Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Where Do I Get a Patent From?

As I'm written on numerous occasions, there's no patent on the term "Orthodox Judaism".  Until now we have relied on non-Orthodox people being honest and not trying to represent themselves as Orthodox but in recent years that tactic has been sorely tested.  First the Conservatives tried to model themselves as "the authentic movement of traditional Judaism".  Then there's Morethodoxy which is trying to create a Conservative Judaism with a mechitzah.  And now, presenting Steve Greenberg.
Now, for those who don't know, Greenberg is a homosexual man who has an Orthodox ordination (and I'm sure the guy who gave it to him is still kicking himself over that one) and who has used his title to promote the idea that one can be a practising homosexual and not be in conflict with Torah Judaism.
It seems that some amongst the organized homosexual community have developed an obsession with Orthodox Judaism's stubborn refusal to accept anal intercouse between two men as an acceptable form of love-making.  Yes the Torah say it's forbidden but can't we just get past that already?  FriarYid wrote recently about attending a gay congregation on Yom Kippur where the verse was omitted from the Minchah leining.  I once heard from a JTS "rabbinical" student that many in the JTS understand the verse as referring to non-consensual intercourse meaning the Torah prohibits not only heterosexual but also homosexual rape and this means that it thinks that both, when consensual, are okay. 
All the twisting and turning does not change the prohibition's existence and parameters.  While it is imperative to stress that the ban on homosexual intercourse does not imply permission to treat those who yearn for it in an insulting or demeaning manner, it is also important to note that there are limits to acceptance of such people and their desires.  We must treat them respectfully, not discriminate against them and avoid anything that might justifiably antagonize them but we still cannot say that their form of intercourse is acceptable in our value system.  This is an especially heartwrenching concept for those homosexuals who wish to be properly Torah observant.  It means a life of denial of their most important physical desire.  Who can deny the difficulty associated with such a decision?
But is it a decision that must be made honestly and Steve Greenberg and his ilk are intent on subverting that honesty by creating the false impression that one can eat one's cake and have it too.  Hence his decision to officiate at an "Orthodox" wedding of two men which recently caught people's attention.
There are lots of things that could be said about this stunt, and for those who know Jewish law and tradition this is a stunt, not a wedding.  Yes, American civil law may recognize the legal union between these two men but Jewish law does not, no more than it does the state of marriage between a Jew and a Gentile.
Add to that the healthy state of self-delusion the participants are under:
"We were encouraged by the legislation of same-sex marriage in our home ‘state’ of Washington, D.C.,” Bock and Kaplan wrote in a guide to the ceremony, according to Ruttenberg. “At the same time, both of us wanted a ceremony that would be meaningful halachically (in terms of religious Jewish law) and create a set of Jewish legal obligations between us."
It is to laugh.  There is no halachic meaning to a ceremony forbidden by halacha.  There are no newe legal obligations between these two men that didn't exist before.  If two non-Jews had decided to have a wedding and use a Jewish motif because they thought the chuppah was pretty and they wanted to jump on a glass and shout mazel tov at the end for kicks it would have been just as effective.  Any attempt to state that this conformed with Orthodox Jewish law is due either to delusion or ignorance.  One can shout that one is Orthodox all one wants but then, one can wash and say HaMotzi over the ham and cheese sandwich at the local kosher-style deli too.  Going through the motions doesn't mean one has done something of legal significance.
In summary, Greenerg's "ceremony" raises only one important question: which one of them is going to wear a sheitl and go to the mikvah?


SJ said...

Sad that a certain percentage of the orthodox community has fallen to the gay agenda.

Chana said...

"We don't need your permission, Papa, but we do want your blessing."

SJ said...

Eeeeeew. If you can't get God's blessing for a behavior what on earth makes you think a human blessing will be any good?

Avraham said...

Orthodox Judaism is off the Derech. It is a smoke screen for depravity.
What you should be thinking about is Oral and Written Torah. This is very different.
You are worried about using the smoke screen of orthodoxy to defend homosexually but orthodox y is a smoke screen for lots of perversion that are much worse like child sexual abuse.

SJ said...

Uum, with regard to Zur's comment.

