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Orthodox Rabbis Confuse Themselves with Evangelical Christians

December 6, 2011 – 10:04 pm80 Comments

By Rachel Sacks-Davis
The following letter from Rabbi Dovid Freilich, the president of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, appeared in today’s edition of The Australian:

THE Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia opposes any legislation to legitimise same-sex marriage. This is not intended to show any discrimination against the gay community, but simply to uphold the sanctity and purpose of marriage, which is the union of man and woman not only to express their love for one another but also to bring future generations into the world.

The institution of marriage and family life, as defined and practised for thousands of years as between a man and a woman, a father and a mother, respectively, is far too important and essential to the bedrock of society and civilisation as we know it to be undermined by those who presume to redefine its essence. Moreover, we are deeply concerned that, should any such redefinition occur, members of traditional communities like ours will incur moral opprobrium and may risk legal sanction if they refuse to transgress their beliefs.

That prospect is unacceptable to all people of good will on both sides of this debate. We call upon Australians to stand opposed to any attempt, whether judicial, legislative or religious in nature, to bestow the sanctity of marriage upon same-sex couples.”

The letter is sure to raise ire in the Jewish community and justifiably so. First, although the name suggests that it represents all rabbis, Rabbi Freilich’s organisation of rabbis is only representative of the Orthodox variety. By choosing the name that they have and making public statements, the organisation (henceforth I will call them by their acronym, ORA) give the impression that they represent rabbis from all Jewish streams. This is a general problem with ORA and in this case they misrepresent the views of rabbis from other Jewish streams. For example, Australian Progressive Judaism has an official stance in support of same-sex marriage.

However, an even more important principle is at play here. It is broadly true that same-sex marriage does not exist within Orthodox Judaism. (There are exceptions to this but they are not the norm – for example, recently Steven Greenberg, who is an openly gay rabbi who was ordained at Yeshiva University, the major Modern Orthodox rabbinical school in New York City, conducted a same-sex marriage.) Nonetheless, even if Orthodox Judaism does not support same-sex Jewish marriage, this is no reason to oppose same-sex civil marriage.

Whilst in their letter ORA express concern that they will risk legal sanction for failing to conduct same-sex marriages, this is clearly a red herring. Orthodox rabbis do not face legal sanction for refusing to conduct interfaith marriages, and thus would not face legal sanction for refusing to conduct same sex marriages.

Judaism is not usually an evangelical religion. It is generally agreed (even or perhaps especially amongst the Orthodox) that the vast majority of Jewish laws do not pertain to non-Jews. For example, ORA would not lobby against Australian public buses running on Saturdays or restaurants serving non-kosher food. Therefore, opposing civil same-sex marriage, particularly in a country where most people are not Jewish, is not founded in Jewish law. Perhaps Australasia’s Orthodox rabbis are taking their cues, not from Jewish tradition, but rather from the American Evangelical Christians who have been doing their best to impose their beliefs and values on others for a number of years.

Unfortunately, this letter is not an isolated case. The position against same-sex marriage that Rabbi Freilich refers to in his letter was publicised earlier this year. ORA have also made a statement opposing surrogacy in Queensland. One of the reasons that they provide is that allowing surrogacy for prospective parents who are not in a heterosexual marriage normalises homosexuality. To an Australian Human Rights Commission consultation about sexual orientation and sex and/or gender identity discrimination, ORA similarly expressed views against same-sex marriage. They also expressed concern about introducing federal legislation protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and sex and/or gender identity. In short, ORA have engaged in a prolonged campaign against the rights of same-sex attracted Australians.

ORA is made up mainly of congregational rabbis, and many of their congregants are ‘traditional’ Jews, who are probably unaware that their religious representatives are making political statements of any sort and typically would not support their homophobic agenda. It is time for those Jews who attend shuls whose rabbis are members of ORA and who oppose discrimination on the basis of sexuality to speak out against ORA’s homophobic campaign, and perhaps to withdraw their synagogue memberships. ORA should stop trying to interfere with the civil rights of others, and limit their political involvement to advocating for the rights of Orthodox Jews.


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  • R B says:

    In Hebrew we say “If you live in a glass house, do not throw stone at others”.

    How can a religious leader of a minority group promote deprieving rights of another minority group? Especially at times when the right to perform Jewish rituals like Kosher slaughter is being questions in many countries, including Australia.

    I am what you called “A traditional Jew”, and that Rabbi does not represent me.

  • Simmy says:

    Would it be possible to publish the names of rabbis who belong to ORA and in whose name this statement was published

  • Ari says:

    Greenberg having semicha from YU does not an Orthodox same-sex wedding make. Some early reform Rabbis had Orthodox Semicha but again that does not make the Reform movement Orthodox. I am also not certain that the Rabbis are guided by homophobia as you have claimed as much as they are guided by traditional Jewish values about the structure of family.

    And while some of what you write is true regarding Judaism’s essentially non-evangelical quality there are some things that even Judaism believes are forbidden to non-Jews. I am obviously not advocating Jews walking around with swords slaughtering non-Jews who break Noahide laws but one cannot escape the fact that in theory Judaism also calls for certain ethical and legal requirements for non-Jews.

    What’s more I see no issue with Orthodox Jews advocating their traditions, especially when what is at stake are values. The Rabbis did not write that homosexual behaviour is forbidden according to Torah law, instead they wrote about the sanctity of heterosexual marriage and in a values based discussion on how society should look Judaism has what to say.(Although I do question whether it is prudent to say it, especially in this context).

    I hope you are not saying that the values of the prophets are for Jews only? Perhaps we should ask them to remove that ghastly evangelical Isaiah wall from the UN headquaters? Or tell the evangelical Reform movement to stop espousing tikkun olam? And why do those annoying evangelical Jews keep on protesting for Darfur?

  • HarryJohns says:


    I concur with your cogent comments.

    To add to your well written response:

    1. Ms Sacks-Davies claims the name “ORA” is misleading as it only represents Orthodox rabbis. True, it does only represent Orthodox rabbis. Before the emergence of the Reform movement, there was no need to distinguish between the acceptability of differing rabbis. The title “orthodoxy” only came into fashion as a way to describe the traditional approach to Judaism in response to the Reform movement’s activities. Hence, any grouping of rabbis should, by default, be known as “rabbis” and it is the Reform (or “Progressive” as they now like to style themselves) who should describe themselves as divergent from the tradition that was in place up until the 19th century.

    2. Steven Greenberg was acting contrary to Jewish law, despite his Orthodox rabbinic ordination.

    3. Judaism is not evangelistic, but Jewish thought and culture has permeated every aspect of western civilisation for the last 3,000 years. The Jewish moral code forms the basis of civil law in much of the western world. It is the Bible that espouses the revolutionary ideas of courts of laws, prohibitions against murder, theft, etc. Hence, Judaism has a continuing role to play in “tikkun olam” – maintaining justice and promoting moral ideals.

    Furthermore, Judaism preaches 7 Noahide laws, which include a prohibition against immoral acts such as homosexuality. Jews have an obligation to publicize these 7 laws for all mankind. Maimonides teaches an unbelievable thing – the righteous of the world as a whole have a place in the afterlife as long as they follow these 7 commandments. (This sets Judaism apart from Christianity, which bestows salvation upon those who declare their belief in Jesus).

    Beyond Judaism, you are – Ms Sacks-Davies – in effect criticizing the role of religion in broader political discourse. If a religion was to keep its teachings and mores within the confines of its place of worship, then it is a religion that is divorced from the real world.

    4. Judaism is not homophobic. It does not permit homosexuality, but every rabbi (Orthodox!) will time and again emphasise that homosexuals must not be victimised, but rather treated with the utmost respect. Similarly, in the modern era, Judaism does not victimise Sabbath desecrators. It preaches “ohev et ha briyot” – to love all of G-d’s creations and to bring them – through this love – closer to Jewish observance.

