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Lamrot Hakol (Despite Everything)

Musings and kvetchings and Torah thoughts from an unconventional Orthodox Jew.

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"I blog, therefore I am". Clearly not true, or I wouldn't exist except every now and then.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Modern vs. Ultra: A False Dichotomy

Recently, I've been poking around in the blogosphere, reading various Jewish bloggers. There's a distressing number of blogs written by Jews who are frum in their day to day lives (or at least they identify that way), but have the hashkafa of left-wing Conservative Jews.

Moses Mendelssohn is considered the spiritual father of the Reform movement. Ol' Moses did such a hot job Jewishly that his grandchildren were all either non-Jews or Jews who converted to Christianity. He's a cautionary tale made flesh.

Because -- and this is sometimes ignored by a lot of people -- Moses Mendelssohn was frum. He was as observant as any frum Jew of his time. Nor, I think, did it ever occur to him not to be. The problem was never his observance. It was his hashkafa. To use Rabban Gamliel's terminology, tocho lo hayah k'baro. His insides were not like his outsides. He may have done all the ritual, but hell, anyone can do that. You can train a monkey to lay tefillin if you want. On the inside, where he generated his thoughts and ideas -- the thoughts and ideas that made him a Jewish dead-end -- he was a goy.

There's a growing number of the ein tocham k'baram (ETK) crowd, it seems, and an awful lot of them have blogs. And I tremble to see what's going to be in another generation. To think of what they teach their children. I can only hope that the social pressure to send their kids off to yeshiva will minimize the ill effect these people will have on the next generation of frum Jews.

But I'm getting offtrack a little. This is about the ridiculous false dichotomy between "Modern Orthodox" and "Ultra Orthodox". I find both of these groups a little scary and a little pathetic. With regards to the "Modern Orthodox", so-called, I refer you to my article on the Edah/JOFA/CLAL axis. With regards to the "Ultra Orthodox", also so-called, I want to tell you a little story.

In 1997, I was davening on the Yamim Noraim by a certain Young Israel. The daughter of the rav there invited me for lunch on the second day (I think it was) of Rosh HaShana. During the meal, we got onto the topic of ancient history. Of course. I mean, people ask what you do, and you tell them that you're a secretary, but that you also work on articles and books in the field of ancient history, and it tends to pique their curiosity.

I waxed all passionate about the need to educate frum kids about archaeology and the way in which it can enhance our understanding of our history. After all, unless they're completely cloistered, they're going to run into claims that archaeology contradicts Tanakh, and if they're left unarmed, they're going to wind up like the very many ETK Jews I was complaining about above.

I cited books like Artscroll's History of the Jewish People: The Second Temple Period as an example of the problem. The book is so riddled with contradictions that anyone with a modicum of reasoning skills is going to read it and ask, "Why are these people lying to me?" At which point, the rav's daughter started looking extremely uncomfortable. So I dropped the Artscroll bashing, like a good guest. Rav Scroll can look out for himself, after all.

But I gave her another example. The Living Torah. Now don't get me wrong. I like The Living Torah. But there's a problem with it. Not a problem that stems from the book itself, nor -- chas v'shalom -- from R' Aryeh Kaplan z'l, who wrote it. No, the problem stems from the outlook that's become representative of the so-called Ultra Orthodox community. You see, R' Kaplan has notes in this translation of the Torah. Botanical notes, explaining what exactly the plants are which are referred to in the Torah. You want to know what atzei shittim are? Check the bottom of the page and read all about the Acacia tree (if I'm remembering correctly). And historical notes. The Torah talks about Pharaoh and Joseph. Well, check out the notes at the bottom of the page and learn all about Amenemhet II, or whichever Egyptian king R' Kaplan identified with Joseph's Pharaoh.

And therein lies the problem. Because Amenemhet and Sesostris and the rest of that dynasty probably all date to the period of the Judges. Along with their contemporary, Hammurabi of Babylon. Or maybe I'm wrong, and they don't. But in any case, R' Aryeh Kaplan, for all his brilliant scholarship in the areas of Torah and physics, was not an expert in Assyriology or Egyptology or archaeology. He never claimed to be. He didn't study up on the subjects and determine as a Torah truth that Amenemhet II lived at the same time as Yosef HaTzaddik. No, he probably opened an encyclopedia, and looked to see who historians say was king of Egypt at that time.

I pointed out to the rav's daughter that there were probably people who thought it was a matter of emunat hachamim, or trust in the rabbis, to accept R' Kaplan's identifications in this matter.

