Friday, December 01, 2017

Congratulating the Engagement of a Gay Couple

I realize that what I am about to say may be upsetting to modern concepts of fairness and the libertarian ideal of being non judgmental of what others do. To the rational mind where humanism reigns supreme - letting others live as they see fit as long as they do not harm others is well within the spirit of our time.

But as an adherent of a philosophy that believes in a Power much greater than ourselves… a Power that revealed His will to the human race in the Torah and specifically to the Jewish people at Sinai, I cannot stay silent when I see those principles being violated.

Last September Rabbi Avi Weiss’s Shul, The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale (HIR) congratulated a homosexual couple upon their ‘engagement’ to each other. They wished Mazal Tov to them and the entire family. I cannot express enough my disappointment, dismay, and objection to this statement. 

Simply put what happened here is that a Shul which calls itself Orthodox gave its blessing to homosexual relations. Which are clearly forbidden in the Torah on pain of death - if witnessed and warned by 2 people at a time where the Sanhedrin convenes. (Which is certainly not the case today but still biblically forbidden).  

I realize of  course that they technically did not do that. They just said Mazal Tov to an engagement and not to anything sinful that may result from that. But that is a distinction that is very likely lost on the vast majority of people that see it. They will no doubt see it as an Orthodox Shul blessing homosexual relations.  There is really no other way to look at it. And that is clearly wrong.

I have said many times that I have no problem with anyone that is gay. It is not a a person’s sexual orientation that the Torah forbids. It is only acting on it in forbidden ways that is. I’ve also said in the past tat I believe that same sex attraction may very well be unchangeable. 

Whether it is nature or nurture doesn’t really matter that much to me. I respect people by virtue of their character and do not judge them by their sexual orientation. What people do in private whether sinful or not - is not my or anyone else’s business. That is between them and God. But I cannot respect violations of the Torah. Nor anything that in any way implies that certain violations are worthy of blessing.

And yet, that is what the Supreme Court has done by ruling gay marriage to be a civil right. They have given the blessing of this great country to homosexual behavior forbidden by the bible upon which many of this country’s values and laws are based. In essence they are saying that America’s current humanistic values are more ethical than God’s law. 

And this too is what HIR has done. We can parse what they did all day long. They can say that they did not bless the act of homosexuality that the Torah forbids. They blessed only the couple’s ‘engagement’ to be married. But the implications are the same as those of the Supreme Court.  And I cannot protest enough.

I am not a fan of Yated Publisher, Rabbi Pinchos Lipshutz. I have in the past been highly critical of his views on various issues affecting Orthodox Jewry. But when he’s right, he’s right. This is one of those times. On the heels of Agudah’s convetion, Rabbi Lipshutz made reference to this issue in his weekly column. He referenced what Agudah Moetzes head, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow said about this at the convention: 
He drew attention to the Mazel Tov announcement on the engagement of two men in the synagogue bulletin.
He warned that “the soton – and he’s standing next to everybody – comes sometimes with reasonable sympathetic arguments in the name of fairness, equality, enlightenment and being good natured and accepting and before you know it – if you are not on guard with strong Torah ideals – you can fall into his trap.” 
Rabbi Perlow recognizes the human quality at work here. He knows that from a humanistic perspective, one should indeed ‘live and let live’.  But he also knows that no matter what the intention it is a ‘corruption of Torah ideals’ to publicly congratulate a gay union.

Rabbi Lipshutz also mentions the statement issued by TORA. They are a group of Orthodox rabbis (of which I am a member) committed to: 
 …offering an authentic Torah viewpoint to the media (that) will help counteract those voices that, as we see it, occasionally distort or dilute the Torah’s message.  
That statement read in part as follows: 
“We call upon spiritual and lay leaders and members of the public of respective synagogues not to congratulate or celebrate, whether orally or in writing, those celebrating life cycle events in violation of Jewish law, included but not limited to halakhically prohibited marriages… 
“When there are events we cannot condone, it is not out of contempt or disrespect, but rather out of a firm commitment to the Torah, its values and its worldview, which requires us all to submit to the Torah even when doing so is difficult or inexpedient. 
This is exactly how I feel.  But on a Facebook page called Torat Chayim, rabbis supporting what HIR did came back with a nasty attack against those of us that saw it this way. They called the Yated editorial homophobic and even heretical. Heretical because by criticizing the words ‘Mazal Tov’ it is a violation of Bal Tosif – the Torah prohibition against adding to a Mitzvah that is limited to what the Torah spells out. Then they proceed to pat themselves on the back for saying Mazal Tov to families that are committed to building families with a commitment to Torah and Mitzvos.

Enyaim LoHem V’Lo Yiru (Yirmiyahu 5:20). None are so blind as those who will not see.  No one is saying that the words ‘Mazal Tov’ are forbidden. That is ridiculous. Nor does anyone criticize saying Mazal Tov to people that are committed to building families with a commitment to Torah and Mitzvos. What we are critical of is saying Mazal Tov in the context of a gay union. Which is a Chilul HaShem they are completely blinded to.