Hannah Has Two Mommies

The military has repealed its Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy toward gay soldiers. This is just one more manifestation of the increasing acceptance of homosexuals in modern life. Over the past fifty years, society’s perception of homosexuality has changed from seeing it as a mental illness, a perversion or a deviant criminal activity, to the 21st-century viewpoint that this is an alternative lifestyle choice involving capable consenting adults.

Judaism’s conflict with homosexuality begins with the Torah prohibition. Like other Torah laws dealing with forbidden kinds of intimacy, this refers to the action itself. Prohibited acts of intimacy, coming under the general heading of Giluy Arayos, are considered to be the most serious sins, along with murder and idolatry.

For years, our own Jewish world had a similar Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Two older men, or two older women, living together for many years: well, that could simply be a financial arrangement. No one asked; no one told. It was no one’s business.

Nowadays, things are different. Men and women declare openly that they are gay Jews, lesbian Jews. What’s more, they want to be recognized by our mosdos, our shuls and our yeshivos and our communities, as openly gay and lesbian Jews. They want also to be Orthodox Jews, seeing no conflict between the gay lifestyle and the Orthodox Jewish lifestyle.

But isn’t there a fundamental underlying conflict? We don’t have communal organizations for those who announce they are going to eat pork or not observe the laws of Taharas ha Mishpachah. It’s the opposite: think of those shuls named Congregation Shomrei Shabbos or Congregation Mikveh Israel or some similar name. Don’t Jews band together to do mitzvos, not aveiros? Should we go back to a more genteel time, the old Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy: we won’t speculate about your private life as long as you don’t flaunt it? Isn’t homosexuality and other prohibited behavior outright pritzus, and not simply a lifestyle choice?

There are homosexuals married by civil law who are the biological parents, adoptive parents and stepparents of Jewish children. These are children who are halachically Jewish, born to Jewish mothers. They are being registered in yeshivos and day schools by gays and lesbians who want a Jewish education for their children. If a yeshiva turns away families with television in the home, can it turn away a Jewish child with two mommies or two daddies? Should a yeshiva take in any child who truly wants to learn more about his or her religion? It’s not the child’s fault what the parents do, or are.

But doesn’t a yeshiva or day school naturally want children from its own level of observance, from its own culture? For example, wouldn’t it be perfectly legitimate for a Sephardic yeshiva to take Sephardic children and not Ashkenaz? Or for a Bobover Chasidic yeshiva to require children to be Bobover, or at least from some other Chasidic group of an observance level similar to Bobov (Belz, Amshinov, Pupa)? So should or could our day schools and yeshivos turn away children whose families do not have the kind of lifestyle they prefer, not limited only to excluding gay and lesbian Jews, but also others?

What about gay and lesbian Jews who perform the mitzvos: gay men who wear Tzitzis and yarmulkes; lesbian women who are shomer Shabbos and Kashrus. Can we hold that there are Orthodox Jews who do certain sins, just like everyone sins? Or is it a lifestyle conflict that is incompatible? Can we be tolerant toward gays and lesbians, accepting of them as people, while condemning what they do? Are we homophobic bigots to reject their lifestyles as being against the Torah? Do we allow openly gay men and women to join our shuls, or quietly ask them to keep their private lives private?

Is Orthodox Judaism a big tent, big enough to include gay and lesbian Jews? Or must we exclude all those individuals who unapologetically and willfully violate an explicit prohibition of the Torah? What about celibate homosexuals and lesbians, those who consider themselves to be gay but do not engage in acts of intimacy? If a known pork eater is not at this moment eating pig meat, is he or she still a sinner? Is it just the activity itself or the entire lifestyle promoting and celebrating this activity? And where does Daas Torah, the rulings of our Gedolim, hold on these issues? Do we condemn sincere Jews for being too steeped in serious sins, and accept them only if they have utterly given up this lifestyle and become true Baalei-Teshuvah?

I don’t have the answers. I only have the questions.

136 comments on “Hannah Has Two Mommies

  1. Judy, I quote from your article, “What about celibate homosexuals and lesbians, those who consider themselves to be gay but do not engage in acts of intimacy?”

    I apologize in advance if this sounds disrespectful towards you, but it is very important that the entire Jewish community recognizes this fact – I will stand by the word fact.

    There is absolutely no legitimate Halakhic opinion that, in any way shape or form, declares any sort of prohibition or even a best practice (Lekhatkhila) not to have the sexual ORIENTATION referred to as, “gay.” There is no issue with the uncontrollable feelings that a gay Jew feels. None. Not one.

    It is similar to saying that it is prohibited to have a desire to steal or a desire to eat pork. There is no problem with the desire the only issue is with the prohibited action – eating pork, stealing, having same-gender relations (With the aforementioned distinction between men and women).

    The idea that gay is bad is really what causes gay people to feel like they cannot live in celibacy within the Orthodox community(IMHO). This is (IMHO) sufficiently demonstrated by the fact that there are multitudes of teenage boys and girls and unmarried older men and women that have a strong connection to HKB”H and overcome the tremendous desire to masturbate(As far as physical desire) and the desire to have an illicit relationship or ditch Judaism altogether and build a home( as far as mental stability.)

    Please make sure that everyone that you can tell knows that this is an unimaginably important concept to understand. No one will live in a community that rejects them for something about themselves that they cannot change.

    The celibate gays should and MUST be accepted as normal, even inspiring Jews. They live their life fighting off a desire that their family cannot begin to understand. They were rejected, despised and finally abandoned by so many throughout their life. Yet they still managed to see through the thick and murky veil and realize G-d and fulfill his 613 mitzvos – all 613 (Less applicable nowadays, far fewer mitzvos applicable.)

    The approach, I believe, that must be taken to is similar to that which is taken in most well-run Yeshivos. Never judge. Never reject – we love everyone. However, every member of the community has to recognize that if they cannot condone, I said CONDONE, an inappropriate BEHAVIOR (As opposed to their orientation which is harmless). If they do, then as much as we love them, it simply is unfair to allow them to destroy other people’s lives.

    Everyone in a community falls, but we all have to know that growth and eventual rejection and abandon of sin is where it’s at(Hanging prep. my bottom =)). Even if we don’t think we will be able to accomplish that, we would never want anyone else to have to experience the same treacherous challenges that we do.

    Another line that is drawn in Yeshivos is that they have to have enough respect or fear for the Administration (Rabbeim etc.) of the Yeshiva that he would never disobey them in front of their face. If they do disobey outright, they have no fear and nothing to lose, they cannot stay – loose canons are far too dangerous.

    The question of kicking a student out of a Yeshiva is considered a Life-Threatening situation (Pikuach Nefesh) and is only ruled on by a very knowledgeable Rabbi who knows both the situation of the Yeshiva and of the particular student in question (Barring Gedolei HaDor). The same is true here.

    Please, internalize and never forget the fact that rejection is on par with stabbing somebody in the back – repeatedly. Their soul may yet be resuscitated, but please, do not stab first ask questions later. A very, very, very competent Halakhic authority AND community leader may advise you about the dispensation applicable to the killing of a Rodeph (One who is pursuing an intended murder victim in order to kill him,Sorry for th lack of clarity).

    Love, as cliched as it sounds is central to Judaism and specifically Kiruv, which is why BTs had better get out there and spread it. FAST.

    Happy Chanuka to you all. May you continue to grow in your closeness to our Father above.


  2. This dvar Torah(“Let My Leaders Fail”), from the perspective of a Rabbi,(or a “Rebbetzin’s Husband”), puts the onus on both leaders and followers:

    “The theme is important, beyond the material I could fit into two minutes and thirty seconds. For rabbis in shuls, for teachers and administration in schools, for boards of community institutions like UJA/UJC, Jewish Family and Children Services, JCCs and so on – we need leaders who have the latitude to act on educated instinct, and that latitude can only be granted by communities which are supportive. ”


  3. Bob, the lethal combination here is 3-fold: actual misdeeds by a “few”, lack of vigorous condemnation and/or tacit support by many, and real lack of understanding by most of the ability of the internet to rapidly, very rapidly, disseminate information.

  4. Michael, we have a lot of dangers. To (maybe) overgeneralize, overgeneralization is one of them.

  5. Bob, the “grave” danger, no matter how you want to quantify it, is in how many there already are.

  6. Michael, you’re right, too, but there is a grave danger in saying most or all are like that.

  7. It’s, unfortunately, not uncommon these days for Rabbis to do and say things that undermine the concept of traditional rabbinic leadership.

  8. To AMR #122: Purim Samayach.

    Please, I would like to hear more about what it is like to live in Zufim, in the Shomron, in Eretz Yisroel. Is it a small community? Do you commute to “the city” to work, or do you earn your parnasa locally? What is your dati / lo dati ratio, and does everyone basically get along, or is there strife between the groups? Do you and your spouse and children enjoy living there, or are you and your family looking to move elsewhere?

