Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Tuesday, 9 December)
Jon Stewart: We're talking with Governor Mike Huckabee. His book is "Do The Right Thing".
We talked a little bit about fiscal conservatism in the first one - I want to talk to you about social conservatism, 'cause this is really about you wanting the Republican Party to get back to those basics and respectfully speaking, the one thing I guess I don't understand about social conservatives. I get pro life and I think that's probably their number one issue and it's very easy for me to understand it and it's very easy for me to understand that we all should work together to reduce the number, at the very least, with the goal of ending that.
The gay marriage issue and why conservatives are against it- you write that marriage is the bedrock of our society. Why would you not want more couples to buy into the stability of marriage - why would you want that precluded for an entire group of people?
Governor Huckabee: Well, marriage still means one man one woman, life relationship. I think people have a right to live any way they want to. But even anatomically- let's face it, the only way that we can create the next generation is through a male female relationship. For 5000 years of recorded human history, that's what marriage has meant. 30 states have had it on the ballot and in all 30 states, it's passed- even in states like California, that nobody would suggest are social conservatives, leading the state of California.
Stewart: 30 states had Mike Huckabee on the ballot and they went with McCain- listen, you can't trust the voters! The voters don't know!
Huckabee: But the point being, in those states, Jon, an average of 68% of the voters across America have affirmed traditional marriage- it's not that they have tried to say they're gonna ban something, as much as they're gonna affirm what has always been.
Stewart: California did ban it, in essense they said you can't get married.
Huckabee: Actually, they have reaffirmed what they had done before.
Stewart: But people got married in the interim and- then they went back and said you're not- I guess my question is. You said, reaffirming the tradition of marriage over 5000 years, which takes it back to the Old Testament, where polygamy was the norm, not a heterosexual marriage between two couple that choose each other.
Marriage has evolved greatly over those 5000 years, from a property arrangement, polygamy... we've redefined it constantly. It used to be that people of different races could not marry.
It strikes me as very convenient, to go back to the Bible and say, "Hey, man... we gotta look at the way they define marriage..." Why don't we look at the way they did slavery, in the Bible?
Huckabee: But if we change the definition, then we really do have to change it to accomodate all lifestyles. We have to say to the guy in West Texas, who had 27 wives, that's okay. And I'm not sure that I hear alot of people arguing that that's a great idea.
Stewart: I don't know why polygamy has an issue here. It seems like a fundamental human right. You write in your book that all people are created equal, and yet, for gay people, you belive it is corrosive to society to allow them to have the privledges that all humans enjoy.
Huckabee: Well, there is a difference between the equality of each individual and the equality of what we do and the sameness of what we do. I mean, the fact is, marriage is under our law a privilege; it's not an absolute defined right.
Stewart: So what if we make it that Hispanics can't vote?
Huckabee: Well, I don't think that's a really good idea. I'm not sure that we should do that.
Stewart: So why can't gay people get married?
Huckabee: Well, because marriage still means a male and a female relationship. And until the laws are overturned, it still means that.
Stewart: I disagree. I think, you know... segregation used to be the law until the courts intervened.
Huckabee: There is a big difference between a person being black, and a person practicing a lifestyle and engaging in a marital relationship that-
Stewart: Okay. This is helpful. This gets to the crux of it- I think it's the difference of between what you believe gay people are and what I do. And I live in New York City, so I'm just gonna make a suppostition that I have more experience being around them.
And I'll tell you this. Religion is far more of a choice than homosexuality. And the protections that we have, for religion- we protect religion- and talk about a lifestyle choice! That is absolutely a choice. Gay people don't choose to be gay.
At what age did you choose not to be gay?
Huckabee: But Jon, religious people don't have the right to burn others at the stake; they don't have the right to do anything they wish to do.
Stewart: You're not being asked to marry a guy. They're asking to marry the person they love.
Huckabee: But they're asking to redefine the word. And frankly, we're probably not going to come to terms. But if the American people are not convinced that we should overturn the definition of marriage, then I would say that those who support the idea of same sex marriage have got alot of work to do, to convince the rest of us, and as I said, 68% of the American population has made that decision.
Stewart: You talk about the pro life movement being one of the great shames of our nation. I think, if you want number two, I think it's, I think it's that. It's an absolute- it's a travesty that people have forced, someone who is gay, to have to make their case- that they deserve the same basic rights.
Huckabee: Jon, excuse me, I respect you and I disagree with that- I really do- and one of the things that I want to make sure that people understand is that if a person does not necessarily support the idea of changing the definition of marriage, it does not mean that they are a homophobe. It does not mean that they are filled with hate and animosity.
Stewart: I was in no way suggesting.
Huckabee: No no, you were not saying that, but I think some people would like to throw the epithets at some people, whether they're like me, or someone else.
Stewart: But it does beg the question, I have to say, and again... is "WHY?"
You know, you keep talking about, jeez, it would be redefining a word... and it feels like semantics is cold comfort, when it comes to humanity and especially someone such as yourself, who is I believe an empathetic person who is someone who seeks to get to the heart of problems, this idea that, "Jeez, I dunno Jon, definitions and society..." I mean, marriage was not even a sacrament until the 1200s.
