2020 A Call to Stand for Kedusha (Parts 1 and 2)
Chananya Weissman

May 1, 2020

A call to stand for Kedusha


by Rabbi Chananya Weissman

Where are our leaders?


I'm writing the article that other rabbis don't want to write because they are afraid of backlash and controversy. I am less afraid of backlash and controversy than being challenged by the Heavenly Court for not writing it. My rabbinic colleagues should be as well, or they are in the wrong profession. Positions of leadership should not be staffed by followers, no matter how scholarly or pious they may be.

To those who find this mussar offensive enough to react to it, I ask one simple question: why does the previous paragraph offend you to the point of reacting, while gay parades through the streets of Jerusalem do not? Why does criticism from an insignificant person like me raise your ire, but the foisting of perverse relationships and gender distortions into our society, media, schools, and legal system doesn't seem to bother you at all?

If you believe that by ignoring these threats they will eventually go away, the opposite has proven to be true. If you believe that responding to those attacking Torah norms will grant them legitimacy, they have profited far more from your cowering silence. If you are worried about losing your job, I ask you to reconsider what your job actually is. If you are afraid that you will be prosecuted simply for speaking out, I assure you that you still have that privilege, for now. Your ability to speak out has already been eroded, and criminalizing the expression of Torah-true views is definitely on the agenda of those pushing the envelope. It will be much easier to maintain this privilege if you fight for it now than it will be to regain it when it is taken from you.

You also fail 100% of the times you choose not to try.


Why should we care?


This brings me to the following Midrash Rabbah from the introduction to Eicha, section 22. Reish Lakish derives from pesukim throughout the neviim that the rampant avoda zara which was the main reason for the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash was a movement that gradually took over the nation. At first some people worshiped avoda zara in secret, and no one objected. They proceeded to worship avoda zara behind the door, and no one objected. The avoda zara movement spread to the roofs, then the gardens, then the mountain tops, then the fields, then the intersections, then the public squares, then the cities, then the main streets, and ultimately into the Holy of Holies itself.

Every time the envelope was pushed further, there was an opportunity for the leaders and concerned citizens to protest, and each time they were silent. It is for this reason that the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed, our people were exiled, and we have been lamenting our fate ever since.

This idol worship "movement" bears more resemblance to the traditional-family-destruction movement than you might realize. Chazal teach us that the Jews knew full well that there was no substance to avoda zara, and they only desired it as a ploy to permit sexual immorality in public (Sanhedrin 64A). Indeed, avoda zara was often associated with redefining such behavior as a sacred act, much as today's "progressives" rename and reframe abhorrent acts to make them sound noble. There is nothing innovative about today's version of the movement; Koheleth teaches us that there is nothing new under the sun, and today's gender benders and family deconstructionists are no exceptions. This sort of thing has been going on since the earliest generations.

In the times of the Beit Hamikdash the leaders looked the other way as avoda zara spread throughout the land. When it was still considered a shameful act, they dismissed the practitioners as trivial outcasts, hardly a threat worth their attention. When it emerged from the closet, they still didn't bother addressing it. They had their shuls, their shtiebels, their Batei Midrash, shiurim to prepare and ceremonies to attend. When it became a full-fledged movement that gradually overtook society, they no longer dared protest. They huddled in their shuls, their shtiebels, and their Batei Midrash and convinced themselves that dealing with matters of national concern was not their job and not worth the consequences.

Before long the tables were turned, and those who dared object to avoda zara found themselves in the crosshairs of those who had taken over, and they suffered the consequences. Message sent to everyone else who might have a problem with it, and message received.

Not only was the Beit Hamikdash destroyed because of this, but also the 480 shuls in Jerusalem, each of which had a seminary (Midrash Eicha, introduction section 13). The rabbis who stayed silent and excused themselves from what went on in society lost their shuls and their positions anyway.

With very few exceptions, the rabbis of our time have followed this erroneous course of inaction while this hefkeirus movement has spread throughout the land, growing more bold and insatiable as the voices of protest have become few and faint. Shall we suffer the same fate again?


Responding to the accusations


Those who dare to speak out against the hefkeirus movement are typically accused of hypocrisy and hatred. These accusations should be easy to deflect, but those standing for Torah-truth tend to be ill-equipped to deal with criticism, and come across as foolish when placed on the defensive. The media has a never-ending thirst for opportunities to make observant Jews look foolish and hypocritical, and unfortunately we play into their hands time and time again.

Worse still, those who allow themselves to be interviewed by the secular press tend to be oblivious to the fact that behind the smiling faces are one-sided vultures on a mission to destroy them. Our people are seduced by the glory of the cameras and microphones, and fall right into their hands. We have to understand that these are not really interviews, but disputations against the Torah before a hostile court. They hunger for the fifteen seconds out of an hour-long interview that they can use to manipulate their audience and push their agenda. Those who cannot arm themselves with proper responses had best not provide sound bites to these sharks, and even those who can had best think carefully before indulging them.

