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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Must Read

Dag points us to an unbelievable letter in this week's Jewish Press:
Dear Rachel,

As a man who has struggled with homosexuality and frumkeit for many years, I take exception to your consistent championing of change being possible and of asserting that there is no such thing as gay. I’d like to offer another perspective.

Let me start by saying that I believe fully in Torah M’Sinai and consider myself to be a fully committed Orthodox Jew whose tafkid in life is to do my best to keep ALL of the Taryag Mitzvot. I am fully versed in both Halachah and Hashkafah and have no issues whatsoever with the philosophical underpinnings of our belief system. I truly believe that every word of the Chamisha Chumshai Torah was given directly from Hashem to Moshe, and that along with those words, Moshe received Torah SheBa’aL Peh.

The prohibition of Mishkav Zachar comes from the same Hashem that told me to keep Shabbos, to keep Kosher and to fast on Yom Kippur, and I will do my best to keep this mitzvah as I try to do the others.

What I do not fathom is how the prohibition of a very specific behavior translates into Hashem not making people whose sexual orientation is homosexual.

From a hashkafik perspective: The mitzvot revolving around Arayot in the Torah address one thing and one thing only − behavior. There is no discussion of desire, of motivation, of what’s normal desire and deviant desire. Even if one translates ‘To’avah’ in the pasuk of Mishkav Zachar as ‘abomination’ – which is by no means a definitive definition based on Chazal − it still refers to the action, not the desire.

Your writers say that Hashem wouldn’t or couldn’t give an orientation to a person and then prohibit him from acting on it. They say that a person’s desire must be able to change if the Torah prohibits an action. In my opinion, this is putting a very Pollyannaish spin on the very nature of nisayon in Olam Ha’Zeh. The fact is that many times Hashem puts people in adverse circumstances that will not change.

I would argue that in those circumstances the definition of success with the nisayon is first accepting the circumstances and then living as rich a life as possible within those circumstances. Would you, for example, tell a person with medically incurable deafness not to accept that diagnosis? That Hashem would not do that to him because there are so many mitzvot, such as shofar, that involve hearing? That his focus in life should center on searching for a cure? Could you imagine a crueler and less productive way to deal with this most challenging nisayon?

My own struggle with homosexuality has come at enormous cost for me. I ruined a marriage and a successful career. Though I’ve been to the best “SSA therapists” (and thereby gained many positive things), one thing that did not change is my basic desire.

Some may say I didn’t try hard enough. Firstly, ‘Don’t Judge Your Friend Until You Stand In His Place.’ Furthermore, which believer in Torah M’Sinai would not want to ‘change’? Certainly one who lost as much as I did would have more than enough motivation.

But all the motivation in the world has not changed reality for me. When I think of the enormous pain men like me go through, I wish that the hope of change could be there. But I also know that at this point I’d rather face reality than embrace false hope.

And I think of the enormous pain of the women who marry these men. Even in cases where the men are up front with their wives – as I wasn’t, and where they control their behavior – as I didn’t, there is an inherent cruelty in a marriage that lacks the central glue of desire, as I learned first hand. A cruelty that NO woman should be exposed to, and a cruelty that no young woman – particularly a sheltered Bais Yaakov girl – can possibly understand until it is too late. There is no way before marriage that a frum woman can truly fathom what her husband’s lack of desire for her will be like. It is the inherent desire of EVERY woman to be desired by her husband, and I don’t think any Bas Yisrael should be exposed to the risk of encountering rejection.

Believe me I understand fully how much any frum man with homosexual desires wants the hope of a “normal frum life” with a wife and children. And I understand first hand the enormous pain of having to accept that sometimes Hashem says no. But I would rather live my life honest with myself and the situation Hashem placed me in than risk building another world of lies – and devastating another woman.

I don’t know if you will publish this – especially because I’ve essentially advocated a life of loneliness and celibacy for men with homosexual tendencies. At the same time I want to make it clear that I am not advocating an acceptance of a gay lifestyle on any level by the frum community, nor suggesting any “wiggle room” when it comes to a lav in the Torah.
I did not choose to be what I am…
I think this is by far the most eloquent take I've seen from someone with homosexual urges who is trying to live an Orthodox lifestyle. This should be required reading for every Morah D'Asra and religious leader, everywhere. It's very easy for people to write off urges they themselves have never felt as not coming from God due to their very nature of being forbidden, but that ignores the very reality that many people struggle with every single day. Adultery is forbidden as well, yet that doesn't stop our religious leaders from recognizing that some perfectly normal Orthodox men can have desires for women other than their spouses. If that type of urge didnt exist, I don't think these types of gatherings, calling for married women to stop wearing their clothing so form-fitting - would be called with such a sense of urgency.

Another poignant point that the letter-writer makes is that when these men are convinced that their urges are inconsequential and must be ignored at all costs, and urged to marry and create some semblance of a family life, this is a crime whose innocent victims are the women unknowingly rooked into marrying men who don't see them as fully desirable. It is truly depressing to contemplate that there are Orthodox men who view the potentially beautiful and eminently satisfying institution of marriage as just another part the dirty work required to take part in the Orthodox lifestyle, like many view fasting on Yom Kippur and Tisha B'Av - unpleasant but necessary aspects of Judaism.

