Showing posts with label torah. Show all posts
Showing posts with label torah. Show all posts

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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Challenge Everything


This post is dedicated to Eric James Borges, 19, and Phillip Parker, 14, the two most recent victims of bullying and anti-gay sentiment.

Being gay makes a person question everything. A lot of people assume that when one comes out of the closet, they automatically go “off the Derech”, or lose their religiosity/ most of the Jewish practices they had previously kept. While I may not have left the community, anyone who knows me, or anyone who has read the Blog for the past two and a half years, knows that I have changed, and yes, have become what many would call “less” religious.

Why is there this perceived trend? Not because it’s not true- it really is true that most people will leave their Orthodox communities and change many of their beliefs and practices once they come out of the closet. I used to think this was because they felt rejected from orthodoxy. And while this does have something to do with it, I want to posit something a bit deeper. Being gay, acknowledging that there is a part of you, created by God or developed as you grew up, that inherently desires you to act against religion makes you question why and how this is possible. One is forced to acknowledge the possibility that the Torah, at the very least, has been misinterpreted over the past few thousand years, or maybe even be wrong, and that makes you change your thoughts, beliefs and behaviors.

How can a person be gay and religious? How can God create someone gay, or develop a gay identity within a person and then tell them that they cannot act on it? This question rocks so much of the foundation of everything the Orthodox community raised me to believe. For that reason many of my gay friends and I will all question things about religion that we hadn’t before acknowledging our sexuality.  I question how accurate the Rabbis were in their interpretations and what biases were brought into the Talmud and codified law. Many others in today’s world think and question the same way, but for myself, and maybe for other gay people as well, it’s the underpinning of being gay that drives these questions. These questions that make a person rethink every law, not just the law and interpretation of homosexuality. For anyone that's ever experienced the dissonance with the Torah- that a part of their being and who they are is delegitimized by the Torah, they understand what I'm talking about.

And if they haven't experienced such a challenge, they cannot possibly understand what those who have go through. As I have written about many times before- it is not any one person's place to judge another person's thoughts or behaviors about religion, especially when they are not in that person’s exact shoes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Protests

Here's the problem. The problem is many religious communities insist on being "amidst" others, to be "a light unto the nations" (a very Jewish concept) and exemplify Jewish way of life as the most befitting in God's eyes. Somewhere along the way, however, this was lost. Somewhere along the way, people decided not just to be a light for others, but to protest, to denounce and to look down upon others for simply being different.

Nowhere in the Torah does it say to look down on others. Does it say to watch over and protect other members of their own nation? Yes. Do many Jews feel the obligation to scold and scorn members of their own communities for wrongdoings? Yes. But the problem is that too many individuals and communities took it upon themselves to be the judge of others and to decide what is best for the rest of the world as well. We have Jews who protest their own Jewish companies because the companies support building a homeland in Israel. We have Jews who say that an innocent sweet boy was murdered because communities didn't protest gay marriage or because Jews let a convicted child molester from their own community go to jail, they are being punished by losing an innocent child. But forget about issues pertaining to their own communities, we have Jews who run out and protest civil gay marriage, when that's not their right, nor does it impact the way they practice their religion.

To me, this does not exemplify any aspect of Judaism or human decency. What ever happened to live and let live? I understand wanting one's own little bubble to be perfect, but individuals who violate one or two standards of "norm", established hundreds or thousands of years ago, should not be criticized as too often happens. In addition, when other people make decisions for their own lives, more religious communities simply have no right to protest or scorn or scold. It is simply a matter of human decency to let someone go about their life as they choose, and not protest it, especially when it doesn't directly impact them.

I know this post comes off as harsh, or as attacking, but it is simply meant to establish the way I feel about respect and equal rights for every person in this country and in this world - without judgment by "others".

