Ask the Rabbi: ‘Gay feelings and the Torah’

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Ask the Rabbi: ‘Gay feelings and the Torah’

Ask the Rabbi with Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet..

Ask the Rabbi ASK THE RABBI 2Why do these marriages fail?

Dear Rabbi,

I’ve been following a lot of your relationship advice in this column over the past couple of months. Much of it is most enlightening and enjoyable. You should take it up as a vocation! I, however, wish to ask a greater theological question. If, as Judaism believes, God has chosen our soulmates, why do so many marriages seem unsuccessful? Roughly 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. Even among Jews, the divorce rate is a frightening 30 percent, and the divorce rate among Ultra-Orthodox Jews of roughly 10 percent is still unacceptable. If God has chosen our soulmates, why isn’t the success rate 100 percent?


Dear Geraldine,

An excellent question.

A straightforward answer would be that just because God chooses our soulmate – as He does – it doesn’t mean we then automatically become “happy ever after,” without expending energy and applying requisite effort. And so, even as we might marry our soulmates, we can still mess things up.

Like everything else in life, God might hand us a flower, but the onus is on us to water it and look after it. If you don’t and it dies, don’t go questioning or blaming God for that. A further point to consider is that while God may have chosen our soulmates, we are guaranteed to meet them but not necessarily marry them. In other words, again, sometimes we could be looking them right in the eye, and let the moment pass us by. (I know people like that – always passing up the opportunities in the deluded assumption there is something better still out there).

That said, Judaism certainly provides the framework by which you can narrow the prospects and thereby be in with more of a chance of actually marrying your soulmate. For example, Judaism forbids certain relationships – be it an immediate relative, a divorcee to a Kohen, etc. Alas, with the increase of intermarriage, it is worthwhile pointing out a Jew can never be soulmates with a non-Jew either. For what it’s worth, as a validation for God’s wisdom, according to a detailed study reported in The Washington Post the divorce rate among intermarried couples is two to three times higher than the average! Judaism has many other guidelines that can affect relationships and our ability to make objective assessments about potential marriage partners. For example, the prohibition against intimacy before marriage. 

Yet again, as a validation for God’s wisdom, a detailed article recorded in the Journal of Marriage & Family suggests the divorce rate among couples who engaged in premarital relations almost doubles. So, by limiting your dating efforts to those whom a Jew is permitted to marry, and by following Jewish law, you narrow the potential dating pool to roughly one percent of the population, significantly increasing the chances of finding your soulmate and increasing your chances for marital bliss.

Gay feelings and the torah

Dear Rabbi,

I have an Orthodox friend, a married man who confided that he is attracted to another man. I became upset with him and told him he is deemed a sinner in the eyes of Judaism and he is being unfaithful to his wife and untrue to himself by remaining married to her. He told me I was being judgmental and I now hardly speak to him. Am I not right? Graham

Dear Graham,

No, you’re not right, for all sorts of reasons.

First, it is important to note the Torah only prohibits homosexual acts, but does not in any way condemn a person for having homosexual feelings. On the contrary, most people are born with desires or inclinations for things which are prohibited to them. Are married people being unfaithful when they might desire to engage in extra-marital relationships? Certainly not, as long as they don’t act upon it. Of course, it means one has to take a long hard look at one’s own marriage to consider what might be wrong in that unhealthy feelings are being harboured.

Then again, it could be nothing more than base animalistic tendencies. Having an inclination to follow our passions is not inherently evil. On the contrary, God gave us an evil inclination to help us to reach our potential fully in this world. The challenge is to rise above it. Even if your friend were to act, it is also important for you to understand you have no right to judge anyone else and think you are better than someone who gives in to his or her desires whatever they may be. We need to be respectful and loving to all, even if they don’t practise religion the same way we do.

OK to say happy new year 2016

Dear Rabbi,

Is it acceptable to wish someone happy new year when it isn’t Rosh Hashanah? Yossi

Dear Yossi,

Sure, why not, in keeping with the verse: “God counts in the script of the people.” In other words, there is significance to the Gregorian calendar as well. And frankly, if it encourages meaningful and positive resolutions then all the better.

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