A reaction to same gender marriage vote in Australia

Unsurprisingly the majority of voters decided that they were in favour of homosexual marriage. Perhaps thirty years ago the vote would have been different, but lots of things were different then.

So, how should the Jew react. I do not address myself to those whose religions are based on Orthodox Judaism. They aren’t interested in my opinion, and I feel sorry that they harbour certain beliefs that they do.

I ask the question of Orthodox, practicing or otherwise, Jews. I believe the answer to this question will be addressed from the pulpit by the Orthodox Rabbis of our Shules; at least most of them (especially those who speak more about the goings on in the world than the weekly portion of the Torah).

I predict there will be (at least) the following five approaches:

The safe option: Say nothing. Congregants who are against it will remain so, and those who are for it, may come to dislike the Rabbi and/or Judaism and move to greener pastures. This is halachically שב ואל תעשה. It has a place and is an approach with some basis.

The bold option: Say that we live in a democracy and this allows us our freedoms, including our freedom to practice our own religion. That society (and yes, the ‘Jewish’ seats of Melbourne Ports and Wentworth were very strong supporters of homosexual marriage) chose this new path means that we should hold on ever so much more forcefully to the unambiguous Torah Law, and never allow these arrangements in a Jewish (Orthodox) setting.

A variation of the bold option, is the populist option. It is akin to the Rabbi who is more of a friend than a spiritual mentor who is friendly. They will talk about democracy as above and free choice, but will stop short of making statements which unambiguously present the view that the choice itself is not in accordance with Halacha, be it Jewish or Noachide.

The delusional option: these will be words along the lines of the populist option but without any whiff of negativity. Remember, a child “doesn’t get dirty at school”, rather, “one part of their clothes comes home clean”. The delusional ones oversee a void of suitable educational programs. Their congregants come only three times (now it’s two, and yizkor is all but forgotten) a year. Every manner of schtick is used to herd them to an event. In the end though, congregants cannot navigate the basics of a siddur, the true spiritual transmission from the well-intentioned Rabbi approaches zero and the role occupies a cross between a popularity contest and a feel good eloquent sermon.

The marginal option: this one is seemingly akin to the delusional approach but falls outside that boundary. It is known as Open Orthodoxy. They actually announce Mazel Tovs and the like for such unions. This is beyond the Orthodox pale.

Where will your Shule/Synagogue/Shtiebel/Temple align itself?

[There is a sixth approach of ‘fire and brimstone’ but I consider that approach a waste of time]

Free Choice is a critical component of Judaism. Without free choice, there is no notion of reward and punishment. However, free choice does not mean that the actual choice taken must be supported or considered in keeping with a God-defined morality. As such, a choice antithetical to Torah must be respectfully disagreed with as being incongruent with Torah.

[ Ironically, it wasn’t long ago that people were downplaying the importance of the marriage institution and strongly promoting the “partnership”/”de facto” model.  Even today’s society wouldn’t say that one must get married, would it?]

We don’t have marriage anyway. We have Kiddushin. We also respect those created in the image of God, but we do not have to agree with all that they propose or practice.

That’s THEIR choice

If it ever got to a point where a religious functionary had to carry out a homosexual marriage according to secular law, then it would be ייהרג ואל יעבור and pack your bags and hop onto a flight to ארץ הקודש sooner.

On the dwindling support for exclusively heterosexual marriage

Although many social studies are by their nature bound to be imperfect due to the preponderance of unknown variables and the law of the excluded middle, there has been a consistent statistic that over 95% of men and women are heterosexual. Despite the sweeping feeling that marriage was ‘unnecessary’ and fewer were ‘bothering’ to engage in the ritual, preferring the ‘de facto’ status, these numbers represent an existential reality that attracts foul-mouthed, uncouth, violent, intolerant and extreme undercurrents of pseudo-fascist protest that have given birth to scenes reminiscent of the drug infested, psychedelic 1960’s where “no war” was the catch cry. In some work places, those who had “Vote No” signs on their doors, found these signs violently torn asunder. So much for the death of Stalin and Marx.

This blog is not and has not ever been a blog void of the influence and directives of Centrist Orthodoxy. Wherever possible, I have attempted to both write the mainstream centrist Orthodox view on contemporary issues and resisted the temptation to assume that I had some ‘holier than though’ view which transcended it. I have also attempted to avoid a metastasized Torah void , Masoretically vacuous view that purports to vaguely occupy the pedestal of organised, resilient, religion-את גאון יעקב אשר אהב סלה.

There are many places of work who have felt compelled to emblazon rainbows and posters, and principally declared a “collective” view that distances itself from  the institution of heterosexual marriage, though such predictive sexual attraction stands at 95%. Contrary views are anathema and stand accused of a homophobic, cruel, uncaring, anti-civil rights opposition. Who is the judge and who is the jury? Who stands condemned without trial? Who are the harbingers of Judaism as opposed to secular mandrakes?

Truth is the first casualty in such emotive and redemptive moments?

I steer away arguing from a point of personal preference or philosophical bent. My life only allows personal preference in as much as the ד׳ אמות של הלכה permits within its hallowed inviolable boundaries.

Curiously, there seems to be a correlation, or is it a causation, that removing elements of עול מלכות שמים in Open Orthodox, Shira Chadasha outliers, leads to a steady succession of less mainstream and über emancipated strains of Judaic practice hovering between Open Orthodox and Conservative movements.

I have been disappointed that so many Jewish brethren and sisters fail to see their lives and life choices through the prism of a collective corpus of rich Jewish Religion. What else has been the mainstay of untainted Jewish and remotely Jewish culture.

Let us begin from the simple to the more complex.

A man comes home and informs his parents that he has met a lovely non-Jewish girl at University. Now turn back the clock fifty years. The door would be firmly shut. The man would be on one side of the door or on the other side of the door. Rarely, and this most certainly does happen in our day, the girl (or indeed male) is genuinely attracted to Judaism and wishes to become one of our people, in the same way that Ruth became a righteous convert and was the progenitor of the Messiah the son of David, no less.

Now let us turn the clock forward only 20 years. It’s a new world. What was holy, inviolable and intractable, is now quite common. The male or female gentile is invited to the traditional Friday night dinner with gefilte fish and chicken soup as the remnant of a transmogrified epicurean cholesterol enema.

The children have רחמנא ליצלן shacked up with their new “partner”-a euphemism for a possibly “penultimate” marriage, union, coupling, conjugal bond, civil partnership, hookup, defacto, or other synonym connoting anything but the legal entity of ‘shudder’ marriage. Pseudo spouses are now welcomed with a shrug of the shoulders and the refrain “what can I do? I can love them or lose them”. Echoes morbidly in the silence of Springvale.

It’s never quite as tragic if the female is Jewish, but you need to ask why the über modern types haven’t overturned the תורה שבעל פה and decided the הלכה according to the discarded view of the Tanna so that they adopt the equanimous male lineage!

Let’s now turn out attention to today’s burning issue, in Australia, where our surveys, ironically filled in by not yet religious people of all shades, are now empowered to redefine a uniquely religious concept! Do they care about religious concepts? If it’s all about having the same rights, then there are enough unemployed lawyers to re-jig laws where mummy and daddy, mummy and mummy, and daddy and daddy, mummy/daddy and daddy/mummy will soon enjoy the same cornucopia of legal rights. Why, the family court already recognises the dog and cat and their gender is quite irrelevant unless there is a brood.

If this was a vote of Jews only, I am afraid to break the news to fringe dwellers that it is מושבע ועמד מהר סיני. Your view, Jew or Jewess, is irrelevant. This isn’t feel good, anything goes, Reform. That is now acknowledged demographically as a dying appendage.

There is a middle ground here. One could argue that this is a vote of Jews (albeit a tiny minority) and non-Jews (including various religionists). In such a case, perhaps שב ואל תעשה might be the (typically diasporan) response.

“Let’s stay out of this, after all, we want to practice our own religion in freedom”.

I hear this argument but it needs to be buttressed by Halachic underpinnings. Whether we like it or not, Maimonides has coded that non-Jews are encouraged to adopt the minimalist Noachide laws. The Noachide Laws prohibit non-heterosexual sexual acts. The question really is, does one need to teach the Noachide laws or make gentiles aware of these? (Note, these need to be done out of a belief in God, and not some “morality”.)

I wonder whether you find it deliciously ironic, that those Jews who love to quote Yeshayahu (42:6) that we must be a “light unto the nations”

 אני ה׳ קראתיך בצדק ואצרך ואתנך לברית עם לאור גויים

I ask them to read what Rashi (and others) says about this Passuk. It will surprise them (Radak excluded)

A perhaps more pertinent verse (49:60)  is

והלכו גויים לאורך

See the following via Chabad who championed this outreaching approach, which was endorsed by President George W. Bush.

Now, I am not one who is in a position to say whether this approach or the more insular approach taken (at least in Melbourne) by other Chassidim, and of course Litvaks from the Lakewood Kollel is the correct approach. Mizrachi is an unknown, as they have a long history of not giving respect to halachic pronouncements of their Rabbi unless it is in the ritual sphere alone.

The left-wing of Rabbi Ralph Genende’s Caulfield Shule who want a bit each way (and who unbelievably caused a massive חילול השם when they invited Stephen Greenberg to the edifice in which Rabbi Genende has halachic oversight), and Rabbi Shamir Kaplan of Beit Aharon who makes Rabbi Ralph’s views appear right-wing, are nothing short of incredulous. Clearly, Rabbi Shamir felt the need to not only state his view, but take a secular view. He’s a very likeable man, but if he could tell us which Posek advised him, I’d be obliged.

Is Rabbi Ralph game to tell us whether he voted yes or no, and on what halachic basis he did so? If he’s not, why not? Who Paskened that it’s indeed not an halachic imperative to state a view whether one is a member of the COSV or not.

Nothing I have written above is new or startling, although many are terrified of weighing into the issue if they are classed as bigots or attacked by murky clam-shells dragging their anatomy through the mud.

I do not include the “Open Orthodox” cum Shira Chadasha in this context, where the

“I’m a functionary, no, I’m not really a functionary, but I advertise on facebook that I will “marry anyone” who breathes some form of Judaism, as long as I find at least one pseudo-orthodox minister who I can “blame” for the emancipated, emasculated service of vows that I feel ‘educated’ to perform.

Some of you will be “new” to Open Orthodoxy (YCT) especially in Australia. Rabbi Dr. Benjamin Elton of the Great Synagogue is a right-wing member of this group. He has distanced himself from some of the more extreme YCT members, to his credit.  I wonder how many more members have joined or participated since Steven Greenberg felt he had to publicise a personal issue in the edifices, under the aegis of Rabbi Ralph.

Here are a group of choice quotes from the “open” neo-manifesto YCT Open Orthodoxy (sources available upon request)

In 2010, rabbi Asher Lopatin, President of YCT (Open Orthodoxy) participated in the LGBT change prayer breakfast in Chicago Illinois, “The focus of the event was to unite (thus used) local faith-based leaders in a rare gathering that galvanised renewed support and affirmation from the faith community for same-sex civil unions and equality for LGBT people. Lopatin delivered the following message:

 

Master of the Universe, you instructed us in your wisdom and your understanding in the Torah, in the book of Genesis
“לא טוב היות האדם לבדו“. God in your mercy you told us to establish a society and a community in a way that allows for a person to find a life partner to live a life of companionship and love, with equality, and without discrimination (?) So God bless our public servants to find that life filled with love for themselves and to be able to work hard to make sure that our state and community lives up to God’s merciful and just standards to make sure that everyone has a “right” to seek out that life partner and to live and love together with the full “right” with that person.  “לא טוב היות האדם לבדו“. Every person has a right to togetherness and a life filled with love. A life blessed by God, our fate, and our society Amen.

It is perhaps ironic that Lopatin leaves all mention of the word “sex” in his feel-good “between the lines”, new Open  non Masoretic “Torah She Bal Peh”.

Professor Daniel Sperber, one of the dwindling few, who Open Orthodoxy lean on as a spiritual guide, entertains the possibility that Orthodox rabbis may perform same-gender marriages. rabbi Ysoscher Katz does not believe Rabbis will ever agree to these alternate unions, though.

I wonder if there is now an halachic imperative to remove Sperber’s books, valuable as they may be, from every Kollel?

It beggars belief that someone like Professor Sperber, who compiled a magnificent work on the etymology of Jewish Minhagim could so profanely and wilfully “white-out” an explicit law in Even HoEzer which (in my reading, for our time) prohibits Yichud  during times of חשד.

There is plenty more outrageous material from Open Orthodoxy, but I will limit myself to the above.

This then brings us to the question of do we have to make our views known to the B’nei Noach? Doing so, is clearly a fulfillment of teaching them Torah that they need to know. Certainly we don’t do that filling in a Survey, but a Rabbinic Body should not be afraid to state the Jewish view.

There is a Tosfos in Chagiga 13a and a Gemara in Baba Kama (38a) which seeks to take the opposite view. See R’ Moshe Feinstein in Yoreh Deah (3:89) and others, who take the Tosfos in Chagiga’s view as the final definitive Halacha.

Your mileage may, however, vary. But for God’s sake, don’t make up your own views or be less than careful with your language. Speak to your Competent Local Orthodox Rabbi (CLOR). R’ Moshe Shternbuch of the Eida Charedis (Teshuvos VeHanhagos 3:37) takes a different view to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Reb Moshe, Rav Elyashiv and others. I would imagine that insular view matches most Charedim in Melbourne.

It comes down to the old insular shtetl view versus the אור לגויים approach, except that on this issue those who want us to spread the light ironically, would prefer if we turned down the dimmer. Go figure. איפכא מסתברא!

To young, well-meaning Rabbis, I say, leave the personality contests and the point scoring within your communities.

I wouldn’t give the Jewish News a single quote! What for? They are avowed anti-Orthodox. They are not your friends. They never do you any good. Choose your words very carefully, and behave with real warmth, but let’s not pretend that by using lovely prose and soulful apologies we do anything.

I close with the powerful eternal words of my teacher מורי ורבי הרב Soloveitchik ז׳ל

It is my opinion that Orthodoxy cannot and should not unite with such groups which deny the fundamentals of our Weltanschauung. It is impossible for me to comprehend, for example, how Orthodox Rabbis who spent their best years and absorbed the spirit of Torah She Baal Peh and its traditions, for whom Rabbi Akiva, The Rambam, the Rema, the Gra, Rav Chaim Brisker and other Jewish Sages are the pillars upon which the spiritual world rests, can join with the spiritual leaders for whom this is worthless… From the point of view of the Torah we find the difference between reform and Orthodox much greater than what separated the Perushim and the Tzedukim in the days of the Bayis Sheni, and between the Karaim and the traditionalists in the Gaonic era. Has Jewish History ever recorded an instance of a joint community council that consisted of Karaim and Torah-true Jews.

[from the 1954 Yiddish article in Der Tog Morgen Journey]

Wasnt it a matter of some mirth to find the JCCV (Jewish Community Council of Victoria) taking a view on same-sex marriage! Not only aren’t they democratically elected, and not only did they not seek the views of their constituent members, they didn’t have the common sense to say nothing (שתיקה סייג לחכמה) If it was going to oppose thousands and thousands who do adhere to our tradition, who needs their opinion? Are they that deluded to think that their regal proclamation will make people change their vote? I guess the National Council of Jewish Women (who also only allow left-wing lectures on their premises should hang their heads in shame).

The Holocaust survivors who funded infrastructure would have baulked at the left-leaning Marxist tendencies now being promulgated in the name of “equality” and “human rights”.

[Some source material has been gleaned from the excellent Headlines books by Rabbi Dovid Lichtenstein]

My view regarding Rabbi Riskin’s take on תועבה is shared

[Hat tip NB]

I received the following article by Rabbi Baruch Efrati?

Rav Baruch Efrati

I had not heard of him until today.