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Legal Matters

A question that I wanted to address is one that I've thought about for a while, but never realized some of you guys were thinking about it too. The question is- I preach open conversation about sexuality, acceptance and open-mindedness, but how can I then say that homosexual acts are wrong? Isn't it inevitable that more discussion and openness will lead to more people questioning and experimenting?

The answer is I don't know. I don't control how other people interpret openness and tolerance. I know that the more I open up to my friends and people in my life about sexuality, the more they feel comfortable talking about it. In no way do I control whether or not others will experiment or question their sexual attractions. All I hope with my posts is for people to entertain the thought that a same sex relationship may not be "disgusting" and that just because we may not have grown up dealing with a specific issue, doesn't mean we have to keep ignoring the issue as adults.
It also seems the more openly I discuss sexuality, the more closeted people come to me for sex or experimentation- but that's not my intention. Being open about sexuality and sexual matters does not mean one needs to go and act on every impulse or desire, it simply means that one can and should entertain the thought- but then let their moral or Torah conscience be their guide.

Honestly, my hope is as follows- if you start talking about sexuality and questioning, and you're a religious person, you will be in enough awe of the Torah and of Halakha (Jewish law) not to experiment just because you feel like it. You should be comfortable enough to entertain the thought of sexual tolerance and understanding, but that doesn't mean you have to go out and do everything you feel. That's part of living in a Halakhic society, self control and limitations. If you feel that your attraction is stronger to one sex as opposed to the other, or you feel that you sexual identity expresses itself in a very specific way, that's yours to confront and your decision how that will impact your life as an observant Jew.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Thou Shalt Not...

I'm not going to lie. It's not easy to sit in synagogue listening to the reader clearly pronounce "Thou shalt not lie with a man as one lies with a woman." Year after year. When I was in the closet I would look around, hoping no one was looking at me, knowing my darkest secret and calling me out on it. Of course, that never happened. Now, it's a completely different story, and I sit in the synagogue with my head held high, or asleep as I usually am during the Torah reading (lol).

Why would I leave? Well, the Torah is once again denouncing "who I am". But in actuality, it's denouncing only an action- that a man may not lie with another man- which I agree with, because it's the law. It doesn't make sense to believe in it, because I'm gay, but as an Orthodox Jew I believe in the Torah and everything it says. Anything otherwise would be sacrilege. I don't have a problem with what is written, mostly because it's there, it's written and there's nothing I can do about it. The same way I feel that I'm gay, it's there and there's nothing I can do about that. However, if I was called up to the Torah for the section where that verse is written I would probably turn down the "honor" as I would rather not be in the spotlight for the verse, either.

There have been many interpretations of the verse over the past 3,000 years. The most commonly accepted interpretation is the literal prohibition of anal sex, but there are other opinions. Another opinion is the verse uses language it uses elsewhere to refer to forced intercourse, so some say that the prohibition is only if the act was forced. So those are some options.
Somehow, I try to keep the two in mind at all times and not run away from either. I'm not picking one over the other, and even stepping out for that one verse would symbolize my sexuality over my religion and I don't feel that way.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Eshel

This past weekend, I had the unbelievable pleasure of attending the first every LGBT Orthodox Shabbaton, known as Eshel. This shabbaton featured discussion of sexuality and religion, what it means to be LGBT and Jewish, and how to build and develop a community. It was really one of the best weekends of my life. As Shabbat ended, I had the pleasure of giving a Torah thought from that week's portion, and the blessings of Havdallah. I wanted to share with you (a summary of) my words:


This week is Parshat Yitro, which contains the 10 commandments. While so many look at this as a burden of our religion, I look at it as the essence of our people. There’s the moral code- how to treat one’s parents, neighbors, what one can or cannot do in regards to others as well as a spiritual code- how to keep Shabbat, and honor God. It's not one or the other, but both.

Next, the Haftarah refers to Isaiah’s vision of God and sent by Him on a mission. Isaiah feels he’s from a nation of sin and not worthy to be talking to God, at which point an angel touches his lips with coal to purify him of sin. But what sin was he guilty of that he committed with his lips? The commentators explain that the sin of Isaiah was calling God’s nation impure. He had no right to say he was from an impure nation and God cleansed him of that sin before sending him on any mission.


