Harry Maryles

Well Intended but Misguided

The Jewish people are a compassionate people. Chazal tells us that we inherited that trait genetically from our patriarchs and matriarchs who were all compassionate people. But sometimes that compassion is misapplied – even though it is well intended. Which is the case with a self identifying Charedi woman by the name of  Ronit Peskin. Last week she made public her intent to not only attend the ‘Pride Parade’ in Jerusalem – but that she will also bring her children!

Can anyone imagine Rav Moshe Feinstein participating in last week’s ‘Pride Parade in Jerusalem? How about Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik? Or his brother Rav Ahron? Or Rav Aharon Lichtenstein? Or any great rabbinic figure of their stature? If they are true to their heritage and reputations, they would be the first ones there. But if anyone believes that any great religious figure would do that….what can I say. You are badly mistaken. It should be obvious that they would not.

At the very least they would probably consider it the height of absurdity if not an outright Chilul HaShem. And for good reason. By attending that parade, one is implicitly celebrating a lifestyle conducive to seriously sinful behavior. Mishkav Zechor (male to male anal sex) is forbidden by biblical law and considered a capital offense. Not that every gay man necessarily engages in it. But one would have to assume that a great many gay men do.

And yet in a Times of Israel article written just prior to that parade Mrs. Peskin  said she will be attending it with her children.

This is not to berate Mrs. Peskin. She is doing it for completely altruistic reasons. Her heart is in the right place. She explains that she used to be opposed to these parades but now supports them. Here is how she put it:

I used to say “Fine, be gay, but why do you need to be proud of it? And show off about your aveiros in the holy city of Jerusalem.”

But I’ve changed.

You want to know why I’m going?

I’m going to show that you can be religious and not be a bigot. That you can be chareidi and not be a bigot.

The thing that changed my mind, the thing that made me decide that this year is the year I’m going to go, is finding out that some of my good friends are gay. And they feel that that means that God hates them. That their life isn’t worth living. That they’re an abomination.

The reason I’m going to pride is to say I care about you. I love you. I think you’re an awesome person. And the fact that you’re gay doesn’t mean you’re any less valuable as a person, any less worthwhile as a jew, any less loved by God.

I realize that the purpose of these parades are to give encouragement to those struggling with these issues. To indeed say we care about them and love them. I agree that we must NOT be bigoted. That we know that they are otherwise fine people with good values who wish to be religious.  They simply can’t help who they are attracted to (and who they are definitely not attracted to).

But celebrating them in a parade is a semi endorsement of a lifestyle that will very often result Mishkav Zechor. I am sure that is not Mrs. Peskin’s intent. But that is how it will surely be perceived by the casual observer – and more importantly by an influential media that loves to exploit controversy.

It is wrong to be proud of an inclination conducive to sin. Instead of celebrating those inclinations – one needs to be introspective about them. One must consider the consequences of the potential transgressions that might occur in living a gay lifestyle. What one must certainly not do is participate in a public event that appears to celebrate it.

I have been told that Pride Parades are not about celebrating gay behavior. It is about celebrating themselves as human beings with value and imbuing them with self esteem. The fact that gay people have a higher suicide rate than the general public testifies to their lack of self esteem.

I get it. Self esteem is surely a problem for people that want to be religious and yet succumb to sinful desires. This is true of any behavior that is sinful.  But the solution to that is not to celebrate those desires as though they were perfectly legitimate. It is one thing for us to understand the struggle. It is another to imply that it is OK to act on them.

A gay person might feel better about themselves by the public acceptance such a parade might generate. But that is not an excuse to have one. Because that is it the only consequence. What parades like this do is strongly contribute to the normalization of a gay lifestyle.  Practically washing Mishkav Zechor free of any sin at all. Same as permissible heterosexual sex. That leads to a societal imprimatur for gay relationships – complete with marriage contracts.

This has actually happened here in America. Gay marriage is now the law of the land. Mishkav Zechor is a perfectly fine behavior. What about the biblical prohibition against it? A prohibition shared by all 3 major faiths – based on the word of God?

God doesn’t matter anymore. God is becoming increasingly irrelevant in our day as our modern sensibilities have become more ‘enlightened’. ‘God thought Mishkav Zechor is a bad thing?!’ ‘What does HE know?!’

I don’t think I can spell it out any better than that. If a gay man wants to be religious, how can he support permitting the impermissible – even if he can’t help transgressing? How indeed can anyone support permitting the impermissible just because they have close friends who are good people – that nonetheless transgress?

None of this should be seen as a rejection of gay individuals. On the contrary. As I have said – what seems to be a million times already – every human being whether gay or straight is created in God’s image. And deserves to be treated with the dignity that implies. But that does not mean turning sins practically into Mitzvos for purposes of self esteem.

One must accept them as fine and decent human beings. And ignore who they are attracted to. On the other hand, if they want society to permit the impermissible that is a bridge too far and undermines thier attempts at being religious.

As for the rest of us supporting them by attending a Pride Parade – the message of support  and opposition to bigotry – that is not the only thing happening. The collateral damage is – in my view – enormous!

About the Author
My worldview is based on the philosophy of my teacher, Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik , and the writings of Rabbis Joseph B. Soloveitcihk , Norman Lamm, and Dr. Eliezer Berkovits from whom I developed an appreciation for philosophy. I attended Telshe Yeshiva and the Hebrew Theological College where I was ordained. I also attended Roosevelt University where I received my degree in Psychology.
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