Huckabee: Words do matter. Definitions matter. And I think that we have to be very thoughtful and careful before we say that we are going to undo an entire social structure. I mean, let's face it, the basic purpose of a marriage is not just to create the next generation but to train our replacements. And it is in the context of 23 male and 23 female chromosomes coming together at the point of conception to create the next human life.
Stewart: I think you are looking at sexuality and not attributes, and it's odd because the conservative mantra is "Ameritocracy", and I think what you are suggesting is the fact that being gay parents makes you not as good as others and i would suggest that a gay, loving family with a financially stable background beats the hell out of Britney Spears and Kevin Federline any day of the week.
Huckabee: I'm not gonna defend Britney and Kevin, for sure.
Stewart: But I appreciate you having the conversation and I just, uh, it's just, it's just wild.
Huckabee: Well, Jon, I just want you to know I'm not going to marry you. Under any circumstances. I'm just not.
Stewart: (laughing) Fine, appreciate that. "Do The Right Thing", is on bookshelves now. Governor, thank you so much.
Huckabee: Thank you, Jon.
Have a good laugh.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
As a man who has struggled with homosexuality and frumkeit for many years, I take exception to your consistent championing of change being possible and of asserting that there is no such thing as gay. I'd like to offer another perspective.
Let me start by saying that I believe fully in Torah M'Sinai and consider myself to be a fully committed Orthodox Jew whose tafkid in life is to do my best to keep ALL of the Taryag Mitzvot. I am fully versed in both Halachah and Hashkafah and have no issues whatsoever with the philosophical underpinnings of our belief system. I truly believe that the very word of the Chamisha Chumshai Torah was given directly from Hashem to Moshe, and that along with those words, Moshe received Torah SheBa'al Peh.
What I do not fathom is how the prohibition of a very specific behaviour translates into Hashem not making people whose sexual orientation is homosexual.
From a Hashkafik perspective: The mistzvot revolving around Arayot in the Torah address one thing and one thing only - behavior. There is no discussion of desire, of motivation, of what's normal desire and deviant desire. Even if one translates "To'avah" in the pasuk of Mishkav Zachar as "abomination" - which is by no means a definitive definition based on Chazal - it still refers to the action, not the desire.
Your writers say that Hashem wouldn't or couldn't give an orientation to a person and then prohibit him from acting on it. They say that a person's desire must be able to change if the Torah prohibits an action. In my opinion, this is putting a very Pollyanish spin on the very nature of nisayon in Olam Ha'Zeh. The fact is that many times Hashem puts people in adverse circumstances that will not change.
I would argue that in those circumstances the definition of success with the nisayon is first accepting the circumstances and then living as rich a life as possible within those circumstances. Would you, for example, tell a person with medically incurable deafness not to accept that diagnosis? That Hashem would not do that to him because there are so many mitzvot, such as shofar, that involve hearing? That his focus in life should center on searching for a cure? Could you imagine a crueler and less productive way to deal with this most challenging nisayon?
My own struggle with homosexuality has come at enormous cost for me. I ruined a marriage and a successful career. Though I have been to the best "SSA Therapists", one thing that did not change is my basic desire. Some may say I didn't try hard enough. Which believer in Torah M'Sinai would not want to "change"? Certainly one who lost as much as I did would have more than enough motivation.
But all the motivation in the world has not changed reality for me. When I think of the enormous pain men like me go through, I wish that the hope of change could be there. But I also know that at this point I'd rather face reality than embrace false hope.
I did not choose to be what I am.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
A few weeks later I began to express my feelings in this blog.
It has been an incredible journey.
We have learned so much. We have met so many people. And we have changed.
As parents, the world as we knew it shattered, as soon as our son came out to us. Our dreams came to an abrupt end. The world of our daughters irrevocably changed as they were forced to come to grips with their new reality.
Our faith in God has come into question and the trust that we thought we had in our friends has diminished.
But we were able to pick up the pieces and rebuild around our new reality.
We sought advice from our rabbi. This turned out to be a dead-end.
We joined a local chapter of PFLAG. We became friends with some nice people who have been through this journey in their lives. They have shown us how to celebrate the positive aspects of our new reality.
We reached out to whoever we felt could offer us assistance. Rabbi Steve Greenberg spent a few hours talking with me right after our son came out. He was a tremendous source of strength. Dr. Naomi Mark gave me the courage to continue writing in this blog. Dr. Linda Freedman willingly offered her services to me whenever I needed it, and there were times when I really needed it. Rabbi Michael Balinsky gave me his encouragement as a dear, old friend.
We chose to tell some of our friends in a cautious, deliberate manner, over the space of this past year. Those with whom we shared have been a source of strength for us.
Only some members of our family know.
And this blog has exposed us to a new world. The postings have elicited responses from gay men and women and their parents. We have become close with all who have chosen to have a dialogue with us. There are many emails that are written in private between us and we all have grown as we used this blog and its instruments as a forum to share our thoughts and our stories.
Our family has changed and grown. We have grown closer together and as individuals we have all grown stronger.
During this past Sukkoth, as we sat around the table, the discussion turned to this blog. My son turned to me and said that it is time to take a less lachrymose approach in the blog. I told him that I agree with him. I said that the mourning period has drawn to an end and that it is now time to move from sadness to advocacy.
