Rabbi Leiter: The Facts Speak for Themselves

Dear Rabbi Leiter,

I am glad that you replied to my response to your original blog post. I am not sure why you felt a need to engage in personal insinuations, such as suggesting that I am upset and scared, and concluding your words to me with “As I’m sure you know, we just finished our most introspective time of the year. My question to you, sir, is: How did it go”?

But I will not reply in kind, as I am confident in the strength of my argument on its own merits, and I will let the objective facts speak for themselves, without getting personal or engaging in recrimination.

My concern has nothing do to with fear, and certainly not with anger. Rather, my concern is that when people who identify as progressive Orthodox clergy defend and welcome open expression of homosexual identity in Jewish religious practice, it conveys a sense of acceptance of homosexual conduct. That is my whole point – nothing more and nothing less. No Orthodox rabbi or institution advocates looking into people’s private lives before giving people public religious honors, but open expression of homosexual identity in Jewish religious practice is something way beyond this.

You wrote that Torat Chayim’s statements on the topic at hand are concerned solely with human dignity and have not “take(n) a stance on how people should behave in their private lives”. I take your words to mean that Torat Chayim of course accepts the Torah’s strict stance on homosexual activity, but is focused here on the dignity of people and does not condone activity proscribed by the Torah.

Let’s look at this more closely.

The founder and head of Torat Chayim supports gay marriage, as he explains in 5 Reasons Being an Orthodox Rabbi Compelled Me to Support Gay Marriage. The senior leader of the progressive Orthodox movement, who is also a Torat Chayim member, likewise supports gay marriage, as he explains in Why I, as an Orthodox Rabbi, Support Legalizing Same-sex Marriage, as do many other Torat Chayim members (such as hereherehere, etc.). In these and numerous other writings and speeches, Torat Chayim members speak positively about loving homosexual relationships and in some cases even invoke Biblical passages to bolster their endorsement of homosexual unions, with occasional disclaimers by the Torat Chayim members that they cannot perform gay weddings due to their personal religious commitments.

 

My concern is thus clearly reflected in the reality, and the question is only how much further this will all go. Rabbi Daniel Sperber, a senior Torat Chayim/progressive Orthodox authority, has opined that Orthodox rabbis might be able to perform same-sex marriages by using a different word for them:

As liberal as they become, Katz does not believe that Orthodox rabbis will ever agree to perform same-sex marriages, though Sperber thinks there may be a way around this. “The problem is with the word ‘marriage,’” he notes. “Perhaps they can call it something else like a ‘partnership.’”

In fact, another very prominent Torat Chayim member delivered a speech at a gay wedding earlier this year.

I rest my case. No anger, fear or personal jabs – just facts, and great concern.

Sincerely,

Avrohom Gordimer

About the Author
Rabbi Gordimer is a kashruth professional, a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at Coalition for Jewish Values, a member of the Rabbinical Council of America, and a member of the New York Bar. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.
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