Gay Jews, straight Jews, mitzva-observing Jews.

This is already a week old, but I really wanted to share it again here: Shmuley Boteach’s take on homosexuality in Judaism. Whether you’re a fan or a foe, I think it’s a well-thought out and ballsy read. Give it a try:

No Holds Barred: The Jewish view of homosexuality

A few of my favorite parts:

  • There are 613 commandments in the Torah. One is to refrain from gay sex. Another is for men and women to marry and have children. So when Jewish gay couples come to me for counselling and tell me they have never been attracted to the opposite sex in their entire lives and are desperately alone, I tell them, “You have 611 commandments left. That should keep you busy…
  • The mistake of so many well-meaning people of faith is to believe that homosexuality is a moral rather than a religious sin. A moral sin involves injury to an innocent party. But who is being harmed when two, unattached, consenting adults are in a relationship? Rather, homosexuality is akin to the prohibition of lighting fire on the Sabbath or eating bread during Passover. There is nothing immoral about it, but it violates the divine will.
  • The American religious and electoral obsession with all-gay-marriage-all- the-time has led to a values-vacuum where it is near impossible to discuss real solutions to the erosion of family life. For instance, making marital counselling tax deductible would do infinitely more to bolster the crumbling institution of marriage than any opposition to gay relationships.
  • And all I’m asking from my religious brethren is this: Even as you oppose gay relationships because of your beliefs, please be tortured by your opposition. Understand that when our most deeply held beliefs conflict with our basic humanity, we should feel the tragedy of the conflict, rather than simply find convenient scapegoats upon whom to blame all of America’s ills.
  • I have observant friends who keep mitzvot way better than I do; who are kinder people than I am; who are believing, practicing Jews to the core. They happen to be gay.

    I’m married to a man, we have a child, but I can promise you my Judaism is a sad case of laziness.

    I wonder who truly ends up with the better karma at the end?

    Ynet is the authority on Haredi weddings.

    Ynet did it again. This isn’t the second time I’ve noticed the blatant anti-religious fervor that an Israeli newspaper is purposely trying to spread. This is the 328975623th time.

    I used to actually enjoy reading Ynet. It was one of the central papers; sitting somewhere between JPost and Haaretz (in English, anyway).

    Their credibility has completely been shot as in the last few years it has become repeatedly obvious that Ynet can’t control itself regarding its one-sided commentary on religious and haredi life.

    Let me include a disclaimer: I’m no haredi, and I don’t look or act dati leumi. It doesn’t matter what I actually am. I’m a former newspaper reporter and I’m angry at this ridiculous, blatant, one-sided hatred pouring from Ynet’s pages.

    This isn’t the best example; there are tons of others. I’m just tired. It’s this essay in Ynet about haredi weddings. Yes, it’s tongue-in-cheek. Yes, it ends in a positive light, if you get to the end and haven’t gotten bored and moved on before that. No, it is not indicated anywhere that it is meant to be humorous or satirical. It falls under the often-infuriating ‘Jewish Life’ column. Why not add a tag at the top that it’s meant to be humor? And why do your Jewish Life columns always focus on either a tiny out-of-context detail related to sections of haredi populations or poking fun at them without explaining truth?

    Your audience is mostly secular, Ynet. Why fan flames of distrust, dislike and hatred on a weekly basis? Why not promote understanding, reporting the deeper stories about all kinds of demographics, the stories most Israelis on different sides don’t see?

    Fanning hatred on the 9th of Av.

    Can someone explain to me how publishing an article about which Israeli demographic hates which other Israeli demographic is supposed to be appropriate for Tisha B’Av?

    Why so negative, Ynet? Why stir the pot of hatred and conflict and darkness?

    As a Jew who studied for years and years about Jewish history, as a student who spent the last few years studying conflict management, and as a mother for just over one year… I take offense at Ynet’s skewed survey and the publishing of its superficial results – so incredibly anti what the next 25 hours are about.

    And if they want to make it sound like it’s something only observantly religious folks care about, their own survey proves them wrong.