    Beg pardon if I seem to be nosy. I simply would love to hear more from the commenters who live in Eretz Yisroel and are happy there.

  9. It’s too common these days for even observant Jews to attack rabbonim as a group and traditional rabbinic leadership as a concept.

  10. Mark, your comment # 123 was very interesting. Could you please clarify the identity of the “Reb Nosson” to whom you referred?

    Michael, thanks for the source to which you referred me in comment # 121.

    Purim Sameach to all! :-D

  11. Bob

    I think that before you say something that is so encompassing you need to distinguish between history and observance.

    My practice of religion in no way interferes with my reading of history.

    Just like a physicist who is observant is not looking for a mathematical constant that equals G-d.

    Once again as I commented above your comment was in my mind unappreciated, unneeded, and quite arrogant.

    You are attacking my person and not my ideas and THAT is unacceptable in any forum.

    Please do not apologize it is meaningless if you want to beg for my mechila for your embarrassment of me I live in Zufim AMR wont be that hard for you to find.

  12. AMR’s approach to our Mesorah and religious history seems to be not Orthodoxy, but that of the “historical” school, typified by the leaders of the former Breslau seminary (Graetz, Frankel) and the Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC (Schechter til now). It’s basically unacceptable to any Orthodox Jew.

    If AMR wants a Jewish “Martin Luther”, this is not a new idea; our previous “Luthers” led many Jews to ruin since the Enlightenment.

  13. AMR said “Many here believe that once a person is given the title Rabbi they are from that point and forever infallible.”

    Actually I don’t believe anybody thinks that.
    I do think there are many people here who have a lot of confidence in the views of their current Rebbeim and the great Rebbeim of the past.
    I include myself among that group.

    But even among those with a lot of confidence in great Rebbeim, I think infallible would be taking it to an untenable extreme. In fact the Gemora has many examples of great Rebbeim who made mistakes.

    In terms of the conflict between Science and Torah, Rabbi Slifkin in a pre-controversy (2004) Mishpacha article outlines five approaches to reconciliation:

    Reconciliation between Torah & Science

    In Rabbi Slifkin’s newest book, Mysterious Creatures, he outlines five approaches in reconciling differences between Torah and Science:

    “1. The Sages possessed superior (or perfect) knowledge of the natural world, which they derived from the Torah or Divine inspiration; scientists, on the other hand, are fallible.
    2. Both the Sages and scientists are correct; the physical nature of he world has changes since the time of the Sages.
    3. Both the Sages and scientists are correct; we have simply misunderstood what the Sages were talking about.
    4. The Sages spoke in metaphor; we have simply misunderstood their intent. (Cf. Rambam’s Commentary on Mishna, Perek Chelek, Maseches Sanhedrin).
    5. Although great in Torah knowledge, the Sages did not possess better knowledge of the natural world than did other people of their era, which was very limited.” (Cf. Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, Trusting the Torah’s Sages, Chapter 4)”

    Rabbi Slifkin feels that it is important to teach the less well-known approaches of Rav Hirsch and the Rambam. Occasionally, he has received e-mail from readers who have questions of emunah regarding reconciliation of Science with Torah. By using these alternative approaches, he has often been able to restore a reader’s faith. Once, Reb Nosson encountered a ba’al teshuva who had questions of emunah. Upon Reb Nosson’s further probing, the ba’al teshuva admitted that he had incorrectly assessed Judaism’s profundity; A Rabbi’s pat answer to a scientific issue had put off the ba’al teshuva. Reb Nosson was able to intelligently answer the ba’al teshuva’s query, and restore the young man’s appreciation for Judaism while maintaining scientific integrity.

    A religious woman wrote to Reb Nosson about her husband’s questions of faith, which had prompted him to forfeit religious practice. As a result of his reading one of Rabbi Slifkin’s books, the man resumed keeping Shabbos.

    Sometimes, Reb Nosson admits that he has no answer. “They respect you for your integrity. One can’t teach sheker,” Reb Nosson cautions. “The Yam shel Shlomo says that distortion of Torah is not allowed, it’s yahareig v’al Ya’avor.”

    The above points are addressing specifically conflicts between Torah and Science, but I don’t think Rabbi Slifkin disputes that there are many aggadic discussion in the Talmud where they are talking about spiritual realities which are by definition outside the realm of science.

  14. I am going to summarize as follows:

    This discussion is and will forever be deadlocked for a simple reason, we do not hold the same truths to be self evident.

    Many here believe that once a person is given the title Rabbi they are from that point and forever infallible.

    I do not believe that.

    I am also uncomfortable with the concept that those who lived and published before us are also infallible and untouchable.

    Rav Yehuda Hanasi – undertook an awesome task; write down all the little explanations and codicils that up until that point were handed down mouth to ear.

    He did this because the Isralites had suffered through a number of great tragedies – probably bigger than we can imagine. In doing so he changed Judaism forever he created perhaps unwittingly perhaps by design a “leader” based faith centered around the rabbi.

    Rabbis have taken what was a temple based religion of a very few and made it into something that it never was and this continues to evolve.

    Judaism today in no way resembles the temple based religion of the Davidic period for sure and probably bears little resemblance to the temple based worship of the second temple period as well.

    What Judaism today needs most is a veritable “Martin Luther” to bring us all back to our roots.

    Thankfully, I live in Israel and I am reasonably sure that my grandchildren will be and remain Jewish, I am also reasonably sure that in 2-10 years the plurality of Jews if not most of them will also live in Israel. The balance will tip in one of three places:
    1) in a delivery room in Israel
    2) on a plane to Israel over the Atlantic
    3) in a church in the US of A

    A site and group like this has so much to offer, so many stories to tell about inclusion and how wonderful that is,how wonderful that can be, and yet with all that you chose to discuss exclusion, and even seek ways to justify it.

    I wish you well
    Shabbat Shalom
    Purim Sameach


    Zufim, Shomron

  15. AMR #102: I apologize if I stated your views incorrectly.

    AMR #112: I was very saddened to read that someone of your talent and intelligence was “written off” by the Hanhala of his high school due to his post-high-school choice. As you aptly stated, no Jew should ever be “written off,” period. To make you feel like you were a subhuman worth only 30 seconds of their time was incredibly shameful.

    I remember in a similar vein reading once about a famous medical researcher whose teacher in grade school told his parents straight out that he “would never amount to anything.” Luckily that person was able to prove this grim prediction wrong, but many such pronouncements by pompous pedagogues become self-fulfilling prophecies.

    In the Autobiography of Malcolm X, the famed Black leader talks about speaking to a high school guidance counselor. He told the guidance counselor that he wanted to become a lawyer. The counselor instead recommended that he become a carpenter. It was outright racism that sickened Malcolm.

    Could you possibly, possibly, move on past those terribly misguided individuals at your high school and concentrate on the truly good people within our community?

  16. Midrash Rabah, Parshat Bereshit, Chapter 26, Paragraph 5:

    Rabbi Huna taught in the name of Rabbi Yosef:

    The Generation of the Flood was not blotted out of the world until they made official marriage contracts between people of the same gender…

  17. Bob, there are differences, but do yourself a favor and go through Derech Hashem. It’s not difficult but you have to go through it slowly, more then once, because every paragraph that the Ramchal ever wrote is worded carefully and is packed with information. The translation is by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, another master of clarity.

  18. Is there any difference between natural and spiritual/supernatural forces except for the degree of detectibility and regularity of natural forces? I think this topic has also been well-covered by Rav Dessler ZT”L.

  19. Bob
    No they are not doing anything that is not legal. They might be doing things that you would not do, or you do not approve of, or that your belief system does not allow.
    but they are legal.

  20. AMR

    The same would be true for Solar Eclipses as follows

    -Solar Eclipses like everything other physical phenomena are rooted in spiritual forces
    -The negative actions Chazal have listed have some influence on the spiritual forces that influence Solar Eclipses
    -These are influences on these spiritual forces and not the only cause, so even if these negative actions are eliminated the spiritual forces behind Solar Eclipses will still exist and therefore Solar Eclipses can still occur

    -For Solar Eclipses, it should be noted there are different types and they are seen differently in different parts of the world and it is not specified what types and it what places in the Chazal.

    From Wikipedia
    Total solar eclipses are rare events. Although they occur somewhere on Earth every 18 months on average,[17] it has been estimated that they recur at any given place only once every 370 years, on average. The total eclipse only lasts for a few minutes at that location, as the Moon’s umbra moves eastward at over 1700 km/h. Totality can never last more than 7 min 31 s, and is usually much shorter: during each millennium there are typically fewer than 10 total solar eclipses exceeding 7 minutes. The last time this happened was June 30, 1973 (7 min 3 sec). Observers aboard a Concorde aircraft were able to stretch totality to about 74 minutes by flying along the path of the Moon’s umbra. The next eclipse exceeding seven minutes in duration will not occur until June 25, 2150. The longest total solar eclipse during the 8,000-year period from 3000 BC to 5000 AD will occur on July 16, 2186, when totality will last 7 min 29 s.[18] For comparison, the longest eclipse of the 21st century occurred on July 22, 2009 and lasted 6 min 39 sec.