    5. Most congregants of orthodox shuls know what Judaism teaches about homosexuality and would surely not be averse to the congregational rabbis speaking out against gay “marriage:.

  • HarryJohns says:

    Further to my above post, I refer readers to an additional orthodox opinion on gay “marriage”, that of Rabbi Raymond Apple, formerly of Sydney’s Great Synagogue –


    Also, an article of his on Judaism and homosexuality.


    See the last para in particular – gays must not be victimised!

  • Sara says:

    Excellent article. The legislation isn’t even before Parliament yet, so it is totally alarmist to be speaking of the risk of legal sanction for Rabbis who don’t perform civil same-sex ceremonies – who says sanctions are even on the cards?

    Harry Johns – to say Judaism is not homophobic is quite a bold statement. Whilst we would hope it isn’t, I suspect that the day to day experience for gay Jews in a religion that deems their sexuality to be an abomination, must be far from pleasant and must feel highly discriminatory. If as you say Rabbis emphasize time and time again that homosexuals must not be victimized (which I doubt all do), then it is in response to victimization (ie. homophobia) within the community.

  • Ittay says:

    Steve Greenberg is an ordained rabbi from Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. He recently conducted a same sex wedding which can be viewed online here:

    Greenberg writes about gay marriage “ideas about marriage have changed. Abraham ended up with a wife and a concubine, Jacob with two wives and two concubines. In the Talmud, the famed scholar Rav would travel and call out, “Who will marry me for the day?” This custom of “day marriages” was common in Babylonia among those men who could afford them. While surely not ideal, the rabbis of the age did not protest this use of marriage by one of their most revered teachers. Families are always a subset of the society of which they are a part. Marriage, likewise, is conditioned by the values and sensibilities of the social context. As society has come to understand the essential unchosen nature of same-sex desire, the offering of new forms of matrimony that support such couples would seem consonant with a contemporary sense of justice and social responsibility.

    Same-sex marriage, like marriage generally, is a conservative institution expressing lifelong commitment, caring, love and support. It is fundamentally not about rights, but about duties. Central to Orthodox Jewish teaching is the importance of family. The rejection of gay coupling is hardly an expression of family values. Indeed, it is just the opposite. It is surely in the interest of families to support such unions that glue us all together by the force of our loving commitments to each other.

    While it is true that procreation is one of the intents of marriage in our society, same-sex marriages would not prevent such endeavors any more than heterosexual marriages require them. Surely we would not claim that sterile couples or couples who choose not to produce children are not “really” married. Under Jewish law such couples might not be fulfilling the duty to reproduce, but that would have no bearing upon the legitimacy of their marriage. Moreover, adoption and surrogacy offer to gay couples the same potential as they do to heterosexual couples unable to reproduce.

    Gay people cannot be asked to be straight, but they can be asked to “hold fast to the covenant.” Holding fast to the covenant demands that gay people fulfill the mitzvot that are in their power to fulfill. Same-sex couples cannot procreate without outside assistance, but there are other ways to build a family and a marriage.”

    Greenberg also explains that there are other ways of reading Leviticus 18:22 ‘Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman, it is an abhorrence.” In his parashah commentary, he explains the context of this verse and gives his own parshanut regarding what the intention of the text may be. It’s worth reading and discussing with your rabbi.

  • Shaun says:


    A good piece. I think the separation of religion and state is important here, and the fact that orthodoxy may adopt a certain position on the meaning of marriage, does not mean adherants of that position should apply that belief to what the state should do.

    As to the claim that Judaism is relevant more outwardly to the broader community and about values (such as reflected in the Noahide laws etc), I agree with this, but surely that does not mean trying to push that position through legislation (or in this case, by maintaining the status quo)?

  • ariel says:

    I agree with RSD’s analysis – why should the ORA or any other rabbis be against civil marriages for gay couples?

    It is quite clear that any legislation will exempt religious groups (either explicitly or implicitly) from conducting marriage ceremonies which go against their beliefs.

    Furthermore, I would imagine that there are very few frum homosexuals in Australia who would ask their Orthodox rabbi to conduct a same-sex ceremony, recognising that it’s probably inappropriate; they would probably rely on a civil ceremony so they’re union is vail in the eyes of civil law and not want to impinge on the majority halachic view (at least in Australia). As Rabbi Boteach says, they love each other and they have 612 other mitzvot they can fulfil.

    Moreover, a civil marriage is not recognised as a “real” marriage by halacha anyway, so for the ORA to be concerned about “the sanctity of marriage” in a civil ceremony is hyberbole; such a ceremony by definition lacks sanctity.

  • ariel says:

    that should be “valid in the eyes of civil law”…

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Good on you Rachel.

    I don’t buy the Oz so I don’t know if any response has been published.

    There are in fact several major streams in Judaism, including the Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform/Liberal and Humanist streams which have different theological and social orientations and many people simply have no affiliation.

    The other streams (with some differences in the conservatives) have been accommodating of gay marriage. And of course there are secularists and humanists. Orthodox Jewish organizations present themselves as fully ‘authentic’ but they are not. They are but one stream.

    Yet regrettably, this statement will be perceived as an ‘official’ position in the broader community.

    I also quote from Jwire.

    Jwire also quotes this information — Peter Wertheim, the executive Director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, told J-Wire that his organisation had no policy in place relating to same sex marriage.

    But the organisation has recently updated its position on gay rights.

    The ECAJ released its current position at its recent AGM:

    31A. Counteracting hatred and discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons

    This Council:

    RECOGNISES that the Australian Jewish community is part of the Jewish people worldwide, with a shared history, culture and religious tradition is at the same time diverse and pluralistic, with its members holding different views on a range of issues;

    CALLS FOR mutual respect for the human dignity of all members of the community, despite any strongly held differences; recognition that disagreement is possible in ways that do not vilify other persons or their views; and avoidance of any public or private conduct that incites hatred , ridicule or contempt of another person or class of persons on the ground of their sexual orientation or gender identity; and, in accordance with the foregoing principles;

    OPPOSES any form of hatred of any person on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity;

    ACKNOWLEDGES that there is still much work to be done to remove intolerance of and unlawful discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the Jewish community and the wider Australian community, and to provide adequate services and support for them and their families; and

    CALLS ON persons and organisations in the Jewish community to support that work both in our community and in the wider Australian community.

  • Rachel SD says:

    Hi Simmy,

    It’s difficult to tell who the letter is supposed to represent. It is by Rabbi Freilich who is the President of ORA but the plural pronoun used throughout suggests that it is on behalf of the whole organisation. My understanding is that the vast majority of the congregational Orthodox rabbis in Australasia are members of ORA but there are office holders who likely set the agenda. The following is a list of office bearers from a 2010 document (linked to in the article). It may not be completely up-to-date.

    Hon Life President Rabbi Dr Shalom Coleman CBE AM JP– Patron Rabbi Pinchus Feldman OAM
    President Rabbi Dovid Freilich OAM
    Immediate Past President Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick
    Senior Vice-President Rabbi Moshe Gutnick – Vice President Rabbi Meir Kluwgant – Vice President Rabbi Yoram Ulman
    Secretary Rabbi Yehudah Brown – Treasurer Rabbi Yossi Feldman
    Rabbi Eli Cohen, Rabbi Chaim Dovrat, Rabbi Nir Gurevitch,
    Rabbi Avrohom Gutnick, Rabbi Phillip Heilbrunn, Rabbi Chaim Ingram

  • Larry Stillman says:

    How would Freilich and others respond to Hilary Clinton’s remarks on International Human Rights Day with respect to gay rights?


    There is a lot in this speech, but here is one bit–I am talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, human beings born free and given bestowed equality and dignity, who have a right to claim that, which is now one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time. I speak about this subject knowing that my own country’s record on human rights for gay people is far from perfect. Until 2003, it was still a crime in parts of our country. Many LGBT Americans have endured violence and harassment in their own lives, and for some, including many young people, bullying and exclusion are daily experiences. So we, like all nations, have more work to do to protect human rights at home.