    The fact is, a day that is set aside in Judaism for mourning our own destruction, due to our own hatred of own people, is something the entire Jewish world – secular, religious, purple or green – should acknowledge.

    This is the easiest day in the Jewish calendar to secular-ify. Teachings of tolerance, peace, treating others the way we would want to be treated…

    Really? Does that not speak to you, Ynet?

    It’s a shame there isn’t more outreach, programming and news related to the positive effects that are possible from the core causes for our mourning on Tisha B’Av.

    Another brit, another Jew.

    Yesterday we participated in what must be the oldest Jewish ritual, decended straight from (poor) Abraham. I do not envy Sarah, by the way, who had to deal with the healing of not only an 8-day-old with a bruised penis, but a moody teenager and her senior-citizen husband. 

    Yes, the brit mila. Ritually slicing and dicing to bring your newborn into the covenant with God. The blood and gore didn’t really bother me though. It’s the sad, slow healing process that makes it hard. Although – and I don’t care how graphic it is – when it comes to sad, slow genital healing, I can certainly relate. He should know, he was there. 

    …And is it not a  little strange that the mohel let us keep the knife?

    “Ze petek hachlafa,” he said.

    Once in 28 years.

    I’m the type to get excited by the rare traditions in Judiasm. The kind I never heard about in my two decades of formal Jewish education. So waking up at 5:45  this morning to join a minyan on a Tzur Hadassah roof top didn’t really bother me, even after a late night of cooking and a long week of running around. 

    Birkat HaChama is a bit controversial in regards to how necessary/important/accurate it is, but I still think it’s a pretty cool concept. My shul community in Tzur Hadassah made an impressive turnout as we joined together on our rabbi’s roof-level mirpeset to watch the sun rise over the Gush Etzion hills. We recited ‘oseh ma’ase bereshit’ and a few other graphs of mentioning the sun. 

    Sun’s first full peeking out over the hills past Tzur Hadassah.  

    Congregated to bless He who does the act of creation.

    Next chance to participate is in Jewish year 5797 or secular year 2037; how much will have changed by then? 

    Birkat Kohanim at the kotel.

    I had never seen it, and my dad is of the priestly persuasion, so the three of us went down to the kotel in the Old City yesterday to hear/see/be present at the ginormous Birkat Kohanim for chol hamoed Sukkot.

    Birkat Kohanim – known as ‘duchaning’ in Ashkenaz circles – is like a representation of the old days, when the kohanim would bless the people of Israel. On the 3 regalim – Pessach, Shavuot and Sukkot – it got more intense, since those were pilgrimage holidays. Jews from all over Israel would travel to Jerusalem, to the Beit Hamikdash, to deliver their sacrifices and be blessed.

    So this was a mini pilgrimage of sorts – a traveling to the Old City, which I very rarely do anymore.

    It was bursting with people, and it was the first time I’ve ever gotten a sense for what it must have been like back in the old days, when Jews would pack themselves in to even smaller spaces. It felt crowded, it stank and it was incredible to behold.

    Originally, when I was considering going, I thought I was going for the view – hundreds of Kohanim gathering under their tallitot at the front of the wall. But the scene wasn’t spectacular like I thought. It was actually what I heard – the sounds of the blessings, the voices of the Kohanim, the amens of the Jewish crowd.

    Take a peek (or more, take a listen) of the service here.

    And the diversity, of course, can always be described in the photos:

    And a happy 'queer rite of Jews' to you.

    Because I already have posted my past homemade sukkot, New York and ghetto Israeli style, I figured I’d post my first own semi-respectable Tzur Hadassah sukka:

    Spacious because we have a decent-sized mirpeset. Sturdy, because we have paychecks that can buy metal poles. And fun, because I did a search for ‘sukkot’ on Google Images and got some pretty interesting results (which I hung up).

    If you’re lost, perhaps you’d like to read up on the holiday from this old and inaccurate description from an early 20th century American newspaper article: