Sunday, June 28, 2015

Embracing same-sex marriage is a Torah value


I celebrated Friday's Supreme Court decision. And I agree with the logic espoused my many of my fellow Orthodox Jews that despite what the Torah says, we have no right to foist a religious definition of marriage on a secular public. That's a handy and quick argument.


An argument that goes even further is that even in marriages between 2 Jews of the same sex, the only thing forbidden by the Torah is anal sex between two men, and who are we to assume what goes on behind closed doors?

But to be honest, it goes far beyond that for me. I'm not just simply dividing up my religious beliefs and my political beliefs. I would not hesitate to dance at a same-sex wedding of Jewish friends with wholehearted joy. Because when it comes right down to it, while the Torah says "toevah hee", I don't agree with the plain meaning of what the Torah says. I don't wrestle with how to reconcile my religious beliefs with my own personal morality, because, frankly, my religious beliefs reject the idea that there there's something wrong with homosexual activity.

There's no question that my acceptance of much of Academic Biblical scholarship helps me with this perspective. It's easier to reject something that does not jive with contemporary morality if I believe that the ancient prohibition should be seen in the context of the culture in which it was written.

Still, I don't use that argument to throw away Shabbat or Kashrut. I still lay tefillin and put mezuzot on my doors. In short, I believe in God and I live the life of a believing Jew.

So the question is this: How much of our morality should be derived from the Torah? Certainly Rabbinic Judaism adjusted many things in the Torah that they were uncomfortable with. We don't go around killing rebellious sons or making women drink sotah water. We don't literally take an eye for an eye. The chachamim ameliorated much of what they found deeply uncomfortable.

My own perspective is that we can certainly do the same, albeit cautiously. Reinterpreting the prohibition of "mishkav zachar" out of any applicability today is far more in the spirit of compassion of the chachamim than insisting on a literal interpretation.

Compassion is a Torah value, and I believe it is a mitzvah to fully embrace the concept of same-sex marriage, with no reservations, rather than hold on to a literal reading of something written in a far different time and place.

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