Thursday, June 23, 2005

What the hell are Gay Jews?

While we are on the topic of Judaism and Jews of different kinds here is something that is completely over my head. People who are obviously proud of their Jewishness and use an adjective for themselves that the Torah, the basis of Judaism, calls an abomination.
While I am specifically picking on male homosexuals in this post, I think the same concepts apply to anyone who takes pride in doing something that their religion strictly forbids.
You want to tell me that there were no cars when the torah was given, so it doesn't expressly forbid driving and that is rabbinical, then we have something to disagree about. But it is written very clearly. "Do not lie with a man as you would with a woman, it is an abomination, you should be killed and your blood is on your own head."

This gets back to the very basics of what exactly is a Jew. From my perspective someone is Jewish if their mothers were Jewish or if they converted properly. From their perspective, they publicly announce that they don't care about the basis of the religion, calling it irrelevant and dated. Would a proudly gay Jew please post a comment as to what they consider to be Jewish about themselves? If they are going to sin that is one thing, but does that have to be the adjective to their Judaism? Shouldn't that kind of thing stay in the bedroom? It would be like calling yourself an "anti-environment liberal" or a "people-hating humanitarian" or a "meat-eating vegetarian" they are adjectives that do not describe the noun.
We all sin, should take on those titles: We can have the "Lashon Hara Jews", "Bacon Eating Jews", "Cheating and Stealing Jews" ...

Ask me not if I see you as a Jew, tell me the basis for your own Judaism. We have a relative who has said repeatedly that he is not Jewish. From my perspective, he is an errant Jew and we will gladly welcome him back when he returns. From his perspective he does not accept the basis of the religion. I can understand that much better then someone who says I am Jewish, I just don't believe that God, if he exists, cares what we do. What does Jewish mean to him? Bagels with Lox?



Cosmic X said...

I wanted to add a comment but then I realized that I am not gay.

rockofgalilee said...

I'll accept comments from non-gay people as well.

rockofgalilee said...

So it is said, so it is written, so it shall be.

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

There is an excellent book by an Orthodox, gay Rabbi, Steven Greenberg, called WRESTLING WITH GOD AND MEN: HOMOSEXUALITY IN THE JEWISH TRADITION. Rabbi Greenberg takes this quote that you mention from the Torah, and complete with Biblical references shows how this phase is open to meaning.

rockofgalilee said...

I didn't read the book, but I looked at some of the reviews. It sounds like he was not able to justify the verse and decided that it didn't matter. That's like saying, I know it is against the law to steal, but one day people will understand and they'll say it is correct to steal, so I'll do it now.

YU Review on Gay Book
"He refers to Leviticus 18:23, the verse in which the Torah instructs: "Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman, it is an abomination." He says that "for the present, I have no plausible halakhic method of interpreting this text in a manner that permits homosexual sex." He does, however, describe various levels of homosexual activity, and lists some as being less of a violation to the Torah law. He states, "in regard to sexual behavior, I personally have chosen to accept a certain risk and violate the halakha as it is presently articulated, in the hope of a subsequent, more accepting halakhic expression. I realize that this is a 'civil disobedience.' It is not the system itself which I challenge but its application to an issue that has particular meaning for me and for those like me."

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

I have the book, a signed copy here. Since I have not read it, I am not going to judge nor comment what it says or does not. I only note it in refernce to your post on gay Jews. Nothing more.

Anonymous said...

i saw a link to your blog over at "yiddishechatrooms", so i came to check it out, you are right on the button, keep it up

Olah Chadasha said...

That's so funny. Every time I think of this topic, I remember a Shiur I heard one Shavuot, when I was in 10th grade. It was at the YIOP. One of the most striking things about it was the way that the speaker said that no-where else in the Torah does G-d use such stern language about an act, not even with murder. This is the only place that G-d says that a certain act is an abomination. That really struck home. And, I remember it until this day. That speaker, if you recall, was you. But, let's say there is a religious Jew who has homosexual tendencies or whatever but never acts on them. Just like some-one who has desires of stealing or murder yet never does them. S/he hasn't committed an Averah, right? It's only the sexual act that is forbidden, not the feelings, if I understand it correctly. BTW, that gay's Rabbi's opinion on such a clearly delineated pasuk (I mean it doesn't get any clearer than that!) is just, in my opinion, a feeble attempt to justify and excuse his actions. "I personally have chosen to accept a certain risk and violate the halakha as it is presently articulated, in the hope of a subsequent, more accepting halakhic expression. I realize that this is a 'civil disobedience.'" What?!? I mean, what the F%^%?!? What is that supposed to mean?!? I know I'm doing something wrong, but I'm gonna keep doing it until some-one comes and tells me that it's OK. EVEN when it's from G-d's "mouth" to our "ears". Just like you say, rock. I mean, I pity and am fearful for the people that this Rabbis Paskens for.
P.S. This is so un-PC, I love it!

rockofgalilee said...

