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Rabbi: Exhibit ‘greater honesty’ toward gays
By JEREMY SHARON
01/02/2013
Aharon Lichtenstein, dean of Yeshivat Har Etzion, calls for tolerance of homosexuality in light of its “unfortunate” prevalence.
 
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 march.

“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 argued.

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.

Jonas said however that the rabbi “still referred to homosexuals as automatic sinners,” and that homosexuals should be accepted as human beings and not as sexual beings.

“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 purity.

“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.
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