And readers, how do you think she reacted? Let me preface this by saying that she'd gone to Stern College, but her outlook was 100% "Ultra Orthodox". She looked at me with a mixture of discomfort and a small amount of horror and said, "But if R' Aryeh Kaplan said that's who it is, you can't just dismiss it."

Hmm... Yes, actually, I can. And I do. And I do so without taking the slightest bit of respect and credit away from R' Kaplan. Rabbis are people, folks, and just like you and me, they can make mistakes, particularly in areas outside of their expertise. That's why we have the rule that says rabbis have to consult physicians when it comes to medical questions. And it doesn't begin and end with medicine. When the Rambam spoke about astronomy, he based it on the experts of his time. They were wrong, and so was he. Big deal. When Reb Moshe Feinstein wrote a teshuva claiming that no one can actually have a sexual orientation towards members of the same sex, and that anyone saying they do simply has a yetzer hara for forbidden acts, I can -- and do -- say that he was dead wrong. And I say it without taking the tiniest bit of kavod away from him. He spoke out of assumptions that at the time and in his cultural milieu were understandable. But he was wrong. Just as the Rambam was wrong about planets being embedded in spheres with the Earth at the center.

And that's why I have a hard time with the so-called Ultra Orthodox. And in case you wonder why I keep referring to these folks as "so-called", it's because I dispute the labels. The "Ultra Orthodox" are no more orthodox than those of us who refuse to bow the social pressures that require plus signs to be made like a (T) or kamatzim to be revised so that they have little balls on the bottom. And the "Modern Orthodox"... well, so many of them are more orthoprax these days than orthodox, but they certainly aren't any more "modern" than those of us who are computer geeks, but still insist on the Truth (with a capital T) of the Torah.

When I lived in Israel, there was a category called "Yeshivish". Yeshivish Jews didn't cower in the ghetto, but at the same time, they stood fast against creeping Mendelssohnism. As someone who is proud to be yeshivish, hashkafically speaking, I'm tired of the loopy extremes that are touted as the only two groups within the frum world. And like everyone who rejects the far extremes, I've grown used to being called "Modern Orthodox" by the ultras and "Ultra Orthodox" by the moderns. But I don't like it. It shows a shallowness of thought that is one of the biggest flaws in the frum community today. Across the spectrum.

42 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's amazing how you give special dispensation only in the area of homosexuality. What a hypocrite! - Jacko

5:10 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Excuse me, I do nothing of the sort. Homosexuality is not a Torah category. Mishkav zachor is forbidden, as are certain related activities. Nashim ha-mesollelot is forbidden.

These are halakhic concepts. "Homosexuality" is not. Judaism is about making distinctions; not blurring them. People who use the term "homosexuality" in a halakhic context are being dishonest. It's like using the word "purity" in a discussion about tuma and tahara, only worse.

6:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder why it's important to draw fences around minor, unimportant things to make sure one doesn't break Shabbos (tearing toilet paper comes to mind), but you don't want to erect any fences around nashim ha-mesollelot. Why do you put yourself in the position of being tempted? - Jacko

8:07 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I don't decide where the fences go, Jacko. Nor do you. And I don't decide what's important and what's not. And neither do you.

Tearing toilet paper is a reasonable question. I was taught that there's nothing wrong with tearing toilet paper on Shabbat. That you shouldn't/can't tear it on the perforations, because that's mamash cutting to form, which is certainly a melacha, but that just ripping it isn't a big deal.

Is it better to pre-tear toilet paper? Well, hell yes. I mean, it's perforated. Tear it randomly, and you're often going to wind up tearing along those lines. So given the choice, why not tear it ahead of time?

But sometimes I run out, and I forget to tear any ahead of time. And do I worry about it? Do I use Kleenex? Do I ask someone to bring me pre-torn TP from another bathroom? Please. I use the toilet paper that's there, and I don't give it a second thought. Same thing if I'm by someone for Shabbat who hasn't torn any.

My partner is more makpid than I am about the pre-tearing. Honestly, I'm not sure I'd even bother if it weren't for her.

As far as nashim ha-mesollelot is concerned, how do you know I don't put fences around it? You don't know the first thing about my personal life. And what kind of fence were you looking for, anyway? Do you think we should take on all of the stringencies of mishkav zachor, which is one of the arayot? Kirva, yichud, etc.? Why, exactly would we want to do that?