  21. AMR wrote,
    “there is never a strong enough reason to exclude anyone, who remains within the boundaries of the law.”

    My question had been precisely about those outside those boundaries!

  22. Bob

    No I personally do not feel that any “other” can legitimately be excluded.

    Let me tell you a story.

    Many years ago while in 12th grade we were all called in to a meeting with our Gemara Teacher and the Hebrew Studies Principal so the school could hear first hand about our choices for the following year. (in 1981 no one called it a gap year that I recall)
    Most were called in and they were given long and very enthusiastic arguments why their choices were not good enough. Someone who chose yeshivat Hakotel was told to go the Kerem bYavne, some one who chose Kerem bYaven was told to find someplace more challenging. This went on until the R’s I was called in said I was going on Bnei Akiva’s Hachshara Program I was told very nice and shown the door, 30 seconds start to finish one of the shortest if not the shortest meetings. They had written me off then I wasnt worth saving or i wasnt good enough for a yeshiva or whatever.

    I am very proud of where I am what I have become and my experiences, they all make me what I am today.

    In 12th grade I wasnt worth thinking about or saving I was a jew to be written off.

    So my answer to your question is that no there is never a strong enough reason to exclude anyone, who remains within the boundaries of the law. There are people that need to educated but never excluded.


    I didnt ask about earthquakes I asked about solar eclipses.

    Your answer is interesting but it does not answer the question I posed.

  23. Michael, re: your comment in # 107:

    “Your statement reflects the thinking of Achronim in the middle ages who began reading infallibility back into statements of Chazal.”

    Was the perspective of the Geonim and the Rishonim different than that of the Achronim? If different, was the shift gradual or sudden?


  24. AMR wrote,
    “This post is not really about sins or sinning or sinners, or homosexuality for that matter, it is about xenophobia. Today the “other” that has been singled out for “treatment” are homosexuals, tomorrow it will some other group.”

    AMR, do you accept that some types of “others” are in direct, conscious, consistent violation of Jewish law and need to be corrected or excluded?

  25. AMR, I’m not saying that.

    According to the Ramchal in Derech Hashem:
    1) Hashem, is totally spiritual and not physical and is the source of everything in creation
    2) Creation consists of two basic parts, the physical and the spiritual
    3) The physical is that which can be experienced by our senses
    4) The spiritual consists of all entities which are not physical and can not be detected by physical means
    5) Every physical phenomenon originates among spiritual forces except those actions dependent on man’s free will
    6) The world contains two general influences, the deterministic which is directed downward from the spiritual to the physical and the in-deterministic which is directed from the physical to the spiritual
    7) Man directly influences physical things but his thought, speech and action also has an effect on its counterpart among spiritual forces
    8) These processes follow many detailed laws as decreed by Hashem and the influences in both direction depend on many factors

    Go over Part I of Derech Hashem a few times for the details

    In summary,
    -Earthquakes like everything other physical phenomena are rooted in spiritual forces
    -The negative actions Chazal have listed have some influence on the spiritual forces that influence Earthquakes
    -These are influences on these spiritual forces and not the only cause, so even if these negative actions are eliminated the spiritual forces behind Earthquakes will still exist and therefore Earthquake can still occur

  26. “If they had known it was as “normal” as the rising sun then one could make the argument that they wouldn’t have viewed it so negatively.”

    I see these as two separate points. One, is what was Chazal’s knowledge of science, whether haskafically, one can say that they were ever in error. Even if the answer is yes(you also seem to be taking R. Slifkin’s approach, who emphasizes the Maharal differed in approach from Rishonim) there is no reason why not to give spiritual depth to their statements. The Rambam wrote this as well in Perek Cheilik regarding the “three groups”, despite his comments regarding astronomy and Chazal in Moreh Nevuchim.

  27. Mark, that’s a matter of debate. People of that era were freaked out by eclipses and assumed that it was a really bad omen. If they had known it was as “normal” as the rising sun then one could make the argument that they wouldn’t have viewed it so negatively.

    Your statement reflects the thinking of Achronim in the middle ages who began reading infallibility back into statements of Chazal.

  28. Mark or Mr. Cohen

    So if I understand you correctly and I want to be very clear.

    you are saying that,

    “When these four things are eliminated
    {1} When a Chief Justice of a Jewish court dies and is not mourned correctly.

    {2} when a betrothed damsel calls for help and no one comes to the rescue

    {3} homosexuality

    {4} when brothers murder each other”

    There will be no more solar eclipses?

    So are you saying:
    a) The Moon will cease to orbit around the earth?
    b) will something happen to the Earth or the Sun?

    Please let me know.

  29. Chazal are talking about the underlying spiritual causes of various phenomena.

  30. There is a recent study of 10,000 NYC public school students indicating about two to three percent claimed to be engaged in exclusively homosexual acts while another three percent engaged in acts with both sexes and considered themselves to be “bisexual” To me this indicates that youths can be influenced to not make this choice. To do this the innate claim cannot be adopted uncritically.

  31. One has to wonder if Chazal understood that eclipses are regularly occurring natural phenomena which can be predicted to the second, would they have ascribed those same 4 causes?

    Similarly, if R’ Acha understood that Earthquakes are caused by the movement of tectonic plates and are a necessary “evil” of the normal functioning of the Earth, would he have said that they are caused by homosexuality.

  32. Judy
    No I dont think that is what I am saying at all.

    What I am saying is that if your hat is black enough, has a wide enough brim, and your shirt is white enough you can get away with anything!

    That is the point I was trying to make and you made it so well there is nothing more for me to add.

    This post is not really about sins or sinning or sinners, or homosexuality for that matter, it is about xenophobia. Today the “other” that has been singled out for “treatment” are homosexuals, tomorrow it will some other group.

    and to Mr. Cohen – I think we know today what causes an eclipse of the sun, we can even predict them, they happen regularly, we can even say where the eclipse will be at its most complete – none of the four reasons you mention enter into it. There are three more solar eclipses this year, more information about them is available here at NASA: http://bit.ly/dUp0tO

  33. Babylonian Talmud, tractate Gittin, page 57B:

    400 Jewish boys and girls were captured by the Romans and were being taken to Rome on a ship. They all committed suicide by jumping into the sea.

    RASHI: The boys did this to avoid being forced into homosexuality and the girls did it to avoid becoming concubines to Gentile men.

  34. Babylonian Talmud, tractate Sotah, page 13B, 15th thick line on page:

    Rab taught:

    Gabriel [the angel] emasculated Potiphar because he wanted to sin with Joseph.

  35. Babylonian Talmud, tractate Succah, page 29A:

    Our Rabbis taught:
    Four things cause an eclipse of the sun:

    {1} When a Chief Justice of a Jewish court dies and is not mourned correctly.

    {2} when a betrothed damsel calls for help and no one comes to the rescue

    {3} homosexuality

    {4} when brothers murder each other.

  36. Jerusalem Talmud, tractate Berachot, chapter 9, law 2, page 64A:

    Rabbi Acha taught:
    [Earthquakes happen] because of homosexuality.

    תלמוד ירושלמי מסכת ברכות דף סד/א
    אמר ר’ אחא בעון משכב זכר

  37. Clarification of my comment # 95

    “Such a policy could make one or even two soldiers ineffective, if their personal problems were so overwhelming that they couldn’t do their job.”

    I was talking about the number of people involved in a particular situation.

    By “one soldier”, I mean the individual who has the problem. By “even two soldiers” I meant a situation where both parties are members of the armed forces.

  38. Menachem wrote in # 81: “Running a “cash” business involves tax fraud, defrauding banks and people by lying about one’s business or worth or similar things.”

    A cash business run in someone’s home (often a violation of zoning laws) also gives the person an unfair and unethical advantage against merchants who pay taxes and rent commercial space. It’s wrong no matter what religion or race the competitor is. Further complicating the matter, some of the merchants being undercut by Orthodox Jews are also Orthodox Jews.

    Back to the original topic: One of the issues was the repeal of the military’s don’t ask, don’t tell policy. That policy prohibited someone from even mentioning his or her homosexuality, whether the setting was social, administrative, medical or legal. Such a policy could make one or even two soldiers ineffective, if their personal problems were so overwhelming that they couldn’t do their job. The type of “openness” that allows a gay soldier to obtain counseling, report domestic violence, etc., makes practical sense for the military’s operations. The other type of “openness,” which could consist of discussing one’s sexual activity among those who are not interested in hearing about it, or public displays of affection* are activities that should not be practiced by heterosexuals either.

    *Standards for tasteful displays of affection, such as holding hands and the like, vary among and within communities, including the Orthodox community. I feel that expressions of this type should be limited to heterosexual couples, and completely refrained from by those who have relations with the same sex.

