Rabbi Riskin’s novel stance was bound to earn criticism.
While most Orthodox rabbis nowadays avoid debate when the dismal treatment of homosexual men by Jewish Law is questioned, knowing very well that they hardly have a leg to stand on, Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer never has no such scruple. G-d’s Own pro-Deo Warrior, always ready to take on the abject forces of Modernity, Gatekeeper of the bastion of snorting contentment, intellectual laziness and ethical numbness, day and night alert to defend the fortress of total conservatism, eloquently, energetically and relentlessly, fighting against dangerously advancing reason and common sense, with broad strokes, and not inhibited by too much detail (but with lots of carefully cherry-picked references), he faithfully defends the powerful. At no times, can he have any empathy for victims of the discussion, as the Greater Good of honor for Eternal Wisdom is at stake. Also now he is ready, now one Orthodox rabbi has shown the chutzpa to defend homosexuals’ inherent innocence.
Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer claims mistakenly that Rabbi Riskin’s new stand is nothing new, leaving us wondering why then he felt the urge to spring into verbose action again.
Instead of discussing the real novelty here, that homosexuals deserve being exempted from the Torah verses that must be meant for heterosexual men, Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer delves in a side-point, which is only needed if one would not acknowledge Rabbi Riskin’s novelty. Then one could still claim that homosexuals are inadvertent sinners. Many rabbis suggested this already, but he needs to dispute this. He writes:
In discussing intimacy under compulsion, the Talmud (Yevamos 53b) states that one who plays an active role in such relations (i.e. the “male role”) is not deemed to be in a state of Ones (involuntary action) and is thus fully subject to the sexual prohibition at hand. This principle is undisputed …
Undisputed, really? Bear with me when I show that that is untrue.
Some of our Sources, Authorities and Commentators say about this that a man, different from a woman, can always help himself (Mishnah, Sanhedrin 20:3; Maharshal, Yam Shel Shlomo on Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot 6:2, Sanhedrin 20:3; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Issurei Bi’ah 1:9). Pleasure under duress would still increase the level of violation (R. Moshe Feinstein, Igrot Moshe, Volume 2: 59 on Yoreh De’ah. Likewise Responsa Atvan de’Oraita 24). (Similar considerations are to be applied in avoiding therapy that requires therapeutic sexual arousal: Homosexuality: Clinical and Ethical Challenges,” by Moshe Halevy Spero, in Tradition 17, no. 4, pages 53 – 73, Spring 1979.)
They must mean that an erection gives away that there was lust, even if a man would deny that, or be unaware of it. This is similar to eating. When we eat, we have saliva coming into our mouth; if not, how could one eat? Is there eating against one’s will? One could be forced (eat this or I kill you), but then still the eating shows that one agreed to like to eat (under the circumstances). However, Halacha may demand that in such a setting with illicit sex, we should opt to die a martyr rather than to pervert sexuality. To “have to” rape someone at gunpoint might feel like victimization, but one is then actually asked to violate someone else (and one’s true self). (In general, powerlessly having to watch sexual violence, may feel like being violated oneself – and any guilt feelings will not be so different from survivor’s guilt.)
However, they could never have meant that men can always prevent getting an erection. Although men getting raped by women is far rarer than the other way around, it does happen, unfortunately (and is even more underreported). One must be a total male chauvinist to deny that women can physically overpower a man, drug him, and stimulate him sexually, without him having more choice than hating it or not, despite the out-of-place confusing lust feelings that are forced upon so many rape victims.
Therefore, it is not surprising that other authorities and commentators have pointed out quite the opposite. (Tosafot, Ramban, Rashba on Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot 53b; Rosh Yevamot 6:1; Maggid Mishneh and Kesef Mishneh on Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Issurei Bi’ah 1:9; Radbaz on Hilchot De’ot 4:19; Mishnah, Sanhedrin 20:3; Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, Qovetz He’arot 59:3.) There is a mitigating consideration when such sexual arousal occurred in an initially legitimate context but was deflected by external coercion to a forbidden act (Tosafot, loc. cit., as well as Kesef Mishneh on Maimonides, Mishneh Torah on Sanhedrin 20:3, and Maggid Mishneh on Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Issurei Bi’ah, 1:9).
