Sunday, July 05, 2015

Fisking Jewish reactions to Obergfell: Benjamin Yudin

I expect the next several days will offer some rich blogging opportunities as Cassandra Jews publish their reactions to Obergefell v. Hodges, the case decided last week in which the the Fourteenth Amendment was found to require a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State. If you see something that deserves a fisk just let me know.

Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen
by Rabbi Benjamin Yudin

It is interesting to note that none of the 613 mitzvos of the Torah appear in the one hundred and four verses in Parshas Balak. There are, however, many important hashkafik principles contained therein. 

The neat thing about "haskofic principles" is you can find them anywhere. See how that ant is preparing for winter? Hashkofic principle. See how Abraham did this or said that? Hashkofic principle. In fact, if you'd like to be a great hashkofic thinker, too, really all you need to do is figure out the outcome you'd like to promote, and then read it back into Scripture. Its not as hard as it sounds.

The charge to the Jewish nation that their survival will depend on their remaining separate and distinct from the other nations of the world is found in (23:9), "hein am l'vadad yishkon - behold it is a nation that will dwell in solitude". 

That's not a really a "charge". Its more of a prophecy, and I don't see where the verse says we're obligated to fulfill the prophecy or that our survival depends on it. Anyway, this is pure "pick and choose" as all Jews are happy to intermingle and dwell in the exact opposite of solitude when it suits them. For example, many Jews break bread with Christians for the sake of fighting abortion and similar; Israelis take money from the US and from evangelicals when it suits them, etc., etc.

Moreover, the prophesy [sic] that there will always be Jewish houses of assembly for prayer and study is contained in (24:5), "mah tovu ohalecha Yaakov mishkenosecha Yisroel - how good are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel". 

This isn't a prophecy. Its a first person observation. In this verse, Ballam is describing the tents he sees right in front of him. He's not looking into the future. He's reporting the present.

Finally, the assurance that Moshiach will redeem the Jewish nation at the end of history, is found in (24:17) "er'enu v'lo attah, ashurenu v'lo karov, darach kochav mi'Yaakov v'kom shevet mi'Yisroel - I shall see him, but not now, I shall look at him, but it is not near. A star has issued from Jacob and a scepter-bearer has risen from Israel". The Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 11:1) therefore notes that whoever denies the concept of Moshiach is denying the prophecy of Moshe Rabbeinu.

Still another mistake. Though the Rambam does cite this verse as an example of a Messiah prophecy, this one belongs to Billam, not Moses!  (If you deny it you're denying the prophecy of Billam, not Moses) Rabbi Yudin should have checked his source where he would have found that Rambam also mentions a specific prophecy of Moses -  Deuteronomy 30:3-5 - and it is this prophecy, not the prophecy of Ballam, that the Rambam has in mind when he says "anyone who does not believe in [Moshiach] or does not await his coming denies the prophecy of Moses."


The Talmud (Chullin 92b) notes that while the nations of the world violate the seven Noachide laws, there are three laws that they do keep: they do not write a marriage contract for men to marry each other, they do not sell the remains of a human corpse, and they honor the Torah. 

These aren't "laws". Again Rabbi Yudin seems to have neglected his source!. Turn to Chullin 92b and you'll find this passage is not a statment of halacha, but an observation by Ulla, the fourth century amora. He says: These are the thirty commandments which the sons of Noah took upon themselves but they observe three of them, namely,(i) they do not draw up a kethubah document for males (ii) they do not weigh flesh of the dead in the market,2 and (iii) they respect the Torah. Does this sounds like a law to you?

How sad that in the times in which we live there is a flagrant violation of all three of these laws! 

Yeah. We'll get to that.

For example, recognizing the demand for organs, it has become prevalent that a cardiac arrest victim (having given explicit instructions) can have the "plug pulled" and his organs harvested shortly thereafter for a lucrative price. This is an outright violation of murder according to the Torah.

Poskim are divided as to whether or not this is considered "murder" so Yudin's use of the word "outright" seems very, very wrong.

More importantly, Yudin is unaware that organ selling is 100 percent illegal in the US.  Under the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 (NOTA), any individual convicted of buying or selling human organs faces a five-year prison sentence and/or a hefty fine.

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States legalized gay marriage throughout the country. 

Not exactly. But I don't want to quibble about that. I want to explain why the rights provided by Obergfell are nothing like "draw[ing] up a kethubah document for males"

A ketubah is a prenuptual document that outlines the rights and responsibilities of the groom, in relation to the bride. When Ulla observed that the nations of the world [that he knew about] weren't drawing up ketubot he wasn't congratulating them for being anti-sodomy or anti-gay In his time and place sodomy was common, accepted and, most importantly, it was legal. In Ulla'a view, the nations of the world were to be commended for not imposing contractual responsibilities on sodomy partners, ie, you could practice free, no-obligation love with other men, and not have to make a post-breakup payment.

In the passage Yudin cites, Ulla is not expressing an objection to the legalization of sodomy - remember in his world it was legal - but an objection to rooting it in a contractual agreement that would impose financial burdens on one of the parties. Here's Soncino's explanation, "Although they are suspected of indecent practices and sodomy they do not go to that length of writing a ‘marriage’ deed for the purpose"

Now, of course Ulla opposed homosexuality, but his comment on Hulin 92b can only be tenuously connected to Obergfell.