  39. Bob, those are good questions. I’m ready to move-on on this topic for now. Let me think about it and perhaps we’ll address it on a future thread. If anybody wants to write a post to get that discussion started, our email address is beyondbt@gmail.com.

  40. Avigdor,

    It seems as if our elite media, liberal politicians and secular academics are making a determined effort to increase that 2-5%, which puts an extra burden on us to repel this nonsense.

  41. Mark,

    Do you have any sense of the actual size of the fraud problem or of progress in addressing it?

  42. It would be nice if the thread got back to the main subject.

    Someone commented that we wouldn’t permit the child of a homosexual couple, openly living together, in our schools just like an intermarried couple. I’d make a distinction between intermarriage and homosexual cohabitation. An intermarriage is a normal marriage that is forbidden, but homosexual relationships are inherently a perversion, forbidden to Jew and gentile alike.

    We wouldn’t educate a Jewish child in Torah and Mitzvos, just give up on her, because of her Jewish mother’s bad choices? Would that be, b’zman hazeh, viewed as an implicit endorsement of intermarriage or as hatzlacha nefashos? I think the battle against intermarriage has been lost for a long time, and we, in general, should save whom we can.

    My own feeling about a homosexual or lesbian couple, unless they can hide it pretty well –and I don’t know how they can if the child invites anyone over much less participates in any of many communal functions– is that it’s a much greater risk to the community. The walls against such relationships are still pretty high and we should defend them. On the other hand, good research from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, not contrived rubbish of the pervert Kinsey, puts the number of homosexuals at between 2-5% of the population. Inherently it is a far more smaller problem, quantitatively, then intermarriage.

  43. Menachem, I’m really not trying to catch you, just trying to understand what you meant when you wrote your words which is why I made it explicit. Other people in this thread are comfortable saying that the Orthodox community condones fraud. I think that’s a false broad condemnation and it’s meaningful to me that you agree.

  44. Yes Mark, I needed to do that because you were trying to linguistically trap into saying what you wanted me to say.

    I didn’t change my view, I just got more precise so you couldn’t “catch” me.

    Horse is dead, let’s stop beating it.

  45. Menachem, The statement you made sounds like something from the State Department.

    Above in the thread I said “By using the term “explicitly” should I make the inference that you think the community implicitly condones fraud?”

    To which you replied “Yes Mark,exactly. For all the reasons I’ve been saying.”

    It seems that now you’re not comfortable saying that the Orthodox Community Implicitly Condone Frauds. I’m fine with that clarification.

    And I think you’re also saying that the issue of ethics needs more emphasis than the issue of homosexuality, but that doesn’t preclude discussion or statements regarding those issues. Another statement I agree with.

  46. To Charnie #73
    I have known many homosexuals (male & female) over the years. I firmly believe that this “condition” is something inherent for many. There are some who truly struggle with this, don’t act on it & would rather have been born without this strong teiva(for lack of a better word). Others I have known, seem to have adopted this way as just another lifestyle choice; it’s more “cool” & celebrated than many people realize, especially in the big city where I live.

    I had a close friend from high school who “came out” to me on a visit many years after. She had been living this way less than 10 years when she told me. From her specific words, to her demeanor & body language and having known her growing up, I am completely convinced she talked herself into this or was enculturated that way by her friends and political leanings. She obviously wants to live this way, but I am convinced she could have gone the other way had she met the right guy. Did she purposely put herself in that environment, thereby implicitly making her choice? Hard to say, but I think the egg came after the chicken.

  47. Let’s modify your statement a bit.

    “The behavior of certain elements and leaders in some segments of orthodox Judaism can lead some, especially those young and impressionable, to believe that the adherence to ethical laws, especially those promulgated by the “host” country, is not a high priority behavior.”

    Why are you asking if I consider myself part of the orthodox community? (I hope it’s not as obnoxious as it sounds.) Of course I do.

    Since I’m not biting on your straw man statement that the community “condones fraud” I don’t think your last question is valid. What I would say in relation to it is that ethical issues are a much bigger problem affecting the orthodox community than is homosexuality. As such, of the two issues, I think the emphasis should be on dealing with ethics. If top-level organizations feel a moral need to support defense of marriage laws and the like, that’s poses no conflict. But on a day to day basis how many of us really have to deal with the latter issue? And thus, in all practicality, what exactly would we be “protesting”?

  48. Menachem, so you do agree with the statement that the Orthodox Community Implicitly Condones Fraud.
    I disagree with that statement. I don’t think you’ve cited enough proof to make that broad communal condemnation and my personal experience with the Orthodox people I know contradicts that conclusion.

    Do you consider yourself part of the Orthodox Community?

    Do you think that since the Orthodox Community Condones Fraud it would be hypocritical to protest against another aveira like secular societies push to legitimize homosexuality as an alternative life style?

  49. Mr. Cohen—You’re the best. Everything you say is backed up by a verse or midrash. It’s great to read your comments, no matter what subject, even a complicated, sensitive one like this.

    (We now return to our regular broadcast.)

  50. “I’m NOT saying that the community explicitly condones it. ”

    By using the term “explicitly” should I make the inference that you think the community implicitly condones fraud?

  51. Menachem, Charlie, AMR – I think we’re using different definitions of fraud. Perhaps you’re using it as an equivalent term to breaking-the-law.

    No Mark, I’m pretty much talking about fraud. Running a “cash” business involves tax fraud, defrauding banks and people by lying about one’s business or worth or similar things.

    I’m NOT saying that the community explicitly condones it. I AM saying that the criminals ARE often elevated by important religious leaders which sends a very confusing message to the youth of our communities. It also sends a very bad message about us to the world at large.

  52. To AMR #66: I believe that the point you’re trying to make is that our community is zealously intolerant of those committing personal sins while at the same time encouraging and even applauding outright crooks.

    Comparing our attitudes toward homosexuality and financial fraud doesn’t work. It’s like making a game of “What’s Your Tayvah?” The rich are almost universally admired, not only in our own culture but almost everywhere in the world, whereas homosexuality is a deeply feared taboo in many societies.

    Listing some of the more disturbing facts of the Rubashkin case does not mean that I approve of what he did. He committed a crime and should be punished for it. In my example, I mentioned Mrs. XYZ, a non-Jewish woman indicted on federal criminal charges who received a five year suspended sentence (zero jail time) for her involvement with a fake documents ring, due to the sentencing judge’s consideration of several important mitigating factors. In Rubashkin’s case, no mitigating factors were weighted at all.

  53. Mark-I’ve studied the tax law re: contractors vs. employees and I’ve “poskined” on the issue a few a times. I’m guessing that you and I have a different understanding of “standard house cleaner.” It sounds like your definition of “standard” is the equivalent of a nanny for the home, in which case there is widespread misclassification.

    Where I live, most cleaning people are legitimately contractors. They come and go on their own schedule and bring a helper with them (their own sub-contractor).

  54. Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer, chapter 43:

    The people of Ninveh wrote many unjust contracts and robbed each other and committed homosexuality and other similar wrongdoings. The Holy One Blessed Be He sent Yonah to prophecy to them and to destroy them, but Pharoah [who was King of Ninveh at that time] stood up from his throne and tore his garments and wore sackcloth and ashes, and proclaimed to his entire nation that they fast for three days, and whoever failed to do these things would be burned with fire.

  55. Deuteronomy/Devarim, Parshat Haazinu, chapter 32, verse 16:

    …with loathsomeness they angered Him [G_D].

    RASHI: WITH LOATHSOMENESS: With loathsome behavior; for example, homosexuality and sorcery, which are depicted as loathsome (in Vayikra chapter 20 verse 13).

  56. “My husband disagrees, and says why then would the Torah have this probition if a person couldn’t help themself. Any thoughts?”

    For those interested, there has been alot written in recent years; below are two sources, one from a recent Torah Web article(note that footnote # 6 of the Torah Web article excludes the halachic category of “shotim” from the discussion), and the second, from a 1995 Tradition article. From what I have also seen, there are different kinds of SSA, and therefore the psychological question of origins– nature vs. nature– may differ with people.

    From the second link:

    “Thus we need not even argue against the psychological position that holds that many healthy people have homosexual thoughts at one time or another. The Torah’s position is that the normal quality of any impulse is irrelevant to its ethical or halakhic character. Homosexuality and seafood are abominations and hence forbidden because the Torah says so; the Torah does not necessarily forbid them because they are by their nature – like feces- repulsive.

    This position is reassuring for the religious adolescent plagued by homosexual thoughts. If he is crazy, there may be no hope. If he is basically normal – struggling in this area as all people do in one area or another – then there may well be a chance for him to lead a rich, halakhically valid life.”



  57. Orthonomics, check this US Govt documentand this one. It seems pretty explicit that you do have to report wages over $1,700 to the government unless you are a contractor which a standard house cleaner or babysitter would usually not qualify for according to those documents.

    If you’ve found a loophole or can point me to the clause on either page that I’m reading wrong, please share it.

