentary on this, or better still have his interfaith group muslim representative condemn this presentation from February 13th in Copenhagen as abominable in the extreme in the Western and Muslim Press.

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia. I skylark as the band leader/singer for the Schnapps band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel.

9 thoughts on “The AJN attack on Orthodox opinion”

  1. Isaac,
    What is this about: “The best counter case to nature, as quoted by arguably the most respected psychiatrist in the USA, Professor Abraham Twersky,”?>
    Ever heard of “kol hamosif gorea”>I have a lot of respect for Professor Twersky, but besides for some ultra orthodox nobody would agree with your preposterous statement!

    And yet again you print more baseless stuff:
    ” This was certainly the case in Lithuania where most Rabbi’s were not Halachic Decisors.”
    What pure unadulterated rubbish! In the many towns, cities and villages the rabbis were most certainly the halachik decisors.Poppycock.The last statement is quite an offensive one: ” but the late and great Chacham Ovadya Yosef did not consider the Chazon Ish a Posek of repute”

    Why
    Why, ruin a decent article with nonsense, just like you did when you claimed that at 13 one is not a bar chiyuva?

    Like

    1. Actually Chaim and Beryl who use a fake email address you will find this is a conundrum for all those who study this subject. I happened to hear it from both the great Prof Twersky and R Mayer Twersky the Rav’s grandson. Study before you open your mouth. Derech Brisk was not la’asukei shmaseh lehilchasa. This is well known. Ask your teachers. In fact this was R Ovadya’s criticism of the Ashkenazi method. They would be mefalpel but we’re far from psak. Let me tell you my Rosh Yeshiva who was appointed by the Chazon Ish. Was Rosh Kollel in Etz Chaim, had a kvius with the Griz and learned Chassidus with the Gerrer Rebbe never got to halocho lmaaseh in his shiur klolli. The poilishe and sefardishe poskim did. I did not ruin the article on bar chiyuva with 13. Get your self. Tzirl Eliezer chelek 11 and you will discover there is a major issue and there is no kores till you are 13. In fact today at Shule we had a Pinson bar Mizvah and where looking for a Baal Mussaf. HAGaon Reb Shea Ben Peretz Hecht knew exactly what I was talking about when I said perhaps he needs to be twenty. Learn more

      Like

  2. Pitputim

    you wrote: “Indeed we may have also recently witnessed an alleged breach of journalistic ethics which has allegedly resulted in a staff member being suspended initially”

    Are you throwing … at the target with hope that some of it will stick?

    http://www.alliance.org.au/code-of-ethics.html

    The Journalists code of ethics, clause 3 states:

    “Aim to attribute information to its source. Where a source seeks anonymity, do not agree without first considering the source’s motives and any alternative attributable source. Where confidences are accepted, respect them in all circumstances”.

    Which code did they breach?

    It is clear to me that not only it isn’t considered R’chilut according the Halacha, it may be even a Mitzvah. See Harav Ovadya Yosef in שו”ת יחווה דעת חלק ד סימן ס

    Like

  3. Heartily concur with you comments.
    Furthermore, we have an expression: daas Baal habayis hepach letorah.
    This can be explained in two ways.
    1. Usually a person is too emotionally involved with an issue to render a proper objective response.
    2. A person’s knowledge or expertise in an area may be too limited and superficial to render a valid and balance response.
    Each case can certainly be applied to the AJN in this instance.
    Rabbi Telsner is a Talmud chacham and in areas he is acquainted with completely trustworthy and definitely honest to a tee.
    He does not subscribe to being PC and will speak his mind. Though he may not be au fait with modern psychology and theories about behaviour modification he has followed a valid if minority scientific view in his testimony.
    Just because it is not popular nor PC does not make it wrong and therefore as the author has reiterated does not deserve to be excoriated by the AJN or anyone else.
    What good has it achieved?

    Like

  4. david travers you wrote:

    “Furthermore, we have an expression: daas Baal habayis hepach letorah”.

    where did you see the two explanations?

