As the objective of this blog is to inform on attitudes towards Judaism, I feel it is my obligation as a Religious Minister especially living in the UK where the issue has grown out of proportion, because of the lecture on homosexuality given by Senior Rabbi Dweck of the Spanish and Portuguese Community.
Here is the clarification of what has been a major discussion and misinterpreted.
Rabbi Dweck analyses and makes a distinction between male homosexual “sexual” relations and homosexual love. While the Torah prohibits the former, it is not clear on the latter, he says.
Responses from especially the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, the institutions that invested him and major orthodox authorities calling to ban him as an orthodox rabbi, and asking even for the U.K. Chief Rabbi’s resignation, shows we are back to exactly the eighteen hundreds and what originated the different movements in Judaism. Which started, especially after the expulsion of Baruch Spinoza in Amsterdam by exactly the same establishment, the rabbinate. That then asked its community to physically step “over him” in public, as an act of disgrace.
He was a prestigious Rabbi of his time, this occurred only because of his philosophical views on nature and God, which disagreed with the rabbinate.
This, I learned directly from my teacher Rabbi David Ellenson, the most respectful scholar in researching the beginning of modern orthodoxy and the reform movement.
So, what is going on in my opinion:
Rabbi Dweck, is a voice and one interpreter of Torah. As many others, he is in his right as anyone else. That it collides with Ashkenazic orthodox Jewry, it always has been so between Sephardic and Ashkenazic rabbis.
As a matter of fact, the major halachic work (the Shulchan Aruch) needed an addendum, The Mapa, by J. Isserles, to apply Jewish law for Ashkenazim, because the Shulchan Aruch by Josef Caro only applied for Sephardim.
And it seems we are again in the ping pong of who this lecture was aimed to, as the arguments seem to be that it is a Sephardic way of interpretation. The voices that condemn Rabbi Dweck, come mostly from the Ashkenazic world, which sadly hasn’t been at the level of a discussion LeShem Shamayim (for the sake of Heaven) as rabbis should and used to argue in the Talmud, (a major source of Jewish law) which orthodoxy seems so much to rely on. But this discussion has been led irespectfully and open in the media.
One of the supporters of Rabbi Dweck is my previous teacher in Jerusalem Rabbi Nattan Lopez Cardozo, who also reacts openly in the Internet with his views, as he usually does in criticism of the law maker’s (read halacha) establishment, which I follow closely in his weekly postings.
This time, he writes and quotes several halachic authorities that may support Dwecks views, arguing the head of the institution (Gateshead Yeshiva) that is asking for Dweck to resign, appears as not being well read in the subject.
For us who follow Rabbi Dweck, may think he is a charismatic leader in addition to using Internet as a way to attract his young audience, and we would agree, he gives lectures with honesty, knowledge and preparation, although this lecture I could only bare to listen for 15 minutes.
In summary, it is a disgrace for klal Israel (the Jewish people) to have this whole exchange and its nature open in the Internet, because of the way the different reactions. And as a colleague I feel so ashamed.
Rabbi Dweck’s has been misunderstood as he clarifies (read link at the beginning).
Naturally, that an analysis now coming from an orthodox Rabbi, would show there is a fine line between the movements after more or less 150 years of their existence, and naturally creates in the orthodox world a debate they just want to have as a political tool, but it shows more than the proximity or non existing one between the different types of interpretation of our sources which crosses the movements created to distinguish exactly that division. No, now it is in their own yard, since it is coming from an orthodox Senior Rabbi holding a prestigious position as Head of the very prestigious Sephardic, Spanish and Portuguese community established in England, 1657. The rest of the orthodox establishment couldn’t bare it and simply showed its claws, not taking the discussion of the actual issue at stake, but just a fight between the heads of most important orthodox rabbinical institutions.
Rabbi Dweck knew it and even says it at the beginning of his shiur, but probably not to the extend this developed into.
I had heard already the controversial Masorti Rabbi David Lazar in Limmud, saying, “what they do privately is not our business”.
So, if the Torah doesn’t condemn the relation between same sex couples and only points out intercourse, I ask myself, why does it then clearly state the separation between a married couple during the wife impure period of her menses? If it is not to avoid their sin of having intercourse?, Just because she cannot procreate during that period and main reason for having intercourse, I don’t think so. Do we really believe in platonic love between same sex couples?, and that they won’t have any sexual contact? this is just a point that comes to my mind, when thinking about this.
What we have here is the total lack of respect for each other at levels where fear of God should reign, especially in learned people.
What is sure is that Orthodoxy is not a voice anymore that stands rock-solid in its views and the boundaries between reform and orthodoxy are insubstantial. Probably always were. And clearly shows the rupture in the movement.
And above all, we should have more important issues as spiritual leaders to addres and to set example to our fellows, as did the learned teachers of Israel in the past that tried to unify the Jewish people.
With that in mind let’s do everything we are able to and bring redemption to the world, and be careful with our words.