I’ve just listened to this recording of a shiur given last night by Rabbi Ilan D. Feldman, Rav of the Congregation Beth Jacob in Atlanta in Georgia, USA. I have to say Rabbi Feldman comes across really well – refreshingly so - and in no way could I describe his shiur as homophobic. He is consistent and that’s what I like about his view. He asserts that an openly gay man would be unwelcome in his community, although he feels equally strongly that anybody attending his shul who publically admits to enjoying forbidden mixed fabrics (sha’atnez) would also be unwelcome as such a person is in flagrant breach of a Torah commandment.
However, Rabbi Feldman still seems to imply that the Biblical prohibition necessarily boils down to a Torah inspired social agenda which frowns heavily upon homosexual relationships per se regardless of what may or may not be happening in the bedroom. In other words, Rabbi Feldman doesn’t quite see the prohibition as an unexplained chok which covers a single bedroom activity, but would view homosexual house sharing, handholding and kissing as all highly problematic.
I would argue, as I’ve argued in an earlier blog-posting, that reading a wider social endorsement of Victorian family values into the Torah is somewhat disingenuous and if anything, it’s taking a relatively recent view of family values (say, the last two hundred years) and looking back into the Torah to try to find support for it. One of the ironies in Rabbi Feldman’s talk was that he predicted that the acceptability of homosexual lifestyles may one day lead to paedophilia being accepted as a normal variant. Yet, the Torah seems to have no problem at all with paedophilia! It’s only in the modern age that the Western World has learnt to be outraged by it – which is why Rabbi Feldman is so outraged by it. Yet, the Shulchan Aruch merely advises against marriage to a young girl due to a technical concern that as she’d be too young to conceive, any ejaculate in the process of intercourse would be considered to be wasted seed.
So I’d want to ask Rabbi Feldman and indeed my readers: We’re all outraged by paedophilia because we’ve been brought up in the Western World to feel that way even though the Torah has no particular problem with the issue. But the unease which you may feel towards homosexual relationships? Does that originate from your Victorian ideal of what constitutes a proper family – or from the Torah itself?