It's simply tragic.

72 Comments:

Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

I think the JP, for printing this well written and very illuminaitng letter, made a very a self-redeeming decision. Kol haKavod.

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This letter is really amazing. I am speechless. I also agree with you that this should be rquired reading for anyone in Chinuch or Rabbanus. Its too easy to dismiss homosexual tendencies as not allowed, but as you rightly point out, adultery is not allowed either. No one says that people who have adulterous urges are not really feeling them.

I laud you for repriniting this, and the JP for printing this originally. I am hoping this will go a little way to changing peoples harsh views of gays in the Orthodox world.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every rabbi I know has been saying this again and again. R. Tzvi Hirsch Weinreb said it for the OU. R. Basil Herring said it for the RCA. R. Mayer Twersky said it for YU. Many lesser well known rabbis have written such in their local Jewish newspapers and said as much in public discussions. But at the end of the day, the pro-homosexual lobby out there is not satisfied. So while I may feel sorry for people like the letter-writer, we cannot duck our heads in the sand and make believe that this is the attitude of most homosexuals out there. The majority or perhaps the vocal minority- either way- the one's we hear from- want to uproot this mitzvah from the Torah and we cannot have any tolerance for such a position. That means we have to come down hard and sometimes sympathetic individuals will get crushed in the middle. Because as beautiful as this letter is- read Judith Hauptman's letter in the Jewish Week and you will see what the Jewish community is really facing.
The pro-homosexual groups use this to their advantage. They want to make us seem intolerant and mean and archaic because they try to twist our opposition to homosexuality into opposition to the indviduals who have homosexual urges. And they try to use sympathy for the individuals to further support for tolerance for homosexual behavior.
This is very similar in many ways to feminism. There are many things that almost any Orthodox rabbi would be willing to be flexible about regarding the role of women in Judaism, but because this is not taking part in a vacuum, but in a highly poisonous political atmosphere charged with social agendas that are antithetical to the Torah, they have no choice but to oppose certain practices that then make them (the rabbis) look like a bunch of intolerant and inflexible chauvinists when nothing could be further from the truth.
That's tragic.

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is a magnificent letter. The writer touches on a point that he doesn't explore fully, though. The Torah would not have needed to forbid homosexual behavior, had G-d not created individuals with that Yetzer Hara.
As there are people with desires to kill, steal, carry on the Sabbath etc, and Mitzvot to prevent them from doing such, so are there individuals with same sex attraction, and the Torah comes to prohibit it.
Doesn't make it any easier for those people, I understand, but the rest of us need to have compassion for them.

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every rabbi I know has been saying this again and again. R. Tzvi Hirsch Weinreb said it for the OU. R. Basil Herring said it for the RCA. R. Mayer Twersky said it for YU

These rabbis arent "every rabbi". You are naming Ou and Yu and RCA rabbis. This may be the party line in the MO world, but not in the UO world. Tell of a Rabbi in the UO world that has said what is written in the letter. Name one. OM is right when it comes to the charedi world. The conceopt of rehabilitating men with gay tendencies is the goal in the charedi world, whatever the damage to a woman who might marry one of these "rehabilitated" fellows.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Will Blesch said...

To say that Hashem made you with unchangeable desires that He, Himself calls an abomination, an eyesore, an outrage, an atrocity is the same as saying that Hashem is whimsical, capricious, and does not care about His people. It is the same as saying that He is cruel.

Why would Hashem make you in a particular fashion and then condemn you for being the way He made you?

That's an illogical way of thinking.

Do I think Gay people really have those desires? Sure I do. Do I think those desires come from our G-d? No I don't.

Also, one of the anonymous readers who left a note earlier said:

The Torah would not have needed to forbid homosexual behavior, had G-d not created individuals with that Yetzer Hara.
As there are people with desires to kill, steal, carry on the Sabbath etc, and Mitzvot to prevent them from doing such, so are there individuals with same sex attraction, and the Torah comes to prohibit it.

Again, this is illogical thinking. G-d did not create these people with desires to murder, steal or to work on shabbat. G-d says no to these things because they are detrimental to us, not because He is a mean. We might have those feelings, but I refuse to believe Hashem willingly, on purpose, put those things which He, Himself condemns in our hearts.


Another thing I think bears considering is: nowhere does the Torah say that adultery between a man and woman is an abomination. That's because while it is still wrong, it is a sexual act and relationship which G-d made in the first place. G-d made men and women to be together. Adultery is a sin because the people are breaking their marriage vows...not because they are engaging in sexual acts. At one time, it was ok for men to have more than one wife. At one time it was ok for a man's wife to give him a concubine (A woman to sleep with who was not his wife!). But this wasn't adultery because the men and women involved knew about each other and there was consent from all parties involved. No, the sin comes from breaking a commitment and vow given between the two who married.)

The desire and acts of homosexuality cannot be compared to other sins in my opinion because it is soooo far outside of G-d's established order of things. It's an abomination because Hashem is saying "I did not make you that way."

1:24 PM  
Blogger aaronjasonsilver said...

