The Torah Declaration: Orthodox Judaism's impossible position

Published: January 18, 2012

One of the more fascinating things to watch is the peculiar struggle that Orthodox Jews are going though in their effort to determine where gay Jews fit in the world, the family, and the tribe.

While conservative Christians may be content with “well the Bible says”, the Jewish tradition requires that an observant Jew carefully seek to understand the nuances of the Torah, the realities of the world, the condition of their own heart, run it through the sieve of tradition, and come to a place that reflects G-d’s intention.

Sometimes this can be a bit absurd, like the determination that if one uses a pen for work, then any use of a pen – even moving a pen so as to read a book it lies on – is forbidden on the Sabbath (my apologies if I got that wrong). But that’s a Jewish issue and doesn’t need to make sense to a goy fagela.

But it also can have subtleties that “well the Bible says” simply cannot handle. Take, for example, Rabbi Zev Farber discussion about the “morality question”:

Unfortunately, much of the rhetoric traditionally surrounding homosexuality seems to derive from a confusion of categories. For the believing Orthodox Jew, homosexual congress is a religious offense, akin to eating shrimp or driving on the Sabbath. It is not a moral offense, akin to assaulting women or cheating in business. Much of the rhetoric around homosexuality seems to center on moral discourse, and I feel this is a serious mistake.

But Farber is on one end of the spectrum. And in times of uncertainty on issues of discomfort, extremes arise. And within Orthodox Judaism, there are some pretty drastic extremes, especially on the subject of homosexuality. Peter LaBarbera’s hate-fest yesterday was endorsed by Rabbi Yehuda Levin’s Rabbinical Alliance of America / Igud Harabbonim. And we all know of the ultra-Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn who show up to protest gay marriage, usually toting signs that make little sense to anyone outside their particular community.

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