Volume 62 Number 46 
      Produced: Thu, 29 Jan 15 01:52:47 -0500

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

LGBT Rights (4)
    [Elazar M. Teitz  Martin Stern  Harry Weiss  Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
Seating on planes 
    [Martin Stern]
The Rabbi As Moral Authority 
    [Susan Kane]
Uva L'tziyon goel 
    [Yisrael Medad]


From: Elazar M. Teitz <remt@...>
Date: Sun, Jan 25,2015 at 07:01 AM
Subject: LGBT Rights

Leah S.R. Gordon (MJ 62#45) took issue with Martin Stern's opinion (MJ 62#44)
that Orthodox schools should be exempt from "teaching tolerance of lesbian, gay
and transgender relationships."  In expressing, and attempting to justify, her
disagreement, however, she makes statements and expresses opinions which, I
feel, cross the boundary of attitudes appropriate for this platform.  In
addition, some of her comments are either irrelevant or possibly incorrect.

She begins by stating that

> the scientific community is unanimous that homosexuality is inborn, not a sign
> of anything 'wrong' and  not 'curable'."

I would be surprised if the scientific community is unanimous about anything. 
In this case, however, is she contending that scientists have established, by
the accepted scientific method of controlled experiment, that such is the case,
or is she merely citing what is current scientific opinion?  If the former, I
would ask that she present us with the details of such tests.  If the latter,
then it is a meaningless appeal to authority: what scientists feel (as opposed
to what they prove) means no more nor less than what any other group feels.

She continues

> Religious freedom may mean that Mr. Stern doesn't have to engage in
> homosexual acts, but it certainly doesn't mean he can control 'other'
> people's sexual acts - including children in his community."

The issue is not the "control" of other people's acts.  The question is one of
teaching the children of one's own community that certain acts, although
accepted by the community at large, are immoral in the eyes of G-d.  If that
child grows up and chooses not to follow what s/he was taught, Mr. Stern does
not call for forcibly preventing that step; but it is certainly within the right
of any religious group to teach its young what the religion considers right, and
what is wrong.  Catholicism considers divorce immoral; would Ms. Gordon bar
their parochial schools from teaching this to its students?

Ms. Gordon continues

> To deny LGBT human beings their God-given rights to marriage, community,
> basic humanity - this would be the true travesty.

No one, of course, is denying anyone any of the rights listed.  But while the
right to marry is Divinely given, the right to marry anyone one chooses is most
definitely _not_ a G-d-given right.  Is there any society, free or otherwise,
that allows incestuous marriage -- even if the couple involved feel that they
cannot obtain sexual satisfaction in any other relationship?  Apparently,
society does see fit to draw a line in these matters; the only question is where
that line is drawn.  

She next states

> When children learn that a certain kind of human being is 'lesser' or worthy
> of being ignored, bullied, marginalized - then those children grow up to be
> bigoted adults who oppress others.

This is a red herring.  The question is not one of ignoring, bullying or
marginalizing; it is a question of whether an act the person performs is moral
or immoral.  We consider chillul Shabbat to be immoral, and teach our children
so.  This does not mean that we teach them to bully or marginalize m'chal'lei
Shabbat.  Furthermore, just as we do not consider a person who has a strong
desire to eat pork to be immoral, but do consider him such if he acts on that
desire, so too we do not consider the person with homosexual desires (whether
they be acquired or innate) to be immoral, but do deem him immoral if he acts on
that desire.

Next, Ms. Gordon states

> Now as to whether a Bais Yaakov school should be able to exempt itself from
> sex education or British Values education - I tend to think not.  I can see
> the public good for a country to ensure that all children, regardless of
> their parents' narrow-mindedness, can learn the values important to their
> country. In our own USA, we have a concept of 'fight speech with more speech'
> - if a religious parent thinks that s/he has the more correct point of view,
> let that parent use logic, reason, etc. to persuade his/her children of that
> view.  Censorship is usually borne out of fear of truth being revealed.

Here again is a red herring.  The question is not one of censorship, but of
respect: the British Values program teaches that engaging in homosexual acts is
moral and respectable, while the Torah most explicitly refers to them as "an
abomination," a capital offense if engaged in willingly, and one for which it is
required of Jewish men to give up their lives, if necessary, rather than to
perform.  Adhering to such a view is not "narrow-mindedness;" it is Divinely
dictated.  And the parent is indeed coping with it -- by sending the child to a
school which teaches the parents' values.

To use another analogy: Britain is, I believe, a Christian country,  If, as part
of its Values program, the government were to dictate teaching the propriety of
following Christian teachings, would anyone think that it belongs in Jewish schools?

Ms. Gordon concludes

> [I]t would be only to the good if more Chareidim, particularly girls,
> received accurate sex education and sexuality education, from as young an age
> as possible.  When girls are 'married off' barely out of adolescence, with
> little understanding of their own bodies, much less of boys' bodies, it's not
> a recipe for a healthy adult female sexuality.

Perhaps -- but one of the results of current non-Jewish education is the
prevalence of sexual activity among the adolescents who receive it.  When was
the last time we heard of a pregnant Bais Yaakov undergraduate?