He nodded and the discussion moved on to another topic.
The waters remain uncharted, but we can navigate knowing that it will all be good.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
My response was a simple "uh-huh".
What else was there to say?
After a few pensive moments, he continued the discussion. He said that he has a friend who says "that when his time comes to stand before HaKadosh Baruch Hu, he is going to ask Him why he was forced to be judged by such a different set of standards than everyone else."
What else was there to say?
Wishing you a year of good health.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
"You shall cast yourself down before the Presence of God and you shall rejoice in all the good that God has given you and your household."
But I am choosing not to continue along this line and instead to discuss another part of this week's parsha.
At the beginning of the parsha, we read about the mitzva of "bikkurim", the instruction to dedicate the first fruits of the harvest. The root of the declaration is the recognition that all belongs to God. Man may till the soil, plant the seed and harvest the crop, but the underlying assumption is that it is God who ultimately provides the sustenance.
Whatever the human action, the bikkurim offering is an acknowledgement that God's role is primary. The actual offering is subordinate to the intention of making the offering. The point of the offering is to make it clear that everything comes from God.
Rabbi Sholom Noach Berezovsky, the Slonimer rebbe, in Netivot Shalom, picks up on the intention implied with the bikkurim offering. “This is the soul and fundamental principle of the mitzvah of bikkurim—we attribute what is first to God. Through this we dedicate everything that concerns us to God”.
Some time ago I read an article that discussed the tension that exists between man and God. Every Friday night we recite kiddush over wine that God provides, but is produced by man. We continue to make hamotzei over the bread that God provides, but is baked by man.
There is a constant tension in Judaism between what successes man can claim for himself and what successes are the result of Divine Providence. We rarely attribute any of our successes to Divine Providence. This week's parsha reminds us that it is always in God's hands.
The tension exists, but through some of our rituals, we have managed to negotiate and reconcile the human/divine challenge.
In the course of the last ten months I have also witnessed how my son and his friends have learned to negotiate and reconcile their struggle and challenges with God.
I have come to learn over the past ten months that what is written (in Acharei Mot) or what is not written (in Ki Tavo) is less important than how we negotiate and reconcile the tension that exists as a result of Divine Providence.
The message of bikkurim is that we must acknowledge that everything, including us, has come from God. The challenge is what we do with God's creation. The treasure of Judaism is that all challenges can be reconciled once we make the acknowledgement.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
My wife is in Israel studying at a women's seminary in Jerusalem for the summer. A few days ago she attended a shiur by a rav who shall remain nameless. At the end of the class, she introduced herself. She told the rabbi that during this past year, her daughter was a student of the rabbi's wife. She went on to tell him about the class which his wife taught in which she opened up a discussion about homosexuality. This was done without any guidance or structure, but as a free discussion. Coming from their sheltered Orthodox Jewish backgrounds, these eighteen year olds proceeded to bash homosexuals.
This class was held in the first two weeks after the girls arrived in Israel. It had also just been two weeks since our daughter found out that her older brother is gay. My daughter was terribly distraught over this turn of events and she had promised her brother that she would not yet share what she knew about him with anyone. She had no one to talk to and no one to turn to.
After hearing the story, the rabbi responded that it is a shame about these gay guys. He continued to tell her that most of them go off the derekh because they are gay. She responded by saying that homosexuals have no choice in what they are, just as the rabbi could not become gay if he so chose.
What she wanted to say to him was that they leave the religion because of people like you and your wife.
I would have used a few more expletives.
To explain the quote in the title. Randy Pausch was born in 1960 and he died on July 25, 2008 from pancreatic cancer. He taught virtual reality (VR) at Carnegie Mellon University and he gave his last lecture in September 2007. I first heard about him a few months ago. I was moved by his positive outlook in spite of the fact that he was given less than a year to live.
His final lecture was titled "The Last Lecture". He opened the lecture by stating that his father taught him that when there is an elephant in the room you should confront it.
Nice segue "nopeanuts". Right? I've been thinking about what you wrote about my son's peers and our peers who are afraid to approach us. I don't think they are waiting to take their cues from us. That is overly optimistic. They just don't know what to do with themselves. Homosexuality, especially in the Orthodox Jewish world, is taboo, just like depression and cancer was, a few generations ago. Wife abuse does not happen in the Orthodox Jewish community either.
Randy Pausch said that the elephant should be confronted. We have been telling our friends on a one by one basis. It is an emotionally trying experience each time, for us as well as for the listener. For those people who don't know what to do with themselves when they are around us, I have no answer. That blanket email outing our son provided the information, provided the truth. But as Jack Nicholson shouted in A Few Good Men, "You can't handle the truth!"
I watched Randy Pausch's last lecture on YouTube the other day. I will take my cues from how he lived his life and the legacy he has tried to pass on to his children. He used a few more phrases in the lecture which I would like to use now and at a later date.
He said that 'brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things." The Orthodox Jewish LGBT community is being shut out by a high security brick wall. One day that wall will be breached.
Randy Pausch also recommended "Not to bail. The best gold is at the bottom of barrels of crap."
Don't allow people, such as the rav and his wife, to say whether you have or do not have a place in the community. It is not their place to say so. Maybe the brick wall is there for a reason. It gives you the opportunity to show your dedication to what you believe in.
