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• Rabbis and Others have said... •

A number of Orthodox Rabbis, among others, addressed Orthodox Jews who are gay and lesbian in the documentary film "Trembling Before G-d" by Sandi Simcha DuBowski (2001). Here are some excerpts from the film:

"Ve-et zachar lo tishcav mishkevei isha to'evah hi" (Vayikra 18:22)

"A man shall not lie with another man as he would lie with a woman, it is a to'evah" (Leviticus 18:22)

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin:  "Interestingly enough, the Talmud explains [the term to'evah] as to'eh atah bah -- 'you're making a mistake through this thing.'  You're making a mistake because it does not lead to the kind of normative family life which the Torah sees as being the fundamental building structure of a good and holy society."

Naomi Mark, Orthodox Psychotherapist:  "By giving kids the message that you either do it one way or that they have to leave forces us to lose many kids.  Either they leave the community and become not frum, or we lose them, G-d forbid, to suicide, or they lose their neshomah -- they live a lie which distorts us internally long term."

Shlomo Ashkinazy, Orthodox Gay Psychotherapist:  "One of my teachers at my yeshiva decided to introduce me to his rabbi who was one of the big gedolim in Jerusalem, someone who was regarded worldwide as a posek.  When he talked about the specific prohibition in the Torah, you know, against anal sex, and he wanted to make it very clear to me, and when I told him that I did understand that, and that I did not have anal sex, he was a little perplexed, and he said, 'Then what is the problem? So you don't have sex with men.'  And I said, 'Well, I do, but we don't do that.'  And it was like, I mean, this is a gadol, learned in Torah and so many worldly facts as well, but he suddenly was at a loss.  That was gay sex as far as he knew.  And he said, 'What else do men do?  What else is there to do?'  And so I described kissing and hugging and mutual masturbation and oral sex, and he didn't know what that was.  And when I explained that to him he was really confused, and he said, 'Why would a man want to put another man's shmeckie in his mouth?'  And I thought it was such a foolish question.  I said, 'Why would a man want to put his penis in a woman's vagina?'  And you should have seen his face light up.  It was like I illuminated something new for him that he learned.  And he said, 'Of course, of course.' He said it's a taivah.  He says a taivah doesn't have a reason.  There is no reason for a taivah.  A taivah is an urge.  It's an illogical urge.  That all of sex is a taivah, it doesn't have rhyme or reason to it.  What a gay person does or what a straight person does, or wants to do, it isn't logical, it's something brought down from above."

Rabbi Yosef Langer:  "If you're only inclined to have relationships with men and nothing else works for you, then yes, you have to be celibate."

Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo:  "It is not possible for the Torah to come and ask a person to do something that he is not able to do.  Theoretically speaking, it would be better for the homosexual to live a life of celibacy.  I just would argue one thing -- it's completely impossible.  It doesn't work.  The human force of sexuality is so big that it can't be done."

Rabbi Meir Fund:  "So the Jew who is gay by choice, I would pound my fist on the table and say it is a yetzer hara, work like mad to overcome it, just like I work like mad, hopefully, to overcome some of my yetzer haras, you work like mad to overcome yours.  A Jew who is, as we might say, wall to wall gay, so realistically he is not going to be necessarily receptive to that message.  So I will hold his hand--figuratively, metaphorically--and do the best I can to give him strength to serve HaShem where he is capable of so doing.

"We never heard that a Jew is barred from a shul because he is a sinner.  If that was the policy of the halacha, then I hate to tell you I doubt there would be a minyan in any shul.  I have to believe that if someone is gay, that that's an assignment from HaShem and that HaShem is somehow also sharing with that person not just the strength to carry out the assignment as best as they can but ultimately it's part of the life purpose of that person to have struggled and worked with that particular issue, among others, to do the best they can.  These are the secrets of the soul."

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin:  "Look, I really believe that more and more orthodox Rabbis who have come into contact with people who are gay as the situation has become more open.  Like everything else, when you don't know you tend to demonize and almost dehumanize.  When you know, you've met the individual, you've seen the sincerity of his prayer, you can no longer demonize and dehumanize.  You have to just love and help, and that's what I think, in the final analysis, that's what Judaism is all about."

Naomi Mark:  "All of us are in the world to fix something.  We don't know what it is.  I mean we are just trying our best, struggling along, muddling through, trying to make sense out of it all.  But in the end, we don't know.  Whatever we see happening, in the end, G-d's writing the story for our lives.  I think the more we get in touch with that state of not knowing the more humbled we are, the more we can listen, and the more we can surrender that there is more to all of this than we can ever possibly understand.  The more hidden something is, the more holy it is. The more inaccessible something is, the more meaningful it can be."

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