We are going to continue to follow this affair, that we started about a few days ago and which is also addressed here: Rabbi’s Remarks On Same Sex Relationships Generate A Storm Of Controversy and here: Orthodox rabbi calls for removal of top Sephardi [sic] leader over LGBT views.
We are going to follow here an opponent’s speech of over two hours: Lecture by Rabbi Aharon Bassous in response to a lecture by Rabbi Joseph Dweck.
Here you have my running commentary on this tape, in which I try to stick to English, translating any non-English words and terms used. I say nothing about the venerable Rabbi whom I do not know and who no doubt: is a great Rabbi, whom we are obligated to honor and be grateful to, and who is greatly meritorious, honest and wise, especially compared to me. I will only comment on substance and presentation – I’ll play the ball, not the man.
He opens by saying, with all kinds of euphemisms, that he is not talking against homosexuals (he doesn’t utter the word, Heaven forbid) who have his sympathy and whom he will always refer to therapists to help them. He seems as sincere and gentle as he seems oblivious and unaware that bullying an Ally of homosexuals is a ferocious attack on all homosexuals.
He obviously compares his rejection of Rabbi Dweck’s words about homosexuality with the defense of no one less than the Netziv of Volozhin in his opposition against the Russian Government’s decision to introduce secular subjects with Talmud studies, and obviously not with the zealots who burned the works of Maimonides….
His macho posturing is no doubt not to convey his superiority over Rabbi Dweck (he took his lecture down but I will never take my lecture down – without bli neder) but rather in a frightened attempt to show the public that he is secure in his knowledge and can be trusted and relied upon.
He prides himself that he acts as expected from a true Jewish Judge, not to be frightened to speak his mind, no matter what any other person might say about it. That one should speak up even when all the others are scared to do so. Yet, he says this after citing many big rabbis who supposedly agree with him. It escapes him that the only true hero here, who speaks up while others are too cowardly to do so, is Rabbi Dweck. He also argues on the basis of authority, and not on content. And he does seems just that: an authority lost for arguments.
He notifies his audience (through a TV hookup on three continents) that he has now checked many other recorded lectures by Rabbi Joseph Dweck, and found many pronouncements that are improper. This is the unintended admission that until Rabbi Dweck started speaking about homosexuals, no one cared if he towed the line. Therefore, the issue is not if the outlook of Rabbi Dweck is kosher; rather, the issue is fear of homosexuals and their arguments!
Therefore, the issue is not if the outlook of Rabbi Dweck is kosher; rather, the issue is fear of homosexuals and their arguments!
I notice that the Rabbi, in the beginning 15 minutes at least, screams what he has to say, though he has a microphone, but still he seems, besides a bit nervous, very calm and collected. However, we know that rage is like idol worship en no good can come from it. In his wrath, he seems to miss that he’s slandering and embarrassing a fellow Jew in public – someone who does that loses his eternal afterlife – no less! Worse than that, his heated shouting is really a disgrace of G-d’s Glory – the worst sin that a Jew can commit, for which one loses his eternal afterlife! The sin of defaming is compounded by the more people hear and believe him, by exaggerations, by the status of the victim (a Jew, kosher Jew, senior Rabbi, a Cohen), and the last of the Ten Commandments: jealousy: Rabbi Dweck is very popular with the younger generation. He tries to kill the Rabbi socially, his standing in society and the Community, take away his livelihood, expel him. He is prosecutor, judge and executor in one, condemning a person who was never charged let alone found guilty. He takes with him all the naive softies who came to marvel at this execution, with him into the deepest pits of Hell.
He claims that he cried many tears listening to Rabbi Dweck’s lecture and preparing his own. If that’s true, and not just fancy words to present his annoyance, then we can only say that he didn’t cry enough, with all due respect. He sounds like someone very upset, and he should control himself and think and talk about his feeling privately until he is calm – and then speak out. He asks forgiveness if he would get emotional, but it doesn’t work like that. As long as we are a mental case, we don’t just spread around our distresses claiming that people should forgive us, especially as leaders. We take responsibility for our unstableness and first deal with it before bothering the public.
The Rabbi now continues to calls himself a humble representative of his great former teachers. It just doesn’t sound humble and it doesn’t seem humble, I’m sorry to say. He does admit that all kosher arguments are only of any value if the intention of the speaker is kosher, and he prays that his are.
He continues yelling, and after 27 minutes begins to present arguments, supported by 14 books stacked up in three piles in front of him, with preplaced markers indicating the right pages – not to waste his audience’s time. First a number of points to strengthen the Community.
A. The Torah is unchangeable and fresh and new and does not change with the times or adjustable to our lifestyles. Rather, we should adjust our lives to the Torah. All we need is in it.
B. The Rabbi quotes a long paragraph of Lord Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (You remember: if you read the 2002 printings of his the Dignity of Difference before the Rabbis of the UK made him change it in 2003, then you’re banned from the Jewish Community), condemning modernity’s “view on the subject.” We would assume “on the subject” here to mean: on homosexuality. Turns out that the subject of the quote is rather modernity’s “view of sexual ethics.” It very well could be that the Rabbi did not want to say the word sexual, not to arouse his audience, Heaven forbid, or really but mistakenly assumes that the whole issue about homosexuality and Halachah circles around sexual ethics, but in any case, his word for word quote is killed by substituting these three words. An honest misquotation is still a misquotation. And only in the smallest obscure Jewish cults, sexuality is seen as a dirty word, Heaven forbid.
C. The Rabbi now quotes the Torah and the holy Maimonides (whose books once were burned by wagon loads by zealous Jews) to prove that the Torah is holy, that sex and holiness do not go together (how mistaken this classical Christian attitude is, is a topic in itself), that we should know our limits and that the Sages have a greatness beyond us. (Mistakes in the Jewish date and when we got certain Commandments that he quotes, but that’s a minor point and probably caused by his nervousness, because he is not used to publicity, which he is seeking now.)
Now the Rabbi is going to address Rabbi Dweck’s talk of two weeks ago. I’m sorry to say, but we saw above how the Rabbi – no doubt inadvertently – misquoted Rabbi Sacks. It should fit us not to believe any verbatim quotation brought by him now – not because the Rabbi would be dishonest – Heaven forbid – perish the thought – that would be completely unthinkable for a Torah man of his stature – but rather, because he’s too emotional and too wishy-washy about the subject, if at all knowledgeable. The issues about homosexual men and Halachah are manifold and deep – there is no indication so far that he has any familiarity with any one of the aspects, let alone the whole picture. Besides that, the Jewish Laws on slander forbid us to believe second-hand defamatory reports; we may be cautious, but believe them without investigating ourselves is one of the worst sins we could commit!
1. He quotes Lord Chief Rabbi Jakobovits, saying that “homosexual union” [the original says “homosexuality”] is an abomination that Jews cannot come to terms with. He adds that the Chief Rabbi was honored for his ethical stands by Margaret Thatcher, who was good to the Jews but is to me unbeknownst for her moral virtues. He gets so emotional after the reading that for a moment I’m afraid he will faint, but he doesn’t. It is know that the Chief Rabbi had a life-long animosity against homosexuals way beyond the regular Orthodox Rabbi, who rather would speak with compassion. There have always been antagonistic Rabbis in the last 50 years, but vocal as they may be, and meritorious as they may be in other areas, they have always been the exception to how Rabbis approach homosexuals. The Rabbi again does not speak about what Rabbi Dweck said, but leans on authority that he cherry-picked to be anti-homosexuals. That is not honest, but it could come from being polemic rather than from being dishonest, perish the thought. Again he says that Rabbi Dweck has no Orthodox Rabbis who dare to stand with him, which is bullying and not geared towards answering on substance.
2. There are three major problems with Rabbi Dweck’s words: He embarrassed the Torah by giving his own warped interpretations. He mocked the Sages of the Talmud. He debased the honor of the holy People he was speaking to, and the whole world because it was recorded. His words are misguided, false, from the beginning to the end. You don’t have to be a great Torah scholar to come to that conclusion. His whole talk, from the first till the last word is the Torah upside-down. Notice: so far still: name-calling but no substance, almost 60 minutes into the talk.
3. Violating sexual prohibitions is the worst of the worst violation, and homosexual union is the worst of the worst of the worst! Well, that is actually not true. First real argument, and immediately wrong. He does not give a source – his own outrage should double as proof here?
4. At the holiest moment of the holiest day of the year, we read from the Torah about forbidden sexual relationships, to sanctify ourselves – on the day we are fast [and refraining from even touching our spouse with our pinky]. Also this is untrue. The holiest time Yom Kippur is smack at the end of the day, not in the afternoon as the Rabbi says here, and then we commit ourselves against stealing. Because stealing makes a humane society impossible. In any case, so far the Rabbi has not brought one quote from Rabbi Dweck for his refutation. And most of what he said has only tangibly to do with homosexuals.
