Sunday, 30 December 2012

Judah Maccabbee - Politically Incorrect

These comments were initiated in response to the following newspaper article in Portland, Maine by the rabbi of an Orthodox synagogue in that city. See
It is clear why this article has received much critique within the world of the normative Orthodox rabbinate.  We are happy to present such comments from Rabbi Lefkowitz although all his opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Nishma.

History shows us that it was the Syrian Greeks who imposed their Pagan "Liberal" agenda that adhered more to the "Political Correctness" of our time


Guest Blogger
Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz
Judah Macabee - Homophobe

"Homosexuality is regarded as shameful by barbarians and by those who live under despotic governments just as philosophy is regarded as shameful by them, because it is apparently not in the interest of such rulers to have great ideas engendered in their subjects, or powerful friendships or passionate love – all of which homosexuality is particularly apt to produce."

"The noble lover of beauty engages in love wherever he sees excellence and splendid natural endowment without regard for any difference in physiological detail."
Statistics evaluating American Jewish religious expression demonstrate the Jewish observance most practiced is the lighting of Chanukah candles. This religious observance commemorates and celebrates the miraculous victory of Judah Macabee, his family and small band of followers who, repulsed by the installation by Antiochus IV of a statue of Zeus in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the center of Monotheism, mounted a guerrilla war against the Hellenized Syrian-Mesopotamian Empire then in control of ancient Israel. Considering the support of so many Jews for gay marriage in America, one wonders how they can celebrate Hanukkah. For today many would label Judah, his family, the Hasmoneans and their followers as homophobes. Yes homophobes. Let me explain.
The Jewish world of the Macabees was completely swallowed up by Hellenism. Its paganism, its emphasis upon the worship of the physical, as opposed to spiritual development, saw young Jewish men exercising in arena on the Temple Mount in the nude. In an attempt to hide the deformity inflicted upon their well-toned "Grecian" physiques by their parents through the rite of circumcision, they would employ various techniques to disguise this Jewish mutilation. Of course Greek names and life style had become the norm of the Jews of that time. There are those, in discussing the contemporary challenge presented by assimilation, who compare American Jewry to the Hellinized Jewish world of the Macabees.