10:01 AM  
Blogger Milhouse said...

Excuse me, Shabbat is a minor unimportant thing, while nashim hamesolelot is some major ikkar in the Torah? You've got that exactly backward. Shabbat is a klal gadol; one who openly flouts shabbat is mumar lechol hatorah. Whatever the issur of nashim hamesolelot actually is, it's at most a lav shebichlalut, one that the Torah didn't even bother mentioning, on a par with such obscure issurim as possessing a human figurine, or men plucking white hairs. And it may not even be that high up the list.

Tearing toilet paper in order to get a piece of a usable size, can be mechatech or makeh bepatish. As the paper is, attached to the roll, it's not usable; once you tear it, it is. That's why you're tearing it. There may be heterim bish'at hadchak, but it's not something to cavalierly dismiss while you go after those eevil lesbians who are the real lawbreakers, if you only knew which law they're breaking.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Huh... guess i'm one of those so-called Modern people who thinks so-called Yeshivish is a subset of so-called Ultra.

What's the difference exactly? Can you identify it with one of the more detailed terms used in the judeoblogosphere, like RWMO or LWUO?

4:52 PM  
Blogger etzba ketana said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:21 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Steg--

I hate the terminology of "left wing" and "right wing". When I use the term yeshivish, I'm talking about people who participate in general society, rather than separating themselves off like hareidim tend to do. And I'm talking about people who take the Torah and everything in it deadly seriously. In a way that most self-described Modern Orthodox and far too many self-described Ultra Orthodox do not.

For example, every morning, you say eileh b'rechev v'eileh b'susim, right? God protects us, or not, as appropriate, and not our ability to field a super army.

So here's a simple question: Does Israel need the United States? There are both right wing Orthodox and left wing Orthodox who would say "yes". I say that's pathetic. And that people who feel that way should be honest enough to skip eileh b'rechev when they daven.

There are people who identify as Modern Orthodox because that's the community they live in, but who aren't like the Eidah-istim. And there are people who identify as Ultra Orthodox, for similiar reasons.

There are people who identify as Modern because what they see as Ultra disgusts them, and there are others who identify as Ultra, because what they see as Modern disgusts them. Many of these are actually part of the group I'm talking about.

And etzba ketana, watch your language, or I'll just delete your comments. Verstehst?

8:55 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Looks like etzba ketana deleted his or her own comment. Fair enough.

7:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the claim of hypocrisy. Girl-on-girl action is prohibited rabbinically, and, at the very least, would be consider pritzut.

I'd love to see how the "yeshivish" world, to whom you claim to be a part of, would see you. I'm guessing they'd laugh their butts off.

3:38 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Hey, nonny, nonny.

Have I mentioned lately how annoying it is when people criticize behind anonimity? I mean, use a name, at least. Even if it isn't your own.

There's no hypocrisy on my part. "Girl on girl action". Get your mind out of the gutter.

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

not as annoying as people pretending to be holier than thou. A yeshivish lesbian? Give me a break. I'll stick with my Mendelssohnian Orthopraxis and know that I'm far more consistent than you.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

You need to get over yourself, Nonny. No one disputes that certain things are forbidden. But when you accuse me of engaging in those things, you make yourself the rasha. Kol ha-posel, b'mumo posel.

And how ironic is it that someone who admits to "Mendelssohnian Orthopraxis" should feel free to spew rechilut towards me on grounds that he can't possibly substantiate.

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me, spewing rechilut? You have a partner. You're a lesbian. Unless y'all are merely roommates, (and believe me, I don't want to know) you're a farce.

There's not a posek out there that would matir what you do. Not even a very modern orthodox one, let alone the yeshivish ones.

4:25 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Nonny, do you know what happens when you assume?

Zil gmor, bucko. You need to open a sefer or ten and learn what the halakha actually is. Not what you assume it to be.

And while you're at it, you might want to start with R' Pliskin's Guard Your Tongue. Learn what you're allowed to presume about other frum Jews and what you're not.

I'm not just gay. I'm a frum Jew. And as a frum Jew, you don't get to apply the stereotypes you may think appropriate to gays and lesbians in general to me.

If you hear that a Jew is from the USA, you can't assume that, like most Americans, he or she thinks premarital sex is just fine and dandy. You can't assume that he views marriage as a joke (as the nauseating divorce rate shows is the case for the average American). No. Because he is frum, you recognize that he places frum values first, despite the fact that he's an American.