    But I think my point was similar to the one you are making. There is a difference between fraud, which I don’t believe the Orthodox community condones, and breaking other more commonly violated laws.

  58. I feel the need to make a point on tax law regarding Mark’s statement. You paint an extremely broad brush on the “widespread illegal practice of hiring someone to clean your house and not reporting the income or withholding social security taxes.” Many cleaning people are not employees, but rather contractors. I see this accusation waved about whenever the subject of fraud comes up and it really is not a just one. I do not higher cleaning help for my home, but most of my friends who do higher cleaning help who are legally contractors. They set their own schedules,they bring their own supplies, etc.

    This discussion comes up often and it detracts from the fraud that is legitimized, especially organized fraud.

  59. Allow me to try to go back to the original topic. One issue that my husband and I have discussed many times is what causes a person to be homosexual. I tend to be of the school of thought that people, to the vast majority, don’t choose to have this “condition” (for lack of a better definition), but rather it’s an outgrowth of psychological makeup, and not something they can alter. My husband disagrees, and says why then would the Torah have this probition if a person couldn’t help themself. Any thoughts?

  60. Menachem, Charlie, AMR – I think we’re using different definitions of fraud. Perhaps you’re using it as an equivalent term to breaking-the-law.

    Would you consider the widespread illegal practice of hiring someone to clean your house and not reporting the income or withholding social security taxes when you pay them fraud?

  61. Orthonomics asked “Nor do I know how the conversation moved from Hannah and her two mommies to fraud.” From one fraud to another?

  62. See this article from the Yated (link: http://matzav.com/life-is-not-a-popularity-contest). Seems even the Yated is having some second thoughts about legitimizing fraud. This from the newspaper that has never mentioned one of the cases mentioned about. I don’t know how this is an argument.

    Nor do I know how the conversation moved from Hannah and her two mommies to fraud. Personally, I’ve yet to meet a same gender couple looking for entrance into the Orthodox community. Maybe I’m hiding under a rock?

  63. Our Jewish media’s emphasis should be on our heroes who never ran afoul of the law. There is no benefit whatsoever in characterizing ourselves in public and in private as a subculture inherently at odds with the American legal system.

  64. Judy, WADR, most of those items are not “facts” but allegations and interpretations provided by a very vigorous defense. (As is their job.) Counters to all those points, and many additional points in the other direction are available elsewhere. This is not the place to debate the Rubashkin case per se. I have no interest or place to in attacking him. He and his family are suffering enough for his misdeeds.

    Two “facts” that most people will agree on is that he committed crimes of financial fraud and that his sentence was excessive. IMHO, an appropriate communal response would have been to quietly raise money for an appeal and seek out politicians and others to support the appeal.

    My concern is that the over-the-top full court press, multi-million dollar PR campaign has sent a horrible message both to the young people in our community and to the world at large.

    To listen to some of the Rabbis who spoke in defense of Rubashkin you’d think we were living in Tzarist Russia. They have demonized the judge, the judicial system, the “goyim”, and the government all while elevating Rubashkin to the level of saint.

    Already, in the Yeshivish and Chassidic world there is carried over distrust of government from lands long ago left. This circus has just fed into that paranoia. Why should anyone want to follow basic laws if they’re taught that the government is evil and run by “goyim” who are out to get you?

    To me the most jarring example of this problem was illustrated in one of the speeches given at one of the many fundraising gatherings for him. A rabbi, I believe the publisher of the Yated, gave over the following story.

    He said he had received a phone call from the mother of boy who was in camp in the mountains during the summer. The boy told the mother that one day he and some friends were playing baseball. It was a very hot day and some of the boys took off their tzitzit. This boy said “how can you take off your tzitzis, when Shalom Rubashkin in sitting in jail being Moser Nefesh”?

    This is a problem, a big problem.

  65. To Menachem Lipkin #64: Okay, let’s deal with some of the facts in the Rubashkin case.

    Fact #1: Rubashkin was acquitted of all charges relating to the alleged employment of underage minors.

    Fact #2: The government dropped all charges relating to the employment of illegal immigrants.

    Fact #3: The government conducted a “shock and awe” raid on Agriprocessors complete with helicopters and men with guns more suited to the takedown of an organized crime headquarters than to the resolution of a white-collar fraud charge.

    Fact #4: There is considerable evidence that federal judge Linda Reade was not neutral but was heavily involved in the planning of the Department of Justice prior to the raid. This would be a severe violation of Rubashkin’s right to due process of law under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

    Fact #5: The attempts by PETA to close down Agriprocessors for cruelty to animals prior to the federal raid, plus unfounded and unproven allegations about the cleanliness and safety of the plant, point to something more than an effort to stop white-collar fraud.

    Fact #6: The refusal to grant release on bail was based on saying that Rubashkin could flee to Israel, which could be used to prohibit any and every Jewish defendant from now on from obtaining release on bail. (Why not say that an Irish-American could flee to Ireland, which has no extradition treaty with the U.S.A.)?

    Fact #7: Many prominent non-Jews have agreed that Rubashkin’s sentence was totally disproportionate to his crime and to the sentences meted out to other white-collar financial defendants.

    I would just like to point out here that I personally know of the case of Mrs. XYZ, a non-Jewish woman who was charged with a federal crime, being involved in the purchase and use of fake status documents. Mrs. XYZ, who has outstanding positive equities in her life (runs a business that employs nine people, owns a small apartment building that houses six families, has three U.S. citizen children, including a soldier in the Armed Forces) was given five years’ probation: in other words, no jail time whatsoever. Now I understand that the cases are not identical. However, in the matter of Rubashkin, it appears that the judge took no mitigating factors into account at all before handing down her Draconian sentence of 27 years in prison.

  66. If your point is that 100, 20 or even 3 cases is too much, I agree. But that doesn’t translate into the community supporting fraud.

    Mark, I think you’re being naive. Ask an accountant who does tax returns in some of our most densely orthodox communities. Check out how many illegal basement stores function in these communities and how well patronized they are. Ask around and get a feel of how much “cash” business is done in these communities. And this is all without mentioning the literal minyans of frum Jews state and federal prisons.

    The Yated Neeman has published extensively about the facts in the Rubashkin case, and it is helpful to read those articles to gain a better sense of why the Jewish community is not rushing to condemn Rubashkin, but is instead gathering to support him.

    The Yated does not deal in facts. They are very up front that their goal is to project an image. To back this up a friend of mine called the editor once on a specific story where he knew the facts were wrong. The editor responded that they don’t necessarily publish facts, they publish what their readership wants to hear.

    If you want facts feel free to read all the court papers relating to the Rubashkin case. They are available online. Calling his crime “victimless” just feeds into to the cycle of acceptance of this type of behavior. Maybe his sentence was too long, but he’s been deified by large swaths of the frum community creating one of the greatest Chilul Hashems in recent history.

  67. To AMR #45: I’m not “up in arms” about homosexuals within the Jewish community. I submitted the article precisely because I felt sympathy for the unique sadness of those individuals caught in this situation. As I said in my article, I don’t have the answers, I only have the questions.

    With regard to the people you’ve mentioned (Rubashkin, Madoff and Abramoff), while I do not condone fraud and/or crime, I think there are degrees of wrongdoing and levels of punishment. Madoff destroyed people’s lives, including his own son. Rubashkin employed many people for fair wages in his business, and received an outrageous sentence for what amounted to a victimless financial crime (the bank which received inaccurate invoices had profited greatly from interest payments made on an ongoing business loan).

    Right now the U.S. attorney’s office is over-zealously prosecuting a non-Jewish hedge fund manager for “insider trading.” While I don’t agree with breaking the law, I don’t see how we should get excited when Jews are accused of “insider trading,” except for the obvious “Chillul Hashem” of bad publicity for Jewish wrongdoers.

    There is evil and there is greater evil. I don’t have the answer, and we should seek Daas Torah guidance on this issue. The Yated Neeman has published extensively about the facts in the Rubashkin case, and it is helpful to read those articles to gain a better sense of why the Jewish community is not rushing to condemn Rubashkin, but is instead gathering to support him.

  68. It is a small minority of the overall community. The vast vast majority of my neighbors, friends, teachers, Rabbis do not commit fraud or support fraud and I imagine it’s the same in your community.

    If your point is that 100, 20 or even 3 cases is too much, I agree. But that doesn’t translate into the community supporting fraud.

  69. “I was always taught that Hashem does not test a person without giving him the tools to pass the test. If the Torah does not allow homosexuality, then how can a person be put in such a situation with no way out?”

    I see that as one of the major hashkafic questions facing Judaism today. I don’t have an answer.

  70. “To say that based on that very small minority that the Orthodox community”

    It isn’t a very small minority, and you know that.

    While one of the most prominent fraudsters was under federal indictment awaiting trial, the leader of one of the most prominent Orthodox organizations in America led a staged visit to that person’s business, staged a dog and pony show, and declared everything to be totally above board. How many of us would eat in a restaurant where the mashgiach announces his visit days ahead of time? And not a word of apology after the conviction that they had totally screwed up.