Growing up a gay Orthodox Jew is not easy for anyone. I just wanted to be accepted. And why? Because too many people decided it was their place to decide what does or does not constitute a sinner, like Isaiah erred. I made up my mind in senior year of high school to give it all up, and leave Judaism forever; it was the only option. But after a year and a half of studying in Israel while ignoring my sexuality, I understood how to develop my relationship with God without worrying about one aspect of who I was. In addition, I learned that there are so many interpretations and understandings of the Torah, that no one person could ever tell what exactly the precise understanding of the text is. No one could ever claim that we are a nation of sinners, because no one could ever know that- except God.


When I came out two and a half years ago, I knew my sexuality was a bigger part of me than I had ever realized. However, I also realized that this balancing act of sexuality and religion was not unfamiliar. It was just like trying to figure out how to approach God but still fit in with the rest of the world. Life is a balancing act, especially as a Jew. We have an obligation to the Torah and we also have an obligation to every one around us. Does this mean that one thing should override another? No. Never. Our time on Earth is not just about our relationship with God, or just about our relationship with man- it’s about both. It’s about the balancing act of how we can do the best we can in this religion.


No one else in the world has the right to tell us who we are or how we should behave. All we know how to do is our best; is balance this complicated Torah with our complexities as human beings. Isaiah was wrong for judging God’s people, as so many like to tell us that it’s not possible to be religious and gay- but as God taught Isaiah- they have no right to tell us what is or is not possible, it's simply up to us to do the best balancing act that we can.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Statement

For those of you that haven't seen it, (what are you- living under a rock?):
http://statementofprinciplesnya.blogspot.com/

I had a lot of emotions racing through me when this was released- I read through each paragraph with a fine-toothed comb, and to see names of many Rebbeim who I admire and respect on the signature list, and started to tear up a bit. Then I shared with the world. I am happy. I am proud. I feel like I finally belong in places where, honestly, I was scared to enter because of how the sommunity would judge me. But now I know that the Orthodox community- or at least their leaders are no long judging, and are willing to accept the struggles of a homosexual in the Orthodox world, and understand the difficult things we go through.

Portions that struck me in a good way- gay Jews have the right to belong to a congregation and make it their community, gay Jews have the right to refrain from seeking out reparative therapy if they feel it would be more harmful than helpful, children of gay couples should be accepted fully, and that gay Jews should not be encouraged to marry members of the opposite gender. All these values that are unfortunately not approached properly in other communities, and that many Rabbi's do not believe belong in the Orthodox world for whatever reason. But everyone on that list does believe it.

When asked what the next step after the YU Panel should be- this is it. This is the step that was/is needed for the gay Orthodox Jewish population. Awareness, sensitivity and acceptance into the communities we have always called home. All I wish for now is more and more Orthodox leaders to sign on in order to continue the strength displayed by the Orthodox community in releasing this statement.

And for those who asked, I wouldn't change anything about this letter. Not. One. Thing.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Change, part 1

As part of my summer fellowship, we've been discussing the limits and definitions of change within the Orthodox world. What should change? What shouldn't? Why do certain laws adapt to the times we live in, while others are stuck in their original textual form?

It's important for me to realize that I don't have the answer, I don't know what is allowed to be changed or not changed in Halacha. I do question daily, however, what God wants from his people living in a modern world. As far as the world as a whole, change is key. Change is part of life- growing, evolving, opening new chapters and finishing old ones. Communities evolve, culture evolves, society evolves, towns, cities, countries, all grow to meet the new standards and change the way of life. So why can't the Jewish/Orthodox community? Why do we and many of our leaders insist on being stuck in the 20th century while the world moves into the 21st?