Think about it. I'm not a part of the secular/gentile "gay community", and you owe me an apology. And don't be afraid, Nonny. Your cowardly skulking behind anonymity means that you can do the right thing and apologize without your community ostracizing you.

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah, I'll pass. I've opened seferim (more than 10).

You've spewed forth your na'arishkeit on both UO and MO, self-declared as a lesbian with a partner, and you're quoting Pliskin to me? Gimme a break.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Needsabetterjob said...

Really Lisa, the thing I get from you is this trying to force frum people to accept you as a lesbian frum person. Like you are on the one hand, appearing to come from Love, but once you see some negativity, you hand it back. Like you refuse to accept, that frum people for the most part, will not accept your lifestyle. It seems to me that you are trying to force frum people to fully accept this lifestyle, meaning, that you
go against the grain, in the sense of not being fully married, to a male, and raising a family. Instead there is your partner.

I am and no one, is saying you are wrong per se, but to expect the mainstream frum person to accept this lifestyle is a tad naive. I have seen you posting like this all over the internet.

I appreciate that you are trying to effect changes in people's thinking and ways of looking at alternative lifestyles, but I just don't see it ever happening, and instead, you are spreading negativity.

9:32 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I hear what you're saying. But what exactly do you think I should do? The facts are as I've stated them.

Fact: "I am gay" is not a confession of wrongdoing.

Fact: There is a single prohibition related to intimacy between women.

Fact: That prohibition is not bi'ah and is not included in the category of arayot, and therefore does not get extended to intimacy in general.

Fact: There are d'Orayta prohibitions against treating a frum Jew as though she is a transgressor, and absolute criteria that define what is permissible and what is not.

Are you complaining that I'm tilting at windmills here? That I'm fighting a cause that a sensible person would realize can never be won, at least in the short term? That I should just give up and accept the fact that there is inappropriate behavior in the frum community?

I'm sorry, but I'm just not made that way. Truth is truth, and I'm not willing to submit to a lie just because a lot of people believe it.

I have watched frum Jews deal with being gay, and I have seen the viciousness they are subjected to. People who would never in a million years act that way to someone who proudly desecrates Shabbat or denies the very existence of God are willing to treat people like us as filth, with absolutely no halakhic justification.

I've watched friends abandon the Torah derekh because of exactly what you're saying. Denied any community in the frum world, they've gone elsewhere.

Do you know the story of Choni HaMe'agel? Not the one with the circle and the rain, but the one that Rip Van Winkle was cribbed from.

Choni falls asleep for 70 years, and when he goes back home, no one knows him. No one. He's utterly isolated, and he prays to Hashem to let him die. A prayer that gets granted.

People aren't supposed to have to survive in social exile. And frum Jews, who know probably better than anyone in the world what that's like, and what it's like to have to deal with hostile people who believe lies about them, should be the last people in the world to treat people like us so shabbily.

It's unjust. It's intolerable.

I don't spend all my time fighting this fight. Believe me, I'd rather not fight it at all. But look at the comments on this blog entry. Did I raise the issue? No. Some asshat named Jacko did.

Over on R' Gil Student's blog, Hirhurim, there's a thread about the so-called simcha given to Havivah Ner-David. I open my mouth, and three different idiots all slam me because I'm a lesbian.

And I'm not about to hide in shame. I shouldn't have to, because I have nothing to be ashamed of. So I tell the truth, and jerks who think ad hominem arguments are valid beat on me whenever I talk about anything else. So yes, I'll address the issue. Why shouldn't I?

It sounds like your issue is that I'm "spreading negativity". How? By not acquiescing to vicious libel? By not responding to statements like Jacko's at the beginning of the comments here with, "Oh, gosh, Jacko. You're right! How can I ever criticize anyone when I'm such an icky lesbian myself?"

I mean, what exactly do you think would be an appropriate response? Clearly, you have an idea, because you don't like the way I'm dealing with it now. So, what is it?

10:26 AM  
Blogger Needsabetterjob said...

I think you should walk away when you encounter negativity. Come to any discussion from Love, but be ready to walk away.

Veeresh, the guy who started the Humaniversity, says you have no choice but to come from love,
but if you start getting negativity thrown back at you, after a while it's time to go.

It could be that there is no solution to your issue.

We in the west are programmed to think there is always a solution, just waiting to be tapped.

My theory is not important as to why you are encountering this seeming overreaction.

But it is that a portion of the people themselves are if I may use this term, gay supressed, meaning that they have thought of joining your team and forgive me for the terms. So they prefer to put up a spam blocker as it were.

