The Yerushalayim Pride Parade” and the Beruriah Doctrine


avrohom gordimerBy Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer

“May sinners (חטאים) be eradicated from the earth…” (Tehillim/Psalms 104:35). Beruriah, the erudite wife of the Talmudic sage Rebbe Meir, exposited the verse to convey not that sinners, but that sins, be eradicated. (Berachos 10a)

Unfortunately, in the context of the recent tragic killing of a 16 year-old girl by a deranged vigilante in Yerushalayim, we are witnessing Liberal Orthodox leaders blur the lines, and Open Orthodox/Neo-Conservative leaders take advantage of an opportunity to sell their wares and introduce novel and radical concepts into the discourse – concepts that contravene the “Beruriah Doctrine” and conflate sympathy for the sinner with sympathy for the sin. Yes, the unthinkable is occurring, as rabbis from the left are now according tolerance to relationships which the Torah bans in the harshest of terms. Rabbi Yaakov Medan, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion,recently expressed serious concerns about this distinction. I would like to elaborate and amplify.

Rabbi Benny Lau, cousin of Chief Rabbi David Lau, rightfully condemned both the recent killing by the deranged vigilante, as well as lethal attacks in Judea-Samaria against Arab families by local rogue Jewish residents – yet the rabbi made his remarks at agathering of IGI/Israel Gay Youth on a stage draped with a largeGay Pride Flag.

Would Rabbi Lau have stopped after delivering harsh condemnation of the offenders, that would be understood and welcome – but he also spoke about homosexual expression (“not living in a closet”) and about homophobia, a loaded term that implies a psychological disorder on the part of those who oppose homosexuality and/or its manifestation. Unfortunately, Rabbi Lau’s appearance at the IGI gathering, with the Gay Pride Flag in the background and all, served not only to condemn criminal acts of violence, but also to condone homosexual expression.

And we go further. In a new Haaretz article about Orthodoxy and homosexuality, senior Open Orthodox/Neo-Conservative rabbis indicated that Orthodox attitudes about homosexuality are substantially changing. Commenting on same-gender marriage, it is reported concerning Rabbi Dr. Daniel Sperber, who sits on theYeshivat Maharat Advisory Board, serves as chancellor of a non-Orthodox rabbinical school, ordains women as rabbis at semicha programs in Yerushalayim and New York, and is the halachic authority behind several “partnership minyanim” (joint prayer groups led by both men and women):

Sperber thinks there may be a way around this. “The problem is with the word ‘marriage,’” he notes. “Perhaps they can call it something else like a ‘partnership.’”

This is shocking. A leading Open Orthodox/Neo-Conservative rabbi is proposing a form of homosexual wedlock that, in his opinion, Orthodox Judaism may be able to adopt and implement.

Another leader of this denomination seeks different accommodations to enable limited “halachic” forms of homosexual relationships, reports Haaretz:

“The red lines are obvious,” says (Rabbi Ysoscher) Katz (Chair of Department of Talmud, YCT). “I don’t think you’ll find an Orthodox rabbi in the next 1,000 years who will rule that gay sex is allowed. At the same time, more and more Orthodox rabbis are starting to treat it as a genetic predisposition, and this raises a huge theological dilemma: If it’s not a choice, then how can God discriminate against these people?”… “The Torah makes clear that anal sex between two men is prohibited, but I like to talk about the ’50 shades of gay,’” explains Katz. “In other words, there are many other things they can do that are not expressly prohibited.”

Halachically, it is clear from the Shulchan Aruch (Even Ha-Ezer 24) and all earlier and later sources that men who share an attraction are not to be secluded together, even absent any physical contact. Rabbi Katz’ endorsement of homosexual physical intimacy short of the Biblically-prohibited act itself is thus contradicted by governing halachic sources. (It must also be pointed out, in reference to Rabbi Katz’ remarks, that we do not know and may never know the reason(s) as to why some people are homosexual. For centuries, homosexuality was considered to be a psychiatric disorder;  the American Psychiatric Association changed its position on this in 1973. A (formerly?) homosexual man with whom I often speak swears to me that his homosexuality was caused by years of acute emotional abuse by his father: “I know exactly why I had those strong tendencies, and once I came to terms with it and worked things through decades later, I no longer had that attraction, and I guarantee you that 99.9% of gay men became that way due to very early emotional trauma… Anyone who says otherwise is in denial.” And, as Rabbi Katz points out, common contemporary thinking is that homosexuality is innate. The truth is that we may never know, yet that does not impact the Halacha.)

There is also a vital theological point that runs through (or against, to be precise) the approaches of the rabbis cited above. Inasmuch as people may not understand the Torah’s stance against homosexuality, and inasmuch as we must show empathy and be understanding of the struggles of those who experience same-gender attraction, we cannot dilute, downplay or disassociate in any way from the Torah’s position, nor can we deem the Torah’s position to be something with which we do not identify and which we seek to minimize and work around. Rather, we must adopt, embrace and defend it.  As Rav Soloveitchik zt”l stated during a 1974 shiur in Boston (The Rav – Thinking Aloud on the Parsha: Sefer Bereshis, p.92):

A philosophy of [homo]sexualism is being preached throughout the Western world, to such an extent that a certain rabbi came to me and said, “How can we defend ourselves against it?” I told him, take out a Chumash and read a pasuk. ואת זכר לא תשכב משכבי אשה. (“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman.” –Vayikra/Leviticus 18:22)

In other words, we identify with the Torah and affirm our commitment to its dictates and values, without apologetics or excuses. (Please see here as well.)

