Of course there’s more than one, but in this post I’m going to focus on a contradiction which speaks to me personally in everyday life. I’m not expecting this post to change the way you think or the way you practice your religion. I just think this little chink in the armor ought to be pointed out.
I was raised that the most basic principle of judaism is to love your neighbor like yourself. Do not do to another what you wouldn’t want done to you, and all the rest is commentary. That is how I practice my religion. By being open and accepting whenever possible, being slow to judge, giving out kindness. I believe those are the most meaningful ways for me to be a jew. And of course everyone is entitled to make that decision for themselves. But I think ואהבת לרעך כמוך is a very high priority.
I get the message, from studying torah and growing up in a jewish community, that keeping the sabbath is also pretty high up there on the scale of important laws. In fact, we can see examples in the bible where violating the sabbath publicly is punishable by a horrible death. And yet, I’ve noticed that in our generation, even in the case of a person who is publicly violating the sabbath, it is acceptible to treat them with proper respect - even expected. You might be looked down upon if you think otherwise. Our leaders have made the decision that loving your neighbor is more important than providing the proper punishment to those who violate the sabbath. And I’m proud to say I agree with them.
There’s another commandment which the jewish community is pretty hung up on, though. It has come to the point where not only do our leaders encourage shunning and oppression of people who sin, individuals take it upon themselves to punish these people in their own judgement. Where the rabbis are lenient in the case of the sabbath, which is taken very seriously in the original text, they will not budge in the case of a person who publicly or privately does this one thing, which is mentioned in passing amidst a list of much worse things, and the bible is pretty clear that if there’s any punishment at all, it’s completely up to God. I am talking about homosexuality. (Isn’t that what I always talk about?
So can you understand why I’m a little bit confused? The torah states specifically that people who violate the sabbath should be killed, and that the community has a responsibility to carry out their punishment, and yet, we choose not to. We choose to value love over the death of our people. In the case of a person who is gay, we have no responsibility to punish them, which I think means it’s none of our business. But we choose to shun them, and put them through all sort os craziness trying to convince them to change something they might not know how, or may not want to. We tag them as diseased, dangerous, contageous, sinners. We distance our children from them. We mourn them when they are in fact flourishing, successful people. We choose to value punishment over love.
And here’s another thing. We talk a lot about modesty, like wearing long sleeves is the most important thing a woman could possibly ever do. We treat the subject of sex like a taboo. We don’t talk about straight sex in public, and yet we make a public judgement based on someone’s choice of partner. That seems like an interesting set of ideals. Huh.
I consider myself extremely lucky that I have the ability to be happy in a straight relationship so I don’t have to put up with all of the community’s bullshit. But I also firmly believe that it’s my choice to be in a relationship with whoever I want, and that it’s no one else’s business. I’m not going to try and change to make it harder for strangers to hate me. I’m not going to make someone else suffer in a relationship with someone who isn’t attracted to them. I’m not going to choose hate over love. I think that loving one’s neighbor is a higher priority than sticking your nose into someone’s private bedroom business and choosing to shun them based on something you don’t actually know.
Come gay people, come violators of the sabbath. Let’s go somewhere and actually be nice to people.