I believe in order to have a rational discussion about homosexuality and many other scriptures from the old and new testatment, we must first put it into some context. First of all as all of us know that have even done the most minor examination of the sciptures we will discover that all of what was said was in the cultural context of it's time. During these ancient times these people were still very much influenced by supertition. That is the reason for the what is said about a man lying with another man is an abomination. This was actualy only a seasonal superstition based on the season of harvest. They believed that a man lying with another man as a man with a woman was believed to have a very negative influence on the abundance of the harvest. Otherwise Homosexuality was very common place during ancient times as same sex unions. This was the case all through the Roman and Greek empires. We are fortunate enough to have had mountains of written evidence left behind by the ancient peoples concerning everyday life. One important point that I would like to make very clear is that for one homosexuals were in many ways revered because the ancient people felt that they had equal access to their male and female aspects. It was also very common for married or unmarried hetersexual men to engage in homosexuality. The issues today that that most religion has against homosexuality was because the language of Jesus was Aramaic. It was then translated into ancient Greek and then into Latin. Being bilingual myself it is very easy to mistranslate certain words incorrectly giving it an entirely new meaning. It is one thing to be bilingual as I am and quite another to be bicultural. Bilingual means that one is able to converse in another language fluently. Being bilingual gives an unequaled ability to also undertand both languages equally well and gives them the ability to also understand subtle nuances which I am unable to do even though I have very bilingual to the point that spanish speaking people believe that I am a native speaker. However if they were to make jokes of a certain variety it may in fact fall on deaf ears as does some British humor does for the American ear. Even today gays have a cerain way of speaking and joking with one another that is still the english language but so often goes right over the heads of many heterosexuals because the are not bi-cultural in that sense. I hope I was able to make my point clear enough by offering a new perspective. Thank you, Aaron Jason Silver www.aaronjasonsilver.com

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally I don't mind the faygelehs, it means more chicks for me. Either way you can't rehabilitate a homosexual becuase they aren't disordered in the first place, they'r just made that way. They either suffer alone or lead double lives, but either way they don't change.

1:29 PM  
Blogger eem said...

Will B.,
"Why would Hashem make you in a particular fashion, and then condemn you for being the way He made you?"
This erroneous outlook is part of the letter writer's point. We believe that G-d created the Yetzer Hara-the evil inclination- that is the push from inside us to do forbidden things. the job of all humans, and specifically Jews, is to resist those urges and earn reward/become closer to G-d. The very nature of our reward is that it is given according to the difficulty of the tests we are given and pass. If G-d had not created us with those urges to sin-we would have no opportunity to overcome them and earn reward. The great torah scholar R' Eliyahu of Vilna says, "If not to change our characters, what is life for?"
Your mistake is in this phrase-"and then condemn you for being the way He made you." A person is not responsible for his inborn desires-he is responsible for the level of effort he puts forth to overcome them. He is not condemned for having been born a certain way-he is condemned for not striving to reach beyond that. This applies to people born with homosexual tendencies, people born with no knowledge of G-d, and even to people who were taught faith and Torah from childhood. If a person does not try to grow beyond where he is, he is not doing what he was put here to do-if he believes in G-d and does mitzvot out of habit-he has not achieved anything. A homosexual who works not to act on his impulses, on the other hand, is a great man.
By the way-there is a beautiful letter from R' Feldman on the topic, for the poster who said that UO rabbanim haven't expressed such an opinion.

2:19 PM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

Anon 12:02 - Somehow I managed to grow up in a quite yeshivish/UO environment, and my outlook on this is quite in sync with the letter writer, so I don't see why you think the UO world generally thinks otherwise.

Also, you seem opposed to the "rehabilitation" efforts that you say the chareidim are interested in. While I do understand and agree that someone with homosexual tendencies should not lightly decide to get married, why should they not try to "rehabilitate" themselves to the point where they have control over their urges and can function as a normal member of Am Yisrael? Otherwise, all that can really be said to such a person is that they must accept not being able to lead a normal life - even if they want desperately to try to do so.

3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Somehow I managed to grow up in a quite yeshivish/UO environment, and my outlook on this is quite in sync with the letter writer, so I don't see why you think the UO world generally thinks otherwise."

Oh, ok. "Somewhat Anonymous" doesn't ostracize Orthodox gay men, so nobody UO does. Thanks or clarifying. The letter writer is 100 per cent right. The Yeshivish world treats homosexual urges as nonexistent, or something the person is cooking up. They are as real as any other types of urges. And they don't make the person a pariah or an untouchable.

I remember after the Monsey meat scandal, a person told me that they feel bad for the guy because obviously his need to provide for his family got the better of him. Of course, this urge caused him to cause thousands of Yidden to sin, not just himself. Would I have gotten the same speech from the same man if the guy had left his wife because he was gay? I doubt.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>Also, you seem opposed to the "rehabilitation" efforts that you say the chareidim are interested in. While I do understand and agree that someone with homosexual tendencies should not lightly decide to get married, why should they not try to "rehabilitate" themselves to the point where they have control over their urges and can function as a normal member of Am Yisrael? Otherwise, all that can really be said to such a person is that they must accept not being able to lead a normal life - even if they want desperately to try to do so.

That is a hopelessly naive view.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great idea to post this letter.

Your only mistake was typing anything after the letter. It speaks for itself and does so quite well.

3:21 PM  
Anonymous name withheld said...

homosexuality is not the only thing that UOs try and write off as a fantasy and attempt to expect people to be "rehabilitated" from.

mental illness is also something that many of them write off as a rather silly idea. why would hashem make someone like that they ask? Don't be sad, be happy! Hashem wouldn't make you in a way that would make you misserable therefore you must be doing it to your self.

well y'know what? they can just go and stuff themselves. Hashem makes some people very misserable. That's just life. As I once read from rebbetzin yungries that there isn't a hebrew word for fair. The concept doesn't exist because life isn't fair.

3:30 PM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

anon 3:20 - it is "hopelessly naive" to think that homosexuals should be encouraged to try to change their nature as opposed to being told, "sorry, God made you like that, but we can't do much to help you, just don't act on your urges?"

I recognize the complexity of the issue (that there is the risk of severe difficulties in a marriage and such), but is it really right to categorically declare that such people are hopeless and are effectively not to be allowed to marry, even if they want to try? I think the two imperatives (protecting spouses/children and giving homosexual types a chance and hope for the future) need to be balanced to some degree, and I don't think that taking a complex approach ti such a complex issue is at all naive.

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Ploney said...

"These rabbis arent "every rabbi". You are naming Ou and Yu and RCA rabbis. This may be the party line in the MO world, but not in the UO world. Tell of a Rabbi in the UO world that has said what is written in the letter. Name one."

Rav Aharon Feldman. Borderline, but not MO.

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dont all the musar seforim talk abou tthe idea that hashem does not give a person a nisayon he can not pass so if hashem gav him the nisayon of homsexuality he must have it within his ability to overcome it. i feel for you and i hop eyou are able to pass your nisyanos with passing colors.
we should all bear in mind that we all have tendancies and midos and desires which we were born with and we have to overcome them and if we can even change them. however just like we do not hate on people who fail their nisyonos we do not hate on them so too a nisayon like this. on the other hand if s/o who is frum and should know better is michalel shabbas we do not alow them in our shuls an community because we must take a stand that does not mean we hate the person but we must show our selves our families and children that this is a line we can not cross and we must have gedorim in our community so too this we should not hate on the person but things which the torah calls a toava we can not allow and must take a stand. however if these activities are done in the provacy of the home and the public does not know and others are not being entrapped we sometimes may not throw them out of our community but this is a shikul for each situation however as the world gets more and more unholy and more into glorifying sex and sexuality and being more and more permissive we must take a stand i know i m ranbling but what i m trying to say is we must love the individual and try to help them but sometimes we must take a stand to protect our community- and i m not smart enough to know when we must consult da'as torah- then the behavour must be protested but not the person- we must remember they have a yetzer horah just like us
however when they try to make it into an accepted thing equal to marriage then it goes from a struggle and personal yetzer horah to trying to destroy the moral fabric of society and trying to matir their averah rather than struggle with it

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

great letter, great post. the problem here is that homsexual urges put the person who feels them in a no-man's land. the charedi community is quick to defend pedophiles (especially those who are in rabbinic postitions) as sick people. Yet even though they dont believe that being gay is a "normal" urge, they dont accord a man who engages in consensual man-on-man sex the same consideration. that man is considered a disgusting and lecherous person. its quite twisted.

6:09 PM  
Anonymous Ploney said...

Ah, good old homophobia disguised as frumkeit.

Anonymous 5:31 wrote:

"dont all the musar seforim talk abou tthe idea that hashem does not give a person a nisayon he can not pass so if hashem gav him the nisayon of homsexuality he must have it within his ability to overcome it."

A) No, they don't all talk about it. This is one of those elementary school ideas where one could easily find sources to refute it. By the way, don't all the halacha seforim say you need foods with two different brachos for mishloach manos?

B) Who told you the way to pass the nisayon involves the homosexual getting married? As the letter writer pointed out, it could involve him staying celibate. For example, there are men who are forbidden to get married (patzuah daka, etc). Their "nisayon" is to live a single life and never get married.

C) What do you mean by "glorifying sex"? If you'd like, I could post a list of marei mekomos which "glorifies sex", in its proper context.

6:53 PM  
Blogger DAG said...

Great letter. The writer hits it dead on. We all have our taivas and we all struggle from them at some level. I have to wonder if much of the disgust with which many Charedi Jews view homosexuality is based on personal aversion rather than Halacha?

I know that Homosexuality is a Toaiva, the only of the forbidden sexual relationships described as such, but I have to ask why those who view Homosexuality so negatively do NOT object to the presence of EVERY Red Lobster with the same vehemence and disdain?

We MUST not ignore the point the letter writer made about heterosexual marriage for gay men. Imagine those poor women who were fooled into a marriage that could never be fulfilling or healthy!

I posted a comment by a "rabbi" on askmoses.com that advised heterosexual marriage for gay men...but would that Rabbi recommend such a marriage for his daughter? Or is he just offering other people's children as his sacrificial lamb? http://nfonss.blogspot.com/2006/10/ask-moses-gay-men-should-marry-women.html

8:08 PM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

Ploney - In fairness to anon 5:31 regarding your point B, I don't see where he said that they have to get married (you do raise a good analog though, with regard to enforced celibacy).