I believe that shiur was titled, "sex, drugs and rock and roll" which drew a nice sized audience who promptly fell asleep.
Glad to know someone was not only listening but remembered it for 6 years.

When people ask you why you're not gay, do I get the credit?

Anonymous said...

Hey rockofgalilee. I just got your website from Barbara from California. I really don't think that it's good to criticize people in front everybody (in your blog). I think that if you have problem with somebody you should confront them with love. I mean being so harsh just turns people away. It doesn't bring most people closer to just makes their hearts harder. Why would anyone who was a gay Jew want to respond to that? God's not a condeming God but a looving...

rockofgalilee said...


1) Where did you get the idea that God was a loving God and not a condeming God. In psalms it says, God is the Lord of vengence.

2) I am not condemning specific people, I am condemning first of all the action and second of all the use of the adjective, which I find completely inappropriate.

On my blog I like to talk about controversial issues. I laid out the issues in my usual straightforward manner and I would be very happy to hear a reply from someone who disagreed. I don't believe I used any derogatory terms when referring to them. I laid out the facts as I see them.

Unknown said...

Interesting post. Also, noted that you gave a talk in WITS titled 'sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll' - sadly, I doubt the same type of talk would be allowed to be given in the current WITS. Unfortunate, because one of the largest strengths WITS had was its ability to get to the core of controversial issues, much like you seem to be doing now. The only remaining vestige of this when I was in WITS was STAMP.

rockofgalilee said...


The shiur was given in Young Israel, not in WITS, and it was proably 5 years after I had graduated.

But there was definitely more freedom to speak in the old WITS then there is today.

Unknown said...

olah chadashah wrote: This is the only place that G-d says that a certain act is an abomination.

Where did you get this from? The word תועבה is used several times in the Torah and in the rest of the Tanakh in reference to many things aside from משכב זכר (the true offense of same-gender sexual expression). Look at the Hebrew text of the following verses and say again that this sin is worse than all others since it is the only one called תועבה (which isn't the case):

Genesis 43.32 and 46:34
Exodus 8:22
Deuteronomy 7:25-26; 12:31; 14:3
and many others.

The word is used in the plural (תועבות) to refer to the detestable practices of the goyim in Cana'an in general. Whoever told you that it refers only to mishkav zachar was being less than honest.

Unknown said...

To respond to the OP:

Perhaps you should see the documentary "Trembling Before G-d" (link). Sexual orientation is not alterable by simple religious conviction. I realize that this lies outside of your experience, and you do not have any type of intimate experience with religiously dedicated gay individuals who do not perform mishkav zachar, but I want you to know that such people do exist.

Unknown said...

This is opening a 2 years old post, but I'm happy to do it for a reader.

There are other things in the Torah called an abomination, but if you look at the wording regarding homosexual behavior, it is much stronger then the wording for other sins.

In any case, the point of the article was that I don't feel it is an appropriate adjective to Jew.
I wouldn't call someone who has strong sexual leanings towards people of the same sex homosexual unless they committed a homosexual act. In the same way I wouldn't call someone with kleptomanial tendendencies a thief unless they actually took something.

There are also people who would really like to eat food that is not kosher, and they don't. Those people are not considered a treif eater.

Each of us has our own challenges in life. The question remains: Would you think it appropriate to use an adjective for Jew as a sin? Or more then that is it appropriate to define a person by his sexuality? How about a person who likes oral sex, would you call him a blow job jew? What if he wants to have oral sex but has not? Would he still be a blow job jew?

Unknown said...

Sorry for opening such an old post. I found it in a search and didn't really look at the date before I responded. :blush: Thanks for responding anyway.

