Every Jewish group these days seems to have its own obsession, its own focus which defines how it achieves its self-imagined holiness and dveikus. For some in the Torah world it's a never-ending fascination with emulating the Taliban and creating a society in which women are invisible, voiceless beings good only for popping out babies once a year or so. For others it's a desire to create an Orthodoxy that is academic and won't be laughed at by the atheoskeptics.
But for the Morethodox it's all about women and gays. More specifically, it's about figuring out ways for open lesbians to have aliyos while leading Kabbalas Shabbos. Thus the latest post by Rabbi Haym Shafner and his earnest and never-ending attempts to bring open homosexuality into Orthodoxy.
Now on one hand there is no question that Rabbi Shafner's obsession with egalitarianism and alternative lifestyle equality is born of a sense of decency and fairness. He is not trying to rebel against God, Torah and halacha. Far from it. He is simply trying to reconcile the strong secular liberal values he holds when it comes to these areas with a Torah-approach that is hostile. He does not wish to jettison either so he has to choose to adjust one of them and it's quite clear that he will choose adjusting halacha before anything else.
Certainly he engages in a lot of self-delusion when he tries to create the impression that halacha is only minimally opposed to homosexual practices. His refusal to recognize that incest and homosexuality are pretty much both condemned by the Torah for being very wrong is only the most egregious of the many errors he makes in order to avoid getting answers he doesn't want to deal with.
And one has to ask: what's his endgame? What is he hoping to accomplish?
Is it to create a shul environment in which an openly homosexual congregant can come in, sit down and interact with others in a respectful fashion? Well one would hope that this would already be the case although reality shows us that certain prejudices run deep and negative treatment of folks enamoured of certain sexual preferences rarely get treated the way other folks, like mechalelei Shabbos do.
Rabbi Shafner tries to make the argument that there are other congregants guilty of major sins, financial or ritual, that still receive respectful treatment and get kibudim in Orthodox shuls. This is certainly true but on the other hand a guy who drove to shul on Shabbos rarely waves his car keys over his head as he walks down to the bimah to get his aliyah. The guy who stopped at MacDonalds on the way to services doesn't walk into the sanctuary dropping restaurant napkins everywhere or saying "Egg McMuffin! Smell my breath!" to the guy sitting next to him.
So if a homosexual male or female, dressed in appropriate attire for shul walks in and sits down exactly how does his sexual proclivity come into play? If he's acting like everyone else in the crowd then why is his bedroom preference relevant?
What's more, if he's really an intelligent and committed Jew then where does he sit in shul? This comes up every time we hear about a gay Orthodox Shabbaton or other prayer program. The purpose of the mechitzah, after all, is to keep men from looking at women in a lascivious fashion. Now you have this guy who has the same type of attraction but to men. Should he be sitting in the men's section? Isn't that forbidden to him as much as it is for a heterosexual male to sit on the women's side? And if he avoids this issue and just quietly sits in the men's section then how serious is his commitment to being frum? Isn't he simply just going through the motions?
The love that once dared not speak its name has, in recent decades with the support of secular liberals, become the love that has to scream about it out loud day and night and shove it in the face of everyone who disagrees with it. Creating a "gay and Orthodox" Jewish movement runs the risk of bringing that dysfunctional dynamic into the Torah community. What purpose would it serve other than to create a group whose primary demand would be "Change the Torah to accomodate us!"?