And apparently Ms. Gordon is unaware of the fact that virtually all Chareidi
girls are given sex education prior to marriage, in a form known as kalla
classes, which generally include not only the laws of Tahorat hamishpacha
[family purity], but also explain the physical aspects of human sexuality. So
long as this education precedes marriage, what is the harm in deferrimg it until
that time, and what is the benefit of introducing it earlier, when -- as we see
in public education -- it could lead to improper experimentation?

Elazar M. Teitz

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Jan 25,2015 at 09:01 AM
Subject: LGBT Rights

Leah S. R. Gordon (MJ 62#45) wrote:

> It's hard to know where to start on this issue, but first of all, the
> scientific community is unanimous that homosexuality is inborn, not a sign
> of anything "wrong," and not "curable".

This is not completely true. This may be the consensus but it is primarily a
matter of opinion rather than established fact. In any case it is irrelevant
since Torah Judaism posits that everyone has free will and can act on his or
her innate tendencies or refrain from so doing if the Torah prohibits any
specific expression of them.

No doubt that the scientific community is unanimous that acquisitiveness is
also inborn, yet theft is prohibited. Just as the Torah expects us to work
on ourselves to avoid theft so it expects those with homosexual desires to
do the same with their inborn urges to engage in certain practices to which
they may feel inclined. It is no more than what is expected of heterosexuals
who may feel an overwhelming attraction to a sibling or child.
> Furthermore, this actually doesn't matter, because all "free" countries are
> progressing along the spectrum of accepting and honoring personal choice in
> sexual relationships, whether one individual approves of another or not.

This is hardly a matter of progress but, rather, a reversion to the mores of
classical antiquity where homosexual relations were seen as perfectly
normal, even desirable, conduct,  with great educational advantages,
especially to young men being groomed for their role in society - the true
form of Platonic love as in Plato's description in his Symposium of
Socrates's love for Alcibiades.

> Finally, it would be only to the good if more Chareidim, particularly
> girls, received accurate sex education and sexuality education, from as
> young an age as possible.

I would agree provided it is tailored to their age and social setting.
Unfortunately there are men, even in chareidi communities, who do not behave
properly and take advantage of young girls. The latter should be warned of this
and informed of whatever appropriate measures they should take. However this
might best be achieved by emphasising the ban on yichud [seclusion with someone
of the opposite sex] or negia [improper physical contact with someone of the
opposite sex] than detailed information on such sexual matters with which they
should not be concerned prior to marriage.

Martin Stern

From: Harry Weiss <hjweiss@...>
Date: Sun, Jan 25,2015 at 11:01 AM
Subject: LGBT Rights

Leah S. R. Gordon wrote (MJ 62#45):

> To deny LGBT human beings their God-given rights to marriage, community,
> basic humanity - this would be the true travesty, and I applaud the
> politicians who see this as an agenda for "fundamental British values" 
> even from my position as a wayward colonist.  ;)

I am shocked the editors allowed this.  G-d in his Holy Torah said their 
relationships are prohibited.  Any questioning of that is prohibited by the 
MJ charter.

From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Sun, Jan 25,2015 at 05:01 PM
Subject: LGBT Rights

Leah S. R. Gordon (MJ 62#45) wrote:

> In MJ 62#44, Martin Stern comments on:
>> Labor's shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said ... compulsory sex
>> and relationship education, including LGBT rights ... is common sense, not
>> nonsense ... [and] all schools [should have] to teach gay rights.'
> ...
> It's hard to know where to start on this issue, but first of all, the
> scientific community is unanimous that homosexuality is inborn, not a sign
> of anything "wrong," and not "curable".
> Furthermore, this actually doesn't matter, because all "free" countries are
> progressing along the spectrum of accepting and honoring personal choice in
> sexual relationships, whether one individual approves of another or not.

The analogy is not only if they insist that the yeshivah teach avodah zarah
[idol worshop -- mod] as somehow "correct", but if they try to pass a law that
all restaurants *must* serve non-Kosher food and that all children *must* eat 
non-Kosher food as part of their "education". Just because the "scientific"
(meaning the political agenda of certain groups) "consensus" is one way or the
other, does not mean that we are required to abandon the Torah to promote that

The problem is that the British school system is being forced to teach that
certain activities that are forbidden by the Torah are not only allowed, but
should be encouraged.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Jan 18,2015 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Seating on planes

Immanuel Burton wrote (MJ 62#44):

> In MJ 62#43 Martin Stern wrote about reports of problems caused by chareidi
> men objecting to being seated next to women on planes:
>> This could easily be solved if El Al made available the facility, when
>> booking, to ask not to be seated next to someone of the opposite sex (some
>> ladies might also take up this option).
> How would this be implemented in an online check-in process?  Who's going to
> re-program El Al's check-in Web site and databases to include this extra
> seating preference?  And how are the booking preferences going to be
> cross-referenced? And what about other airlines who code-share with El Al?
> What about booking through third-party sites such as Expedia or Travelocity?

