The Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem- The Threat on our Doorstep

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Last week I was invited to discuss on Israel TV the week-long international “celebration of deviancy” scheduled to take place in Jerusalem just after Tisha B’Av. The interviewer began by asking me whether it wasn’t about time that I and my community shed our phobias. I assured her that I do not suffer from any particular phobias.

But the truth is that the upcoming event has me plenty scared. Had I attempted to explain why in a 45-second TV sound bite, however, I would no doubt have come off sounding like something of a madman. So I did not try.

But the Torah community should at least be clear about the dangers posed by this “celebration.” In the veiled discussions taking place in our community, one hears about the affront to the kedushah of Jerusalem or of Eretz Yisrael. In addition, concerns are expressed that the messages of this week-long fest will penetrate the ever more porous walls around our community.

These fears are fully justified. But they constitute only a part of the threat. We read at the beginning of this week’s Torah reading: “Pinchas . . . turned back My wrath from upon the Children of Israel, when he zealously avenged My vengeance among them, so I did not annihilate the Children of Israel in My vengeance” (Bamidbar 25:11). Until Pinchas slew Zimri and Cozbi, the entire people were threatened with annihilation.

When the Torah speaks about “annihilation,” it refers to something so hateful to Hashem that He cannot suffer its existence together with Him. Since His existence is permanent, that which cannot exist together with Him must be wiped out. Not just the perpetrators are swept up in the destruction of the hateful thing, but all those even remotely associated with it, or who have failed to distance themselves entirely.

What brought Klal Yisrael to the brink of destruction? The combination of idol worship and immorality. Zimri’s act of defilement flowed directly from the actions of the nation at Shiitim, where they acted promiscuously with the daughters of Moav, who then enticed them to attach themselves to their idols.

R’ Mendel of Shklov cites in the name of his teacher the Vilna Gaon a tradition that idolatry inevitably goes together with immorality. In the third paragraph of Shema, we are warned, “Do not stray after your hearts and after your eyes,” (Bamidbar 15:39). “After your hearts” refers to idol worship; “after your eyes” refers to immorality. Idolatry is often described in the Torah in the language of immorality – as a form of zenus (see Devarim 31:16).

And the conjunction of the two poses a mortal danger to one and all. As Rashi writes in parashas Noach (Bereishis 6:13): “Every place that one finds immorality and idol worship, androlemusia comes to the world killing both the righteous and the evil.”

OUR CURRENT EXILE represents the conjunction between the forces of idolatry and immorality. Though that exile goes by the name of Edom or Rome, representing idolatry, there is a subordinate aspect of the exile associated with Yishmael, who represents immorality. The Talmud (Kiddushin (49a) describes Arabian Empire as having taken nine of the ten portions of immorality that descended to the world. The Maharal writes that they actually took all ten portions, of which one was tithed to the rest of the world. If we ask where do we find evidence of the exceptional attraction of Yishmael to immorality, the answer lies in the fact that Yishmael is the only nation to have ever portrayed eternal reward in terms of an afterlife of immorality.

Basing himself on Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of an immense statue (Daniel 2:31-36), the Arizal describes a human form that symbolizes opposition to the true human form represented by the Jewish people. Each part of the statue represents another exile. The two legs of the statue, according to the Arizal, represent the Roman and Arabian Empires – i.e., the final exile.

Legs, unlike the arms, cannot function independently of one another. Both are required to walk. Thus the two legs in the vision symbolize the inevitable conjunction of idolatry and immorality. Together the legs allow us to go after our hearts (idolatry) and our eyes (immorality).

Both idolatry and immorality cause a rift in the intricately calibrated system of giving and receiving that Hashem brought into existence. All created beings are interrelated through various relationships of giving and receiving. Those relationships mimic that of Hashem, the ultimate Giver, to the entirety of Creation as Receiver.

Idolatry, the worship of Hashem’s intermediaries, detaches us from our awareness of Him as the ultimate Giver, and thus causes a break in the system of giving and receiving. So too does immorality.

Hashem imbued the entirety of Creation with a procreative urge: “. . . He did not create it [the earth] for emptiness; He fashioned it to be inhabited…” (Yeshaya 45:18). With respect to the animals, procreation is instinctual. In man, however, it is multifaceted. The teaching of Torah, for instance, is procreative. Thus one’s Torah students are considered one’s children. And only in man are the powers of procreation ever found to deviate from their original purpose towards emptiness and futility. That is immorality.