Obergfell allows states to license gay marriage and a marriage license is nothing like a ketubah. A license is a permit from an authority to do something. A ketubah is a contract between two parties.

It is amazing how history repeats itself - historians attribute the downfall of both Greece and Rome to their acceptance of sexual immorality. 

This is utterly false. No historians make this attribution. Anyway, anyone who makes such a wanker argument ought to have the word stupid branded on his forehead. Homosexuality was legal in Rome centuries before the downfall of the empire, so in what sense did accepting homosexuality lead to it? If anything that happened prior to the collapse of the empire can be said to have led to the collapse, you could just as easily argue that replacing paganism with Christianity is what led to the downfall of Rome.

Anyway, how is history repeating itself? The US is still here and going strong.

The Medrash (Beraishis Rabbah 26:5) teaches that the final straw that sealed the fate of the generation of the flood was their writing a marriage contract for men to marry each other and for humans to marry animals. Note that the Torah's statement (Bresihis 2:24), "al kein ya'azov ish es aviv v'es imo v'dovak b'ishot v'hayu l'basae echad - therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife, and they shall became one flesh" was directed to all of mankind. As such, the Supreme Court decision is a direct violation of the third law which the Talmud (cited above, Chullin 92b) said the nations of the world keep, i.e. having regard and respect for the Torah.

I lost the thread of his argument. Is he mad that Obergfell allows gay men to draw up marriage contracts or is he mad that the Supreme Court disrespected the Torah? If the latter, he needs to acquaint himself with the Obergfel ruling and the difference between a license and a contract. If the former, he needs to acquaint himself with the Supreme Court, a body which never has shown any special respect for the Torah.

Anyway, to the actual  argument he's attempting here: Men have ALWAYS been free to remain bachelors and disregard Genesis 2:24. No one in this country has ever forced men to marry, and Obergfell doesn't give men any new right to avoid marriage. So how exactly does the decision disrespect Genesis 2:24?

Aside from shame and disappointment, how might Torah observant Jews respond to this? 

With happiness and joy, because history has shown us that we're safest when civil rights are respected and broadly extended.

See this what I don't get about Yidin and his fellow travlers. There is ZERO proof that accepting homosexuality causes empires to crumble, but there is tons of proof that Jews are better off when society liberalizes and respects the individual rights and humanity of all citizens.

Bilaam knew (Sanhedrin 106a) that the G-d of Israel despises immorality, and he therefore advised Moav that the way to attack the Jews is to entice the men of Israel to sin with Moavite women. Unfortunately his plan had initial success.

In Parshas Noach the Torah states that all of the civilization was to be destroyed since (Bereishis 6:12), "all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth". Rashi cites the Talmud (Sanhedrin 108a) that even the animals, beasts and birds cohabited with other species. The Bais Halevi (in his opening comment on Parshas Noach) asks, it is understood that man has free will regarding his morality, but animals don't have free will, so how did their natural inclinations change? He answers that the actions of man have cosmic consequences and as a result of man's immorality the animals were perverted as well. Is it not ironic that the rainbow flag has come to symbolize gay pride and rights! Unbeknownst to the designer creating a flag in 1978, our holy Torah has taught us (Bereishis 9:15) that the rainbow is a symbol of G-d's anger towards man being held in check by His oath not to destroy the world again after the flood; the rainbow serves as a clear indicator that man has angered his creator.

This Sunday, with the fast of the seventeenth of Tammuz, we begin the period of the three weeks which culminates in the fast of the ninth of Av. Aside from the formal restrictions of haircuts, weddings, and live music, this time is meant to be a period of introspection and self-scrutiny. 

No it isn't. Its meant to be a time of mourning. You can scrutinize and introspect if you want, but that's not the original intent.

Even as tumah-impurity spreads its ugly negativity in the rest of society, taharah-sanctity, purity and holiness can uplift and enhance society. Rav Pam zt"l was wont to cite the Talmud (Kedushin 7a) that if the owner of an animal consecrates the leg of the animal as an offering, the state of holiness encompasses the entire animal (certainly if he consecrates a limb that is vital to the life of the animal), and similarly we must be the holy element which uplifts the entire society. Our response must be greater adherence to and appreciation for the laws and privileged lifestyle of kedushah. Each and every beracha must remind us "asher kid'shonu b'mitzvosov - Who has sanctified us with His commandments." As even a small amount of light can dispel a great deal of darkness; may our increase of kedushah not only protect us and our families but also increase His presence in the world.

I hate this so much. If I agreed that homosexuality was putting America at risk, I wouldn't be urging people to fight that risk with magic and superstition. If you think homosexuality is a terrible thing, don't respond with an extra loud bracha. Fight back with arguments, and ideas. Try to educate your opponents. Show them they are mistaken. The fact that Yudin can't do this  - he can't identify any tangible harm that homsexuality is causing (its just spreading invisible, imperceptible tuma) and wants to fight it with magic - tells you that his objections are not rooted in rational thought, but in bias and hatred.

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