    Now, raising this issue, I know, is sensitive for many people and that the obstacles standing in the way of protecting the human rights of LGBT people rest on deeply held personal, political, cultural, and religious beliefs. So I come here before you with respect, understanding, and humility. Even though progress on this front is not easy, we cannot delay acting. So in that spirit, I want to talk about the difficult and important issues we must address together to reach a global consensus that recognizes the human rights of LGBT citizens everywhere.

  • An excellent article, and I’m glad that somebody has addressed this. I find the principled opposition of the signatories to be strange, given the fact that same-sex marriages are actually going to be enacted in this country and that it is only a matter of time. What is more, the tone of the statement is one of such injured servility that it almost makes me gag. Not only do the authors assert that “members of traditional communities like ours will incur moral opprobrium”, but they have the audacity to suppose that such a thing would be “unacceptable to all people of good will on both sides of this debate”. Yes indeed. The very last thing I would want to do is hurt the good rabbi’s feelings.

    Now it stands to reason that, where there’s a will, there is almost always a halakhic way. Prohibitions against anal intercourse aside, there is nothing within the biblical or rabbinic literature to preclude same-sex people from living together, pooling their finances together, and having their mutual love recognised officially by the state in which they dwell. Given that such arrangements do not always last, and given the incredible difficulties experienced by those who attempt to separate, it makes perfect sense that they should be given the right to draft up a contract at the outset. There is nothing within the biblical or rabbinic literature to say that they cannot throw a party when they do. If you’re worried about what might happen when they go home at night, while it is my opinion that it’s none of your business, legislating against the marriage because two men might have anal sex is like barring people from going to Chinatown because they might eat pork. It’s got nothing to do with you.

    That said, much of this is hypothetical. If people object to same-sex marriages on religious grounds, I’ve no problem with them doing so, and nobody – despite the hysterical insinuations of the ORA – is going to make them officiate at one. But to oppose same sex marriages that are not religious, that are conducted by the state, on the grounds that they corrupt the moral fabric of our society? Really? I know there’s no law against being stupid, but if you think that the moral fabric of our country is something that can be measured, or is something that deteriorates as a result of certain people being granted equal rights, you’re not just an idiot, you’re a fascist.

    So far as picking fights that you are absolutely going to lose, Rabbi Gil Student, in June of this year, put it quite well. In a short note on the subject, he mentioned that it is worth expressing your principled objections and then moving on. Well, you’ve expressed your objections now. Move on.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    I guess people get the leadership they (we) deserve – if people don’t object to this kind of misplaced lobbying on the part of these rabbis, they are seen to speak for us.

    So we know they don’t speak for Rachel – you can add me and others commenting here but our community is in the habit of being led a bit, well, mindlessly.

    The broader issue is that people outsource their Jewish practice to rabbis/shule with no sense that there are many ways to see things and interpret thing, even within an Orthodox framework.

    So they accept the authority of rabbis in the shule sphere but as a result feel increasingly less aligned to the shule they attend, and therefore attend less and less frequently, resulting in even less sense of ownership and ability to influence.

  • Jimmy says:

    Moreover, we are deeply concerned that, should any such redefinition occur, members of traditional communities like ours will incur moral opprobrium

    Too late, Rabbi Dovid. You’re already a disgrace, having expressed your egregious little thoughts in the letter above.

    Kindly butt out, and mind your own religion!

  • HarryJohns says:

    Mandi Katz – it’s “misplaced” for rabbis to stand up and express the Torah’s perspectives on an issue?! You’d rather they keep the Torah’s teachings to themselves? After all, they’re not there to advance Judaism, are they?!

    Jimmy – a rabbi shouldn’t enter into a debate on a moral issue? Should he go and hide in his own synagogue and cower before the goyim too?

    You are both obviously too obsessed about gay rights to read the cogent explanation above (yes, by me, your humble commentator) about the right of rabbis to comment on issues of broad moral concern.

  • Benji says:

    I wrote an essay in the Australian Jewish News a few years ago, outlining a Jewish legalistic argument in defence of gay marriage (http://www.jewishnews.net.au/the-jewish-case-for-marriage-equality/2747). When the inevitable backlash hit in the ‘letters’ section, I was, unfortunately, stumped by the Noahide laws. Essentially, the Noahide laws stipulate that anal sex between two men is prohibited to both Jews and non-Jews. This is decreed in reasonably certain terms, and is given perhaps the highest legal status (direct word of god, according to that system of belief).

    Simon – while I like your argument that gay marriage does not, necessarily, condone anal sex between two men, however, my question is this:

    Is there any halachic reason for an Orthodox Jew to vote in favour of making anal sex legal for wider society (or Jewish)? Is there anything out there that could ‘trump’ one of the Noahide laws, in a legal sense, such as another imperative that would outweigh that direct statute? Or is Orthodox Judaism (and it’s official representatives) bound to oppose anal sex in the same way as they are bound to oppose, say, theft?

    There are obviously plenty of good reasons to legalise gay sex, but, I’m looking specifically for halachic reasons.

  • HarryJohns says:

    Benji –

    The short answer to your question is no. There are no conflicting teachings in traditional Judaism about homosexuality. The act is forbidden, both in thought and practice.

    I would advise you to ignore what Simon has written above about the alleged Biblical and rabbinic teachings on the issue. Simon is deeply knowledgeable, having attended an Israeli yeshiva and studied Jewish texts at university. However, the opinions that he has repeatedly expressed on this site do not accord with traditional thinking, and are not reflective of the Torah texts that he is familiar with. Perhaps the members of the non-Orthodox institution that he works at appreciate his critical perspectives, but they do not represent mainstream Judaism.

    Simon’s “where there’s a will, there’s a halachic way” mantra is borrowed from left-of-center feminist thinker Blu Greenberg. Blu was roundly criticised for the inanity of the mantra that she repeated throughout the 1980s and 1990s, for it simply does not represent reality – halachah simply does not work that way.

    No rabbinic authority (authentically Orthodox of course) will ever try and find a loophole for homosexuality, be it among Jews or gentiles. It is a Biblical prohibition pure and simple.

    End of discussion.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Not end of discussion.

    I suspect there is a lot more to say but for now, is there any halakhik reason for rabbis to oppose the marriage of two women ?

  • Jimmy says:

    RE: “Jimmy – a rabbi shouldn’t enter into a debate on a moral issue? Should he go and hide in his own synagogue and cower before the goyim too?”

    With respect, it seems to me that a rabbi’s contribution to any moral issue – when formed on the basis of his religion’s ancient holy scriptures – ought to be confined to those who *choose* to accept the authority of said holy scriptures.

    It would first be up to the rabbi to demonstrate why his ancient writings carry any weight at all, let alone demanding I live a certain way because he believes he’s interpreting the intent of some deity through them!

    In short, for the religious to dictate religious morality to those who do not subscribe to their religion is the height of arrogance!

    Furthermore, I find the rabbi’s argument that marriage ought to be withheld from some so as to protect the image of his religious brand to be an egregiously self-serving suggestion. Also, his implication that one is not of “good will” unless they agree with him simply is childish and insulting! So, no… with that kind of attitude I don’t expect the rabbi to be able to enter into any sort of proper “debate”.

    Finally, your rebuke to me for requesting the rabbi stop trying to control my relationship seems a tad hypocritical…

    I mean, what do you expect me to do… go hide in my bedroom and cower inside my closet??

    Kind regards,

  • Alex Fein says:

    For anyone claiming that Noahide laws – because they are applicable to Jews and non-Jews alike – provide ORA with justification for their stand, I only ask that ORA remain morally and intellectually consistent within this framework.

    Let’s look at some other Noahide prohibitions.

    1) Prohibition against idolatry:
    I await with baited breath ORA’s campaign against Hindu temples and the idols within them. I urge our Rabbis to publish letters in The Australian calling for Hinduism to be banned.

