Sunday, March 26, 2006

Rabbi Roth on CJLS Current Events Part II: The Centrist View

I decided to take a different approach and brouhgt my laptop this time to take notes to be directly posted to my blog. Here goes:

Rabbi Roth on CJLS Current Events Part II (3/26/06):

Man can’t marry brother, father, son but can marry any other man?

As of this week:

13 is to establish something as a takkanah!

13 is to pass a takkanah

Postscript to Maimonides question from last time

unsure about what Rambam would say about reinstituting sacrificing

Judaism Recognizes difference between refraining and abrogating

Shev v’al taaseh (refraining from fulfilling the command) ie: no lulav on Shabbat even if it is first day of sukkot, no shofar on Shabbat (though Torah tells you to take it first day and to blow it

Kum v’aseh (active abrogation): I do an act which is the violation rather than not doing the act, which is the mitzvah (much more difficult)

Rambam might have said don’t do what the torah says rather than do what the Torah says not to do

(Homosexuality is Kum V’Aseh)

The Torah stands!

Reactions from the Right (and part of the Center):

1. there doesn’t seem to be a stitch of evidence that that is what those chapters are about. They sound like ABSOLUTE PROHIBITIONS, not linked to “sanctification” (ie: marriage ceremonies)

2. It is well-known that a scholarly position offered today may be three years from now in the trashbin of has-been scholarship.

Such a radical step on the basis of what is not clear in the Torah. Does not make the most conceivable ..

3. It put a lot of faith in societal perceptions of what is acceptable. If it eventually becomes acceptable for a brother to marry his sister…

Question: should Torah be taken at face value? What about “Eye for Eye?”

Difference in Leftist and R’ Artson1992? (latter was not validated)

Artson’92:“only type of homosexuality that the Torah knew about is the same as the only kind that anyone else knew about: more powerful against less powerful, victor in war would rape soldiers”


Originally 3 different papers, were combined, and combination worked IMHO better than the combo of 4 leftists

Cannot discuss centrist position without being blunt.

Position argues that since it undermines the authority of the Torah, we must leave the authority intact. Therefore, verses in the Torah, whereas they don’t speak with bluntness “Don’t lie with a man mishkavei isha

Biah Shelo K’Darka: biblical prohibition is restricted to penetrative anal intercourse.

This behavior, position argues, remains forbidden, and no two men are legally allowed to engage in penetrative anal intercourse. All other sexual behavior, which would include manual stimulation, oral stimulation, intercrural (between the thighs), are prohibited d’rabbanan.

Change of behavior by therapy is infinitesimally small

Demand of celibacy is a very non-Jewish demand

The general attitude of people who want to be part of the Jewish community, besides this, is that they want to be part of the community

Therefore, apply to them, Kavod HaBriot, human dignity, demands that we remove the issurei d’rabbanan and only maintain the Torah prohibition

The locus causicus is in B. Brachot 19b, so great is human dignity is that it can supercede even a negative commandment baTorah. “gadol kvod habriot”

But wait, they interpret this to be Torah B’Al Peh, only supercedes rabbinic laws, not Torah

Such forthrightness is not problematic because they have also affirmed the issurim they are going to supercede are issurim d’rabbanan

Concludes with the essence: “in the same way as I, do not put cameras in people’s rooms (as a former Dean of Rabbinical School and former Congregational Rabbi) to see if they are going to the mikvah, I will do the same thing here: Tell men that Homosexuality is assure but I will make the same assumptions, that there is no reason that one should refuse ordination to homosexuals. Also have commitment ceremonies that they will NOT call it “marriage”. If bisexual, halachic preference given to heterosexuality. Man should find release in a woman rather than a man, even if he likes men

Reactions from right and left

First reaction from both: that we will hold ourselves up to almost unavoidable ridicule by saying “you can do all sorts of things but this you may never do”.

When I say “can’t have sex with wife when she is niddah” at least allows for half a month each month for sex. Homosexual sex is NEVER okay

“I believe that the teshuva on driving, until now, is the WORST idea the law committee has ever come up with it. We can become the greatest movement ever and we would STILL never live it down”

There are not five Jews in the world who know that it is only to drive to Shul! (and originally only to NEAREST shul)

In 1950s no sociologist in the world thought that Orthodoxy would survive out of Mea Shearim. Protect Shabbat.

Their intent was absolutely pure. The result should have been (with Monday Morning Quarterbacking) seen in advance.

Left: downright unfair that we should forbid a behavior which is in a certain manner one of the most common behaviors of homosexual men. It should be taken into account that a significant percentage never have anal sex

Halachic arguments against:

To point out to center that term “penetrative anal intercourse” conjures up in the mind of people that which the law is NOT about. This means more than genital contact but insertion.

