“gays,” a rabbi’s viewpoint

Once again I’m reprinting the opinion of another author in my blog. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach interjects a very interesting and compelling argument in support of gays. None of us are experts, but those so inclined can try to infuse some logic and reason to level the playing field for those among us who have been relegated to society’s periphery.

I am familiar with the writings of Rabbi Boteach; I read his book The Michael Jackson Tapes – A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Intimate Conversation. A compassionate man, the Rabbi felt he could help Jackson devote his talents to a greater cause than self-aggrandizement, in the hopes that his life would be more personally satisfying. Unfortunately, the two men went their separate ways, as it was difficult for the entertainer to relinquish his life in the spotlight. He returned to his fans, whose adulation forever defined who he was, even beyond death.

And so I commiserate with Rabbi Boteach’s empathy for gays. They should thrive as we do, for they are also the children of God.

My Jewish Perspective on Homosexuality

Carl Paladino, the Republican candidate for governor of New York, sparked controversy this week by declaring in a speech at an Orthodox synagogue that children shouldn’t be ‘brainwashed’ into considering homosexuality acceptable. He later apologized, saying that he supports gay rights but opposes gay marriage. The Rabbi who hosted Mr. Paladino’s speech then retracted his endorsement of the candidate.

Some people of faith insist that homosexuality is gravely sinful because the Bible calls it an ‘abomination.’ But that word appears approximately 122 times in the Bible. Eating nonkosher food is an ‘abomination’ (Deuteronomy 14:3). A woman returning to her first husband after being married in the interim is an ‘abomination (Deuteronomy 24:4). Bringing a blemished sacrifice on God’s altar is an abomination (Deuteronomy 17:1). Proverbs goes so far as to label envy, lying and gossip ‘an abomination to (the Lord)’ (3:32, 16:22).

As an orthodox Rabbi, I do not deny the biblical prohibition on male same-sex relationships. I simply place it in context. There are 613 commandments in the Torah. One is to refrain from gay sex. Another is for men and women to marry and have children. So when Jewish gay couples tell me they have never been attracted to members of the opposite sex and are desperately alone, I tell them, ‘You have 611 commandments left. That should keep you busy. Now, go create a kosher home. Turn off the TV on the Sabbath and share your meals with many guests. Pray to God three times a day for you are his beloved children. He desires you and seeks you out.’

I once asked Pat Robertson, ‘Why can’t you simply announce to all gay men and women, ‘Come to Church. Whatever relationship you’re in, God wants you to pray. He wants you to give charity. He wants you to lead a godly life.’ He answered to the effect that homosexuality is too important to overlook, as it is the greatest threat to marriage and the family. Other evangelical leaders have told me the same.

But with one of every two heterosexual marriages failing, much of the Internet dedicated to degrading women through pornography, and a culture that is materially insatiable while all-too spiritually content, can we straight people really say that gays are ruining our families? We’ve done a mighty fine job of it ourselves, thank you very much.

The excessive concern about homosexuality that is found among many of my religious brothers and sisters–in many Muslim countries being gay is basically a death sentence–stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of sin. The Ten Commandments were given on two tablets to connote two different kinds of transgression: religious and moral. The first tablet discussed religious transgressions between God and man, such as the prohibitions of idolatry, blasphemy and desecration of the Sabbath. The second tablet contained moral sins between man and his fellow man, like adultery, theft and murder.

Homosexuality is a religious, not a moral sin. A moral sin involves injury to an innocent party. Who is harmed when two unattached, consenting adults are in a relationship? Homosexuality is akin to the prohibition against lighting fire on the Sabbath or eating bread during Passover; there is nothing immoral about it, but it violates the divine will.

I am in favor of gay civil unions rather than marriage because I am against redefining marriage. But gay marriage doesn’t represent the end of Western civilization. The real killer is the tsunami of divorce and the untold disruption to children who become yo-yos going from house to house on weekends.

I have countless gay friends whose greatest fear, like that of so many straight people, is to end up alone. Should we just throw the book at these people? The Bible says, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.’ All I ask from my religious brethren is this: Even as you oppose gay relationships because of your beliefs, please be tortured by your opposition. Understand that when our most deeply held beliefs conflicts with our basic humanity, we should feel the tragedy of the conflict, not find convenient scapegoats upon whom to blame America’s ills.

Wall Street Journal, 10/15/10 (Rabbi Boteach is founder of This World: The Values Network, a national organization that promotes universal Jewish values to heal America. His latest book is ‘Renewal: A Guide To The Values-Filled Life’ (Basic Books, 2010).)

 hugs for the rabbi…hugmamma.

in-laws, like siblings

Unlike my own siblings who were older and not living at home during my childhood years, my husband’s 11 brothers and sisters were very much present during the 3 years we dated, and the early years of our marriage. Because my husband was the eldest and we were a couple, it seemed as though his siblings were mine also. And the respect and admiration they had for him, was extended to me by virtue of our relationship. That was different from being the youngest in my family, where I had to mind the wishes of my brothers and sisters. I reveled in the role of  “big sister,” and I couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming, loving, fun brood of in-laws.

  • My age, Michael was the bronzed, Greek god of myths, who surfed and dated Miss Hawaii’s, one being the niece of Hawaii’s governor at the time. Glad I was never competing for his attention, I relished the position of future sister-in-law instead. But through the years, my brother-in-law has aged into a soft-spoken, humble man of spiritual substance, happily married for many years.
  • A year younger than me, Kathy was a beauty who turned heads. While the details are fuzzy, I do remember having driven her in my car to a rendezvous with a young man, after she climbed out of her bedroom window, unbeknownst to her parents. I don’t think they ever found out, until after I was safely married to their son.
  • Twins John and Mary were usually out with friends, so that I was less familiar with them. Both attractive, they seemed ensconced in a world of beautiful, fun-loving, party people. At the time, I felt they were so totally out of my league. Thank goodness middle-age levels the playing field.
  • Homemaker Julie has always been the surrogate mom. Even at a young age, she seemed to relish cooking, cleaning, supervising, counseling. She always did it from love, never out of obligation or for mercenary reasons. So it didn’t surprise me when she rose to Director of Revenue Services at a renowned, boutique hotel on Waikiki Beach. 
  • Dan is a man with a big heart for his wife and 4 daughters. Nothing is too much for his bevy of lovely women. In his younger years, I saw little of him, since he was a teenager who kept to himself, as most young men that age do.
  • Cindy has always been a sweetheart, with a smile as big and open as her generous personality. Things may have frazzled her from time to time, but I never noticed. Her husband knows he’s a very lucky man for having won, and kept, her heart these many years.
  • I don’t remember Louise’s younger years, except that I was told she looked most like my husband when he was young. But in recent years we’ve enjoyed a great camaraderie with she and her husband, one based upon good-natured teasing and laughter.
  • A handsome, little boy Richard captured my heart with his sweetness and adulation. He seemed to treasure the times my husband and I involved the youngest siblings in crafts we would make as Christmas gifts, or goodies we would bake for the family, or on outings where we would take them along. He was like a little brother who always wanted to be at our side.
  • Rambunctious Lily was always heard AND seen. Her wide eyes and large smile readily admitted to mischievousness. She had no patience for fools; she still doesn’t. She and her husband have made life fun for their 3 sons and 1 daughter, all beautifully raised to be respectful of their elders. My husband and I always enjoy hilarious times when we visit with Lily and her family, no matter how infrequently it may be.
  • The youngest, Pat, will always have a special place in my heart because she and I share the last rung on the family “ladder.” My husband is glad that he’s becoming better acquainted with his youngest sibling, 13 years his junior. Again, it’s nice when older age “levels the playing field.” My most vivid memory of Pat as a child of 2, was when she climbed onto my lap upon our first meeting. While I chatted with others in the family, getting to know them better, she kept trying to put her hand inside the front of my shirt. I’m sure I was blushing, as I kept trying to stop her. I think my husband finally came to my rescue, taking his sister into his arms. I thought she was cute then, I still think she is now.

my in-laws have always been generous, and loving…hugmamma.