2:19 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

With all due respect, and I mean that extremely literally, I think wacked out Eastern guru type things like this "Humaniversity" are something that Jews should avoid.

If you're looking for answers, we have them here, you know. Hafoch bah v'hafoch bah. You haven't learned all there is to learn from the wisdom that Hashem gave us. Why are you wasting your time with new-agey stuff like this?

I'm sure you'll see that as "negative" and walk away (as you suggest that I do), but it's not. I'm not just saying, negatively, that this nutty cult is a nutty cult. I'm saying very positively that there's a vast world of Torah right here, and that you should look into that instead.

Perhaps you've walked away from Judaism because you felt it was being too negative to you. Maybe that's why you think I should do the same. All I can say is that by your own principles, if it bothers you that I'm continuing to fight, you should walk away. In all honesty, your argument to me is at least as futile and doomed to failure as my argument to the frum community. More, because I at least have something to base my position on other than some guy named Denny Sanchez.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Needsabetterjob said...

SO you're closed minded. You can't learn from others?

You are making many assumptions.

I am pointing out a better way to be. If you want to continue arguing and splitting hairs, and trying to be accepted by the entire spectrum of Orthodoxy,
go right ahead. I have been observing your arguments for some time now, and I don't see that you are making the kind of progress that you seem for some reason to strive for.

The man Denny, was a drug addict in Spanish Harlem in NY, for many years and he was able to get clean. He started programs to treat addicts and was then invited by the Dutch government to work w/ their addicts. Through this work he developed programs that are a help to many people around the world, including btw, Orthodox 'teens at risk' from Brooklyn who make the trek to Northern Holland to attend his events.

I think he has done quite alot for humanity, and I respect him for that. I don't need to put him down because he is not exactly a Jew.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Well, hell yes, I'm closed minded. I mean, to a point. Should I go and take lessons in Christianity because there might be something of value in it?

"If someone tells you there is wisdom among the nations, believe them." Sure. But are you so steeped in knowledge of the Torah that you can now go and see if anyone else has some ideas? I don't think so.

You don't think I'm making progress. Well, it's true that I'm not making as much as I'd like. But it isn't only about getting immediate results.

I should tell the dvar about why Lot listened to the angels and his sons-in-law just laughed. It's pertinent. But not right now.

(Incidentally, I don't know what you mean by "not exactly a Jew". Is he "inexactly" a Jew?)

When I was a kid, I read a book by Heinlein called Space Cadets. At one point in the book, these kids are stranded on some moon, and there's absolutely no way they can get off themselves. They have to wait to be rescued.

But while they're waiting, they work on a plan to get off the moon. Despite the fact that they know it isn't possible. Because when they get picked up, they don't want to be found sitting on their butts.

This is the same thing. Sometimes it's worth fighting for a cause, even if you know you aren't going to win it. That's not to say that I haven't had any results at all. I have. But they're small, and any real progress probably isn't going to happen in my lifetime. Still, I'm happy knowing that I'm making the effort.

Lo alecha ha-melach ligmor, v'lo ata ben chorin l'hibatel mimena. That's Rabbi Tarfon. Words to live by.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Well, hell yes, I'm closed minded. I mean, to a point. Should I go and take lessons in Christianity because there might be something of value in it?

"If someone tells you there is wisdom among the nations, believe them." Sure. But are you so steeped in knowledge of the Torah that you can now go and see if anyone else has some ideas? I don't think so.

You don't think I'm making progress. Well, it's true that I'm not making as much as I'd like. But it isn't only about getting immediate results.

I should tell the dvar about why Lot listened to the angels and his sons-in-law just laughed. It's pertinent. But not right now.

(Incidentally, I don't know what you mean by "not exactly a Jew". Is he "inexactly" a Jew?)

When I was a kid, I read a book by Heinlein called Space Cadets. At one point in the book, these kids are stranded on some moon, and there's absolutely no way they can get off themselves. They have to wait to be rescued.

But while they're waiting, they work on a plan to get off the moon. Despite the fact that they know it isn't possible. Because when they get picked up, they don't want to be found sitting on their butts.

This is the same thing. Sometimes it's worth fighting for a cause, even if you know you aren't going to win it. That's not to say that I haven't had any results at all. I have. But they're small, and any real progress probably isn't going to happen in my lifetime. Still, I'm happy knowing that I'm making the effort.

