Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Love Hashem Your G-d

The Talmud in Yoma (86a) expounds the meaning of the verse "Love Hashem Your G-d" to mean "the Name of Heaven should be beloved to you." The Talmud explains that the Name of Heaven becomes beloved to people when they see Torah scholars acting in a proper and pleasant manner, as Torah scholars embody G-d's teachings. Conversely, when Torah scholars act inappropriately, people disparage the Torah as a vehicle for heinous behavior.

I experienced this phenomenon first-hand last week when I came out to my uncle, who is a Torah scholar in one of the most traditional yeshivos in America. My uncle had almost zero familiarity with the concept of homosexuality and had only a few short minutes to compose his thoughts after my shocking announcement. Though he certainly knows the halachic prohibitions associated with homosexuality, this was not the focus of his response. Instead, he said to me, "Wow, it is really big of you to still be frum while dealing with this issue. What a tzaddik!"

How refreshing it is to see a true tzaddik utilizing the Torah as a source of love rather than as a weapon of hate.

15 comments:

Elana said...

That is fantastic. It is so refreshing to hear things like this...there are too many people out there who do use the words of the Torah to hate.

Anonymous said...

Justin,
I am so sorry you have such a neesayon. However, I do disagree with you.
Your uncle said "Wow, it is really big of you to still be frum while dealing with this issue. What a tzaddik!"
This compliment was misunderstood by you. Justin, you are not "dealing with the issue". You are out and have no intention of "dealing with the issue". Perhaps your uncle confused you for someone gay who...you know... wants to... "deal with the issue"; by going to therapy, by not encouraging others to live a life forbidden by Torah.

I know, I'll be labeled someone that "hates" for this post. Whatever. Time to grow up. Time for the MSW to get an MSW, or a PhD, or a PsyD, and straiten out your life. If not, you will wake up one day at age 40, or 50, or 60, and regret it. Justin, it is not too late.

Your uncle is a tzaddik, because he believes in you, that you can still "deal with the issue".

One more point. What would the Tannaim and Amoraim, who wrote Talmud Yoma, have to say about your lifestyle? One word. To'ayvah.

Ben Lewis said...

Anon 8:18,
I don't know that you are a hater, though I do think you are close minded. Having not been present, we can only rely on Justin's memoir for a recap of what occurred. "let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Justin and other fum gay Jews are dealing with their challenges a s best they can, each in their own way. Besides, the vast majority of people realize that for people who are truly gay, therapy to "cure" this is of no help.
Justin,
Everyone in your situation should be able to find support like that. If all gedolai hador were so understanding about issues the Jewish world would be an even better society to live in.

Ben Lewis

Logical Mommy said...

I didn't know that being gay was contagious. I don't see how living your life as a tzaddik who constantly cares for other people and helps other people and bring joy (and amusement, and bagels) translates to encouraging others to live a life forbidden by Torah.

Justin, your interpretation of your uncle's statement makes a lot more sense than that of the person who is too much of a coward to reveal his name.

Anonymous said...

Hi “Logical Mommy”.
You called me a “coward” for not revealing my name – I assume your passport says “Logical Mommy” on it? If not, does that make you a coward too? I do not reveal my name because those on the pro-redefine marriage/pro-gay/anti-traditional Judaism crowed do not debate, they defame, and assassinate character.
“Logical Mommy”, look, if Justin were living his life the way he does; it’s all good. But – he does not. He encourages others to bow down before the G-dless church of homosexuality as he does (for example; this blog!). It is the difference between being a drug user, quietly in his home; and a drug dealer who advertises and sells drugs. Justin is the latter, and will be judged accordingly in this world and the next. Sorry. I do not play games with the word “toeyva”. I do not rationalize, or play games with the Torah. History proves that those who do misinterpret the Torah do not last – such as the Hellenists, and the Karaits.
One more point: Look at the first Rashi in Parshat Noach. It was Adultery, Bestiality, and Homosexuality that led G-D to destroy the world. Was Rashi a coward? A bigot?
Logical Mommy – time to start thinking logical. Wake up. I hope your not reading “Heather has two mommies” to your children. And if you are, lo alaynu, your are destroying their neshamas and those of your grandchildren.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben,
You know it is typical. If one agrees with the gay agenda, they are “open minded”. If one agrees with the Torah agenda, then he/she is “close minded”. Typical.
The way Justin is “dealing” with this issue is to encourage others to follow him doen this destructive path. If he were gay, and just kinda “doing his thing”, then I would have no problem. But re-interpreting 3000 years of Jewish Law and tradition to fit his way of life, and selling this snake oil like some kind of tonic, is disgusting. Like I wrote earlier; the difference between a drug user and a drug dealer.
Ben, I disagree with the word “frum gay Jew”. There is no such thing as a “frum intermarried Jew”, and so there is no “frum gay Jew”.
Finally, therapy is a “cure”. As the Gedolay Hador teach (despite your contempt for them); G-D would not make homosexuality assur, and then make thousands of Jews homosexual with no way out. Jonah and other wonderful organizations help people with this. Justin should encourage his friends to seek therapy – he should not encourage them to destroy their lives for the fleeting temporary euphoria of “coming out”.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, your words speak a lot of truth. I am married to a woman and have children, and also identify as someone who deals with strong same sex attraction issues. Through therapy and other channels I have met quite a few men who are also married and have this issue. Some find their issues easier to deal with, some don't, some wives are very understanding, some are not very understanding. All in all, for me, I believe a guy who has same sex attraction issues but wants to get married should build up a relationship with an understanding woman first and foremost, tell her he has the problem when the time is right, if she rejects him so be it, if she accepts it prior to marriage then she becomes part of dealing with the problem in a healthy way. Justin, I don't agree with what you write about in your blog, but most importantly the issue can be dealt with by getting married to a woman. Might not be plain sailing, but the winds are nowhere near as strong as the lifestyle you have chosen.

