Wednesday, February 15, 2012

God Doesn't Challenge...

Recently I’ve come to the conclusions that haters are going to hate, no matter what. And usually there’s nothing you can do about it, but advocate the positive things you have to contribute instead of constantly responding to negative attacks. However, there is one constant phrase that plagued me while I was in the closet, and now follows me that I’m out. There is a popular Jewish/ philosophical concept: God doesn’t give someone a challenge they cannot overcome.

The first thing to understand is what is a challenge? Is being blind a challenge? I would say so. Is having a mental disorder a challenge? I would say yes to that as well. But is being a homosexual a challenge? From a religious perspective it certainly is, but from a sociological perspective it doesn’t have to be. But we’re on the religious page now. So if it is indeed a religious challenge, what does it mean to overcome it- To be a celibate person? To “cure” one’s sexuality? Those options don’t seem like “overcoming” anything. The deaf cannot fulfill numerous commandments of God that require listening, but are they told that God handed them a challenge and they must overcome it? No. They must do the best they can with what they were given.

I was given homosexuality. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t go looking for it, I just felt it. Overcoming the challenge of homosexuality, to me, even from a religious perspective, means getting to a place where it is no longer a challenge. Accepting, understanding and analyzing who you are and where your attractions lie, to me, is overcoming the challenge. As I have said so many times before, it’s very easy for someone who has not struggled with sexuality to say “get over it, God wouldn’t give you a challenge you couldn’t overcome”. But until the person saying that understands this particular issue, they never really have the right to say “get over it”.

Coming from someone who did face a challenge and struggled for so many years with sexuality, let ME tell YOU, I have overcome it.


  1. Eli, I want to commend you for writing so eloquently about such a personal issue. Your blog posts never fail to move me and this one did the same.
    Kol HaKavod

  2. Can you elaborate more on the matter please Ely.

    I am struggles very hard with reconciling this and my bisexuality/homosexuality. From one side I am a religious Jew and I believe in this idea given my life circumstances thus far. But this other side of "overcoming" this "challenge" of being gay is what i am struggling the most with.

    I am reaching the point where I am not sure there is anything to overcome. It just something that is part of who i am and every time i try to "overcome" it, afterwards I feel like G-d is just laughing/chuckling down at me thinking/saying "*My Name* what don't you get it yet, this is the card you've been dealt and its not gonna change"

    So lost and confused!

  3. Shalom,

    Twice today I was reminded of "Eved Hashem": Once vis a vis a duo on INR giving a shiur based on this week's parsha; secondly by way of a mentor in Tzfat, who cites Zekharyah's fringes as a source.

    When I think of a challenge, I do not look at it as something to overcome or scale or recompense, pur say. For me, a challenge is painful. There is a void. A severe lacking that should manifest sorrow.

    I think that's what distinguishes Observant Gays from Gay Allies: the challenge for a Gay Jew is to be matched accordingly with People who are capable of feeling on the level an Observant Gay Jew because if you really believe that you are created in the image of G-d, for a purpose that you know deep down is a rarity even among a tiny minority of Yisra'elim among billions of inhabitants, then understand that you are looked upon as very special. Like a heavily guarded Olive Tree, among Olive Trees.


    I see myself as a flame: I dutifuly keep myself lit and set apart, for the sake of Yerushalayim. That I may merit joining mine with distant flames and together, speak directly to the burning coals and lava, as we renew our vows, ellipse.


  4. "Hurry, before the parade passes by!"

    Dalai Levy: Yes, I will, I will. (Aside) Efrayim, let mi goh. It's been long enough, Efrayim. Every night, just like you'd want me, too: I put out the Katz, made myself Rum, and before I went to bed said a little prayer thanking Hashem that I was inn dependent. That noone else's life is mixed app with mine. Butt. Lately, Efrayim, I've begun to realize that, *Sigh.* For a long time, I have not shed one tear nor have I been for one; moment. Outrageously happy, but there comes a time when you have got to decide, weather you want to bee a fool among fools or a fool alone. Well, I have made that decision, Efrayim, but I wood feel so much better about it if you would just give me a sign, any kind of a sign that you approve. I'm going back, Efrayim. I've decided to join the human race. And Efrayim: I want you to give me away.