As to any "homophobia" (and what exactly is that anyhow?)in his statement,I thin he made it clear that we should not hate these people, but must oppose the "homosexual movement" in its public efforts, which sounds perfectly right to me - although I don't see how it really relates to the topic of the letter in the post.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

Dag - Is there a Red Lobster connection that I am missing here, or are you just using it as a stand-in for Treif food generally?

In any case, I think the difference is pretty obvious (Leaving aside the Big 3 aspect of Homosexuality. Homosexuality is currently making major gains in popular acceptance, up to and including full formal marriage (I know, I know, not exactly breaking news). This affects the moral fabric of our society in a way that Red Lobster doesn't (assuming you mean that we should object to Jews eating there). If we were experiencing a massive shift of Jews newly deciding to go to Red Lobster, I think it could be expected that people would be riled up against such a practice as well.

8:41 PM  
Anonymous Ploney said...

sonewhat anonymous:

ein hachi nami. I think my comment is better directed towards earlier remarks such as will blesch, as well as recent comments on other blogs. I think i may have misinterpreted 5:31 - in retrospect i'm not sure what exactly he's saying.

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really appreciated this eloquent and honest letter. What I'd like to know however, is to what degree homosexual men lack feelings of attraction towards the opposite gender. Because while some level of attraction is necessary to establish a successful marriage, I think it is mistaken to believe that one's spouse has to be "the most attractive person you've ever met." It's nice, but I look around me at some married couples and think this cannot possibly be the case.
So would a homosexual man be (a) repulsed by his spouse to the point that he cannot have children with her and fulfill the mitzvah of ona or (b) at best somewhat attracted, but not entirely satisfied? If it's the latter than, while marriage may still be out of the question if the taivah to stray is too great, how would this be qualitativly different from marrying a somewhat average looking person?
I'm simply trying to understand the magnitude of the dilemma, as it's difficult to totally empathize not having these feelings myself.

8:57 PM  
Blogger DAG said...

somehwat, Because the Torah refers to them as a Sheketz...Vyikra 11:10 י וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר אֵין-לוֹ סְנַפִּיר וְקַשְׂקֶשֶׂת, בַּיַּמִּים וּבַנְּחָלִים, מִכֹּל שֶׁרֶץ הַמַּיִם, וּמִכֹּל נֶפֶשׁ הַחַיָּה אֲשֶׁר בַּמָּיִם--שֶׁקֶץ הֵם, לָכֶם. 10 And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that swarm in the waters, and of all the living creatures that are in the waters, they are a detestable thing unto you,

9:06 PM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

Ploney - I agree with you that Will is way off, but I don't see how saying things such as "Do I think Gay people really have those desires? Sure I do. Do I think those desires come from our G-d? No I don't." come from frumkeit, as we kinda believe that all things, whether positive or negative in our eyes, comes from Hashem.

His (mis)understanding of adultery in Jewish law also leads me to believe that it is unlikely that he is of the our more black-hatted brethren.

I have not seen the comments from other blogs that you say you were referring to (I lurk in a rather limited range), but I've seen nothing in this series of comments that supports your equation of "frumkeit" with "homophobia" - (with homophobia being defined for these purposes as hatred and disgust for people who have the nisayon of homosexual desires).

9:21 PM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

Dag - It says Sheketz Haim "Lachem", whereas, Mishkav Zachar is described as "Toeveah" with nothing limiting that description only to Am Yisrael - or am I taking your point a bit too seriously?

9:26 PM  
Anonymous Somewhat Annoyed said...

Somewhat Anonymous,

I can't decide if your (over)use of parantheses reflects a poor attempt to disguise your rather narrow minded views in a veneer of reasonableness or just an inability to think clearly.

Either way, I am somewhat disturbed that your days of lurking appear to have come to an end.

9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The letters author should be parised for his honesty, courage and most important, his ability to articulate what many others can not.

The homosexual "lifestyle" while a sin, is not a "mortal sin", so its practice while halachly an abomination is still not on the level of avodah azrah (idol worship), schifat damim (murder)and gilay ariout (sexual relations with a married women), which are all yaharohg vayal yavor (be killed rather than transgress).

The torah prohibiation against such activity will be only a bait din punishment, and even then, a beit din will be loath to acrry out a punishment on this topic.

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The above commentor says that the gay movement is rising. Well, we haven't had a gay president yet, but we sure did have one who was adulterous. Which is worse? Both are big 3. Only one devastates an innocent victim (the wife)

10:00 PM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

anon - nothing Bill Clinton could have done with Monica rises to the level of adultery (in the Big 3 sense), as she was unmarried.

That being said, just because adultery is too accepted and widespread, does that mean we should not be bothered about a movement to gain similar acceptance for homosexuality - I fail to see your point.

10:06 PM  
Blogger DAG said...

Somewhat..true...the point i was making was that any Red Lobster with Jewish patrons is of equal disgust in the eyes of the Torah...in any event, are you sure that the Toiva re: homsexuality applies to goyim as well?