    In another case, it wasn’t support for fraud by a leader, it was the elderly leader of a very important Orthodox Jewish community himself committing fraud!

    And just last month it was a prominent school principal who was convicted of extortion.

    These are people who have been leaders in our community for decades. The first one is still in charge of his organization. This is a massive chilul HaShem.

  71. “do you really think that people commenting on Internet sites constitutes Orthodox Jewish society legitimizing fraud?”

    When they are the majority of the comments, and supported by a significant fraction of communal leaders, yes, I would say that fraud is legitimized.

  72. rachel w. said:

    Doesn’t the Torah also treat different sins in a different manner? It calls man-man relations a “disgusting perversion” (as per R’ Aryeh Kaplan translation). Seemingly, this sin is in its own category when compared with fraud or other bad behaviors or even Chillul Shabbos.

    The word “Toevah” is used many times in the Torah for many different transgressions. Ironically, and apropos to our discussion here, in addition to homosexuality it is also used in reference to fraud with with weights and measures. (Devarim 25:16)

  73. There are many instances where people have a particular yetzer hara but are able to resist the follow-up to wrong behavior.

  74. Doesn’t the Torah also treat different sins in a different manner? It calls man-man relations a “disgusting perversion” (as per R’ Aryeh Kaplan translation). Seemingly, this sin is in its own category when compared with fraud or other bad behaviors or even Chillul Shabbos.

    Also, referring to comment #4, no one is asked about their sexual orientation at a school interview either. It would only come up when a couple lives in open violation of this aveirah. and, as long as he lives in such a manner, I don’t see how we can assume that he is doing teshuva.

    One more thing I don’t understand. I was always taught that Hashem does not test a person without giving him the tools to pass the test. If the Torah does not allow homosexuality, then how can a person be put in such a situation with no way out?

  75. AMR —

    I have been following the discussion and am sympathetic to at least some parts of what you are saying. But please clarify for me and possibly for others. Are you suggesting that there be MORE focus on the habitual perpetrators of other sins such as stealing, or that there be LESS focus on homosexuality? In other words, are you saying that people are missing out on whole other fields of morality that need to be dealt with in addition to the one being discussed, or that people should ignore homosexuality being practiced by others publicly within the Jewish community?

  76. Some people have a pet aveirah that they want to allow for others or for themselves, while at the same time they consider other aveiros to be worthy of suppression. Sometimes, the pet aveirah just happens to be something the general society now promotes or tolerates.

  77. You’re correct Mark, I’m not making that leap. However, I am very concerned about the effect this is having on our community. In some cases criminals have literally been turned into heroes.

    The issue of homosexuality is so complex. I would just say that there is a difference between that prohibition and the ethical prohibitions in that the former (assuming we’re talking about adults) is between man and God whereas the latter is between man and man.

  78. So what are we saying? That people who openly commit fraud (and declare it as a legitimate lifestyle) should be welcomed into our community and even celebrated because lots of people do it. I think it is disingenuous to say that the orthodox community openly teaches their children that fraud is perfectly fine and should be encouraged (I certainly don’t know anyone who does this.) Two important Rabbis in my life have told me it is absolutely assur to even stretch the truth on your taxes, but what if some actually do encourage it? Does that mean I can get married to two wives now, since others are openly commiting fraud? What are we talking about here people?

  79. Menachem, I agree that with statement and the effect of their words, but I would not make the logical leap to say that the Orthodox Community legitimizes based on the implications of the words of a small minority of our Rabbinic leaders. And if I’m reading you correctly, you’re also not making that leap.

    The point which started this sub-thread was Charlie’s objection to the distinction that “Secular society is trying to legitimize homosexuality as an alternative live style, which is not the case with fraud.” The intent of a sizable segment of secular society towards this legitimization of homosexuality is quite clear. I think the statement is still a valid distinction between homosexuality and fraud.

    For the sake of honesty I will say that I don’t think that most of secular society is clear on the difference between the equal rights aspects, the definition of marriage aspects and the alternative lifestyle aspects of homosexuality as my conversation with my friend below highlights. So we could examine what they are really trying to legitimize. If it would be only the civil rights aspect then this particular distinction would be less valid.

  80. Mark, I think it’s just semantics. You say “some Rabbinic leaders”. (For example I think “some” is too many.) The fact that they are “leaders” greatly magnifies the effect of their attitude both internally and how we project ourselves.

  81. AMR, we try to stay away from posts on the aveiros that individuals have committed. We have posted articles on fraud and other aveiros committed in the community. Saying this site legitimizes fraud because we haven’t post articles on individuals committing aveiros is incorrect.

    Menachem, there’s a difference between sending a bad message and legitimizing bad behavior. I’m also not sure on what basis you say “many Rabbinic leaders”, I see it as “some Rabbinic leaders”. It’s a very small minority of the Orthodox community that explicitly or implicitly says there’s nothing wrong with fraud. To say that based on that very small minority that the Orthodox community legitimizes fraud in the same way that the secular community is legitimizing homosexuality is faulty logic in my book.

  82. Authors have a perfect right to hone in on any specific issue that they care about at the time.

    Commenters have a perfect right to want coverage of other issues, but if they’re so worked up about any, they should submit their own articles instead of demanding that somebody else do them.

  83. Mark, it’s not just anonymous commenters on blogs. In many of the high profile fraud and sexual abuse cases the subtle and sometimes not so subtle message from statements and actions of many Rabbinic leaders in their strenuous defense of convicted felons, while not explicitly legitimizing the behavior, certainly sends a very bad message.

  84. Mark

    This site legitimizes fraud!

    I do not recall there being a thread about Madoff or Rubashkin or anyone else.

    But the author is up in arms about homosexuals!

    Where were the threads when Abramoff or whatever his name was the lobbyist that was dragged off in handcuffs?

    THAT is exactly my point!!

    the author or whoever has taken an issue one issue, this issue and turned it into something it and it shouldnt be.

    If the Jewish Community wants to create a place where only Torah True Jews exist and are accepted there are other things that need to be on the list and not just Hanna and her two mommies.

  85. Charlie, do you really think that people commenting on Internet sites constitutes Orthodox Jewish society legitimizing fraud? That’s an amazing conclusion from that set of observations!

  86. “Secular society is trying to legitimize homosexuality as an alternative live style, which is not the case with fraud.”

    Orthodox Jewish society has legitimized fraud. Look at the many recent cases where frum people have been carried off in handcuffs and convicted of financial crimes. Yet frum internet sites are full of comments who argue that these thieves and robbers are totally innocent, and the victim of anti-Semitic persecution — supported by many of our communal leaders.

    And then of course we have Mondrowitz, Chen, and Katsav, for whom sexual sins are excused by some of the leading rabbis in the world.

    The truth is that we are no different from the heterodox movements in our picking and choosing mitzvot. The difference is that the heterodox are honest about it.

  87. To AMR #26: You asked me if in my opinion there could be crimes without sins.

    I deal with similar questions all the time in my “day job.” It is a violation of federal law (i.e., a “crime”) to hire a visitor from a foreign country or any other noncitizen who does not possess valid authorization to work in the United States. However, this is not a “sin” or an aveirah in violation of Jewish law “Halachah” unless one transgresses the positive commandment to pay a worker on time, or any other “Halachah” dealing with the fair treatment of one’s employees.

  88. Charnie
    – The Torah does not view the act of female-female relations the same as male-male relations. According to many female-female is only a Rabbinic prohibition and not a Torah prohibition like male-male.

    – That being said, considering female-female “marriage” as a viable alternative lifestyle may be as bad as considering male-male “marriage” as a viable alternative lifestyle. This is more in the realm of hashkafa rather than halacha.

    – Regarding full acceptance of private homosexuals, I think it depends on the attitude of the person. If the person recognizes it is a transgression which they’re trying not commit, but are overcome by desire that is one type. However once people have determined to live together with the same sex, they have institutionalized their transgression in their own lives and it should be treated more stringently.

    -Even those trying to overcome but not successful, I don’t think we should grant full acceptance in regards to allowing them to teach our children and I probably would apply the same standard to any habitual transgressor.

    – Fraud and homosexuality are both aveiros and we should and we do try to reduce the occurrence of both in our midst. Some of the unique qualities of homosexuality, which have been mentioned by Belle, Tal and others are:
    – Nobody self-identifies as a fraud.
    – A Homosexual couple is openly rejecting our foundational family and societal structure.
    – Secular society is trying to legitimize homosexuality as an alternative live style, which is not the case with fraud.
    – In regards to outcry in general, as our forms of communication increase, the amount of outcry will also increase.

  89. There are two points here which differentiate those living an openly homosexual life from those doing other aveiros, and which justify treating them differently than others (I am referring of course to the issue of acceptance into frum institutions, not to the general issue of being civil to everyone).

