Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Google This

A few months ago my daughter called me from Israel to tell me that when she did a search of this blog it came up on page 23 of Google.

I googled the blog today and it came up as the first entry.


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

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with Rabbi Steven Greenberg. He wanted me to respond to some questions. I promised that I would reply within a week or two. Instead of responding privately, I have decided to make my response an open letter.

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.

Saul David

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"You can no more make amends for the damage your words have done than you can recollect the scattered feathers."

The Jewish laws that are most difficult to keep but are most commonly violated are the laws regarding improper speech or "lashon hara".

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

V'ahavta Lere'acha Kamocha

"When we state that it is a mitzva to love people, this means that it makes no difference who the person is." - Sara Schnirer, founder of Bais Yaakov in Em B'Yisroel 2:75-78.

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.