Progressive Rabbis Should Lead, Not Follow

Recently someone who identifies as an Orthodox rabbi received a great deal of attention for announcing that he would begin officiating at weddings between lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, queers, and presumably whatever new categories will soon be added to the list.

Personally, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Such weddings have been going on for quite some time now, and the mere fact that he identifies as Orthodox as he jumps on the bandwagon is hardly deserving of fanfare. If anything, if he really believes that this is God’s will, he should be ashamed that it took so long for him, a student of the Torah, to come to this realization. He should further be ashamed that he did not come to this realization through careful consideration of Torah sources, but from the society and culture around him, who somehow divined God’s will without benefit of rabbinic ordination.

He should do teshuva for taking so long to arrive at a truth that seems so obvious to everyone around him. As the Gemara teaches, even converts to Judaism will be judged by Hashem for not recognizing Him sooner – how much more does this to apply to a rabbi already in the tribe!

The announcement of a rabbi that he will begin officiating at these weddings should be met with a big yawn. Boring! You’re late to the party! Jews are supposed to be a light unto the nations, and here we are following them as they progress to new levels of morality. We should be leading them.

The Gemara discusses an ancient pagan worship called ba’al pe’or. This god was worshipped by defecating in front of it. (It is unfair to refer to our predecessors as primitive. I think such a religious practice would quickly catch on nowadays, when disgracing a traditional understanding of God is upheld as the highest form of moral purity.) The Gemara in Sanhedrin 64A relates that a Jew by the name of Sabta ben Alas was traveling with a gentile woman, who asked him to stop beore ba’al pe’or so she could worship it. When she finished, he asked her to wait for him to do the same.

“Aren’t you a Jew?” she asked in surprise.

“What do you care?” he retorted.

Not only did Sabta perform in the usual manner, he proceeded to wipe himself on the nose of the idol. Commentators differ as to his intentions, but the priests in attendance were ebullient. “No one ever served it so well!” they exclaimed.

Here we have a shining example of a Jew not simply following the winds of society as they progressed, but leading them to new levels. If rabbis want to do the same, I have the following suggestions, which are sure to grab headlines and receive the approval of those looking to them for leadership.

Abolish all of the Torah’s prohibitions on marriage and sexual behavior. Call them outdated, or misunderstood, or man-made, or unclear, or interfering with people’s ability to live happily, which must be against God’s will. Do whatever you have to do, just get rid of them.

Declare that Kohanim are allowed and encouraged to marry divorcees or promiscuous women if they so desire. Who is anyone to stand in the way of love based on such ridiculous considerations? So what if a woman was divorced? And whose place is it to decide that someone is promiscuous? Frankly, the very idea of Kohanim being different than other people is offensive on many levels. Time to abolish it.

Mamzerim should be allowed to marry anyone. This designation is also offensive on many levels, and must be abolished. Rabbis should even push for it to be outlawed and for anyone conferring the term on others to be prosecuted for incitement and hate-speech.

Marriage between parents and children, brothers and sisters, even brothers with brothers and sisters with sisters, should be welcomed. Those who are bothered by this should keep their feelings to themselves and not judge others. Who are we decide how two people are to love one another, simply because they happen to be blood relatives? If anything, people who already naturally love each other should be encouraged to take their love to the next level, and have this consecrated by rabbis.

The minimum age for children to marry should be abolished. If children can decide their gender, they should be able to decide they love someone and demonstrate that love however they wish.

Marriage between humans and animals should be recognized. The experts at animal-rights organizations have concluded that humans and animals are equal (if anything, animals might even be superior on the hierarchy), so it must be considered primitive bigotry to prevent them from marrying one another.  They tell us that animals have souls, so why can’t someone’s soul-mate be an animal? Everyone understands people who love their pets; this is just another way of expressing that love, and it should be a personal decision. It’s beautiful. We should live to see the day when a Rabbit officiates at the wedding of a rabbit.

Marriage with multiple partners should be allowed and encouraged. Once again, who are we to restrict people to entering into a loving union with only one person at a time?  God is all about love.  The more love, the better.

Marriage between Jews and gentiles, needless to say, must be encouraged and celebrated by rabbis. What better way to increase our numbers? What better way to demonstrate that we are all children of God? What better way to spread love? Frankly, the very designation of Jews as a chosen people who must marry only within the tribe is racist and elitist, and should be criminalized. Rabbis need to take the lead.

Furthermore, anyone should be allowed to self-identify as a Jew and a rabbi and have this recognized by others. Gone are the dark days when becoming a “chosen person” and receiving rabbinic ordination were decided by a cadre of power-hungry male religious zealots. The Torah has officially been democratized. Let all who are hungry come and eat, and let all who feel themselves to be Jews and rabbis wear the mantle of God, whatever that means to them.

Rabbis need to overhaul the antiquated divorce procedure, too. Divorce should be valid by simply sending an email, text message, or WhatsApp to one’s partner informing him/her/etc. that the marriage is over, and copying the rabbinate on the message. There should be no need for documents, witnesses, waiting periods, counseling, rituals, or extended court procedures. Many problems could be solved with this simple solution, and it’s high time rabbis caught up with the rest of the world.

These are just some examples of how Jewish religious figures can be leaders instead of followers. It’s a shanda that we have to wait for gentiles and the rest of society to guide us in the ways of progress, and then expect accolades when we follow them. Sabta ben Alas didn’t know what to expect when he wiped himself on ba’al pe’or, but he took the chance and received praise from all around him.

It is time for rabbis to take chances as well. The world awaits.

About the Author
Rabbi Chananya Weissman is the founder of EndTheMadness and the author of seven books, including “Go Up Like a Wall” and “How to Not Get Married: Break these rules and you have a chance”. Many of his writings are available at He is also the director and producer of a documentary on the shidduch world, Single Jewish Male, and The Shidduch Chronicles, available on YouTube. He can be contacted at
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