Thursday, July 21, 2016

Fomenting Hatred Instead of Understanding

Rabbi Yigal Levinstein speaking at the 'Zion & Jerusalem' convention (TOI)
I have no clue what he expects to accomplish with his hurtful words. Even if I might agree with the underlying thoughts.

I do not know – and have never met nor heard of Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, He is apparently a Religious Zionist head a prestigious army preparatory academy in the West Bank settlement of Eli. And he seems to have gone off the reservation with his remarks about the Reform Movement, and even more so with his remarks about homosexuals.

Just to reiterate my own views on these two subjects. I do not believe that the Reform Movement in any way represents authentic Judaism. They completely discarded all Bein Adam L’Makom (ritual) Halacha – at first to such an extent that they castigated those who practiced it calling it anathema to their definition of Judaism (A kind of ethical humanism). I recall back in the late 50s when I was a young boy in Toledo passing by a Reform Temple on the way to my father’s Shul on Shabbos. My father once told me that the Temple’s rabbi refused to allow anyone into his Temple wearing a  Kipa, calling it a sign of disrespect for the customs of this country.

Of course now 60 years later – realizing that without performing any ritual at all, there was no real Jewish identity to a Reform Jew, they actually encourage ritual observance. But only if you feel like it. This is not Judaism. This is anti Judaism. Because Judaism without ritual law is nothing more than ethical humanism.

I have expressed my views on homosexuality many times. In short I believe in respecting my fellow man no matter who he or she is attracted to – members of the opposite sex or members of the same sex. People cannot help who they are attracted to. That said I am opposed to sinful behavior – whether performed in a heterosexual or homosexual manner. The Torah point of view is to hate the sin, not the sinner.

Rabbi Yigal Levinstein will not have any of this. With respect to the Reform Judaism - he called them a Christian Movement. He justified this by saying that Christianity began as a branch of Judaism – just like Reform did.  Christianity left to become their own religion and so too will Reform.

I have no clue where Reform Judaism will end up. In my view they will probably end up in the the way many Jewish sects of the past ended up. There are (for example) not too many Sadducees (Tzedukim) left in the world today. By redefining who is and isn’t a Jew, Reform Judaism will be including so many non Halachic Jews into their  community that a couple of generations hence - it will be impossible to know if a person identifying themselves as a Reform Jew – is actually Jewish!

But to call them a Christian Movement is simply false. They do not believe in the Divinity of Jesus and certainly do not believe in a second coming as the messiah! They do not believe in the Trinity. Most of them believe in one God. The same God Orthodox Jews believe in – with no other god beside Him.

Furthermore, the current Reform rabbinate are victims of generations of distorted teachings by their Reform progenitors. They have been indoctrinated to see their distortions as ‘Truth’. I would call them all Tinokos Shenishbu – children that were ‘captured’. Meaning they never had a chance to study the Truth of Torah as it has been transmitted throughout the generations since the days of Moses. They only know what their ‘breakaway’ founders have taught them.

The anger and hurt that Rabbi Levinstein generated with his remarks served no purpose except to alienate, not only all Reform Jews, but all Jews that seek to reach out to our no observant brothers. So that even though I agree that Reform Judaism is not an authentic expression of Judaism, I condemn the hateful way in which he expressed that view. I prefer treating them without the rancor. And with dignity. We need to befriend them as Rabbi Yosef Reinman did with a Reform rabbi with whom he co-wrote a book.

And then there is what Rabbi Levinstein said about homosexuals. That could not have been more hurtful to people with same sex attractions. He called them deviants and perverts! From Israel Hayom
"There's a crazy movement of people who have lost sense of what's normal in life. This group has whipped the entire country into a frenzy, they force their way into the IDF, and no one dares say anything. There are perverts giving lectures in [the officers' training school] Bahad 1." 
This is inexcusable! He has - in one brief moment - thrown an entire group of people under the bus. Just because someone is a homosexual, doesn’t necessarily mean he preaches it as a lifestyle. Nor does it necessarily mean that he violates Halacha anymore than a heterosexual. No one should be peeking into  - or even speculating about what goes on in - someone else’s bedroom. This applies not only to homosexuals, but  even heterosexuals. If for example we would suspect that an officer violates Hilchos Niddah (family purity laws) do we say he has no right to give military lectures to the IDF?! Unless they flaunt it, it’s nobody’s business.  I therefore join those who condemned his remarks.

While we’re on the subject, what I will say is that flaunting sinful behavior or a sinful lifestyle should be condemned. Whether it is promoting ‘open marriages’ (mutually consensual sleeping with other people’s spouses) or sleeping with members of the same sex. Which is why I oppose things like Gay Pride Parades. There should be no pride in wanting to commit sinful behavior or promoting a sinful lifestyle.

Many well intentioned defenders of Gay Pride Parades claim that their purpose is not to flaunt behavior. It is to instill self confidence in gay people so that they will be proud of who they are instead of being prone to depression because of how they see society looking at them.

I don’t buy that. The parades I’ve seen (mostly in news reports on television) show people flaunting their homosexuality in highly inappropriate ways. That is not pride. It’s exhibitionism!

Furthermore, if pride is the point of these parades, why have black people or other minorities that have experienced disdain and disrespect never had a pride parade? Surely the black community deserves that kind of validation. But the black community does not have pride parades. They have protests and demonstrations about the injustices members of their community have been victims of. That is a legitimate enterprise. 

But a Gay Pride Parade does not demonstrate about injustices. They celebrate their lifestyles. They are not asking to be accepted for who they are, but for what they do. Which in many cases is a grave sin.  And that is an entirely different enterprise. It equates the sinful with the permitted. And that too should be condemned.