Lo alecha ha-melach ligmor, v'lo ata ben chorin l'hibatel mimena. That's Rabbi Tarfon. Words to live by.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Needsabetterjob said...

Lisa, Unfortunately no religion provides a structure for addressing real people's real life issues - the deeper questions of the meaning of life, work and human relations issues, and so on - the explanations or concepts are primitive and crude and just don't fit into the intricate and sophisticated mind that is our major tool for surviving and thriving. It's more like your'e given an operations manual and they say, if you read this and follow the instructions - or our interpretations of the instructions - the machine will work, everything will be OK. But machines are not all the same, the manual is too complicated, it doesn't seem to have focus, machines malfunction, they add on more and more reference manuals that the layman can never figure out, he needs more natural and ntuitive tools. And when religion does seem to move forward, like Rabbis who also function as counselors, it's because they have used borrowed science or psychology, it's not coming from within. Even this new openness within Orthodoxy is the result of people's experiences outside of the mainstream. Religion is stale, it can never be alive. Judaism is lucky that is has allowed itself to evolve a bit, and it also lucky that it has Israel, a secular phenomenon, which it clings to.

In my personal case, being frum did not help at all, through a career crisis of about 4 years.

Before that, everything was peachy. I went to a shiur, 3 times a week, etc.

There are social realities that our religion does not address.

I did read a good book recently by someone who is a follower of Reb Shlomo Carlebach and all them.

She mentioned about heartbreak it being a part of Judaism, I think frm the Kotzker Rav she got that.

That resonated w/ me a bit, but it doesn't help my lack of feeling in terms of having to go to Shule all the time. I don't want to go like a robot.

8:39 AM  
Blogger Needsabetterjob said...

I have some questions on the thread topic itself.

1.What is the difference between MZ and NH (comment #2).

2.Do we find anywhere in the Torah a model for same sex cohabitation?

3. DO you feel that same sex attaction, i.e. homosexuality, is a choice, or the persons as such have no possibility of being in a hetero committed family entity, either technically or emotionally.

4. If you feel that the answer to # 3 is no choice, on what Torah concept are you basing this on?

9:28 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Needsabetterjob said...
I have some questions on the thread topic itself.

Actually, none of your questions have the slightest thing to do with the topic. I didn't post a blog entry about being a lesbian, about the halakhot that are relevant to that. I posted "Modern vs. Ultra: A False Dichotomy"

The orientation was raised by someone else.

1.What is the difference between MZ and NH (comment #2).

You'll have to be more clear about what you're asking. What's the difference between worshipping an idol and eating treyf? What's the difference between a Cadillac sedan and a pencil?

A better question would be: "What do MZ and NM have in common?" And the answer to that is: "They're both assur, and they are both forms of sexual contact." That's actually a fairly comprehensive answer to the question, and it allows me to answer your question about how they differ by saying, "In every way other than the fact that they are both assur and both forms of sexual contact."

2.Do we find anywhere in the Torah a model for same sex cohabitation?

Define "cohabitation". Are you talking about just cohabitation?

I might point to Ruth giving birth to a child, and the people saying that a child had been born to Naomi. But that might make people think that I was implying they were a couple.

Sandi DuBowski made a film called Trembling Before G-d. I was involved in the project in the beginning, and eventually had him take my name off of it. But he had what he called his "rabbi reel". A collection of over an hours worth of footage of interviews of rabbis. Some of them were pretty major ones, in fact.

One of these, according to what Sandi told me, was R' Aharon Feldman, who Sandi told me had said, on film, that there was nothing wrong with two women building a home together and raising a family. He was also quite clear that was did not under any circumstances, permitting two women to have sex.

It was actually Sandi's "editorial decision" to omit that clip from the film that was my reason for having him remove my name. I still haven't forgiven him. That's important stuff, and I can guarantee you that had someone said something like that for men, it not only would have been in the film, but it would have been blurbed all over the DVD box and the ads for the film.

3. DO you feel that same sex attaction, i.e. homosexuality, is a choice, or the persons as such have no possibility of being in a hetero committed family entity, either technically or emotionally.

There are people who are attracted to men and to women. Obviously, these people experience same-sex attraction, but they also experience attraction to the opposite sex. I think that in such a case, they should marry members of the opposite sex. For those of us who aren't bisexual, it's clearly not a matter of choice.

Some people who are gay or lesbian can force themselves to live in a heterosexual context. Hell, society has been forcing us to do so for quite some time, and the suicide rate for gay teens isn't that much higher than it is for teens in general. Only about three times higher.