Here are some of their favored accusations, and suggestions for how we should be responding to them. (More suggestions are welcome; this is not intended to be an exhaustive treatment.)


1. Why are you protesting this, but you don't protest those who speak lashon hara or some other sin?

What they are really suggesting: Our motivations are not pure. Our protest is not really based on the Torah, but raw hatred. Hence, not only are we hypocrites, we are hate-filled people who should be demonized and, when they can further hijack the legal system, imprisoned. They hope to watch the religious Jew flail and stumble in response, proving that he really is a hate-filled hypocrite with no good reason to be objecting.

Response:

a) We don't condone anyone who violates the Torah. We are protesting this group in particular because it is an actual movement. There is no movement to legitimize lashon hara, child abuse, spousal abuse, etc. While some sins, particularly lashon hara, are rampant and must be addressed through education and other communal measures, there is no movement to legitimize lashon hara, encourage those who are curious about lashon hara to explore it and join a popular movement celebrating it, or to otherwise grow and expand in the name of progress. Conversely, the hefkeirus movement has a far-reaching agenda that seeks to undercut the foundation of the Jewish people, it is organized and well-funded, and it is aggressively trying to take over our society.

b) The Chafetz Chaim is famous for addressing the sin of lashon hara. While that is far from his only contribution to the Jewish people, it was a mitzva he paid particular attention to. Does it make him a hypocrite for choosing one widespread sin to especially address over others? Would anyone call him antisocial or hypocritical for "specializing" in lashon hara when there were other communal issues that received less attention? Of course not. The very notion is absurd, and those who would make such an accusation would only do so as a sinister ploy to delegitimize voices of opposition just as you are attempting.


2. Why does it bother you if two people love each other?

Response: What you are doing is reframing and redefining an abhorrent act by focusing on a very narrow aspect of this act and disregarding the inconvenient details. Just as selecting a 15-second sound bite from an hour-long interview to promote an agenda is technically accurate but in reality a sinister distortion of the truth, so is rebranding sexual perversity as simply "two people loving each other". What you are attempting to do is a shameful distortion of the truth.

We have no objections in principle to people loving each other, of course not! But when these expressions of love go against the very foundations of God's nature and God's law, then we must object. The mere fact that an act is committed out of love does not purify the filthy or sanctify the profane. The same is true about adulterers who might love each other, or adults who might express their love for children or animals in inappropriate ways. The Torah is our moral guide, and God is the arbiter of proper boundaries for love and everything else.


3. But God made them that way. God must want them to be this way. They don't have any choice.

Response:

This assertion is fundamentally wrong on so many levels! Let's take it piece by piece.

a) Let us assume for the moment that there is a gene that determines sexual preference. We will do this simply for the sake of argument, as there is enormous evidence that homosexuality and other such behaviors are learned, often stemming from abusive childhoods.

To claim that because God made someone a certain way absolves them of responsibility for their behavior would mean the death of civilization. By your reasoning, every thief, every murderer, every rapist, every abuser can blame God for wiring him that way and earn the sympathy of his accusers. It's God's fault. God made him do it.

No society on earth, religious or secular, allows a genetic predisposition for any behavior or personality trait to be used as an excuse for behaving in an unacceptable way. There is also no other class of people that makes this argument to rationalize their behavior. So this is really nothing more than a sinister attempt to blame God a God you don't really believe in and whose authority you don't accept for the fact that you do as you please.

In so doing you have amputated the moral conscience from the human being. A sinner who feels remorse and guilt has hope for rehabilitation. A sinner who believes he has no choice, that God made him do it, nay, that God wants him to do it, no longer has hope. You act as if you are doing the sinner a favor by removing his guilt and separating him from his conscience, but you are in fact his greatest enemy, robbing him of his only chance to reconnect to his spiritual source. Your crime is greater than his. We can easily pity those who submit to their temptations, for all of us stumble at times, but how can we pity those who encourage sinners that they have no choice in the matter, and thereby to give up any hope of doing better?

b) You also assume that just because God made someone a certain way, He expects him to remain that way and follow all his natural impulses. How absurd! Were that the case, why would the Torah even need to be written?

Shall we assume that because a child is born uncircumcised that God wants him to remain that way? Shall we assume that one who is born and raised a miser shall refrain from giving charity? Shall we assume that one who has a cruel nature shall commit cruel acts, in accordance with God's supposed will? You don't really believe any of this, and if this is the best defense you have for those who engage in forbidden sexual acts, then you had best stop arguing on their behalf.

c) You claim they don't have any choice. Not only does this fly in the face of the fundamental principle that all people have free choice, it is easily disproven. It is so easily disproven that you surely know it is a lie, and you don't really believe it.