    Before The Parade Passes By

  5. Ely (not Eli, Miss Powers),

    Fair point, my good sir. Just curious - which mitzvot were you referring to, the ones deaf people cannot fulfill?

    Happy for you -
    Anon 9:26

  6. Anon 9:26- I would think that Ely is referring to mitzvot like hearing the shofar or Megillah. Those are the two examples that first come to mind.

  7. Sorry ely but I just gotta say something here.

    How could you even make any comparison between having gay sex or being celibate & for a blind/deaf person to hear/see or not hear/see?

    As much as the person may want to see or want to hear since they are blind or deaf that is prob very unlikely.

    Those are disabilities not challenges!

    Is being gay a disability? Should gay people get those parking plaques for their cars?

    Secondly, why do you dismiss so fast that the way to overcome your wanting to have sex with guys is by being celibate? Who said that it is not?

    Being that it precludes you from enjoying yourself with someone else in an intimate manner means that it can't be the answer? Perhaps it is...

    "Overcoming the challenge of homosexuality, to me, even from a religious perspective, means getting to a place where it is no longer a challenge."

    Just throwing it all to the wind and saying that I can't face this challenge anymore so I am going to place myself in a different situation so that it is a challenge for me no more is not overcoming anything either!

    1. McGreevey- It seems your cynicism has gotten the best of you with this comment, coming off a lot less open minded to the religious perspective which I am attempting to offer here...

      "Those are disabilities not challenges! Is being gay a disability? Should gay people get those parking plaques for their cars?"
      -Semantics, my good man. How a person defines these words may vary from one person to the next. Obviously being gay is not a disability- but I think being blind or deaf (or both) are challenges.

      "Why do you dismiss so fast that the way to overcome your wanting to have sex with guys is by being celibate?"
      -To me being celibate is not 'overcoming' anything! It leaves the struggle right there, in your face, every day, and stays with you whenever you're alone/lonely. That's is in no way overcoming anything.

      "...and saying that I can't face this challenge anymore so I am going to place myself in a different situation so that it is a challenge for me no more is not overcoming anything either!"
      - On the contrary! I am not removing myself from being religious, I am not removing myself from being gay, I am not placing myself in a different situation. I'm wokring through the struggles, the challenges, and the difficulties of being gay and religious- working through those things, learning to accept myself, is exactly (how I see) overcoming something!

      Thank you for you insights, McG. I really just don't think you thought about this one too clearly.

  8. Ok. Just a few quick comments.

    "Obviously being gay is not a disability- but I think being blind or deaf (or both) are challenges."
    - Challenges correct but the response to those challenges is rather different. There is no choice. A blind guy can open his eyes but will never see and a deaf guy will never hear. There is no way to truly overcome. A gay guy can or cannot control his actions. The only challenge is the action taken not an actual defect to be overcome. Therein lies choice which changes the nature of the challenge. You, my good friend, decide what you want to do and that is all that matters.

    "To me being celibate is not 'overcoming' anything! It leaves the struggle right there, in your face, every day, and stays with you whenever you're alone/lonely. That's is in no way overcoming anything."
    - To YOU its not overcoming anything since this is not something YOU feel you should be without and deprived of since it is the only natural way which you can express yourself intimately. However, it is still the choice that you make.
    When an avid smoker quits smoking is the challenge gone? Does the urge ever truly go away? Yet when he quits and leaves something which is so pleasurable, and something to this point he/she has not felt he/she could live without we applaud them having overcome their urges. It is possible to stare down a challenge for eternity and in that way overcome it.

    1. Strangely enough, there is no Society of Frum Smokers or Society of Frum Theives who are looking for halachic leniencies. Why do you think this is?

      Halacha does not take lightly the idea of leaving people with *no* sexual outlet. Our tradition states that the sexual impulse is fundamental to human society and that it must find expression, or else it becomes unbearable to the individual and dangerous to the larger society.

      The Rabbis could have forbidden the androgynous and the tumtum from marriage and sexuality, but they did not. That was unthinkable. They found a way for both groups to marry and dealt with the problems and issues created by both.

      Asking a gay person never to have intimacy with another person is not like asking them to keep kosher. It is like asking them not to eat food..

      The prohibition on homosexuality makes sense in Judaism if that prohibition is directed at heterosexual or even bisexual men. For those men, homosexuality is like treif. It might be something they would enjoy, but halacha asks them to refrain from it.