    One, most open homosexuals use this as a form of self-identification, unabashedly identifying oneself with a sin the Torah itself calls an “abomination.” (“I’m gay”) People who want to be part of the frum community but who do other aveiros don’t go around saying “I’m a mechallel Shabbat,” or “I’m a fraudulent taxpayer.” Normally we separate the behavior from the person doing the behavior, understanding that a person can always do teshuva, etc. But when one self-identifies with the behavior, that sort of makes it hard for others to say, “no that’s not really you, I only want to condemn the behavior.”

    Two, beyond the self-identification piece, when someone lives an openly gay life, in the example, Hannah living with her two mommies who want a Jewish education for their child, what is going on is a public declaration that they don’t believe in this part of the Torah. It goes beyond doing an act, which we can always assume was resolved with teshuva. It is saying, I will publicly disregard this one commandment yet I want you to accept my child into a yeshiva whose main and most fundamental goal in education is that all commandments are G-d-given and must be kept.

    Making comments that other frum Jews also do other sins, such as cheating on their taxes, is creating a straw man. These people don’t self-identify with the fraud, and they don’t live in a home whose essence is as a base for fraud. Having an openly gay couple apply to yeshiva for their child would be like an unapologetically intermarried couple, apply to the yeshiva.

    Would there be a question?

    I also think that those who are homosexual but who are modest and private about their private life (as everyone should be) and who don’t publicly self-identify, should be accepted fully (I guess it’s like Dont ask don’t tell). It’s no one’s business unless you make it their business.

  90. Mark

    My question I guess is
    What make same sex union – i feel that marriage is a religious concept and not a civil one, so different than say fraud?

    Why does the author feel, or anyone else for that matter, why same sex unions deserves its own thread in fact to be dealt with in a different way than other Torah or rabbinic transgressions have been over the years?

    Modern Jewish history is filled with so many examples of persons who did something or many things against the Torah or a rabbinic rule and yet there was no outcry, more like outwimper most of the time, and these people, these transgressors will able to retain their lofty positions.

    Why is this so very different?

  91. I wonder how many of those commenting here personally know gay or lesbian couples that keep kosher, are tzniut in their public behavior, and are raising Jewish children.

    How many of those commenting here have heard a gay or lesbian adult with a day school education explain that they left the Jewish community for a decade or more because they believed that it was not possible to be part of the Jewish community if one was gay or lesbain?

    No matter what we teach our children, some small fraction of them will become gay and lesbian adults. We cannot stop this. However, I believe that way we speak about gays and lesbians can affect whether our children who are gay or lesbian want to be part of the Jewish community, and whether they become adults who want to perform as many mitzvot as they are able.

    Then again, I am not Orthodox.

  92. Bob, I agree and I was including alternative lifestyles under my definition of marriage issues.

    I went to lunch with a good friend who is not observant. The conversation turned to that of acceptance of homosexuality and I pointed out the difference between the civil-rights issues and the definition of marriage/alternative lifestyle issues. He was a proponent of the civil-rights issues.

    I asked him if he would be comfortable having boys being taught that when they got older they could either marry a girl or they could marry a boy. He said he was not comfortable with that.

  93. Bob, (#34)

    There is a difference between furthering a religiously prohibited behavior and protecting its practitioners from unwarranted discrimination. An organization that seeks legislative change is one thing; a parade of behavior that should not be public regardless of the participants’ genders is another.

    Unfortunately, the demise of good taste and derech eretz in our society has led to people on either side of an issue stating their cases with sensationalistic or crude behavior.

  94. There is a division of professional and political opinions about how the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” will affect our military’s ability to carry out it’s mission. I have read articles suggesting a shift towards a consensus that the presence of “openly gay” people will not be a major problem in the armed forces’ ability to defend our country. From what I have read, the admission of openly gay people to the military has not been a serious problem in other countries.

    One recent comment (I don’t remember who, when or where) was troubling. An official said that since homosexuals would be allowed to serve after making their orientations known, it would now be required to grant next of kin rights to their same-sex partners. I don’t see how one should lead to the other. Not to discriminate against a class of people is one thing; to grant that class (same sex partners) rights despite not being in an eligible class (spouses of opposite sex) is actually reverse discrimination.

    Much of the legal contention could be reduced if a next of kin law (military and civilian) was adopted that applies to all people. Anybody would be allowed to designate ONE person as next of kin. An unmarried person could put an aging parent on a health plan; POSLQ’s (people of opposite sex sharing living quarters) could designate one another; gays and lesbians could declare their partners to be next of kin without advertising their sexual behavior.

    Civl law “next of kin designation” that is contrary to halachah should not concern us, as long as it does not prohibit us from distributing our assets in accordance with the Torah’s instructions. If somebody of another faith, or a Jew of lesser commitment to halachah wants to distribute his or her assets in his or her own way, that’s up to them.

    As an aside, I wonder how many wills drawn up by observant people would pass halachic muster. I know that it is a complex issue. When drafting a halachic will, one can exclude a large asset (such as the house, which he bequeaths to a daughter) while distributing the balance, or even a token amount, in accordance with the Torah’s formula. Here is one article on the issue: http://www.torahweb.org/torah/special/2007/rwil_will.html

    Let’s not be rough on each other for straying off topic. The majority of many Talmudic tracts is a digression from the subject mentioned in the title.

  95. Mark,

    Albany Jew (March 10th, 2011 13:13) touches on a key aspect that also relates to people creating organizations and institutions to further particular vices. If that is not offensive, what is?

  96. AMR, My apologies for seeming/being condescending. This is a sensitive topic and I warned Judy beforehand that we might need to close comments so please excuse me for being a little heavy handed.

    I’m still not clear what your point is? Do you feel that we need to deal with Torah transgressions in a priority order and ignore issues that are not at the top of the list? I would agree that some things might require more communal attention, but I don’t understand that as meaning we should ignore other issues. How we individually and communally deal with somebody who publicly commits a transgression and homosexuality in particular is an issue that constantly comes up in communal affairs.

    With societies increasing acceptance of homosexuality and the lack of distinction between the civil-rights issues and the definition of marriage issues I think this is a very important topic to discuss.

  97. I’m still seeing a difference between eating the cheeseburger at home, versus promoting the cheeseburger as a new “alternative” kosher.

  98. Mark,

    Thank you for being so condescending.

    This blog was more accepting of the non-jewish woman and certainly more polite, than you or Bob have been to me.

    I see that I have not been clear enough.

    I think that there are many more things that are quite clearly between man and his fellow man that need to be dealt with first before dealing with issues that are Torah Transgressions.

    Ultimately I think this passage says it all,
    הַנִּסְתָּרֹת–לַה’ אֱלֹקינוּ; וְהַנִּגְלֹת לָנוּ וּלְבָנֵינוּ, עַד-
    עוֹלָם–לַעֲשׂוֹת, אֶת-כָּל-דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת

    What can be seen needs to be dealt with, what cant be seen, well it may not be for us to decide.

  99. AMR, You certainly don’t have to declare anything but the context of this site is that we are a group of Torah observant Jews. The Torah quite clearly states that performing homosexual acts are prohibited and it uses the strong term abomination.

    The question under discussion is how we should deal with people, in our personal lives and institutions, who transgress this particular prohibition and how is it different than other prohibitions.

    I thought Tal’s comment captured the relevant distinctions between this prohibition and others pretty well.

  100. Bob

    How can you say that? and how exactly have my comments distracted?

    Isnt the discussion about sinful behaviors and whether or not the community should embrace or enforce consequences for those behaviors ala the school that doesnt let children in if their parents have a television.

    Frankly I find YOUR comment distracting, more than a little bit off topic and much more than a little bit insulting.

    Is there some rule here that says I have to first declare that I am against homosexuality before I can participate?

  101. AMR,

    The topic here is one form of sinful behavior that some people publicly identify with. This focused discussion in no way shows that we are blind to any other sins. You, however, seem to have a problem forthrightly opposing the behavior now under discussion, so you keep throwing out distracting remarks.

  102. Bob
    There are many who appear to be Orthodox Jews who think that it is OK to defraud Welfare, and Food Stamps and other social programs.
    There are many who appear to be Orthodox Jews and treat their workers badly or pay them cash in order to not give the government its fair share.
    Why not make an example of those who beg for more scholarship money but every peasach go away to hotels and every winter break to disney world.

    Why not make an example of these people first these people are also openly dedicated to immoral behavior.

  103. She’s back…

    There was a film, which I’m sure most of you have heard of, that came out several years ago called “Trembling Before G-d”. One of our Gedolim was shown in the film. Basically, he states that if a man knows he is a homosexual, he should try to remain celebate so as not to do that averiah.

    Just curious, is the din for lesbians the same?

  104. With regard to counting men for a minyan: My husband Ira told me that they have a Minchah minyan where he works. Over time, some of the Orthodox members retired or left, and they were replaced by other men who are not Orthodox Jews. Some of those men came just to say Kaddish for a Yahrzeit or during the months of Aveilus for a parent, but then they chose to stay and pray with the Minyan from free choice.