According to the internet, Rabbi Baruch Efrati is a prolific writer. Rabbi Baruch Efrati is also the head of the ‘Rabbanei Derech Emuna’ organisation, and teaches in a number of High level Yeshivas, and is (ironically) a Rabbi in the town of Efrat. I found the article sent to me, in Arutz Sheva.

I admit to feeling somewhat justified when I noted that Rabbi Efrati also brought the example of Yichud from Shulchan Aruch, as I did (and which some commenters questioned in regards to my blog post on the ill-advised hosting of Steven Greenberg in Melbourne).

Here is the article from Rabbi Efrati..

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s remarks on homosexual relations: A response

This response to a controversial interview given by Rabbi Riskin, translated from the Hebrew press, was written by a young rabbi who heads the Israeli Rabbanei Emunah mainstream Orthodox young rabbis’ group.

Recently, there has been a whole spate of articles on Jewish attitudes to homosexuality, some of them using the subject as an opportunity for self-praise, lauding the writer’s empathy and love of humanity, subtly hinting that this is in contrast to the attitude of mainstream Modern Orthodox and haredi communities. Others have lashed out openly at these two mainstream Orthodox sectors for what they call backwardness, closed mindedness and lack of inclusivity, alleging humiliation of homosexual partners.

This is certainly a way to gain approval from people who do not know the fact that mainstream Orthodoxy does not reject people with homosexual natures, but that Orthodoxy does strongly reject the homosexual act, calling it an “abomination.”That is what the Torah says – and it does so explicitly. Modern Orthodox and haredi rabbis are therefore against the recognition or public display of same-sex relationships.

Two names of world-renowned rabbis who have dealt with the issues are Rabbi Yaakov Meidan, head of the prestigious religious Zionist Har Etzion Hesder Yeshiva in Gush Etzion and Rabbi Aharon Feldman of the also prestigious haredi Ner Yisrael Yeshiva of Baltimore. Both have had the forthrightness to explain the Torah way of looking at same-sex relations: There is no loophole to allow the act, they say, and observant people who cannot overcome such tendencies are faced with the need to refrain from acting upon them, difficult as that may be. Rabbi Meidan has said that he considers the students who told him that they have decided to live celibate lives because of this prohibition, “tzaddikim.”

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat, Gush Etzion, was interviewed last week in Hebrew by the Israeli liberal-religious Makor Rishon newspaper, where his unprecedented words on homosexuals caused a strong backlash in the mainstream Orthodox rabbinic world in Israel – and abroad.

Response to Rabbi Riskin:

I beg to differ absolutely with Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s claim that a person with same-sex tendencies cannot be called a transgressor, a declaration in which he says that  this person is in the halakhic category of “Ones Rachmana patreh” –“someone who is coerced to commit a transgression and therefore unaccountable,” as, after all, he was born that way. This is a basic error in the way halakhic decisions are made, and one which can cause this prohibited behavior to proliferate among the people of Israel.

In an interview with the Makor Rishon newspaper, the rabbi said other things I found unacceptable, some philosophical and others halakhic, some with regard to great Torah Sages. However, the same-sex relationship topic is such a basic one that it is impossible to remain silent in the face of the misinterpretation, some might say distortion, of Torah laws by someone who is the rabbi of a city in the state of Israel.

Rabbi Riskin is known as a Jewish thinker and exceptional orator on many subjects as well as a rabbi with a wonderful rapport with his followers. However, he is not known as a major and expert halakhic decisor.  I do not know of any books of halakhic decisions on Orach Chaim, Even Haezer or Choshen Mishpat (three of the four sections of the Code of Jewish Law, ed.) published by Rabbi Riskin. I have not heard of any general halakhic decisions made by him on topics of kashrut, ritual purity, the Sabbath or washing one’s hands for bread.

How unfortunate it is if rabbis are only heard from on halakhic issues when they decide to twist them to suit imported liberal culture, lacking organized halakhic sources and sans halakhic precedents.

If the “Torah is as a light unto our feet,” we must study its laws in their entirety, not just the ones that are of sudden interest in liberal circles..

The rabbi’s error springs from several basic premises:

1.It is important to note that same-sex tendencies are not always inborn but can be a result of the pressures of secular culture and society. Some are, however, innate, and those whose tendencies are innate and who withstand the temptation to engage in those relations, are truly holy.

There are also some people who choose this way of life intentionally, and their attempts to create a society that chooses to sin (an abomination in the Torah’s words) must be fought openly.

2.Despite the fact that there are inborn tendencies for same-sex desire, there is no way to permit the act to take place, certainly not using the halakhic expression, as Rabbi Riskin did, of “he who is coerced is not responsible [for his transgression].” On the contrary, strength and willpower must be doubly increased in order to withstand the temptation to sin with those of the same sex.

Maimonides writes in Laws of Repentance that everyone has free will. He writes that someone who says he has no choice other than to sin because G-d created him with powerful inclinations and other weaknesses that leave him with no free will and force him to sin – is a person denying a basic premise of Torah, the free will granted to all of creation.

3.Modern science does not set our values. It draws a map of reality, but cannot interpret it. Moral interpretation and halakhic teachings are the exclusive purview of G-d’s Torah for Jews.

The phenomenon of homosexual inclinations is as old as the world, but in all the halakhic responsa of our sages there is not one instance of a rabbi allowing homosexual relations because the person “is coerced by his inclinations” – just the opposite is the case. There is a strong call to be of courage and resist committing sexual transgressions even when this way of life is extremely painful and difficult to attain.

The author of the Code of Jewish Law publicized a special degree for his geographic area prohibiting a man from being alone in a closed room with another man. Commentators explained that homosexuality was rampant in his area, causing him to declare this new limitation so as to prevent people from sin. But couldn’t the Rema have said such men “are coerced to commit a transgression,” as Rabbi Riskin does, and allow for leniency on this prohibition??  Why did he declare limitations to prevent homosexual relations?

4. G-d willed us to have lust, desire and inclinations, but G-d also told us the permissible way to gratify them. If there is no halakhically lenient way to allow something, no matter how much it is desired, it cannot be done.  Halakhic morality is above the reality of the present. Sometimes man finds himself at a dead end, and we must offer him every support, but not to the extent of permitting that which is forbidden in order to make his life easier.

Rabbi Riskin’s words are in direct contradiction to those of the saintly religious Zionist icon Rabbi Isaac HaCohen Kook in Orot Hakodesh, paraphrased here, but appearing in full in his work, Eight Collections:Collection 6, 99:

Modern science’s revelation that homosexual tendencies are natural and inborn, leading them to uproot the moral protest against them, will be met by “our G-d’s words are eternal.”

Those who believe that if there is a natural tendency discovered by science, the sinner is not responsible for his actions but is “coerced,”  are mistaken and do not realize the place of Torah vis a vis science.

Science describes the world, while the Torah directs it.

That is why, whether or not science defines homosexual tendencies as innate traits, is irrelevant. It does not obviate the moral responsibility we have to protest acting upon this tendency. It says so clearly in the Talmud (Tractate Yevamot 53 and Tosaphot there):

‘This is not considered “coercion.”‘

That is what our sages continued saying in decisions generation after generation (Rishonim and Achronim).

And the Talmudic scholar Rabbi Kapra said the Hebrew word for abomination,Toeva, can be seen as an acronym for Toeh Ata Ba – you are going astray on this issue –meaning that this is a negative tendency, which man must combat.

It is a mistake to think that there is no choice because a desire is natural or inborn, that things are permitted morally or halakhically in that case. On the contrary, one must fight the inclination and overcome it.

Continuing, Rabbi Kook relates to the Talmud (Nedarim), saying that there are some unconquerable inclinations which the rabbis allowed a priori by allowing them to be gratified within a normative marriage. This ruling is meant for someone with inborn desires for whom the sages had pity, ruling that a man and his wife’s personal sexual preferences are acceptable and can be a way to find release for someone with same-sex tendencies.

The Rema (Rabbi Moshe Isserles, writer of the Ashkenazi Code of Law) made the same halakhic decision in Even Haezer 25, pp. 2, positing that it is preferable to avoid unnatural forms of conjugal relations even with one’s wife, and attempt instead to remain holy by overcoming such desires. The lenient possibility exists, however, and is only allowed in situations where the person’s inborn tendency is for same-sex relations and this is an outlet for them.

So I ask, why should someone with same-sex tendencies be considered “coerced” and “free of prohibition” – someone who is above judgment? Since when are halakhot (rather than specific instances of unavoidable sinning from  whence the concept arises) decided on this premise?  There is truth and there is falsehood, good and bad, there is always individual choice, especially in the case of sexuality and sin.

For years now, I have been guiding tens of men and women with same-sex inclinations. I know how difficult their world is and I counsel them on how they can keep halakha despite their strong inclinations. Many of them are G-d fearing, wonderful people who struggle and manage to control their desires. Rabbi Riskin’s words are in contradiction to the Rambam, the Rema and Rabbi Kook, but just as seriously, they are not said in a vacuum and may cause some of the people I help – to fall.

We trust the words of the Talmud in Yevamot, we trust the words of Rabbi Kook – therefore, the rabbis who protest those who transgress are correct in their moral protests against the trend to be inclusive towards openly living an alternative lifestyle. Rabbi Riskin is entirely mistaken in proclaiming that those with same-sex tendencies are in the halakhic category of :”coerced and therefore not accountable.”  This can cause many good people to err.

We do not make halakhic decisions based on the spirit of the times, but according to the eternal words of G-d.

Who is schnorring to fund Steven Greenberg’s trip?

The prime supporter and collector to fund Steven Greenberg is allegedly non other than that famous Jewish personality, who spoke at Habonim on Shavuos about how he ‘finally managed to break away from Orthodox Judaism’ -Mark Cherny.

We love you Mark, not just because you are a mad St Kilda supporter, but because despite what comes  out of your mouth, you cannot break away. No Jew can give away their essence, which contains Godliness. Yes, I’m aware that Science maybe your god, and I’m not getting into that topic here.

It is ironic that Mark who disavows Orthodoxy, is finding the funds to enable the non Orthodox Steven Greenberg to speak at an Orthodox Shule! Can you see what I see? As I understand it, all Orthodox Shules turned down Mark, except for Caulfield. Perhaps Steven Greenberg himself can convince Mark to remove the shade covering his glowing inner Jew-the Neshoma he disavows because it’s not in a test tube.

What I don’t understand is why Rabbi Genende was seemingly seduced by cheap populism. Modern Orthodoxy opposes Steven Greenberg and his husband. I’m sure Rabbi Genende will vigorously oppose Steven Greenberg, but is a function for young adults the correct address for this discussion?

By now, everyone knows that the ARK Centre and Shira Chadasha are the two outliers that have welcomed Steven. No shock horror in those two places opening their arms.

Bottom line: It should have stayed with ARK and Shira Chadasha and Michael Barnett’s group, which includes ‘intermarried homosexuals’, no less. Maybe Steven will try to convince intermarried homosexuals to stop their relationship because they are assisting a Ben Noach to sin?

The Rabbinic Council of Victoria (RCV) and Rabbi Genende

Stop press:  Those who we’re going to protest are no longer going to do so. They had mistakenly asssumed that the RCV were complicit in turning a blind eye to their Vice President Genende. This is untrue. Rabbi Genende either goes his own way or has a Psak he has not yet shared.

Firstly let’s be clear without wishing to sound condescending. It is the  EASIEST thing on earth to give the go ahead for Steven Greenberg if you simply go your own way. Rabbi Genende has done that. Let him publish the names of those Rabbis in the RCV who agree with him? If, however, Rabbi Genende is brave he should easily be able to demonstrate to everyone at the talk that Steven Greenberg is nebach not Orthodox. Yes, be polite, and put it diplomatically but this is a clear example of

עת לעשות לה׳ הפרו תורתיך

Rabbi Genende has tacitly resisted all attempts to suggest that he ‘pass’ on the event of Steven Greenberg’s heresy, to another organisation. 

The following was sent to me. Hat tip WK.

This is from the Algemeiner Journal

In response to a recent “Orthodox” same-sex marriage ceremony conducted in Washington, D.C. by Rabbi Steve Greenberg, – who is openly gay, and married Yoni Bock and Ron Kaplan at the 6th & I Synagogue (non orthodox temple) in Washington in November – over 100 Orthodox Rabbis – among them some of the most prominent rabbinic figures in the Modern Orthodox Jewish world, including Rabbi Hershel Schachter and Rabbi Hershel Reichman of Yeshiva University and Rabbi Elie Abadie of the Safra Synagogue – issued a statement declaring that, “By definition, a union that is not sanctioned by Torah law is not an Orthodox wedding, and by definition a person who conducts such a ceremony is not an Orthodox rabbi.” They also dispelled any doubt over possible flexibility on the matter in the future, writing, “We strongly object to this desecration of Torah values and to the subsequent misleading reportage…the public should not be misled into thinking that Orthodox Jewish values on this issue can change, are changing, or might someday change…any claims to the contrary are inaccurate and false.” (For the full statement and list of signatures see below)

Many Orthodox congregations have homosexuals as members, and generally speaking, they are accepted without reservations. One Orthodox rabbi – who did not wish to be named – who has homosexual and trans-gender members in his congregation told the Algemeiner: “There is no such thing as a Jew who does not have spiritual struggles and challenges. We accept Jews who do not fully observe the Sabbath and do not keep kosher, and we accept those who struggle with sexual issues. However, just as we cannot accept someone who promotes desecration of the Sabbath and abandoning the laws of kashrut(kosher), or actively advocates adultery, we cannot accept someone who actively and publicly, promotes the practice of homosexuality.”

