The dust-up has still not settled. More and more slander comes out, and I don’t want to lend a hand to the disgrace. This has two reasons.
Firstly, I’m not looking for being co-responsible for the terrible sin of spreading lies, exaggerations, gossip about a Jew, an Orthodox Jew, a faithful rabbi, a community leader, a Cohen for no constructive purposes. Rather, the attacks seem at least partly rooted in jealousy and narrow-mindedness, augmented by unfounded malicious suspicion and an inability to hear what actually was said and to think clearly.
The Sages teach us that when a righteous person attacks a wicked person, G‑d sides with the victim, wickedness notwithstanding (Midrash Yalkut Shimoni to Ecclesiastes 3:15; Ecclesiastes 4:1). How much more so should we be careful not to abuse innocent people! I prefer to side with the A’lmighty and not participate in the public lynch.
Secondly, my guess is that the accusers one day – hopefully sooner than later – will come off their high horses, but it’s hard to get out of the tree one climbed in for all to see. By not spreading all this angry harassment, I hope to contribute to them repenting more easily without losing too much face.
I hope it will suffice to quote UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis who called on all those concerned “to approach this issue with all due sensitivity and dignity” — without rehearsing again and again all the bad mouthing.
Authenticity versus Obedience
Orthodox Judaism seems to happen where obedience and authenticity meet. That’s a very uneasy meet since obedience seems to imply giving up on what you want and authenticity to do exactly what you want. Some people solve such a dilemma by giving up on what they want or on what they should, while pretending they’re still on board. Fortunately there are more-honest solutions.
I will just be sharing what I know as an Orthodox Jew — I have not much information from other religious viewpoints. As in Hebrew, I use exclusively the male pronoun for G-d, which there does not have the same sexist connotation as normally in English.
Judaism teaches that G-d is all-powerful, but He does not want to force compliance with His Will. Rather, He gave humans the ability to obey.
However, we are not born slaves or poodles. We each have an inborn unique way of seeing things – and our need for autonomy. That often makes it difficult to obey Him because that means to paddle against our current to be autonomous.
With that endeavor, we become virtuous, and His whole purpose for Creation was to have something to bestow His generosity on. Gifts are appreciate better when they are earned, so He lets us sweat for it, so that His giving is enhanced. (We can’t know why He didn’t create beings who would enjoy freebees most.)
Yes, there is Evil (needless suffering) and much nonsense has been proclaimed about it, even by smart and knowledgeable people. Rabbi E.E. Dessler brings that suffering during carrying out His Commandments makes His reward come out a 1000-fold! So here again, things are set up well for the long-term Plan.
Still, many devote their lives to normalcy and conformation because they have been intimidate and surrendered their authenticity out of sheer fear. Yet, when we are honest, we would admit that living just trying to please others makes us fakers and unhappy, and the best of us try to be real and honest anyway, or at least only pretend conformation to outside norms and bullies.
This “solution” to fake it does not work for pleasing our conscience and G-d since He’s also all-knowing. He knows perfectly well when we abandon our loyalty to Him and just do as we please. What can be done about that?
We are built with a desire to do whatever we want. But the One Who wants us to walk in His ways always, He is not an early king. G-d lacks nothing; He needs nothing from us. All His demands on us are for OUR sake, our wellbeing! That’s, I guess, why G-d is called all-good.
Now, if someone would force us to do what we want do, that would still not make us happy. We’re standing under the wedding canapé and the second we want to do the ring business, someone storms in and screams: Do the stuff with the ring or I kill you; that does take the fun out of the moment, a bit, no? However, G-d doesn’t force us. He demands and commands, and we still may refuse, Heaven forbid. (Free Will is an issue I’d love to expand on, another day.)
So this way there is no fundamental contradiction between G-d being in charge and a potentate and His subjects having Free Will and wanting to be free.
Distinguishing Faithful and Rebellious Leaders
Religion is fed from the past, Science from the future. Science is an avalanche of discoveries, and updating is the life force of Science. Judaism is like the circles from a stone thrown in a still pond, that spread out and lose momentum, and conservation is the life force of Judaism.
That doesn’t mean that Science welcomes every new thing uncritically. Einstein lived more than 50 years after coming out with his Theory of Relativity and nevertheless never received the Nobel Prize for it, because it was after half a century later still deemed too controversial! It also doesn’t mean that Judaism rejects innovation altogether. The world changes and Judaism needs to face change and respond to it. However, for sure it will go with the fads, firstly because it believes that no matter how much change there will be, people do not fundamentally change and so does not G-d’s Advice to His subjects.
Judaism has always profited from leaders who thought for themselves and suffered from leaders who wanted to rebuild Judaism in too-novel ways that threw Moses out with the rush basket. It’s like giving servants the keys to the royal treasury. They could faithfully guard what is there and only take out what the Ruler would agree to, or they could take off with more wealth than they could carry, merely for their own lazy comfort.