    Now I don’t know whether this question has been brought to a Rav for a Psak. The Minyan now has only eight Shomrei Shabbos members. The others who daven with them are mechalel Shabbos. So is it a kosher Minyan, or actually not?

    My reaction to this was, “But if it’s Tuesday, how do you know if a Jew is mechalel Shabbos? Right now, he’s not desecrating Shabbos, he’s not driving on Shabbos, he’s not writing on Shabbos, he’s not smoking on Shabbos. As of this moment, he’s not sinning. So why shouldn’t he be counted for a Minyan of ten Jewish men? And if you start throwing Jewish men out of Minyanim for committing sins, where do you stop? How do you ever know you’re davening with a kosher Minyan?”

    So it’s a regular workday, and none of the men are at that moment violating Shabbos. They’re all concentrating on davening Minchah with the proper kavvanah. The secretly gay Jewish man who wants to be part of his local shul, isn’t at that moment committing any sinful acts. He’s not even thinking about doing any sinful acts. The ganef who stole millions of dollars is not at that moment stealing anyone’s money. So where does it begin (not counting certain Jewish men toward the Minyan) and where does it end?

  105. Let us draw a clear distinction between criminals and sinners.

    Pedophiles, whether they are straight men who prey on little girls, homosexuals who prey on little boys, or bisexuals who choose victims from both genders, are criminals. They should be vigorously prosecuted and locked up.

    Those individuals who engage in forbidden activity between freely consenting adults are not criminals. They are choosing to commit sins, not crimes.

  106. Charlie Hall wrote,

    Based on the support that Mondrowitz and Chen have gotten from parts of the O community, one can conclude that there is indeed support for molestation.”

    It nevertheless horrifies nearly all Orthodox Jews, including the commenters here.


    Are you proposing that we accept groups dedicated to immoral behavior because we’re aware of other evils? How does this follow?

  107. Charlie
    I guess we dont have to talk about Rubashkin…

    In short there is much to do before considering people with a different orientation than others.

  108. Tal,

    I had a rabbi pasken for me that I can count a gay man for a minyan but not a man married to a non-Jewish woman.


    In my community there was a man who refused to give his wife a get. One of the leading rabbis of the community instituted the harchakot of Rabbeinu Tam. He was allowed into no synagogue, and I know someone who was ordered to rescind an invitation to a family simcha.

    After a few months he relented and offered the get. The next Shabat he showed up in shul and was given the shlishi aliyah by the rabbi who had instituted the harchakot.

    Also, I don’t know about the term “illness” but at the moment there is no “treatment” that is efficacious in changing sexual orientation. Anyone who says otherwise is promoting junk science.


    Based on the support that Mondrowitz and Chen have gotten from parts of the O community, one can conclude that there is indeed support for molestation.

  109. I was at shul recently and some one was talking proudly about how he had just overstated his insurance bill significnatly.

    Should our shul no longer give him an aliyah?
    Should we not let his kids go to school?

    Can some one please explain the differnce between homosexuality and all the other sins?

  110. Fascinating!
    What about all the other sins and transgressions that are available from theft to deceit? Dont these also not merit some school somewhere denying admission to some child because of the parents actions? Why shouldnt we be excluding those parents from our Mosdot?

    What about than man who refuses his wife a get?

    why worry and who cares about homosexuals?

    I dont think that homosexuality has become accepted as much as mankind has realized that it is not an illness to be cured.

  111. And what of rabbis and teachers in yeshivas who perform homosexual acts with young boys that they have molested?

  112. What one must keep in mind is that aveiros are multifacted and cannot simply be put on a linear progression as more or less severe. My rebbe made this point to me years ago. It is true, of course, that the gemara states that when faced with a choice of doing one sin or the other, you piok the less severe sin (ha kal ha kal techillah).

    Yet, as my rebbe pointed out, R.Soloveichik once commented that while a Cohen Mechallel Shabbos is permitted to duchen, a Cohen married to a divorcee is not. Why — isn’t Chillul Shabbos more severe? Yes, but being married to a gerushah is a direct contradiction to the sanctity of a Cohen (kedushas kehuna), while Chillul Shabbos, though a terrible aveira, has nothing to do with being a Cohen. A Cohen who is married to a divorcee is announcing that he has no regard for his sanctity as a Cohen. He is hardly in a position to take the special advantages of a Cohen.

    Similarly, intermarriage is not merely a sin (and there are certainly worse sins), but it has a social component. Whom one marries and how one comports oneself as part of married life and relates to others is a central part of Jewish society (indeed, society at large, still to a great extent). Thus, he felt, an intermarried couple could not be accepted as members of an Orthodox shul, while Shabbos violators can, even though Chillul Shabbos is clearly a more severa aveirah. (My impression is that most ORthodox institutions follow this view.)

    The same is the case — all the more so — with a homosexual “couple.” Anyone who announces themselves as belonging to such a couple has rejected the basic structure of the Torah’s view of married life and Jewish society built around Jewish family life. Any Orthodox community or institution who accepts that as normal will soon find itself outside the pale of Torah Jewish life.

  113. Deuteronomy/Devarim, Parshat Ki Tetze, chapter 23, verse 18:

    There may not be a harlot among the daughters of Israel, nor may there be a male prostitute among the sons of Israel.

    RASHI: NOR MAY THERE BE A MALE PROSTITUTE: For homosexual relations.

  114. Tanach / Bible, Vayikra / Leviticus, Parshat Kedoshim, chapter 20, verse 13:

    If a man has intercourse with another man in the same manner as with a woman, both of them have committed a disgusting perversion. They shall be put to death by stoning.

    NOTE: translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in year 1981 in THE LIVING TORAH

  115. Steve Brizel,

    What if the transgressor identifies with the transgression to the degree of making it his/her main identity?

  116. For Torahweb and the statements of a number of the RIETS RY and a video that should be watched for anyone interested in why we should always condemn the transgression, but never the transgressor, while never legitimizing the behavior in question as appropriate from a Halachic POV.

  117. If the cheeseburger eaters try to justify it under halacha and bring them to kiddush (even if they don’t share) then I think it is a problem

  118. Let’s suppose all or most members of a shul were accomplished mockers. If they also officially named the congregation “Kehillas Moshav Leitzim” and put up a sign on their building showing that name, wouldn’t that indicate a lack of sincere desire to correct their main fault?

  119. Most of our synagogues would welcome someone who drives on Shabat, eats bacon cheeseburgers, and says he/she will not give those things up. I see no reason why homosexuality should be any different.

    And as mentioned by wife in comment #4, nobody ever asks anyone about taharat hamishpachah.

  120. Many years ago, a gay “rabbi” was interviewed on a radio talk show when he was asked, “So, what do you do about that verse in Leviticus?” (Yeah, what do you do with that verse from Leviticus?)

    I still remember exactly which corner I was turning in my Honda when he answered. He replied, “I don’t know what it says in your Bible, but I don’t have that verse in MY Bible!”

    What? Excuse me? You go to any hotel room drawer and that verse is in EVERY Bible! But I eventually understood what he meant…he ERASED it from his Bible. Because it wasn’t convenient for him. It didn’t go well with his personal “religion”.

    So I find it so bizarre that gay “rabbis” or others who want to give their kids a Jewish education don’t see the irony in all of this.

    Our “Bible” has NOTHING to do with their bible, and if they really decide one day to explore ours, we should tell them as directly as possible what our Bible is all about!

  121. I don’t believe that any Jewish instutition should be asking gay and lesbian couples what acts they perform in private unless that institution also routinely asks whether couples like my husband and I observe Taharat HaMishpocha. And we’ve never been asked such questions.

  122. This is an unwelcome blast from the past when some Jews in ancient times tried to combine elements of Judaism and paganism. It led to bad results then, too.

  123. Shira, you’re right. I mean, what are they going to say…”You ate pork?” Get out!!!” No way. They would try to (at least I hope so) get that person to change in a gentle way. As for the desire, same thing. They would try to ease this desire over time until it goes away.


  124. The post made a jump between the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in Jewish frum communities to the idea that anyone who wants to publicize their sexual orientation is advertising their performance of active and current forbidden actions. That is not the case. The change that I see desired by gay/lesbian religious Jews, at least for a start, is for them not to have to remain in the closet. That does not mean they want to advertise their relationships or lack of relationship. And, if they were observant, there wouldn’t be much advertisement of any relationship… do we know what heterosexual married couples do in private? Do we see anything more than hand-holding between heterosexual partners? No. I wouldn’t expect more from observant gay or lesbian congregants, if they believe in modesty and privacy.

    Its not an issue of DON’T ASK DON’T TELL, its an issue of the unhealthy situation a person is put into when they must keep a portion of themselves completely secret. The Torah forbids a certain act… the Rabbi’s forbade certain other acts. Sexual orientation is not forbidden, or controllable. And I don’t know of any congregation that throws people out for having eaten pork or the desire to eat pork.

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