Although the 100+ rabbis take a firm stand against same-gender marriage, they are also sympathetic to to those of alternate sexual orientation, describing them as “challenged” they add, “We as rabbis, lovingly play a crucial role in helping Jews who may be facing great personal challenges to feel comfortable and welcome in our communities…some individuals experience deep inner conflict as they seek a holy path to serve God…we devote our lives towards helping all those in our broader community achieve their loftiest spiritual potential, while fully upholding the timeless values expressed in our Holy Torah.”
The full statement and list of signatures:
Orthodox Rabbis Stand On Principle

Recently, an American Jewish clergyman officiated at a matrimonial ceremony that is incorrectly being reported by some in the media as “the first time that an ordained Orthodox Rabbi has officiated at a same-sex marriage in the United States.”
We, as rabbis from a broad spectrum of the Orthodox community around the world, wish to correct the false impression that an Orthodox-approved same-gender wedding took place. By definition, a union that is not sanctioned by Torah law is not an Orthodox wedding, and by definition a person who conducts such a ceremony is not an Orthodox rabbi.
Jewish tradition unequivocally teaches that marriage can only exist as a union between a man and a woman, to the exclusion of a homosexual relationship. It is a distortion of Torah to confound that sacred principle. We strongly object to this desecration of Torah values and to the subsequent misleading reportage.
We appreciate the sensitive nature of intimacy. We, as rabbis, lovingly play a crucial role in helping Jews who may be facing great personal challenges to feel comfortable and welcome in our communities. Rabbis are always available to discuss congregants’ personal issues, including intimacy. We understand from our experiences in offering pastoral care that some individuals experience deep inner conflict as they seek a holy path to serve G-d and to fulfill their spiritual needs. As rabbis, we devote our lives towards helping all those in our broader community achieve their loftiest spiritual potential, while fully upholding the timeless values expressed in our Holy Torah.
The public should not be misled into thinking that Orthodox Jewish views on this issue can change, are changing, or might someday change. The Rabbinical Council of America recently declared that “the Torah, which forbids homosexual activity, sanctions only the union of a man and a woman in matrimony.” This is the only statement on this matter that can reflect Orthodox Judaism. Any claims or statements to the contrary are inaccurate and false.
SIGNED:

Rabbi Elie Abadie – New York, NY

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein – Los Angeles, CA

Rabbi Eitan Allen – Fairfield, CT

Rabbi Sol Appleman – Woodsburgh, NY

Rabbi Moshe Averick – Chicago, IL

Rabbi Ian Bailey – Silver Spring, MD

Rabbi Yisroel Bendelstein – Brooklyn, NY

Rabbi Etan Berman – New York, NY

Rabbi Azriel Blumberg – Brighton, MA

Rabbi Heshy Blumstein – Hewlett, NY

Rabbi Avram Bogopulsky – San Diego, CA

Rabbi Kenneth Brodkin – Portland, OR

Rabbi Zev Cinamon – West Hempstead, NY

Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen – West Palm Beach, FL

Rabbi Judah Z. Cohen – Hewlett, NY

Rabbi Yitzchok Cohen, New York, NY

Rabbi Mordechai Cohen – Milwaukee, WI

Rabbi Yosef Cohen – West Hartford, CT

Rabbi Nissim Davidi – Los Angeles, CA

Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz – Valley Village, CA

Rabbi Ari Enkin – Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel

Rabbi Ephraim Epstein – Cherry Hill, NJ

Rabbi Aaron Feigenbaum – Memphis, TN

Rabbi Dovid Feinberg – Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel

Rabbi Emanuel Feldman – Jerusalem, Israel

Rabbi Ilan Feldman – Atlanta, GA

Rabbi Eliyahu Ferrell – Passaic, NJ

Rabbi Yitzchok Fingerer – Brooklyn, NY

Rabbi Shmuel Fink – Lawrence, NY

Rabbi Dov Fischer – Orange County, CA

Rabbi Arie Folger – Munich, Germany

Rabbi Barry Freundel – Washington, DC

Rabbi Zvi Friedlander – New York, NY

Rabbi Cary Friedman – Passaic, NJ

Rabbi Zev Friedman – Lawrence, NY

Rabbi Mallen Galinsky – Jerusalem, Israel

Rabbi Benjamin Geiger – Forest Hills, NY

Rabbi Avraham Ginzburg – Forest Hills, NY

Rabbi Saul Gold – Brooklyn, NY

Rabbi Jay H. Goldberg – Far Rockaway, NY

Rabbi Chaim Goldberger – Minneapolis, MN

Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer – New York, NY

Rabbi Shlomo Grafstein – New York, NY

Rabbi Alan Greenspan – Jerusalem, Israel

Rabbi Yonah Gross – Wynnewood, PA

Rabbi Yosef Grossman – Monsey, NY

Rabbi Ben Hecht – Toronto, Canada

Rabbi Ari Jacobson – Monsey, NY

Rabbi Ari Kahn – Givat Ze’ev, Israel

Rabbi Howard Katzenstein – Brooklyn, NY

Rabbi Joseph Kolakowski – Richmond, VA

Rabbi Ira Kronenberg – Passaic, NJ

Rabbi Pinchas L. Landis – Cincinnati, OH

Rabbi Eliezer Langer – Austin, TX

Rabbi Levi Langer – Pittsburgh, PA

Rabbi Avi Lebowitz – Palo Alto, CA

Rabbi Yonah Levant – Queens, NY

Rabbi Menachem Levine – San Jose, CA

Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz – Chicago, IL

Rabbi Yaakov Luban – Highland Park, NJ

Rabbi Avraham Maimon – Sunnyvale, CA

Rabbi Reuven Mann – Phoenix, AZ

Rabbi Harry Maryles – Chicago, IL

Rabbi Baruch Pesach Mendelson – Brooklyn, NY

Rabbi Jacob B. Mendelson – Bridgeport, CT

Rabbi Yossi Mendelson – Queens, NY

Rabbi Lester Miller – Brooklyn, NY

Rabbi Yerachmiel Morrison – Lakewood, NJ

Rabbi Jonathan Muskat – Oceanside, NY

Rabbi Yehuda L. Oppenheimer – Forest Hills, NY

Rabbi Gavriel Price – Passaic, NJ

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky – Teaneck, NJ

Rabbi Aharon Rakeffet – Jerusalem, Israel

Rabbi Michael Rapps – Far Rockaway, NY

Rabbi Hershel Reichman – New York, NY

Rabbi Rachmiel Rothberger – New York, NY

Rabbi Gidon Rothstein – Riverdale, NY

Rabbi Lawrence Rothwachs – Teaneck, N

Rabbi Yackov Saacks – Dix Hills, NY

Rabbi Nosson Sachs – Pittsburgh, PA

Rabbi Nachum Sauer – Los Angeles, CA

Rabbi Hershel Schachter – New York, NY

Rabbi Moshe Schapiro – Bergenfield, NJ

Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld – Queens, NY

Rabbi Zev Schostak – Queens, NY

Rabbi Tsvi G. Schur – Baltimore, MD

Rabbi David Shabtai – New York, NY

Rabbi Dov Shapiro – Spring Valley, NY

Rabbi Jay C. Shoulson – Long Island City, NY

Rabbi Zecharia Sionit – Dallas, TX

Rabbi Ze’ev Smason – St. Louis, MO

Rabbi Aryeh Sokoloff – Queens, NY

Rabbi Aryeh Spero – Great Neck, NY

Rabbi Reuven Spolter -Yad Binyamin, Israel

Rabbi Leonard Steinberg – Brooklyn, NY

Rabbi Gil Student – Brooklyn, NY

Rabbi Michael Taubes – Teaneck, NJ

Rabbi Moses David Tendler – Monsey, NY

Rabbi Benzion Twerski – Milwaukee, WI

Rabbi Michel Twerski – Milwaukee, WI

Rabbi Avrohom Union – Los Angeles, CA

Rabbi Noach Vogel – San Jose, CA

Rabbi Gedalia Walls – Potomac, MD

Rabbi Yaakov Wasser – East Brunswick, NJ

Rabbi Philip Weinberger – Teaneck, NJ

Rabbi Matan Wexler – New York, NY

Rabbi Ari Zahtz – Teaneck, NJ

Rabbi Asher Zeilingold – St. Paul, MN

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler – Jerusalem, Israel

I am acquainted with some of the Rabbonim on the list; and it’s a compelling list. 

I know of no list where Orthodox Rabbis agree that Greenberg is Orthodox. 

I was also sent a video of Steven conducting a homosexual union service. He can do what he wants but he cannot call this Orthodox by any stretch. It is simply an halachic fraud.


Those of you who want to hear what he has to say without going to Caulfield Shule’s Hall,  can hear him here. I listened for about 5 minutes and the dangerous thing is his misguided sincerity. Even his comment that his invitation to speak was ‘hachnasat orchim’, I believe is halachically not correct. He is a charmer, and seems like a nice, but challenged individual.

Is Steven being paid from Melbourne? If so, is Caulfield contributing? I can certainly think of more important speakers to sponsor in terms of influencing young adults to re-connect with their identity/religion. I wonder how many people who will go to the talk will be influenced by Rabbi Genende to attend Genende’s shiurim.

I wonder if Rabbi Genende would invite Pastor Margaret Court and one of his Muslim Imam colleagues to address whether they would host somebody who espouses different religious view  than them and claims fidelity, in the walls of their organisation? If he is to be consistent, I expect that Rabbi Genende would not be a Margaret Court critic in terms of her views being out of bounds? She should ‘be treated with compassion and inclusiveness’.

I wonder, given the gravity of the question, whether Rabbi Genende asked his own Posek. Rabbis as great as Rav Aharon Lichtenstein z’l, who was more than capable of deciding Halacha, went to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach z’l to ask more grave questions. There is no shame doing so. I know that Rav Hershel Schachter sometimes discussed important matters with Rav Elyashiv z’l, but in the end he has the shoulders to disagree, and when he does, he explicitly mentions Rav Elyashiv, explains his view and explains his own.

I stress and restress, homosexuals should not need their own place of worship. Orthodox Shules perhaps with the exception of Adass, Rabbi Donenbaum’s  Shule and the Gerrer Shtiebel would treat them no differently to anyone else. That being said, if they come with their partner, then it will be akin to a man sitting with his wife and other women!  There must be awfully difficult temptations for those so inclined. ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם would  apply, I believe.

For those who might not see society swimming openly into new waters, be aware of this and this as they may also be genetic dispositions, nebach, רחמנא ליצלן.

PLEASE Do not protest at Caulfield Shule over Steven Greenberg

I am aware of an email with certain people exhorting sincere Jews to protest the purported ‘justification’ of Homosexuality in Judaism by Steven Greenberg, under the watch of Rabbi Ralph Genende.

  1. Some of the people asking others to protest are carrying some very serious baggage. They know who they are. They should back off now and stop the charade.
  2. Rav Schachter, senior Posek of the OU, Rosh Yeshivah and Rosh Kollel of YU for the last 50 years, and widely considered the senior Posek of both the Rabbinic Council of America and Centrist/Modern Orthodoxy stated that it would be a very bad idea to protest. The only thing a protest would achieve is to harden the hearts of participants and Rabbi Genende; give more publicity to the event; cause a חילול שם שמים if the non-Jewish Secular Press, as well as the Jewish Secular Press (the Australian Jewish News) were to blow up the issue so they can foment further division and sell more papers; and finally it would be met head on by the ‘we think we are Orthodox too’ left wing Jews of Golus Australis, who would relish the opportunity to counter protest.
  3. There is no חיוב today to give תוכחה in this way today.
  4. The best way to win over people’s hearts is to engage their minds. At least one person of Torah knowledge should be there and ask Rabbi Genende to speak at another event once Greenberg has departed on the topic of ‘Why Steven Greenberg is not Orthodox’.

I want to stress and repeat. I have only heard good things about Steven as a human being and his keeping of other commandments. He was created in the Image of God, as  were we. Therefore, irrespective of him espousing the likely heresy he is known for, one should behave properly and not display antipathy towards him. Nebach, he has a tendency. In his hearts of hearts I am sure he’d rather have no controversy and have heterosexual tendencies, as per the existential immutable reality of Yahadus.

I repeat, please do NOT protest and if you agree please spread the word; I implore you.

On Steven Greenberg & Rabbi Genende

We are enjoined not to judge anyone until we are proverbially ‘in their shoes’. Caulfield Hebrew Congregation, with the agreement of its Senior Rabbinic Authority, Rabbi Ralph Genende, have invited members of the community to hear a self-professed homosexual, and self-professed Orthodox Jew, once ordained at YU, named Stephen Greenberg, to address his homosexual struggle, contextualised with his ‘partner’ and ‘daughter’. 
If we accept the theory that Steven was born with a predisposition of sexual attraction to the same gender, then we must ask  whether he consulted his teachers at YU. As someone who was ordained, this is even more of an imperative given the gravity of the issue and the world trip, crusader-like approach.

The Shulchan Aruch is acutely aware that some will have a tendency to be attracted to the same gender. It is unambiguous in describing what a person should do if they are indeed inclined that way.

There are well-known prohibitions in respect to a heterosexual male being alone with a heterosexual female. Whether this is a Torah infraction or a Rabbinic one, is a dispute between the Rambam and other Rishonim. Whatever the case, the laws of Yichud, being alone,  are there to protect against a potentially more serious consequence, that may lead to prohibited sexual relations.

What is not well known is that the Shulchan Aruch codified the self-same laws of Yichud, in regards to same gender seclusion/Yichud (See Even HoEzer 24:1) 

If a male has a homosexual predilection, then it is forbidden to be halachically alone with another male. There is no argument about this Halacha and there can certainly be no argument of its applicability in our age. 

The Rambam in his glosses on the Mishna in Sanhedrin 7, states that a Jew is not suspected of homosexuality or bestiality as they are both unnatural. The Rambam could not envisage someone with a Jewish Soul having such proclivity.

As I understand it, Steven claims to adhere to all laws of Judaism give or take the odd stumble that we all experience. If Steven lives with his male partner he most certainly is choosing to ignore a Halacha. I am not referring to the likely outcome of homosexual sex; rather, Yichud—being alone. If he does not, then kudos to him.

I would assume that Steven, who Rabbi Genende also describes as an Orthdox Rabbi, does not live under the same roof as his partner, and they perhaps take turns looking after the daughter? If that is not the case, it is difficult to accept the description of Orthodox.

Technically, one or both males, might not be the biological father, which also raises another hornets nest in respect to Yichud with an adopted child. The Lubavitcher Rebbe amongst many others had grave problems giving permission for Yichud with an adopted child. Others are more lenient, including Rav Soloveitchik, to whom the Lubavitcher Rebbe sent some Lubavitch couples (see Nefesh HoRav from Rav Schachter) who wanted to adopt and needed the Psak Din of a World renowned Rabbi.

At this point I trust that even the far left are not churlishly dismissing me as homophobic, based on what I have written.

One expects that the otherwise religiously-oriented homosexual Jew feels more self-guilt than the secular homosexual Jew. This is not because people are more derisive to the religious one. Rather, it’s because he feels he has been born with an impediment to keep Halacha. 

 Some will deal with it by disappearing into new social circles where they potentially practice less Judaism as time goes by. Others, such as Steven presumably blame their genetic marker for their predilection and will wrestle with God about why they weren’t given heterosexual genes.

I would hope that if Steven was asked, ‘Would you have preferred if God had made you heterosexual’, that Steven would answer in the affirmative. If he does not, I’m not sure why Rabbi Genende as Vice President of the Rabbinic Council of Victoria would invite him to espouse his views!

We should consider why Stephen isn’t addressing one of the homosexual groups where he may encourage people to keep all the other laws of Judaism and give them confidence to do so. Perhaps he will do so. I do not know, but I think that would be a positive thing.

I have not ever come across anyone not being welcomed in Shule because they were homosexual. I would imagine they are shunned by Hungarian Chassidic communities.

To be sure, even Chabad who welcome all, have some restrictions. When Shlomo Carlebach started diverging from an Orthodox path, Rabbi Y. D. Groner z’l, who had been a study partner of Shlomo, asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe נ׳ע whether he should try and bring Shlomo ‘back’ through Kiruv. The Lubavitcher Rebbe answered that Rabbi Groner should do so, but never within the walls of a Lubavitch institution lest anyone think that what Shlomo does is acceptable etc. Why did Steven have to speak within Caulfield Shule’s property? Having Steven at a congregational function definitely stretches the boundaries of what is tolerable. Given Rabbi Genende’s professed opposition to Steven’s approach in a letter to his congregants one wonders why Rabbi Genende didn’t choose to debate Steven?

The menagerie of congregants at Caulfield on a standard Shabbos will not likely include the young adults who will attend Steven’s talk. Caulfield do a great job, given their ability to pull in big donations to lure world class performances via a choir from Israel. They are a vibrant Shule with an active and dedicated committee. 

I’m sure these activities are roundly enjoyed, but will a ‘voyeuristic’ gaze into the house of a religiously inclined homosexual Jew translate to attendance at Shule or Rabbi Genende’s educational programme? I think not, especially if Rabbi Genende disagrees with Steven’s interpretation of Scripture anyway!

Imagine, if you will, that instead of Steven, the guest speaker was a ‘religious’ adulterer/womaniser. Perhaps not a Rabbi, but someone well known. Imagine this person wanted to speak about his problem of wandering eyes which lead to covert forbidden sexual relations. It could be argued that he too has a proclivity. Is there a genetic link? My question then to Rabbi Genende is, would you give such a person a podium to speak of his struggles to keep his pants on when his eyes wander? Something tells me that Rabbi Genende would not allow such a talk. Why? Marriage is sacred and such acts are abominable and don’t deserve a podium. If I am right, the podium should be reserved for the types of Jews who are inspirational. I am more inspired to hear of those homosexual religious Jews who courageously don’t give in to a basic tenet.

Did Rabbi Genende consult leading centrist/modern Poskim. It would appear that his colleagues in the Rabbinic Council of Victoria are far from enamoured by his  ‘go it alone’ approach. If he has support from a Posek who knows Steven then Rabbi Genende should at least inform his colleagues in the Rabbinate.