I guess the difference is that a gay Jew is normally found in a same-sex partnership. It would be something similar to its heterosexual counterpart, but without marriage generally -- and the partners have obligations to one another in terms of finances, emotional support, and sexual interaction (to whatever degree). I guess the adjectival designation exists to mark the fact that gay Jews do not fulfill the normal societal expectation of marriage and reproduction, since the majority of religious Jews would disassociate themselves from such people when they have accepted a substitute form of relationship -- one that fulfills them emotionally, while being religiously questionable on all fronts.

Keep in mind, I am making a distinction between those Jews who have chosen to remain religious after coming to terms with their sexuality and those who have walked away from religion altogether. These are two very different categories of people.

The question is: how can a Jew remain religious while being in a same-sex partnership? Is it even a possibility? If not, why? If so, why? I'm very curious about this.

Thanks for reentering this dialogue. It's appreciated.

rockofgalilee said...

I'm going to completely change your question here.
Lets say someone is a religious Jew and really loves the thought of eating pork. Can he call himself a religious Jew if he keeps Shabbos, acts like a religious Jew and keeps all kosher except for pork. Lets says he doesn't actually eat the pork, but he keeps it in his house so he can smell it and feel like he's enjoying it.
Obviously in both cases you would not want that adjective describing your Jewishness.

In terms of can you still be considered religious even though you consistently do one major sin? I believe the answer is yes. We all have our challenges in life. The question is if you define yourself by the mitzvot you do or by other things.
Should a person who keeps shabbos and has homosexual relationships in the privacy of his own home call himself a shomer shabbos Jew or a gay Jew? Which is part of Judaism? Which is not?

Unknown said...

The problem is that even religious Jews who have this weakness are often pushed into a corner and judged based on this one fact of life. If outsiders did not so often think that this is the one issue that defines a person in such a situation (most of the time, it is just assumed that they commit mishkav zachar even when it is not true), then it would not be so easy to accept the designation "gay Jew."

But that is just what happens in real life. When someone finds out that a Jew who is religious has a same-sex partner, this becomes their main designation — and the consequences are often severe.

Would it not be better to assume that the partners do not commit mishkav zachar? To give them the benefit of the doubt (as it says in Pirkei Avot: והוי דן את כל האדם לכף זכות)? The point is, there are a lot of misconceptions about Jewish people who happen to have homosexual orientations.

I don't know what the solution to the problem is. JONAH would have us believe that the answer lies in reversion therapy techniques and religious promises. Most psychiatrists, however, are in agreement that reversion therapy does little more than repress desire and cause it to fester. Who knows? Perhaps it is successful for some people.

It's definitely a complex question, and I'm disappointed that no one else wanted to take it up seriously here in your comments. I figured it would have had a good response, you know?

Unknown said...

While looking through JONAH's website, I found this article, which I thought you might find interesting.

rockofgalilee said...

I know plenty of men who live together and I do not think they are gay. We call them roommates. If someone tells people that he is gay then the obvious assumption is that he means he is having a sexual relationship with a person of the same sex. Otherwise it's the same thing as telling someone that a boy and a girl who are dating seriously and living together are shomer negia. It's a cute thought but most of the time not true. When you have to judge people favorably, that is when it makes sense to.
For example, if you see someone not keeping shabbos every week in what does not look like emergency situations, you do not have to assume that there is something going on here that you don't know about and it must be a case of life and death. You can assume quite logically that the person does not keep shabbos.
I think if someone uses code words such as gay, that indicates to the person listening that he has homosexual intercourse. It could be that the person just wanted to share the fact that he is attracted to men, but would by no means ever act on those impulses, but that is not what the code word means.

Unknown said...

Personally, I think it does. "Gay" does not necessarily mean "sexually active with people of the same gender." It means "sexually attracted to people of the same gender." Attraction and activity are two separate issues.

What do you think of that article on the JONAH site?

rockofgalilee said...

Code words mean different things to different people. It depends on culture and environment as well as actual meaning of the word. In my society, which is not a homosexual society, the word gay/homosexual connotes homosexual activity, not just orientation.
It could be in a more "liberal" society, which i more concerned with sensitivities towards alternative lifestyles (live and let live) they would use the code word gay to mean more orientation and less activity. Therefore you have to know who you are speaing to and how those people will relate to what you said. It is more a matter of communication then a matter of judging for the best.

It looks like a very long article and I don't have time to read it right now.