    2) Prohibition against blasphemy:
    I urge ORA to commence the book burning immediately lest they be accused of gross hypocrisy.

    3) There is no specific prohibition against homosexuality.
    There is only the prohibition against “sexual immorality” which not only includes anal sex, but also adultery. I urge ORA to submit to government immediately – to demand the maximum penalty of death for adulterous transgression.

  • ariel says:

    Benji and HarryJohns,

    I can think of at least one prominent Orthodox rabbi in Israel who shows that the punishment according to Halacha for male-male anal sex is the same as the punishment for a heterosexual married couple having intercourse while the wife is in a state of niddah.

    As Simon Holloway indicates, just as none of us would enter a married couple’s bedroom to check whether they are engaging in sex during niddah, so too we would not enter a male homosexual couple’s bedroom to see if they are engaging in anal sex and we give everyone the kaf z’chut.

    In short, these are violations (issurin) between human and G-d bein adam la’maqom and therefore, it’s that couple’s problem, not ours.

    I read Rabbi Greenberg’s piece and it’s extremely interesting. My main quesiton is that if we can reinterpret the specific issur to say that “as long as it’s not done with the idolotrous intentions prevalent at the time of the Torah it’s okay” then we could probably do that with any number of other issurin.

  • Jimmy says:

    “Noahide laws – because they are applicable to Jews AND NON-JEWS ALIKE”

    Exactly my point. What a laughably arrogant assertion!

    To be of the opinion that all must obey your (prima facie, absurd) “divine law” is an attitude that is deserving of the utmost opprobrium!

    THAT is the charge with which I indicted the rabbi in my original post.

    To argue otherwise, you must first demonstrate the veracity of the claim that these laws were indeed ordained by God, handed down to Adam in the Garden of Eden. ONLY THEN may we start quibbling about how they ought to be applied.

    And that is something which, despite thousands of years of concerted effort, still remains to be achieved.

    Kind regards,

  • The ORA Rabbis and their constituents have the same right as any other Australians to express a view on proposed Australian laws and their effect on Australian society. This is not evangelism…

  • ariel says:


    There is an argument that the Noahide laws came about because society was falling apart and they are quite sensible laws which, when kept by all human beings, would lead to a harmonious world.

    They would not have been necessary had society been functional.

    When I see the London riots, corporate greed and wanton acts of evil in the world, I’m inclined to say that the Noahide Laws are required now just as much as ever.

    BTW, what are the Occupy movements around the world calling for, if not legislation against greed and exploitation? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel with legislation; Noah suffices, there just has to be a will on the part of the individual.

  • Simmy says:

    Steve Lieblich, that is why we need transparency. Exactly who do these rabbis represent and in who’s name do they speak when they issue ill conceived statements such as this to a national newspaper? Let’s be absolutely clear about this. Everyone has a right to express an opinion but so called umbrella organizations should be held accountable for their public statements.

  • Jimmy says:

    @Ariel “Jimmy, There is an argument that the Noahide laws came about because society was falling apart and they are quite sensible laws which, when kept by all human beings, would lead to a harmonious world.”

    It’s probably apparent that I’m no scholar of Jewish mythology, but it was my understanding the laws “came about” because God decreed them well before “society” even existed. You may wish to correct me, however.

    That some of the Noadhide laws happen to coincide with secular laws is neither here nor there.

    That the Noahide laws are being invoked to repress gay people does not demonstrate they are conducive to harmony. The very fact that we are having this discussion demonstrates that.

    That even the faithful on this very forum are quibbling amongst themselves about the application of those laws belies your claim that they would lead to a “harmonious world”.

    Also, I do not agree with your opinion that they are “quite sensible laws”. In my opinion, blasphemy, for instance, is a patently ludicrous notion, and I think you can probably guess my stance on your god’s ideas of “sexual immorality”.

    > “When I see the London riots, corporate greed and wanton acts of evil in the world, I’m inclined to say that the Noahide Laws are required now just as much as ever.”

    Could you give me an example of an exclusively Noahide law which would have prevented the London riots?

    Also, I wonder what your definition of a “wonton act of evil” is. I suppose my relationship with my partner is such a thing!

    > “BTW, what are the Occupy movements around the world calling for, if not legislation against greed and exploitation? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel with legislation; Noah suffices, there just has to be a will on the part of the individual.”

    In my opinion, Noah does not suffice, as its authority is purports to derive from a source which I say does not exist!

    A very dubious basis for establishing law, I think.

    Kind regards,

  • Our society has its roots in Judeo-Christian values, and marriage is an institution that is referenced in the Torah, so I don’t see why an peak organisation that represents Rabbis shouldn’t be allowed to put forward their view on this issue. Doing so isn’t violating any laws separating state and religion.

    They don’t purport to ban gay marriage or anal sex between two males (Jewish or gentile) based on their authority as arbiters of Jewish law or Noahide law – of course that is absurd. They are just putting forward their view on the matter like any special interest group might.

    They also don’t purport to speak for all Jews. If another peak Jewish organisation wants to put forward their view, or to point out that ORA doesn’t represent all Jews or all Jewish views, then let them! It’s very easy to find out about ORA and who they represent, as can be seen from the comments on these pages.

    This is a storm in a teacup.

  • Jimmy says:

    @David “They don’t purport to ban gay marriage or anal sex between two males (Jewish or gentile) based on their authority as arbiters of Jewish law or Noahide law – of course that is absurd.”

    Absurd, David? It would have been slightly more convincing if you hadn’t just invoked “Judeo-Christian values” and the Torah in your previous paragraph!

    > “They are just putting forward their view on the matter like any special interest group might.”

    What “special interest group” might that be? I look forward to seeing how you answer that without making reference to religion!

    Kind regards,

  • Yaacov says:

    I am not sure I understand the problem here. It is merely another step in ORA’s march to irrelevancy.

    I remember several years ago ORA (or the RCV, but same thing) published a letter condemning the Israel peace process. When I showed this letter to a right wing rabbi living over the green line his response was – so what, who cares what they think.

    Not much has changed, let them write their letters and let them make their malicious submissions to parliamentary committees. All they are doing is making themselves more irrelevant to the flocks they supposedly represent.

  • In reply to Harry and to Benji: I was evidently not very clear before; let me fix that.

    When it comes to anal sex between two men, the halakha is emphatic: the act is to be considered a to’evah. Not just forbidden, in other words, but disgusting. A similar sentiment, if not the same word, is expressed in relation to shellfish, which I consume on a semi-regular basis. Not because I think it’s halakhically permissible to do so, but because I am not (by any stretch of the definition) a religious person. If I were to phone my rabbi the next time I find myself at Sydney’s Fish Markets and ask his advice, I have no doubt what he would tell me. Nobody is going to prevent me from going to the Fish Markets – even after I make this declaration – and I am sure that my rabbi will either give me the benefit of the doubt and assume that I am not eating such things, or he’ll learn to deal with his grief.

    I can see absolutely no way that an honest halakhic authority might find a way of permitting either one of those things, and when I said above that there is an halakhic way (although I actually said that “there is almost always an halakhic way”) I was talking about marriage. So far as same-sex marriage is concerned, the two partners are not necessarily men. Even if they are both men, there is a lot more to relationships than just physical intimacy, a lot more to physical intimacy than just sex, and a lot more to sex than just anal sex. You can give people the benefit of the doubt, or you can turn the same blind eye that you turn to my eating of forbidden foods.

    The number of people who know more about the halakha than I know would be enough to densely populate a city, but when it comes to the issue of same-sex marriage you will be lucky to hear anything that even begins to sound like an halakhic argument. People refer to stories in the Bible (ones from which normative halakha has never been derived), or they make references to the moral fabric of our society, or to deteriorating social values. These are not halakhic arguments. They’re fluffy, generalised statements that come from a place of deap-seated homophobia and that are used only in order to entrench the status quo in a community that is destined to lose this particular battle. For that reason, I think that the title of Rachel’s piece was rather apt.

