Friday, February 22, 2008

Editorial Review: Give gays the kosher stamp

I was just wasting some time reading Yediot Acharonot, one of Israel's two largest circulation daily newspapers, when I came across something in the English edition which caught my eye. It was an opinion piece entitled, "Give gays the kosher stamp." (to see the original article, click on the previous link.) The author, Assaf Wohl, has written on various subjects relating to the secular-religious tension in the past, and his view of observant Jews as bigoted simpletons is not uncommon among the self-righteous ruling classes of Israel. Like most of the self-appointed enforcers of political correctness, his views seem to fall apart once subjected to cursory analysis.

I'll go through his piece point by point:

Give gays kosher stamp

Asaf Wohl calls on rabbis to replace horrifying gay-bashing with social acceptance of homosexuals

Gay bashing? You mean like beating up gay people? Well, there have been a few synagogues desecrated by homosexual groups in the past, but I'm unaware of any group of rabbis who took up baseball bats and assaulted homosexuals.

Asaf Wohl

The issue of religious homosexuals is a serious test case for leaders of the so-called God-fearing public. With the exception of very few people, the leaders of this community fail time and again in handling this question. The miserable anti-gay expressions uttered by Orthodox Knesset members are especially concerning, and in fact horrifying.

Interesting that he gives no quotes to back himself up. But this is typical of Israeli journalistic sloppiness. What matters is not what is said or done, but what Afaf Wohl feels.

Had I been God, I would immediately sue those Knesset members for making pretenses to represent me in such a deficient manner.

I suppose Wohl is attempting to be funny.

All we have to go on here is the Torah, which religious Jews believe to be the revealed word of God. The Torah calls homosexuality an abomination. It's a bit difficult to spin that into acceptance.

The argument that “homosexuality contradicts nature” is being heard often. And I ask you, the people who utter such hate-filled words: How do you know that? When were you in touch with nature recently? Can you prove that societies that are also home to homosexuality are naturally inferior to others? And which natural law contradicts homosexual tendencies? The law of thermodynamics? Gravity?

Now he's switched tracks, and is talking about the nature argument. What that has to do with the previous argument on Halachah (the Jewish way of living) is a bit fuzzy, but I'll take him up on it. Homosexuality violates the laws of natural selection. Those who have children pass their genes onto the next generation and survive. Those who don't disappear from the gene pool. Homosexuals unions do not produce offspring. If one looks at European states whose culture approves of such behavior, namely Holland, Denmark, and the light, one notices that these societies are also experiencing rapid demographic decline, and will likely be replaced by Muslim societies within the next three decades.

Or perhaps we should be ruling that the fact a man is only allowed to marry one woman contradicts natural laws?

It contradicts natural urges, not natural laws. Self control, the basis of a successful Jewish life, is not the

After all, the human urge is manifested through attraction to many partners. It is for good reason that more than 50% of men admit to cheating on their wives in all kinds of strange polls.

Which polls? Not to say that this poll is untrue, but sadly, Yediot, like many Israeli media outlets, publishes such mindless, unsupported statements without a second thought.

The true figure is probably higher. So let’s be consistent, and turn the issue of infidelity into a legitimate way of life. After all, we must not go against nature!
Our forefathers also had many wives and concubines, why should we make do with only one partner?

Okay, let's stop for the

So from now on, please say that homosexuality contradicts Jewish law, not the laws of nature.

I thought you just said that

Jewish law permits lesbianism.

No it doesn't. Lesbianism is not mentioned as a capital offence as male homosexuality is, but it is prohibited just the same.

Even the argument that there is no such thing as a “religious homosexual” is baseless. If we have religious slanderers, religious thieves, and thank God, even religious murderers, why can’t we also have religious homosexuals, who don’t hurt anyone?

There are homosexuals who are involved in torah study in orthodox yeshivot to this day. A Christian friend in college once put it to me, "Hate the sin, not the sinner." The author, in his primitive mindset, conflates tolerance with acceptance. A Jew is required to love his fellow Jew regardless of behavior, but that does not imply approval of behaviors the Torah deems detrimental to the person or to society.

