It aren’t over till it’s over. The media keep reporting on the controversy: London – Rabbi’s Remarks On Same Sex Relationships Generate A Storm Of Controversy.
My conclusion after hearing Rabbi Dweck’s most vocal and learned opponent is, that Rabbi Dweck’s greatest “sin” was that he activated – so to speak – the revulsion that his critic feels for homosexuality.
Of course, I did not hear the lecture by Rabbi Dweck, and I still hope one day I will. But, at least we now have the Source Sheet created on Sefaria by Joseph Dweck! From it, it seems that Rabbi Dweck may have been blamed for sources he brought and that the words then were attributed to Rabbi Dweck himself. In any case, even if he said one or two wrong or quantifiable words, the bulk of the wrongdoing here is the bullying outburst dressed up as righteous indignation of his challenger.
If he is quoted well – and I show how that is a questionable assumption – these are Rabbi Dweck’s only “most grievous” “offenses” (per the quotes of his opponent):
- Saying that homosexuality is common and natural and should therefore be accepted.
NB: The halachically proper answer is not to say what his antagonist says: no, it’s repulsive and against nature. Rather, Orthodox Judaism tell us to respond: Of course it is natural and sometimes for some of us appealing and that is exactly why the Torah forbids it – for all heterosexuals. (To imply that this is also forbidden for homosexuals would be beyond ignorant, but that’s for another time.)
- Saying that actually only homosexual intercourse is forbidden by Halachah. This is simply not true. For example, if a kiss or caressing stroke would easily lead to further deeds that cause ejaculation, the kiss or caress is forbidden. To say (but did he say that?) that homosexual intercourse must stay forbidden but the rest can be changed is merely wishful thinking.
One solution is to be sweet to homosexuals without even contemplating how they deal with sex, as it is a private business of people in whose shoes you do not want to stand.
Another solution is to defend the Halachah as very appropriate for heterosexuals and be uncommitted on what Halachah for homosexuals should be, as no one seems to know!
- He should have realized that Anglia is not Los Angeles. The hostility should not have come as a surprise to him.
He opponent’s “transgressions”:
- My ears literally are still hurting from listening to this two-hour rant. Something to watch when we want to repent for the oppression endured by homosexuals by Orthodox Jews. I don’t just mean the speaker. How did all these kosher people sit and listen to this without one peep of protest? How did they agree to glee at this lynch bash?
- His attack is one big exaggeration – much ado about nothing. Such are the words of someone overcome with anger. I’m not going to list every overstatement – just a few (see for explanations: here): He found “many” other problematic recordings by Rabbi Dweck? He means: Rabbi Dweck may have uttered one wrong sentence in a six part lecture on Evolution theory. Rabbi Dweck made fun of the Talmud and the Sages? He means: Rabbi Dweck did not discuss an oblique reference to male prostitution (and then he went on completely misreading what it says there). The height of Yom Kippur is not at the afternoon service, and certainly not the Torah reading then – for those who pray. Homosexual intercourse is not forbidden as part of one of the Seven Laws for the offspring of No’ach – but is rather an addition to them. Suggesting that to’evah may not mean abomination is possibly the greatest distortion of the last 50 years. Really?! All in all, there is little substance to his rant and he tries to hide that with lots of hyperboles, theatrics and innuendo.
- Even G-d uses a separate Prosecutor, but he has accused, prosecuted, judged, convicted and executed Rabbi Dweck as if he is even greater than our Law Giver, perish the thought, the day before the Festival of Shavu’ot. The implied arrogance is so preposterous that it should need no refutation at all.
- It’s one long embarrassing Look who’s talking affair. The only possible cowardice, slander and unworthiness here is this bullying speech. I’m not degrading this rabbi – he degraded himself, for all to see. Jews are supposed to be compassionate and humble, judging others for the good, etc. If one wants to attack supposed lowness and ignorance, one should talk respectably and be knowledgeable oneself.