HaARaAh: the first stage of genital contact

There is no tannaitic definition of HaARaAh, and there is an Amoraic makhloket

We speak of them euphemistically, though this leaves some ambiguity, therefore need to go for the gold and use the real phrases

HaARaAh of Shmuel: Neshikat Eiver (not kissing, but literally genital contact) (“I can’t put my finger on my lips without it going in slightly)

HaARaAh of R’ Yochanan: Hachnasat Atara (inserting the crown of the penis)

Forbidding the brushing up of the penis of the male to the anus of another male, whether or not there is penetration

It is not at all self-evident that Biah Shelo KDarka is limited to anal sex

Rashi: Shelo Bimkom Zera (non-vaginal) (the anus qualifies as non-vaginal, but so does the mouth) (does this mean no Oral sex?)

If you don’t know whether it means both oral and anal forbidden, or neither, or one or the other, then you have a Safek D’Oraita.

Safek D’Oraita LCHUMRA! Interpret doubts in Torah stringently

If you go for Meykil, lenient, then you may violate the actual law of the Torah

Braita: All sexual behavior is forbidden that might in some way lead to forbidden behavior, then that behavior is forbidden. Asur DORAITA!

Makhloket between Nachmanides and Maimonides.

Maimonides says all sexual behavior forbidden DOraita in Sefer HaMitzvot

And summarizes laws in Sanhedrin (which is requoted in Tur & Shulchan Aruch)

The three most important Jewish codes disagree with Center

Nachmanides calls it an asmachta

But you are favoring the RambaN over Rambam and Tur and Shulchan Aruch, the latter two who knew of the RambaN’s response?

Sefer HaMitzvot. Some sort of sexual behavior. If a man and his son or daughter are sharing a bed and there is some sort of genital contact, that’s what Maimonides is talking about?! Mishnah Torah says it is with the taavah, the intention of sexual activity

#3 of Right against Center: You may be mistaken with Kavod HaBriot. Every grant of permission on grounds of Kavod HaBriot is TEMPORARY.

If I a kohen go to a funeral (not going to the cemetery) and the family goes across a field toward their home, that if I follow I will become Tamei, because of Kavot HaBriot, I can follow until we get to their house, but no more after that

In the majority of cases where Bavli and Yerushalmi permits Kavod HaBriot, that x is allowed to violate the law out of deference to the honor of y. I, the Kohen can jump over coffins out of deference in honor for the king.

You argue that not only that the law would be permenant, but that x will be able to break the law for his own purposes

3. Pillars

Only penetrative intercourse is forbidden d’oraita

Others are only prohibited d’rabbanan

All of that can be superceded because of Kavod HaBriot

Right to center: you are either WRONG on all of the three counts or that each of the three is doubtful. One should not base himself on highly debatable things

One of the authors of the center is a relatively young rabbi, and who probably has a tremendous future, and has every potential to be a great posek, and he was a student of one of the authors of the right and of the left, both of whom teach at the seminary. These two authors sat next to each other at the retreat and almost always agree on the meaning of text, only disagree about Category3, how halachic system works, and look to each other for approval.

“I’m absolutely losing sleep over both of you. I wanted a paper that both of you would agree with and instead “

I don’t want it validated by 6 or 7 votes or to squeak through. I don’t want to have a permissible thing, I want it to be the position of the Law Committee.

You’ll never read these papers in the Newspaper articles. They’re too complicated to be in a newspaper.

Argument between right and left: how does halachic system function

It is davka to please the right to keep in the prohibition in the center of homosexual prohibitions

PS on the categories: (1 & 2: eilu veilu divrei Elokim chayim) the question is this:

Is it possible that an argument that is couched in anylitical discourse is so weak an argument that one disputant could say to the other “it is only because your predisposition blinded you that you could offer such an undefendable argument”. It if is possible, is this that case? If so, right can say to center “ein divrei Elokim chayim even though you defend it halacically”

In R’ Roth’s lifetime has disagreed with a lot of CJLS but says “eilu v’eilu divrei Elokim Chayim”.

How about 1950s if he was on CJLS: thinks would say that Driving would make us laughingstock

Very critical speculation. What will depend on the answer to the question is whether members of the right will remain on the Law Committee

Not funny ha ha but funny ironic

Braita on lesbianism say that prohibition is deoraita, but cannot even in theory cannot be punishable by death, because there cannot be penetration, but poskim that is equally as assur.

In theory it is conceivable that Right can make a difference between gay and lesbianism, and have been most of their lives non-Egalitarian, whereas left and center don’t make distinction because it is not egalitarian

No one says lesbian is Gufei Torah, but gay is gufei Torah

Left and center papers talk all the time about possibility of pru urvu in modern homosexuality (Just like my Rabbinical School admissions essays!)

People believe that I’m the most right-wing Conservative Jew on earth, but I haven’t moved an inch. The bell-curve of the Conservative movement moved. Those that used to be on my right… well some of them died… cause and effect… and others have left the seminary or have given up any connection to the Conservative movement. Sleepless nights over whether I was the cause of it. It was not my intent.

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