Anonymous said...

dear fellow anonymous,

there is no therapy for being gay,

enjoy.

Anonymous said...

What do u mean by that?

Matt said...

I thought this might be interesting to think about:

the language of the levitical prohibition is unique, even among sexual prohibitions. the torahs "toeva" admonition is used, and that is only packed in there when things are super severe.

This is usually taken to mean that homosexuality is EXTRA bad in the eyes of G-d, but I (and Rashi) might have a different opinion.

Homosexuality is, at worst, only AS BAD as sex with an animal or family member. But it sparks more debate, more fury, because people have historically always been uncomfortable with the idea of homosexuality. this is something that occurs across culture and time. the uncomfortably with homosexual relations has nothing to do with torah, and has occurred in non-biblical societies. the response of discomfort might be as natural as homosexuality itself. something that we have to struggle to accept as others struggle to accept us.

but to get back to the point, where else to we see "toeva". We see it on the livitical prohibition against cross-dressing (deut 22:5). What are we to derive from this? That Yentl is an abomination.

Perplexed by the severity of the word "toeva" Rashi rationed that the prohibition was not against cross dressing, per se, but cross dressing for malicious purposes. IE to deceive, to rob, to trick someone into a sexual relationship.

Rashi couldn't understand why cross dressing was so immoral as to be considered "Toeva" unless it was referring exclusively to the evil sort of cross dressing. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, after all.

Now, wouldn't it make sense, considering the identical language, that the so called "anti gay" psukim are to be interpreted the same way? After all, "Toeva" has got to mean something and it would violate sbara to imply that a consensual sexual relationship between two men is WORSE than the non-consensual rape of an animal.

Unless it's only referring to male-male sex acts that derive from the evil inclination. The sexual relationship that occurs between two men in love cannot, logically, be asserted to be worse than bestiality. it can only be asserted that it is equally bad. only the rape of man could be worse than bestiality. after all, man is a reflective being, capable of harboring psychic scars from past traumas. A cow will likely forget being violated.

IN CONCLUSION: to say that the levitical prohibition against male-male sex acts is to be interpreted differently than Rashi's take on Deut 22:5 is to render the text illogical, is to impose a non-Torah value on Torah.

Why didn't Rashi just do this reasoning for me? Why hasn't halacha provided a way? Think about it. Society has a discomfort with homosexuality that is apart from Torah. The rabbis of days gone by didn't see this reality because they weren't looking for it. And in that day and age, I can't blame them.

Judaism is far beyond being a Biblical faith. The Talmud has made, we'll just say, more than a few alterations to the Halacha of the Pentateuch. These have been done in order for the Torah to, throughout the many changes of the world down the generations, continue to be a beacon of its TRUE spirit.

The Talmudic gymnastics required to create a halachic framework for the loving, monogamous homosexual couple are MINIMAL compared to allowances that have been made in other areas. People so far have just been to blind to see it. But not us, Chaver.

Sorry for the length of this comment.

Matt said...

I thought this might be interesting to think about:

the language of the levitical prohibition is unique, even among sexual prohibitions. the torahs "toeva" admonition is used, and that is only packed in there when things are super severe.

This is usually taken to mean that homosexuality is EXTRA bad in the eyes of G-d, but I (and Rashi) might have a different opinion.

Homosexuality is, at worst, only AS BAD as sex with an animal or family member. But it sparks more debate, more fury, because people have historically always been uncomfortable with the idea of homosexuality. this is something that occurs across culture and time. the uncomfortably with homosexual relations has nothing to do with torah, and has occurred in non-biblical societies. the response of discomfort might be as natural as homosexuality itself. something that we have to struggle to accept as others struggle to accept us.

but to get back to the point, where else to we see "toeva". We see it on the livitical prohibition against cross-dressing (deut 22:5). What are we to derive from this? That Yentl is an abomination.

Perplexed by the severity of the word "toeva" Rashi rationed that the prohibition was not against cross dressing, per se, but cross dressing for malicious purposes. IE to deceive, to rob, to trick someone into a sexual relationship.