But just because someone can lie doesn't mean they should lie.

4. If you feel that the answer to # 3 is no choice, on what Torah concept are you basing this on?

Rapo yerapeh. The Torah is very clear that it isn't teaching us every facet of medicine and science and other issues of fact that we can ascertain with the help of the Torah. I mean, what Torah concept is there behind the fact that electrons carry a negative charge? It's a lame question.

We rely on physicians for medical questions. Not on rabbis (despite the nonsensical claim recently published that the Gedolim have made medical determinations).

10:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I'm sorry you've had such a bad experience with Judaism. I suspect that you need to look for a different frum community, rather than simply dismiss Judaism as "outdated" because you didn't feel fulfilled personally.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Needsabetterjob said...

2 women building a home but not having sex. Ok why would someone conciously not want to have sex? Because they don't like/enjoy it?

what I meant by my lame question is that we have a tradition in Judaism of families, man and wife. Of course, there were 'singles' but I always thought the starting point was man and wife.

Does the Torah talk about the choice aspect of relationships? Since we don't see any examples of same sex family building?

10:08 AM  
Blogger Needsabetterjob said...

Lisa, the only community possibly that would be of interest is the Michael Lerner Tikkun people, but I suspect I would be turned off by alot of their politics, as I am not really that much of a 'lefty', certain things yes, I wish bush were gone, for example, but not the whole leftist baggage.

I have observed communities in the NY area and in Israel when I lived there.

But I am stuck in the Diaspora for the forseeable future.

I have observed communities in the midwest and the west coast.

The problem could be me that is all.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Needsabetterjob said...
2 women building a home but not having sex. Ok why would someone conciously not want to have sex? Because they don't like/enjoy it?

First of all, I don't agree with what R' Feldman said about all sexual activity between two women being forbidden.

Second of all, I said nothing about having sex or not having sex. Do you know that women aren't supposed to tell people that they're going to the mikveh, because that might make people think about what goes on between closed doors, which is none of their business. Neither is this any of yours.

If someone goes out on the street and starts talking about having had sex with Ploni (or Plonit), it's inappropriate, but until that happens, you don't get to make assumptions about what they do in private.

what I meant by my lame question is that we have a tradition in Judaism of families, man and wife. Of course, there were 'singles' but I always thought the starting point was man and wife.

And so it is. That's why I think that bisexuals should marry.

Does the Torah talk about the choice aspect of relationships? Since we don't see any examples of same sex family building?

I don't understand the question.

10:36 AM  
Blogger Needsabetterjob said...

Lisa, you keep on saying on other forums, that you are not doing anything wrong. I am trying to explain to you why frum people do not accept your life choices, as wrong from a frum perspective.

Because they don't see an example of this type of relationship in any of the Holy books.

If they did, they wouldn't have a problems with it.

It doesn't matter that you will say, but we dont' see a Honda Accord in the Bible yet we own them.

THey aren't going to make that leap. You want them to, but they will not.

Because as I explained they do not see same sex attraction as un choosable.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Oh, please. They watch baseball despite the fact that it isn't in any sources. They use telephones, they drive cars. In many cases they have celebrations when girls reach the age of bat mitzvah. Where are the sources for any of that.

You have a misunderstanding of how Judaism works. Things aren't assur until proven mutar. It's the other way around. Nothing is forbidden until and unless it's forbidden.

Yes, I get that there's a school of thought that views anything new as suspicious. But that's a social phenomenon. It has no basis in the Torah.

What I find offensive here is you badmouthing the entire frum community by painting them as fundamentalists in a way that most of them are not. You don't know what frum people think. You may, possibly, know what some frum people think, but by your own admission, you find Torah Judaism to be closed and outdated. So you project that onto this subject.

There are many, many frum Jews who are very different than the stereotype you're trying to paint. My kvetch with many of them is only that they're unwilling (understandably) to put themselves on the line, when they know that they'll become targets themselves if they do.

I understand that kind of reticence. I don't like it, but I do get it.

Furthermore, I've been given crap by many frum Jews who do recognize that it's not a choice.

Why am I bothering to debate this with you?

1:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think needs a better job is on to something. You are seeking approval for a lifestyle in which you state that you live with another woman and imply that you engage in some sort of sexual activity with that woman, and that you are holier than both the MO's and the UO's b/c you are yeshivish, whatever the heck that means. (And reading your writings on ancient Judaism, you're not yeshivish either.)