Even in my angriest days against orthodox judaism I never really made an issue over sex abuse for the following reasons.

-> It seems to me that pushing for more transparency in general in the orthodox organizational establishment would work in favor of the anti-pedophile activists.

-> I never experienced it. I have trouble believing that every last child was abused as Shmarya seems intent on portraying.

-> Once in a yeshiva a rabbi kinda like sat on me during class not directly on top though rofl. I never felt it was sexual or inappropriate just him tryin to horse around a little. What I'm saying is that stuff that sensitive people may interpret as sexual may just be rabbis not being up to date with the modern standards of no touching between teacher and students.

As a follow up to this point, I read that Failed Messiah commenters accused Baruch Lannar kneeing guys in the nuts as being a sexual act. Lannar is indeed a convicted felon, but kneeing guys the nuts per se is NOT a sexual act hopefully if I understand the reason for it correctly (and I'm not making my ass out of myself rofl) he was using to enforce religious behavior. Seems to me it's biologically impossible to be aroused from a knee strike.

There are however very very legitimate criticims one can make of orthodox society including in the area of sex abuse.

Also with regard to Zur's point, there are actually people who find solace in orthodox rituals. Problem is for people who could have it better and don't like the OCD structure very much, it's just too god damn strict.

Nishma said...

Of course, what Garnel is saying is not unique. He is simply presenting ideas that are basic to Orthodoxy yet sadly need to be stated and re-stated because of the attempt to hijack Orthodoxy and declare that that which is clearly outside the pale is in. This is also why rabbis from across the Orthodox spectrum signed onto a Declaration emphatically proclaiming that this ceremony and the rabbi who performed it are clearly outside the pale of Orthodoxy. See

I am proud to say that I am one of these rabbis.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Anonymous said...

I think Orthodox Jews are making too much of gay Jews who want to live an Orthodox life.

Orthodox Jews are not generally disturbed by the averas committed by Jews of different backgrounds.

Except when it comes to this subject. Suddenly, the sin of being gay (or living gay) is something they feel they must punish. They cannot permit G-d to handle it in the next world. With most everything else they are patient to let G-d do the judging but not with being gay.

I don’t understand how Orthodox Jewry got to this conclusion. It seems out of character with the religion’s way of handling other averas.

Also, over time, it may come to pass that some forms of gay sex are going to be seen by Orthodox Jewry as acceptable (even if the behavior is not preferable.)

For instance, kissing might be acceptable. Touching too. What could (I imagine) remain an avera is intercourse of any kind.

However, to reiterate: there are people every where committing averas – and Orthodox Judaism does not treat those people like lepers. Only gay Jews get this treatment. Again, it seems to be out of character.

Finally, lesbianism must be understood to be acceptable – at least from a Torah position.

I would be interested in any response to my comment.


Friar Yid said...

Yes, that service was a let-down! For me as a non-Orthodox Jew, I know where my various red lines are, but I'm always disappointed when the non-Orthodox fail to argue their points for why they've decided to bypass halacha. It makes it seem like they aren't confident enough in their beliefs to explain them.

I saw R. Greenberg speak once-- at a Conservative shul-- and was impressed with his eloquence. But then again, I don't have the same philosophical/halachic dilemmas with his ideas as as an Orthodox person would.

While the article presented it as if Greenberg was acting on behalf of some "institutional" Orthodoxy, my sense is that for the most part he does his own thing and doesn't presume to speak for anyone. Yes, the "first openly gay Orthodox rabbi" tag-line is kind of misleading (I nominate this guy for second), but I think Greenberg is basically trying to further expand the tent of Open Orthodoxy for a particular subsection of Jews. I understand the Orthodox problem with it, but I can't fault him for it.

At the end of the day, I think there has to be some awareness of how incredibly difficult being a gay Orthodox Jew is, and to the degree that the Orthodox world can stretch to make itself a home for them (within its own limits) would be admirable. It's not necessarily about making everything permissible, but I think there's a lot of work to be done to make the Orthodox world more understanding and empathetic, which at least would be a start.

If Orthodoxy can move away from emotionally charged baggage and concepts about gays being evil sinners and the like and view it within the context of a halachic dilemma, as you do, I think everyone will be moving towards a better place.