Thursday, 21 February 2008

Opening your mouth to put your foot in it

Originally published 2/21/08, 6:17 PM, Eastern Daylight Time.
Why do people not recognize how to talk to someone with different a prioris, a different perspective? Recognizing a different perception does NOT mean you agree with it. What it does mean is that you can have an effective communication as you express your view. It means that you don't look like an idiot.

This issue emerges again with statements regarding homosexuality made by some religious MKs in Israel. Homosexual behaviour is clearly forbidden. I would add that much of what is permitted in terms of a gay lifestyle also presents halachic problems. For example, I recently read something about two religious men sharing an apartment while maintaining a romantic albeit celibate relationship. The problem with that, though, is that the prohibitions of yichud and of any touching may still apply; there are still halachic problems. That is not my point, though. Notwithstanding the clarity of the prohibition, one still has to know how to express the Torah view to the general populace, especially if the general populace does not share the Torah view and in fact challenges it. Dah mah l'tosheiv l'apikoris, know how to respond to the heretic. This includes stating a Torah posotion in a manner that will not allow the other to mock Torah. This demands that one understand the perspective of the other and not be seen as foolish or worse in the other's eyes.

On a certain level this is most difficult in the case of homosexuality as the Torah position is opposite the view of many in the Western World. We will thus be defined as racist or homophobic by maintaining the view of Torah. But, as such, we must be doubly careful not to add more fuel to the fire. Thus we must be extra careful about what we say and make sure that we do not create further harm to Torah.

When I first heard the recent statements made by religious individuals that the recent earthquakes in Israel were a result of Israel's liberal view of homosexuality, I was most upset. See,7340,L-3509263,00.html

I am tired of people playing God. The gemara's call to look into one's behaviour when misfortune falls is a personal call. It tells people to look at themselves to see what they are doing wrong -- it does not mean to look at the other for reinforcement of what you already think the other is doing wrong. If you can't critique yourself, keep quiet. Further on this, see

But then what really upset me, was the response to the statement that was also posted. See,7340,L-3509505,00.html. Its not the response per se that bothers me but how the response makes the original statement look so foolish and, as such, thereby makes Torah look foolish. Could the MK have said that it violates Torah without mentioning that it violates nature? Isn't that actually suppose to be the Torah approach, to abide by the Halacha simply because it is the tzivui Hashem, the command of God? Furthermore, if you do want to make a point to another person based on their perspective, at least get the perspective right. I am so tired of people thinking they are defending Torah making Torah look foolish

Rabbi Ben Hecht


Anonymous said...

Well said Rabbi! The problem however is that this rabbi's approach is quite mainstream and you are a minority view.

Anonymous said...

The question is: How much do you believe your view is THE view and that you must spread it regardless of the consequences?

Consider Avraham Avinu - he couldhave probably found a diplomatic way to answer Nimrod and avoid getting himself chucked into the furnace but chose to stand firm despite all the ridicule that would ensure.

Unfortunately none of us are at the level of Avraham Avinu, certainly not any of the Shas MK's. It therefore behooves us to either keep our mouths shut or at least be diplomatic in an era where there no longer is any private speech.

Nishma said...

The question is not how much you believe in the truth of your position. The demand is in how you express your position. I am sure that Avraham Avinu did not put his foot in his mouth by adding conjecture to his argument. If these MKs simply said that this is the halacha and stood firm on belief in Sinai and the acceptance of Sinai, that would be one thing, and we would stand with thme against a a ridicule directed toward them based on these beliefs. But it is in what they added that the problem emerges and rather than making them look at guardians of the Torah, make them look foolish for what they added do not add to the majesty of Torah but lessens it -- and that is what bothers me