Thursday, January 26, 2023

Openly Gay, Married to a Man, and Orthodox?

Rosenfeld /(center) on his podcast with Rabbi  Manis Friedman (right) - (JTA)
Is it possible for a Jewish man to be fully observant, gay, and married to a non Jewish man? One might not think so. But that is in fact the way comedian Mordechi (Modi) Rosenfeld sees himself. From JTA:

“Being gay, you can keep Shabbos, you can keep kosher, you can keep anything you want to do,” he said. “You can learn Talmud, you can learn Torah…

 For (Rosenfeld), being Jewish means praying with tefillin every day, eating kosher food and observing Shabbat — while also being married to his husband. 

He adds that he belongs to a Modern Orthodox Shul where other gay and trans people daven. And has on occasion been asked to be the cantor. (He actually trained for that at Yeshiva University’s Belz Cantorial School of Music.)

The sense I get from this article is that Rosenfeld is very happy with his life and is quite comfortable being ‘married’ to  Leo Veiga - a non Jewish gay man. They have been living ‘happily ever after’ as husband and husband. (8 years, so far)  

It should be noted that - having been educated by Chabad, Rosenfeld  is not new to observance nor is he ignorant of what the Torah says about gay sex. He is in fact inspired by the Lubavitcher Rebbe: 

“Moshiach energy,” as Rosenfeld puts it, is akin to the Jewish principle of loving your neighbor as yourself and then putting that energy into the universe in order to bring about the coming of the Messiah. The idea is inspired by the last leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch Orthodox movement, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson — a major source of inspiration for Rosenfeld, who studied at a Lubavitch yeshiva.

This is what makes the issue of being both gay and observant so perplexing. Is it possible to be gay, live with another gay man for 8 years, and not violate the Torah’ s serious prohibition against gay sex? 

I suppose it’s possible. But it would take an individual of superhuman willpower and spiritual strength to live with someone you are sexually attracted to for 8 years - and never satisfy your physical desires. It would seem to be highly unlikely for someone to remain as happy and upbeat as Rosenfeld seems to be without that.

If that is the case, I don’t see how he can say he is observant. At least not fully observant. And yet that is what he implies about himself.

What is so disturbing to me about this is not that his life as a gay man is so successful. I am happy for him that it is. But I am unhappy that with his implicit claim to be an observant Jew, the subtle message is that ‘gay sex’ is morally equivalent to ‘straight sex’. Which is absolutely not the case. The latter is a Mitzvah for a married couple and the former is considered by the Torah to be a capital offense (under the ‘right’ conditions).  

This does not mean that he should ever be subjected discrimination. He most certainly should not.  I’m also quite happy that he is observant of Shabbos and Kashrus, 2 of 3 the Mitzvos recognized as definitive of Orthodoxy. (The 3rd – Taharas HaMishpacha - which essentially involves the requirement of married women to use a Mikva - does not apply to him.)

I am, however, quite unhappy at the positive image he presents as an observant gay man married to another gay man. Knowing full well (because of his religious education) the forbidden nature of gay sex. You simply cannot portray yourself as observant when your lifestyle is conducive to serious violations of Halacha.  

It would be like a  Jew who puts on 2 pairs of Tefilin (Rashi and Rabbenu Tam) every morning; Davens with a Minyan 3 times a day; is meticulous in keeping Shabbos to the point of not using an Eruv; keeps Chalav Yisroel and Yoshon; learns  Daf Yomi; …and every once in a while happily eats a  cheeseburger in the privacy of his own home as though it was permitted. This cannot be called observance.

No matter how meticulous he might be in other areas of observance – a gay man being ‘married’ to another gay man and then living together for 8 years is the antitheses of observance. 

That said, I admire his public observance as a gay man. Knowing full well that many observant Jews would condemn him. It takes a lot of courage and commitment to do that and not become bitter to the point of chucking it al!. He should be praised and encouraged to continue in that commitment.  

But in no way can he serve as a role model for other Jewish gay people who want to be observant. Because no matter how meticulous one is about observing all the other Mitzvos, the public nature of Rosenfeld’s  gay marriage and lifestyle where intentional violation of Halacha is likely - makes that impossible. 

Which is why I have such mixed feelings about him.