10 Menahem Av 5778
Derekh Eretz Series Part 2
part 1 | part 2 | part 3
Why write about one special case when there are so many?
Because there was a strike today in Israel on behalf of the LGBT community supported by many companies in the high tech sector as well as many well-known companies that serve Israelis, media writers, photographers, and videographers will be writing a lot about the proud ones and showing us rainbow-colored visuals of them. The issue this time is the surrogacy law (original, 1996) that was just passed which included single women, and excluded same-sex couples and single men (here's an explanation of surrogacy in Israel and how it is applied. This may be the wording prior to the law that just passed, which I couldn't find.). This exclusion is perceived as an affront to equality of opportunity and denial of the "right" to have a family.
Whether everyone has the right to have a family is another issue. It is true that the Jewish People as a nation has a history of many, many exterminated families in efforts to eradicate us as a people, and this is what the strikers are appealing to. Further digression would be inappropriate at this point.
Rabbis and other Torah scholars are welcome to comment since I'm sure I'm leaving plenty out.
Notice that the majority of the videos will be shot low across the crowd; it's a video trick to give the impression of more people than there actually are.
For example, this video that I saw on the Jerusalem Post homepage was shown as the same four clips of the same march over and over in order to get readers' attention. If the viewer doesn't look closely, it seems like a tremendous crowd is marching. The video is only 14 seconds long.
Another video, showing marching in Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Yerushalayim, the latter two of which are shot low, while the Tel Aviv section, having the largest crowd, is shot from above. The video is only 1 minute, 18 seconds.
So, I'm not at all impressed. The religious crowd at the Kotel, praying and protesting over the then-upcoming expulsion of Gush Katif in 2005, for example, was far greater by itself than all these LGBT marches put together. Yet, there was no publicity and there are no videos left from that time, but only from later on. Nevertheless, I do feel the need to single out a special case for a certain tiny portion of the LGBT+ (or Q, or whatever) people here.
The Proposed Exception to the Rule: The Special Case
I read an op-ed article late last week (I'm not saying where or linking to it) and came across a commenter there who said he knew he was gay from a very young age. At a certain point during his adulthood, he decided NOT to live that lifestyle and became Orthodox.
None of the other commenters believed him; they piled flame after flame on him. I was the only one, and so I got flamed too.
Even though I might have been wrong about this particular person, I was made aware that there could be such people among us, both male and female. It occurred to me that when such a person identifies him or herself and reaches out for help and friendship, attempts should be made to provide in some form or fashion.
I also understand that it is really, really difficult to make this a reality due to the social dynamics among homos versus those among heteros. Trying to mix them together is virtually impossible. If you're single and female, try going to the movies with a girlfriend and observe how other people check you out; the same with males, even more so. In religious communities, dress often serves as a way to reassure others that you're one or the other.*
The Right of the Default Group to Accept or Reject
Of course, the clal (Hebrew for collective and refers to the greater Jewish People) comes first. Normally among Jews, people who pursue lifestyles departing from the default according to the Torah get pushed aside, particularly if they insist on pushing their lifestyle on others, as these strikers are. (Christians got this, among many other things, from us, explaining why non-Jews of this persuasion also encounter this phenomenon.) But in the case of one who chooses to not go after the desire that takes him or her away from the normative community, but does not know how to negotiate socially or doesn't feel he would have a genuine friendship without the other party knowing about him, we should not be so quick to reject him. HaShem wants all of us to make teshuva, and if one such as the person I met online wants to repent, or has already done so, he is no worse than we are.
Also, there may be social problems that require attention from a specialist, who may be able to separate them out from his toevah (non-normative) tendency, and thus enable him to socialize, pray, and receive appropriate support from the clal.
On the other hand, people perceived as non-repentant may indeed be so. Once the non-repentant are accepted, they may begin, whether quietly or openly, reverting to the behavior they said they had given up. If they respond badly to being questioned about it, according to community norms, they should be rejected again.
This is true for any social group; the gender orientation issue is no exception. Nations are large social groups. Israel is a particularly small nation, and its core happens to be a family; so, divisive issues like the rights of non-normative couples to form families affect us more than other nations.
So let's not beat up the truly repentant non-normative Jews...please.
Warning to the normative group, especially those with American and European backgrounds, according to the Torah: We are no better than the homos (the non-normative people) when it comes to sin. Torah scholars may confirm that the higher up one is on the spiritual ladder, the greater the consequences are for his/her sins.
The Torah records just a few parashioth ago that Pinhas, the son of El'azar, was the very one who earned the Kahuna and HQB"H's brit shalom by a spear through a hetero couple in an illicit act.
Here's an extremely simplified recent history: A few generations ago, Hollywood was busy promoting hetero relationships outside of marriage (called affairs). When a pill to prevent pregnancy was invented ("The Pill") in 1957 and approved for contraceptive use in 1960, all kinds of extramarital affairs abounded as the Pill became popular, including switching partners with other couples, orgies, and the like. Women, in particular, could delay marriage as long as they wanted. The 1967 "Summer of Love" occurred with this as its background.
After all this and more, the homos came out and began fighting for their rights, and the transgender concept followed not so long after, with surgical procedures to accomodate. Let's not forget who opened the Pandora's Box to all this, and be kind to a truly repentant Jew, whatever his or her gender orientation.
Although comments are allowed below, I also hope we can now move on to other issues that require derekh eretz...like this one. I hope the next post will be the final one.
*I don't like to use the word "gay" to refer to homos. I still remember when this word had two applications: Gay, a girl's name, and gay, a synonym for happy. I feel sorry for those who still bear the name alongside the description of a certain social group that was long ago exposed for not being happy.