5. Now, for the first time, after 60 minutes fulmination, he (tries to) quote(s) from Rabbi Dweck’s lecture. He says that he quotes from the beginning and the end of the 97 minutes and since both quotes were corrupt, the whole lecture was. However, when he quotes, he uses “it” leaving it completely unclear if Rabbi Dweck talked about love between men, homosexual life-partnership, attraction towards men, sex between men or intercourse between men. Rabbi Dweck would have said that “it” ‘was always normal and no big deal until a few centuries ago, the “act” is forbidden and nothing else, and that feminism and homosexual intercourse [that he certainly did not say – he probably said gay liberation] is a fantastic development for society.’ This, the Rabbi explains now, is corrupt because he has taken away how bad it is, just like the archenemy of the Jewish People, Amalek, made it less scary for other Jew haters to fight us. Very insulting but again no real argument. Just stirring emotions. But then he adds: the peoples who were engaged in such behavior in the Time of the Torah were depraved – we should not do like them. Now, this is a factual point, and the first one at that, that he could have brought without any of the above insults, anger, or slander. How dignified and peace promoting it would have been if he just had said: If one says that homosexuality was always normal, the Torah agrees and says: this is not for Jews to follow.
How dignified and peace-promoting it would have been if he just had said: If one says that homosexuality was always normal, the Torah agrees and says: this is not for Jews to follow.
6. New argument. Now he says that the six forbidden sexual relationships for non-Jews that Maimonides lists, one of them homosexual intercourse, are part of one of the Seven Commandments for all people, against adultery. These Seven are the basis for any decent society. That is a mistake. Homosexual intercourse is not part of the Noachid Laws. They are added, because they were not included. Here we see how revulsion is not helpful with learning Jewish Law. If it’s too traumatic, one simply can’t think straight – pun not intended.
7. A new supposed quote from Rabbi Dweck’s lecture. ‘The Torah has very little to say about it but besides the act all is allowed and anything else around it is completely our construction.’ It is hard to believe that an Orthodox Rabbi really said this (and by Jewish Law we are obligated not to believe the quote to be accurate). In any case, this is just not true. As the Rabbi quotes, though he picks and chooses and deals very superficially with it. It is especially the disaster of present Halachah for homosexual men that any form of sexuality is outlawed forever – which is a life worse than death.
8. ‘The Torah has not much to say about it.’ The Rabbi quotes how the Torah forcefully rejects all sexual sins together as abominations, and asks rhetorically: Is that nothing? That is a corruption of Rabbi Dweck’s quote. The Rabbi said ‘not much,’ not: amounting to nothing. Second mistake: the Torah calls here all sexual sins abominations; it is not just talking about homosexual intercourse.
9. “This is possibly the greatest distortion of the last 50 years.” ‘To’eva does not mean abomination.’ However, that is nothing new. The rabbi doesn’t know the Jewish sources, sorry to say and is therefore shocked. But don’t blame Rabbi Dweck for the fact that he knows what he is talking about. Abomination is the Christian translation – as the Rabbi even mentions. There are excellent Jewish arguments (is Rashi good enough?) to translate it differently in the context of the Leviticus verses against homosexual intercourse. We are not supposed to dislike unkosher meat, sex, you name it. Rather, we should say: “I’d love it but what can I do – the Creator has forbidden it to me”! However, the Rabbi now quotes Rashi on Deuteronomy 32:16 as proof that “homosexuality among other things” [witchcraft – the Rabbi can’t say the word?] falls under to’eva – but we knew that already from Leviticus. It just means bad behavior. And he cannot bring a kosher-Jewish audience the King James translation as his proof for abomination.
And he cannot bring a kosher-Jewish audience the King James translation as his proof for abomination.
10. Now the Rabbi goes to selectively quote the saintly Reb Moshe Feinstein. In 1958 he wrote an encouraging letter to someone struggling with homosexuality, assuring him that this cannot be a natural urge because it’s disgusting. However, many years later, Reb Moshe admits that this can sometimes in some people can be a natural drive. In his earlier letter, from before much was known about this by the Rabbis, he tries to motivate his inquirer to refrain from it, because it would disgrace his whole family. However, the lecturer now exclaims that therefore Rabbi Dweck has disgraced the holy family of Mrs. Dweck, the saintly Rav Ovadia. Here the Rabbi left every measure of good taste. It’s shocking to hear for low a pious, wise and honest zealot can sink if he’s overcome with anger. No one in his audience dares to speak up. One doesn’t do oneself a great service by scaring one’s listeners, who then will fail to correct one when one goes wrong. “This was how Rabbi Dweck tried to rewrite the Torah.” This seems a gross overstatement for a few minor textual differences between the two Rabbis.