Having grown up in an Orthodox mind frame, I understand and believe that the Jewish community puts up boundaries and avoids change in order to weed out the perceived "bad" from the world around them. However, there is no form of clear definition as to what constitutes good and bad in the world around us. I'm not talking just about sexuality, but women's rights and slavery and all these things that the Torah seems to be clear on, but don't make any sense in a modern context. Again, I never advocate for change of existent Torah law. But that doesn't mean progress and growth and slow change can not occur. It can, and the Torah can be brought into the 21st century, like I honestly believe God meant for it to.

I know i suddenly seem lie a radical liberal, but I hate to be put in any sort of box.I don't subscribe to changing the Torah, but I do believe in questioning it, and ensuring that everything we have stuck to for 2000+ years is what we were meant to stick to, and not just small practices that became strict rules that became rigid laws and unchanging mindsets. There are many things that can change. Stay tuned for "Change, part ii".

Monday, April 26, 2010

In my head

It will always be there, it will always be in the back of my mind. As happy, as confident, as controlled as I try to be, it will always be there. The dissonance of being Orthodox and Gay.

I bring this up now in light of last week's Torah portions, the two verses that contain the prohibition towards the physical actions of anal sex and homosexuality, as they bring up mixed emotions when I hear it read in shul. Part of me wants to run away, part of me wants to stand there in pride that I can be Orthodox and hear these verses read, but then I wonder what kind of pride is it to know that the way I want to live my life violates Halacha? They are two mixed emotions. And yes, there are ways to interpret the verses to make someone feel not as guilty, but I'm not about reinterpreting things. I try to be as honest with myself and my religion and my sexuality.

On that note, I do plan on staying away from anal sex for the duration of my lifetime, with God's help, which is something I avoided posting on here for a while, because I felt it too personal. But after standing in Shul, I knew I needed to discuss things further. So I take comfort in hopefully not violating the Issur Deoraysa (Torah prohibition), but still feel the angst in my mind of a life that will never be perfectly okay according to Halacha.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Struggle

[Reposted from FB for those that read it there]

I love my life. I'll tell you what bothers me. When others try and tell me how to live, how to act and how to behave. The Torah and Rabbis I have a relatonship with, maybe, but until you live my life, do not tell me what I can and cannot do. Or that who I am is simply society leaking into our "perfect" Jewish culture.

Are those who are "judging" me celibate individuals? No, they are married- or will be married- and they have sex. Are they gay? Maybe, but probably not.

So until they are in my shoes, don't tell me my Nisayon, my test, is just like everyone else's; that I can overcome it with enough effort. It might be true, but only in very specific situations, and until you are in my specific situation, don't tell me what challenges I can or cannot overcome.

Our society is not a "pure Torah society", so don't yell at me for turning it impure. It's not my fault that I have a struggle and regardless of that struggle, I simply want for the Orthodox community to accept me. The more you denounce my challenge and tell me my struggle is not okay, the more you push me away from Orthodoxy. If that is the goal, congratulations, you are succeeding. If it is not, then stop. Just stop. Just let me try and make a life for myself and stay frum.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The reason

aaaand now for the heavy stuff. The real reason I'm writing this blog is to hopefully help people understand the situation of life. Not for pity or sympathy or love or support. Just understanding. I am a Frum Jew. I have alway been a Frum Jew. And With Hashem's help, I will continue to be a Frum Jew.
The challenge Hashem gave me is that I am not attracted to women, I am attracted to men. Unfortunately, the Torah tells us not to be with men. Do I think anyone can lead a completely celibate life? No. But one can try. I have never and will never say "it's okay to be Gay accordoing to Orthodox Judaism." It is not. And this is why I struggle every day.
I do not regret coming out. I am still happy with the decision to let the world know of the struggle of homosexuality and Judaism. However, it is still a struggle. And it is not okay to go against the Torah, no matter what our hearts desire.
There's plenty more to come.

It Gets Better- Gay Orthodox Jews