“And you shall love Hashem your God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your might.” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 6:5) Rashi invokes an explanation from the Sifri (6:5): “With all of your heart” – that your heart not oppose God. This means that observing the mitzvos does not suffice; one must attitudinally identify with the Word of God and not disassociate from the Torah’s values. Encouraging public homosexual expression/celebration, homosexual marriage-type relationships and homosexual activity signals a disassociation from the values of the Torah on this issue, irrespective of alleged fidelity to technical halachic requirements.

It is this idea – the courage to embrace the Torah when it is not popular, when it clashes with contemporary values, and when it really goes against the grain of society – which signifies theemunah (genuine faith) of the Jew and elevates him. As Rav Soloveitchik explicated in a 1968 shiur to RIETS Rabbinic Alumni (The Rav – Thinking Aloud on the Parsha: Sefer Bereshis, pp. 193-194):

…If it’s easy, simple, elementary, justified – there is no need for faith… How does the sanctity of a Jew express itself? Through the interpretation of mitzvos.

But what kind of mitzvos? Easy mitzvos? Easy mitzvos don’t sanctify a person. Easy mitzvos don’t have a redemptive influence, impact, upon the person. An easy mitzvah is nothing. You know which mitzvah redeems the personality, cleans the personality, elevates the personality, enhances? A mitzvah which is difficult. Difficult mitzvos, not easy mitzvos. Because the way you perform a difficult mitzvah – what does difficult mean? It doesn’t mean a mitzvah which is very expensive; that is not important. A difficult mitzvah means a mitzvah which is contrary to my practical reason. I don’t see it. A difficult mitzvah means a mitzvah which society does not accept, cannot understand. A difficult mitzvah means a commandment which means a wise-guy says, “ah, it’s archaic, it’s old-fashioned”, and so forth and so on. And a mitzvah which I – I! – from time to time question its worth and validity. And still, af al pi kein, in spite of everything, nevertheless I interpret the mitzvah, then it is cleansing, redemptive, redeeming, and enhances the human being. The same as faith, you understand.

Cross Currents

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  1. “as well as lethal attacks in Judea-Samaria against Arab families by local rogue Jewish residents”

    How can a frum Rabbi be propagating the blood libel of our enemies??????

    Below is a comment I wrote on another blog:

    I feel that too many people are missing the bigger picture.

    Shlissel, a lone individual, mysteriously released from a prison sentence for a similar crime, just weeks before the shame parade, committed murder, violating a direct Torah prohibition, and against all community norms of every religious Jewish community in the world. There will be no campaign for his release from prison, no street-naming, no public honor whatsoever. Furthermore, there has never been any call to violence against people who have an inverted sexual orientation by Torah leaders. Thus, there is no need for a collective mea culpa on the part of the religious public, because there is no guilt.

    However, we are now going to have “tolerance education” shoved down our throats in the aim of preventing another such crime (which is completely ridiculous as it is a one-off crime, not a societal phenomenon). Teachers who refuse to teach it will be criminally sanctioned. Psychologists and others, (including rabbis) who counsel troubled individuals will also be dictated to in this realm.

    At the same time, the blame for the Duma murder, strangely juxtaposed to the Jerusalem murder, has been firmly placed at the feet of the national religious public, without there even being any proof whatsoever as to the identity of the perpetrator of the crime. It should be remembered that Arabs routinely murder each other on account of their bizarre concept of family honour. (In one case not so long ago, finally an Arab woman came forward to assist the police in their inquiries, after eight, yes EIGHT murders had been committed between two families). In any case involving Arabs, the first line of inquiry should always be intra-clan honour killings.

    At the recent rally in Tel Aviv, Herzog, the head of the opposition, bombastically declaimed, “what is wrong with the religious public, that it gives rise to such violence”.

    The haredi and the national religious sectors are the most law abiding in Israel, especially with respect to violent crime. Most such crimes are committed by non-religious Jews, Arabs, and others. This is a fact. Yet, now following the media portrayal of these strangely juxtaposed events, the national agenda has suddenly become how to deal with the violence of the religious communities and how to teach “tolerance education” to these primitives.

    And all this comes exactly at a time when we commemorate ten years to the violent expulsion of Jews from their homes in Gush Katif. Exactly at a time when the Israeli Left should be doing a huge collective mea culpa towards the National Religious public. How clever of them to expropriate the public agenda for their own ends.

    Unfortunately I fear that, Gd forbid, the stage is being set for another expulsion of Jews from their homes. As per usual it starts with the delegitimisation of Torah Jews, as described above.

    At the very least, what I would expect from Torah leaders is to refrain from the type of knee-jerk reactions that Israeli leaders are so prone to, towards the Arab world and the international community. First they accuse us of a heinous crime, then we immediately apologise and take full and collective responsibility for the alleged event, and much later on after the facts have been ascertained, and it turns out the alleged event never took place or that the perpertrator was an Arab, or in the worst case scenario a Jew acting alone, and against the law, it is too late, as the PR damage has been done, and policy has been decided for us and against our interests.

    This is exactly what is happening here internally in Israel. Just as Israel calls for peace and is met with blood libels, so the religious sectors in Israel call for unity and are met with blood libels from the Israeli Left. There will be no unity with them. (And by Israeli Left I mean the hard-core Left that controls the Israeli establishment, principally the judicial system, the police, the media, and the arts)

    It’s time Torah Jews start understanding what is really happening, and start setting the agenda, not just reacting to the artificial one foisted on us.