Monday, November 1, 2010

Gay Marriage

Ever since Shimshon Raphaeal Hirsch, orthodox Judaism has tried to reconcile itself with the intellectual / secular universe running parallel to halachic Judaism. Hirsch, in the mid 19th century founded Torah Im Dersch Eretz (also referred to as neo-orthodox), believed that Jewish values will best be advanced when partnered with worldly involvement. Where Hirsch built his system in 19th century Germany, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, extended the Hirsch model to the American shores in the mid 20th century. Known as modern orthodoxy (instead of neo-orthodoxy), its axes was Torah Umadah, an exponent of Torah Im Derech Eretz of Hirsch. Even though Soloveitchik’s system had successes in the mid 20th century it began to fray at the edges by the last two decades of the 20th century and crumbling by the beginning of the 21st century. In retrospect one can see that this was destined to happen because inherent in his system is a deeply flawed theory that assumes that the halachic man can intersect with the man of reason while not compromising his religious integrity. Haredi Judaism, a resounding rejection of modern orthodoxy, exposing the flaws inherent in modern orthodoxy, has seen massive and unprecedented growth while modern orthodoxy has shrunk to a fraction of what its size was only thirty years ago.

Ironically, Shmuley Boteach, a former haredi and now closer to a modern orthodox profile has demonstrated the problem with modern orthodoxy when tackling the problem of the status of gays in the orhtodox Jewish community.

Boteach is quite clever in his approach and exploits the same tactics as other modern orthodox Jews seeking acceptance of gays, in his article No Holds Barred: The Jewish View of Homosexuality (Jerusalem Post, October 19, 2010). Steve Greenberg does it in his book Wrestling With God and Men but it doesn't pass the litmus test within the orthodox community. In fact, there are many within the orthodox community that takes exception with Greenberg being referred to as an orthodox rabbi or even orthodox. Boteach compares homosexuality to other abominations referred to in the bible such as eating non kosher foods or bringing a blemished sacrifice on the Temple altar is an abomination. He also references Proverbs that uses the term abomination when referring to envy, lying and gossip. Homosexuality within the biblical context however can’t be equated to envy, lying or eating non kosher food.

He then goes on to argue the differences between moral and religious sin:

“A moral sin involves injury to an innocent party. But who is being harmed when two, unattached, consenting adults are in a relationship? Rather, homosexuality is akin to the prohibition of lighting fire on the Sabbath or eating bread during Passover. There is nothing immoral about it, but it violates divine will”.

Homosexuality, according to the "orthodox ethos" is not akin to lighting fire on Shabbat or eating bread on Passover, as Boteach would have you believe but a cardinal sin. This is verified by the near universal agreement amongst the orthodox rabbinate, poskim, and rabbinic organizations.

Truth be told, Boteach shares the ethos of the sages as reflected in halachic texts and glosses, otherwise why would he be against marriage between two gays seeking to establish a Jewish home. To dismiss it because he doesn't wish to redefine marriage is a poor excuse. If he was so committed to his position he could surely find the ways and means to redefine marriage so as to be inclusive of the gay community.

Boteach, true to form isn't interested in controversy to the point of alienating his audience because that would run contrary to his never ending quest of seeking the love of the masses.