Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Abominable Event

I have not been reticent to express my views on the plight of Orthodox Jewish homosexuals and have said so many times on this blog. To repeat – same sex attraction is not sinful. It is acting upon it in ways the Torah forbids that is. This means that homosexuals have no Halachic outlet for satisfying their sex drives. That is heart rendering.

I cannot imagine what it means for someone with a healthy libido to be forced to live a celibate life! I therefore feel it is disgusting to condemn people with same sex attractions. I believe it violates in the extreme the concept of loving thy neighbor. It is a vile and cruel way to treat a fellow human being. I do not condone the unfortunate reality about the way homosexuals are treated by far too many Orthodox Jews.

To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King the bottom line is this. Human beings should be judged by the content of their character and not by their sexual orientation. We need to treat all of our fellow Jews with dignity and respect - as equals among us. Even if we might suspect that they are living a life of sin.

In other words love the sinner hate the sin. It is not something we can do anything about – any more than we can do anything about a fellow Jew who violates other Halachos. Haranguing them is counterproductive and has the possibility of turning them off completely from Orthodox Judaism. As long as they do not promote or flaunt a homosexual lifestyle the proper approach is to be accepting of them as fellow human beings, fellow Jews, and equals.

Which leads me to one of the more disgusting events I have ever been made aware of. It is described in an article in +972. Steve Greenberg - a rabbi with an Orthodox ordination who happens to be a homosexual - has done an abominable thing. He has performed a marriage ceremony for 2 homosexual men, complete with Kesubah, Chupah, Kiddushin and Erusin.

This goes far beyond understanding their plight. It purports to place an Orthodox imprimatur on a marriage between 2 men… in effect trying to sanctify it!

I can understand why many homosexuals push for that kind of acceptance. They want the ‘full monty’. Not just understanding, not just acceptance, not just being treated with dignity and as equals among men. But religious sanctification!

I get it. They fall in love just like heterosexuals and want the same things they do. Why should they be denied those rights? Why must they always be considered second class citizens at best even in an enlightened environment? They must have felt that an Orthodox rabbi performing a full religious ceremony gives them a fuller measure of acceptance.

The problem is that it has not really done that. Not even close. It has probably done the opposite. The very idea of placing a religious imprimatur on a marriage between 2 men flies in the face of every conceivable interpretation of what marriage means in Judaism. Rabbi Greenberg has in effect bastardized the ceremony with his changes in the language of the Kesubah and the Kidushin - and with his participation as the officiating rabbi.

I realize he has his own interpretation of the nature of the homosexual relationship. I believe his interpretation is that the Torah meant something else when it says that a man lying with another man in the manner of a woman is a capital offense. At best that is the height of rationalization. It is in effect an outcome based interpretation. He has publicly admitted that no one in Orthodoxy of any stature agrees with it. If I am not mistaken - not even those on the far left!

I realize that life for two people who love each other want to be accepted as full partners in the human endeavor. But to take this kind of step takes their desire far beyond social acceptance. It tries to give it Halachic acceptance -by using religious trappings and modalities of one of the holiest ceremonies in all of Judaism. This is unacceptable by any standard and in my view an abomination!

Consenting adults is not the Jewish standard. Not any more than it would be the Jewish standard an incestuous relationship.

And yet Rabbi Greenberg by his actions is saying that it is not only a Jewish standard but that it is holy!

This event does not help his cause in my view. It hurts it. We cannot change a Halacha just to suit us no matter how difficult that Halacha makes life. Following Halacha is sometimes very hard. We ought to acknowledge that and work to honor our commitment to it. As I often say Judaism is basically about obligations. Not rights. The Torah says no. We cannot say yes because we feel like it - and then rationalize clear Issur into Heter.

The right approach in my view is the one I have followed. It is not to legitimize the illegitimate. No matter how much it might bother us we cannot change the word of God. But at the same time we must accept the fact that some Halachos are extremely difficult to follow for some people. And that some are more difficult for one person than they are for another. No two people are alike. But the level of difficulty does not absolve us of our obligation to follow them. As long as a homosexual knows that and does not try and upend it, he ought to be treated as an equal among men and among women.

One cannot sanctify the unsanctifiable. It can never be condoned when tried.

I feel sorry for the two men who underwent this abominable procedure. I can’t blame them for seeking religious sanction for their lifestyle. They can’t help how they feel and it is no sin to try and find religious meaning in what they see as normal for themselves. But I do not feel sorry for Rabbi Greenberg. He should know better. He should have just said no. Even if he sees things differently he has to know that what he did will be universally condemned in Orthodoxy. And rightfully so.