      But for people who are only homosexual, gay sex is simply their own yetser ha-ra, just like your own. No stronger, no weaker, no better, no worse. Gay sex is not some additional pleasure to avoid or a compulsion to contain. It is their basic sexuality. It cannot be ignored or denied without serious consequences, both to those individuals and to the society they live in.

      Celibacy is *not* Jewish. Jews believe that everyone should marry, everyone should have children, everyone should have a legitimate outlet for sexual expression. We do not believe that people should marry someone to whom they feel no sexual attraction nor people with whom sex is disgusting.

      Please stop comparing gay sex to smoking, theft, and eating pork. The correct comparison is to your own sexuality and your own need for emotional and sexual intimacy. Ask yourself if you could live without those things and then re-read your statements.

  9. It's is forbidden for two men to have sexual relations with each other. It is also forbidden for two men to have a romantic relationship with each other (similar to how it is forbidden for any two people who are forbidden to each other to have a romantic relationship. And it is also forbidden to put one in spiritual danger and it is much harder to be celibate when in a romantic relationship).

    Therefore, living a life striving to keep these laws (no matter how strong your desires are, and even if you fail sometimes but you never lose sight of the goal) then that is a success. Once you give up, that's a failure.

  10. Could I see I am an orthodox jew if I eat pork. Being Gay is not Kosher.

    1. Anon- of course you can say you're a frum Jew if you eat pork. Every frum Jew violates sins. It becomes more difficult to call yourself a frum Jew when you are okay with violating certain aveiros. A Jew who eats pork willingly without guilt cannot call himself frum. A Jew who tries to overcome his urges for pork but sometimes fails and tries to work on himself can call himself frum.
      And being Gay is not a spiritual crime, acting on it is.

  11. Why must you label people who disagree with you as haters? Just because some people think you are wrong, and you haven't been able to convince them otherwise, that makes them guilty of hate?

  12. I agree with McGreevy. If a person has a desire to steal, and fights his urges his entire life, even though he has the struggle every single day, has overcame his problem. But a person who has a desire to steal, and rationalizes his stealing so he doesn't have the struggle anymore hasn't overcome anything.

  13. I'm assuming you're voting for Obama because of his support of gay marriage. Do you support his economic policies as well? If you do, do you think that's influenced by the fact that you agree with Obama on social issues? If you disagree with Obama on economic issues, would you still vote for him? Does gay marriage take precedence over economic success (and better support for Israel) in this election?

  14. Ely, if you are going to choose homosexuality, you need to renounce your Jewish Religion. They cannot agree and God cannot accept you. Your religion is in vain. You have chosen sin instead of God's laws. And no, I am not a "hater", just someone sharing with you the truth. The "hater" theory is seriously warped. I suppose telling you that drinking gasoline will kill you also makes me a hater.

    You may have homosexual urges, but God gives all men and women the power to resist the Devil. He will flee. It's a promise! There is no threat to your life that you must be gay. We don't choose our battles, but we must however face and overcome what wars against us. Just resist it, renounce it, don't think about it, don't participate in it, move on with your life and thank God that you are not gay. If you are faithful to resist it, God will give you victory.

    Man was created for a woman, and woman for a man. Period! That's God's way, and it's the only way. God's Word never changes. Just resist homosexuality. You'll be eternally grateful you did. God tells us where the homosexuals will spend eternity. You don't want to go there Ely. Please repent...and resist.

    1. Look, if you want a part in this play, at least read the script. You can't just come in, with your obviously Christian ideas, and give advice to an Orthodox Jew.

      There is no such thing as "renouncing your Jewish faith", certainly not for being gay! Judaism is not a faith -- it's a tribe. Once you're in, you're in for life and there's no point in renouncing anything because there's no way out.

      If you believe that God's word never changes, then I hope you have checked your clothing for shatnez. And if you don't know what that means, then you have no business in this conversation.

  15. The two places in The Torah where it talks about men laying with men, it says not to lay as with a woman. If a man is stone cold gay and not sleeping with women in the first place, I fail to see the problem. However, if a man is married to a woman and sleeping with men, this I do think is very bad. And note, there is no prohibition for women. Perhaps Torah needs to be viewed for what it actually says?


It Gets Better- Gay Orthodox Jews