Never has the power of immorality seemed so overwhelming as today. Our age is characterized by the desire to “go after.” No one is content to remain at home, in his place. Even those who do not travel physically, hook themselves up to all forms of new technologies designed to let them stray.

Not coincidentally, our age has also witnessed the fulfillment of the Torah’s description of Yishmael, the epitome of immorality: “his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him” (Bereishis 16:12). Onkelos translates the Torah’s description as, “he will need everyone, and everyone will need him” a pretty fair description of Arab dependence on Western technology, and the world’s dependence on Arab oil.

The ascent of Yishmael, and the power of immorality in the world he represents, has been accompanied by terror and random death, which makes no distinction between the innocent and the guilty.

How we combat the threat of annihilation inherent in next month’s “celebration of deviancy” in Jerusalem remains for the gedolei Torah to decide. But all of us must be very clear as to the magnitude of the danger.

Originally published in Mishpacha magazine.

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12 Responses

  1. hp says:

    tzvee, G-d doesn’t need your directions. Was your comment intended as sarcasm or chutzpah?

  2. Tal Benschar says:

    “Last year it was cancelled due to the evacuation of Gaza. This year – due to the war.

    When you pray next time around to get this cancelled – please add that you don’t need G-d to bring a war to make that happen.”

    I think you have that backwards. Maybe the “Jewish” state should show God it can respect his Torah and not engage in a Chillul Hashem — without being forced to do so by a war or other traumatic event. Then perhaps such events will be unnecessary.

  3. tzvee says:

    Last year it was cancelled due to the evacuation of Gaza. This year – due to the war.

    When you pray next time around to get this cancelled – please add that you don’t need G-d to bring a war to make that happen.

  4. Ori Pomerantz says:

    According to Maariv, it was cancelled (http://www.nrg.co.il/online/40/ART1/452/729.html if you read Hebrew).

  5. Ben says:

    If only he knew how right he is –

    “This is probably the best message we can give to the Middle East in regards to the trouble we are having over there right now.” – Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), one of the “floor leaders” of the United States House of Representatives debate yesterday on a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to ban “same-sex marriage”.

    That and more on the debate (such as, a Texas Republican’s observation to reporters that, “The world did not start with Adam and Steve.”) from today’s Washington Post –

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/18/AR2006071801336_pf.html

  6. Aaron says:

    Basing himself on Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of an immense statute (Daniel 2:31-36), the Arizal describes a human form that symbolizes opposition to the true human form represented by the Jewish people. Each part of the statute represents another exile. The two legs of the statute, according to the Arizal, represent the Roman and Arabian Empires – i.e., the final exile.

    Typos: “statutes” s/b “statues”.

  7. ben meir says:

    not sure why you need a tradition/mesora from the Gaon, it is a Rashi – when he says that the only reason the Yidden worshipped the Aigel/Golden Calf was to allow immorality.
    Otherwise a very good and powerful post

  8. MS says:

    The Genetics of Mating
    by Dr. Robin Kimmel, Stanford University
    http://www.thetech.org/genetics/news.php?id=19

    “Boys will be boys”, or so the saying goes. But are typical boy (or girl) behaviors programmed in our genes? Or are they learned? Those tough questions are a long way from being answered in humans.

    But maybe not so far in the “simple” fruit fly, Drosophila. A single gene may determine whether a male fruit fly is interested in males or females. At least when it comes to his ‘courting.’

    We’re all born with certain behaviors. Babies cry for food or suckle with no training. Other behaviors, like riding a bike, are learned through observation and practice. Behaviors known from birth, without training, are most likely to be determined primarily by genes.

    How genes control behavior is not very well understood. Scientists are trying to understand how genes control behaviors in simpler animals to get ideas about how it could work in more complicated ones.

    When male flies come in contact with females, they perform a very unique ‘song and dance’. This shows his interest and attracts the female’s attention. Normal female flies never do this routine.

    This courtship ritual of the fly is an inborn behavior. All males can do the same routine without seeing other flies do it. And the behavior doesn’t change much through learning or in different environments.

    How could a gene make male courting behavior happen? We can think of a behavior as a response an animal makes to a need or something in its environment.

    First, the gene has to set up a way to tell if a female is around. Also, the female detector has to be connected to the muscles that produce the courtship dance, song, and other movements.

    Is there a single gene that can do all this? One gene that looks promising is the Fruitless (fru) gene.

    When a male fly’s Fru gene is defective, he no longer has any interest in females. He won’t dance or sing for them.

    What makes Fru so special is that it has such a specific effect when it is broken. Mutating it changes the fly’s mating behavior without changing anything else.

    This is unlike a fly having 2 left feet because of muscle defects. A genetic problem with muscle formation would affect all movements and not just those of courting.

    Further studies showed that there are male and female forms of Fru. If Fru was really the master of ceremonies for courtship ritual, then we would predict that a male with a female Fru would act female and a female with a male Fru would act male. And that is exactly what happened.

    If males make the female form of Fru they lose interest in females. Female flies that make only male Fru flirt with other females and show male courting behavior. This showed that a single gene could generate a behavior.

    But what is Fru doing? Scientists aren’t sure. They found that Fru is made in sets of nerve cells found in sensing organs, the brain, and connecting to muscle. These neurons most likely form an intricately connected circuit to direct courting behavior.

    Surprisingly, the identical nerves, in the same locations, are in female flies too. So, Fru does not cause the anatomy of the nervous system to be different in males versus females. Instead it changes how those nerves function. The details of how this happens are still being worked out.

    [see also, e.g.,
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=16179386&query_hl=3&itool=pubmed_docsum%5D

  9. Justin A says:

    “Futile” act’s deriving from a procreative urge are found in nature, prolificaly. All mamals demonstrate a certain anything-goes attitude twoards sexual selection; though all(most) animals show prefrences to procrative sexual behaviour over non-procrative (they prefer a member of the oposite sex when they can find one).

    Some reptiles are exclusively female. To say that there are no males of their spieces and they reproduce A-Sexually, but do derive benefit from sexual pantamime behaviour.

    Some amphibians and some (though fewer) reptiles are hermaphrodidic. Either posessing both sexual organs in a sinle individual or changing gender depending on local environment.

    2 male penguines living in captivity have been documented living as a pair (penguines mate for life). I’m not sure if they engage in sexual behavior (I don’t see how they wouldn’t), but they did act parentaly twoards a fake egg that was given to their care.

    Ignoring the occasional singularities (ie the penguines) Humans are the ONLY sexualy reproducing spiecies that demonstrates either exclusivly hetero- or homosexual behaviours. This would seem to imply that hummans, being the only sample group with sentience, makes an active choice between these behaviours.

    Current research is definetly sideing twoards a physiological root twoards humman gender selection. No root-causes have been isolated yet(ie no gay-gene). It is also arguable that extream political preasure is pushing researchers to satisfy it’s own demands.

    In any case, it is observably false that:

    “And only in man are the powers of procreation ever found to deviate from their original purpose towards emptiness and futility.”

  10. Aryeh says:

    Very nice post. At the same time, in your article in the Jerusalem Post you said that the “the haredi press is silent about the upcoming international gay fest – haredi parents don’t want their children asking about such things.” Does that mean that the haredi community will also ignore it?

    On the other hand: “How we combat the threat of annihilation inherent in next month’s “celebration of deviancy” in Jerusalem remains for the gedolei Torah to decide.” Does that mean that the discussions is only about the means to be employed (violent, non-viloent civil disobedience, purely spiritually)?
    What exactly is the thinking on this? It seems to be very murky.
    In my own, very humble opinion, it seems that the spectacle of toevah being openly flaunted while the city that has a religious/traditional0 majority does absolutely nothing and pretends that nothing has occurred would be a big chillul hashem. If that is the decision that is reached by the gedolei israel in Israel, they will hopefully explain their reasons for it.

  11. HILLEL says:

    Finally, a clear-headed presentation of the Torah view on why this scheduled abomination is a very real threat to our People.

    Thanks, Jonathan!

  1. July 22, 2006

    WorldPride Gay Parade Cancelled…

    Thanks to Ori for the tip from Maariv in Hebrew—it’s now confirmed from multiple sources in English as well. On Friday, Jerusalem Police denied the parade a permit, telling WorldPride organizers that due to the current hostilities they wer…