Friday, December 8, 2006

Shabbat Ideas - December 8, 2006

While I am pretty sure very few people are reading this, here are my Shabbat thoughts for December 8, 2006.

Don Imus May be a smuck but who cares?
Hippies fromthe shtetl: A new look at the next generation of grandparents.
A nice response to the Price of Outreach from last week
Slate on Bloggers on Gays
Yippy for learning political lesson’s of unity and messaging…BOO that it is Hezbollah. This is a very interesting article about Lebanon after Israel’s war.

This week clearly is about equality; Gays, Straights and Halacha. I am puzzled by the Conservative Movement’s decision to ordain GLBT folk, perform GLBT commitment ceremonies but to ban homosexual sex. I don’t quite understand how the Halacha can be maintained when rulings such as these come down. How can you have things both ways in a law structure?

I met a female rabbi who works for the Conservative Movement last year around the time the CM tabled the decision on gay rabbis. She said, very much under her breath, that she did not think that Gays had a place in the rabbinate. When I probed to why she – as a female rabbi – has any more right to be a rabbi than a gay man, she said she fought for her appointment “through the Halacha.” Now I am no expert on Halacha or the CM, but I am pretty sure there was a pretty big fight to allow women to become rabbis in CM. Much in the same way there is a fight for GLBT rights in the movement.

I can’t understand how this rabbi, who fought to stretch a Halacha for women’s rights, would not fight to stretch Halacha for GLBT rights. What is the difference? Women are not permitted to lead men in prayer services according to strict readings of the law. Women are not supposed to do a lot of things that are considered “kosher” within the CM’s reading of Halacha, so why does a strict reading of the laws about homosexuality seem to have a very strict feeling of homophobia?

I for one do not understand why the CM still is around. It started off back in the day as a response to the Reform Movement’s abandonment of Halacha. Clearly it was an alternative and was needed for the Jewish community at the time. The idea was to create a movement of educated - both Jewishly and secularly - modern Jewish leaders. JTS was born with that mission. Yet over time things changed and the Modern Orthodox Movement really took over that mantel. How can you reconcile breaking Shabbos by driving to synagogue and call that Halachic Judaism?

You can’t get in a car drive to shul and say that it is Kosher because you are going to shul. It breaks Halacha, plain and simple. Female Rabbis brake Halacha, plain and simple. Gay Rabbis break Halacha, plain and simple. But what these things don’t break the purpose of Judaism, which also is plain and simple.

GLBT rabbis and cantors and educators and soldiers and name-a-profession-here deserve the same rights as everyone else. They should be considered the same and not un-kosher because of who they are. This decision doesn’t welcome GLBT folk into the Conservative Movement with open arms. This Halachic statement does nothing but create a second class of GLBT leadership.

It seems to be just another way for the CM to say “we expect our leaders to do act differently than the rest of people in the Movement.”

I spoke with a friend of mine on Wednesday after the ruling came-out (sorry couldn’t resist) who said this fits very well into what she experienced as child growing up in a Conservative shul. The rabbis had to keep Shabbat and a kosher home while the corpus of the congregation was expected to come to services and have milchig, fleishig and Chineseig plates at home. Now I can understand putting your leaders up on a pedestal and expecting more from them, but that isn’t Judaism.

Our rabbis are teachers not priests. We should all strive to do more Jew. You can be secular, Reform, Renewal, Reconstructionist, Orthodox, Ultra-Orthodox, Conservative or Humanist. It doesn’t matter. You just should strive to take on more aspects of a Jewish life.

And that brings us back to equality. The real question that still has not been answered by the CM is will GLBT members of congregations have full equality? This ruling says no. But it is the step in the right direction…but it seems to be away from Halacha. There was an interesting piece on JTA this week about how Halachic Conservatives should move to the Orthodox Movements in the US. I would argue that the Conservative Jews in favor of equality and value based Judaism should come to the Reform Movement.

Shabbat Shalom.

No comments: