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  1. While the shift in sentimental attitude from moral to ritual is important to point out, Rabbi Greenberg’s assertion that the Orthodox response somehow uses and then followed the same reasoning as conservative thought is mistaken and unfortunate.

    Orthodox thought on the severity of sin is not categorized with respect to chok or mishpat. If an Orthodox Jew would publicly express, defend, justify and take pride in his Shabbos desecration, he would still be considered committing the ultimate severe sin. In fact, the same goes for even the “smallest” of ritual chok sins.

    Similarly, supposedly “harsh” moral mishpat sins like murder and adultery have mitigated and technical orthodox responses in cases of brain death and Agunah respectively. Few would consider a family who chooses to make the difficult decision to opt for organ donation of a brain dead relative to be morally corrupt, even when hallachically questionable.

    Taamei hamitzvot is kept mysterious on purpose. ultimately the acceptance of all mitzvot in Orthodox Judaism must be Na-aseh Ve-nishma. In Orthodox hashkofa, Unlike conservative judaism (or reform or christian thought) Simply categorizing a Posuk as ritual as opposed to moral tells us very little about its hallachic manifestation. It tells us even less about how we should treat a person at the Shabbos table. The latter must always be judged on an individual basis (regardless of the sin), with the advice of one’s chosen Orthodox rabbi.

    With this thinking, the sin of homosexual behavior, mishpat or chok, moral or ritual, may have some manifestations that might merit extreme sentiments; like when a man cheats on his wife with another man, or exploits his power to abuse another man. It also may manifest in ways similar to Agunah, or Brain death, where there is no ethical villain, and so we empathize, understand and assume the best of the gay person looking for consensual committed companionship. In all cases, a jew’s social and emotional responses are guided by V’ahavta Le’reacha Kamocha.

    However, just as the sins of adultary and murder are not ignored in Agunah and brain-death, the prohibitions of homosexual behavior do not simply disappear for a happy gay couple. They instead fall into the larger category of sins and mitzvot that we bravely struggle with daily. Orthodoxy is no stranger to this, as it is used to struggling with verses that we may not understand, or worse yet, conflict with ethical sensibilities. It is with this approach that Orthodoxy has engaged with other biblical pesukim that seem to blatantly encourage slavery, genocide, cruelty, or misogyny. In fact we thrive in this dialectic.

    This is the hallmark of modern Orthodox thinking, explained best by Rabbi J.B Soleveichic. It is as ontological and existential as the contradiction of mortal man striving to know an unknowable divine. This dynamic has birthed the infinite and ongoing wonder that is Torah Shel Baal Peh. It is why Yeshiva students spend most of their day mastering the didactics of the Talmud instead of memorizing biblical verses.

    Unfortunately, in validating, affirming and citing conservative Jewish thinking when dealing with Orthodox hallachic/hashkafic approaches, Rabbi Greenberg does Gay jews in the Orthodox world NO service. This article will no doubt only alienate Orthodox allies, and vindicate our enemies concerns that Rabbi Greenberg is using conservative thinking and ideology while masking himself in the pale of Orthodoxy.

    No Orthodox rabbi that I know of cites conservative rabbinic sources when navigating the question of homosexuality for Orthodox Jewry. Ultimately, Orthodox and Conservative ideology are mutually exclusive when it comes to approaching Hallacha.

    While I respect R Greenberg for the work that he has done for those in need, once again, his articles, public positions, and rabbinic actions only serve to distance our community from our Orthodox Allies.

    Mordechai Levovitz
    Co Executive Director, JQY

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