I don't give a rat's ass if you are a lesbian. I don't care if you engage in sexual conduct of any kind. But don't pretend that this is acceptable in Orthodoxy. Don't pretend that there is only one issur involved in homosexual conduct between women. It goes beyond that and you would know that if you were honest with yourself. There is a concept of pritzut that certainly covers all non-marital sexual conduct b'derech chiba, and would all the moreso apply to homosexual activity.

But go ahead, blast me. Negativity seems to be your forte.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Actually, I think I'll just ignore the bulk of your rant and limit myself to asking what you're talking about with regards to ancient history.

2:52 PM  
Blogger Needsabetterjob said...

I was trying to explain why you encounter massive resistance, to your notion that you are 'doing nothing wrong'. If you can't see the difference between the family, and material objects, then you won't understand.

As well, I forgot to mention something earlier, you see, when someone is from an Orthodox family, and they want to be let's say Michalel Shabbos, they will almost always be discreet initially. Then gradually of course, if this is how they live, they will not go to shule or anything like that.
But if someone is maintaining a religious family, but periodically, feels the desire to be Michalel Shabbos, he will not boast about it in Shule the next week, if he missed shule one Shabbos, he/she will not say, last week I went to the beach on Saturday instead. It is no one's business that he felt that he was not working but enjoying Hashem's beautiful nature.

But in your case, I feel, it is the in-your-face aspect that turns people off.

3:01 PM  
Blogger Needsabetterjob said...

Of course, I cannot claim to speak for the over half a million frum people in the USA, and the millions world wide.

I was never implying that I have a problem w/ your path in life. Personally, I would welcome you and your partner into my home for Shabbos lunch.

I was trying to explain why the overwhelming majority of frum people, will not accept your path as valid, as one of the 70 faces of the Torah.

I personally feel that you would be better off belonging to a Conservative Syn. one in which there is a strong committment to the Shule there, Shabbos, Kosher, etc.

I feel that most frum people feel that you, if you were really so frum and devout as you say, that you would make the sacrifice, of having to live w/ a man, and so on.

Just like there are many frum people who have to make sacrifices in various areas, including the same sex attraction thing. It is flippant to say, well, they were bi, that's how they are able to do it, I am not bi, however, so it's not going to work/happen.

As in my example of the Michalel Shabbos, and this is me btw, I do so occassionally when depression and/or boredom get the better of me. But I do so surreptiously, I might go into the city early on a Saturday morning and be back by lunch. Even though I would like to go to the beach sometimes, I haven't found a reasonable cover story to tell the family, the kids mostly, and I am not ready to confront this truth of mine w/ them.

I truly do not feel there is anything wrong in taking a break from the routine of Shabbos every once in a while. I have a way to travel that does not involve me needing money.
But I make the sacrifice.

This is a poor example, but there are many situations where people make sacrifices.

I beleive the typical frum person does not regard the same sex family thing as valid in the sense of having an example of this in the Torah, Tanach, or any of the Rabbanic books, Shulchan Arukh, etc.

The Mikva that you cited, is setup on a monthly basis for the woman to then be available for her husband, a male, not a female.

Your take, or adjustment to this, is simply not acceptable or understandable to the average frum person.

Again, it is not me that you need to explain this to. I personally can see the beauty in your going to the mikva, but not in the traditional sense.

7:35 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

What makes you think I go to a mikveh? I don't.

And I've been told by enormous numbers of people, most of them frum that they have no problem with me and my family, but that the vast majority of frum Jews never will.

If all of these people would just shut up about what other people are going to do, the world would be a very different place.

8:04 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

And I repeat, the fact that many frum Jews think something does not make it so. What the Torah says is what the Torah says.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Needsabetterjob said...

What does the Torah say regarding having a same sex family? This is the bottom line for your case.

I apologize about the mikva.

8:24 AM  
Blogger Needsabetterjob said...

IOW, you are the one who is accusing the others of something wrong.
"
the fact that many frum Jews think something does not make it so"

This is an insulting jibe to many persons.

Like I said earlier, I dont think you have a solution.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Upsiditus said...

I think the comment about disagreeing with Rabbi Feldman pretty much says it all. And what other O Rabbi (besides Rabbi Steven Greenberg, which you don't even seem to like) would matir what you do? This blog?

9:08 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

And what exactly do I "do"? Write a blog? Program in VB? Raise my daughter? What do you think I do that requires a heter?

7:12 AM  

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