May 20, 2004
Gays and Judaism
Steve Greenberg may be many things, but Orthodox is not one of them ("Gay Orthodox Rabbi Peels Back His Life," May 7).
It is worse than presumptuous to tell people how to define themselves. Orthodox Jews believe in -- and have always believed in -- a binding set of laws, one of which prohibits male homosexual behavior. They also believe that our understanding of God's law is not open to interpretation to suit society's every new passing whim.
Abraham Lincoln asked a farmer, "If we call your horse's tail a leg, then how many legs would your horse have?"
"Well, five I reckon," the farmer responded.
"Wrong," Lincoln said. "It would still have four. Calling something a leg doesn't make it one."
Similarly, calling Greenberg Orthodox does not make him such. His effort to adapt halacha just to fit neatly into his lifestyle is incompatible with Orthodoxy. Greenberg is no more Orthodox than people would be were they to try to deny the Torah's objection to unethical business practices just because it is good for the bottom line. The Jew must adapt to the timelessness of the Torah, never the other way around.
While Greenberg may wish to delude himself about his observance, he should be honest enough not to force a new definition of Orthodoxy upon a community very satisfied with one that has worked for millennia.
Rabbi Avrohom Union, Rabbinic Administrator Rabbinical Council of California
As an open-minded Orthodox Jew, I found your cover picture ("Gay Marriage," May 14) offensive and insensitive to those Jews who feel that same-sex marriages are inappropriate at best. The picture belonged inside not on the outside, where one might mistake The Journal for an Al Goldstein publication.
One realizes that journalism has changed, where shock value is more important than civility, because shock sells newspapers. However, as a media outlet for the L.A. Jewish community, you have a greater responsibility to the entire community.
Your cover picture stinks of being a cheap exercise whose purpose is merely to shock rather than inform.
Joseph (Yossi) S. Goldman, Los Angeles
I wear tzitzit, wrap tefillin and keep my head covered. I adore my wife and our daughter. I also believe that "you shall not lie with a man as with a woman/it is an abomination" clearly permits gay marriage.
A heterosexual man does not lie with a man as with a woman. Neither does a gay man. Likewise for straight women and lesbians.
What the Torah prohibits is bisexuality. The Rambam explains that many commandments were designed to destroy pagan practices. The laws against sorcery, eating the blood, sacrifice of inappropriate animals and carnality outside of marriage were all needed to draw a line in the sand between polytheism and the Covenant.
Ritual sex was common in the ancient world, prohibited for the Jews. But a loving, committed homosexual relationship was not/is not Godless.
Gay spouses do not lie with each other as they would with a member of the opposite sex to whom they are not attracted. Their consummation will not produce children, but neither can many straight couples.
The fact that some gays want to take on the traditional obligations of marriage proves their devotion to intrinsically Jewish values.
Salvador Litvak, Los Angeles
The provocative picture on your cover, showing two men in a tallit under the heading, "Gay Marriage," validates the opposition of Torah-observant Jews.
The commandment to wear tzizit is so "you remember all of God's commandments and fulfill them, and not turn after your heart and eyes." Last Shabbat we again read in Kedoshim the prohibition against homosexuality.
You printed opinions that this refers only to oppressive acts, not to loving, committed relationships. However, the Torah specifically states, 'You must not lie with a man, as you would lie with a woman," obviously referring to loving, committed relationships.
Opposition to gay "marriage" is less about intolerance for individual choice but very much about the hijacking of symbols and institutions, designed by and for a specific model, by individuals or groups who choose lifestyles incompatible with those symbols and institutions.
A tallit uniting two men in "marriage" is ironic and absurd.
Live how you want; we won't always agree. You choose to disobey that commandment; I may be lacking in my observance of others. But don't expect that those who defend the integrity of Torah accept nonobservance as another form of observance. And please, don't put it in our face.
Mendel Levin, Los Angeles
I admired Arthur J. Magida for his acceptance and insight in his article, "No Compassion?" (May 7). In death, his mother was who she was in life, but her bittersweet lesson to him, her legacy, was to be unlike her, and he has succeeded.
Judith Kollman, Sherman Oaks
"After 45 Years, It's Nice to Know" (May 14) should have been credited to Marilyn Zeitlin. We apologize for the error.