As the objective of this blog is to inform on attitudes towards Judaism, I feel it is my obligation as a 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.
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 have heard Dweck before, may think as a charismatic leader in addition to using YouTube with short videos as a way to attract his young audience, would agree, gives lectures with honesty, knowledge and preparation, although this lecture I could only bare to listen for 15 minutes. (See link above).
In summary, it is a disgrace for klal Israel (the Jewish people) to have this whole exchange and their nature open in the Internet, because of the way the different parts are reacting and treating each other. And as a colleague I feel so ashamed.
Rabbi Dweck’s points has been previously addressed mainly by Reform and Masorti/Conservative Jewish law, which have been used as arguments in communities for interpreting homosexuality. Naturally, this analisys coming from an orthodox Rabbi, just shows the fine line that exists between the movements after more or less 150 years of their existence, and naturally creates in the orthodox world a debate 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.
Rabbi Dweck knew it, but probably not to the extend this has developed into.
Rabbi Dweck’s argument is, Torah is only addressing intercourse between two males and is not prohibiting attraction or a relation without it. I had heard already the controversial 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 and only points out intercourse, I ask myself, why does it then clearly state the separation between a married couple during menses? If it is not to avoid their sin of having intercourse?. Do we really believe in platonic love between same sex couples?, this is just a point that comes to my mind, when reading about this.
We have lost total 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 above all, we have more important issues as spiritual leaders to addres and to set example to our fellows, as did Rabbis 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.