Zombie Torah

I didn’t want to read the article. I read The Jewish Press nearly every week in my youth and still maintain some residual affection. Sure, they subscribe to a particular ideological bent, but I read Haaretz, Israel Hayom, MSNBC and Besheva, so what’s new?

But this… item kept on popping up in my feed, in which the author (I’d tell you his name, but it’s a pseudonym anyway) blames the flash floods in the Holy Land the week before last on — can you guess? The gays!

Whatever the opposite of pinkwashing is, this op-ed exemplifies it, in a trifecta of theodicean idiocy. Not only is it unabashedly homophobic, it uses the still-fresh corpses of teenagers in the Holy Land–one of whom hailed from my town of Maale Adumim–in its vicious agenda.

What is worse is whom the author enlists to support his position, rabbinical all-stars of the past century and a half, from Hirsch to Kook to Soloveitchik.

But what is the most egregious is that Rav Soloveitchik’s son-in-law, Rav Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein, is used for the kicker in the closing paragraph. I don’t say that just because he was my rebbe, just because we recently marked his third yahrzeit, or just because Sunday marks what would have been his 85th birthday. I say it because, while it is bad enough to twist the words of Rav Kook, Rav Soloveitchik or Rav Hirsch to justify this idea of God killing teens because Israel isn’t persecuting queer folk, Rav Aharon was on record about contemporary Israel and changing attitudes towards homosexuality. Just read this article from YNet, or the original from an interview with my friend Dov Karoll, addressing the issue of religious schools refusing to march alongside LGBT groups in New York’s Celebrate Israel Parade:

If I open a Gemara in Sanhedrin, or if I open a Chumash, for that matterwhat is a more serious sin, desecrating the Sabbath or homosexuality? Or, for that matter, there are people who worship idols who march in the parade, too!  Is it proper, is it fair — and I say this without relenting in our position to homosexuality — to decide that all the sins which the whole entire Jewish community has, all of that we can swallow and march with them, with pride and with their flags and everything that they want; but this is the scapegoat, dispatched to the harsh wilderness? That’s what happens to the scapegoat! I discussed this point with people for whom I have the highest regard, and I asked them this question.

In other words, Rav Aharon explicitly condemns the idea of scapegoating homosexuals. But the author of this op-ed knows better, apparently.

I shouldn’t be surprised. Just weeks after Rav Aharon’s passing, someone on Facebook started spinning conspiracy theories about the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. When I pointed out how movingly Rav Aharon had spoken about the guilt he felt for Yigal Amir’s actions, as Amir was a product of the Hesder yeshiva system which Rav Aharon championed, this interlocutor told me that undoubtedly Rav Aharon would have changed his mind, had he lived long enough. I pointed out that Rav Aharon lived twenty more years after Rabin’s assassination and at no point endorsed such nonsense. Were the revisionists already at work on Rav Aharon’s legacy, as they had done to his father-in-law (this individual’s rebbe)? For this, I was promptly blocked. But hey, the guy’s only a PhD in Jewish History from Harvard who teaches in one of Israel’s premiere universities!

I understand that people want to enlist the greats on their side. Moses and Deborah, Maimonides and Einstein–they’d all agree with me if they were here. But the luminaries who touched our lived directly are different. And I will never allow you to invoke my rebbe’s name to perpetuate the most vile, hate-filled rhetoric.

About the Author
Yoseif Bloch is a rabbi who has taught at Yeshivat HaKotel, Yeshivat Har Etzion and Yeshivat Shvilei Hatorah and served as a congregational rabbi in Canada. He currently works as an editor, translator and publisher. As a blogger and podcaster, he is known as Rabbi Joe in Jerusalem.
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