PS. Google "The Last Lecture".
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
"Enquiring minds want to know"
...Surely you cannot deny that an openly gay and shomer mitzvot homosexual is a curiosity in the Orthodox community. Especially in the case of someone you know personally.
Because these people (frum gays) are so hidden secretive and locked away, and also because of the possibilities that their lifestyle presents (rethinking of halachic norms?) I do not fault those mentioned in this post who express curiosity or fascination at your son's lifestyle.
Is there a pink elephant? Undoubtedly. Are people fascinated with it? Yes, but only because they have never seen a pink elephant before. And Mr. and Mrs. David are Pink Elephants even more so than their gay son- most adults might know someone who is gay. But how many of them know someone who is gay and shomer shabbat/kashrut (SS/K) and then know their parents and close family as well, that have sworn to support him and accept his very controversial lifestyle?
Most SSKs I know were brought up being taught that being gay is a terrible sin, taught that parents must sit shiva for a gay child, and mourn that child as dead. Troubling (and harmful?) ideas indeed. The Davids' acceptance of their son as gay is a relief for other SSKs as much as it is for the son...that if an SSK thinks that a gay person deserves better than our society teaches, this is not something to feel guilty about.
Do not confuse curiosity and fascination with disapproval.
If these people are friends, then they are probably studying how you are dealing with the issue, in order to calibrate their own confused emotions.
Like it or not, Mr. David, you are thrust in to the role of the professional, someone with more experience and knowledge about dealing with SSK homosexuals in your family than anyone else in your community- from whom everyone else takes their cues. It sounds like what you mistake for judging glares could just be "enquiring minds," not about your sons lifestyle, but about what is an appropriate way to approach him and his family since he has come to grips with his sexuality. Just because somebody screwed up and told the world about your son being gay, it does not mean that everyone she told is as malicious. Also, because this one person abused the privileged information trusted to her, it is fine if you feel betrayed...but it would be wrong to hold it against everyone else for knowing.
Allow me to respond to the comment which you posted on July 22nd. You have raised some excellent points.
I do not deny that an ssk homosexual is a curiosity within the Orthodox community. How the individuals within the community respond to this information is the issue. Please remember that my perspective is only as a parent of an ssk homosexual.
The individuals who I find to be troubling are not those who express curiousity or fascination at my son's lifestyle. I am troubled by those who look at my son, not as a person who has chosen to continue to be a shomer mitzvot in spite of the fact that he is gay, but as someone who is not quite as frum as the rest of us specifically because he is gay. I have not yet come across people who are curious or fascinated with my son's lifestyle. At this point in the journey we are viewed as untouchables. They just don't know what to do with themselves.
You may be giving these people more credit than they deserve. They don't know that our son's "parents and family have sworn to support him and accept his very contoversial lifestyle" because they have not been able to muster the courage to approach us and ask. Perhaps they think that we are in a mourning mode. Who knows?
But on the other hand, you may be right. I can only report what I see and how I feel. Perhaps those glares from the other side of the fence are from people who just don't know the appropriate way to respond to this very unique situation.
Your reading of my emotions are almost correct. I do feel betrayed, but I do not hold it against everyone else for knowing now that they know. My fear has always been about those who do not wish my family well. This situation gives those people the perfect opportunity.
But on the other hand, once we get beyond the curiosity and the fascination and even the disapproval, it is up to us to show that it is indeed possible and right to be shomer mitzvot whether straight or gay.
Thank you for your straightforward comments.
Monday, July 14, 2008
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The elephant in the room (also elephant in the living room, elephant in the corner, elephant on the dinner table, elephant in the kitchen, and horse in the corner) is an English idiom for an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed. It is based on the idea that an elephant in a small room would be impossible to overlook.
It is sometimes used to refer to a question or problem that is obvious, but which is ignored out of embarrassment or taboo. The idiom also implies a value judgment that the issue ought to be discussed openly.
The term is often used to describe an issue that involves a social taboo, such as racism or religion, which everyone understands to be an issue but which no one is willing to admit.
The idiom is commonly used in addiction recovery terminology to describe the reluctance of friends and family of an addicted person to discuss the person's problem, thus aiding the person's denial.
The idiom is also occasionally invoked as a "pink elephant", possibly in reference to alcohol abuse, or for no other reason than that a pink elephant would be more visible than a normal elephant.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
I recently heard from a mother, who after being told by her mid-thirties son that he is gay, turned to her rabbi for advice. She believed that the meeting went well and the Rabbi in turn sent her for some counseling to someone who knows more about homosexuality.
This person sent her to JONAH.
A therapist friend of mine says "JONAH makes me ill."
What parent would want to see their child put through a hellish, pseudo-psychological experience, that is not successful?
I, would really, rather, put my faith in Hashem, who is slow to anger and abounding in kindness, because JONAH fails the test.
PS. For more information on reparative therapy go to
Monday, June 16, 2008
The Rav was as open-minded as he allowed himself to be, I'm afraid. As I look around the shul on any given morning I can see a few embezzlers, insurance fraudsters and experts in weights and measures, all looking frummer than the next guy.
It's going to take a lot more than having an open mind to deal with the issue of homosexuality.
It's going to take an openly honest mind.