Leaders who just follow the well-trodden paths are mostly redundant at best and stifling at worst. But leaders who’s innovative thinking loses all bearing stop passing on Judaism. Let them start their own religion if they don’t like Judaism anymore.
So by necessity, we have many rabbis — and I say this with the greatest amount of respect — who are brilliant, but their thinking is kind of stale. Whenever they do not know enough — and Judaism is vast — they compensate by saying: no-no-no. They are needed and do great work, but can never be our greatest until they learn more, and relax a bit.
And then we have leaders with vision and fresh thinking, often making many in the traditional masses and leaders nervous but delighting others. How can we know which sparkling leader is really leading and which is leading us astray?
There seem to be three main criteria:
- Innovative kosher thinking must ideally be rooted in the Tradition. If it’s unconnected we may have a problem (Huston). Leaders and Teachers are problematic for Judaism if they say that they suddenly realized that Shabbat only means: take a break. Castles need fundaments; building castles in the air is not building.
- Innovative kosher thinking must not contradict the Tradition. If it’s contradictory we have a problem (Huston). Leaders and Teachers are problematic for Judaism if they say that they suddenly realized that pigs can be kosher food for Jews too. A house that you can’t connect to the grid, the water supply, sewage, and internet is not a house.
- Innovative kosher thinking must not contradict Reality and the true findings of Science. (No need to accept Scientific philosophy and speculation.) If it’s contradictory we have a problem (Huston). Leaders and Teachers are problematic for Judaism if they say that they do not recognize gravity since that’s just an invention of heretics. A virtual building is not a building.
The fear and danger of having a rabbi who thinks too far outside of the box is understandable and real. However, to purge someone from the Jewish community, he must teach things that are problematic in one or more of the three above ways. You can’t just question the properness of a rabbi if he only acknowledged something real, or highlighted a consequence of an old ruling – or for a slip of the tongue.
And then there is just one more aspect that may dictate if something is kosher or not.
- Judaism is mainly perpetuated from generation to generation through action and inaction. Jewish Law sets standards by which to live, while directions and implications for thinking are few. (Once we resolved beyond doubt that we want to give charity of a certain amount it’s binding. Idol worship only in thought is even forbidden. And so is being intimate with your spouse while fantasizing about other people.) But generally, thought is left free in Judaism. The craziest ideas have taken their place somewhere in the Talmud or other holy Jewish texts. Thinking outside of the box may save you; but acting outside of the box may cut you off.
So, Orthodox rabbis who say: I love Women’s or Gays’ Lib may make us nervous, but they are entitled to their opinion. They might have a good reason for saying so and it might be worthwhile to hear them out. But it’s a different ballgame altogether when a rabbi says: Down with the halachic distinction between men and women. He has or should leave the fold.
Jewish Law Forbids all of Homosexuality
Today’s Jewish Law forbids homosexual men any form of sexuality for all their lives. This is not just hard (much of Judaism is hard) — this is humanly impossible and unhealthy.
I will account for and specify how Orthodox Halachah forbids all sexuality to all Jewish homosexual men all their lives, as I just claimed. Feel free to skip this subchapter if these details would be too gruesome a read for you. There is no happy ending in this piece as I describe a wrong. The only positive point is that I expose and denounce it. Here we go – it’s quite a ride. (For brevity, I left out women’s aspects. Most of the halachaic problems are for homosexual men, not women.)
Halachah says that a normative mixed-sex married couple can have sex almost any way that pleases them — it does not need to be able to lead to pregnancy to be kosher. (The main restrictions, besides nida, are directing the couple to connect between themselves, so: it has to be done in privacy, fantasies should only be about the people present, neither can be drunk, they can’t do something that grosses them out just for the other, etc. And the husband is obligated to give his wife sexuality that she is entitled to: that she likes. There are more details, but those are the general ideas.)
Same-sex couples do not have such freedoms. Any form of sexuality between two men is forbidden, though intercourse is more grave than other intimate activity. (Some people think that sexuality is only or always intercourse. This obsession does not cover Orthodox Jewish sexuality, regardless man/woman and man/man couples – and woman/woman couples definitely.) And not just sexual climaxing is forbidden to homosexual men in any way.
Between two men, anything that normally in the end easily could lead most homosexual men or these particular men to get to ejaculation and/or intercourse is also forbidden (this is called kirva – kirva is Hebrew for closeness, but the meaning is getting closer to a sexual sin, not closer to a person), even when it will not or did not get to that in the end.
Therefore, between men who could find this erotic, strictly forbidden are the kirva of: seclusion with another man, (listening to) singing, dirty talking, fantasizing, sizing up body features, (looking at) dancing, perfuming, exposing too much skin, touching, kissing, caressing, wrestling, horsing around, hugging, massaging and the like, and also platonic sleeping or eating together, one nursing the other, anything that feels intimate.
The rabbis are largely silent about this (try to find English sources for this! See also below), but this is all strictly forbidden. There are only differences of opinion about how deep the prohibitions go: Rabbinic, from Moses, Torah, etc. All Orthodox rabbis are held to believe that all of this is forbidden. (Some rare Orthodox rabbis have questioned this Halachah, mostly behind closed doors, but not changed it. So far, no Orthodox Posek = halachic decider) ever agreed to change this or even hinted to be thinking about changing any of the above.)
Homosexual men’s only kosher outlets are: nocturnal emissions and sexual dreams, especially when not provoked by prior actions while awake.
The above contains no stringency whatsoever – this is normative basic Orthodox Halachah. The listed prohibitions are true for unmarried other-sex pairs as well (as Rabbi Dweck said twice), and are strictly forbidden to them too in many ways, but ejaculations in such settings do not count as spilling seed – a grave sin avoided (which big difference Rabbi Dweck left out).
The rabbis still acknowledge Jewish couples who did not get a chuppah, because at least they may produce Jews, acknowledge monogamy and be on the natural right path. But not same-sex couples, because they supposedly have none of that.
In any case, heterosexual men can look forward to marrying a woman, after which a lot is possible. Their abstinence is hopefully temporarily, and that hope makes total abstinence possible. Homosexual men have no such kosher alternative to happily anticipate. They cannot marry men and not marry women (because the latter marriages cannot endure without same-sex sex on the side, which again is totally forbidden and for starters ruins the monogamy, marriage).
Divine punishment is weighed against the freedom the person had not to sin. Therefore many rabbis hold that homosexual men are not so until not at all guilty for giving in to their sexual compulsions, but they deem all of it sinful nevertheless.
Mamzers are not to be envied, but they still have options for marriage, and there are reasons (like them or not) why the rabbis do not dare to undo their status (to scare off married women from sex with a man not her husband). However, the total ban on homosexuals’ sex has no loopholes and does not help anyone. They are chained men — unable to marry. Ten-thousand times more than chained women — as if that isn’t bad enough. Where is the rabbis’ empathy with chained men?
Do you now see why the rabbis conceal the absoluteness of the injunction? Anyone can understand that this total eternal ban on all and any sexuality for homosexual men is torture, bad and impossible to abide by – and that this cannot be right. That the one in the wrong here must be the Halachah — not homosexuals. Lying about this is also forbidden, so when asked straight-out, rabbis need to say the truth. So they don’t lie — they “just” keep silent about it. In any case, homosexual men have committed suicide for this, Heaven forbid (have hope, don’t give up — it gets better, I promise, in 20 years, you’ll laugh about this), while it should rather be the rabbis who can’t sleep about it.
Sorry about the digression. My blog posts are always about calling a spade a spade.
Meanwhile the rabbis teach that adherence to Jewish Law gives everyone a great life. I’m not giving away any secret when I say that it’s not adding up.
Rabbi Dweck Said Nothing for Homosexuals
The whole storm around Rabbi Dweck’s lecture about homosexuality is not because of what he said, but for that he talked about it at all. The subject is mainly taboo because the rabbis until now have no helpful thinking about the topic. Most have stopped attacking homosexuals, but clear thinking about the subject is nowhere to be seen.
If Rabbi Dweck had said something innovative for homosexuals, at least that would have been nice for them – but he hasn’t. All he said was: Cold British men could profit by learning from homosexuals and David and Jonathan to love their sons better and be warmer with each other, because we are starved for love – not: sex.
So here we have these macho heterosexual rabbis fighting with each other about love between men. It would be ironic and hilarious if it weren’t so sad. Can their rebbetzins please stop them? It is so embarrassing and wasteful.
If they really want to do something worthwhile, they should be honest enough to admit that they stand empty-handed opposite homosexuals and should finally have the guts and empathy to put their brains to that problem.
We’re talking about at least 1,000,000 homosexual Jews and everyone close to them (about 7,000,000 Jews) and 500,000,000 Gentiles with 3,000,000,000 close ones. That is a lot of unresolved suffering!
As Elie Wiesel of blessed memory famously said: the road to Auschwitz was paved with indifference, not hatred. The world over, homosexuals die like flies from murder and suicide, Heaven forbid, and the rabbis try to be friendly and look the other way?
I mentioned before: G-d will find ways to excuse and exonerate homosexuals, who are the real victims here, between a rock and a hard place. But there are no such guarantees for bystanders who are too docile or petrified to open their brains and mouths.
Luckily, tens of thousands heterosexual Orthodox Jews marched as Allies in the 2016 Jerusalem Pride March. Jews are good souls. But where are the rabbis?