Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Encouraging Word

There is a very poignant video (below) featuring several obviously Frum Jews that speak about their homosexuality. These are not ‘flaming’ gays. They are just Jews who are attracted to members of the same sex and have learned how to live with that. I believe they understand the Issurim involved in acting upon it and do not promote the behavior.

The video is about 9 minutes long. It seems to be directed at other gay Jews who are Frum. It is designed to offer them hope; to convey to them the message their situation is not hopeless.

They all seem to be speaking from the heart. But I think it also speaks to the heart of the issue about how we should see them. They describe how they have dealt with their sexuality in the past and how they deal with it now.

I don’t see how anyone who watches this video can feel anything but sympathy and understanding… and to warmly accept them for who they are - rather than what they are. I have written about this issue many times and there is no need to elaborate here.

I will just say that the only way to treat a fellow human being who has these kinds of issues is with warmth, kindness, understanding and acceptance. As long as they do not promote behavior that is forbidden by Halacha, they should be treated as one would treat any other Jew - regardless of what goes on in their private lives.

Everyone struggles with their own personal issues. Sometimes those issues are forbidden by the Torah. That should not determine with whom - or how - we interact. To borrow a phrase I've heard Christian ministers use: Hate the sin - love the sinner.

The Torah tells us Hocheach Tochiach Es Amisecha. Sinning should always be discouraged no matter what the sin is. If one sees a fellow Jew acting sinfully he is obligated to rebuke him until the point that he is physically assaulted by him. But that does not include rejection of an individual who does not act sinfully and yet struggles with his sexual orientation. Orientation is not a sin. Orientation is not an act.

Rebuking someone about his orientation does not qualify for Hochacha – rebuke. On the other hand causing someone emotional pain that can result in suicide is not what the Torah has in mind at all. It is in itself a violation of Halacha. Possibly several Halachos.

There are probably more Frum Jews with various problematic sex issues within Orthodoxy than any of us would care to admit. They are our brothers. They are our sisters. They are our children. They are our neighbors. They are our friends. As long as they act in ways which do not harm others and keep their sex lives private - the only thing that should matter is the content of their character. We need not assume anything about their private lives.

They should in no way be shunned and treated badly. There have been enough suicides caused by people who reacted badly to them when they were ‘outed’. Whether they ‘out’ themselves - or others ‘out’ them. We need to make sure that suicide is never an option.