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.

Rabbi Riskin has unfortunately crossed the line

[hat tip BA]

I am shocked at the latest pronouncement of Rabbi Riskin. The things we should all agree with are:

  1. We should show compassion towards someone who has non heterosexual desires/tendencies.
  2. We should treat all Jews with respect, including during their attendance and participation at Shule.
  3. We should not be in the business of being God’s Policemen by determining who does and who does not have tendencies; it is none of our business.
  4. The Torah forbids non heterosexual forms of intimacy (it is Rabbinic in the case of females according to many).
  5. There should not be fashioned  Minyanim of solely Heterosexuals and as a corollary there should not be fashioned Minyanim of solely Homosexuals. All should daven together.
  6. There is no evidence that the prevalence of Homosexual tendency is more so today than it was in past history.
  7. The Torah refers to the Homosexual act as a תועבה. The Torah does not delineate different types.
  8. Science has not unearthed a new reality in respect of non heterosexual tendencies or their aetiology. We do not say there is a “new reality” viz נשתנו הדורות.
  9. It is true that if person is an אונס, that is,  they are threatened into committing an עבירה, that the Torah does not consider the act as a wanton sin, but rather a forced act for which one is not punished.
  10. There is no link to my knowledge, in Torah SheBaalPeh, to indicate that a person’s proclivities ought be considered as an אונס. There is no מקור to state that non heterosexual activities are divided into two categories:  תועבה and non תועבה!
  11. To create a new understanding of an ancient prohibition, albeit wrapped in a concept (אונס) is creating a new Torah SheBaalPeh without any rights thereby.
  12. I would consider such a qualification beyond the pale, and something one would ordinarily hear from open orthodoxy or conservatives.
  13. I call upon the Tzohar Rabbinic Assembly to call an urgent meeting to decide on the continued membership and role of Rabbi Riskin given these statements. (It is a great pity that Rav Lichtenstein ז׳ל is no longer with us; he would have played an important role).
  14. Rabbi Lamm’s 1960’s view that “the warped family background of the genuine homosexual is considered אונס, the homosexual act may possibly lay claim to some mitigation by the Halakhah” is not considered a normative current explanation for the “source” of homosexuality. Current secular scholarship describes homosexuality as a reality rather than a “condition” that is caused by nurture.
  15. The Rambam identified that people may have certainly proclivities which may lead to sin. The Rambam suggested that these proclivities be channeled to permitted activities. For example, someone who had a tendency to violence/blood letting, should instead become a Shochet.
  16. I call upon the Chief Rabbinate to distance themselves from Rabbi Riskin’s views and to take action that they deem appropriate.
  17. I call upon any Diaspora Rabbi who subscribes to Rabbi Riskin’s opinion, to reconsider their membership of the Orthodox Rabbinate.
  18. Commitment ceremonies have no source in Torah. According to the Vilna Gaon they would be Biblically prohibited as חוקת העכום.
  19. Where someone has such tendencies, Shulchan Aruch explicitly proscribes יחוד contact; the Dinim of יחוד are a reality that are being ignored by most writers on this topic! I do not understand why they gloss over חזל!

Rabbi Riskin’s pronouncements have already led to Steven Greenberg penning an article of excited support. This is hardly surprising.

I close with the immortal words of Rav Chaim Brisker (Soloveitchik) ז׳ל

“נעבאך אן אפיקורוס איז אויך אן אפיקורוס’’

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.