I have not heard from you since you showed the courage to write on March 4th. I hope you have been reading the entries to the blog and especially the response from anonymous a week after you wrote in. "Anonymous" wrote me privately as well, but she has permitted me to tell you that she is a younger sister of a young man who recently came out to his family. She wrote me that the man has continued to be frum even though it is a constant struggle and his family is standing behind him knowing that this is a difficult situation for all of the family.
Dear Rivka Chana,
I have not heard from you since you wrote in February. You may be surprised how many "accepting" parents there actually are out there.
Please keep in touch with all of us. It is the only way, at this point in time, for "accepting" parents to realize that they are not alone.
Enough written for now.
For those who have written comments, thank you for the courage you have shown. I am sure that you have given some strength to those who are reading this blog.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
It has been three full festivals since my son told us he is gay. He told us on the first day of Sukkoth. We spent the Chag digesting the information. Pesach was spent together as a family, coming back together for the first time since Sukkoth. The time was spent getting back to a normal family life. We shall spend this Chag alone, since two of our children are in
As is our tradition on this Holiday of Shavuoth to spend the entire night in the study of the Torah, I have come up with my own Tikkun Leyl Shavuoth. I plan to spend the entire night studying the following twenty-two passages in the Torah that use the term “to’evah”. I want to understand the context in which this term is used.
Even though it is tempting to editorialize, I shall refrain from doing so. I do reserve the opportunity to do so at a later time once I have learned and digested and fully understand the text and the context in which it is written.
To remain consistent I used the JPS edition of the Tanakh for its translation of the text. The passages which I found are as follows……….
“The Egyptians could not dine with the Hebrews, since that would be abhorrent to the Egyptians.” Ber/Gen 43:32
“You may stay in the region of
“Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abhorrence.” Vay/Lev 18:22
“But you must keep My laws and My rules, and you must not do any of these abhorrent things.” Vay/Lev. 18:26
“For all those abhorrent things were done by the people who were in the land before you, and the land became defiled.” Vay/Lev. 18:27
“All who do any of these abhorrent things – such persons shall be cut off from their people.” Vay/Lev 18:29
“You shall keep my charge not to engage in any of the abhorrent practices that were carried on before you.” Vay/Lev. 18:30
“You shall consign the images of their gods to the fire; you shall not covet the silver and gold on them and keep it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared thereby; for that is abhorrent to the Lord you God.” Dev/Deut. 7:25
“You shall not bring an abhorrent thing into your house, or you will be proscribed like it; you must reject it as abominable and abhorrent.” Dev/Deut. 7:26
“You shall not act thus toward the Lord you God, for they perform for their gods every abhorrent act that the Lord detests.” Dev/Deut 12:31
“If it is true, the fact is established – that abhorrent thing was perpetrated in your midst – put the inhabitants of that town to the sword.” Dev/Deut 13:15
“If it is true, the fact is established, that abhorrent thing was perpetrated in Israel, you shall take the man and the woman who did that wicked thing out to the public place, and you shall stone them, man and woman.” Dev/Deut 17:4-5
“When you enter the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to imitate the abhorrent practices of those nations.” Dev/Deut. 18:9
“For anyone who does such things is abhorrent to the Lord, and it is because of these abhorrent things that the Lord your God is dispossessing them before you.” Dev/Deut. 18:12
“Lest they lead you into doing all the abhorrent things that they have done for their gods and you stand guilty before the Lord your God.” Dev/Deut 20:18
“Cursed be anyone who makes a sculptured or molten image, abhorred by the Lord.” Dev/Deut 27:15
“The first husband who divorced her shall not take her to wife again, since she has been defiled – for that would be abhorrent to the Lord.” Dev/Deut 24:4
“You shall not eat anything abhorrent.” Dev/Deut. 14:3
“You shall not eat anything abhorrent.” Dev/Deut. 14:3
“You shall not bring the fee of a whore or the pay of a dog into the House of the Lord your God in fulfillment of any vow, for both are abhorrent to the Lord your God.” Dev/Deut 23:19
“You shall not bring the fee of a whore or the pay of a dog into the House of the Lord your God in fulfillment of any vow, for both are abhorrent to the Lord your God.” Dev/Deut 23:19
“A woman must not put on man’s apparel, nor shall a man wear woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is abhorrent to the Lord your God.” Dev/Deut. 22:5
“You must have completely honest weights and completely honest measures, if you are to endure long on the soil that the Lord your God is giving you. For everyone who does those things, everyone who deals dishonestly is abhorrent to the Lord your God.” Dev/Deut. 25:15-16
Have a chag same'ach.Saul David
Thursday, June 5, 2008
A few weeks ago, an old friend came to visit me. He is a rabbi who lives in
In her study, “Accepting the Unacceptable: Religious Parents and Adult Gay and Lesbian Children,” Linda Freedman, PhD, “debunks the perhaps popular perception that religiously oriented people, especially the orthodox, are sure to reject persons with sexual minority orientations, even their own children.”
With Dr. Freedman’s permission and the permission of the
The study analyzed parental acceptance of adult gay and lesbian children. It included religiously oriented parents and parents who had not affiliated with any support group.