10:08 PM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

Somewhat Annoyed -

(I have my own partially eponymous blog stalker! Truly, I have now arrived)

Leaving aside your perfectly valid stylistic points (although if I overuse parentheses, it is out of a desire to clearly elucidate my points and minimize any chance of misunderstanding), I'm not really sure what I've said in this comment thread that you are calling me narrow-minded for? All I've really done is agree with the letter-writer and say that the homosexually inclined should not be written off from inclusion into the Jewish community (subject to the caveats noted above). Oh, and I implied that to the extent that homosexual urges are involuntary, those urges are created by God.

So really, out of true unadulterated curiosity - what did you think was narrow minded?

10:14 PM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

Dag - I thought it fell under Giluy Arayos, along with various forms of incest, bestiality and suchlike. Can't quote a source on it, but that has always been my understanding.

I'm no linguist (only took one semester) but I think there's a significant difference between Sheketz and Toeivah as to the level of disgust. Also, the lobster is "Sheketz", not particularly the eating of it (just that therefore you should not eat it), here (Acharei Mos) it is the action that is subject to the term.

10:18 PM  
Blogger DAG said...

Somehwat, it IS prohibited for goyim under Giyla Arayos..the question is wheter it is also a Toiva for them....

I should add Vayikra 11:11

יא וְשֶׁקֶץ, יִהְיוּ לָכֶם; מִבְּשָׂרָם לֹא תֹאכֵלוּ, וְאֶת-נִבְלָתָם תְּשַׁקֵּצוּ. 11 and they shall be a detestable thing unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, and their carcasses ye shall have in detestation.

so you are eating an object that is loathsome

10:37 PM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

Dag - I don't see why it would not be a Toeivah for them - the act is described generally as Toeivah, not specifically for anyone, whereas the lobster (and family) is described as "sheketz" only "lachem" (so goyim can eat it, even if we can't.)

Lastly, I submit that there is a difference in the level of disgust between eating a loathsome critter, and performing an abominable act.

(Hey, it's a linguistics discussion, we're supposed to focus on minutiae)

10:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somewhat anonymous hit the nail on the head. Homosexuality is not in the same category as lobster eating. The latter is a chok -- we don't really know why we are not supposed to eat seafood, we just follow the Torah. The prohibition against homosexuality is obvious (or at least was obvious until the 1970s). It seeks to destroy the concept of marriage. That is why the Talmud, in two places, singles out gay marriage as a major sin, even worse than the homosexual act itself. That the prohibition against homosexuality is a "mishpat" is also related to the fact that gentiles are forbidden to engage in the practice.

4:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To address the commenter that asked if homosexuals have feelings for women, it really depends. It is not a black-white thing.
There are men (and women) who are never aroused by the other sex. I worked with a gay (non jewish) man and he told me he had slept in the same bed with a few women (for sleeping purposes) and never felt anything. Yet clearly there is a segment of the gay population that is able to have relations with women. So it would have to depend. The person who does not become remotely aroused by a women should not marry unless he can somehow overcome that (I can't imagine how he could).

Also all the banned relationships are called "arayos" including homosexuality, incest, and bestiality.

8:04 AM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

OM: Thanks for posting this.

To the anonymous poster who said:
well y'know what? they can just go and stuff themselves. Hashem makes some people very misserable. That's just life. As I once read from rebbetzin yungries that there isn't a hebrew word for fair. The concept doesn't exist because life isn't fair.

There is obviously a word for "fair" in Hebrew; "Tzodaik" -- comes from the root, "Tzedek", Justice.

9:28 AM  
Anonymous halfnutcase said...

at least from the studies most people fall on a continum in terms of their desire for people. Most people are attracted to both sexes to a certain degree (and they have proven this in many studies) although they may heavily lean in one direction.

Most people could do either, if they where sufficiantly focused. However given cultural pressures I would suspect that most of those who are sufficiantly attracted to both would prefer heterosexuality, if nothing else simply because they don't get the same kind of reactions.

So for those who find it unescapable that they are attracted to the same sex, i'm not sure. They may be restricted to those who on one far far end of the spectrum or they may not. Certainly something must be giving them a great deal of pressure to make this coice.

9:44 AM  
Anonymous halfnutcase said...

jameel, i somehow suspect the rebbetzin jungereis knew hebrew well enough to know whether or not any hebrew word properly translated in to the english word fair.

znus would be a good example. Even though it's translated as harlotry the two words have very very little in common other than a vauge idea of illicitness they share. One can still be married to someone and it still be znus, and similarly one can not me married to someone at all, and it not be znus. it wouldn't be that way with harlotry (which additionaly usualy involves payment)

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Tzodaik" means just which is not the same thing as fair.

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rav Aharon Feldman was interviewed for the movie "Trembling Before G-d" which raised these issues a few years ago (as I recall there is additional footage in the special features on the DVD). I am surprised no one has mentioned that. My recollection is that Rav Feldman told the filmmaker or wrote in the letter referred to above that someone in this situation may remain celibate, and should use the fact that he is not burdened with a family to do chesed and become involved in other positive activities that one in a family situation could not. As long as someone take the approach that the desire may exist but one is taking appropriate effort to avoid the action, he should not be marginalized from the community.

11:04 AM  
Blogger MoChassid said...

Very powerful letter. You are right; it is must reading.

11:34 AM  
Anonymous deemer said...

Thanks, OM, for the great post.

