Rabbi Steven Pruzansky in the Israel National News: A simple protest – because, pride lobby, the Torah is not changing
June 16, 2023

by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky in The Israel National News

“So we see there are two ways in which someone can err. One is to speak so much “truth” with so little love that he is not actually speaking truth…They are not at all worried about pushing others away with what they are saying. Perhaps they even delight in the idea…”

“The opposite of this is an equal problem: to show so much “love” that you are misrepresenting the real love of God, and are forsaking God’s truth in the process. You are so afraid of saying something that might push away the one to whom you are speaking that you cease to say anything at all controversial or potentially disagreeable.

So writes the American religious and cultural commentator Eric Metaxas in his recent book “Letter to the American Church,” of which 95% could be co-opted (dare I say, converted) and applied to the American Orthodox Rabbinate. Metaxas’ starting point was the anti-Nazi German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer who tried to arouse the German church in the 1930s to oppose the Nazi persecution of the Jews. After spending several years in America, he returned to Germany in 1939, was imprisoned by the Nazis in 1943, and executed in April 1945, just one month before the war’s end.

Enjoy what you're reading? Subscribe for more!

Bonhoeffer failed to convince his clerical colleagues to challenge the Nazis for reasons some of which should sound familiar to us. They were afraid of antagonizing the Nazis, they were not that sympathetic to Jews in the first instance, they saw the big picture and wished to focus on teaching religion, or they just did not want to get involved in politics, controversies, or cultural issues. Bonhoeffer was horrified by this spiritual neglect and condemned them for their failures and the emptiness of the Christianity they preached.

While the Nazi horrors are sui generis, Metaxas sees a similar dynamic at play today in his denomination’s reluctance to tackle the cultural and moral issues currently roiling American society. He mentions a number of such issues. One, certainly not as weighty as the Holocaust, stands before us as we endure yet another “pride” month. For how long will we remain silent? The easy road is to say nothing, ignore it, move on, focus on other matters, and wait it out, even as a society built on certain moral (and biological) assumptions collapses around us. But it is because of that collapse and the effect that it is having on our children that silence is not an option, a simple protest needs to be registered, and a new path forward recommended.

There are no illusions, at this point, that we can have any influence on secular Jews, Israelis, or Americans on this issue. The “pride” agenda is one of the few things in which they actually believe as dogma, absolute and unquestionable. Dialogue, although not impossible, is difficult, for they have fabricated their own system of sin and virtue unmoored from traditional morality.

But it is the infiltration of this agenda into the Orthodox world that demands we raise our voices and state the obvious: the Torah world will never accept same-sex marriages or the cult of transgenderism. Period. We should stop pretending that accommodation is possible. It is not.

For almost two decades now, any open discussion of these matters has been stifled by the well-funded activists, with the now familiar litany of accusations: any dissenting voice endangers their lives, encourages bullying and suicide, is cruel and unkind, insensitive and a waste of our time and energy. Those who oppose the agenda are, by their definition, haters, and bigots, suffer from a phobia, and are all “obsessed.”

Some of these contentions are risible, others dubious, and some debatable, but together serve the purpose of suppressing any free and frank discussion of what this movement has engendered in broader society. This is the linguistic playbook they use. A complicit media serves its purposes and advances its agenda.

And too many rabbis have responded with such banalities as “there are more important issues to discuss,” “this requires nuance” (a word that apparently means “saying and doing nothing”), “now is not the time” (the appropriate time never comes), or pandering to the mob out of an excess of sensitivity and compassion – while fearing for their jobs, a loss of respect, cancel culture, media attacks, and the like.
And so, we refuse to face the issue head-on. Which means what?

It should be stated openly. The LGBT movement, especially in its Orthodox incarnation, is the modern rebellion against Torah, no different than any other rebellious movement against Torah in our history beginning with that of Korach. It makes no difference whether the rebellion is conscious or unconscious; rebellion it is.

The Conservative Jewish movement first strayed by abolishing the mechitzah in shuls, as part of its general conception of an evolving Mesorah. That revolution pales before the LGBT insurrection, which seeks to literally excise a prohibition from the Torah, mocks the very definition of marriage, denies the reality that God created human beings “male and female,” and not three or six or sixty-four genders, as some would have it. It is the very essence of a heretical movement.

Rather than be challenged and distanced, if necessary, as the non-Orthodox movements were, they are coddled, especially when they threaten to “leave Orthodoxy.” We then distort the Torah, and in the process cheat our children who think the Torah is cruel, incomprehensible, malleable, or man-made, and they soon lose respect for the Mesorah and create their own. Our youth are being raised to think that what is abnormal is quite normal, that what is unnatural is quite natural, and that what is a sign of mental illness is just self-actualization that should be encouraged, patronized, and subsidized. No wonder there is such mass confusion, dysfunction, and unhappiness.

Increasingly, Orthodox Jews are being compelled (in truth, many go quite willingly) to participate in charade weddings, complete with “clergy,” rings, blessings, a chuppah, and, of course, the broken glass. All this in the guise of “maintaining the friendship, rallying around the family, trying to keep the child in the fold” that he or she has already left – and in the process, they betray what is most dear to them and trample on the integrity of the Torah.

It is all one big game of pretend, in which no one is allowed to state the quiet part aloud: the emperor has no clothes! It is not that he is wearing alternative garb.

Do we ponder the ramifications of celebrating a sham wedding that defiles the very concept of marriage and family?

Do we even take a moment to consider that a four-year-old girl who thinks she is a boy needs her parents to take her to a competent mental health professional – not a surgeon?

It is hard to imagine a greater act of child abuse to which children – teens and younger – are being subjected, and all in the name of the golden calf of compassion.

Can’t we just admit that the pronoun game (individuals thinking they are plural) or the therian game (people thinking they are really animals) – is silly, and disturbing? Can’t we state publicly that an obvious-looking man or woman who claims to be non-binary is nonsensical? We help no one by mainstreaming mental illness or by egging on people who need therapy. And those who do not protest are accomplices to a rebellion against Torah.

Metaxas writes that many clergy fear being seen as “religious legalists rather than as loving and compassionate…” But he avers powerfully, “at what point does our silence encourage someone along in their sin and in their path away from God?” Indeed, one of the few prohibitions that remain is the contemporary one that abjures judgmentalism and declares that it is wrong to assert that sins are sins, banned by the Torah.

For too long we have been playing semantic games, such as “it is no sin to be a homosexual, but only to commit homosexual acts.” That is a distinction without a difference and a vacuous one at that. Just reflect on how inane it sounds in other contexts. For example, it is not against the Torah to be a thief, only to steal. It is not against the Torah to be a murderer, only to murder. But what makes one a thief or a murderer? Only by stealing something or murdering someone. But we would not say that a thief is always stealing, or a murderer is always murdering someone, nor would we term someone with larcenous tendencies a thief or homicidal tendencies a murderer.

Deeds matter more than thoughts or fantasies. But why then do we dance around the issue that a homosexual is one who has committed homosexual acts and not one who just has tendencies? No one’s tendencies are proscribed, only actions, as we all have sinful tendencies. But it is because the “pride” lobby – the only sin which has such a lobby – is purposely trying to dilute the gravity of the sin and excuse the sinner.

Certainly, we must love all sinners, including the homosexual. But is it really an act of love to ignore, rationalize, or celebrate his sin? Isn’t that really the opposite of love – to condemn someone to a life of sin without trying to help them overcome their urges and re-channel their energies? Do we really love the alcoholic when we ply him with liquor? Do we really love the slanderer when we feed her gossip so that she will then share it with others? Do we really love the adulterer when we procure for him new paramours because that is what he desires? Do we really love the thief when we suggest a ripe target?

There is an impasse in any reasoned discussion of these matters, given the threats, litigation, and cultural dominance, and because we have split into two camps. One camp fully embraces the new immorality as sacred and inviolable and demands legitimacy and acceptance from the Torah world – or else. They wish to control public discourse and impose their will on our schools, shuls, institutions, culture, and children. They have intimidated into silence most rabbis and opinion shapers in Jewish life.

The second camp – call them the traditionalists – pretend these groups do not exist, wish they would disappear, and, officially, hardly acknowledge their presence. This stagnation has caused many in the modern Orthodox camp to just surrender, accept the inevitability of their ultimate acceptance in Jewish life and with it the loss of credibility of modern Orthodoxy as a Torah movement or ideology.

Is there a way out of this morass? Yes, but it requires an honest conversation heretofore lacking.

The approach is straightforward. To the groups and activists, nothing. They need to be told in every forum, clearly and unequivocally, that the Torah is not changing, and recognition is not forthcoming. Orthodox institutions that celebrate same-sex weddings are as Orthodox (and faithful to Torah) as Orthodox institutions that would celebrate interfaith weddings that take place on Yom Kippur and serve pork.

In the public discussion of these issues, we must revive the language of sin, right and wrong, objective truth, morality, and G-d’s will as embodied in the Torah, as well as the Torah’s immutability.

To the groups and activists, nothing. It is sufficient to restate our objections and try to remove the matter from the public domain. (It would be prudent just to ignore the parades. It should be noted, however, that polls show that anywhere from 70-87% of Jerusalemites oppose having a pride parade in the holy city. Funny how the media trumpet polls showing the Likud’s or the judicial reforms’ unpopularity – and then ignore these polls which reflect the people’s desire to safeguard the sanctity of Yerushalayim.)

We owe nothing to a group. But the individual is different. As rabbis have always done, to the individual struggling privately with same-sex attraction, and to their families who rightly love them and want to help them, we must offer safe counsel, sound guidance, and compassion without indulging or celebrating sinful behavior. There must be assistance provided to those who desire to overcome these passions or are otherwise plagued by gender confusion or some other dysfunction, if and where possible.

We should reiterate that no person has the right to blackmail family, friends, or communities into violating the Halakha or their consciences. No child has the right to say to a parent, “Prove your love for me by eating this ham sandwich with me.” Privately we should encourage the parents to love and guide their wayward children, as we would privately encourage those children to observe as many mitzvot as they can – but never, ever, compromise a Torah value, eradicate, or celebrate a prohibition or make a mockery of all that is holy by sham ceremonies.

To the secular activists, wrapped in the euphoria of their current embrace by society’s elites, there is little that can be said, except perhaps, that they too should show tolerance to those who disagree with them. Yes, we retain the right to openly disagree with them, to respect and cherish the Torah’s morality, and even to publicly encourage its observance. The bullying of the activists has already unleashed a backlash, as we have recently seen in America with the boycotts of Bud Light, Target, the anti-Catholic mockery of LA Dodgers, etc. This will continue.

Cancel culture is a travesty – but it is also a two-way street. We should respond, without fear or rancor, by eschewing platitudes (compassion is a value but it is not the only or even primary value in Jewish life; misplaced mercy has always been a bane of Jewish existence) and by reinforcing the Torah’s morality at every opportunity in a pleasant and winsome way without compromising one whit. That would be courageous in today’s environment – and that would also be what once defined leadership.

Why even write about this subject when every word here has been stated and restated? So that we do not normalize and incentivize such behavior by indifference, by failure to protest. It is clear that the social media contagion has greatly contributed to the expansion of these movements, the confused identities of young people, and the concomitant assault on Torah and the Jewish family. Let it not be said that no voice was ever raised in protest.
Originally published in The Israel National News

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Spread the Word