    This expression (“Daas Baal Habayis Heipech Daas Torah”), is used by many as if it is saying that the mind set of a Baal habayis is contrary to to the way that tora “thinks”.

    it was used many times by the Rebbe in his “war” with the politicians regarding the “Shtachim”.

    this is true with any two groups, a scientist doesn’t think like a plumber.

    a doctor doesn’t think like a philosopher, and a Rosh Yeshiva doesn’t think like
    a posek.

    however, there is a problem when people point to the Sm”a (סעיף יג (סמ”ע סימן ג as the source for this expression.

    on the Halacha: אסור לאדם חכם שישב בדין עד שידע עם מי יושב, שמא ישב עם אנשים שאינם הגונים writes the Sm”a:

    בתשובת מהרי”ו / מהר”י ווייל/ סימן קמ”ו כתב למהר”ש ז”ל, ואם תשמע לעצתי לא תשב אצל הקהל בשום דין, דידעת שפסקי הבעלי בתים ופסקי הלומדים הם שני הפכים, ואמרו בפרק זה בורר [סנהדרין כ”ג ע”א] כך היו נקיי הדעת שבירושלים עושים, לא היו יושבין בדין אא”כ היו יודעין מי ישב עמהם כו’, ע”ש.

    what does לא תשב אצל הקהל בשום דין mean?

    the communities of the past they had different types of Batei Din, and while some of them didn’t Pasken according the to the Halacha, they were Batei Din Ksherim, (as are most Batei Din in our days that Pasken not Al Pi Hahalacha) and the מהר”י ווייל warned the מהר”ש not to seat on Batei Din that didn’t Pasken according the halacha,

    see here:

    http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/kitveyet/mahanaim/vigoda.htm

    chapter 5 בית דין של בעלי בתים

    it is clear that the Sm”a has nothing to do with the popular explanation that “the mind set of a Baal habayis is contrary to to the way that Tora “thinks”.

    Like

  5. david travers you wrote:

    “Furthermore, we have an expression: daas Baal habayis hepach letorah”.

    where did you see the two explanations?

    This expression (“daas Baal habayis heipech daas torah”), is used by many as saying that the mind set of a Baal habayis is contrary to to the way that tora “thinks”.

    it was used many times by the rebbe in his “war” with the politicians regarding the “shtachim”.

    this is true with any two groups, a scienist doesn’t think like a plumber.

    a doctor doesn’t think like a philosopher, and a rosh yeshiva doesn’t think like
    a posek.

    however, there is a problem when pepole point to the Sm”a (סעיף יג (סמ”ע סימן ג as the source for this expression.

    on the halacha: אסור לאדם חכם שישב בדין עד שידע עם מי יושב, שמא ישב עם אנשים שאינם הגונים writes the Sm”a
    בתשובת מהרי”ו / מהר”י ווייל/ סימן קמ”ו כתב למהר”ש ז”ל, ואם תשמע לעצתי לא תשב אצל הקהל בשום דין, דידעת שפסקי הבעלי בתים ופסקי הלומדים הם שני הפכים, ואמרו בפרק זה בורר [סנהדרין כ”ג ע”א] כך היו נקיי הדעת שבירושלים עושים, לא היו יושבין בדין אא”כ היו יודעין מי ישב עמהם כו’, ע”ש.
    what does לא תשב אצל הקהל בשום דין mean?

    the communities of the past they had different types of batei din, and while some of them didn’t pasken according the to the halacha, they were Batei Din Ksherim, (as are most Batei Din in our days that pasken not Al Pi Hahalacha) and the מהר”י ווייל warned the מהר”ש not to seat on batei din that didn’t pasken according the halacha,

    see here:

    http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/kitveyet/mahanaim/vigoda.htm

    ה) בית דין של בעלי בתים

    it is clear that the Sm”a has nothing to do with the popular explanation that “the mind set of a Baal habayis is contrary to to the way that tora “thinks”.

    Like

    1. The AJN read my blog (I know that because I’ve had calls from them in the past) but I write my thoughts on my blog. I don’t write for or to the AJN and if they had wanted to they could have asked my permission to republish. Don’t hold your breath

      Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s