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Homosexual Practice & -Defined Abhorrence

Portions © 2000 by Yi•rᵊmᵊyâhu Bën-Dâ•wid

Paqid Yirmeyahu (Paqid 16, the Netzarim)
Pâ•qidꞋ  Yi•rᵊmᵊyâhꞋ u

The following are excerpts from an eMail discussion clarifying several points about the position of relative to homosexuality.

> -Original Message-
> From: Inquirer (INQ)
> Sent: Saturday, November 04, 2000 10:31 PM
> To: info@schuellerhouse.com
[INQ, 2000.11.04]> As 'Rabbi' Boteach has recently disgraced himself by making pro-homosexual comments and, even worse, trying to show how the Torah is 'pro-gay', I think it'd be appropriate to remove his book from your references.
> Sincerely,

> From: Ken Guentert (KG)
> Date: 11/9/00 12:31:41 PM
[KG, 2000.11.15]> Thank you for your "heads-up." I hadn't heard about Rabbi Boteach's "pro-gay" comments. Are they published somewhere and could you point me to them so that I could see what you're talking about?

However, I don't know that I agree with the logic of removing a book that is pro- (unless there is some way it isn't pro-) because the author has made inappropriate comments elsewhere (assuming he has made inappropriate comments elsewhere). That seems to confuse the message with the messenger.

[INQ, 2000.11.14]Ken: >> There was recently quite a flap over Boteach's comments and Rabbi Moshe Tendler (of Elizabeth, NJ I think) publicly refuted them... I read it in the Jewish Voice & Opinion out of Englewood, NJ and also heard it from different sources. I think a search on a search engine will give you the info quickly.

[KG, 2000.11.15]I searched and found Rabbi Boteach's long essay and also a response from another rabbi, though I'm not sure it was a response to the lengthy essay or to some short comments elsewhere. While he was disagreeing with R. Boteach, the dispute seemed to be routine, an argument between peers rather than a dismissal of someone who was beyond the pale. R. Boteach's main point seemed to be that homosexual behavior was wrong because HaShem determined it be so, much as he determined it wrong for Jews to mix meat and dairy, rather than wrong because homosexual behavior was deviant or abnormal in the natural world. Nowhere did he say encouraged or permitted homosexual behavior.

I am hardly qualified to weigh in on what is and what is not, but I'll check it out with my rabbi.

[INQ, 2000.11.14]>> I think one of the most important lessons that Judaism teaches is actually that there is no such thing as separating the 'message' from the 'messenger' and would be curious to know of any evidence anywhere in the Written or Oral Laws that suggests this. In fact, there are many statements that suggest that one who says one thing but does something else is hated by G-d.

[KG, 2000.11.15]This last bit makes sense to me, but it doesn't follow from that one should ignore the emet one speaks or refuse to follow your local rabbi's ruling because he needs to make teshuvah. That's just a logical point, and I may be all wet. I'm not a scholar and would certainly have to bow to the sources and more learned opinions.

[INQ, 2000.11.14]>>> In the gentile world, a George Bernard Shaw could, upon being caught by a student in a 'delicate' situation, state "Do as I say and not as I do." Or a WJ Clinton can lecture others on duty to the country or sending soldiers to Bosnia while commiting fornication and perjury and nothing is amiss.

[KG, 2000.11.15]Again, it just makes sense that Clinton would be judged on his behavior rather than what came out of his mouth. On the other hand, wouldn't you be a fool if he told you something that would save your life and you ignored him because he was a fornicator? "Do as I say and not as I do" is correct in a sense it assumes individual responsibility, that you have the ability to distinguish between right words and wrong behavior.

[INQ, 2000.11.14]>> Generally speaking, Torah-true Jews go to great lengths to avoid the damaging influences of the outside world. I haven't had a TV in 12 years and won't allow newspapers (generally, especially a liberal rag like the NY Times, Washington Post, etc.) in my house.

[KG, 2000.11.15]Yasher koach especially on the TV. That must explain why you write so well.

[INQ, 2000.11.14]>> Hashem warns us over and over again to separate from the evil that surrounds us and there is hardly a greater evil than the rampant homosexuality out there. Don't forget that the Torah uses the term 'abomination' to describe sodomy and hardly ever uses the term otherwise.

[KG, 2000.11.15]I've never made a count, but it seems to me "to'evah" (however it is spelled) is used for a fairly long list of items, including some forms of incest, using incorrect weights, and violating some aspects of kashrut. The fellow who argued with R. Boteach wrote that there was something special about homosexual practice, according to one source, but it does make some sense to put it into the context of other practices considered to'evah.

[INQ, 2000.11.14]>> There's also a strong concept that when there is a particular Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination/Desire) to do something prevalent in the society/times we live in, we're commanded to stay far away. In fact, the Sages stated that if all of a sudden the surrounding gentiles made it a custom to, eg, wear black shoe laces, we should try to do otherwise.

[INQ, 2000.11.14]>> PS Sorry if I rambled a little but I'm just trying to point out that separating the two is totally foreign to Judaism. Not one hero/leader/sage in Israel has ever been portrayed that way.

[KG, 2000.11.15]Well, it's a new idea to me. But then lots of things in Judaism have been new ideas.

Rainbow Rule

From: Ken Guentert (KG)
To: Yirmeyahu Ben-David, Paqid 16, The Netzarim (Raanana, Israel)
[KG, 2000.11.15] Yirmeyahu
... Is there anything to INQ's idea that Judaism refuses to separate the messenger from the message...?