- His speech is not only marred by anger, slander and exaggerations – it is what we call in the Netherlands with a Latin expression: a testimonium paupertatis; in English this has three meanings, two of them applying: 1. an unconscious or involuntary admission of ignorance; 2. a stain on one’s own reputation, dishonor, disgrace. He obviously is a great learned Rabbi but about this specific area, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about – and that is putting it very nicely. It’s all primordial revulsion dressed up as a high moral religious stand, with an embarrassing lack of knowledge and inability to be accurate – which is also putting it nicely.
- Last but not least, he debased Judaism by taking the classical Christian position that sex is dirty, had as sole proof of the ethicalness of a Chief Rabbi his support from Mrs. Thatcher, quoted the King James Bible to “prove” the translation of abomination and had issues with Evolution Theory, as if he’s a Christian Fundamentalist – lehavdil! His failure to set himself apart from our Christian brethren is problematic beyond the issue at hand.
My conclusions: Rabbi Dweck is just a fine Rabbi who dares to teach his students on the frontiers of Judaism.
Rabbi Dweck will get convicted nevertheless because the Rabbis, in the country where certain forms of private consensual homosexual intercourse was a criminal offence less than two decades ago, have shown again and again that they lack sufficient bravery to chart this minefield of homosexuality and Halachah. But eventually, everyone will say: Rabbi Dweck actually was right and we weren’t ready to support him – shame on us.
My thoughts are with Rabbi Dweck and his family and I hope he will not do what so many homosexuals did for being bullied away, leaving the fold. Hang in there! It gets better! Supportive messages for Rabbi Dweck can be send here. (This is some of the message that I left for him: Dear Rabbi Dweck, shlita!! From Jerusalem, our eternal Capital, I want to wish you and your family a hearty Chazak baruch! Hang in there. It gets better! May the average Jew in England support you and cheer you on, openly!)
In Jerusalem, last year, right after two Rabbis trashed homosexuals, a whopping 25,000 people showed up for the Pride March, most of them religious heterosexual Allies! A clear statement that even the conservative Jew is full of compassion and not hate-driven nor indifferent. With any kind of luck the same should happen in London. The common Jew should reject the base attacks on Rabbi Dweck and show up en mass for the London Pride March, recognizable as Orthodox Jews. Sometimes the Nation knows best – as the Sages so honestly record on several occasions. (1. When they lost some halachic knowledge, they got it back by looking out the window at what the ordinary people did. 2. After the destruction of the Second Temple, the Sages wanted to end the Jewish People. The People, however, disagreed. The Sages were honest enough to record their own defeat – for perpetuity, because they “lost.”)
On an optimistic note, the attack on Rabbi Dweck could be a good sign. How so? May G-d keep us when we live a life without upheaval. If all is calm and we jump out of bed every morning to happily do our day’s bidding, without hardship or aversion, all day long, every day, something is off. If our Evil Inclination is not agitated and trying to derail our plans, then maybe we’re just fulfilling its wishes, and not ours. Also, when no other person protests what we want and do, that could be a sign that we contribute nothing worthwhile or positive, and are wasting our days and existence. Only when the going gets tough, either from inside of us or from other people’s opposition, then we might be on the right track! It’s no guarantee, because life could also be rough because we genuinely derailed. But at least then we do not have the calmness around us that is a sure sign that we live out our days in utter inertia.
Last but not least, again, it is my holy duty to warn you not to fully believe any bad words about Rabbi Dweck, nor 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. One may let slander alarm one and take precaution not to get harmed, but as an onlooker one may not fully make up one’s mind as to the truth of the accusations as none of as has the full picture. And even if some negativity is true, one is still not allowed to publish that and harm or disgrace others with it, even not if it’s well-published already.
However, I feel that if someone tries to publicly malign someone worthy, the victim should be defended in public, and that is what I did. This issue here is not the person of Rabbi Dweck’s opponent – only to help defuse the attack by him. Any unworthiness or worthiness of the attacker is not the issue either.
Yesterday, Rabbi Dweck has posted a: Clarifications of Shiur on Male Homosexuality Given by Rabbi Joseph Dweck. I hope to discuss this, together with his now released source sheet, in a future blog post.