I loved the letter, and it rang very true to me. I don't understand homosexuality, but I never thought that it was something that was easily changed. I pray all the time that my sons don't have that nisayon growing up.

For some reason, the idea that singlehood should be encouraged among gay men is bothering me. I don't know why. Theoretically, women should not be made to suffer in a desire-less marriage. I cannot imagine what kind of pain that marriage would cause to both spouses, but it must be overwhelming.

But I was indoctrinated to believe that God pairs every man and woman up at their conception. So. . He made a mistake? He continues to make mistakes? Does He just mean for both parties to suffer as part of both their nisyonos? Why should a woman suffer for the nisayon of someone she's never met?

So if all gay men should not marry, does that condemn his intended spouse as well?

I ask because I have so many older female friends who are not married. Is this the reason? Should it be the reason? Perhaps a desire-less marriage is agony, but at least there might be the possibility of children, whereas condemning women to a single life forever does not allow for that possibility. Why is that a choice everyone seems to blaze to make?

11:38 AM  
Blogger rabbi without a cause said...

anonymous wrote:
\"dont all the musar seforim talk abou tthe idea that hashem does not give a person a nisayon he can not pass\"

Actually, Tzidkas haTzaddik writes explicitly that there are nisyonos one cannot pass.

A beautiful and moving letter, indeed, and it matches what I have heard from my own congregants.

11:39 AM  
Anonymous deemer said...

Sorry. I meant:
Why is that choice one that people infer is the correct one?

11:41 AM  
Blogger rebba shlita said...

orthomom these letters have been going on for a long time in the chronicles found in the jewish press. and the person answering these questions weekly has no business being in any newspaper. but on the subject of this past weeks jewish press ortho please check out the front page article that continues onto the back page. its an interview with a future suicide bomber, it is a eye opening article.

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why the person who wrote this letter would believe and follow such a backwards, ridiculous religion such as Judaism is beyond me.

It would be like a black man trying to join the kkk.

12:09 PM  
Blogger eem said...

http://www.jerusalemletter.co.il/archives/March24,1998/homow.htm
R' Aaron Feldman's letter.

12:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those who recommend that gay men simply repress their desires and marry women, out of the hope that maybe some desire for a woman will grow in them: do you know how many women have been injured by being married to gay men who were trying to be straight? If you are a woman, just imagine your husband not having desire for you, perhaps liking you as a person - as a sister - but not as a wife. Would you like to be married to such a man, especially if he does not tell you what he is trying to do? A friend of mine was married for many years to a man who finally came out as gay, and it was incredibly painful for her. She felt deeply betrayed. Do not wish this on anyone, either the gay man or the woman who unwittingly marries him.

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if someone has no desire for women he should not marry a women that would be crazy that would be like trying to get an anorexic to eat by giving them a food they hate.
however the fact that there is no kosher outlet does not allow him to do whatever he wants.

2:10 PM  
Blogger miriam said...

Why anyone who believes that Judaism is "a backwards, ridiculous religion" would bother reading and commenting on Orthomom's blog is beyond me.

Please show a bit of respect for those who practice Orthodoxy daily, and don't find themselves to be backwards or ridiculous, or even old-fashioned.

OM, thank you for posting this. And I have to agree that forcing men who do not desire women to marry is cruel and unusual punishment, for both partners.

On the topic of a loveless marriage might be better than no marriage:

I don't think if you started a new matchmaking service today, just for those "older singles" who have decided to "settle" for a gay guy who only kind of sort of desires women at all but wants to get married, (that is, everyone going in with both eyes open, no fooling anyone involved) that you'd have very many customers.

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Will said:

"To say that Hashem made you with unchangeable desires that He, Himself calls an abomination, an eyesore, an outrage, an atrocity is the same as saying that Hashem is whimsical, capricious, and does not care about His people. It is the same as saying that He is cruel."

We're talking about the same God who strikes down little children with leukemia. Yes, in fact, God often, often does things which to us seem whimsical, capricious, uncaring, and cruel.

The challenge of religion is to maintain faith that despite all the things that seem so whimsical and cruel, that God is in fact benevolent and just, and that all these things, which to us seem so terrible, in fact have some important reason.

This challenge is VERY difficult, and leads many people to eschew religion entirely.

But the fact that it would be "cruel" does not mean that God wouldn't make some people homosexual while also telling them never to engage in homosexual activity. God does all sorts of "cruel" things. Or perhaps you do not believe that leukemia comes from God, either? Perhaps it is a twisted figment of our imagination when children die?

2:58 PM  
Anonymous mj said...

i agree with sarah
additionally we are human beings with finite ability to understand while god is infinite and has infinite ability to understand so how can we say we know that god would not do this because it is cruel who are we humans to make such comments.
when iyov complained hashem said to him aich hayisa biyasdi aaretz- where were you when i created the world. in other words you dont know the beginning or the end and we do not know how this creation, punishment... relates and interconnects with everything else g-d does and did and will do so how can anyone say on their own what god would or would not do if it is in chazzal then we know that is what g-d does or did because they have ruach hakodesh but how can us regular people who do not spend our lives immersed in da'as hashem learning torah and are heavily influenced by non torah hashkafos many of which are krum and wrong say tht we know what hashem would or would not do. even gedolim and talmiday chachamim do not know what g-d would or would not do unless they have sources and refrences

3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why the person who wrote this letter would believe and follow such a backwards, ridiculous religion such as Judaism is beyond me.
It would be like a black man trying to join the kkk.


