This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
male player in the country’s four major sports publically declared his homosexuality. Long considered a taboo due to the unique culture of professional sports, the news was received by the American public with the expected approbation. One need not be a sociologist or even be particularly informed of the nation’s rapidly changing legal landscape to know which way the wind is blowing on this issue; watching the entirely predictable parade of politician falling over themselves to get on the ‘right side of history’ will more than suffice. Indeed, a significant percentage of the populace relates to this issue as the ‘unfinished business’ of the civil rights era, completing past decades advances against racial and gender based discrimination For some time, it has seemed to me that discourse within our community on this issue often misses the mark. At one pole one finds the, on occasion, shrill and even homophobic denunciation of a society suddenly turned morally depraved. This group places emphasis on illconceived political activism, undertaken without either sufficient historical appreciation of even the pragmatic hazards of any evisceration of the line between church and state that has served our people in this country very well, nor a more nuanced halakhic appreciation of complexities pertaining to religious coercion in the law, particularly in a Diaspora context. To bolster their case, this group will often misrepresent the considerable, and in many cases, dispositive, role genetics plays in determination of sexual orientation. In so doing, they not only mislead, but more to the point, violate the cherished norms of kavod ha-beriot rooted in tzelem elokim, while inexcusably forgetting Chazal’s poignant reminder to us, ‘do not judge your fellow until you have reached his place.’ On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who have trouble understanding how any compassionate human being could, in the year 2013, continue to object to homosexual activity. Embarrassed by the Torah’s absolutely unequivocal position on the matter, expressed without qualification in Acharai Mot and Kedoshim, they, often without any malicious intent, commit the sin of historicizing or contextualizing the revealed will of God. In asserting that a loving and compassionate God could never really have intended to prohibit someone from finding lifelong intimacy in a relationship of their choosing, they adopt a theological position one might charitably describe as juvenile; is the issue of theodicy presented by homosexuality, substantively or experientially, any more or less challenging than any other case of tzadik v’ra lo, a God who, from our point of view, strikes the innocent with unspeakable suffering? Is there really anything new here at all?
We would do better than to adopt either of these two positions, and return to our very first principles. Torah is neither Democratic nor Republican, progressive nor conservative, any more than the laws of physics and mathematics have a partisan affiliation. Torah is a set of decidedly a priori Divine non-utilitarian truths that, much like the laws of mathematics and physics, are immutable, universal, and conceptually autonomous. They need not be, and should not be, held up to any other ideological, ethical, or political system. We need never, and should never, apologize for the Divine revelation, or our covenantal bonds to it, for the ‘Torah of the Lord is perfect,’ and our adherence to it alone is our path of ‘wisdom and insight.’ Moreover, the Torah is not merely a system of broad values, real or imagined, such as the painful contemporary bastardization of the cherished concept of tikkun olam b’malkhut shakai, but a comprehensive system whose broader values emerge from the discovery and application of every single detail of the law. Would one, with a straight face, ever submit a mathematics problem to her instructor and argue for full credit, explaining that while she may have performed the wrong operation, raising the proverbial exponent before relating to the parentheses, she certainly addressed the spirit of the problem? Such is absolutely the case with halakha; the human condition is addressed and given considerable weight, but always within the parameters of Sinaitic revelation. This is which is what makes Talmud Torah the energizing, rigorous, and incredibly intricate enterprise that it truly is, whose authoritative interpretation is reserved for those who have devoted their lives to the painstaking and meticulous study of the Law, both Written and Oral. However well intentioned, however personally kind and charitable, no social activist without the requisite immersive knowledge of Jewish law is competent to address halakhic issues, any more so than an incredibly loving and kind hospital volunteer would ever be entrusted to repair an aortic aneurysm. Sometimes, as is the case with our issue at hand, almost superhuman levels of sacrifice and surrender are indeed demanded by the Torah. Certain individuals may rise to the sublime heights of Avraham at the akeidah and demonstrate the yirat shamayim that he did at that critical juncture. They have not only my admiration, but, without hyperbole, my awe as well. They are paragons of integrity and spiritual courage, those who have ‘mastered their own will’, in the most inspiring and heroic way. Hopefully, they will serve for all of us as spiritual role models as we confront decidedly lesser challenges. Others may, at times, be unequal to the great task of submission and surrender to the Master or the Universe. I hope that I am neither obtuse nor pretentious enough to cast personal opprobrium upon those from whom so much more has been demanded than myself. Humility, sensitivity and compassion, while absolutely essential for a religiously
acceptable response to homosexuality, provide no license whatsoever for any mortal to misrepresent the revealed will of He who, while at times inscrutable, remains ’the Rock whose work is perfect, whose ways are entirely just.’