Shall they go marching in? Or not? Maybe? Early evening event of a night of summer equinox, equity deals this week in Jerusalem, with the gay and lesbian pride or parade or social protest demonstrations, for others, provocation. Our one-sex society makes males a bit too feminine and females a bit too masculine or “butch”. It removes or adds hair of any color, waxing up skins, making-up faces, or reduces any difference in clothing, mostly pants here, in particular jeans and daily comfortable dress.
Unisex is also forbidden by the Jewish tradition and, normally, a woman should clearly be dressed or look different from a man, and vice versa. The same applies for the Eastern Orthodox Churches in general. This is far from being obvious when you walk through the streets of Jerusalem. We can compare with any city in this country or even abroad, but there seems to be a problem with Jerusalem.
The problem dealt with “Sanctity”. True, the city is pious and has a lot of very religious (all faiths) inhabitants or passers-by, tourists, pilgrims. Some long hair male can be terribly effeminate. Some may spend hours in combing their hair. Some yeshive bechurim or students would automatically curl their peyses/pe’ot-פיאות (hair locks) with their index in a way that is “between” malehood and feminity: some ambiguous and equivocal swing of the hips. But the walk/gang-גאנג has a spiritual meaning. The same shows in traditional Churches where celibacy has been a rule for centuries. Curiously, Oriental nuns would retain a strong sense of womanhood while men often tend to some sort of effeminate behavior, just as shown at the present in all Western societies.
The combat for equality and supposed equal rights has developed and continues to evolve in some sort of “androgynous” character that is rather pregnant in our generation. It is difficult to frankly distinguish some attitudes that swing between male and female acquired tendencies and the trends of daily new objects or products of consumption. With regards to the gay and lesbian pride, it is banned by definition from our awareness and judgments are only based on arguing and not explaining the various theological and ethical fundaments of their attitude. They often relate, without any awareness to some “panem et circences” pagan societal common behaviors.
One can regret the absence of real and serious theological arguments that may not be even understood or accepted by those whosoever they can be who protest against their pride. Is it a parade or a provocation? We could also think in terms of a “farce”, a way to play the jester that curves up and down sexes and confuse them.
Many people consider that such open behaviors express some words of profound human(e) truth that are spoken out in jest as the clown could call to the king and mock him without being punished. Religions have too often played with the sex of the angels among the humans, or they have denaturized human beings and imposed illegal postures and situations. We should always keep in mind that gays and lesbians were deported as such to the extermination camps and used as playmates by masochist gangsters. The recent passing away of Gad Beck, the supposedly last Jewish and gay resistant wh owas deported to a concentration camp and survived show this kind of questioning. On the one hand, he was in an unique position, a Zionist, an Israeli then he returned to Germany and defended the samesex groups.
Some Jews would think it is not possible to recall him as a “gay”. Sort of shame and there is more: the man could be very provocative. He was not alone to behave like that. Many Shoah survivors would consider life and survival as both a sign of Providence and a jester play that also copes with the general attitude of many samesex people. As if life cannot be good or bad or even in-between. So many teens and youths have been mishandled, raped, used as “playtoys”, both men and women that life could only be a play for them and not a sign of authentic development of redemption. This is why Jewishness and Mosaic tradition do bring compassionate loving-kindness and openness to Divine Providence.
This week, the reading portion is “Chukkatחוקת = this is the ritual, non-rational commandment” in Bemidbar/Numbers 19:1- 22:1. To begin with, the reading portion deals with the red cow or “parah adumahפרה אדומה – red heifer” that was bred and then slaughtered mixed with cedar tree branches, hyssop and crimson stuff (scarlet); its ashes were mixed in a huge cistern whose waters were precisely handled by young children who had never been in contact with death.
We do have our own way to separate young males from any danger of corruption. Judaism can be obsessed by any kind of sin, i.e. corruptibility through the contact with death. Now, this commandment regarding the red heifer has no rational basis or explanation. It contradicts all usual commandments as explained by the rabbis in the Gemara.
The Mishna does include a very small tractate Parahפרה (Cow, heifer) as a part of the larger tractate Taharotטהרות (purifications). It is evident that there is no rational basis to the fact that if some black hair would be found on this very sacrificial and penitential cow, she would become non-kosher. This tracks back to no explainable law. One, two black hairs and the cow could not be slaughtered to produce the ashes that could save the people from their sins.
This week, we face in the reading portion the problem of how waters spring out to be drunk by the congregation and their beasts. Then we read how anomalies can turn to save the sinful. In terms of biology, it is not normal and not natural to get a “parah adumahפרה אדומה – a red heifer”. The animal is a rarity and in some way a reverse of natural cow colors. Cows are cows: we love them in this country. Black and white, they are sweet milking beasts. Brown cows in some areas and other countries.
Many restaurants show ensigns in shape of a red heifer. But the red cow was not edible. It was meant to purify, was slaughtered at the top of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and its blood sprinkled out in the direction of the West, i.e. to the world and the Temple. It is said in tractate Parah 2,1 that only eight red heifers might have be slain from the time of Moses till the destruction of the Temple. Other Jewish traditions would consider there were nine of them.
Thus, it is considered as a “chokחוק = non-rational commandment/mitzvah” that has to be perpetually fulfilled, especially with regards to the Yom Kippur ritual of purity. Nobody can show any evidence as concerns the coherence of the commandment. It is the same chok that only has to be accepted and accomplished by faith and confidence (emunah shlemahאמונה שלמה) as the Sha’atnezשעטנז (Lev. 19:19), the prohibition to mix wool and linen, except, for instance, in the girdle the High Priest (Yevamot 4b-5b). It is a very important and pending question at the present because, the people should be purified in case of building-up the Temple…
The principle of a “chok/chukkaחוק-חוקא” corresponds to this: “I will leave to my sons a due share (a fixed living)” (Erubin 54a). These laws without reason are engraved, drawn like circles in order to remind God’s will: “He ordered a mark to be put on his (Abraham’s) flesh” (Shabbat 137b). In these quotations, as in a general stand, “a chok” is full of meaningfulness in God’s eyes and His decrees are totally founded. In our society, it seems that we are at times in a situation of absence of any coherence, as if we were shapeless.
There are also some trends to lead us to social or emotional lack of structural egos, destruction or lessening of consistency. Call it bozo for a while, there are times that lead people to reduce their reactions and spiritual forces. “Timtemטמטם” means this kind of tendency as in ‘troubles obstruct the heart, making a man dull (Pessahim 42a).
Thus, “sin blunts the understanding of human beings (Yoma 39a), “till man become a shapeless mass” (Hallah 1c). The example of the dough is often used because bread be “kneaded” in various shapes that may make sense or not, without reason. Yiddish and the Jewish folklore tradition have considered that “timtumטנטום” are those without clear sexual orientation, not necessarily a condemnation of homosexuals as this can be the case at the present and has been over centuries. We forget that it is the Giving of the Torah that allowed distinguishing between correct and “non-correct” moral practice.
Samesex people, both male and female, represent a growing identity and marketing group and target. The problem is rather a sort of grin at shapeless souls, which is indeed a lack of compassion.
God convoked Moses and Aaron and told them to give water from the rock to let the congregation and their beasts drink a lot of water. Moses took his rod and addressed the “morim/rebels” to get copious water.
He stuck the rock twice and not only once as usual. And God said to Moses and Aaron that because they, personally, did not obey to God’s Commandments, they will not lead the congregation into the given land!!! At this point, today, any normal guy in this country would immediately rush to the Supreme Court and make a scandal!! And they would cc/forward a note to the chief rabbinates, the members of the Knesset and eventually contact The Hague and Geneva, if not the numerous “heretics”. This is the usual way we behave at the present toward God but we hardly notice that because we are framed in our “ego’s” both as actors and mirrors.
At the mey Merivah/Meribah watersמי מריבה, the congregation did quarrel with the Lord as He affirmed His sanctity in and through them. Such a rebellion is not acceptable. Good enough, so the rebels could die in the wilderness. We had seen that the “nassiמשיא: leader, ruler, head of the nation” will not be pardoned his sin like the other members of the congregation.. He must atone in a specific way in his quality of leader.
The chok seemingly extends as a law without reason that condemned Moses and Aaron not to enter the Land of Canaan. There is definitely no explanation in the Chumashחומש (Five Books of Moses). In the reading portion of this week we only know about the death of Aaron. This would eventually be more understandable. The High priest shaped the golden calf to provide a deity to the congregation as Moses did not seem to come back from the mountain. He did commit the sin of idolatry. And now he apparently dies because of copious waters? After having served as priest all over the trip throughout the wilderness?
As for Moses who never quarreled with God. This is this interesting point. He also accepted God’s decisions. He would intercede for the others, never on his own behalf. Indeed, chokkimחוקים – laws without reason or rational basis- show that God naturally speaks to the heart of His servant and to those who do follow Him. It is an indisputable evidence.
This question has always been a terrible spiritual problem for the rabbinic leadership as for the leaders of all the Churches and Muslim guides. This is a horrible quest indeed for the monotheistic believers.
We need men of conscience. It is not a matter of politics. Not even of morals and ethics. It is beyond that, an attitude that is so evident that is implemented as a commandment that does not appeal to understanding or judgment. Yes, people have the right to err. And they are free to do whatever would not harm or restrict their true own freedom. With regards to societal errors, the leadership – whenever religious or governmental – mostly lacks the close intimacy that existed between God and His obedient servants Moses and Aaron.
“We have reached the stage of being led by people without any self-respect, leaders who attempt to save themselves at the expense of the sins, omissions and errors made by those under them, who acted under their leadership. This is unlike the faithful shepherd that the Jewish people had, who, when the people died as a result of their sins, died with them, even though there was no sin on his part”, wrote, in 1986, Rav Y. Leibowitz (Yoke of heaven, p. 148). It was courageous. Curiously, he then wrote a sort of Jewish and somehow Christian-like statement about Moses.
av aleksandr (Winogradsky Frenkel)