After all, those who desecrate the Sabbath in public also deserve to be stoned, so why are you only angry at homosexuals?
This is because the same-sex model threatens the familiar family tradition. And from there it is a short distance to the demonic hatred many among the religious community hold towards the homo-lesbian public.

He makes a good point here, that the hazard of homosexuality to the "familiar family tradition."

And still, I believe that somewhere there is a Jewish law solution. First, as far as I know there is no problem with lesbian women in the Halacha. So we are left with a problem about the males.

Here I expect the rabbis to resolve this issue once and for all, and preferably not in the Iranian way.

I could go on and on about this paragraph. First, there is a reference to halachah as the "Iranian way." The implication is that just as Iranian Muslims took their Koran out of the mosques and into the streets and decided to run society according to their religion, so too observant Jews take Torah out of the synagogue and into their everyday lives. Therefore, because Iran is an belligerent, starving country, an altogether unpleasant place to live, so too Israel will become much like it's miserable and backward neighbors if observance of Judaism were to become more widespread. Of course, the fact he seems to have missed is that Iranians are Muslims and Jews are Jewish, and two different ideologies are under discussion. One could equally argue that since Communism was a secular ideoligy, and representative democracy is also a secular ideology, so therefore representative democracy is as wicked as totalitarian Communism.

I’m not talking about lifting prohibitions, but rather, about social acceptance.
The Jews are a creative people, so I am certain that rabbis will be able to find a patent that would make homosexuals kosher too.

I've occasionally heard the expression, "Where there's a rabinnic will, there's a halachic way," implying that rabbis "write" halachah. This is demonstrably false, and Halachah is a consistent philosophy. While there may be some dispute whether shabbat begins 18 or 40 minutes before sunset, or whether 56 cubic centimeters of wine are required for kiddush on a holiday, or only 30 cubic centimeters, but the basics, and the methods of interpretation, are universally agreed upon. You can't make a pig kosher.

Homosexuality a direct Torah prohibition, but homosexuals themselves are still kosher Jews. The authentic Jewish response is to approach the individual who has such urges with compassion and understanding, but not to condone the violation of Torah.

Ugh. I somewhat regret writing the above, as I feel that I've already dignified his article by dedicating my precious brainpower to what amounts to a slur, and I'd be glad to argue with a more well-thought-0ut argument, but I haven't yet found any.


NormanF said...

Assaf Wohl misses the point about rabbinic Judaism and Halakah: rabbinical rulings never change the Torah; to the contrary, they put a "fence," e.g, stricter rules around it to make it clear what is permitted and what is forbidden.

Therefore, a rabbinical ruling can never contravene the Torah. It can never make what is prohibited permissible. It cannot create a kosher stamp for treif foods and it cannot legitimate forbidden relationships such as adulterous or homosexual unions.

Divine law has an eternal permanence and lots of natural activity doesn't accord with G-d's intent but that doesn't confer moral status upon it. The larger point Wohl misses is that the Torah changed human history by saying man owes loyalty to more than just his base instincts and the cycles of nature and time. He can transcend his own animal nature and approach the divine spark G-d implanted in him at the time of the Creation.

By obeying G-d, the Jew shows man is capable of being holy - and acting holy. The point of Halakah is to elevate the Jew above the beasts and indeed above the nations. Sanctioning homosexuality would not do that and would thus contradict the intent and the idea behind the entire framework of Halakah.

A lot of Israel's elite harbor the idea Israel should become more like the nations. The Jewish view is the opposite: Israel is meant to be a light to world, to show it is possible for man to serve G-d rather than his own desires and the Torah speaks of a time when every nation will acknowledge Israel's leading role in diffusing the knowledge of G-d and his law upon the earth.

The homosexual issue is really a foil for the debate over Israel's place in the world and the secularists and Jews in Israel are as they were - two different nations in their view on it and it looks like that debate, which has been on-going since the birth of the Zionist movement and later, the establishment of the State Of Israel, won't be resolved anytime soon.

TheDoctor said...

As a Jew I am fairly liberal and don't follow a lot of Talmud, but I agree completely that what is not kosher in Torah by G-d's definition cannot be made kosher. Homosexuality is and never will be less than an abomination Vayikra, 18:22.