Friday, September 09, 2011

Empowerment or Perversion?

I know that he will not like it - but I feel sorry for him. I’m sure he does not need or want my sympathy. I understand that. Nonetheless that is the way I feel. At the same time I must strongly object to an article written by him in the Forward.

Jay Michaelson has written about something he calls empowered Judaism. He advocates a ‘do it yourself’ version that eliminates the participation of rabbis. He argues that in Judaism there is no intermediary between man and God - as compared with Christianity where there is. We pray directly to God and we are each responsible for our own actions. Rabbis – he argues are just another version of an intermediary. He then goes on to advocate eliminating rabbis from various lifecycle events.

That said he admits that it takes a tremendous amount of knowledge. But retorts that there are enough resources available to the masses so that they could learn to do it right. While it may be difficult since there is so much to learn - the reward of ‘doing it yourself’ is well worth the effort. Rabbis he says should be used sparingly and only as a last result.

I don’t really have any problem at all with learning the fundamentals of Judaism. In fact I think it is imperative that all Jews learn them. How else will one even know how to be Jewish?

But as I said Mr. Michaelson seems to be talking mostly about life cycle events. So that for a wedding for example - by learning the details of writing a Kesubah (the religious marriage contract) one will be able to write their own.

I am not an expert on the language of the Kesubah. But I believe that the language that is traditionally used is limited to a just a few versions based on the traditions of a community. There is for example a Sephardi version and an Ashkenazi version whose language varies slightly. There may be a few other versions. I’m not sure. But clearly there is no version that is geared for the ‘marriage’ of a man to a man. No amount of learning in the world will enable you to do that.

Unless you are Jay Michaelson and make it up as you go along - discarding what you don’t like and interpreting Judaism with a bias towards your own agenda. An agenda that is contrary to Jewish values.

Mr. Michaelson’s bias is clearly reflected in what has to be an outrageous distortion of Halacha. He is a homosexual about to be ‘married’ to another man. In his quest to ‘do it himself’ in what he believes to be a meaningful Jewish way he has crafted a Kesubah that is geared to the male homosexual relationship. He thus attempts to sanctify a relationship that is clearly forbidden by the Torah.

The inherent contradiction between sanctification and promoting a lifestyle where one’s sex life is considered a capital offense does not occur to him. Or if it does – he does not address how that contradiction is resolved. This is not ‘Do it yourself’ Judaism. It is ‘Do it yourself’ homosexuality.

The fact that Mr. Michaelson had a religious day school education should not be lost on anyone. He is a serious man and that is what makes his views so dangerous. He knows enough about Orthodox Judaism to give him an aura of authority – making it sound like he is speaking from a Halachic perspective. This is not just some heterodox rabbi writing from a non Orthodox point of view.

Needless to say it is far from Halachic to write a Kesubah for a gay couple… and certainly marriage between them is not recognized by the Torah. It cannot even take effect. There is no such thing as gay marriage in Judaism. And yet he treats it as though it was a Jewish as eating in a Sukkah on Sukkos.

I am not really angry at him. I am sympathetic to someone whose sex drive can never be fully satisfied Halachicly. I am sympathetic to his desire for mainstream acceptance.

I am sad that he wants so badly to be accepted by mainstream society that he has twisted Halacha on its head. I am sad that homosexuals are so badly treated by so many otherwise decent people.

Michael’s sexual orientation is not a sin. Only the type of sexual behavior that it might result in is. No one should be shunned just because of their sexual orientation. As Martin Luther King so famously said, people should be judged by the content of their character. That includes homosexuals. Halacha demands it. Human dignity demands it.

However when a line like this is crossed so outrageously - no matter what the motive; no matter how unfairly homosexuals are treated by society – it demands a strong public protest! And that is what I have done here.