    I care about the halakha, even if I don’t live in accordance with it, and I care a great deal about Orthodox Judaism. I will fully support a rabbi’s right to not recognise a same-sex couple in his community, if his decision is predicated on Jewish law. What I will not do is accept generalised statements that reek of homophobia, equating homosexuality with immorality or with a lack of good values, and that decry the rights of same-sex people in general Australian society to draft a contract and have it recognised by the state.

  • Thanks, Ariel: I loaded the page this morning and then had to run out; had I refreshed it before posting, I would have noticed your comment. Your analogy with intercourse during niddah is much more sophisticated than my seafood analogy.

    To David, I suspect that you are correct. This is merely a principled stand and, for that reason, a storm in a teacup. So far as storms in teacups go, however, I would have appreciated a little more diplomacy on the part of a body that claims to represent Australasian Judaism. Either make an argument that is rooted in the halakha, or acknowledge that this lies beyond the purview of traditional Judaism and have no more to say about it than that.

    The breezy way in which the document refers to the undermining of “the bedrock of society and civilisation as we know it”, without providing so much as a single legal reference, makes me wonder how they view their position. Is Rabbi Dovid Freilich the mara d’atra? Does he speak with daat Torah? Or is he merely trying to assert a view, for which he has no evidence beyond his own conviction, that the ship of good taste is sinking, but that he still commands the helm?

  • Reality Check says:

    David Werdiger is right, this is just a storm in a tea cup. Those Rabbis can express an opinion but it’s only relevent to those observent Jews who abide by Jewish law. Those Rabbis, however, can’t tell people who do not abide by these laws, Jewish or non-Jewish, who they can have consentual sex with or who they should marry.

    I also am waiting for the Rabbis letter regarding child sex abuse and the inaction, and downright defence, by some of the most respected rabbis, after they learnt of the crimes committed under their noses.

  • MichaelF says:

    Of course the statement is not a case of the ORA presuming to dictate to the wider community what they can and cannot do. However, it is still a release addressed to the wider community. So it is understandable that some people would feel offended since the implication (whether intended or not) is that this view somehow “represents” their view. But I think the only real solution is for other Jewish organisations that feel that gay marriage should be legalised to issue a release saying so and highlighting that the ORA does not represent the entire Jewish community’s view.

    In terms of the prudence of something like this from an Orthodox perspective, I think Gil Student said it best: “The fight over gay marriage is irrelevant and doomed to failure. The cultural battle has already been lost and the legal defeat is inevitable. In my opinion, we should not enter a battle that is not ours, is destined to fail, and will only alienate potential allies…Yet some Orthodox Jews continue to fight. I don’t understand the strategic thinking. At most, state your principled opposition and move on.” [http://torahmusings.com/2011/06/quick-takes-3/]

  • drew says:

    Hon Life President Rabbi Dr Shalom Coleman CBE AM JP– Patron Rabbi Pinchus Feldman OAM
    President Rabbi Dovid Freilich OAM
    Immediate Past President Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick
    Senior Vice-President Rabbi Moshe Gutnick – Vice President Rabbi Meir Kluwgant – Vice President Rabbi Yoram Ulman
    Secretary Rabbi Yehudah Brown – Treasurer Rabbi Yossi Feldman
    Rabbi Eli Cohen, Rabbi Chaim Dovrat, Rabbi Nir Gurevitch,
    Rabbi Avrohom Gutnick, Rabbi Phillip Heilbrunn, Rabbi Chaim Ingram
    Interesting to see how most of these rabbis do not have a real pulpit

    RS Coleman – retired
    RP Feldman – heads what is more or less a (large) Chabad House.
    R Moshe Gutnick – ?
    R M Kluwgant is a shochet and employed by Jewish Care
    RY Ulam – Chabad House
    RY Brown ?
    RY Feldman is AFAIK rabbi is some G-dforsaken area of Sydney which may have a minyan of Shabbat
    RE Cohen ?
    Rabbi Chaim Dovrat – didn’t he leave Wellington for Israel a couple a years ago?
    RA Gutnick – AFAIK is a businessman
    Rabbi Heilbrun – retired
    RC Ingram ?

  • Jason says:


    So if it’s all about enshrining the rights of two same gender people living together, why not issue a Marriage status to everyday regular business partners, who are just that and no more?

    Simon Galloway posted….Given that such arrangements do not always last, and given the incredible difficulties experienced by those who attempt to separate, it makes perfect sense that they should be given the right to draft up a contract at the outset.

    Good….give the GLBT etc a contract, but just as business men don’t don’t receive (or expect) State sanctioned Marriage status to cover the above, why does anyone else other than the “conventionally marrieds” need or receive one?

    Give them all the protection they need (especially good quality condoms) but is the only way via a Marriage Act?

    Call it what you like, but to call it a “Married Contract”?


  • ariel says:

    For those who are interested, I came across this article this morning…

  • ariel says:

    PS the above article is intended to develop this debate further, I don’t necessarily subscribe to any particular view expressed in it.

  • Rachel SD says:

    Hi David,
    I’m not sure how you arrived at the conclusion that it’s easy to find out who ORA are and who they represent. They certainly don’t have a website. Some of their submissions/letters/comments can be found on the internet, some of which have some detail about who the office holders were at the time the statement was made. Presumably there are others that can’t be found on the internet and none are reported to synagogue members, who are paying the salaries of some of the member rabbis. If you are aware of who the rabbis are and how contemporary Judaism works in Australia it’s easy to work out that the group is Orthodox (and dominated by Lubavitch); if you weren’t Jewish I’m not sure it would be easy at all. Moreover, it’s not clear how these decisions are made (is it just up to the president who might have his own personal reasons to be homophobic or is there some other process), whether they represent even the member-rabbis who aren’t on the executive committee if not the members of the majority of Orthodox synagogues. Whether others can say that ORA don’t represent them depends on whether people are aware of what ORA are doing/saying.

  • Eliyohu says:

    I’m not aware of to’evah being used to refer to eating shellfish, though it may well be. More concerning for us (and less well-known) should be the use of this strong term to refer to dishonest business practices. (Devorim 25:16). if only us Jews could be more careful about this… If there’s any area of crime we have a problem with, it’s white-collar crime. (That said, it’s comparatively rare for a Jew to be arrested for gross assault or rape)

    Of course, two wrongs don’t by any stretch of the imagination make a right. However, I dream of the day when we Jews view business dishonesty with the same repulsion as homosexual intercourse.

  • Reuvain says:

    I find the complaint of Rachel Sacks Davis problematic for a host of reasons:
    1. Rabbis have the right to speak out on moral issues facing society. Judaism has a clear tradition on this issue with thousands of years of legal precedent.

    2. The great majority of Australian Jews are members of Orthodox synagogues. This group clearly represents the overwhelming majority of rabbis.

    3. The expression of their viewpoint has nothing to do with evangelical Christians or any other issue. Simply they are rabbis sharing the historical traditions of Judaism on a crucial social issue.

    4. Rabbis affiliated with the liberal movements, which are few in number in Australia, also have the right to express their view, as they have done time and again. Intellectual honesty would demand, that they at the minimum state that their views are in contradiction to Jewish tradition as practiced for thousands of years, and are a departure from classical Jewish viewpoints.

    5. Steven Greenberg may have graduated from an Orthodox Rabbinical Seminary however his actions are outside the framework of Jewish tradition. He is a loner, who has not standing in the religious community. There is no question that Yeshiva University does not agree with any of his suggestions.

    6. This is a difficult issue that demands sensitivity and understanding. While Jewish tradition clearly does not support Homosexual acts, it demands that each person be treated with respect and dignity.

