Sunday, October 21, 2012

Six years ago, and now

In my previous post, I re-posted a letter sent by an anonymous man to The Jewish Press six years ago, on his homosexuality and the responses of the Orthodox community to homosexuality.

In my brief comment, I noted that I responded to this letter on a website six years ago, and that my own response might have changed over the past six years.

My response from six years ago included the following:
A few thoughts on the question of how Gd could test a person with this kind of practically impossible challenge:

1. The letter is remarkable and articulate, and I admire the writer. That said, and in no way to take anything away from him, one should not make the mistake of thinking its writer is unique. There are many in this situation who, like the writer, have not abandoned faith and who are working hour by hour, day by day, to manage a most difficult situation.

2. The writer says it is cruel to claim that change might one day be possible. I am not a JONAH fan, but I am in the camp that believes that homosexuality is a spectrum; even if change is not possible for that writer, this doesn't mean that change is impossible for all people with homosexual impulses.

3. The word "fair" is not relevant when describing a world which is designed to test us. Bereishis teaches us at the outset that life is meant to be filled with hard-to-impossible challenges; why else does G-d put the tree smack in the middle of the garden, point to it and say, 'Don't eat from this?' If you don't want them to eat then don't make the tree, or don't put it in the garden, or don't put it in the middle, or don't make it attractive, or don't allow the serpent to cold-call Chavah... Clearly, we are being taught a lesson: This world is filled with tests, and they aren't going to be balanced or straightforward.

4. Some things that happen to us are reward. Some things that happen to us are punishment. And some things that happen to us are neither; they are circumstances G-d has created for one reason or another... This is why it is rank foolishness to try to read events as reward or punishment; quite often, it's simply neither...

5. Rav Tzaddok haKohen of Lublin commented in Tzidkas haTzaddik that one may indeed be faced with a test one cannot pass - but that since we don't know whether that's true of any specific test, we have to view all of our challenges as surmountable.

Six years later, I believe the same theology, but I don't find the theological question as interesting anymore. Had the letter appeared today, I would have felt less compelled to respond to the question of people's suffering and Divine tests.

Maybe that's because I'm older. Maybe it's because I'm not in the pulpit anymore. I don't know - but these days I find myself much less interested in the question of why Gd created this world, and much more interested in the question of what we can do with it.


  1. Yes, but much if not most of the world is not there yet and wants to try to make sense of such things.
    Joel Rich

  2. i don't see this as any more or less serious than other mitzvot in the Torah except in regard to the aspect that the Torah puts it into a rather serious set of prohibitions. But as far as tests go, the general reaction to tests is to change the meaning of what the Torah says. At least the fellow is not doing that, and that is refreshing.

  3. On the lines of what Joel Rich was saying: theoretically, you can separate the two questions. But practically, one is linked to the other. A person who is frustrated with God's placing seemingly or actually insurmountable obstacles in his/her way, when he/she is trying to do the right thing may give up on the mission he/she was given entirely. Ignoring or downplaying the importance of the first question in favor of the second will not help in that case.

  4. Joel, Joseph-
    I'm not saying that I have progressed, such that the rest of the world might someday be where I am. I just find the question of "Could Gd do this" to be a useless question.

    I think this needs a post... stay tuned.