I have heard that some intend to protest. In my mind this is not only stupid in the extreme, but halachically questionable.  On that matter I also have Rabbinic agreement. Mori V’Rabbi Rav Hershel Schachter שליט׳א made it clear in our phone call that one should not go to Caulfield, either to protest or to listen to Steven.

There is a valid question about calling up to the Torah someone who advertises their homosexuality and the acts which result. These types of questions arose in the Halachic literature regarding those who have married out and those who publicly break the Sabbath in a ‘look, Shabbos doesn’t mean anything’ attitude. I know that in Elwood Shule, there is a Shule goer who married out. He comes on Shabbos fairly often. Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick instructed the Gaboim not to give him an Aliya, as I recall. This is consistent with the view of R’ Moshe Feinstein ז׳ל.

Turning our attention towards Sabbath desecrators, I know that the late Rav Chaim Gutnick z’l would wait in his office until everyone had left and then walk home. He knew that his community of Holocaust survivors were theologically and psychologically challenged and displayed peculiar traits: they came to Shule but drove there. They didn’t eat Kosher but would never eat Pork. When such a damaged person came to Shule, Rabbi Chaim Gutnick only saw their holy soul and did not see any infractions.

What about Steven Greenberg? To my mind, he does not need an audience of voyeuristic heterosexuals. The need to treat people as created in the image of God should be taught by those who are not involved in Torah infractions. I interact every now and again with a homosexual Talmid Chacham, who I believe to be celibate. 

Does one give Steven Greenberg an Aliyah? My personal answer would have been yes, if he was a ‘mind your own business’ private type. If however he was advertising his homosexuality and seeking acceptance according to the Torah then I would be inclined not give an Aliya to the Torah. I don’t rely on my own feelings in such a grave case, and discussed this with my Posek today. He fully agreed with me that protesting was definitely not the correct approach. It would also not be advised for an Orthodox person to attend such a talk. In respect of giving him an Aliyah he opined that in a Shule where people have lots of different baggage of aveyros, and wouldn’t be alarmed in the slightest, then he is not considered an outlier in that particular congregation and can be called up.

In the end, we must try to focus on the Godly soul of individuals who face big challenges to keep Torah and Mitzvos and try to have them attend davening, go to Shiurim etc.

My view is that this is for the ‘ordinary’ person. The one who has ordination and travels the world talking about his anti Torah proclivities should not be afforded an outlet connected to an Orthodox Shule.  

It is ironic that many of those making noise against him are defending the despicably accused Malka Leifer. I just hope that she isn’t duping the psychs in Israel who are evaluating her state of mind and that she be promptly  brought to face Justice in Melbourne, and should she be found guilty, they could put her in a psychiatric prison if she is indeed impaired in that way.

PS. YU does not revoke Smicha, but would have revoked Steven’s if they had that policy. I discussed this with those who give YU’s respected and high standard Smicha today.

Mikva and those with a disposition towards the same gender

I am going to confine this question initially to men; that is, those with homosexual preferences. I am also going to confine myself to religious men, because I don’t think that it is likely that non religious Jewish homosexuals would have any connection to this custom.

There is a custom mentioned in the Gemora, which was enacted as a Takana from the Prophet Ezra, that men should visit a (male) Mikvah when they had an ’emission’. It is also true that Mikva was used to purify: the Cohen Gadol used to immerse in a Mikva many times during the services on Yom Kippur. In the days of the Temple even if one was טהור the male went to the מקווה in order to enter the עזרה. Even today, some Chazonim will immerse themselves before certain parts of the davening and this is brought in Acharonim. [ When I led Tefillos on Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur, I went to the Mikva (also Pesach and Shavuos)]

The main reason for טבילת עזרא (which actually was enacted for both women and men) appears in Talmud Bavli Brachos 22a, and Baba Kama 92a.

The purpose of the תקנה was to “cool down” the tendency to engage in marital relations in an unfettered way, and to keep it “regular” for want of a better term. I am not using the exact words of the Gemora.

The enactment of Ezra was annulled (אורח חיים סימן פח).

כל הטמאים קורין בתורה וקורין קריאת שמע ומתפללין חוץ מבעל קרי שהוציאו עזרא מכל הטמאים ואסרו בין בדברי תורה בין בקריאת שמע ותפלה עד שיטבול כדי שלא יהיו תלמידי חכמים מצויין אצל נשותיהן כתרנגולין ואחר כך בטלו אותה תקנה והעמידו הדבר על הדין שאף בעל קרי מותר בדברי תורה ובקריאת שמע ובתפלה בלא טבילה ובלא רחיצה דתשעה קבין וכן פשט המנהג.

All the impure read the Torah and Shema, and pray (Shemoneh Esreh) except for the one who had an emission, until they go to the Mikvah. The idea is that there is a “process” before marital relations resume, so that the men are not like unfettered  birds who just do it when they want. Later they annulled this … and it was enough that the person has washed in 9 Kavin of water

Chassidim and I suspect Mekubalim say that the enactment was annulled only for learning Torah. However, before one could Daven, one still had to perform Tevilas Ezra daily. This is why one can witness many people go to the Mikva before they have davened.

There is a story from the genius Posek, R’ Avraham Chaim Naeh, the author of the highly regarded Ketzos HaShulchan,

Rav Avraham Chaim Naeh (from wikicommons)

(whose measurements for Mitzvos I’d say the majority of the world outside B’nei Brak follow), and who asked (or was asked) rhetorically, “the words of Torah can’t become Tameh” [so what’s wrong if someone learns Torah without being to the Mikva? R’ Chaim answered, yes, the Torah doesn’t become Tameh, but can the vessel which is receiving the Torah (the person) who is Tameh, absorb Torah.

These days, one sees Chassidim go to the Mikvah (on Shabbos, and every day) and they have a custom (I believe from the Shulchan Aruch HoRav) that the water should be warm.

Even though it seems the Rambam still engaged in Takonas Ezra (I saw this but alas can’t remember where). Many Brisker wouldn’t have even seen the inside of a male Mikva let alone gone into one. On the other hand, other Litvaks, such as Rav Kanievsky (who is also a Mekubal) certainly go to the Mikva on occasions (I do not think every day, but I stand to be corrected).

This brings me to my essential question, and I’d value the opinion especially of those Rabbis who laudably make a quiet but effective effort to ensure those of an LGBTIQA preference don’t feel ostracised in an Orthodox Shule. I mean strictly Orthodox, not “Open Orthodox” and various break aways.

Here is my question:

“What if a religious person knew that he had preferences towards men (he might not act on these, I assume). He doesn’t find himself attracted to women. If he goes to the male Mikva (daily) (where I regrettably note some of the pedophilia mentioned in the Royal Commission in Australia occurred in the Mikva), even for the holiest of purposes, he will see loads of men in various stages of nudity. The showers have no doors and it is completely Hefker in my experience. Indeed, if you want to turn a non-chassidic young kid off, take him to these types of Mikvaos, where they will also pick up tinea and feel very strange. I would imagine, this is akin to a man, going into a sauna (lehavdil) full of women, where the women are in various stages of nudity. (This is a practice in some parts of Scandinavia). In such a Mikva environment, it seems to be that attendance is stoking the fire, so to speak, and making it harder to avoid stirring up homosexual tendencies towards the forbidden act. The religious homosexual knows they may not do the homosexual act. This would introduce a huge temptation to such a person (outside of the Mikva). Should they be allowed to go to a Mikva given that the Takona has been annulled and the temptation is very real.

Those who still keep Takonas Ezra, do so as a matter of Kabalistic piety. If I was a Posek, I would make it known (in a quiet way—need to think how) that those with homosexual tendencies, should never visit a Mikva (unless they are the only person there) as they will be putting themselves into a place that will make it harder to keep the Torah, especially if another homosexual in the Mikva responds to various eye movements etc or even if they are stirred up by it all.

Equally, I would say (not in the spirit of egalitarianism) that a Mikva woman, should not be a Lesbian or the like, as that experience would likely “fuel her fires” in the same way.”

But I am not a Posek. How would Rabonim pasken?

Would we see the more left-wing types, forbid it, but the more Chassidic types cast a blind eye to this practice? Or would it be the other way around. Would left-wing types permit it (equal opportunity, they can control themselves) and the right-wing forbid it, in the same way they would forbid a man to walk into a woman’s sauna?

I know it’s not a comfortable topic, and I have long argued that there is an opportunity for someone to come up with a better specifically architected/engineered male mikva, such that there is no nudity on display, and the volume needed to be accommodated maintained.

In case you are wondering whether I am inventing new laws/problems, consider learning the laws of Yichud (being alone with someone) and you will find that in our own Shulchan Aruch  אבה”ע סי’ כד, it states where there is a concern that men are attracted to each other, then they are not permitted to be alone, in the same way that a male and female are not permitted to be alone unless it’s in a public area with people still awake etc

“ובודרות הללו שרבו הפריצים יש להתרחק מלהתייחד עם הזכר”

I did ask Mori V’Rabbi, Rav Hershel Schachter this question (among others) and although he is certainly not a Chosid, he said it would be prohibited for someone with such tendencies/preferences to go to a male Mikva, where nudity is everywhere, as they would be making life harder for themselves. לפני עיוור לא תתן מכשול (don’t provide fodder to help someone do the wrong thing)

A desirable side effect of such a ruling is that potential abusers would not have the outlet they used, as outlined clearly in evidence in court, where abuse occurred with two people in the Mikva.

Please note: I have not engaged in the issue of homosexuality. Rather, the laws of Tzniyus as they pertain to different tendencies.

Ideally, I’d like to see someone clever come up with a new architecture for Mikvaos for men. I find them a tad gross, and I’m heterosexual.

The Gay Pride March in Jerusalem

If one is Orthodox and as a matter of belief, the Torah is the word of God, then one cannot escape that certain acts of sexual relations are forbidden, including some of those being exposed through a march.

In Halacha, there are several categories of people who perform acts which constitute sin, many unrelated to sexual acts, where their capacity to act as Torah ordained witnesses is diminished. There are some who do this out of want, and others who do this out of rebellion against the Torah.

I have no doubt that there are many people who struggle with the fact that their desires, sexually, are considered a matter of shame to the extent that they don’t wish to disclose this information, except in trusted (safe) environments. Berating someone for having such desires, or call it a disposition (research on this will emerge over the next ten years, have no doubt), is not of value in this day. Indeed, it could cause someone to feel that they are so hopeless, that they make take their own life in the worst case, or become so depressed that they cannot function as a human being.

It is known that many contemporary sages have said that we no longer have the skill of “telling someone off” for straying from Torah. I believe this is true. The best way to influence someone is to be a living and shining example of what a Jew with unconditional belief, and intellectual submission to the Torah means, and that such a person can be pleasant and sensitive, as can the Judaism they practice.

Intellectual submission to Torah in the form of Emunah is something that is axiomatic for the practicing Orthodox Jewish person. Belief, by its nature transcends intellect. Reasons for commands are there primarily to explore the “what can be derived” from Judaism, as Rav Soloveitchik explained, however, reasons, do not have a place in the “why must I do this command”. The why question exists only when there isn’t submission. In Chassidic terminology this may be termed Bitul.

I understand, and I am happy to be corrected that there may be two motives for a parade of this sort:

  1. To promote the life style as being acceptable
  2. To express the view that nobody should live in fear, or be cut off, as a result of their orientation.

Promotion of such a life style is not compatible with Torah. To put it crudely, one would also be against a march which said “It’s okay to do away with Shabbat”. The common element is that they are immutable Torah imperatives, and the quest to seek adherents to such views is anathema to a Torah observant Jew. Indeed, we find great Halachic difference in the Jew who breaks the Sabbath in private versus the one who honks the horn when passing the Rabbi walking to Shule, with the aim of showing that “I don’t care about Sabbath”, or the person who eats prawns because they “just love the taste”.

In terms of the Gay Pride march, if the aim is point 2 above, then I think its existence transcends religion. There are various types of people who don’t accept this reality for other reasons. It is important to make sure that all those who have predilections and quandaries, are not made to feel that they are “outside the tent”. They are in the tent. A more sophisticated approach would be how to engage them, should they personally wish to be engaged on the topic, and make them feel that there are hundreds of Mitzvos that are applicable to them, as much as anyone else. On this point, it would be useful if Rabbis of skill got together and devised some guidelines.

With that in mind, I felt the statements of some 300 Religious Zionist Rabbis achieved nothing positive in respect of the marchers, except for Nir Barkat choosing to remain Pareve and not attend for what he called “sensitivity” reasons. If those Rabbis thought that there was a lack of knowledge about various sins and how they are treated in Judaism, then there are other ways to interact with the various groups. The religious group need a different approach than the one of the non practicing variety. Those approaches need to be advanced and not simple. Quoting a verse, for which the irreligious marchers have no regard, is a waste of time. Do they not know this already?

Point 1 though is something that I do not think should happen from a Halachic viewpoint. I do not see a reason to seek recruits to swell the numbers engaging in such a life style.

The gay pride movement is not without blame here, either. They have much to answer for. Jerusalem is the Holiest City, as such, sensitivity, indeed the same sort of sensitivity they demand when respecting their sexual orientation, should imply that this is definitely not the City where one chooses to march. In the process, they are trampling on sensitivities that they do not understand and in some cases are antagonistic towards. Why do this? It only creates antipathy and division. Of course, this does not mean that there are people in Jerusalem who are confronted with the issue of being gay (or GBLTIQ). They are in Rishon LeTzion, Haifa, and not confined to some geographic point in Israel.

If they have had an Israel march in Tel Aviv, then it’s happened. It can be marketed as such: the location of the march doesn’t signify that it is only for those who live in Tel Aviv. There is no need to offend the Torah based sensibilities in Jerusalem, the Holy City, when sensible alternatives which achieve the same aim are possible. Some of the responsibility for the rhetoric that has occurred, rests with those who also wish to remove the notion that Jerusalem is any holier a place, in Israel. Ironically, that’s what the Arabs do. It is not what Jews do: be they practicing orthodox or otherwise. If they throw a spark into flammable material, then expect a raging fire.

I would have liked to have seen two outcomes from the march:

  1. Jerusalem is considered a no go zone for such marches as the outcome is to cause more antipathy, and that’s precisely what they are trying to overcome. It will actually heighten the problem for GBLTIQ people who will feel minimised.
  2. The Rabbis, need to be more sophisticated in the statements that they put out in response to such events. There should have been meetings beforehand between the organisers and Rabbinic leaders and I expect that a better outcome would have occurred. Of course any Orthodox Rabbi will quote the Torah here if asked. The Torah’s views are not hidden, nor are they unknown. However, I do not know what is achieved by calling such people names as a method to reduce the occurrence of people performing forbidden acts of the Torah.

It is a democracy. That also implies that the Jews of Jerusalem should have a say about the compatibility of the event occurring also in Jerusalem. If the motive is to preach secularism, then it is secularism, not being Gay, that is the issue here. Silent peaceful marches against creeping secularism where Israelis are identifying as nothing different to a non-Jew who lives in Israel (and sees Israel as their secular home country). This may even come to resemble the French Republican model.

It is at times like this, that we need the wise counsel of the lover of all Jews in Israel, Rav Kook. He knew how to ignite the spark of Judaism in Jews who were adopting other isms in Israel and he did so through positive acts. It is time the Rabbis examined their methods of protest and became more advanced in their way of expounding the real basis and foundation for which Jews live in Israel in the first place.

Some will sophomorically claim that this is just the Charedi Leumi section of Religious Zionism, and that they are no different to other Charedim in 90% of their outlook. Rav Kook was a Charedi; there is no doubt about that. One does not have to become a wishy-washy, left-wing, tree-hugging, apologetic Rabbi with a community of people who are lax in increasing numbers, to be qualified to respond to these events.