    Finally I find it very troubling that the writer challenge the basic right of rabbis to express their viewpoints. Freedom of speech is for all, that is the essence of democracy. Because rabbis speak out on what they view as a “moral issue”, it does not make them bigoted or prejudiced. Those who have framed the debate about Homosexual marriage as a rights issue, need to understand that for many it is one of morality.

  • frosh says:


    The writer does not say they have problem with ORA members expressing such opinions in their personal capacity.

    However, when they express an opinion under the name of an umbrella group, then I think it’s a reasonable expectation that the opinion be relevant to that umbrella group.

    ORA arguing against same-sex CIVIL marriage is like ORA arguing for Jewish laws of family purity to be implemented into Australian civil law; or arguing for idols to be removed from Hindu temples in Australia (as pointed out by some correspondents on Galus Australis).
    How would you feel if those hypothetical examples were reality? Would you say that these are appropriate positions for ORA to take?
    This is fundamentally about the separation of church and state; i.e. the separation of religious and civil law.

  • Jason says:


    Following your line of thought as to the separation of religious and civil law, does that mean that in the event of civil law allowing vigilante murder, or retaliatory rape, religious leaders should hold their tongues?

    Civil law has it’s limits and those limits pyramid up to the Noahide Laws which from our perspective are applicable to all non Jews.

    That does not mean to say we can or must impose on non Jews, but we can certainly object, when there is a basis on what to object about.

    And that’s most likely why people who see a total separation of church and state, even Jews, would not have a care in the world if circumcision or kosher slaughter was banned….after all civil law always takes precedence.

    It does unfortunately …but only if good people remain silent. (Nazi Germany was a good example was it not?)

    Homosexuality is an abomination, but having said that, the individuals who practice it, should still be treated with dignity and respect. If on the other hand they behave as Mel Gibson. Tiger Woods or Charlie Sheen, I’d give them the same respect as I would to the above named slobs, even though they’re reportedly heterosexual. Their practice too, is also an abomination. GLBT folk do not have a monopoly on that term.

    Get my drift?

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Reuvain and Jason,

    This commentary trail seems to be going in a circular manner. The first few commentators way back on 7 December remarked that the author’s contention – that rabbis should refrain from commenting on civil issues – is bunkim pure and simple.

    There was extensive comment on the role of rabbis and clergy as a whole in promoting morals (particularly the Noahide Laws), and discussion about the inaliable right of ORA and Rabbi Freilich to speak on behalf of orthodox, mainstream Judaism.

    Unfortunately, the other respondents, who have a major axe to grind against Torah-true Judaism, shot these commentators down.

    The arguments you have put forward, Reuvain and Jason, were made before, and there is no point reiterating them, as the rabbi-hating respondents will simply shoot you down.

    Just let this story fade into oblivion – a place it surely deserves – rather than causing the pernicious mistruths it has caused to be aired to be perpetuated.

  • SK says:

    @ Harry Joachim: This is a discussion forum. If you are unable to tolerate other people conversing, expressing their opinions and sharing ideas, perhaps log off. Our whole tradition is founded in the notion of discussion and debate.

  • ariel says:

    Harry Joachim,

    Hyberbole is an artform…

    No one “hates” the rabbis – they just question why they have chosen to speak out on this aspect of the Noahide Laws and remained silent in the face of others.

    In other words, why does this issue deserve a letter to the mainstrem press and not adultery, for example?

  • Jason says:


    I’m sure if an act of parliament legalizing and institutionalizing adultery was under consideration, the general public including rabbis would be entitled to comment via the press and the pulpit.

    That throws cold water onto your comment above as to “why does this issue deserve a letter to the mainstrem press and not adultery, for example?

  • ariel says:


    Legislation designating male-male sex a crime was repealed some years ago in Australia and other Western countries, so that ship has sailed (and actually it would have been this issue that rabbis could have stood up for vis-a-vis the Noahide Laws).

    The new proposal is about homosexual CIVL unions and will not mention sex as there’s no need (see previous paragraph).

    As I said earlier, CIVIL unions of any kind are not sanctified by definition. Therefore, they can’t possibly undermine the sanctity of chuppah and kiddushin.

    The only reason rabbis would have to protest is if the new legislation were to force rabbis and other clergy to perform gay marriages. This is not likely to be the case.

  • frosh says:


    Murder and rape have an impact on innocent people. They are crimes of men against men (using men in the non-gender specific sense). In some absurd reality that you have conjured up where those crimes were to be legalised, then countless innocents would be severely harmed.
    Whether same-sex marriages are permitted has no substantial impact on those who are not openly gay.
    As Ariel said, this is not about hating Rabbis. We are able to respect members of ORA as people but disagree with their actions on particular issues.

    As for the other part of your argument, I for one am on record of being not only against religious law interfering with civil law, but also against civil law trying to interfere with religion.
    I on record* of arguing for the right for Jews to practice circumcision, and I am on record** for arguing that there is no justification for a ban on kosher slaughter while non-kosher slaughter is permitted.
    Can you say the same? Since you are nothing but a pseudonym, you can’t!
    *see my comments here
    **see my comments here

  • frosh says:

    That’s a very good point about the ship having sailed.

    I wonder why you are so aggressive on this issue. I think Freud would have said that yours is a defence mechanism playing out that he called “reaction formation”. Essentially, you have underlying feeling of same-sex attraction. You are unable to openly express these, so your feelings get sublimated as hostility towards gay people.
    I suggest you watch this – here’s how the rest of us imagine you, Jason, only less fun and a lot angrier.

  • drew says:

    Eds: Comment removed. If you want to write attacks of a personal nature against named individuals in the community, then at minimum, you need to write it under your real name, not a pseudonym. Your comment has been saved by the editors, and can be re-published under your real name. Please email the editors if you’d like to do that or discuss the matter further.

  • Jason says:


    Now you’re upstaging Freud…..you’re an armchair analyst?

    And…. you now speak for everyone else?

    Boy, you’re one heck of a ba’al gaiveh, if I ever saw one.

    But I must admit I nearly fell off the chair laughing at your comment. You know why? That analysis is exactly what has been running through my mind reading your waffle on this thread. Perhaps you’re the one who has the inclinations but doesn’t know where to find the door handle of that deep hidden closet?

    We have a saying in Yiddish, no doubt a language you can’t speak, and at the rate you’re going your grandchildren won’t even know of it’s existence….it goes as follows…..”Oifen ganef brent der hittel”.

    And contrary to your perspective, I believe that transgressing the Noahide Laws does and will continue to have an effect on countless innocents.

    You stick to Freud, I’ll stick to my halachik sources, plus of course the ultimate source which you indirectly belittle, our god given Torah.

    Oops….Ziggy didn’t believe in god, true?

    Do you?

    Or only when it suits?

  • frosh says:

    Nice try “Jason”, but the problem is that the science points to your behaviour (and not mine) being consistent with repressed homosexuality.

    I’m not the one belittling God. After all, you’re the one who seems to think God needs the help of Julia Gillard and co.

    As for Yiddish, I think you meant to write: אויפן גנב ברענט דאס היטל

    Anyway, if you want continue this, I suggest using your real name as I do.

  • Jason says:


    Again you display your Am’moratzos.

    God doesn’t need anyone’s help as you so glibly write, but then again whatever needs to be done is done in a natural way.

    What, you think god is going to send out a Bas Kol from the heavens and gay marriage will be abandoned?

    We need to do what we need to, which includes petitioning whoever can assist to get “the gay marriage meshugayis” dropped and hopefully one way or another god will deliver.

    Good to see you have a Hebrew keyboard, and know what to copy from where but as those who know you can attest….”du kenst yiddish azoi vi a loch in kop”.

    But Froshy, what triggered you to become so personal? Have I touched a raw nerve?

    I’m really tiring of you so either stick to the topic or go start a new thread.

  • David says:

    Hey Frosh – Why the personal attacks? Get a life man!

