A new blog with criticism of the Statement on Principles

Please continue to think about the last post “Quarreling with Orthodoxy” on what would be in a book to respond to post-orthodoxy and how would you address the problems. The Evangelicals in their discussions are showing that you wont solve the problems through more paternalistic liberalism or apologetics. The Evangelicals are showing in their struggles that one needs to properly name the problem, and then not to fix things with a repair kit but to offer a new vision combined with a return to basics.
A recent attempt for liberal tolerance for the issues in the community is last week’s Statement on Principles on Homosexuality. It was certainly needed to alleviate the suicide, depression, and self-hatred caused by a community that demands a single social aspiration and complete internalization of an external rule.

However, here is a new blog by two Orthodox women, both straight, grappling with the statements. I do not agree with many of their points. I am more catholic in many senses and do not think solutions will come via identity politics. But they raise the issues about liberal tolerance, hence they apply named themselves Accidental Radical.
I do know that whenever I am engaged in interfaith encounters and the other side starts with a declaration that we are all in the image of God and hence they would never do anything Anti-Semitic, then I know there will be no discussion of past Antisemitic acts, nor any plans to educate the laity, nor any apology, nor any commitments for the future since they already respect all humans.

Accidental radical
Blogger #1- Svara

I strongly applaud the efforts of those who wrote and signed the statement, as it is a necessary and long overdue acknowledgment of the undeniable presence of homosexual individuals within the Orthodox community.

However, when I reached item three, I was a bit surprised. “ Halakhah sees heterosexual marriage as the ideal model and sole legitimate outlet for human sexual expression. The sensitivity and understanding we properly express for human beings with other sexual orientations does not diminish our commitment to that principle.”

We try to be accommodating, we even spew apologetics from time to time. But we continue to stand firm on our most important principle of all – that halacha says homosexual encounters are a big no-no, and there is nothing to be done about this reality.

I am a proud Orthodox Jew. I tend to run in more modern circles, and am occasionally met with confused looks when I proclaim my identity – people wonder how could I so readily align myself with a community that is perceived to be backwards in its approach to women, gays, tax responsibilities, etc.
But my admiration of the strength and devotion of the Orthodox community, particularly in its commitment to halacha, has always trumped all of these problems that we have.

After all, if I am such a proud Orthodox Jew, shouldn’t I applaud this statement? Shouldn’t it be fundamental to any Orthodox approach?
I refuse to condemn homosexuality in any form.

In essence, what the statement does is tell the Orthodox community that we should not explicitly support our gay congregants, family, or friends’ homosexual relationships because they are not halachically valid, but if you so desire, when they want to come to shul or the family barbecue, with or without their partners and/or children, we should welcome them with open arms. I suppose my issue with this construct is that it continues to place the burden of blame for violating halacha on the shoulders of these gay individuals. We tell them that they’re violating halacha, but if they choose to do so (after all, is it really a choice to want to have a partner in life?), we won’t blame them for it. I just wonder if at any point the Orthodox community will explicitly grapple with the contradiction of halacha and our (independent?) moral instincts.

(In a similar vein, will we ever acknowledge that expecting Orthodox singles to be shomer negiah until they marry in their late 20s or early 30s is absurd? Because currently, many frum Orthodox singles in their 20s are “hooking up” on the side while pretending to be shomer negiah at shul, and this lifestyle is becoming increasingly widespread.) Will we ever stop handling these tricky questions by simply turning the other cheek, and instead step up and recognize how deeply this naive approach is hurting anyone who isn’t a married heterosexual Jew?

Blogger #2-Cashia
It bemoans me that the conversation on homosexuality needs to begin where this document does. Do we truly need to be reminded that all human beings are, well, human? Must we be told that we are prohibited from embarrassing, harassing or demeaning anyone?
It is an egotism to believe that we have the power to decide which aveirot are more severe than others. Who are we to proclaim that those who cheat on their taxes, those who treat others improperly, those who keep kosher homes but eat non-kosher in secret (perhaps I should add those who are shomer negiah in public but “hooking up” in private) are still worthy to be members of our community and receive honors, but those who have homosexual inclinations, or are in a homosexual relationship, do not deserve those same rights?

But I am conflicted by one of Svara’s points: “I just wonder if at any point the Orthodox community will explicitly grapple with the contradiction of halacha and our (independent?) moral instincts.” I wonder if this is the fear that permeates the Orthodox community which makes us so much quicker to condemn homosexuality and not kick out of our communities individuals who are convicted of attempted murder or child molestation: does halakha contradict our moral instincts?