When placing one's booking, one has to include much personal data, including
preferred title. While those choosing Dr, say, are not disclosing their
gender, most will put Mr, Mrs etc. which does. In any case, adding a
question on the lines of "Do you prefer to be seated next to 

(1) only a male, 
(2) only a female or 
(3) no gender preference

should present no more problems than asking for a special diet or a seat with
extra leg room.

Perhaps I should not have used the term "check in", which might have confused
the issue, and, rather written "booking". At one time "ladies only" carriages
were available on trains for those women who were uncomfortable sitting with
men. I wonder what would be the reaction should a woman request the airline to
avoid placing her next to a man - somehow I suspect that would not create such a
furore. It is only politically correct attitudes that asking for such a seating
arrangement is somehow demeaning to women that prevent tolerance of such
requests by men, especially if they are chareidi males and, therefore, not
worthy of consideration.

> And what happens if, given the numbers of men and women on a given flight,
> it's not possible to seat one person according to their preference?

Obviously, once all reasonable efforts have been made to accommodate passengers'
requests, there would be nothing else to be done. This would be similar to where
an ordered kosher meal turns out to be unavailable. All the cabin crew can do is
apologise to the person concerned who, one would hope, would not make a fuss.
The problem is that El Al is perceived, probably incorrectly, as not being
interested in chareidi passengers' "meshugassen [stupid idiosyncracies]".

Martin Stern


From: Susan Kane <adarconsulting@...>
Date: Tue, Jan 27,2015 at 07:01 PM
Subject: The Rabbi As Moral Authority

Bill Bernstein wrote (MJ 62#45):

> A troubling article about a year ago in the Wall St. Journal brought me to 
> think about this topic. 
> ...
> This came on the heels of a very different story about the new Pope.  When 
> asked whether homosexuality was right or wrong he said "who am I to judge 
> such a thing?"  This overturns about 2000 years of Catholic doctrine.

The Pope actually has not changed Catholic doctrine on homosexuality in any
way, nor has Catholic doctrine changed on any other issue at variance with some
modern sexual mores (divorce, remarriage, abortion).  Catholic doctrine still
states that there is no appropriate sexual expression outside of marriage and
therefore those with a homosexual orientation should remain celibate.

What Francis seems to have decided to do is not to emphasize these specific
areas of Catholic doctrine.  Catholicism has a lot to say on a wide variety of
issues.  He doesn't think that the church should primarily be known for its
opposition to various sexual behaviors.

The actual quote was as follows:

When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and
being part of a lobby. *If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to
judge them?* They shouldn't be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is
not the problem they're our brothers.

In other words, he does not view homosexual desire as a theological problem. 
Expression of that desire is contrary to Catholic doctrine but since that is
perfectly clear, he doesn't feel the need to emphasize it. He has specifically
said that he feels that the Church is "obsessed" with sexual issues (not in a
good way).

Francis believes that everyone should remain in the church and that the church
should be an open and welcoming place for all and the primary experience people
should have in the church is one of love, care, concern, and support.  This does
not in any way mean that he is changing Catholic doctrine.  No one who studies
the Church expects deep doctrinal change on these issues during his papacy.

Imagine, for a moment, that American Orthodoxy was obsessed with niddah. Every
week, in your synagogue bulletins, you would receive a reminder about the
harkhakot.  Pre-menopausal couples would be watched to ensure that there is not
too much touching in public.  The rabbi would speak regularly on niddah and the
dangers of not tracking one's cycle correctly.  Liberal Jews who are known not
to keep niddah would be shunned.  Their children would not be welcomed in frum
schools.  Jews who live far from a mikvah would be looked at sideways.  How do
they observe niddah?  Maybe they don't?  etc.

Taharat ha-Mishpacha is an important mitzvah -- a *very* important mitzvah --
but would this really make for a pleasant, welcoming, community in which people
treat each with love and encourage each other in observance?  There is a reason
that the mitzvah is private and discussions about the mitzvah are private.  The
fact that we do not regularly discuss niddah from the bimah does not mean that
there has been a change in doctrine.

I think this is Francis' approach -- a change in tone and focus.  Not a change
in doctrine.  And tone and emphasis *do* make a difference in the human-lived
experience of religion, tradition, and community.

Susan Kane
Boston, MA


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Sun, Jan 25,2015 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Uva L'tziyon goel

Martin Stern (MJ 62#45) is still perplexed regarding reasons that were quoted
for not including the Uva L'tziyon prayer in the Shabbat Shacharit synagogue
service, writing:

> But this does not, in itself, answer the problem which was its omission in
> the morning.

I certainly think it does.  I cannot do better than the sources I located (MJ
62#44) and the reason is plainly stated there.  They seem to think that indeed
time is of the essence, and precious, and congregants should not be
over-burdened to unnecessarily stay in the synagogue so the collection of verses
which make up the prayer is therefore not to be said in the Shacharit service.

Of course, this may be one of those situations when a certain time in history
and certain local practices affected the Halachic viewpoint but that is another
issue on which both Martin and I have commented previously.

Yisrael Medad



End of Volume 62 Issue 46