Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews -- For those who like their news and truths frank and sharp

Evil Amalek and Homosexuals

Before going to the juicy part, let me first stress that Judaism denies a notion of “evil people”. All people are created in G-d’s Image, and endowed with an Evil Tendency (imposed upon them) and a Benign Tendency (“the Soul”), and Free Will to choose for the latter (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Someone who consistently opts for Good will get a good name and is called good, but is not fundamentally different from someone who does the opposite all the time, Heaven forbid. True, one can become so ingrained in thinking and doing Good that it’s almost impossible to choose Evil, but it never becomes totally impossible (Avot 2:5 – Don’t believe in yourself until your last day). And the reverse is true too — steeped in Evil, it’s hard to escape it (Exodus 8:28) — hard but not impossible!

Amalek, the arch-enemy of the Jews, the archetype of Evil, also can repent, individually or as a People (Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 6:1-4, based on Joshua 11:19-20). Inherently Evil creatures would be innocent and not responsible for any wickedness they’d commit. But Judaism holds everyone responsible. Therefore it is also not a good idea to regard oneself as bad (Avot 2:18), because that would give us unlimited “permission” to commit all Evil in the world, Heaven forbid. Until here the intro.

What happened?

I have a good friend who is a religious Jew (dati) and homosexual (gay). He was born into a religious family and he’s very spiritual and enthusiastic in his observance. He has known he’s a homosexual since he was eight years old. His mother is a lesbian, so he didn’t have a hard time figuring out his own orientation and that he’d better keep it a secret. Not only is he still in the closet regarding most people to protect himself; he’s also not a rabble-rouser — he guards the atmosphere in the Community and around him by being discrete about it.

This friend yesterday sat in a lecture (shiur) where the teacher said: We can’t figure out through genealogy anymore who is Amalek (Purim is coming up — the wicked Haman was an Amalekite via their King Agag – I Samuel 15:9, Esther 3:1) — we now identify Amalek through its actions. When we see real Evil, we know that we deal with Amalek, like the Nazis and homosexuals. He should have said: the Nazis and ISIS. Now, can you imagine how my friend felt?

He was very angry and actually told me something very sharp: “As far as I’m concerned, this rabbi is Amalek, because we know from Amalek that it always attacks the weakest ones” (Deuteronomy 25:18). Who could blame him for such rage?

Rejection of homosexuals by Orthodox Jews refuted

1. “Homosexuals act against Jewish Law (Halachah).” The Halachah for men not to have any sex with each other works perfectly for heterosexual men. Don’t do it, or it will make you leave your wife (Talmud Nedarim 51a). This advice is still valid today. However, for homosexuals this Halachah does not work at all. First of all, typically they don’t have a wife. Secondly, very religious pious Jewish homosexual men who would never “dream” of seeking a man for a spouse, their lives are a mess. They can’t distance themselves from sex and are secretly overwhelmed with sexual obsession all day long. These are the sweetest and holiest people you’d know! What a disaster, what a heartbreak! Thirdly, the homosexual guys who do seek a same-sex partner, generally find one, are happy, live wonderful balanced connected lives and have no need for any sex scene. That all should humble us so that we don’t just blame homosexuals for a law that apparently is counter-productive. Most Orthodox Rabbis are not bold, knowledgeable, realistic or honest enough to admits that we should be baffled, that we don’t understand this issue – Rabbi Dror-Moshe Cassouto apparently is.

2a. “Homosexuals are on an un-Jewish path.” In the past, the Rabbis noticed that Jewish men generally do not have sex with men as we do see among the Gentiles – except in lewd times (Shulchan Aruch, Even ha’Ezer 24). From this comes the notion that it’s a non-Jewish thing. However, that seems only true for heterosexual men. There are plenty of homosexual Jews with nothing Goyish about them, also in pious times. So, stop talking about Judaism as a parrot, teaching life from manuals. Look at reality, as Jews have always done. G-d wrote the Torah and used it as a blueprint for Creation. That means: who wants to understand Torah must look at Reality, or he’s just a fool who will come to sin trough a printing error.

