Giants in the Land – LGBT Rights Torah Style

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Simone Schicker is a second year rabbinic student at HUC-JIR. Her favorite area to read and write about is Judaism and relationships – including women and LGBTQ issues, reproductive rights, sex, gender identity and marriage.

Rated PG
This week’s parasha (portion) is Shelach Lecha and is well known as the parasha where Moses sends spies into the land of Canaan, as instructed by G-d. The spies come back, and ten out of the twelve report that while the land is good, there are Niphalim (demi-gods or giants) in the land – along with many peoples who would overpower the Israelites. Only Caleb and Joshua state that the people should go into the land because G-d is on their side. G-d becomes angry with the people and tells them that none of the people who left Egypt, besides Joshua, will be allowed to enter the land, but rather that they will all wander in the desert until the next generation is ready to lead.

G-d knew that the only way for the Israelites to be able to have a fresh start in the land of Canaan was to not allow any of the former slaves into the land. As freed slaves, the Israelites had a mindset that not even G-d could change. This is comparable to the struggles we hear and read about in the news in regards to LGBT issues. Whether it is the need for non-discrimination laws and ordinances, the same-sex marriage fight or the deaths that occur as a result of bullying and fighting, there is still a long way to go in the fight for full rights for LGBT persons.

We cannot wait for the previous generations to step down from their leadership roles before pushing for change, but we can raise the generations after us to view all people as equal regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. It is the responsibility of each and every person to stand up for what they believe and to fight for what they think is right. If we take things for granted we will lose them, and all the work of previous generations will have been for naught.

G-d understood that one cannot force change upon a group of people, and that G-d would have to wait until the next generation was old enough to lead before granting the Israelites the right to the land. Just as we know that change occurs gradually, and that it is up to the younger generations to continue the push forward towards a time when all people will be viewed as individuals with the right to decide for themselves who they are and what they believe. No one can force their beliefs upon another, but we all can fight for our right to make our own decisions and for the right to not be discriminated against based on something which is a part of our deepest selves.

Shabbat Shalom!

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  • Oy!

    It was unclear to me whether this post was intended as a parody, or was a serious reflection of the author’s thoughts. If the latter, the post was a truly saddening capitulation to the latest social agenda.

    The Jewish people were punished with wandering for 40 years in the desert – not because they had a slave mentality, and taht the “fresh” mentality of a new generation was needed in order to inherit the land of Israel, as suggested by the author – for if this were so, why didn’t G-d immediately impose a 40-year delay prior to bringing the Israelites to Promised Land? Why did He, for all intents and purposes, appear prepared to lead them directly from Egypt into Israel, until the incident with the spies occurred?

    Rather, it is for the reason expressly stated in the verse, which the author conveniently ignores: “All the people who perceived My glory, and the signs that I performed in Egypt and in the desert, yet they have tested me these ten times and not listened to my voice…if they see the land that I swore to their fathers, and all who provoked Me will not see it.” Numbers, 14:22-23.

    In other words, it is because they did not trust G-d, and did not listen
    to G-d that they were punished with not entering the land that G-d had intended
    for them.

    How ironic is it then, that the author utilizes this story, and G-d’s decision, to advance gay rights and equality, when the very same G-d commands in Leviticus (18:22): “You shall not lie down with a male, as with a woman: this is an abomination.You shall not lie down with a male, as with a woman; this is an abomination.” How intellectually dishonest it is to use the very Torah that forbids acts of homosexuality to decry those old-fashioned and calcified enough to insist that Torah’s law be followed?

    Funny enough, the gay rights movement has actually made enormous headway in an astonishingly short period of time – directly contrary to the author’s intimation that it has been such a long struggle that we will likely only see true “progress” with a
    new generation. Indeed, it was scarcely 10 years ago that the United States Supreme Court, in
    Lawrence v. Texas, overturned the conviction of a male who was caught engaging in gay sex in his home. That now-ancient decision was primarily based upon our fundamental “right of privacy,” which the court ruled, includes the right to engage in consensual sex of whatever nature in the privacy of our home. How far we have come then, when in a few short years (scarcely a new generation), it is no longer the right to privacy that is being debated, but the right to publicity; the right to compel society to recognize the legality and legitimacy of same–sex marriage! I would suggest that the author need have no fear; this very generation appears to be committed to eroding our collective moral sense as swiftly as possible (and I am not only referring to the push for gay marriage, but the erosion of heterosexual marriage, modesty, ethics and faith as well).

    What comes next? Next in Leviticus is “with no animal shall you cohabit.” How long before animal rights activists seek equal rights for animal-human marriages?
    (And I simply don’t buy the indignant argument that I receive in response: “How dare you compare homosexuality to bestiality? Bestiality involves a non-consenting creature!” Tell that the millions of animals that are neutered without their consent. I’ll bet you that if animals could speak, they’d ask us to leave their genitals intact; and if they could choose, they’d choose pleasurable sex to forcible castration).

    How about incest among consenting adults? (And don’t tell me that it’s about preventing the birth of unhealthy children: if that were truly the concern, we’d have no issue with post-menopause sex, or sex with birth control; and we would prohibit sex among people who carry certain genetic diseases. Plus, not all incestuous relationships involve unequal positions of authority that would arguably affect the “consenting” nature of the interaction. Think first cousins, or a twin brother and sister).

    For the moment, incest and bestiality seem safely ensconced behind the curtains of
    social disgust and condemnation. For the moment. But as our moral compass is gradually abandoned in favor of political correctness, shamelessness, blind acceptance, disrespect and indulgence, those taboos are sure to follow. And why should swine not have the right to be considered “kosher”? What justifies such
    discrimination against certain animals? That too flows inevitably from the author’s logic, and her willingness to pick and choose the parts of Torah that support the particular social agenda of the hour.

    I am not in any way offended by my fellow Jews with homosexual proclivities, just as I am not offended by Jews with any other habits, characteristics, traits, or proclivities that they might find to be challenging in the course of their commitment to Judaism. Indeed, I have plenty of my own. We all struggle, both with the natures that G-d gave us, as well as those that we have picked up along the way. And that anyone would
    dare to treat
    any person with anything less than the respect that every person deserves is unacceptable. Bullying of any form should be condemned in the strongest of terms, regardless of the particular pretext that bullies choose to hide behind. But that does not mean that we need to distort and emasculate the divine Torah to comport with weaker aspects of our humanity; nor that we sacrifice our own higher moral sense for the numbing comfort of universal acceptance.

    This is not open-mindedness or “progressive” thinking; it is the loss of sensitivity for things sacred. The author’s condescending and flippant rejection of the parts of Torah that she does not care for, along with the Jewish views and perspectives regarding homosexuality over the past thousands of years, reflects a stunning arrogance that I find frightening – particularly in someone who prepares to assume a leadership role
    in our nation.

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