So much for “This principle is undisputed.”
Yet, no one will dispute that Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer writes his ruthless verdicts from his own free will. That means that he is culpable for every unkind letter produced. Why is he not more careful then?
And there is more. Not only is he responsible for what he write, he’s also accountable for what he leaves out. One of the counter-demonstrators against the extremely large 2017 Jerusalem Pride Parade (22,000 people – 5.5 times the 4,000 expected) was found carrying a concealed enormous knife. By arguing against Jerusalem Pride marchers and not voicing his opposition against attempted murder by a fellow opponent, Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer is not only guilty of driving closeted homosexuals and their close ones to despair and worse, Heaven forbid, but actually (silence lends consent) contributory to attempted murder – maybe not for Civil Law or even the Heavenly Court, but certainly for common-sense people. And a desecration of God’s name is the worst sin.
Who’s the Attacker?
Lastly, Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer states:
Continuing along its trajectory of attempting to impose the values of secular society onto the values of the Torah …
This is nothing new, the party beleaguering homosexuals portraying themselves as the new victims. He pretends that Jewish Law is being rectified point by point as we read. This is not true at all. Current Jewish Law forbids between homosexuals any and all: friendliness, contact, company, friendship, closeness, intimacy and sexuality, as we mentioned before: Jewish Law Forbids all of Homosexuality. There is no gradual erosion of Jewish Law. So far, nothing has changed. Orthodox Jews in the news media also still feel free to call homosexuals “sick people”.
Actually, it’s the other way around than Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer portrays it. It’s not true that first hugging was OK for Jewish Law and then massages; and then cuddling and kissing; and then random climaxing and then anal sex. It’s all still forbidden. But it’s clear that it can’t be that for half a billion people this all is forbidden. (Gentile homosexuals are included in the prohibition.) Rather, if anal sex is OK for homosexual men, by extension all same-sex sex must be fine for them, including intimacy, closeness, friendship, company, contact and friendliness between them. And the same for lesbians. In his eagerness to depict a devilish trend, he missed what really is going on.
But it gets worse.
When Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer still feared that the norms for regular Torah life were assaulted, we could understand his worry and his lack of consideration for homosexuals’ happiness. However, now that Rabbi Riskin suggests to make space for homosexuals only, what is his complaint? He is genuinely worried for the spirituality of homosexuals’ life choices? Nothing in his writing even pretends so. Rather, he now gives the impression that he just doesn’t want homosexuals to have a good life. And that seems to me most unbecoming to anyone religious. It bespeaks of serious envy – the sentiment that motivates people to hate Jews – which is so grave that it is even forbidden in the Ten Commandments – the general Guideline for human ethical behavior.
And there is more.
The halachic position of homosexual men is not just his private hobby horse on an intriguing theoretical brainteaser. For some people this is a matter of life and death. How about worrying about his own conduct and letting go of the gays’ bashing? Frankly, if anything threatens the continuation of Orthodox Judaism, Heaven forbid, it’s not homosexuals who want their own place under the sun, start a family and raise kids. Rather, it’s baseless hatred for one’s fellow (that sin that keeps Redemption from happening) – even when it’s camouflaged as religiosity.
Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer could do a lot of good by shutting up about homosexuals until he gets a vague idea about what is going on, for instance by befriending a couple of them; and keeping them by not lecturing at them. Rather, by listen, piping down and eating some humble pie; deciding to be a positive force in the world and not step on weaker people in the name of Goodness. Instead of venting burning envy, causing a desecration of G-d’s name and perpetuating baseless hatred. Seems a good deal to me.
The above was mostly written before Shabbat so that it was ready to be posted soon after its conclusion.