AJN Letters: Gays & Celibacy + Purim & Mardi Gras – March 9 2012

9 Mar 2012
The Australian Jewish News Sydney edition

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Adapting the Torah to reflect values

SOME of our rabbis seem to expect celibacy from those who are gay. Is this the compassion we would like from spiritual leaders?

We now know that homosexuality has been found among animal species, so we cannot confidently state that it is a personal choice.

Gays are all part of creation. Can those of us who are not gay comfortably sit back and tell gays, it is forbidden for you to follow your instincts but we, who consider ourselves normal, can enjoy them? After all, is the Torah not full of death sentences for what we nowadays regard as not so serious?

Is it possible to mistake the meaning of the Torah? Perhaps it was constructed for its time, it being assumed that later generations would have the knowledge and skills to read it in a new light.

Or it might it be an inspired manmade work reflecting the values of its time, to be reassessed with every century. Should we be using the Torah to make life barely tolerable for a sub-stantial minority? I know I cannot.

PETER COHEN
Bentleigh East, Vic


Misrepresenting the meaning of Purim

PROFESSOR David Shneer (“Pride and prejudice ….and Purim” AJN 02/03) woefully distorts the Purim message.

Applying phrases to Judaism like “the holiness of transgression” (sic.) and “revelling in worldly pleasures” do nothing, in my opinion, to enhance his credibility as a serious writer on Jewish themes. Nor for that matter does his risible invocation of the name of the Rambam in spurious support of his views.

To quote the Rambam: “The Torah states (Lev. 18:2) ‘after the actions of Egypt … you shall in no way do’ Our sages commented ‘ what perversions did they do in Egypt? A man would marry a man and a woman a woman.…’”(rambam, Hilchot Isurei Bi’ah 21:8).

The reason for disguising ourselves on Purim is to hide our true identity. Just as Queen Esther was deemed by all to be part of the problem and ended up being part of the solution, so do we masquerade as the opposite of what we truly are. Nothing to do with any “redemptive potential of masquerade” or “see(ing) the infinite possibility … in each experience”. Disguises incidentally also help us carry out optimally the mitzvot of the day, namely gifts to the poor (which the Rambam says is best done anonymously) and giving token food gifts to one’s friends (which one might be embarassed to do ordinarily).

In the English language the word “pride” has two antonyms: “shame” and“modesty”.in Judaism,pride as the opposite of shame is a worthy virtue. However, as the reverse of modesty, pride is viewed negatively. Traditionally, Purim disguises will never leave large areas of body flesh exposed as in a certain other annual carnival.

There is indeed no point of connection between Purim and Mardi Gras.

One can only hope that Professor Shneer’s piece was intended as an early purimshpiel.

RABBI CHAIM INGRAM
Bondi Junction, NSW

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