  • HarryJohns says:

    Yeah, get a life Frosh, and shaddup already about people not using pseudonyms. We don’t want to use our real names, OK? This is a blog encouraging feedback, so it ain’t gonna happen that we reveal who we really are. After all, who wants a prospective employer googling one’s name only to find that their staff member-to-be spends a lot of time each day posting comments online, leading the boss to think that staff member is obviously an online junkie during work hours.

    So let us use pseudonyms and stop pestering us about it!

  • FormerlyKnownAs says:

    To Jason:

    Why does it matter whether Harry can speak or read Yiddish? You seem to be implying you’re not a real Jew if you don’t understand Yiddish, which is after all, a European language, not a universal language of the Jews. Well, as a Sephardi Jew I know several Yiddish words but not these big phrases such as the one you use. Try to remember that not all Jews come from Europe, and this doesn’t make them less Jewish or even less observant. I do understand Hebrew perfectly, but I don’t go around telling people they aren’t really Jewish if they can’t. Incidentally my husband is Ashkenazi and though his parents both could speak Yiddish, I bet he wouldn’t understand your Yiddish phrases either. Boo hoo. Our grandchildren will end up Christian, for sure!

    Back on topic, who cares if gay people want to get married? How does this impact anyone else?

  • FormerlyKnownAs says:

    Sorry – correction – I meant “why does it matter if Frosh can speak or read Yiddish?”

  • frosh says:

    My main concern is that I improved on Jason’s Yiddish grammar but he didn’t seem to notice.
    What does this say about standards at the Adass school?

  • TheSadducee says:


    Have a little kindness in your heart – he was recovering from the shock of Matisyahu shaving his beard and slipped up on the grammar.

  • Doodie Ringelblum says:

    Jason – purely for the sake of idiomatic accuracy – you can’t say “du kenst yiddish azoi vi a loch in kop”.

    “Lokh in kop” is almost always preceded by the verb “darf” or very rarely with “makhn”. But “kenen a lokh in kop” is not a Yiddish expression, and makes no sense even as a neologism.

    If you find it necessary to attack Frosh with an insult using “du kenst”, you might wish to use “kenst a krenk”.

  • Sam says:

    I must entirely agree with you regarding Jason’s misuse of the usual Yiddish idiom. Anyone that has the ability to converse in Yiddish would never say that. Frosh may not be a Yiddish speaker, however he has not made a nonsense statement while faking some attribute he doesn’t really have.

  • Jason says:

    Doodie et al:

    You make it sound as if there was an a attack on Froshie.

    Hang on a sec…he insinuated I had suppressed homosexual tendencies based on my rejection of gay marriage.

    I then make a simple yiddish comment to the effect that he’s off the planet and boom what happens…..?

    The Bundistism march in, hufffing and puffing as if Froshie babe was attacked by club-weilding monsters.

    Are you all nuts?

    As to your yiddish observations, it boils down to one saying “kish mir in toochas” or another expressing… “Koosh mir in tochus”.

    From my perspective, they’re both correct.


  • Ittay says:

    Only in Melbourne would a thread about gay marriage end in a discussion about the correct use of Yiddish grammar. Love it.
    Gut Shabees to all

  • Alex Fein says:

    I await some intellectual honesty from those commenters defending ORA’s promulgating Noahide law in a civil setting.

    You and ORA are so careful to include the caveat that no harm should come to homosexual individuals and that they should be treated with dignity and respect.


    If the Noahide law is so incontrovertible that it can be extrapolated to the non-Jewish legal sphere, why do you not advocate the biblical (d’oraita, not d’rabanan) punishment for anal sex?

    Why do you *not* call for the death penalty?

    Either you are Torah true or you are not.

  • David says:

    Good one Ittay.

    Haven’t seen a response from Jason. Hey Frosh, you’re an administrator here are you not? You haven’t banned him have you? You suggested he may be gay, he poked some fun at you in yidish? Surely you’re not that thin skinned are you? Besides, if you’re an admin on GA, why are you at times so provocative? Oh, and what’s you’re gripe with Adass? Is Jason associated with them?

  • frosh says:

    No, he hasn’t been banned (see his reply below).
    I’m happy to provide you answers to all your other questions, but you’ll need to email the editors and verify your identity. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m a busy person, and there are so many anonymous meshuganah’s out there (I’m not saying that you necessaarily are one). I really don’t want to waste too much of my time with them.

  • David says:


    When I looked at this blog having made my post December 16, 2011 at 1:57 pm there was no post or response from Jason, hence my query as to whether he was banned.

    You responded December 16, 2011 at 3:49 pm “No, he hasn’t been banned (see his reply below)”.

    His response was not to be found down below as you wrote. Incredibly, having logged on tonight, there was Jason’s response dated December 15, 2011 at 11:00 pm….the day before???!!

    That means his post was on either hold or you allowed it to be posted, AFTER having read my query. But you forgot that it would be slotted into the time span when it was originally posted, and foolishly advise us to scroll below.

    That kind of activity by either you or another moderator is unacceptable. You can’t make yourself out to be righteous after the event. It always catches up.

    If you can’t take the heat, then get out. This kind of activity denigrates a blog more so than any pseudonym posters may use.

    You messed up big time. Credibility mate, that’s the key word, credibility!

  • david segal says:


    you wrote: “I can think of at least one prominent Orthodox rabbi in Israel who shows that the punishment according to Halacha for male-male anal sex is the same as the punishment for a heterosexual married couple having intercourse while the wife is in a state of niddah”.


    according to Halacha the punishment for male-male anal sex, is “mitah beit din”- stoning, see Devarim 20,13. and the punishment for having intercourse while the wife is in a state of niddah is Karet, see “Mitah B’ydei Shamayim”-Karet, see Devarim 20,18.
    How can he be prominent Orthodox rabbi if he doesn’t know even that?!
    Isn’t it interesting that your Am Haaratzut was posted on December 8, 2011 at 10:46 am-ten days ago, and not even one religious writer on this blog commented about it!

    The punishment for homosexuality is the same as Bestiality.See devarim 4,15.

    See The punishments for all sexual immoral acts, in mishneh tora, isurei biah 4,3-4

  • drew says:

    [Eds: We removed the comment in question because it contained overly personal insults about a real person, coming from an anonymous commenter. If you are not prepared to comment under your real name, you can respond to Alex Fein without making such personal criticisms.]

    David Segal, thanks.
    Actually I did respond to Fein’s ignorant comments, but the moderators in their wisdom censored it because I don’t use my real name.

    No idea what difference does it make? If my comments are correct then they should be shown and if incorrect, Fein will disprove them.

    The fact is that naming the writer makes no difference to the debate.
    And there are valid reasons why some of us do not want our names published. Maybe I am Fein’s cousin, neigbour or ex-boyfreind. Whatever.

    Trying to force publication of writer’s identities is simply reducing the quality of this blog.

    Please reconsider this retrograde policy. (And a quick check will reveal to you that the majority of commenters here use nom-de-plumes

    I am sure that the feisty Fein can wear

  • HarryJohns says:

    While this comment thread has responded to the contention that ORA should not speak out on gay marriage, the Australian Jewish gay lobby is now attacking the ECAJ for failing to adopt a position in favour of the move!

    So it’s wrong for orthodox rabbis to protest, but the ECAJ should now ignore the orthodox mainstream and fall into bed (no pun intended) only with the so-called progressives?!

    In other words, everyone should either stay shtum or come out in favour of gay marriage!

    How’s that for democracy!

    The Jewish gay lobbyists aren’t as open-minded as they like to think…

    See the opinion piece by Michael Barnett at http://www.jwire.com.au/featured-articles/two-reasons-why-the-ecaj-must-vocalise-its-support-for-marriage-equality/21237

  • ariel says:

    david segal,

    a) I assume you were quoting Vayikra as the references you gave are from Devarim and are unrelated to this discussion;

    b) Calling me an “am haaretz” is pure vindictiveness and according to halacha, you must ask forgiveness and do teshuva. Which yeshiva did you learn in? is it permissible to call someone an “am haaretz” for relaying what they were told by an orthodox rabbi?

    c)you wrote: “The punishment for homosexuality is the same as Bestiality.”