Unfortunately, our generation doesn’t have a Rav Kook. It doesn’t have a Lubavitcher Rebbe or a Rav Soloveitchik. Apart from Rabbi Sacks who is wonderfully adept at expressing Torah views without causing others to become anti-Torah, we are lacking Rabbinic leaders who understand people, and not only the four sections of the Shulchan Aruch.

How long till we get support for this from “progressive” Reform groups?

Sandra Lawson

Check this out from Times of Israel. [ Hat tip Magyar.]

You’d NEVER get an editorial from the Australian Jewish News on this. Might be a Magid legacy? Maybe newly honoured Jeffery Kamins would comment?

PHILADELPHIA (JTA) — Sandra Lawson didn’t expect to perform a public benediction at her local pub in this city’s Roxborough neighborhood.

But when her friend Jay, who was entering firefighter training, asked her for a blessing earlier this year, she stood with him in the middle of the room and put her rabbinical school training into action.

“Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, please bless Jay on his journey of being a firefighter,” she said, placing her hand on his shoulder. “Come back and have a beer with me.”

For Lawson, a bar is a natural place to create a Jewish ceremony. As a rabbi in training who herself is breaking barriers, Lawson is eager to take Jewish practice outside the traditional bounds of the synagogue.

Lawson, 45, lives at the intersection of several communities while being in a small demographic within the American Jewish world. As an African-American lesbian who converted to Judaism, eats vegan and is now studying to be a rabbi at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Lawson believes American Jews need to rethink how their community looks and where it should congregate.

“Redefining or helping people understand what the Jewish community looks like today is something I want to do,” Lawson told JTA in a vegan cafe where she holds Friday night services.

‘People can deal with a female rabbi, a queer rabbi. But, “Oh, you’re black, too? That’s too much to deal with in one day”‘
“In the US, people can deal with a female rabbi, a queer rabbi,” she continued. “But, ‘Oh, you’re black, too? That’s too much to deal with in one day.’ When you put those identities together, it’s too much to handle.”

Lawson grew up in a military family and, while Christian, wasn’t raised religious. Her first exposure to Judaism came in an Old Testament course at St. Leo University in Florida while she was serving in the Army as a military police officer. Following military service, Lawson became a personal trainer in Atlanta, where one of her clients was Joshua Lesser, a Reconstructionist rabbi and local activist for racial justice. She began attending services at his Congregation Beth Haverim, a synagogue for the LGBT community, and converted in 2004.

Sandra Lawson with her wife, Susan Hurrey. Lawson is due to receive her rabbinic ordination in 2018. (Courtesy of Lawson/via JTA)
Sandra Lawson with her wife, Susan Hurrey. Lawson is due to receive her rabbinic ordination in 2018. (Courtesy of Lawson/via JTA)

She decided to become a rabbi after representing the Jewish community at a LGBT memorial service for Coretta Scott King, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s wife. She realized there that being an African-American Jew could allow her to strengthen connections among communities. She’s on track to graduate from rabbinical school in 2018.

“I was able to help make those connections and build some of those bridges by being someone who wants to be clergy and help build more trust around interfaith stuff,” Lawson said. She wants to get to a point where “when I Google ‘rabbi,’ I see someone other than a bearded white guy.”

(Indeed, when you Google “rabbi,” all you see initially are bearded white men.)

Lawson says “nobody’s been horrible to me,” but she has encountered different challenges to her identity, depending on where she is. At one synagogue, she was standing in a prayer shawl and kippah with a friend when a congregant approached her friend and asked him if she was Jewish.

‘Every community has their own idea of who is a Jew and what does a Jew look like’
“I don’t know anyone who goes to a synagogue, wears a kippah and a talit Saturday morning who is not Jewish,” she said. “Every community has their own idea of who is a Jew and what does a Jew look like. If you don’t fit that framework, they don’t think you’re Jewish.”

Studying last year in Israel, Lawson said she would encounter trouble when visiting the Western Wall. Attendants saw her haircut and told her on three separate occasions to go to the men’s section. Once she had to grab her breasts to show she was a woman.

Diane Tobin, founder of Be’chol Lashon, a group that advocates for Jews of color, says that in many cases, white Jews address race crudely because they lack the language skills to talk sensitively about it. Lawson, she says, “is the embodiment of a younger generation of Jews who have intersecting identities.”

Lawson wants to expand the Jewish conversation in part by taking it outside its traditional setting. She would rather lead services in a park, or address the concerns of Jews and non-Jews in inner cities, than be a full-time pulpit rabbi. Every month she runs a Friday night service at Arnold’s Way, a vegan cafe and health store near Philadelphia, which she begins with a song she wrote based on a verse from Psalms.

‘If you’re going to wait for people to come to your synagogue, your JCC, you’ll be waiting a long time’
Lawson also uses social media and live video feeds to spread Jewish content. On Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, traditionally the days when the Torah is read, she will put out a stream of video content on Snapchat featuring Torah study interspersed with humorous images. On June 16, her thoughts about the weekly Torah portion came after images of her face overlaid with dog ears and her cheeks inflated.

“The model of the synagogue, where you have to pay large dues, pay to come to High Holidays, is not a model I want to duplicate,” she said. “We live in a different world now. If you’re going to wait for people to come to your synagogue, your JCC, you’ll be waiting a long time.”

Lawson’s personal Jewish practice also happens at unexpected places. Because her iPod has pop music interspersed with Jewish liturgy — like “Modeh Ani,” the prayer said upon waking up — she’ll sometimes find herself praying while working out. Because she also plays a zombie game on the device while she runs, things can become confusing. But she doesn’t let that faze her.

“I have the Bee Gees on my iPod, and the next thing is Modeh Ani,” she said. “I’m being chased by zombies and the Shema would come on. It’s Saturday morning, [I’m] wearing a Superman shirt, running, being chased by zombies, and I sing along.”

Jewish LGBTI Youth! – Jews All Diverse & Equal

[hat tip magyar]

I am very reluctant to write this blog post in case I am misunderstood, or if I haven’t understood. We can all be educated, and I would welcome readers to help me understand.

The JCCV considers itself as the roof body of the Jewish Community in Victoria. At the moment, it would seem that one of the biggest issues on its agenda is that there are Jews, undoubtedly good people, who have sexual proclivities which are different to the majority of people. Now, if those people are being discriminated against in the sense that they are excluded from events, activities, meetings involving Jews, or if they are not admitted to Shiurim or lectures, then that would be outrageous. Personally, I have never seen it. Maybe my world is cloistered, however as a University Professor for 3 decades I would say that I have been exposed to all manner of different types of people.

There is a radicalism however that has crept in which is hiding behind the mantra of “sexism”, “equality”, “social justice” and I find it misapplied. Let me give an example which shook me up terribly.

I was giving a lecture about programming colours. One of the algorithms (recipes) I was talking about was how to make a red redder or less red. I like to involve the class (even if there are 200+). So, I looked around the room for people wearing red. I picked out two people and they happily stood up. I asked the class how they would describe the difference between the reds that were being worn by the two students. I noticed that the men, in general, seemed to say “oh, that one is a darker red” or words to that effect. Women on the other hand would say “that is crimson”, “that is wine” etc. In other words, they used a single word, a colour. They seemed to be able to hone in on the colour and give it a name whereas the males in the class would be more adjectival; they would describe things without honing in on a specific colour for a different shade of red.

I made a passing comment, that this was the third time I had noticed this difference in my class between males and females. At that point, one lady near the back stood up and yelled “you are sexist”. I was shocked. She stood up and started to leave the lecture theatre. I asked her to stop and explain, but she went on a rave and left.

When she left the lecture theatre, I have to admit I was very shaken. I don’t like being accused of being sexist especially if it was true. So I asked the  class. The majority of the students said “she’s a weirdo, you aren’t sexist, and neither was your comment”. In fact, as she left the lecture theatre many students booed her.

The student had a “look to her” but I’m not going to describe it as it is not the issue.

When I finished the lecture, I sat in my office, and was so upset, I actually went home and cancelled a lecture I had in the afternoon. I asked many of my colleagues, and they said “she’s just a radical, ignore her”.

This is the reality though that I face, and I therefore claim that I am well aware of current issues as I’m in touch with the young 1st year generation regularly.

Which brings me to a video apparently funded? or sponsored by the JCCV from “minus 18”.

After watching it twice, I was baffled. The messages I got from it were

  • come out and don’t be ashamed to say you are LGBTI
  • if you are LGBTI you can find a connection to some form of Judaism
  • there is a “space” for LGBTI to exist
  • You can be LGBTI and Jewish at the same time. Where there is a will there is a way.
  • You can bat for both sides, and be ex-Chabad

I asked myself what problem was the JCCV aiming to solve? Was it to encourage more people to “come out”? Was it to encourage people to group themselves according to sexual proclivity and then feel that this was a “movement”.

Is this one of the fundamental JCCV problems facing Jews and Judaism?

Compare this with those who assimilate and have gentile children, undergo fake conversions and keep nothing Jewish except Matzah Balls on Pesach. Is the Isla Fisher/Sasha Baron Cohen phenomenon of greater concern than someones sexual proclivities to the JCCV? If so, what are they doing about that.

I asked myself, are we going to have rainbow coloured pews in Shules or Reform Temples and therefore feel wanted and better? Is this akin to the apology to Aborigines which as we all know was a symbolic act that achieved nothing to improve their health and life style challenges.

Maybe more LGBTI folk are now  going to attend synagogue, eat kosher, light shabbos candles, attend shiurim, go to Zionist forums etc?. But who is persecuting (actively or passively) people with variant sexual preferences?

On an Orthodox level. clearly one can’t change Torah, so even Keren-Black of the Reform can’t expect lines of the Torah to be excised or thrown. Traditional Judaism can never give a green light to acts of homosexuality or lesbianism. If reform can, that’s their business. Maybe that’s the answer. LGBTI should go to the Alma Road Temple where all can be re-interpreted.  They seem to be able to accommodate anything with the possible exception of Pork? and say it’s got “new Jewish meaning today”. Come to think of it, why single out Pork? What did Pigs do wrong? Equality demands they be treated like cows in Reform Judaism? They aren’t dirty. Do Reform eat Pork? I don’t know. If not, why not? Happy to try and understand.

Equality and “Social Justice” (the new buzzword) seem to be a religious movement.  It’s a desire. Is there any sense in

  • LGBTI Vegans, or
  • LGBTI Vegetarians, or
  • an LGBTI choolent club, or
  • an LGBTI Swimming Team or
  • an LGBTI Mindfulness group or
  • ….

Someone help me here. I seem to not understand why we shouldn’t also have

  • “Vegans for Judaism,
  • or “Judaism for the Vertically challenged”,
  • or “Judaism for the drug addicted”,
  • ….

with “equal standing” and “no discrimination”.

What am I missing?

And this is a big project from the JCCV?

More people go to the football than identify with their religion (or if you are uncomfortable with that term “Jewish Culture”)!

Maybe set up pop up “religious” services at half time of a Carlton/Collingwood Match at the MCG. Will that bring Jews “back” to their religion, their culture, their history?

I looked up the JCCV web site, and saw Jenny Huppert quoted as follows:

JCCV President Jennifer Huppert stated, “The aim is for a fully welcoming and respectful Jewish community, where Jews of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity participate actively in the community. Everyone must be treated with respect, dignity and equity.”

Who has stopped someone from participating actively because of a sexual proclivity? Where has the wider Jewish community not shown respect? What is the dignity Jenny speaks of? What is equity? Can they not buy seats at Yom Haatzmaut, or in their Shule or Reform Temple?

I’m flummoxed.

Maybe I’m just plain ignorant or too old-fashioned. Whatever the case, someone enlighten me please?

Rabbi Genende’s Drasha on Rosh Hashono

I must admit not hearing about it, but it flew across my desk, and I feel it requires some comments. I reproduce it below, adding my comments.

And every day the world grabs you by the hand and says: “This is important” and “this is important.” “This is where you should be putting your energy” and “This is where you should be directing your priorities.”
No it is the Torah that yanks you by the hand and gives direction to your heart and your hands about what you prioritise and how

And every day you’ve got to yank your hand back and put it up against your heart and say – “No this is important, this is what really counts! I will be guided by my heart, directed by my principles, driven by my faith.”
Actually, it is Shulchan Aruch which does that. In the rare cases, where one doesn’t see how the Shulchan Aruch should direct him, man does not go to his heart, he goes to his Rav Hamuvhak, which in my case is Rav Schachter, Head Posek of the RCA, Rosh Kollel of YU, and Head Posek of the OU. Who is Rabbi Ginende’s Rav Hamuvhak? I am interested to know. I assume it’s not his heart.
Life isn’t just about getting the logic right although clarity of mind and clear thinking are of course critical. It’s about getting your heart and mind in synch.
Is this a Pasuk or a Seif in Shulchan Aruch? What came first, the chicken or the egg. I don’t get it. My heart sometimes tells me A, but Shulchan Aruch says B. The latter is based on logic and clear thinking. Which should I follow?
At the beginning of recorded history Noah stood up, built an ark despite the cynics and sceptics. He was a righteous man, (ish tzadik bedorotav – איש צדיק בדרתיו) a Tzadik for his time and generation.
The Rabbi has seemed to not mention that it took Noah hundreds of years to convince people of the impending flood. The people were depraved. They didn’t listen. Noah Miktanei Amono Hoyo Ma’amin. He believed in even those of little faith. His generation, though, was depraved and if not for this Hero, there would have been no Avraham or Sarah!
Ten generations later the first Jew, Abraham, burst onto the world scene. He too dared to be different.
Yet we are told he used his logic, not his heart. He considered the Buddha’s and idols and inane entities so ridiculous that he SMASHED them in his father’s house. Would Rabbi Genende’s heart allow him to SMASH these today?
He was called an עברי a Hebrew, someone who chose to live on the other side, the word עברי comes from עובר as in מעבר לים on the other bank; He wasn’t transgender but he was a trans-Jew!
Call him a Chabadnik. He went to any corner and opened every door to every Jew and indeed tried to convince the non believer to believe. Guess what? We don’t hear any more of those converted by Avraham and Sarah except that they might have been the Erev Rav? Why is that?
Both were heroes, but it’s Abraham that we are named after, that we remember today in our Torah reading.
We actually descend from Noah’s son Shem. His one depraved son Cham was condemned as a violent animal and the other one Yefes, was the man of political correctness
It’s Abraham not Noah who was the first Jew.
And without Noah, Abraham wouldn’t have existed. Why is that, Rabbi?
He is our founding father, our hero. Abraham isn’t remembered for an ark but for his tent, a flimsy fragile temporary structure open with entries in all directions like a Chuppah.
Source please: Where do we know it was flimsy and fragile? What is this allegory to the Chuppa? Is this poetic license being employed?
There are two ways, two approaches to the world – the way of Noah, the ark-method, building yourself a secure and sealed structure to protect yourself from the wild waves and violent storms out there: It’s a sensible path but one based more on logic of the mind than language of the heart.
There are two approaches that must be taken according to generation and circumstance. Sometimes we must be firm as per God’s command to Noah, and other times we need to enfranchise, but Avraham only did so according to the Sheva Mitzvos B’Nei Noach. Dear Rabbi, did you ever wonder why they aren’t called Sheva Mitzvos B’Nei Avraham? Avraham wasn’t teaching them about Eiruvin. He was teaching them about monotheism
Then there is the way of Abraham, the tent open to and welcoming the winds of change but firmly planted on the ground with a strong tent pole and pegs like a steady moral compass.
So you have gone from a flimsy tent to a strong one with a moral compass. Avraham was certainly known as Midas HaChesed. Are you going to condemn Yitzchak because he was Midas HaYirah? What is your poetic meaning to gentle openly orthodox Abraham ready to Shecht his only son?
An open tent, an open heart and an open mind. Abraham is the model of compassion, he pulls his hands back to his heart. He is a massive intellect but in the end we remember him not for his magnificent mind but his exquisite heart, his creative chesed. 
Open Mind? Are you calling someone who goes into his Dad’s shop and elsewhere, and smashes every modern idol “an open mind with compassion”. Indeed he was. But, when it came to fundamentals, he didn’t dangle his toes in political correctness.
You can insulate yourself in an ark, oblivious to the world and its problems, protective of your own family and the property or you can open yourself to the world out there, embrace it, let it change you as you change it.
The kind of Judaism I believe in has always understood that you can’t stop the winds of change, but as Bob Dylan put it in Forever Young, you can ensure that you have a strong foundation, a firm tent, when the winds of change shift
Pray tell, who was the Rabbinic influence in your life that told you not to withstand the winds of change through the loving Mesora of our generations?
An open Orthodoxy as opposed to a closed one knows what it is to be a global Jew that the world’s problems are our problems that we can’t go on using our planets’ resources as if they were infinite.
Here Rabbi Genende needs to come clean. Is he a member of the Open Orthodoxy movement that embraces various unmasoretic principles and is rejected by the Rabbinic Council of America whose Posek was Rav Soloveitchik and whose Talmid Muvhak is without any doubt whatsoever Rav Hershel Schachter? The RCA has ruled that Open Orthodoxy are not to be admitted in the RCA. Tell us Rabbi Genende where are you in this equation?
We Aussies are almost as wasteful, reckless and feckless in our consumption of natural resources as the Americans. Our footprint is clumsy and large.
Our ingenuity and ability to correct the correctable is also famous.
Oscar Wilde’s acerbic retort could be applied to us – America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilisation between…
You see that as acerbic. Perhaps you should point to the current “infallible” Pope and his communist method of converting to Xtianity. His people slashed our chests with the cross in no less a barbaric way than D’aesh does with its opponents (or friends). That’s far more to the point than Oscar Wilde
We were given this earth לעבדה ולשמרה to work it
Interesting. Who was given that command? Abraham? Nope. His forebears, who you have placed as irrelevant to our times.
and protect and safeguard it for future generations (Genesis 2:15). So remember: Reduce, reuse, recycle and eat less red meat – it’s good for you and your planet.
What is a Rabbi doing telling us to eat less Red Meat? He knows he should eat Red Meat on Yom Tov, and wash it down with fine wine. He also knows that Korbanos were full of red meat. The jury is out on various diets and fads. Rabbis do have a duty to tell us what is not good for us.  חמירא סכנתא מאיסורא but if one’s motive is to modernise, become a vegan?
And open Orthodoxy knows you can’t close the ark against the world’s most pressing global challenge today: The mass displacement of people, the greatest number of refugees since War World 2. All these dreadful images etched on to our collective minds, seared into our consciousness from the lifeless pitiful body of the 4 year old Syrian Kurdish boy Aylan Kurdi washed up on the beach in Turkey, to the chaotic scenes at the at the railway station in Hungary.
This is the only way? Closing the Ark? Rabbi Genende is often pictured with Muftis and Priests. I’d like to know whether he has asked them to take in their people. They have the space, the money and the resources to do so very quickly. Has he? Would he go on the public record as being critical of them for not advocating such? Perhaps he’s not aware of this
I would be taking that message to the tree huggers. I’d also point out this 