NFL, for the men

My recent focus has been women, so I’m turning the limelight over to the men.

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, an interesting article got my attention “Who Forgot to Turn Off the NFL?” I have a difficult time paying homage to athletes with attitude who make a lot of money. So I perused the paragraphs, searching for ammunition to bolster my opinion. The subtitle read “As Football Booms, Once-Sleepy Training Camps Become Stages for Grudges, Boasts, PR Stunts and Psychodramas.” Aha! I thought. Here’s fodder for me to chew on.

The article opens with remarks by Dick Vermeil, former NFL coach,  “Sometimes in your effort to make the team better, you bring in players who bring a lot of attention to themselves,…These distractions are an irritation.” The article goes on to list some of the “sideshows.” Cincinnati’s camera-hogging wide receiver Terrel Owens and media magnet Chad Ochocinco are teaming up as “Hot Summer Couples!” Washington’s defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth has failed to pass the Redskin’s fitness test. Might it have anything to do with the fact that he opted out of the team’s off-season training program? Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady hasn’t yet recommitted, once this final year in his 6-year contract expires. Ed Reed, Baltimore Ravens safety, grumbles that he’s not able to quickly access game film from the team. Minnesota Viking quarterback Brett Favree still “sits on the fence” about retiring (for the third consecutive year). Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steeler’s quarterback, returned to camp before serving “a multigame league-issued suspension after an incident at a Georgia nightclub.”

NFL Network analyst and former Steeler defensive back and Hall of Famer, Rod Woodson describes current league athletes as “mouthier…and less beholden to the idea that all team business should be handled in the locker room. ‘Today’s players seem like they have an agenda every time they speak to the media,’…” Vermeil contends that “the NFL’s summer landscape has become increasingly loony.” even before the training camps commenced. A contributing factor might be the NFL’s increased popularity. According to Harris Interactive, pro football “has risen to a 35% favorable rating among American adults in 2009, a 46% increase since 1985.” In the past decade it’s shown an average 3.7% increase in regular season TV ratings, while three other major U.S. pro sports leagues saw an average 35% drop in ratings.

“The appetite for all things NFL was apparent Friday in Westminster, Md., when 11,506 attended the Ravens’ first full-squad practice, the largest turnout for a nonscrimmage practice in team history. When the big-talking Jets arrived at their camp site in Cortland, N.Y., on Sunday, 1,500 fans lined the street to welcome them.” Woodson seems perplexed that the league is in the news even when nothing’s going on.

Patriot’s longtime coach, Bill Belichick seems to suggest that present day players are being coddled. ” ‘Compared to when I came into the league, there is no training camp,…in 1975, we started camp July 5 and our first regular-season game was Sept. 21. It was forever; it was 2 1/2 months. So has training camp changed? (The players) have no idea.’ 

 The article ventures to add that training camps in earlier times were “far more likely to induce yawning.” The big news in 1990 from the Vikings camp was how to get more touches for running back Herschel Walker, and that 5 players from the Chicago Bears missed their camp startup. The San Fransisco Chronicle reported one day that phone service in the 49ers dorm was temporarily disrupted.

Comparing the hoopla surrounding NFL training camps today, former NFL coach Jerry Glanville claims “that training camps have always been crazy. The only real difference is the impression itself. ‘It’s just covered better…Nothing that’s going on hasn’t happened before 100 times.’ ” He remembers when the Houston Oilers required players to “complete a mile run in six minutes in order to practice. But the team’s star running back, Earl Campbell, couldn’t do it. The team’s coach at the time, Bum Phillips, came up with a solution, Mr. Glanville said: ‘If it’s 4th-and-a-mile, I won’t give him the ball.’ ”

Have the fans unknowingly created modern-day NFL Frankensteins who lay claim to all they see? Or are we unfairly scrutinizing every detail of their lives in an attempt to know them better? Do the players call attention to themselves, or do the fans put the spotlight on the players with unrelenting adulation? Maybe there’s enough guilt to go around.

what do you think?…hugmamma