May 28, 2024
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May 28, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

To the Editor:

It is a pleasure to read Rabbi Gil Student’s articles in the Jewish Link. In the most recent article, “The  Modern Orthodox Jew and Gay Marriage” (July 9, 2015),  Rabbi Student tackles the “correct response” to the recent Supreme Court decision affirming gay “marriage” as a constitutional right.

Rabbi Student’s conclusion is that the philosophy of personal happiness as the supreme value that underlies the Supreme Court’s decision stands in direct contradiction to the Torah that sets obedience to God’s will as the highest value.  In case of conflict between personal happiness and demands of the Torah, we must surrender to God’s will and duty must prevail.

This conclusion is, of course, something that is impossible to disagree with. But what should trouble us is the path taken to reach it.

Rabbi Student starts by positing a conflict, one that presumably goes on in the head and heart of a Modern Orthodox Jew, between the Torah’s viewpoint on forbidden relationships and the “reasons to rejoice at the decision,” such as “lovingly sharing in the moment of joy of gay family and friends,” “a victory for a marginalized minority” and “limits on government involvement in family matters.”

But the fact that such conflict exists is itself indicative of a problem.  It is a conflict that we should not have, nor should the education that we impart to our children create it. Would a “Modern Orthodox Jew” “lovingly share” in his (or for the sake of gender-neutral inclusion currently in vogue, her) friend’s or child’s moment of joy when that friend or child marries a non-Jew? Of course our reaction is unequivocal.  Whatever happiness or joy might result from such a union, and certainly we all personally know happily intermarried couples, we cannot celebrate it or “lovingly share in their moment of joy.”  The case of gay “marriage” should be no different.

The same is true of the minor political considerations mentioned in the article.  They pale before crossing of what every society  has considered to be a red line, even those where homosexuality was widely accepted and practiced, such as pagan Greece and Rome.  How can we “applaud” a decision that removes an existential merit (see Talmud Chullin 92) for the sake of limitation of non-existent and imaginary government interference in our families?

The truth is, and it’s an unfortunate truth, that this conflict that Rabbi Student says exists for the Modern Orthodox Jew, comes from an implicit acceptance, even if perhaps a partial one, of the moral authority of the post-modern, quasi-pagan society that we live in.  Such acceptance inevitably leads to a conflict, one that Rabbi Student admirably resolves in Torah’s favor.  But why should there even be a conflict?   We cannot and should not accept the contemporary post-modern, quasi-pagan society’s moral authority in any way.  To do so is to travel on a road that leads to disaster.   Not everyone can resolve such conflicts, especially when they are completely unnecessary.  Rather, the message to ourselves and especially to our children should be clear and unconflicted.

A Modern Orthodox Jew cannot not accept the moral judgement of today’s quasi-pagan, post-modern society as authoritative in any way. Regarding this shameful Supreme Court decision there should be no conflict and there can be no joy.

Aryeh Grinberg

Fair Lawn, NJ

 

Editor’s Note: Apologies to Mr. Grinberg for not publishing his letter last week, when Rabbi Student responded to several letters. We reprint Rabbi Student’s response to this letter below:

Aryeh Grinberg wants to see no conflict between our instincts and the Torah’s guidance on gay marriage. I find that troubling. While we wish for everyone to find happiness in God’s embrace, real life isn’t always so simple. Many people live difficult lives. Personally, I wish for everyone emotional and physical comfort, menuchas ha-nefesh u-menuchas ha-guf. For gay Jews, as for many others, this is frequently out of reach in specific ways. In general, our task in life is to juggle many conflicting priorities and values. We have to balance our desire for our friends’ emotional satisfaction with our Torah worldview of right and wrong. When Rav Soloveitchik told a ba’al teshuvah, who had recently discovered he was a kohen, and his convert fiancee that they could not marry, he did not tell them to be happy; he cried with them. We, too, can cry with our gay friends when necessary and rejoice with them when appropriate.

Gil Student

To the Editor:

Our thanks for Amanda Leifer’s coverage of the Summer Girls Learning Initiative (“Summer Girls Learning Initiative Offers Opportunity for Local Teen Girls,” July 9, 2015). I wanted to add that SGLI is an NCSY (National Council of Synagogue Youth-OU)–sponsored program among the many excellent summer learning programs that NCSY provides. It is a testament to NCSY’s commitment to the growth and spiritual development of adolescents during the summer months. On behalf of the girls who attend the sessions, and we the teachers who share shiurim with the girls, we express our gratitude to NCSY for providing this program each summer.

Thank you.

Aliza Frohlich

To the Editor:

In the lobby of our shul, there is a table where shul officials put shul fliers, people who seek donations for their respective organizations put their pamphlets and distributors of Jewish newspapers put their wares so people can take and react upon.  In times, there are advertisements for Chinese auctions that would benefit some organization of unknown reputation that all we know about it is that it organizes Chinese auctions. Occasionally, there are also religious texts, some with reputable provenance such as קריאת שמע על המיטה, and some of questionable quality such as Segulot for something. Usually such texts serve as advertisements for a whole book or a whole series of books, or to distribute the specific text for our benefit.  In the latter case, you expect to find some solicitation for donations in the end, so the good people behind the good idea can continue to distribute that text for our benefit.

This week we have something new, the text of תקון חצות, with a lot of recommendations from some חרדי rabbis and some rather primitive stories in English and Hebrew to entice us to say תקון חצות. So far not so much difference than the usual. But on the front, in large white on red letters and placed prominently, there is a pointer to see inside how to win two tickets to fly to Israel.

Which brings the question, what is Torah good for…to get two tickets to fly to Israel?

Ze’ev Atlas

Teaneck

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