The study begins with certain facts and certain assumptions. It states that “research findings indicate that parental support mitigates risk to individuals identifying as homosexual. Increased visibility has led to a rise in illegal, socially sanctioned, physical attacks on gays.” It goes on to state that in a “clinical and empirical study of sexual minority families, parental support may provide sexual minority children a buffer against the prejudices and dangers inherent in a heterosexual society.” An Israeli study found that “family acceptance has a positive impact on psychological adjustment and self-esteem.”
The study continues to state that “we might assume, based upon the literature, that religiously oriented parents who believe that the sexual lives of their sexual minority children are sinful may not be able to function in a way that buffers their children from some of the dangers and challenges of a heterosexist society…Homophobia has been consistently found to be associated with religious orthodoxy and negative attitudes toward gays and lesbians.”
From these facts and assumptions, Dr. Freedman begins her study. The makeup of the subject groups was as follows, two thirds belonged to some sort of support group and one third did not. The study continues to explain to the reader the questions that were posed and how the analysis was computed. The study ends with a detailed discussion of the themes and issues which emerged in the analysis of the data.
Four themes emerged. They were as follows:
1. Initial reactions to disclosure
2. Coping strategies
3. Thoughts about therapy and counseling
4. Resolving conflict over time.
The first theme, Initial reactions to disclosure, the study reports that “initial reaction to learning that a child was gay did not differ between groups. Parents from all three groups had extensive lists of fears, including career-related concerns for the child and worries about health, social stability, and safety, especially from gay-bashers and murderers.”
“Losses and dashed expectations predominated the negative reactions and made initial acceptance difficult for most parents. They grieved the loss of grandchildren and marriages of children…”
“Parents reported initial social withdrawal followed by a period of adjustment and a flurry of interest in socializing with others who had a gay child. Some sought advice immediately..from parents in similar circumstances and expressed relief that they were not alone.”
The second theme to emerge was coping strategies. “Coping strategies, regardless of group affiliation, included reading everything possible about homosexuality and seeking information from people who knew about it.”
“Several parents described staying involved with their child as their greatest coping strategy….they learned to become defiant with people who criticized the child.”
The third theme dealt with the parents’ thoughts about therapy or counseling. In the study two thirds of the parents sought out some form of counseling, either pastoral or secular. “Parents who related to the counselor found the process a normalizing, learning experience. Positive comments about treatment alluded to a clinician’s ability to de-shame, comfort, reassure, and offer hope as an alternative to a parent’s helplessness and confusion.
In the fourth and final theme to emerge, resolving conflicts over time, “most parents said that they were ‘okay’ with their child and had hope for the future. A minority did not feel that they would ever resolve their issues.”
Dr. Freedman concludes her study as follows. She states that “the findings of the current study corroborate data that parent reactions to sexual orientation, especially when parents are religiously oriented, are complex. Most parents came to accept the child’s sexual orientation over time.”
“Most parents asserted that support groups helped them accept what they could not change….having an evolving positive relationship was better than conflict or cutoffs that accomplished nothing.”
“The only parents to profess to having rejected their children were those who had not attended any support group.”
Dr. Linda Freedman concludes that “this study nevertheless debunks the perhaps popular perception that religiously oriented people, especially the orthodox, are sure to reject persons with sexual minority orientations, even their own children.”
Thank you, Dr. Freedman.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Sunday, May 18, 2008
"R.Hillel used to say: If I am not for myself, who is for me? If I care only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?" Pirkei Avot 1:14
Rabbi Greenberg asked, "knowing what you know now, and having lived through this difficult time, what facilities could have been in place that could have made a difference?"
For us, there was nothing in place to assist us. We had no one to turn to and no one who could help us navigate these uncharted waters. Our rabbi was able to briefly console us, but we have not heard from him since our initial meeting. When I set up this blog, I notified him that I was doing so and I told him to call me for the address. I am still waiting for his call, even though there are young men and women in the community who have recently come out. I had a heart-wrenching and tearful conversation with Rabbi Steve Greenberg. He was a great help, but all he could offer was his words. We went to PFLAG meetings. They have been helpful as we could see and hear how their lives became normalized within time. We visited a psychiatrist. She is helpful in dealing with coping mechanisms. But that's about it.
In spite of all of our efforts, we still came up short and in need of help. Some days we feel we are in a bad dream, and not a single day goes by when something triggers a thought that brings on a tear.
That is why I thought it important to start this blog to try to bring other parents into the open to discuss, share and understand that they/we are not alone. Our struggles are similar, our fears are similar, our shattered dreams are similar, our guilt is similar, our questions are similar, our questioning is similar.
It has been a frustrating journey writing this blog. There has not been a large response and there are days when I think that it should be shut down. I don't have to be opening up every emotion I feel to the world, to my children and to my son in particular. They don't have to know how I feel.
A few weeks before Pesach I received a few private emails through the blog. One was from a young man who was married and is struggling, another was from a young man who has not told anyone yet and does not know what to do, and another was from a thirtysomething man who asked me for help because it was about time that he told his parents about himself.
So I will keep this blog going a little while longer because there is nothing else in place for us.
What could have made a difference? A place, a forum where we could ask the questions and receive fair and honest answers. Where we could deal with the emotional aspect of our children coming out, as parents and from the point of view of the children. Where we could get answers to our halakhic questions without feeling shunned or embarrassed. Where we could just have someone to talk to.
My vision would be to have an organization that would have on staff a rabbi, a psycho-therapist and a parent. This particular staff should be straight because they are talking to straight people, but with a deep understanding of gay men and women. These people should be on call to answer the urgent questions which we have and give us the strength to start breathing again.
I hope this answers your question Rabbi Greenberg.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
"You can no more make amends for the damage your words have done than you can recollect the scattered feathers."
We are taught that the harm done by speech is even worse than the harm done by stealing or by harming someone financially. Lost or stolen money can be repaid, but the harm caused by speech can never be repaired.
There is a famous Chassidic tale that illustrates the danger of improper speech......
A man went about the community telling malicious lies about the rabbi. Later he realized the wrong he had done and felt remorse. He went to the rabbi and begged his forgiveness, saying he would do anything to make amends. The rabbi told the man "Take a feather pillow, cut it open and scatter the feathers to the winds."
The man thought this was a simple enough task and he did it gladly. When he returned to tell the rabbi that he had done what the rabbi requested, the rabbi said, "Now go and gather the feathers." The man replied that this task would be impossible because all the feathers were scattered in the wind. The rabbi continued to say that "you can no more make amends for the damage your words have done than you can recollect all the scattered feathers."
There is a mitzva in the Torah which states "thou shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer among thy people (Vayikra 19:16). It is a violation in Jewish law to say anything about another person, even if it is true. The person who listens to tale-bearing is even worse than the person who tells it, because no harm could be done by gossip if there was no one to listen to it. It has been stated that lashon hara kills three people, the person who speaks it, the person who hears it and the person about whom it is told. (Talmud Arachin 15b).
In terms of my son, lashon hara is most relevant. Over Pesach, one of my daughters kept getting emails from different friends asking her if it was true that her brother is gay. The emails were too random and varied to be coincidence. When we returned home from Israel after Pesach, there were messages on our phone from people who we have not heard from in over a year. We finally decided to tell a family friend that our son is gay and she told us that she heard about it over the last few weeks.
After some investigation with our son we were able to piece the following chain of events together.
A female friend of our son was being asked incessantly by their mutual friend what the story was with my son and whether he is gay. The female friend asked permission if she could "out" him and he said it would be all right to confide in her. It appears that no sooner had this person heard the news, then she sent an email to whomever she knows who also knows my son.
Our sages compare a tale-bearer to a merchant. Not a merchant of goods, but a merchant of information. We live in the information age and those feathers are now scattered.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Yesterday I went to the shul of the Rabbi who we met with after my son came out. I haven't been there in a few months because of the cold weather. The Rabbi gave an interesting talk.
He spoke about love, specifically the love of a parent for a child. It was short and to the point and it hit home.
He said that R. Akliva's students perished because even though they may have loved each other, they did not respect one another. He went on to say that without respect, love is not enough to sustain a relationship. There has to be a balance, he stated, between love and respect.
He concluded his short drasha by saying that it is a parent's responsibility to love a child, but even if the child does not live up to the parent's expectations or even leaves the path, the parent must tell the child that he loves the child and respects what he is doing.
It is incumbent upon the parent to balance his love for his child with the respect due to the child no matter what.
Friday, April 25, 2008
We spent a meaningful Seder together with another family. For this first time in many years I was a guest at another person's Seder rather than being the leader of the Seder. This allowed me the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the Seder, and the questions that are posed to all the generations present at the Seder. It also allowed me time to think about freedom, not only the freedom from slavery, but some of the personal freedoms we work towards in our daily lives.
There are no answers. There are only questions. The answers change from year to year and from generation to generation.
Before my daughter left her yeshiva for Pesach vacation she was handed a note from her madrichot. It read as follows.....
On a personal level, I started writing this blog a short while after my son told us he is gay. I felt it was necessary to start a dialogue with other parents who were finding themselves in the same situation. In setting this blog in motion I also set up an anonymous email address so that people who did not want to share their stories with everyone, could communicate with me personally. I have stressed many times that I am not a professional, just an ordinary father navigating uncharted waters.
I have been a little disappointed in the response and I have even considered shutting down the blog.
But maybe some good will come from this.
A few weeks ago, a young man started to email me. We discussed my son, how I felt as a parent and how I was able to handle and cope with the news. He was struggling with telling his parents. He had been finding the Chagim to be a trying time for him and he was searching for help in sharing his sexual orientation with his parents.
We had numerous emails back and forth and many hours spent chatting on IM. I left for Israel and wished him luck. I received an email from him yesterday telling me that he shared his news with his parents. A few minutes later I received an email from his mother thanking me for helping her son.
From slavery to freedom.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
I recently received a book from a friend. The title is YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE WRONG FOR ME TO BE RIGHT, by Rabbi Brad Hirschfield. As I usually do when I read non-fiction, I turned to the index to see if the author writes anything about homosexuality. Please read some excerpts from the book.......
If loneliness is a sin, how can some of my fellow rabbis tell a gay man who is in a loving relationship with another man that what he's doing is wrong? Well, they can, and often do, point to Leviticus, where homosexuality is prohibited. The Leviticus prohibition is based on the truth that the ideal state of human relations is for people of different sexes to come together and build families. Leviticus is very clear about telling us how life should be lived so that we maintain order and things fit together in their right and expected places.