If you were arguing that religion as a concept is backwards and ridiculous, perhaps I could take you seriously. But you seem to be arguing that being backwards and ridiculous is unique to Judaism, whereas this guy might find some solace and enlightenment as a gay man in what . . . Christianity or Islam? Talk about ridiculous.

Clearly you're just taking a dig a Judaism just for the sport of it.

4:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Also all the banned relationships are called "arayos" including homosexuality, incest, and bestiality."

Not all banned relationships are Arayos. Homosexuality is certainly not -- see the Rambam and the various minyanei hamitzvos. The "nafka mina" is whether there is an issur of "kirva". It would appear that there is, technically speaking, no such issur regarding homosexuality and bestiality.

4:10 PM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

anon 4:10 - I think the definition of Arayos which, as you have pointed out, are a class of persons, differs slightly from the sins covered by the prohibition of Giluy Arayos.

I don't think there is any dispute here that Giluy Arayos under the Sheva mitzvos B'nei Noach prohibits homosexuality and bestiality. As such, we see that despite not being "Arayos" these items do fall under the prohibition of Giluy Arayos. Otherwise under which of the Sheva Mitzvos would they be prohibited?

5:21 PM  
Blogger DAG said...

Miriam,

Good point about older singles marrying gay men. I spoke to an older single woman (in her 40's) who is often set up wiht opnely gay men and even much older men who need a caretaker under the theory that ANY marriage is better than no marriage...she, for one, decidedly disagrees

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well the gemorah says tan lemasyv tan du melemasav armilu

6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To that poster that suggested gay guys marry unmarried women.
If I was gay and only sort had an attraction to women, I would try to marry the hottest woman I could find (with a likeable personality that is), so I could at least "go for broke"--who knows, maybe I would find her tolerable? I don't know if you would find such women in significant numbers amongst older unmarried women.

9:19 PM  
Blogger eem said...

Anon 6:57-
Different when he is not attracted to her. that's not the case of the gemara.

7:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adultery is forbidden as well, yet that doesn't stop our religious leaders from recognizing that some perfectly normal Orthodox men can have desires for women other than their spouses.

That's true, but what you've described isn't necessarily "adultery" is married. Jewish tradition actually accepts the reality that men desire more than one woman. Or at least it did before Rabbenu Gershon incorporated the Christian ideal of monogamy into the halacha 1,000 years ago.


Men are indeed allowed to take concubines:
http://benchorin.blogspot.com/2004/07/pilagshim-continued-from-yesterday.html

"When Rav would visit Darshish he would announce, “Which [woman] is [available] for a day?” When Rav Nachman would visit Shkhantziv he would announce, “Which [woman] is [available] for a day?”"

Yoma 18b

8:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm shocked that so maany of the comments are favorable to the letter writer. Yes it's a great letter, but that's only because the writer has obviously wriiten before and is probably a professional.

The writer makes it sound so nice. "Oh, I'm gay."

What the writer is not telling you is about deceiveing and lying to his wife and kids for all these years. About secret trysts with unknown men that put his wife at severe jeopardy for her own physical well being.

You see, I am pretty sure that I know who this writer is as he affected someone very close to me.

While he makes it sound as he is such a frum guy, I can tell you that although he might be so on the outside he whasn't been frum in his house for years.

He might know how to write but he's a phony thru and thru.

As for all of those who feel so much compassion for him, well he made his own bed and has to suffer the consequences. How about compassion for where it really belongs, the wife and kids.

8:30 AM  
Blogger FunkyJew82 said...

OM:
Great post! and GREAT discussion!!


Anon 8:30

I definitely agree that the real victims are his family. HE messed up, and his family members were innocent bystanders. As a "struggler" myself, I still have no sympathy for those men with same sex attraction who cheat on their wives. Cheating is cheating...on your wife AND your family.... gay or straight.

"What the writer is not telling you is about deceiveing and lying to his wife and kids for all these years. About secret trysts with unknown men that put his wife at severe jeopardy for her own physical well being."
Although he didn't write it the way you did, he does say he did not control his behavior, which to me pretty much indicates deceit.

And what makes you so sure you know who this person is? I've heard of several stories like that, and I am talking about frum people.

Although I do not sympathize for his cheating, on the other hand I can't help to feel SOME compassion for his situation. I mean, really... what are people with same sex attraction to do? It seems that no matter what we decide to do, it's a lose-lose situation.
(You can read more on my thoughts of this in my first blog.)

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regardless of the morality of these individual men's choices and the collateral damage often associated with those choices, we must take some responsibility as a community. There is little room in most Orthodox communal life for the roles of single adults-- whether widow/ers, divorcees, or those never married. Add that to our general unwillingness to even accept the existence of homosexuality within our ranks, and it's hard to say that our collective hands are clean in those unfortunate cases.

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi I Fill for you but you came to this world for a reason may you try to go to Umman and pray that H""should forgive tou and halp you make a change in your life
I am not a Braslev but iIknow that they have a derech to help you

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