Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, dean of the prestigious Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon
Shvut and a leading figure in the nationalreligious community, said recently
that the religious community should be more honest with itself in regards to the
way it relates to homosexuals.
In a conversation with his students back
in November about how the religious community relates to homosexuality,
transcribed by the rabbi’s executive assistant Dov Karoll and posted on his
blog, Lichtenstein pointed to the Salute to Israel Parade in New York several
years ago, when an association of Jewish gays and lesbians said they would be
marching in the parade under their banner, along with many other Jewish
denominations, which led religious high schools to threaten to pull out of the
“You ask yourself, ‘Wait a minute, we don’t like homosexuality,
but we don’t like Shabbat violation either,’” Lichtenstein said. “All the
Shabbat violators of America could have marched in that parade and no one would
say boo, because we are very liberal Jews, and we like to not be judgmental, and
be friendly to people to the Right and the Left of us.
“So, those who
break the Shabbat – we wish they would be Shabbat-observant, but if that’s what
they are, that’s what they are, we accept them as they are and we don’t pass
judgment,” the rabbi said.
Is it proper or fair, he asked, that the
religious community can tolerate those who transgress other aspects of Torah law
and march alongside them, but not with those who are gay? Lichtenstein also
addressed the Bible’s use of the word “abomination” in relation to
homosexuality, noting that the word was also used to refer to the prohibited
practice of mendaciously manipulating weights and measures for financial gain as
well as to people who do not give charity to the poor.
“To be fairer and
more honest with ourselves and with our communities, let us understand that if
you deal only with the use of the term ‘abomination,’ you can only push that
particular envelope as far as you push the cheating on the weights and the
measures. So all the revulsion, the moral energy, that you bring against that,
you should bring against this, too... That’s not what happens today,” he
Lichtenstein reiterated that he was “not in favor of
homosexuality,” and argued that the homosexual community had been “very
aggressive” in promoting its agenda.
He also said it was “unfortunate”
that “the phenomenon” is becoming more prevalent, but added that the religious
community needs to “abide by a greater measure of honesty in dealing with that
community than I think at present applies.”
Daniel Jonas, chairman of the
Havruta-Religious Homosexuals in Israel organization, welcomed Lichtenstein’s
comments, saying he was extremely happy that such a central figure in the
religious world was addressing the issue in a positive manner.
however that the rabbi “still referred to homosexuals as automatic sinners,” and
that homosexuals should be accepted as human beings and not as sexual
“Homosexuality is an identity,” he said. “The religious community
does not look at a single heterosexual person as if he has extramarital sex, nor
does it automatically assume that a married man breaks the laws of family
“I would have like Rabbi Lichtenstein to acknowledge the fact
that homosexuality is an identity and not a deed.
“He doesn’t know what
happens in the bedroom, we should be given the right not to automatically be
sinners,” Jonas said.