Leviticus is also concerned about the ways in which people coming together will lead to the possibility of their making more people. It is more concerned with the role that people play in being like God (creating human life), while Genesis is focused less on being like God and more on feeling like God (having a new creation to keep from being lonely). Leviticus plays out the possibility that we humans can act like God in creating new life and organizing it on the planet. Genesis seems more interested, at that moment anyhow, in our ability to feel like God, to look around and sense the incompleteness of things and yearn for someone with which to connect.
Leviticus understands sacredness as a function of things being in their rightful places, not of how individual people feel about where things are being placed. It's the difference between the classically trained French chef, for whom everything must be done according to plan because following that plan assures the best product, and the short-order cook who knows that as long as the customers are happy, it really doesn't matter if everything was done according to what she learned at cooking school.
While it's easy to be impressed with the chef, most people are more at ease with the cook because they know that in his own way he is genuinely concerned with making a meal that is right for them. The chef can always hide behind the rules, even if the customer hates the food. After all, he will reason, it's been prepared according to the rules, so it must be the customer's problem. We need both the cook and the chef, and I suspect that's also true of the insights of Genesis and Leviticus.
Some people will say that using Genesis to justify homosexuality is obscene, while others despise the so-called truth of Leviticus. But, like the two cooks, each possess wisdom.
Perhaps we need to stop pretending that there are positions that will satisfy everyone and get used to simply doing our best while admitting the price of the position that we have taken.
As we approach next week's reading in Vayikra, I think that Rabbi Hirschfield's comments may be quite appropriate.
PS. Rabbi Hirschfield can be reached at www.bradhirschfield.com
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
We spent a pleasant Sunday afternoon together. As we strolled through a museum, he and I discussed this blog. I asked him whether it bothered him that I was writing this blog. He replied that it was important for me to be doing this as a parent, and he understood the goal of this blog is to act as a forum or conduit for other parents to share their experiences.
He told me about an organization that he is involved in which is trying to help frum kids cope once they have come out. He told us about his friend who came out a few months ago. When I suggested that the young man tell his parents about this blog, he told us that the parents were in denial and have not accepted the fact that their son is gay.
Over dinner, we asked our son if it would be alright to tell some of our friends that he is gay. His response was "they are your friends, not mine, and you may do whatever you seem fit." This was quite a departure from the way he felt just five months ago. He told us that the people who are important to him know that he is gay and support him. And that is all that is important to him.
In spite of the fact that we only spent part of a day with him, we left him feeling that he is more relaxed and in a better place than he was six months ago.
So where does that leave us?
Since we were hit with the news five months ago, our lives have changed. We see less and less of our friends and we spend most of the week engrossed in our respective jobs. When Shabbat comes, we no longer invite any guests over to share our meals, nor do we care to go to other people's homes. When we find the strength to go to shul, we come home without staying for kiddush. Before Shabbat we have been taking murder mystery books from the library and spending the weekend reading.
And then the week begins again.
The name of the organization my son referred to is called JQYOUTH.
Their motto is "You are not alone."
Their website is www.jqyouth.org.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
"Material things have no will. And everything must have a will-that is essential. This proves that these things depend upon humanity who has a will. And with this will humanity can incline every thing towards G-d...this is the meaning of the verse "let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them..." --among each individual." (Trumah 5633)
In The Guide For The Perplexed, Maimonides states that the mishkan serves as a spiritual conduit to G-d, not as a physical dwelling. The physical structure was used to elicit a spritual reaction.
Nehama Leibowitz asks whether the passage "make Me a Sanctuary for Me to dwell therein" "contains the message of Divine love, a promise of intimate contact with Him?" (Studies in Shemot, p.468.)
I believe that the message of this week's parsha is that there has to be a direct link between the will of G-d and the will of humankind.
Why does the construction of the mishkan come up at this point in the Torah? Most commentators have an opinion. The one that I find to be most fitting and understanding is the one posited by Abravanel,
"G-d's intention with the construction of the mishkan was to contest the idea that G-d had forsaken the earth."
As the people journeyed farther and farther into the desert, they needed the reassurance that G-d was present in their lives.
How does this relate to us as parents and to our children who are questioning their connection to their religion, to their parents and to their past?
Now more than ever, we need the assurance and our children need the reassurance that G-d is still present in our lives. We must prove to our children that Hashem has not forsaken them, nor have we forsaken them.
We are unable to build a physical structure. Thus no one can fulfill all the commandments laid out in the Torah. Therefore we must find other ways to build a mishkan. Together, we must build a spiritual dwelling place where we can embrace our children and our families and teach them how to be better Jews and better human beings. We must be encouraged, and we must encourage our children to follow as many mitzvot as is possible, with the limited capabilities that we as humans have.
Our children were raised as frum children. Because of who they discovered themselves to be as they were growing up and reaching maturity, they have felt rejected by the Torah community or by us, their parents. I believe that it is their will to remain as frum Jews, if only they could be encouraged to do so in a non-judgemental environment. I believe that a loving G-d who commands us to build a dwelling place wants everyone to share in this endeavor.
Each effort we make to bring ourselves and our children closer to Hashem, brings the mishkan closer to home.