They have sparked an intense, important and long overdue debate in Australia about our responsibility to respond to the cargoes of hapless people and to rethink our policies on asylum seekers.
I don’t know, the last I saw Labor was claiming that they stopped the boats, so is the Rabbi advocating for “Israel hating” Greens?
In Australia as across the world the people led the way and our government responded positively. I am heartened by the wave of compassion that has swept the world but the issues are complex, the problem growing and it’s going to take resilience and determination to sustain goodwill and not to suffer compassion fatigue. And to apply the same kind of compassion to those now stranded on Nauru or Manus Island. People of all faiths and ethnicities have to continue to make space for one another, to honour our shared humanity. Fail this and we will have failed one of the fundamental tests of humanity. Fail this and we have failed the command, “Love the stranger because you were once strangers” something close to Jewish hearts.
This is an incorrect translation and I will take it as poetic license to further Rabbi Genende’s political bent
Of course part of the complexity is that a large part of these refuges will be Muslim and while I’m afraid of and oppose a Muslim caliphate fear of all Muslims isn’t a defence. If we are not part of the solution in reaching out to moderate Muslims, of helping integrate Muslim refugees and migrants into our lifestyle and helping find a way to reach young disaffected Muslims, then we are part of the problem. Stereotyping Muslims is as bad as stereotyping Jews. We are after all the “People of the Book”, nuanced readers of reality.
Which part of Sharia is unclear? What percentage is required for you to give them credence. Try this 

I draw strength from the leadership of the ICV, I draw strength from the young thoughtful Muslims I meet, from the young American Muslim leaders leading regular visits to the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem to learn about Zionism and Israel. They assure us it’s not too late; we can still stem the tide of Islamic anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Semitism. I pray they are correct because it’s going to take all the positive good-will and ingenuity we can muster.
You take their assurances. Just like Neville Chamberlain. 

It’s easy to resort to black and white responses but that’s the way of Noah – you are in the Ark or you are outside.
Again the Rabbi seems to have missed the point. Noah was OUTSIDE his ark for hundreds of years more than he was in the ark. I dare say, he was more involved in ICV than the good Rabbi and for far longer. His generation, like ours, the Holocaust generation isn’t ready to have the wool pulled over our eyes by tree hugging political correctness manifestos.
That’s not the way of Abraham who from the beginning of his mission reached out to the world around him, converting and accepting his neighbours while remaining resolute in his pursuit of justice, compassion and righteousness.
Judaism since Avraham has always resisted the easy way – Just as we prefer a twisty Shofar, a כפוף to a straight one. Gimme a twisty curly shofar any time! Give me the long and winding road – a straight line may be the shortest path between two paths but it isn’t necessarily the best way between two moral poles.
Some more poetic esoterica? What has this to do with a Shofar. The best Bris Milah, which Avraham was the first to perform, was short and sharp, in the straightest line. Could you have used that line?
And being straight may be easy and comfortable but it doesn’t mean we reject Jews who aren’t straight but GLBTI.
Kindly define your terms. What does rejection mean? I’ve seen homosexuals getting Aliyos in plenty of Shules. They don’t walk in wearing a rainbow coloured Tallis nor should they need to advertise their proclivity. Do you want your congregants to come in with “I drove to Shule on Shabbos but my Rabbi still loves me” on their tee shirts or should they wear “I ate pork yesterday, but it’s okay, it was before Yom Kippur”. What the heck? What’s wrong with being like everyone else. I don’t ask people about their sexual proclivities especially in Shule. The only people I’ve heard talk about this are raucous ones, none of whom I actually know.
One of the fundamental challenges today is that of the inclusion of GLBTI individuals in the Jewish tent. 
Really. A much BIGGER problem is People going off the Derech, Shabbos and Modern Orthodoxy, and the Shidduch Crisis and the need for Gimmicks in Shule to get people to come because their Jewish Education is vacuous and synagogue based. While I’m at it. Which authority allowed a Shule, your Shule Rabbi Genende to be transformed into a concert hall. Rav Soltoveitchik wouldn’t allow a Chuppa in a Shule because it was unbecoming to Kedushas Beis Haknesses!
Orthodox Judaism has always embraced the traditional and Biblically-based definition of marriage as that between a man and woman; and that homosexuality is forbidden. Does this mean that there is no place for the gay person in Jewish life or for the Orthodox gay couple in the Orthodox community? Is it only Adam and Eve? Is there any place for Adam and Steve?
It’s easy to say – “It’s against the Bible and Judaism, that’s it.”
But you’re comfortable with public shabbos desecration about which the concept of Tinok Shenishba has been well and truly debunked by Rav Asher Weiss in Minchas Asher, quite honestly and convincingly. Do you honestly think people haven’t learned or been denied the lessons of Shabbos. That doesn’t worry you, but Adam and Steve sitting together in Shule? What do I care. There is nothing forbidding it. However, there is al pi Shulchan Aruch, and I challenge you to debate this with me, an absolute prohibition of Yichud between Adam and Steve, as there is for Adam and Eve before they perform Kiddushin. And, as a matter of fact, there is no existential Kiddushin according to either Noah’s laws or Abraham’s laws in respect of Adam and Steve, or Jill and Gill.
It’s a lot harder to say that to a sincere gay individual, to your son who has come out or to your sister who is living in a gay relationship. It’s a fearsome challenge, because if homosexuality is genetically wired as overwhelming evidence suggests how can a caring God demand they go against their nature?
I’m sorry to point out to you that you will not understand God’s way, irrespective of which morality your heart adopts. Furthermore, Rabbi Genende, what would you say if there was some Gene Therapy developed in 10 years time which obviated this “carelessness” of God? God put it there. Would you advocate it’s use to repair the אנוסים?
Indeed it has been suggested that the verse may only apply if the individual is acting out of free choice not compulsion ( אונס).
And that’s not a gun at his head? Please quote your sources?
And we need to recognise the vulnerability of young gay individuals, to affirm their right not to be alone לא טוב היות אדם לבדו , not to be driven to despair and suicide, but to establish loving relationships even as we ask of them and their heterosexual peers to show restraint in the public expression of their sexuality.
Rabbi Soloveitchik understood that Pasuk very differently to you, and he had plenty of cases, just as “cruel” like the Cohen who wanted to marry the convert etc. But, Halachic Man is bound by the Meסorah, and I dare say, Rabbi Genende, so are you. This is what makes the flimsy tent not fly away.
I don’t know why God created us differently and why the Torah decreed homosexuality forbidden. But I do know that the reality of the 21st century is that there are GLBTI Jews, that there are practising Orthodox Jews living in same-sex relationships.
Oh boy, it’s only the 21st century that has publicised this effectively. It’s always been there. If it wasn’t why is one of the Sheva Mitzvos B’nei NOACH
I do know that Orthodox Jews don’t stone sinners today even if they are desecrating Shabbat or committing adultery. In our shule we don’t ask people if they ate the abominable (to’evah) shrimp cocktail or had their name on the Ashley Madison site before we give them an Aliyah.
There are very good reasons for that, and it has NOTHING to do with your Shule. But what are your reasons? Are they halachically based on הוכיח תוכיח את עמיתך or is it a matter of “heart or constitution”.
So who knows what the future holds? Being flippant I could remind you that in the certain states in the USA gay marriage and marijuana were legalised on the same day. After all, Leviticus 20:13: If a man lies with another man he should be stoned. We have just been interpreting it incorrectly all these years…
Fair enough, old joke but a good one
Being serious I would rather err on the side of compassion than be a religious warrior without compunction. I will leave it to God to judge who is right.
Why are you a Rabbi? What morality do you impart to the masses. Are you limited to those parts of Shulchan Aruch that “fit your heart?” I haven’t seen anyone beat up a gay person in any Orthodox Shule by words or even invocation. Why would they? I had a great moral dilemma, but I dare say, I went about it in a different way to you, Rabbi Genende. We had a pedophile on bail in our Shule. I was troubled by his presence, which should have been quiet in a corner awaiting his trial (personally, in his position I wouldn’t have been able to go to Shule, but I digress). I discussed it with the Rabbi and I sensed he found this a “too hard issue” like the one you are grappling with. I rang Rav Schachter, and he said to me immediately, that I had no right to even imply that the eventually convicted pedophile should not come to Shule. He had a CHIYUV to daven like any body else, however, he should be quietly spoken to and asked to come and leave quickly and make himself unobtrusive. Is he also someone you consider an אנוס Rabbi Genende, the DNA may even indicate it. What then?
There is a fascinating Talmudic discussion about whether women can blow the shofar. While the Halachik debate focuses on obligation and responsibility there is another debate going on in Orthodoxy today about inclusion, leadership and spiritual role models.
The debate is within Avi Weiss’s break away group. The RCA aren’t debating the role of Rabats, or whatever you want to call them. They are very clear and their statements freely available.
While the ultra-Orthodox’ s position is generally that Noah steers the ark and Mrs Noah doesn’t even have a name, the Open Orthodox position is look to Sarah. When Sarah fearlessly challenges Avraham and he appeals to God (like many a Jewish husband may be tempted to), God’s response is simple and unequivocal: כל האמר לך שרה תשמע בקולה – Whatever your wife says – goes! (Genesis 21:12)Listen to her voice!
And today across the Jewish world – especially in Israel and USA we are doing just that today. We are paying attention to the learned and thoughtful voices of religious women who are achieving the same and even superior levels of Jewish knowledge to their male counterparts.
And pray tell how you extend this Drush to a Siman in Shulchan Aruch, and which commentators? NON Ultra Orthodox (and here I do mean RCA) couples listen to their wives and Na’ama as the wife of Noach is known.
While the title these women deserve may be debatable – rabbi, rabbah, Maharat – they are taking on positions of religious leadership in shules across Israel, Canada and the USA.
Do me a favour. I have a cousin who is a Yoetzet Halacha. She knows Shas and Poskim very well. She is anti feminist, as was Rav Moshe Feinstein. When she needs she consults with Rav Henkin, who by the way doesn’t approve of Shira Chadasha. Do you approve of Shira Chadasha as Orthodox Rabbi Genende? Would you advocate it being a member of the RCV or whatever new group forms?
There is still a way to go; even YU (Yeshiva University) the bastion of Modern Orthdoxy is opposed to women being ordained in any form.
Really? YU are against Yoatzot? Where did you get that from?
In my mind the debate is not about Jewish law but the power to define and control the franchise of Orthodox Judaism, about women sharing the right to decide on our collective future! I look forward to welcoming these women into Australia and in our Shule, into positions of spiritual leadership.
Well, you’d be well aware of the Rambam on this issue, wouldn’t you. He was very forward thinking. Do you know his wife’s name? I’m sure you are aware that a (male) King can’t give testimony. Let’s seek equality here too?
They are our “Women of Gold” and a women’s reading of Torah and Halacha can surely only enrich and enliven Judaism for all of us.
We have had women Prime Ministers in Australia and Israel, women running for President of the USA, women occupying highest positions in society, from COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg to CEO of Yahoo Marissa Mayer and Susan Wojcicki of YouTube. Surely the time has come for us to embrace women leaders in our Orthodox shules and institutions…after all they will still remain safely behind the mechitza.
The challenge Orthodoxy faces today is will it focus on the small (and laudably) totally committed 10% of the Chareidi ultra Orthodox or will it reach out to the fractured, bleeding majority, the Jews who are marrying out and walking away. It will be judged in the 21 century by how it responds to these challenges. This is not just a challenge for the religiously committed but for you and me – do you want your grandchildren to be and stay Jewish? How and what kind of Jewish?
We’ve also had our Madonna’s and Bar Rafaeli’s and young Ms Clinton and all those who do no service to Jews or Israel. I guess you forgot them, and forgot that Tel Aviv is the capital of the LGBTI World Mardi gras. Can you tell us in plain language whether you are opposed to the holy city of Jerusalem featuring a “Pork eating rights March” or are you governed more by Western Sensibilities than Modern Orthodoxy.
When you open the doors like Abraham and Sarah you let in all kinds of influences, some sweet breezes and some toxic winds. It’s a dangerous path because you don’t always know who you are welcoming in and Lionel Trilling has warned if you become too open-minded your brains can fall out…
But I would take the tent of Abraham any day over the ark of Noah hermetically sealed and separated by high walls from the rest of society, from my fellow human beings.
So when the world comes pulling at me and says: “This is important and this is important” I will definitely and unequivocally pull back my hand, turn it to my heart and say: “No this is important, the kind of heart I have, the soul I am growing is one that is guided by the way of positive passion wider inclusion and recognition, driven by my unerring belief in the God and the truth of Torah of Israel and the rich values we continue to share with the world.”
So I will sow the winds driving through my tent with seeds of love and scatter on them our values of dignity and equality, freedom and family, community and connectedness.
I expect you meant sew. I said enough about this above, but I will remind you that the Torah doesn’t tell us what happened to all those people Abraham and Sarah converted. Did you ever wonder why?