[YBD, 2000.11.16] is a poem "How good are the tents of Israel…!" (bᵊ-Mi•dᵊbar 24.5 {authored by the idolater, Bil•âm}, and concluded by Tᵊhil•im 5.8; 26.8; 95.6; and 69.14). This poem is recited only by Ash•kᵊnazim upon entering the beit ha-kᵊnësët on ërëv Shab•ât. Tei•mân•im instead recite Shir ha-Shir•im upon entering the beit ha-kᵊnësët on ërëv Shab•ât.

Who's being quoted?

[KG, 2000.11.15]I got my response partly from logic and partly from Yehoshua's instruction to do what the rabbis say and not what they do. Also, Judaism seems particularly good at separating one thing from another so his comment comes as a total surprise to me.

[YBD, 2000.11.16] His perspective appears little different from King Louis XVI of France who declared "L'état, c'est moi" (I am the state). Jews blur whatever they believe with Judaism. The more you encounter that the less surprised you'll become. I guess (becoming) jaded is the operative word.

The guy doesn't sound Messianic (though he still might be). Rather, he sounds like a typical ill-informed and rather ignorant formerly dât•i (or Conservative or even possibly Reform) who thinks he's finally found someone who knows less about Judaism than he does and he can finally pontificate over someone and, thereby, make himself feel more Jewish by comparison.

[KG, 2000.11.15] Aside from that, R. Boteach's essay seemed pretty reasoned to me. He was trying to be compassionate without denying . He was pretty clear that HaShem forbids homosexual behavior, but he has some interesting nuances. One is that he believes neither homosexual behavior nor homosexual attraction are "unnatural" or "deviant" and there he has an interesting disagreement with Dr. Laura. Instead, he says that homosexual behavior is forbidden simply because HaShem said so and in that sense is somewhat akin to prohibitions against kashrut, which interestingly is also considered "toevah."

So he says, just as the Jewish community welcomes those who violate kashrut (and encourages them to teshuva), the Jewish community should also welcome those attracted to the same sex and even actively homosexual (again with a view to encouraging them to teshuvah). He also thinks, arguing from , that homosexual attraction must be environmentally based rather than genetically based a learned behavior in effect that can be unlearned. This of course would make teshuvah more realistic. INQ below doesn't seem to separate the behavior from the person indeed that his whole argument and seems rather too keen to beat up (at least psychologically if not physically) those with the orientation let alone the behavior.

[YBD, 2000.11.16] The response to the arguments of Rav Bo•teiakh (Boteach) falls into two primary types: traditional dât•i and logical; which sometimes are, but don't have to be, incompatible.

Traditional Strategy

The traditional dât•i strategy is to – unquestioningly and mindlessly – quote the kha•khâm•im (often paraphrased to "commentators") and consider that absolute "Gospel". This is the origin of the basis in all law of citing precedents – except that in law, courts that decide precedents can be overturned.

In his book, The Mitzvot (see the Judaica Shoppe in NQ), Rav Chill quotes Ibn Ezra: "Homosexual relationships are forbidden because they are a perversion of nature and an act of disobedience to the Will of ‑‑" (p. 214). The editors of The Stone Tanakh corroborate this: "Homosexuality, however, is unnatural and therefore []" (note to wa-Yi•qᵊr•â 18.22).

The term is "an abhorrence, object of disgust."

There are 117 instances in Ta•na"kh of . The Ëvën Shosh•an Concordance (Hebrew) defines as a , the cognate of (popularly corrupted to "shiktza," referring to a non-Jewish wife), bor .

Homosexuality in Tanakh and Orthodox Judaism is a , but so are some other things which people don't realize ha-Sheim considers every bit as abhorrent and repugnant. .

Logical Strategy

The logical approach is to conduct scholarly research which delineates between environmental, genetic and other factors. If Rav Boteiakh cited any such scholarship you didn't mention it, and his opinion is no better than anyone else's and, in fact, if such documentation is lacking then it demonstrate that his opinion is unfounded (not based in scientific reasoning), therefore invalid, and should be dismissed.

If the research citations are there then it becomes a matter of examining and assessing the research logically (i.e., scientifically).

There has been little scientific evidence advanced, to my knowledge, which validates either environmental or genetic causes of homosexuality (for the genetic link – not cause, see Cultural Decline Causes Homosexuality Genetically?). To the contrary, all of the hard evidence of neuroscience argues that the brain is plastic, not "god made me that way" hardwired: that the individual's will rewires physical neural formations, and even recomposes genetic information accordingly, remolding the physical brain to conform to one's determination and practice (see discussions of neuroscience in the weekly Tor•âh portions in our "Beit K'nesset" pages: Pâ•râsh•at bᵊ-Reish•it, Pâ•râsh•at wa-Yei•shëv and Pâ•râsh•at bᵊ-Khuq•ōt•ai).

Thus, homosexuality is comparable to smoking or drug addiction, not like the unavoidable physical needs to drink, eat or breath. Homosexuality differs only in degree, not kind, from murder, rape, stealing, or any other evil inclination – and differs not much, even in degree, from cross-dressing or pedophilia (often the next steps). To say that the PRACTICE of homosexuality should be tolerated in the Orthodox community is no different, in any way that can be scientifically isolated and described, from tolerating murder, rape and stealing in the Orthodox community.

The person with evil inclinations who controls and denies those inclinations is acceptable. But the person who puts those same inclinations into PRACTICE is unacceptable. The ëvën bo•khan (touchstone) is the person's practice.

I don't think there are very many Orthodox rabbis who would disagree with me on that.

Yi•rᵊmᵊyâhu Bën-Dâ•wid, Pâ•qid 16
The Nᵊtzâr•im, Ra•a•nanâ(h), Yi•sᵊr•â•eil

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