July 24, 2024
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July 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

On Sensitivity and Standing Up for Torah

It was with interest and no small degree of appreciation that I read the three letters in the past (April 29, 2021) issue of The Jewish Link in response to Rabbi Applebaum’s article (“A Modest Proposal for LGBTQ Jews”) in the previous week’s issue (April 22, 2021). (While the term “modest proposal” is reminiscent of Jonathan Swift’s famous satirical essay and could therefore very well be used to indicate that a piece is intended as satire, I assume based on the contents of the article, as did all three letter-writers, that the phrase was not intended in this way in this case.)

I would particularly like to thank Avi Borenstein (“Fantasy Travels”) for his reminder that we have a mitzvah to reprove, though “correct” may be a more precise translation, our fellow Jews when necessary. It is very easy, especially in our community, for this mitzvah to be neglected out of a misguided desire to be nonjudgmental or avoid hurting feelings, or out of a misconception that people have a “right” of some sort to transgress the laws of the Torah or that it is “not our place” to correct our brethren. Thus, Mr. Borenstein’s reminder that it is our responsibility to help each other do the right thing is extremely welcome.

I would likewise like to thank Lisa Wadler (“Rabbi Applebaum’s Message”) and Hindishe Lee (“Orthodoxy and the Woke”) for pointing out that under no circumstances should we apologize for the laws of the Torah. On the contrary, we should proudly (perhaps even brazenly) refuse to apologize for the commandments of our God, even (or perhaps especially) when they are in violation of secular society’s mores.

Nevertheless, despite my deep appreciation for the points made by these letters, I believe that there is more at play here than their authors realize. While every mitzvah is more difficult for some people than for others due to their inborn tendencies, this is true to a far greater degree in the case of the ban against homosexuality. Additionally, certain individuals and groups, especially outside our community, have—sometimes using the Torah as an excuse—shown bigotry against those who have an inborn desire for this transgression (regardless of their actual actions), or have focused on it disproportionately to other sins of equal or greater severity. As a result of these facts, those who do have such desires may come to (incorrectly) feel like they are (regardless of their actions) being rejected as people, rather than simply facing a challenge that most of us do not.

The task for us to achieve, therefore, is to clarify to such individuals that we do welcome and love them and that we recognize the monumental task before them, while not failing to recognize that all mitzvot are in fact divine commands and that any behavior, goal or lifestyle that is in opposition to the Torah is thus necessarily illegitimate. I believe that Rabbi Applebaum’s proposal is an attempt to walk this line, and one that may (depending on the community in question and how it is likely to take such a statement) be a successful or even optimal approach to doing so.

Yitzhak Kornbluth
Teaneck
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