Friday, January 8, 2010

Torah From Our Beit Midrash

Among the many topics that R. Rapoport addressed this week, the shiurim on Thursday relating to our responsibilities in dealing with gay men and women were especially timely and powerful. Rabbi Rapoport said that often the resistance to publically acknowledging the problem and to dealing with these issues comes from a fear of not being able to answer the theological questions that are raised. However, such fear, and our inability to answer such questions, does not exempt us from the moral and religious duties that we have towards people.

These duties include:

(1) The duty to protect all Jews from harm
(2) The duty to protect homosexuals from the dangers of ephemeral relationships, and from the dangers of a gutter culture
(3) The duty to protect people from losing their families, communities, rabbis and peers
(4) The duty not to torture, harass or cause emotional pain, through our words or actions, to people who are wired differently, and
(5) The duty to ensure that people grappling with these challenges are able to hold on to as much of the religious framework of Judaism that they feel able to, in a user-friendly manner, without constant reminders of their halakhic shortcomings.

He ended by reminding the students that these obligations are incumbent on us in particular, and with the greatest weight, regarding the gay community. Quoting the Chafetz Chaim, he said that the mitzvah that "you shall not oppress the orphan and the widow" includes anyone who is alone, isolated, and in a vulnerable position in society. Torah and halakha obligate us to do everything we can to give each and every member of the gay community our help and protection, comfort, guidance and support.

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