Rashi couldn't understand why cross dressing was so immoral as to be considered "Toeva" unless it was referring exclusively to the evil sort of cross dressing. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, after all.

Now, wouldn't it make sense, considering the identical language, that the so called "anti gay" psukim are to be interpreted the same way? After all, "Toeva" has got to mean something and it would violate sbara to imply that a consensual sexual relationship between two men is WORSE than the non-consensual rape of an animal.

Unless it's only referring to male-male sex acts that derive from the evil inclination. The sexual relationship that occurs between two men in love cannot, logically, be asserted to be worse than bestiality. it can only be asserted that it is equally bad. only the rape of man could be worse than bestiality. after all, man is a reflective being, capable of harboring psychic scars from past traumas. A cow will likely forget being violated.

IN CONCLUSION: to say that the levitical prohibition against male-male sex acts is to be interpreted differently than Rashi's take on Deut 22:5 is to render the text illogical, is to impose a non-Torah value on Torah.

Why didn't Rashi just do this reasoning for me? Why hasn't halacha provided a way? Think about it. Society has a discomfort with homosexuality that is apart from Torah. The rabbis of days gone by didn't see this reality because they weren't looking for it. And in that day and age, I can't blame them.

Judaism is far beyond being a Biblical faith. The Talmud has made, we'll just say, more than a few alterations to the Halacha of the Pentateuch. These have been done in order for the Torah to, throughout the many changes of the world down the generations, continue to be a beacon of its TRUE spirit.

The Talmudic gymnastics required to create a halachic framework for the loving, monogamous homosexual couple are MINIMAL compared to allowances that have been made in other areas. People so far have just been to blind to see it. But not us, Chaver.

Sorry for the length of this comment.

Matt said...

I thought this might be interesting to think about:

the language of the levitical prohibition is unique, even among sexual prohibitions. the torahs "toeva" admonition is used, and that is only packed in there when things are super severe.

This is usually taken to mean that homosexuality is EXTRA bad in the eyes of G-d, but I (and Rashi) might have a different opinion.

Homosexuality is, at worst, only AS BAD as sex with an animal or family member. But it sparks more debate, more fury, because people have historically always been uncomfortable with the idea of homosexuality. this is something that occurs across culture and time. the uncomfortably with homosexual relations has nothing to do with torah, and has occurred in non-biblical societies. the response of discomfort might be as natural as homosexuality itself. something that we have to struggle to accept as others struggle to accept us.

but to get back to the point, where else to we see "toeva". We see it on the livitical prohibition against cross-dressing (deut 22:5). What are we to derive from this? That Yentl is an abomination.

to be continued

Matt said...

continuation:

Perplexed by the severity of the word "toeva" Rashi rationed that the prohibition was not against cross dressing, per se, but cross dressing for malicious purposes. IE to deceive, to rob, to trick someone into a sexual relationship.

Rashi couldn't understand why cross dressing was so immoral as to be considered "Toeva" unless it was referring exclusively to the evil sort of cross dressing. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, after all.

Now, wouldn't it make sense, considering the identical language, that the so called "anti gay" psukim are to be interpreted the same way? After all, "Toeva" has got to mean something and it would violate sbara to imply that a consensual sexual relationship between two men is WORSE than the non-consensual rape of an animal.

Unless it's only referring to male-male sex acts that derive from the evil inclination. The sexual relationship that occurs between two men in love cannot, logically, be asserted to be worse than bestiality. it can only be asserted that it is equally bad. only the rape of man could be worse than bestiality. after all, man is a reflective being, capable of harboring psychic scars from past traumas. A cow will likely forget being violated.

IN CONCLUSION: to say that the levitical prohibition against male-male sex acts is to be interpreted differently than Rashi's take on Deut 22:5 is to render the text illogical, is to impose a non-Torah value on Torah.

Why didn't Rashi just do this reasoning for me? Why hasn't halacha provided a way? Think about it. Society has a discomfort with homosexuality that is apart from Torah. The rabbis of days gone by didn't see this reality because they weren't looking for it. And in that day and age, I can't blame them.

Judaism is far beyond being a solely Biblical faith. The Talmud has made, we'll just say, more than a few alterations to the Halacha of the Pentateuch. These have been done in order for the Torah to, throughout the many changes of the world down the generations, continue to be a beacon of its TRUE spirit.

The Talmudic gymnastics required to create a halachic framework for the loving, monogamous homosexual couple are MINIMAL compared to allowances that have been made in other areas. People so far have just been to blind to see it. But not us, Chaver.

Sorry for the length of this comment.

sabrina said...

I feel exactly the same way as your Uncle- I am blown away by those of you who choose to stay observant and - more than that- identify with a community who has not handled it as gracefully as your Uncle. WHat a Kiddush Hashem.

I am truly in awe of you. You must love Hashem so much and I can only imagine that you have a ton of zchar for all that you struggle with in all of this.

Anonymous said...

read jay michaelson's new book "god vs. gay" for a continued and rational discussion of how homosexuality is and isn't addressed in the torah. AND how many more torah values can be used to support gay identity.