2b. There’s a second meaning to the argument that homosexuals are on an un-Jewish path: that they don’t keep Halachah. Well, you can’t push people out of the Community and then blame THEM for being outside. In fact, you should be careful not to corner homosexuals, because I don’t think that you want to be responsible for their lack of religious observance or suicide, Heaven forbid. Instead, you should be amazed with and absolutely admire all the very religious homosexual Jews who stay faithful and enthusiastic to any Halachah they can. Would you have so much love for G-d and Judaism if you were generally despised and talked about as if very crazy or very wicked? Some serious humbleness is in order here.

3. “Homosexuals are addicted and should control themselves like all of us.” Nice theory, but it failed. No total restraint therapy or gay-cure therapy works. There is only one way to refrain from sex: to reserve it for the future. One can say – against modern ideas that deny that – I’m not going to have sex until I’m married. What one cannot do is forgo sex altogether – as the Talmud (of course) already tells us (Gitin 43b). And the Torah tells us that we must bond with a partner (Genesis 2:24) to overcome unbearable loneliness (Genesis 2:18). Trying to forgoing sex altogether leads to a serious sex addiction. (Don’t blame people for being sex obsessed after you denied them sexuality.) The only way out is to wait for this special person to have an exclusive sexual relationship with. Celibacy is a lie and leads to sexual obsession (see above) to a degree you never saw in your life – hopefully, Heaven forbid.

Conclusions

So what should we conclude?

A. Present Halachah for homosexual men does not work. Saying or pretending that it does is unhelpful, to say the least, and makes you seem not pious but rather a fool – sorry to say. As Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo teaches: One can be wrong by being right. Trying or pretending to be a saint at the expense of others is not being saintly at all.

B. Homosexuals are a vulnerable group; make sure not to add to their agony. G-d hates attackers. So much so that when a righteous person victimizes a wicked person, the Sages teach us, G‑d still sides with the wicked (Midrash Yalkut Shimoni on Ecclesiastes 3:15; Ecclesiates 4:1.)! How much more so will He be on the side of a helpless and innocent victim. I don’t think you want to square off against the Almighty.

C. If you want to make the traditional point against homosexuality – be my guest but speak for yourself. Say: “It is a terrible thing for heterosexual men – but about homosexual men I’m not talking because I don’t know them and don’t understand them and it’s below me to condemn them for anything.”

D. Orthodox Jews and especially Rabbis must speak only nicely to and about homosexuals, just like they are taught to talk just gently towards women. Some of them have no idea what a desecration of G‑d’s Name any other tone is. There are plenty of humanists and atheists out there who would never embarrass or insult homosexuals (and would keep any uncomfortableness to themselves) – and very learned Jews could not match that?

E. Don’t let any fascination or fixation that you may have with sexuality dominate your vision on homosexuals. Sexuality relates to homosexuals as religion relates to Jews. Their brand of it may define them, but they are much more than that. Jews are also a People, often kind, leaders of civilization and in science, and … firstly human, each of them a unique splendid individual. Homosexuals generally are also very good at friendships (have one help you with your marriage), empathy, understanding kids, and … firstly human, each of them a unique splendid individual.

What made me speak out so forcefully here? Today, my friend started contemplating leaving the Orthodox Community and moving to a less religious neighborhood. I hope that me speaking out on his behalf may help him to hang in there. Don’t lose hope. It gets better.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, previously a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. He doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and educations contribute to his visions. * This year, he will prioritize getting his unpublished books published rather than just blog posts. Next year, he hopes to focus on activism against human extinction. To find less-recent posts on a subject XXX among his over 1400 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe, here: https://mmvanzuiden.wordpress.com/ or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. However, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people when don't deserve that. (Yet, we all make honest mistakes, which is just fine and does not justify losing support.) He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight reality), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * Chronologically, his most influential teachers are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. This short list doesn't mean to disrespect others who taught him a lot or a little. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. When he can, he loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. Read his blog on how he attempts to bridge any tensions between those ideas or fields. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), born in 1953 to his parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too, and decades more to admit to being a genius. But his humility was his to keep. And so was his honesty. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. He hopes to bring new things and not just preach to the choir. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, powerful therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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