Rabby Benny Lau on LGBT

Rabbi Benny Lau, a cousin of the more famous Lau family, has written an article in the Jerusalem Post which has two glaringly obvious errors.

a) He claims that if a person has a Gay sexual proclivity that this person has no free choice. This is arrant nonsense. The Rambam opens up with people who have “tendencies” inborn and what they should do about them. Never does he claim they have no choice. He suggests didn’t activities.

b) Proclivity does not mean imperative. They are different words with different meanings

c) The Shulchan Aruch clearly PROHIBITS Yichud between two men where there is a high chance of hanky panky. I do not understand how Rabbi Lau didn’t folliow Shulchan Aruch when he proposed “Couple Partnerships” – the Clayton’s Marriage. Does he not see this is Lifnei Iver or Mesayeah L’idvar Aveyroh as well.

d) I do agree that these people should not be subject to any ridicule. At the same time they invite such by forming cloisters which are only for the LGBT movement. I have no problem with Gay people. They are Jews like everyone else.

Rabbi Lau tries to be all things to all people. He ends up not playing the role of Rabbi, populist or commentator. He strikes me as a man torn.

He has failed in my opinion.

Remembering Shira Banky הי’’ד

To refresh memories, this unfortunate 16 year old girl was murdered because she attended a rally. It is true that the rally’s agenda was against the ethic and laws of the Torah, without any question. This is to my knowledge the position of all Orthodox Movements. I would imagine the more right-wing Conservative and Conservadox movements (such as Shira Chadasha) also share this view. Reform of course don’t believe the Torah was the word of God, dictated to Moshe, let alone the primacy of Mesora through Tannoim, Amoraim, Geonim, Rishonim and now Acharonim so it’s undoubtedly not an issue for them.

Shira Banky attended the rally to support the views of a friend. She was 16. I might not agree with Shira’s views and condemn those views with vigour, but the minute feelings translate to violence and in this case an unnecessary murder which created nothing more than more hatred for Orthodoxy, especially Ultra Orthodoxy is there anything more that Orthodox Jews can do to palpably show their distance from despicable murder which is not only against the laws of Israel, they are against the laws of the Torah. Her murderer, Mr Shlissel, is a recidivist. In my view, he should never be released and treated in a home for psychopaths. Apparently a number of Shules have performed the following to express their revulsion at murder “in the name of God”

My thanks to R’ Meir Deutsch for drawing this to my attention. Wouldn’t it be a great expression of regret if every Shule in Melbourne did the same? I call on the RCV to recommend such an action. The picture says it all.

ShiraBanky

More on Same Gender issues

There is an interesting piece in Tablet Magazine where Rabbi Benny Lau, considered a moderate by many, makes a powerful speech.

Like many, I am horrified that anyone should seek to murder another over this (or indeed any other reason except for self-defence). I wonder, though, what his speech would have been had nobody been murdered. He would have needed to “tip toe through the tulips”. Indeed, one wonders whether he would directly answer the question of whether such marches are appropriate in the Holiest City of Jerusalem? Would he approve of these at the Kotel or Har Habayis? Would he speak at a March there?

Make no mistake. I do not conjure hatred or invoke enmity against those with disposition towards the same gender. At the same time, I am completely bound to the Torah prohibition regarding the actualisation of such a disposition. That is inescapable for any Orthodox Jew. Though Rabbi Benny Lau certainly agrees with that, I think he would choose not to mention it. He would have halachic precedent to not mention it. The command to admonish is not in effect:

  1. Where one will definitely not be listened to; and
  2. Unless someone knows “the way” to admonish.

On the second point, many Acharonim say that we do not know the way to admonish any longer. That should not be equated with silence. This post is not silence. In any democracy, the only way to foster love of Torah is to teach authentic Torah according to one’s audience’s level. This is inescapable.

Ironically, Religious Zionists in Israel as opposed to Centrist/Modern Zionists around the world, are far less equipped to deal with the new generation. I have witnessed a profound lack of sophistication in their educational approach. The preponderance of attention to land over people is only partially to blame. The other part is the feeling that they need to strive to be “like” Charedim. There is no need to do so and there never has. One ought not be concerned by what cloistered enclaves choose to do or not do. That is their approach.

One does as the Torah commands, and speaks בדרכי נועם.

As Chacham Ovadya Yosef taught:

אין טעם כלל לזעוק בקריאות כל שהן כלפי מחללי שבת בפרהסיא, הנוסעים במכוניתם בשבת, שהרי בקריאות “שבת! שבת!” כנגדם לא מתקיימת מצות תוכחה, אם מפני שאינם מבינים כלל את דברי הזועק, ואם מפני שחונכו בדרך לא טובה, ועל כן לא השכילו להבין את חומרת הדבר של חילול שבת. וכל שכן אם הם אנשים יודעי תורה, ואף על פי כן הם מרשיעים ונוסעים בשבת, שבודאי אין חיוב כלל להוכיחם

Same gender group in the Jewish Community Council of Victoria

I am implacably against anyone hurling vitriol or discriminating against someone because of sexual proclivity/preference, but my take on such a council as the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) is that groups with sub-philosophies within Judaism are members representing a given approach within a broader philosophic cum cultural definition of Judaism. For example, Bund, Orthodox, Sephardim, Conservative, Reform, Secular Zionist etc

I don’t know how sexual preference defines a sub culture or philosophy of Jews or Judaism per se given it crosses all groups anyway.

They should be afforded full support by the JCCV and indeed the Council of Orthodox Synagogues of Victoria (COSV) in the face of issues which they face, and pastoral/other assistance but their membership extends across the existing sub groups, I would have thought. Services to assist I fully understand and support, but I don’t understand a grouping that defines itself by its sexual preference.

For this reason I don’t understand why they need or want a formal membership separate from existing groups.

As far as Orthodox Shules are concerned, I’ve personally not encountered anyone being called out or excluded or insulted because of a sexual preference. Of course, I stand to be corrected if that has occurred especially in the last ten years.

It comes therefore as a surprise to me that apparently  Caulfield, Brighton, Blake Street, North Eastern, East Melbourne and Kew Shules will all be voting in favor. I imagine the others will either not be present or abstain or go on ‘walk about’. The COSV is pretty much a toothless tiger, and on a matter such as this, they should consult the Rabbinic Council of Victoria as well.

For an Orthodox group(s) I would express disdain for acts which highlight someone’s sexuality and/or take action verbally or otherwise against such people. I think that’s a given in our society. Is it not?

That being said same gender KIDDUSHIN cannot and will not ever be supported by Orthodoxy. That also needs to be made clear, and certainly by Sam Tatarka, Danny Lamm and other orthodox members of the JCCV. There can be no hiding or diplomatic sweeping under the carpet of this axiom  by simply not mentioning it.

Win some, lose some. Chabadnik dons Tefillin on ex-Charedi lady

Some find this funny. For me it epitomises גלות. Here we have a well-meaning boy, who is trying to ignite a spark within Jews. His mode, is that of his Rebbe זי’’ע and that includes igniting the Neshoma through a Mitzvah, the Mitzvah of Hanochas Tefillin.

The only problem is, in this case it was a woman. She had buzzed hair, and to top it off had a strong Charedi broken English accent, full of the usual errors. She obviously enjoyed her moment in the sun of egalitarianism.

I feel sad that she obviously hates her heritage so much, that she is ready to mislead this well-meaning בחור. She’s no daughter of Rashi.

אוי מה היה לנו

Woe unto what we have become

IMG_2800

Same gender marriage

My first point is a Jewish one. Marriage does not equal Kiddushin. It is a civil concept. Were it not a civil requirement for certain privileges, many Jews would simply not be involved in secular marriage.

Kiddushin is well defined. It is JEWISH marriage. On that front, there is no compromise and there can not be a change. The Torah is explicit. Those who find an opening can call it what they like, but it’s not KIDDUSHIN, and anyone who calls it Kiddushin belongs to the Reform movement and is not considered part of mainstream Judaism.

How should Jews then react to the Civil contract of Marriage? I look at these issues through the eyes of Halacha. The Halacha which is germane, is that of B’nei Noach. The reality is that we cannot be seen to be supporting something contrary to the Noachide laws. Those people, however, have free choice. When they live in a union, which they already do, without the civil contract, they are technically in breach, although one wonders whether Tinok Shenishba applies 🙂 I do not think the Jewish vote classifies as Mesayea Lidvar Aveyra or that this even applies because they already do it without the contract.

So, what would I say if asked? I would say that Judaism does not support same gender  marriage contracts. Judaism doesn’t proselytise, and whilst we have our views we recognise that the non Judaic world are governed by the laws of that land. We adhere to the laws of the land, but our personal stance as a religion is that there should be no change. At the same time, we do not support making someone an outcast because of their proclivities. Those are personal matters. We also feel that should the civil concept be legalised, all groupings based on gender preference should dissipate as this only causes animosity.

Shira Chadasha: a confused reconstructionist stream based on human definitions of social justice

There are two ways to approach Judaism: you accept it for what it is, or you consider it a piece of plasticine that you can mould according to a human (or humanistic) philosophy that you already believe in, based on societal values or your own philosophical catechisms.

My feeling, from encounters with some who attend Shira Chadasha services, is that they are more aligned with the latter than the former. Even acceptance of unambiguous Halacha seems to depend on the influence of values and opinions of society in 2015. “It doesn’t matter if the pants don’t fit; we will make them fit.”

We just read Acharei/Kedoshim where the Torah unambiguously and without any prevarication deems the homosexual act by men as an abomination, to the extent that if the Beth Hamikdash was still standing, stoning would have been the punishment meted out. It’s a charming thought in 2015, but that is the fact. On the matter of female homosexuality, whilst not explicit in the Written Law, it was always considered forbidden by the Oral Law based on Egyptian sexual mores which were not acceptable.

Shira Chadasha pin their “orthodoxy” on permissive opinions of Rabbis. No amount of Daniel Sperber or other `academic style’ Rabbis which Shira Chadasha cling to, can with any ounce of historical or societal ‘need’ under the single mantra of ׳תיקון עולם׳ expunge these halachos (to which the אומות העולם are also constrained from the Noachide perspective) and simply will them away, debate them, or place them in a ‘too hard basket’.

Let us not forget the words that follow לתקן עולם in the עלינו prayer : במלכות שקי. If a homosexual asked one of the doyens (I don’t know what word to use to describe the managerial hierarchy in Melbourne) of Shira Chadasha whether they have committed an abomination by having a sexual affair with the same-sex, and the doyen could not or would not say “I’m afraid so”, then the doyen is an halachic fraud. Yes, one can continue with other words, but the Halacha is unambiguous both to Sperber or Mendel Kaplan or anyone they wish to rely on for their new prayer mode.

Yes, there is more than one way to address people who find they constantly sin in this way, or have a predilection which is responsible for such. It is also possible that there  are markers that may predict the predilection, but it certainly doesn’t require some false notion of equality or rights for others to behave like a mensch towards people who were born with such a tendency.

Hungarian Charedim and Litvak types will likely not give an aliya to anyone who sins perpetually, whatever the sin might be. They speak of whether someone is Shomer Shabbos. If not, they will ignore them and consider them as lepers.

I remember at Elwood Shule they used to bring this argument up to Rabbi Chaim Gutnick ז’ל all the time. They would ask him

‘how can you give so and so an Aliya, he drove to shule

What I can tell you is that at the end of the service or kiddush, Rabbi Gutnick used to stay in his office and wait until everyone had left. Only then would he begin walking home. Why? In this way, he never saw anyone openly sin. All he would see is someone coming to shule, and from his perspective, the minute they came to Shule they were at least a בעל תשובה and he had no reason to instruct a Gabbai not to give them any honour. (there were other factors, but let’s not go into that period of history).

The fashionable terminology of our time is ‘social justice’ and ‘equality’. What does that mean in the context of someone’s sexuality? Clearly one cannot treat all equally as some are committing a sin which has absolutely no technical out (unlike the halachic calisthenics used to create the strange creäture that is the Shira Chadasha- anti-mimetic, and a poorly supported stance of a great minority of Rabbis, none of whom are considered broad enough from a halakhic point of view to create the changes inaugurated in the services they have conjured. Now that’s the Jerusalem version where many are quite frum and consistently so. I won’t even go to the Melbourne incarnation which seems to have more holes than swiss cheese.

With this in mind I read about a function that was presumably held in the Shira Chadasha Kiddush

Finding Your Way Out of the Closet
On Saturday, 18 April, Shira is proud to welcome Wayne Green to speak after the kiddush.
His talk will be an exploration of one’s journey through discovering life as a Jewish and Gay man. Navigating how to be connected to the community, to Judaism and one’s self against that which the odds are stacked against.

Wayne Green is a passionate leader and contributor to advocacy and equality for LGBTI rights in the Jewish Community.
Wayne works full time in the State government in management in client services. Wayne also works in the evenings doing early detection and prevention for HIV in the wider Melbourne community.
Wayne is also the Founder of JAG Melbourne (Jewish and Gay), which is a social group in Melbourne connecting young Jewish LGBTI adults.
JAG provides a range of social activities as well as community advocacy, education and engagement for inclusion and acceptance of diversity.

Diversity Statement
At Shira there is a respectful and welcoming attitude towards those who form minority groups in our society. Therefore, Shira seeks to find ways of understanding our texts and traditions in order to give full dignity and equality to all LGBTIQ Jews. Shira supports the ‘No to Homophobia’ Campaign

Firstly there are no “rights” for LGBTI in the Jewish Community anymore than there are rights for Pork eaters or Sabbath breakers. What are these rights? To be considered as if they are not committing acts which the Torah explicitly calls an abomination. It doesn’t matter what type of tree hugging ‘Diversity Statement’ one creates with an 11th commandment, an abomination is an abomination and cannot be willed away by cutely worded and beautiful statements.

What is the advocacy that they wish to allow on their premises? How does abomination equate to acceptance of diversity and equality. Why promote JAG ? Is there a need to also have a group of ‘Jewish Thieves’ and give them rights and social activities? In Poland, there really was a Shule of Thieves. I kid you not. That was their profession. Before the war, the Gabbay was Hersh Feivel Gottfried and his wife was known as Channa der Fresser. She being a lot taller than Hersh Feivel, forced him into high healed boots. On Shabbos, they did not steal. They had the best Kiddush/lunch in Warsaw. As soon as Havdalah was made, they began pick pocketing continuing their profession.

What has this to do with sexuality? If someone is Orthodox, then they know there are two sides of the ten commandments, there are also Mishpatim and Chukim, but above all they SUBMIT to the will of Halacha as the authentic expression of Judaism. They don’t go on some journey re-interpreting texts to make an abomination an equality of diversity.

Now, I have a number of acquaintances who are gay; others who eat pork and are married to non Jews, and one who is married to a self-proclaimed non-Jewish witch! I treat then with the same hello as I treat anyone else, and in fact the most recent homosexual who has had two IVF boys from his ‘marriage’ to another male felt that I showed him no disrespect to the extent that he bought me a bottle of wine when he left the work place. He had no problem coming to my office and chatting about the problems of bringing up his two ‘sons’. As uncompromising as I am about forbidding “white out” to be used on a Torah, I can and do still treat people as human beings.

There is, however, no place for the institutionalisation of abomination, groupings based on abomination, or even Jewish public rights in this regard. If I am a compulsive liar, I don’t create a Jewish liar’s group and expect equal rights because they find a part of my DNA which indicates a proclivity to tell untruths.

I do understand Shira Chadasha’s support for such meetings and talks. Perhaps it will morph in time to giving Reviii to a homosexual to make them feel ‘wanted’ and they will say that this is how they will convince a person not to sin. We all sin, and all have strong tendencies. Why make an issue of this one? Why offer a platform for sin? Does it really need to be highlighted?

There is another way. Have a weekly Shiur in Mussar, Jewish Ethics and learn about desirable character traits and perfecting one’s own personality. There is no need to promote a talk in the same way as a boxing match.