11. He castigates Rabbi Dweck for implying that Sages during a wedding would – of course – discuss sex. He is shocked. He rejects that such holy men and their weddings could have fallen to the lowest of the low, the sexes kissing each other, mixed dancing, belly dancers, etc. But does he not know that sex is nothing lowly? Did he never hear about the sexual imagery that was adorning the walls of the Holy of Holiest: mixed couples in intimate embrace, symbolizing the closeness of G-d and the Jewish People? Did he never notice all the blessings in the Seven Wedding Blessings that refer to sex? What is wrong with sex, if G-d positions Himself between husband and wife at the time of their sexual union? How does he disgrace Rabbi Dweck for not being a classical Christian assuming that sex is a lowly activity for the Sages??
12. He now interprets a Sage of the Talmud explaining homosexual intercourse as going astray as: deviating from the normal natural order, from humanity. That is not what the Talmud says or even insinuates. We also know that the Torah only forbids things that normal men may be tempted by. Natural is no excuse. Normal is no Torah norm. Authenticity is. Here we see the speaker’s bias come through full force. He thinks that homosexuals are unnatural, crazy and subhuman. He reads this in the words of the Sages, but it doesn’t say any of this. He becomes a moral campaigner, attacking anyone who is not repulsed as he himself by his private homophobia. In doing so, he left Judaism and he doesn’t know it. That’s how hate and other base instincts can distort one’s thinking and perceptions.
13. He now quotes a less famous place of the Talmud and says that Rabbi Dweck made fun of the Talmud for not addressing that less important place mentioning in passing the male prostitute. He then goes to quote a few words of there, totally out of context and he “quotes” three times forcefully what is not written there at all, of such a person: we strip him. The homoerotic connotation is staggering. It rather says that a Jew who has intercourse with an idolatress – not “someone who has homosexual intercourse or propagates homosexuality” – if he is a Rabbi, …, if he is a Cohen, … and if he is neither, he should be cut off. Shockingly, what is written there has nothing to do with what the Rabbi says that it says there at all. Talking about shameful.
Shockingly, what is written there has nothing to do with what the Rabbi says that it says there at all. Talking about shameful.
14. He now goes to quote how Rabbi Dweck supposedly insulted his audience. He reports him saying (I paraphrase) that ‘everyone who does not feel same-sex attraction probably is psychologically scarred.’ Well, if that’s true, and it could very well be true, I don’t know if I would have said so. How are people supposed to handle such a statement? ‘Everyone has plenty of sexual skeletons in their closets, so we should not point a finger at homosexuals.’ The Rabbi shouts the quotes and then softly asks his listeners if they’re not insulted. Well, he is and they should be too, he says full of anger. He then quotes how Isaiah was punished (and healed) for speaking bad about the Jewish People – and no one should. Now he claims that Rabbi Dweck wants everyone to feel lowly so that everything becomes as permitted to them. This is of course not true. Rather, Rabbi Dweck says (I paraphrase): ‘Don’t feel so superior to homosexuals – you’re not so snow-white yourself, and then stop singling out homosexuals for condemnation so that you may feel good about yourself.’ He now goes on a long speech how Rabbis should raise the spirit of their congregations. He’s right, but the subject here was to be more humble, not to be more capable – which is a worthy subject too, but not the only one to adhere to.
15. Now his conclusion. There is nothing new here. We have a long history of being surrounded by groups that disagreed with us. But it gets dangerous when they operate among us, only pretending to be Orthodox. Louis Jacobs was such a case. The Chief Rabbi then blocked his path to leadership, even against the popular vote. Rabbi Dweck is even more poisonous than him, because he still pretends to be Orthodox. He wants to show that the Torah can fit the Evolution Theory. Well, he’s not the first one to do so. Rabbiner Hirsch went before him already. But as I should above, this is of no importance in this talk.
16. Don’t be so naive, don’t be so gullible, it’s unfitting. I’m sure he’s speaking about the words of Rabbi Dweck but he should have said this about his own slander, because he has endangered the whole Community with his evil speech, accusing, prosecuting, judging and executing him as one person as if he is G-d Almighty. There is no greater arrogance, even if done with the best intentions.
It is my duty to warn you not to fully believe any bad words about Rabbi Dweck, not about Rabbi Bassous (especially from me), because that is the proper way of a Jew: don’t believe fully any slander of any Jew – investigate if you must, but at least let some doubt rest in your mind that not the full picture was given, even if not maliciously, that some exaggeration was inevitable, that the person might have repented already some of what was exposed here, etc.
It is my duty to warn you not to fully believe any bad words about Rabbi Dweck, nor about Rabbi Bassous (especially from me) or anyone else.