    There is no punishment for homosexuality. There is punishment for a particular act between two men, no matter their sexual preferrence. Yes that’s right, even if two heterosexual men have sex with each other on a drunken night out, they are guilty.

    But oh yes – what about the two eidim who have to report them to the beit din so they can receive mittah? Will you raise your hand to go from house to house?

  • I enjoy hearing a bit of mussar, and while I also think that the tone of David’s comment was rather rude, I appreciated being corrected as regards the difference in punishment. That said, his comment completely misses Ariel’s point. The fact that a blind eye is turned to one phenomenon and not to another has absolutely nothing to do with the difference between their respective punishments.

    I wrote a post shortly after this one was published, in which I highlighted the reasons whereby Orthodox Jews can (and should) accept same-sex civil marriages. Chief among those reasons is the fact that there has yet to be a single Orthodox scholar (neither on the ORA, nor amongst those who comment to this blog) who have found a single halakhic reason, in amongst the vast realms of halakhic literature, as to why same-sex civil unions should be prohibited in the first place.

    If you know of such a reason, by all means let us know, but if you really cannot think of one then stop pretending that it’s there. It’s time to come out of the closet. Own up to your irrational and anti-halakhic hatred of homosexuality. Be honest. At least with yourselves.

  • Shira Wenig says:

    I found your linked post interesting but I have a couple of comments. (These are purely comments on your arguments, not judgment calls on same-sex marriage, so please don’t try to infer from them what my opinion on same-sex marriage might be.)

    1. You criticise ORA for speaking out against same-sex marriage without raising a single halachic argument against it, but then criticise them for pretending there is one. Well, which is it? You can’t have it both ways. If they haven’t raised a halachic argument, they haven’t pretended that there is one! In fact, you’re in heated agreement with them – Rabbi Freilich’s letter doesn’t say anything about halachic arguments, he is quite upfront about the fact that ORA’s objection is theological/moral/spiritual/cultural in nature, and not legal/halachic.
    Now, of course there is a wide range of opinions on theological/moral/etc issues too (just as there is machloket about legal/halachic issues) but that doesn’t preclude ORA’s members from having the right to formulate and state an opinion for their own organisation. Rabbis have a wider role than just paskening whether you’ve treifed up your dishes. They can state their opinion, and everyone else can take it or leave it just as they might with a psak.

    2. This is a technical point – you claim that while Torah clearly prohibits anal sex, “there is not so much as a single passage within the copious reams of rabbinic literature that forbids non-sexual intimacy between two men”. I’m by no means an authority, but I would assume that this derives from the same rabbinic passages which prohibit non-sexual intimacy between men and women who are not married to each other (or indeed a married couple during the niddah period) – the injunction to distance oneself “me’od me’od” from any behaviour which might lead to a prohibited sexual act.

  • Thank you, Shira.

    In thinking about this a little further, I am going to capitulate on a couple of points. It has become clear to me that the ORA – however atrocious I think that their letter is – is writing to a general audience. Being that this is a country with an overwhelmingly non-Jewish majority, they are adopting the same tone of discourse that Rabbi Gil Student recently indicated in the writings of our Chief Rabbi. Realising that this is not in any measure supposed to be a psak din, I therefore concur with your first point.

    I was only ever criticising them for not producing an halakhic argument on the basis of the fact that I expect Orthodox rabbinic bodies to do so. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that I think it irresponsible of them when they do not; there is no official Orthodox dogma, and that people subscribe to an “Orthodox way of thinking” is but a sorry indictment of the state of Jewish learning today. People who wish to be Orthodox are essentially making a commitment to the halakha – both as a body of law and as a system of legislation. When their leaders make pronouncements that are rooted in neither of those, they do their constituency a disservice.

    To respond, however, to your second point, I think that this is a perfectly reasonable halakhic observation. Unless I am mistaken, it stems (at least in this particular instance) from a gemara in Kiddushin. The mishna asserts in the name of Rabbi Yehuda that two unmarried men are not allowed to sleep under the same garment, and while the sages permit it, that permission is construed in the gemara as being because Jewish men are not suspected of being homosexual. In an instance in which those two men are both known to be homosexuals, or in an instance in which the ruling applies to non-Jewish men, one might therefore rule like Rabbi Yehudah.

    If only the halakha worked that way, right? In actual fact, you can’t side against all of the Rishonim in favour of a minority opinion in the Mishna, irrespective of how logical it seems. Just as the former mishnayot in that perek are not indicative of halakha (prohibitions against female school-teachers, for example), so too is this not a prohibition that has ever carried the weight of Jewish law.

    That said, I can accept an halakhic argument that is made on such grounds, in favour of strongly prohibiting same-sex “marriages” between two men. I enclose “marriages” in quotation marks because there is no amount of thumb-twisting legislation that will have such relationships invested with kiddushin. I do not see how such an argument can be used to prohibit same-sex relationships between women, and I cannot accept it in favour of prohibiting same-sex civil unions in a secular country.

    After all, such civic permissibility is neither going to encourage nor promote a transgression of the levitical prohibition, and the individuals who will be guilty of transgressing it will be in relationships anyway, regardless of Australian law.

  • david segal says:

    b) Calling me an “am haaretz” is pure vindictiveness and according to halacha, you must ask forgiveness and do teshuva. Which yeshiva did you learn in? is it permissible to call someone an “am haaretz” for relaying what they were told by an orthodox rabbi?

    Here is what I said:

    Isn’t it interesting that your Am Haaratzut was posted on December 8, 2011 at 10:46 am-ten days ago, and not even one religious writer on this blog commented about it!c)you wrote: “The punishment for homosexuality is the same as Bestiality.”

    I wasn’t talking about you, only about the things you said. I am sure that you and the prominent rabbi that you quoted are big talmidei chachomim.

    i wrote: The punishment for homosexuality is the same as Bestiality.”

    and you answered: There is no punishment for homosexuality. There is punishment for a particular act between two men

    there is also no punishment for living in a stable, There is punishment only for a particular act between men/women and beast.

    What is that got to do with what you wrote or my comment?

  • Shira Wenig says:

    Thanks Simon for your thoughtful response.

    Re point #1, is your 2nd paragraph referring to your previous view or your reconsidered view? ie are you saying that you still expect ORA to produce a halachic argument (and that they are doing their constituency a disservice if they don’t), even though there isn’t one? There’s a catch 22 for them – damned if they do, damned if they don’t! If there is ONLY a theological/moral case, and not a halachic one, then the responsible thing for them to do (if they are going to make a statement at all) is to make the theological/moral one and not dress it up as psak – which is what they’ve done, whether the audience of the statement is Orthodox, secular or non-Jewish.

    I agree with you that there’s no official Orthodox dogma. There’s also no official consensus on many halachic matters, but that doesn’t absolve individual rabbis (or organisations of rabbis) of coming up with a psak. Lack of consensus similarly shouldn’t prevent the rabbis of one organisation from sitting down and nutting out a statement of opinion.

    Re point #2, I was referring to the broad principle relating to all arayot, of “lo tikrevu legalot ervah”. Eg see Rambam Issurei Biah perek 21, where he lists a pretty extensive range of prohibited acts of intimacy (and pre-intimacy) and Shulchan Aruch Even haezer 20 where the expression “meod meod” is used for extra emphasis and caution.

  • HarryJohns says:

    Interestingly, Rabbi Raymond Apple, formerly of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, recently posted a Q&A on his website about whether clergy have a right or obligation to speak out on broader civil issues.

    It appears at http://www.oztorah.com/2011/12/clergy-speaking-out-ask-the-rabbi/

  • Rachsd says:

    If only there were Orthodox synagogues in Australia that worked a little more like this:


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