Thursday, September 14, 2017

Parshat Nitzavim – Going Down Under to a Whole Nother Level

I was checking in with my friends in the RCANZ and RCV in Australia and the prognosis isn’t good. I glanced at their charts and saw some bold WNLs. Not "Within Normal Limits" and not "We Never Looked". It seems they have gone down under to a "Whole Nother Level".

In this week’s Parsha (Nitzavim), the Torah – via Moshe Rabbeinu - warns us about deviating from the mitzvos. It warns us not to be over-secure and to think “I will be okay even if I pursue my heart’s desires” for “Hashem will not be willing to forgive him…”

Right in between these two phrases, Moshe throws in a strange comment: למען ספות הרוה את הצמאהso to be adding the satiated on to the thirsty”.

What does this mean?

Rashi tells us, based on Onkelus, that it means he (the sinner) will be “including the involuntary sins together with the willful ones” on his rap sheet.  Satiated” really means inebriated and “thirsty” means sober.  When one is inebriated he is not in full control of his faculties so he has some kind of an excuse for doing inappropriate things. When one is sober he has no such excuses. 

Rashi goes on to explain that if one commits sins due to involuntary circumstances or duress (inebriated), HKBH is willing to be lenient (forgiving) when judging him. However, once he commits the same sins willfully and when there is no duress (sober), not only is he punished for these willful transgressions, but all the involuntary ones are tacked on to his rap sheet. So in this case, the involuntary (inebriation driven) sins are added to the voluntary (sober) ones.

He has upped the ante and has brought the sinfulness WNL – to a Whole Nother Level.

A perfect example is that it is very common for young men who are unmarried to be unable to withstand natural temptations and they fall in shmiras habris. We hope that HKBH will be very forgiving of this iniquity being that there is basically nowhere to go. But, once the young man marries, he can be expected to channel his temptations to the proper address and do teshuva for the past. This pasuk indicates that, if so, he will get off easy. In the past, he was “inebriated” – not in full control.

However, if even under these circumstances, when he has permissible options, he continues with this behavior, he is in trouble. He is “sober” now and more responsible to stay out of mischief. If he continues on the same path, he is demonstrating retroactively that he never did care to avoid this behavior. As such, not only will he have to answer for his current “sober” behavior, he will have to answer for his past “inebriated” behavior, as well.

Chazal tell us that no man is free of “cheht”. Cheht (חטא) means a human failing. A misstep. All of us do these. We can almost tell HKBH that we are “inebriated” and under duress. Hopefully, we’ll get off the hook. But when these activities become more willful and enter the realm of avon (עון) and pesha (פשע), we have brought things to a Whole Nother Level.

Let’s cut to the chase.

The Midrash Rabbah in Breishis 26:9 states:

Rav Huna says in the name of Rebbi – The generation of the Flood was not obliterated from the world until they [reached a stage where they] were writing gimumsiot – marriage contracts – to a fellow male or to a beast.

The message here is that even though mankind had degenerated to the point of rampant homosexuality or bestialty, nevertheless, as long as society officially considered it a taboo, HKBH was not angered enough to take the extreme step of destroying mankind. But once these practices became institutionalized as legitimate (alternative?) behavior, human society had reached the point of no return and had to be extinguished.

HKBH can tolerate this promiscuity as long as those who engage in it at least acknowledge that they are doing something immoral. But once it is redefined as moral, they have brought themselves down to a Whole Nother Level. As a consequence, this brought the waters of the Tahom Rabba up to a Whole Nother Nevel.

And so the gemara in Chullin 92a tells us:

Ulah says that this verse (the reference to 30 silver pieces in Zechariah 11:12) corresponds to the 30 commandments that the Bnei Noach accepted upon themselves, [and yet] they only uphold three of them.  (1) They do not write marriage contracts to fellow males (2) They do not sell the flesh of the dead in butcher shops (3) They respect our Torah.

Rashi explains:

Even though the non-Jews are suspect for homosexuality, and they even designate personal partners for their purposes, they are not so light-headed with this [negative] commandment to the extent that they will write to them marriage contracts.

This says that even though they are audacious enough to wantonly transgress 27 out of the 30 mitzvos that they accepted, they have the prudence not to transgress on these three – at the head of which is the taboo for institutionalizing homosexuality and same-sex marriage. They have learned from the Great Flood that nothing angers HKBH more. It’s a very dangerous line to cross. Don’t mess with this.

This is a Whole Nother Level.

We see that in the times of Chazal, homosexuality (Same Sex Attraction – SSA) was as common as it is today. Still it was acknowledged within Judaism and without that it is not a good idea for Jew or non-Jew alike to give this condition the imprimatur of “marriage”.

A lot has changed since then.

In July of 2010 a 12-point Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a Homosexual Orientation in Our Community was released which currently has about 200 signatures from Modern Orthodox rabbis and laypersons. The gist of the statement was to say that even though our Halacha does not support SSA activity, the greater community needs to be compassionate and accepting of the struggles of those who are affected with it.  To its credit, in Principle 11, it expressly distanced itself from any kind of approval of “same-sex commitment ceremonies or weddings”.

I wrote a post about this Statement about two days later which basically echoed some of the objections of other pundits, predominately of one commenter on the Emes V’Emunah site that calls himself ClooJew. The most significant excerpt of his comment is this (emphasis mine):

By underscoring "our obligation to treat human beings with same-sex attractions and orientations with dignity and respect," the signatories go beyond dignity and respect, and enter the grey zone toward legitimization. Protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, the inherent nature of a public pronouncement is to overemphasize the facts it pronounces. This is what the activist agenda of the gay community thrives on. The reason for gay pride parades is not simply to announce but to publicize and promote.

What Mr. ClooJew was expressing is that, even if we can deem the entire statement Halachically acceptable, what in Heaven’s name is the purpose of composing it? Liberal minded progressive Jews have no need for such a statement and right wing traditionalists like me will not appreciate it. So who was it written for?

Is there some “undecided” swing vote that they were targeting? Not on this issue, there isn’t.

He smells, as do I, a covert agenda which is a subtle step toward legitimization. To confirm this notion, I noted in my post that this statement was starkly devoid of a sense of reciprocity in terms of requiring the SSAs to acknowledge the sensitivities of us straights who strangely think that Klal Yisroel is meant to be a Mamleches  Kohanim and a Goy Kadosh. Indeed, one apologetic commenter wanted to claim that this was implied in a short phrase in Principle 7 which suggests that the SSAs need to take into consideration the “needs of the community” when deciding whether to be open about their orientation.  I personally reject this suggestion as grossly inadequate since it is written in the same sentence that contends that this decision is theirs alone to make.

Beyond that, at the end of my post I pulled out the clincher, but I need to rephrase was I was saying.

The statement was heralded as a call for acceptance and understanding and was trying very hard to avoid giving the impression that it was suggesting legitimization. However, if this was the sincere aim of this body, they would need to make an extra effort to denounce a sister movement that is openly promoting full legitimization. I noted that this statement was released a mere few days before the exceedingly audacious and provocative Gay Parade that is deliberately held in Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh. If this group was sincere about calling for acceptance without legitimization, it would behoove them to speak out strongly against this abominable provocation and Chillul Hashem which took place merely two or three days later. Their silence was deafening. To my knowledge there is not a single signatory on record who spoke out against this perennial debacle.

למען ספות הרוה את הצמאה...

In my recent post about The RCANZ Revisited, I noted that at least two members of the RCANZ Executive committee are signatories on this statement – Rabbi James Kennard of Mt. Scopus College in Melbourne (hometown of Millie Fontana) and Rabbi Alon Meltzer, spiritual leader of Canberra, ACT (where Millie spoke to Parliament - well worth listening to but I cannot advocate watching her). And I also noted something else.

The statement that was released in 2010 was satisfied to refer to this group as “Jews who have a homosexual orientation” or “same-sex attractions” or the like but, yet, “struggling to live their lives in accordance with halakhic values”. As I noted, this implies Jews who look like regular Jews and dress like regular Jews and in all other areas of life, behave like regular Jews. It very aptly and wisely did not hop onto the alphabet train. It seemed to be referring to those who are not in control of their “sexual orientation “and can be considered “inebriated” or “involuntary” in the sinfulness of this condition.

However, subsequent statements by some of the signatories of this document, in particular Rabbi Alon Meltzer of the Executive Committee of the RCANZ, extend this declaration to the more degenerate cars on the alphabet train – the BTQs on the LGBTQIA line.

The Bi-sexuals are shtufei zima plain and simple. They are not SSA (same sex attraction) but rather ASA (any sex attraction –AC/DC). They are forbidden in yichud with anybody. There can be no tolerance for this. Of course, if they are married to opposite gender spouses and have genuine kids, the kids are as kosher as anybody’s.

The Ts and Qs have more than just their sexual orientation messed up. I suppose a good percentage of them are not rational and can be Halachically deemed as shotim and are exempt from all positive mitzvos in the Torah (they are still not permitted to knowingly engage in arayos or any negative commandments). But if any of them are rational, there is no way to accept or excuse their lifestyle.

The Torah commands us to be Kedoshim and forbids us from numerous degenerate practices that are not intrinsically sexual (though they all come in one package). This includes cross-dressing (Lo Yilbash), weird hairstyles that almost always involve shearing the payos (Lo Takifu), tattoos (Ktovat Kaaka), and things like flashy clothes and body piercing can all go into the umbrella issur of Bechukoseihem lo teilechu. And a sex-change operation for a man is sirrus. All told, these are not people whose only “crime” is that they are looking for loving committed relationships in a family setting, just from the wrong side of the mechitza. And these are not people “struggling to live their lives in accordance with halakhic values” even if they keep kosher and Shabbos (they sure don’t keep Taharas HaMishpacha!)

This is “adding the satiated on to the thirsty”. This is taking the SSA temptation to a Whole Nother Level. This is what we call a “slippery slope”.

All the way down to the Tahom Rabba.

So now we can finally talk about current events.

Australia adopted a law in 1961 called The Marriage Act and amended it in 2004 as the Marriage Amendment Act. This law is currently in force and it states that “marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.” As such, same-sex couples are legally unable to be wed in Australia. Kol Hakavod.

Over the past decade there has been a growing demand to change the law to allow same-sex marriages, but this would require a popular vote, or a plebiscite. A plebiscite can only be done as an act of Parliament and, so far, Parliament was unable to garner the support for such a plebiscite because (drum roll…) it’s too expensive. So they proposed to conduct the vote via a Postal survey which does not require Parliamentary approval. This was challenged in the Australian Supreme court and, on Thursday, Aug. 31, a ruling was announced that the Postal Survey can proceed – since they promised to keep the price below $122M AUD. So now there will be an official nation-wide vote about changing this law (non-binding). Kol Habizayon.

On Sept. 4, the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) issued a statement encouraging “citizens” to vote ‘no’ to reforming the Australia Marriage laws. And all Tahom Rabba broke loose.

Incidentally, this statement cannot be found on the RCV website, nor on its Facebook page.

Evidently, there was an enormous backlash. Where did this backlash come from?

I can tell you this. It wasn’t from non-Jews and it wasn’t from straight Torah observant Jews.

And this backlash was so strong that it sent the president of the RCV, Rabbi Daniel Rabin, reeling. Two days later he issued a personal apology on his own Facebook page. This is very strange because the RCV itself as a body did not formally retract the statement. This was a personal apology which said, among other things, “The RCV should not have told people how to vote and refrained from making a divisive statement.So this fellow is rebuking the statement of the RCV and said it shouldn’t have been issued - but he is the president that issued it!

Now, I’ve been advising the Australian Rabbinical councils (RCANZ and RCV) to refrain from making divisive statements since last June. They are very slow learners. But I digress...

Is this a retraction or not? If it is, we are looking at a Rabbinic body that is charged with leading the masses that has issued a statement which, in the main, is meant to reflect Jewish Halachic values - and they need to retract it?? (Or, if it wasn’t retracted – their own president has to personally apologize for it??)

Incidentally, it seems that the Vice President of the RCV, Rabbi Ralph Genende, actually resigned over this.

In my humble opinion, this statement was very appropriate but the opening paragraph was grossly misworded. Firstly, it definitely should not have targeted “citizens” as if to imply "Australians" - Jews and non-Jews alike. The statement should only address the constituents of the RCV. I think it was this blunder that gave the “Orthodox” Community Centre Ark Centre and the Caulfield Shule the impetus to publicly oppose it. Secondly, assuming it is a reflection of Halachic guidance, it should have been more resolute. (And, if it wasn’t Halachic guidance, they had no business issuing it.)

The first paragraph should have said something closer to this:

The RCV states that Orthodox Jewish Halacha does not recognize or sanction same-sex marriages. According to Talmudic and Midrashic sources, this practice is forbidden for Jews and Noahides. We urge all Jews and Noahides loyal to Halacha and Jewish tradition to vote accordingly.

Of course this comes across a bit firm, but Halacha is very firm. The point is once we narrow down the target audience to those who are actually interested in Halachic guidance, it is not too firm at all. (The rest of the statement softens it up, anyway.)

In any case, the RCV is reeling. They got into Tahom Rabba way over their heads. And why?

We have noticed, now and in the past, that the Australian Rabbinical councils are not interested in standing up for Halacha. Such a stance would result in their constituency shrinking to only include Jews who actually want to adhere to the Halacha. They are interested in “reaching out” to encompass the largest possible constituency even at the price of extreme compromises in Halacha. Instead of reducing their constituency to conform with upholding the Halacha, they feel it is wiser to expand the Halacha to conform to the “sensitivities” of a larger constituency. They call this being “progressive”. We call this being “regressive”.

למען ספות הרוה את הצמאה

As it stands, I saw in one report that besides Rabbi Rabin, at least six other RCV member Rabbis “distanced” themselves from this statement. Makes me ask: “Who approved of this statement to start with?"

The only member Rabbi who seems to have his eyes in his head and understand what's going on – and seems to have resigned – is Rabbi Chaim Cowen. He wrote (emphasis mine):

Taking a public position against the RCV on a matter which is clearly stipulated in Torah and codified by the Rambam, embraces a corrosive groupthink mentality which seems to be concerned more with popularity than integrity and fidelity to our Divine mandate.

Hey, I could have written that. As a matter of fact, I did (although on a different subject) – right HERE.

Now that I mention it, where are my friends from the RCANZ in all this?

They are quite vocally silent.

Rabbi Kennard disassociates himself from the statement and regards it as “wrong in itself.” Both he and Rabbi Mirvis say that it is not their role as a Rabbi to tell people how to vote. I don’t know about Rabbi Mirvis, but Rabbi Kennard has gotten a ton of flak for not coming out in support of a Yes vote. Rabbi Shamir Caplan (both RCV and RCANZ) did indeed write a letter to support those who “Orthodox Jews” who wish to vote Yes. Although it looks like he wouldn’t vote Yes himself, or at least he acknowledges this lifestyle as problematic, he understands that a Yes vote can be seen as a defense of Freedom of Religion.

Have LGBTQI philosophies become a religion?

Rav Yaakov Glasman has denied any personal involvement in this statement and does not want to support it. He states: “I believe the statement was ill-conceived and served no purpose in advancing the cause of Orthodox Judaism

As stated above, I agree with him due to the way it was written. But, I must comment, that he and his organization (RCANZ) are no strangers to ill-conceived statements that serve no purpose in advancing the cause of Orthodox Judaism.

He does indeed refer us to some earlier statements. He writes:  Our position on traditional marriage and the exemptions we expect for religious institutions should the Marriage Act be amended was submitted to the Government in January as part of the Senate’s Exposure Draft into the Marriage Amendment Bill. 

There were two statements issued in January. They can both be downloaded HERE as Submissions #128 and #133.

The first submission is #128 signed by Rabbi Dr. Benjami Elton. As Rabbi Glasman notes, it focuses on the need for religious institutions to be exempt from enforcement.  This is a very appropriate statement but it opens our eyes to a scary truth. There is something at stake here for the religious community. This statement discusses the idea of “Ministers of Religions” to be forced by law to officiate at these ceremonies. It does not mention a few other similar hazards such as schools being required to include same-sex relationship education in their science or social studies and the lawsuits against bakers for refusing to bake wedding cakes with same-sex motifs.

This puts to rest the notion that this is exclusively a civil matter and that religious bodies have no grounds to voice their opinions. These were the “justifications" for “Orthodox” bodies such as the JCC Ark Centre and Caulfield Shule and scores of commenters on numerous Facebook sites to object to the  RCV statement.

The second statement is Submission #133 and I am greatly disturbed by it. At the end of the statement it states:

At the same time, RCANZ and RCV reaffirms Judaism's fundamental obligation to respect and embrace all people irrespective of their sexuality and condemns in the strongest possible terms words or actions intended to denigrate or hurt others.

I don’t mean to be harsh (though I have a reputation for harshness to uphold) and I hate to say this but…there is no fundamental obligation in Judaism to embrace all people irrespective of their sexuality

In some cases it’s a good idea and appropriate to embrace these people and in some cases it is not. It depends on how sincere they are and if their actions can be deemed harmful to society at large or to individuals. Moshe tells us that if one is raveh – i.e. shogeg, involuntary, under duress, ”inebriated”, contrite and respectful then HKBH is willing to be “maavir” (forgiving). But if one is tzme’ah - provocative, callous, audacious, agenda-driven, self-serving, hedonistic, “sober” and a toevah, we must distance ourselves from them and cast them from our midst. We have no choice.  This is not out of bigotry or spite and it’s not out of vigilantism (which doesn’t seem to bother RCANZ anyway) and it’s not because we want to. It’s because we have to. We have to be a Mamleches Kohanim and a Goy Kadosh.

But it’s not just us. It’s all of mankind. The Midrash Rabba indicates that nothing angers HKBH more than legitimizing degenerate behavior with same-sex marriage singled out as a dealbreaker. This is not a “civil” issue or a “religious” issue. This is an existential issue and an apocalyptic issue. This is at a Whole Nother Level.

ורבצה בו כל האלה הכתובה בספר הזה.

May HKBH save us from the coming tsunami... because the Rabbinical Councils of Australia certainly will not.

ועל המדינות בו יאמר: איזו לחרב ואיזו לשלום...

לשנה טובה תכתבו ותחתמו!

1 comment:

Chaim said...


I’ve just been introduced to your blog. Yishar Kochacha for an excellent and insightful post, well written ... and sober.
G’mar Chasima Tova.
-Yosef Yitzchak.

Allow me to make the following small humble offering in reply:

Moshiach, a descendant of Dovid HaMelech, will come. Among the depictions mentioned is that the face of the generation will be like that of a dog.
Sanhedrin 97a, Sotah 49b

“ ... Eshkol HaSofer explains accounting the Gemara in Nedarim (24a) that states one does not want to be like a dog that takes and does not give in return. So this is what the leaders of that generation will do, placating and misdirection without giving the leadership required.
Chassidus states that the leaders have self-aggrandizement which is the opposite of what is needed for Moshiah, which is the power of bitul, self-nullification.
R’ Yisrael Salanter explains that a dog always runs in front of its master, almost to the point where it appears as if the dog is leading and its master is following after it and obeying its directions. The truth is, however, that the master is going where he wants to go, and the dog is constantly looking behind to see where its master is headed. If he notices that his master is turning, the dog quickly adjusts and turns to run in front of where the master is going. This scenario will describe the people of the generation of the Moshiach. In previous generations the leaders determined where and what the people would do and the community followed behind faithfully. At the time of Moshiach, however, the people will run ahead and appear to direct their own leaders, who will be following behind. ...”