Should ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity be ac­cept­able for Jews?

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS -

OUR COM­MIT­MENT to Ju­daism is founded on two pil­lars. One gov­erns our re­la­tion­ship with One God — a God of right­eous­ness, jus­tice, love, com­pas­sion and for­give­ness. The other gov­erns our re­la­tion­ship with each other.

Mostly, my re­la­tion­ship with God is a mat­ter of in­di­vid­ual prac­tice and in­formed choice. But how I am with oth­ers re­quires eth­i­cal con­duct. With­out that, piety, rit­ual and be­lief are mean­ing­less.

How is the Divine Will re­vealed to hu­man­ity? Is it en­shrined in one doc­u­ment; given by God at one mo­ment in his­tory; im­mutable, eter­nal, un­chang­ing? Or are we to see the To­rah as in­spired and time­less in places, but also a prod­uct of its time? Its uni­ver­sal ap­pli­ca­tion to con­tem­po­rary so­ci­ety en­dorses those who would stone the “de­viants” of Ortho­dox halachah.

If we prize — above all else — the faith that each hu­man be­ing is cre­ated in the Divine Im­age, if we set jus­tice and com­pas­sion as the pil­lars of a hu­mane so­ci­ety, then those in­di­vid­u­als whom Ju­daism has pushed to the mar­gins pos­sess as much right to be part of the Jewish com­mu­nity as any­one else.

We should move be­yond our era of sex­ual ob­ses­sion and learn to cher­ish the val­ues of faith­ful­ness over fick­le­ness and af­fec­tion and re­spect above fleet­ing grat­i­fi­ca­tion. Then per­haps we will see that ev­ery­thing we imag­ined was un­der as­sault — fam­ily and fi­delity, schol­ar­ship and learn­ing, re­straint and gen­tle­ness — is cher­ished as dearly by same-sex cou­ples who re­main ded­i­cated to a lov­ing and re­spect­ful ex­pres­sion of Ju­daism and who de­sire to pass it on to the next gen­er­a­tion. Rabbi Wright is se­nior rabbi of the Lib­eral Jewish Syn­a­gogue

THE TO­RAH and its com­men­taries are very clear about the Jewish at­ti­tude to­wards ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. It is a perver­sion and both of­fend­ing par­ties are li­able to cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment (Leviti­cus). Al­though Mai­monides writes that Jews are not sus­pected of prac­tis­ing ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, he nev­er­the­less specif­i­cally for­bids male and fe­male ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity.

The pro­hi­bi­tion against ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is not exclusive to Jews. It is a uni­ver­sal law in­cluded among Noahide Laws. The Se­fer Hach­in­uch (a classical com­men­tary) de­scribes ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity as an un­nat­u­ral perver­sion de­bas­ing the dig­nity of man. The Jewish view is un­equiv­o­cal. Ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is for­bid­den.

How, then, should the Jewish com­mu­nity view an openly gay in­di­vid­ual? On a per­sonal level, one can truly sym­pa­thise with the dilemma a Jewish gay faces. But to give ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity even a whis­per of le­git­i­macy is dis­tinctly anti-Jewish and even borders on Chilul Hashem (des­e­cra­tion of God’s name).

If the To­rah for­bids ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, its view is that one can con­trol it. The Talmud says that God does not give his cre­ations rules they can­not obey. While peo­ple may have an ori­en­ta­tion and urge for a sin­ful act, Ju­daism ex­pects and de­mands self-con­trol. Openly con­don­ing ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is a state­ment that the To­rah got it wrong.

The To­rah de­scribes the Jewish peo­ple as a Holy Na­tion, and our ho­li­ness is based on our ad­her­ence to the moral code of the To­rah. To prac­tise ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is to vi­o­late it, and to openly es­pouse it is to mock the le­git­i­macy of the To­rah and Ju­daism. Dayan Licht­en­stein is head of the Fed­er­a­tion Beth Din

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