I don’t know Wayne Green. If I met him, I do NOT need (or want) to know that he is an habitual sinner of type a, b, c or d. That’s none of my business. It also should not be important for Wayne to promote himself as such anymore than Hersh Feivel Gottfried or Channa der Fresser should wear t-shirts saying “THIEF”. I’m unaware of where the Rambam or any one of that ilk advises that one should publicise their problems and demand acceptance of abomination while being stoned.

It all sounds like at best temporal tree-hugging feel good stuff and at worst a dilution of Judaism where abomination is somehow translated into תיקון עולם or social justice and where these do gooders can be the only ones to make an “understanding parade” out of sinning and still include it in the rubric of Halachic Judaism.

I think they may have the wrong address. Alma Road and Temple Beth sounds like a reform place where you can make a blessing over anything that goes. Orthodox Judaism does not have those degrees of freedom. Period.

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.

A sensible start to Mikva reform

Dear Mispallelim,

Due to our concern for the safety of children, the Mikva will not be available for any children under 18 years old. This applies whether or not they are accompanied by an adult. Failure to adhere with this rule will result in the closure of our Mikva.

Mispalelim should remain cognizant of their responsibility to ensure their children’s safety. Parents are reminded to supervise and ensure the safety of their children while in our Chabad House

We would like to take this opportunity to again convey our unequivocal recommendation that anyone who has been abused, knows someone else who was abused or has concerns about inappropriate behaviour of an individual, should report it to the police immediately. If for any any reason, the individual is apprehensive about contacting the police directly, s/he may feel free to report it to myself or Rabbi Shmerling who will then pass on the information to the police, as we have indeed done recently.

With wishes for only good in the future,

Rabbi Y. Gutnick
Chabad House of Caulfield

I would say this is a proper position based on

  1. עת לעשות לה׳ הפירו תורתיך
  2. It’s a Middas Chassidus, which is outweighed by the scourge
  3. Some Poskim hold that a shower is a Mikva (for a male)
  4. They can get sound חינוך that they can’t go because of potential danger until they are older.
  5. It’s not a Chiyuv today anyway but a good הנהגה

Same gender marriage

I was reading the Australian Jewish News, and I noted a letter from my cousin, Rabbi Yaron Gottlieb. In that letter, Yaron argued that whilst the Torah explicitly forbade homosexual acts, it said nothing about marriage.

I’m not too sure what to make of his statement. Yaron isn’t a Karaite, who only follows Torah SheBichsav, sans the Mesora of Torah Shebaal Peh. Accordingly, I must assume that he either heard this opinion from his Rabbis/Poskim or that he was Moreh HoRaah himself on this issue. The final possibility is that he isn’t saying anything at all regarding his opinion on that matter, rather, he was simply point scoring on a technicality.

If it is the latter, there is no more to say. I find such a response hollow and unenlightening as far as practice is concerned.

The other possibility is that he has a Psak which he relies on, as above, which concludes that there is no issue of marital union alone sans the homosexual act. If this is the case, I call upon Yaron to name the Posek. If it Yaron himself, then a learned Tshuva written by him, should be constructed and sent to the Poskim in Gush, or perhaps R’ Yehuda Herzl Henkin, men with a Bar Samcha for Psak on such important issues.

From my non-Rabbinic point of view, the Jew who finds themselves attracted to the same gender, is forbidden to be alone (Hilchos Yichud) with a person of the same gender. This is a clear Torah She Baal Peh in the Shulchan Aruch. That being the case, the formality of a union ceremony can only logically be seen as a contributor to such events as opposed to a fence which might help someone with such desires from acting on those desires. It is Lifnei Iver, or perhaps M’Sayeah LiDvar Averya? I think the former. It’s not as if there are oodles of Orthodox Rabonim who would perform a “marriage union” of this variety.

I think it’s time for Yaron to come clean. Tell us exactly what you believe is permitted and not permitted according to Orthodoxy, in this domain, and name your sources. Please ensure your Psak has been agreed to by a recognised experienced Posek. This means someone who has also done Shimush, and Yodin Yodin.

If, on the other hand, Yaron is referring to non-Jewish unions, then I’d suggest that perhaps we could go back to Sodom or Charan, and find out if they needed to formalise such unions before engaging in the forbidden act, or whether there was no such formalisation.

Yes, marriage is not Kiddushin. However, the legitimacy ascribed to such, cannot be something which will aid the couple to avoid sin, surely!

Ask your Posek and report back

It is my strong halachic opinion (I am not a posek, and my comments are not LeHalacha and not L’Maaseh) that any male who is (also) attracted to the same gender, should be absolutely forbidden to go to the Mikvah, other than in exceptional circumstances where it is necessary and only then, when they are the only person in the Mikvah, and supervised from outside, to be so (in a quiet tzniusdik way so as not to embarrass)

Ask your Rav for his Psak on such a matter. Point out that Shulchan Aruch already wrote that it is forbidden to stay alone (Yichud) with a male, if there is a concern that they have proclivity towards same gender attraction. Your Rav may not want to reveal his name (everyone seems to want to go under the radar today) but I’d be interested to know what your Posek, anywhere in the world, feels is the Halacha for someone in the class above.

(If Mikvaos are re-architectured, things may change. I’ve argued they should be)

Is this how we should relate to a Ben Noach?

I have a colleague. He is a homosexual. I didn’t know for over 15 years. I wasn’t close to him. He was about 10 years younger than me. Several years ago, he “came out of the closet”. I had just merited having our first grandson born, and there were pictures all over my office. He popped his head in one day, and said (like most staff)

“Don’t tell me you’ve had another kid, how many is that now?”

After explaining that despite my youthful countenance, I wasn’t engaged in that particular pursuit any longer, he suddenly volunteered that he had just had a baby as well. I congratulated him. Asking how the birth had been,  mentioning that I had no prior inkling that he was expecting a child (so to speak). He nonchalantly stated that he and his husband  were ecstatic. Obviously I showed no untoward outward reaction. He was comfortable enough in my responses. After further questioning he seemed happy to engage me in conversation about this personal topic. I even went as far as to ask him how he and his boyfriend/partner decided on which sperm was to be used with the donor egg (that was then carried by a different mother). Did they toss a coin?

Time went by. Pictures of my grandson, and then baruch hashem another grandson were updated on my office wall. He’d pop his head in, and we’d chat about kids, and colds and tempers etc

At no time did I sense that he was uncomfortable with me, despite him knowing that I was visibly Orthodox and (hopefully) acted that way.

Oh, if you are thinking, this is a “you are so special, isaac” story; keep reading.

Recently, he and his so-called husband had another child. He cheekily told me that he was taking maternity leave! I giggled and said that our current boss (very conservative) wouldn’t know what to do with the application, and would probably gag.

Last week he returned from leave, said hi, and as he left my office I started to wonder, whether I was doing the right thing? He told me he had been at a place full of Israelis who were also obtaining babies (not necessarily homosexuals) through this surrogate method, and they had invited him for Pesach, and that he didn’t think much of Maror …

Should a Ben Noach feel that comfortable talking about such things with a frum Yid? Should I feel comfortable simply being civil and non-judgemental? I certainly had nothing against him on a personal level. On the other hand, the act of homosexual sex is abhorrent in the extreme, and I recoil innately  at the very thought. There is also the modernistic view which goes hand in hand with the fakers who call themselves “Jewish Tikun Olamniks” that one should never be judgemental.

Perhaps I’ve become too soft cuddly and socially left in my older age, I don’t know. I guess it’s also a symptom of living in two worlds that should be one.

I wonder if I have any Halachic obligation to behave in a particular way here? Is זניפה going to achieve anything?

Murderous mengele: another Melbourne conjunction

We have all regrettably heard about the infamously cruel and barbaric Nazi murderer, (Dr) Josef Mengele, ימח שמו וזכרו. This low-life “drew a line on the wall of the children’s block 150 centimetres (about 5 feet) from the floor and children whose heads could not reach the line were sent to the gas chambers”.

In Melbourne, we know that the Weiss sisters, Eva and Marta were subjected to Mengele’s experiments and have retold their stories. They were not alone.

The purpose of this blog post is to retell a story that has not (to my knowledge) been told. I know the story because a Doctor of a particular survivor recently related it to me. The survivor had submerged the experience throughout his life and had only shared it with his wife and the Doctor. He related his experience to the Doctor because of the oath of confidentiality meant that it would stay a secret. The survivor’s directive was that it remain confidential until he passed away. Sadly, the survivor is no longer with us.

This survivor, let’s call him Kadosh, was sent to Auschwitz. Like others, he stood precariously between life and death. Unlike others, however, his face was recognisable. He had been a World Champion in a certain sport, and had competed at the Olympic Games. The Nazi guards recognised him immediately, and considered that it would be a good idea if Kadosh taught them the finer parts of the sport. Kadosh was, after all, a world-renowned expert. Jews were just disposable commodities, and this one had some extraneous value. It would enrich their leisure time.

And so it unfolded. Kadosh was training the guards and improving their game. This kept him alive. The arrangement continued until one day, the dreaded Mengele eyed Kadosh. Kadosh wasn’t a twin and had no particular interest to Mengele from a “medical” or “anthropological” perspective. No, perhaps unknown to many, Mengele was a molester, a molester of young males. Mengele took a liking to Kadosh, and each day sexually forced himself on Kadosh. This was another example of the self-contradictory nature of the “superior race”. The Nazis persecuted homosexuals, and yet, for his own sick sexual gratification, the murderous Mengele, hypocritically and perversely “gratified” himself by repeatedly raping Kadosh in his office.

Kadosh was also given other duties. I won’t describe them here for a number of reasons.

There was a period of two weeks when Mengele didn’t force himself on Kadosh. One day, in front of the officers, Kadosh had enough and resisted by cursing Mengele, and telling him “Go kiss my backside”. Mengele instructed the officers to give Kadosh a beating that he would not forget but to make sure that Kadosh didn’t die. When he recovered from the beating, Mengele resumed raping Kadosh.

Kadosh eventually immigrated to Australia and married. His wife moved to an old age home after Kadosh died. She only had one wish which she relayed to the same Doctor

Please, when I die, make sure they don’t bury me in a white casket”

The significance of a white casket is like that of a white bridal dress. It signifies a certain virginal purity. Alas, Kadosh had never been able to physically consummate his marriage. Kadosh was affected for life. His wife silently accepted the life-long psychological curse that transformed her husband into a virtual eunuch.

Kadosh’s wife wasn’t Jewish.

The story shook me up and once more infused me with perspective. Next time you are feeling low, think of Kadosh and his “life”. Think of the lady that looked after him all those years. In fact, think of him at other times, too. It’s the least we can do.

The parameters of social responsibility

Companies need to abide by the law and should follow a moral and ethical line even beyond the law when dealing with their employees. However, companies should never ever be in the business of making social comment, especially when it involves matters such as whether same gender marriage is appropriate. Is this Apple or Microsoft’s domain? I am quite disturbed when they attempt to set a legislative agenda by doing so. Yes, I am aware that the business savvy among you will say they don’t really care, all they want to do is ensure that homosexuals and lesbians are attracted to their products and “feel good” about the company. There are limits to this brazen business agenda.

Read the report here.

Small community, small minds, big actions

There is a story in the Jerusalem Post about the City of Amsterdam firing its Chief Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag. The Ralbag family are very famous. They are big Talmidei Chachamim and oversee the controversial Triangle K Hechsher, which is not widely accepted.

Rabbi Ralbag signed onto a statement that homosexuals have an inclination that “can be modified and healed.” There is no doubting that they have an inclination towards the same gender. It appears though that Rabbi Ralbag aligning himself with a view that suggests that this can be modified is considered both disrespectful and irritating to the extent that he can no longer function as the Rabbi of Amsterdam.

This is not my area of expertise, nor do I imagine that it is Rabbi Ralbag’s area of expertise. There are, however, respected practitioners such as Dr Elan Karten, who tend towards that view. I haven’t got any insight into the veracity of the claims. As expected, the politically correct in Amsterdam have jumped and howled and sacked their Rabbi because he is seen as disrespectful.

He apparently apologised if his comments hurt anyone, but I’m not sure what his hangable offence was. Perhaps there was something more offensive in the document he signed? That document has an “Agudist” tinge to it, as witnessed by the signatories. Certainly, I prefer the RCA’s position. It is more constructively written. I would have preferred to sign the RCA version myself, but I don’t agree that Rabbi Ralbag should have been sacked.

Different gender homophile marriages

There has been recent news and commentary about the organisation known as “כמוך”. This organisation seeks to provide a range of support mechanisms for those with a proclivity towards homophillia. The group advertises itself as belonging to Orthodox Judaism. R’ Haskel Lookstein wrote:

“I can’t change Jewish law, but the way one thinks about it has to change. There is something very sensitising about hearing from Jews who are shomrei mitsvot in just about every way, except for conformity to the halakha of sexual behavior, and are struggling with that tension. I wasn’t aware of the depth of the struggle before”
(cited in Debra Nussbaum Cohen, “The ‘Trembling’ Phenomenon,” The Jewish Week, November 9, 2001 )

כמוך have sought Rabbinic approbation for marriage between males and females both of whom have homophile tendencies. It would seem that, reading between the lines, those Rabbis who have expressed support for this association, would prefer to do so on a case-by-case basis, as opposed to a blanket פסק דין permitting or forbidding this practice.

Not having any idea whether such marriages of “accommodation” (I can’t think of a different way of describing them) can help change orientation, I’m not sure what the halachic basis for permitting יחוד of this variety between two people who don’t actually love each other. Technically, though, they are married, and I guess one only needs to separate from another person if one doesn’t like the person, so I guess the reasoning is “sound”. Love would does not seem to be a precondition for enabling יחוד let alone קידושין?

Either way, the innovation sits uncomfortably with me even if on a pure techno-halachic scale, it’s not forbidden. It sits uncomfortably because I can’t see it as part of the halachic norm. I can’t see קידושין as being constituted by such. I can’t imagine this to be the familial structure mandated and encouraged by the תורה. It’s not a פלגש; even from a more urbane lusty level. In the end, though, at least there is an attempt to deal with the issue and not sweep it under the proverbial carpet.

One assumes that the motivation of a Rabbi who would permit this is:

  • to lessen the chance that a forbidden act is committed
  • to induce, if possible, a reorientation of gender attraction

It is interesting that it’s mainly the Religious Zionist Poskim who are involved in this. I surmise that this is because they are the Israeli quasi equivalent to a Centrist Orthodoxy that doesn’t recoil from the world.

Rabbi Chaim Rapoport, who wrote a book on the general topic, states

[E]ven proponents of conversion and reparative therapy acknowledge that in many cases such therapy can, at the very most, help the individual in his pursuit of celibacy, but would not enable him to embark upon a potentially viable marital union. Furthermore, even one of the greatest optimists about the success of sexual reorientation therapies, (Orthodox) Dr. Joseph Berger, acknowledges that “even under the best of circum- stances, with highly motivated, suitable patients, the success rate is between 30 and 50 percent”. Consequently, we may conclude that it is almost universally recognized that people of exclusive and apparently unalterable orientation do exist in a significant number (p. 24).

See also the Tradition article which quotes R’ Aharon Feldman of Ner Yisrael:

Judaism looks negatively at homosexual activity, but not at the homosexual nature. Whatever the source of this nature, whether it is genetic or acquired (the Torah does not express any view on the matter), is immaterial. . . . Accordingly, a Jewish homosexual has to make a commitment to embark on a course where he will ultimately rid himself of homosexual activity. It is not necessary that he change his sexual orientation (if this is at all possible), but that he cease this activity. It is obvious that for many people this [cessation of homosexual activity] will be difficult, and will have to be accomplished over a period of time. But it must be done and it can be done.

One can only hope that Halachic life and life in general becomes easier for those facing these difficult challenges.