If gay people really cannot control themselves, how is it that they generally manage without any difficulty to commit their sexual acts in private, in accordance with the secular laws on decency? Why do they not impulsively commit sexual acts the very moment the urge strikes, wherever they may be and with whomever may be the target of their "love"? How do they manage to restrain themselves until they are alone together?

Clearly, they can control themselves. Someone who truly lacks any self-control had best be locked up, for they would be a danger to themselves and all they encounter.

The question, therefore, is the extent to which we can expect them to control themselves. The Torah has expressed God's expectations on this matter quite clearly. Being that God created the sexual impulse, God created the world and all that is in it, and God has perfect knowledge, we must trust that God would not demand someone to control that which is uncontrollable, nor punish him for failing to do so. Hence, the only logical conclusion is that those with homosexual tendencies can most certainly control their behavior, they are expected to control their behavior, and they are responsible for their actions.

We do not deny that the challenge may be overwhelmingly difficult for some people, and we will lovingly support them and assist them however we can in dealing with the challenges they face. However, we can only do this for those who recognize that it is their responsibility, it is within their capabilities to rise to the challenge, and this is what God demands of them. We cannot support those who blame God for their behavior and reject any sense of personal responsibility and accountability.


4. But really, what's the big deal what two people do in the privacy of their bedroom, so long as it is consensual and no one is being hurt?

Response:

This challenge is also based on false assumptions, and is nothing but an attempt to minimize the severity of the sin and cast us as religious predators.

First of all, as noted, this is not simply two people doing something in the privacy of their bedroom. This is a movement with a far-reaching agenda, celebrating perverse behavior, encouraging it, aggressively seeking to change social norms, hijack the education system, persecute and prosecute all those who stand in their way. If only this were two people doing something in the privacy of their bedroom! In light of this, we categorically reject your attempt to disarm us from defending all that we hold dear against this onslaught.

Second of all, as Jews we are responsible for one another. Even if this sinister movement disbanded, we would still be concerned about immorality inside the home, just as you expect us to be concerned about other sinful acts that are committed behind closed doors. Indeed, the argument that a crime was committed inside the home does not hold up in secular court. Spiritual crimes cannot be ignored simply because they are kept out of public view, especially those that by their very nature normally occur behind closed doors.

The laws of arayos are particularly emphasized by the Torah because they are the foundation of the Jewish family and all of society. You challenge us why we should care. How can we not care?

Furthermore, Chazal teach in multiple places that wherever gay marriage is enshrined in the law, God brings plagues and destruction that do not distinguish between the righteous and the wicked. We find this by no other commandment. We count on God to protect us when thousands of missiles are raining down upon our cities, that they should strike empty fields instead of causing indiscriminate destruction. We pray to God to protect us from plagues and pandemics that turn every breath we take into a potential death sentence.

This same God has some expectations of us as well. We want God to watch over us and protect us both inside and outside the privacy of our homes. Why should He do so if we allow all manner of wanton behavior to be committed in public and private, contaminating His land and corrupting His people?

Indeed, to turn a blind eye to behaviors that drive God's protection away would be truly hateful toward those who engage in these behaviors and all those affected by them which is everyone.

Just as the family and friends of alcoholics, drug addicts, and gamblers intervene to urge their loved one to stop engaging in behavior that is harmful to himself and others, we must do the same. This intervention is not always met with appreciation quite the contrary but we recognize it as a loving act by people who care.

It is the same here. Our intervention is not an act of hatred, but an act of love. We care about the people engaging in these behaviors and the impact it has on others. It would be convenient in the short term to let them do as they please without any objection, but knowing the destruction this brings on them and others, we simply cannot do so. If there were no consequences to their behavior, we truly wouldn't care, but the consequences could not be more severe. We have no moral choice but to intervene.


Conclusion


Our ancestors allowed avoda zara to spread throughout the land, and they excused themselves from objecting. Their indifference led to the destruction of all we had.

Today, while thousands of people march through our streets celebrating the obscene, the overwhelming majority of rabbis and ordinary people are silent, uninterested and unwilling to stand for what is right.

I have no position of authority, no following, and little influence beyond the persuasiveness of my words. I have nothing material to gain from writing this, have no axe to grind, and derive no particular pleasure from inviting enmity upon myself for airing unpopular views. I can easily absolve myself from speaking up about this issue, as most others have done. If it were about me, I would not write this.

But it is not about me. It is about all of us, everything we have, and everything we wish to have. Preserving what we have and achieving what we desire does not come automatically.

I call upon my rabbinic colleagues to rouse themselves and spread Torah truth without shame or fear. I call upon my brothers and sisters to object to any attempt to spread a modern version of avoda zara in our holy land.

Finally, I call upon those who have been lured into perverse lifestyles and corrupt ideologies to take responsibility for their behavior and return to the Torah.

Let us truly be as God declares us a kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation.