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Friday, May 01, 2009

Parshas Acharei Mois



Parshas Acharei Mois

In this week's parsha, Acharei Mois, the Aimishteh commands Klal Yisrael regarding forbidden relationships: " The nakedness of your father's wife you should not expose...your father's sister...your mother's sister...a woman and her daughter...two sisters..." And so on.

Oy vey. I must tell you, I am a little uncomfortable with this week's Parsha. In fact, I am downright sickened by the suggestion of having relations with one's own mother. And I am completely nauseated with the thought of having gilui arayois with my aunts; both my father's and my mother's sisters have beards, as well as shaytals that look far more titilating on the styrofoam heads sitting on the dresser.

So by the time the parsha gets around to talking about doing it with two sisters, I am totally not in the mood.

An obvious question arises about the wording of the possuk: Why does the Toirah speak of "not exposing nakedness"? How should we understand this term? One answer offered by the RAMBAN is that the Toirah chose to speak in loshoin nokiyus in order to avoid the parsha receiving an "R" rating, so that children under the age of seventeen, an important demographic, can read the parsha without being accompanied by a parent.

The RIF holds that the possuk clearly means to include actual biyuh, but the use of the term "exposing nakedness" is chosen to include voyeurism, digital photography, and Twitter. But the RAN holds farkhert -- you can have relations with anyone you want, so long as the lights are dim, in order to ensure deniability.

A more serious question is why is it that the halochois of all of these forbidden relationships are addressed to men? Shouldn't women be concerned about these issues as well? RASHI answers that since women come so late to shul, they miss the leyning anyway, so they are not included. But the ARI holds that this parsha is proof that in the time of the Moshiach, our frigid wives will put out the way they have been promising to for years.

But with all of these forbidden relationships, the one which receives the most attention, especially in our days, is the ban on male homosexuality. How are we to understand this biblical pronouncement, especially in modern society?

Reb Shlomo Kluger, living a century ago, spoke of the growing evidence that the homosexual inclination is a result of nature, not nurture. Reb Shlomo, who insisted that the buchrim in the bais medrish refer to him as "Big Hank", felt that our understanding of gay nature should evolve, much as halacha's attitude toward blind and deaf people has evolved as overall society has developed a more inclusive approach to people with these conditions. (I personally am strongly in favor of this line of thought. Indeed, I was born with a particular condition myself -- I lust after twenty-three year old red heads named Christine.)

In truth, this whole issue comes down to a question of public versus private. When I am standing at my shtender in shul delivering the weekly drasha, as I look down at the kehilla, I know that the room is full of people who commit aveiras of all sorts. I am certain that ten percent of the kehilla privately watches TV on Shabbos (Boruch Hashem somebody has the latest sports scores!) Some of the women don't always make it to mikvah. Some of the men, especially while their wives are in nidah, "take matters into their own hands", if you know what I mean.

Even I too have sinned on occasion -- I admit it -- I sometimes put the hot water ON the teabag on Shabbos, not the other way around. But in the great tradition of Chazzal, we should not stand around and look to punish people. We don't peek inside their homes, their refrigerators, or their cars. Chazzal tell us that in the time of the Sanhedrin, it was almost unprecedented that someone would be put to death. Between the conditions of drisha and chakirah and other requirements, it was virtually impossible that the human realm would come to pass judgement on other human beings -- that is the purview of the Aimishteh.

What becomes more complicated is the aspiration of some to embrace a more public profile for the gay Orthodox lifestyle. Rather than reject this, I suggest we at least consider the possibility. Indeed, we should move to accomodate all who seek to be frum, though struggle with one individual tenet or another. We should create shuls for these particular interest groups. The Young Israel of Men Who Like to Be Mezaneh With Each Other. Congegation Bnei Avraham Who Like To Eat A Little Traifus Once in a While. Khal Adas I Like To Watch The News and Get the Latest Scores. Lincoln Square I Sometimes Spill My Seed on the Floor Synagogue.

As long as someone wants to indentify as being frum, who are we to deny them that right? As long as they subscribe to the three basic principles of Ol Malchus Shomayim: Overall acceptance of the Torah, pass judgement on everyone else, and consider everyone who disagrees with you to be either an anti-Semite or a self-hating Jew.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

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