My instinct is to answer a resounding no. But I have certainly felt that contradiction at times, this time being no exception.
I have many questions and no answers. But I will continue to grapple with these questions. Because I do not believe halakha offers us simple answers. But I do believe it has answers. And if those answers contradict my “(independent) moral instincts,” perhaps that is G-d’s way of telling me that I have not yet found the correct answers. And so we must continue to seek

For the Full Version- see here

8 responses to “A new blog with criticism of the Statement on Principles

  1. Len Moskowitz

    Why do you think that the Evangelical experience is a useful reference for post-Orthodoxy?

    • Because they also start as an orthodoxy with strict observance, education, and living in an enclave.The rise of Centrism was due to many of the same cause and followed similar patterns. Their younger set is moving and shifting around looking for changes and a form that fits their life.
      So too in orthodoxy, the younger set is not looking to reform but are moving beyond their parents version. We hear greater talk about ethics, arts, lifestyle choices. Many of the complaints are similar. Yet they want to remain in the tradition in the end. In some things we are closer to the Catholics. When I mean Evangelical I do not mean some stereotype of the deep South. I am thinking Rick Warren or Joel Hunter. You may want to see my original posts from half a year ago on post-orthodoxy and the emergent Church.

  2. Two comments.

    Re: “I just wonder if at any point the Orthodox community will explicitly grapple with the contradiction of halacha and our (independent?) moral instincts. ”

    To my reading, that’s exactly what the “Statement” was doing. Note its distinctions between what “Halacha” dictates (in a word, intolerance) and what “We” believes, and “the community” should do (accept, include).

    Second comment: I find the statement interesting for what it says about 21st century psak. For example: It uses non-rabbis to bolster its credibility on certain facts; and it advocates from what is “right,” quite apart from what the “law” is.

    We saw some of this pattern previously in the wake of Baruch Lanner. Before “Stolen Innocence,” turning an Orthodox sexual abuser to the police was mesirah (handing a Jew to non-Jewish authorities) and forbidden. But afterwards, mesirah was suddenly no longer a problem.

    Decisors at the time were able to cloak this innovation under pikuach nefesh, saying that lives were at stake. The signatories of the “Statement,” however, apparently saw less need to resort to an halachic category to say what is “right.”

    • H:

      >> To my reading, that’s exactly what the “Statement” was doing. Note its distinctions between what “Halacha” dictates (in a word, intolerance) and what “We” believes, and “the community” should do (accept, include).

      I am uncomfortable with this distinction (and this is what I continue to grapple with). I do not believe that halakha is inherently intolerant, nor do I believe that as a community we must automatically accept and include. I believe it is the responsibility of a halakhic community to live lives in accordance with that halakha, and I also believe that the halakha is dynamic and open to multiple, legitimate interpretations.

      Same point regarding your second comment. I believe there can be a moral “right” that goes beyond the halakha (ie something can be halakhically acceptable but morally more questionable) but there cannot be a moral “right” that goes AGAINST the halakha.

      At least, I do not believe that either of these can be the case unless we change our understanding of what halakha is and how it functions within Judaism, and within our societies.

  3. moshe shoshan

    I think your statement about mesirah is incorrect. There are numerous poskim, including in my understanding, the tzitz eliezer, who rule that mesira does not apply in democratic societies. I dont think that mesirah was simply thrown by the wayside.

  4. Moshe — I’m sure you’re right that many modern poskim discount mesira. But until “Stolen Innocence,” halacha le-maaseh (at least as far as I saw) commonly required the ruling of a beit din before turning a Jew to the authorities.

    For example, in late 1980s Brooklyn. NY Post reported that the owner of a Jewish day-care center was molesting the children entrusted to his care. But the local rabbanim ruled that the parents cannot cooperate with the police, and must go to beit din first.

    The same pattern applied in the Lanner case itself, with a beit din ruling in 1988 that mesira is not warranted.

    Overwhelming factual evidence was necessary in order to make psak change, particularly on a “topic we can’t discuss.” Looks to me like the signatories followed a similar path: they recognized overwhelming factual evidence, and attempted to adjust accordingly.

  5. Kevin Rothman

    This is precisely why, in my opinion, you are seeing the laity taking an active role in determining what the law should be, that it should be “right”: because the rabbinate has shown itself unable to take the initiative. If rabbinic leaders were to show meaningful leadership in this area it might be different. On this note, I think R. Avi Weiss is an inspiring exception to this rule. If others took his lead, at least in the overall direction of his thinking if not his specific rulings, american orthodoxy would be moving in a much better direction.

  6. My wife reminded me that back in the 60’s or 70’s there was a poster that was popular in the women’s movement. The caption to the picture of a pregnant Pope was: “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s