As the quotes from Plato and Plutarch demonstrate, not only was homosexuality widely engaged in by Hellenistic societies, no doubt embraced as well by the Hellinized Jews in the time of the Macabees, it was lauded as a valuable element in the development of a sophisticated society. As Plato states, it is the barbarian and the dictator that seek to stifle homosexual expression. Plutarch reminds us all of the fascination the Hellenists had for the physical body equating love with sexual expression, with engaging with individuals of "special natural endowment" male or female, in stark contrast to Judaism which views love as representative of far more than a chance physical encounter.
It was the Macabees, the Hassidim of their age, who, as a minority, maintained Jewish observance and values in the face of a Jewish world possessed by an alien culture and religion. It was the Macabees who, unlike Plato, were repulsed by the rampant and open sexual promiscuity of the Jewish world of their day, which included homosexuality, seeing it as leading to the destruction of the great "temple" of Jewish thought and religious purity exemplified by the observance of the commandments of the Torah.
And when the fortress of Judaism was breached, when the Temple was defiled, rededicated as a pagan shrine to Zeus, in spite of their small numbers, they felt there was no alternative but to take to the hills and fight to the death for their Jewish beliefs with the call to arms, "Whoever is for the Lrd follow me!" We live in a confused Jewish world where that which is rejected by Judaism, is now an expression of Jewish values as represented by the recent remark of the President of the National Jewish Democratic Council that gay marriage is a step forward in the important endeavor of Tikun Olam, the bringing of balance and perfection to the physical world through Gd's commandments. How could this have happened?
May I suggest that we live with faulty Jewish mathematics? One of the major equations used in Jewish life today states: A Jewish position on a given issue = the opinion of the majority of Jews.
If we truly believe this equation, if we believe that Jewish views are determined by the majority of Jews, then, as the title of this article states, there is no doubt that Judah Macabee was a homophobe. For was he not battling, risking his life and the life of his followers against a superior and well armed force, to reinstate the values of Judaism in Jewish society? Unlike the majority of the Jews of his day who echoed the sentiments of Plato and Plutarch, he saw in the expression of sexuality beyond the sacred bond of marriage between man and woman, a violation of Gd's Divine law. He would give no quarter to such immoral behavior. He was a fanatic, a veritable "Bible thumper" in his day. And yet, we Jews, embrace the victory of the Macabees, their rise to both Kingship and Priesthood, their restoring the values of Gd, as something to celebrate; that Jewish celebration embraced by more Jews than any other in our religious lexicon.
In 1885 the leaders of the Reform Movement met in Pittsburgh to define their sense of Judaism. They issued the Pittsburgh Platform now understood as the encapsulation of classical Reform Judaism. In part it states: "Second – We recognize in the Bible the record of the consecration of the Jewish people to its mission as priest of the one God, and value it as the most potent instrument of religious and moral instruction. Third – …today we accept as binding only the moral laws, and maintain only such ceremonies as elevate and sanctify our lives, but reject all such as are not adapted to the views and habits of modern civilization." By endorsing gay marriage most American Jews have parted company with this liberal expression of Judaism.
As Classical Reform Judaism declares, that "record of the consecration of the Jewish. People to its mission as priest of the one true God" that "most potent instrument of religious and moral instruction" or, in today's terms, that ancient yet eternal Jewish "Rules for Radicals," the Bible, teaches us:
"If a man lies with a man as with a woman both of them have committed an abomination…"
"You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them."

"It is too light a thing for you to be My servant, to establish the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the scions of Israel, and I shall submit you as a light unto the nations, to be My salvation until the end of the earth… I the LORD have called unto you in righteousness, and have taken hold of your hand, and submitted you as the people's covenant, as a light unto the nations… And unto your light, nations shall walk, and kings unto the brightness of your rising."

Something to think about. 

Best Regards,


Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

Clearly, this article from this rabbi in Maine is another example of what I termed the American Myth of Chanukah. See, further, The story of the Maccabees was not about the American view of generic freedom but of a battle for the dominance of Torah and, while I do believe that Torah does have a place for tolerance, this is not the overriding point of Chanukah. This holiday celebrates commitment to God's system and, in this regard, I applaud Rabbi Lefkowitz in his response.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

When Rabbi Lefkowitz begins to speak of Reform Judaism and how this article also violates their sensibilities, though, I do find problems. While homosexuality may have been perceived as an ethical/moral law in the 1800's and, thus, part of the Reform platform aswell, that is clearly not the case today. In arguing that things change, Reform also has to take up the position that even the very definition of morality and ethics change -- and so they can move on their views of homosexuality as well. This is another issue that has to be dealt with within Reform theology. In the 1800's, they were able to give some permanence to Jewish thought by making this distinction between changing ritual and permanent ethics/morals. Now, however, even the latter is subject to possible change so what value, if any, is there from the lessons of our heritage? This is a challenge that Reform Judaism has to face.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Rabbi Rich Wolpoe said...

Many People are unaware of society's downward slide towards Paganism.


Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz said...

I just read Rav Hecht's comment to my article on the Macabees on the Nishma blog regarding the ever-changing nature of Reform Judaism.

He is correct as it is stated in the Columbus platform in the 1930s

"4. Torah. God reveals Himself not only in the majesty, beauty and orderliness of nature, but also in the vision and moral striving of the human spirit. Revelation is a continuous process, confined to no one group and to no one age. Yet the people of Israel, through its prophets and sages, achieved unique insight in the realm of religious truth. The Torah, both written and oral, enshrines Israel's ever­growing consciousness of God and of the moral law. It preserves the historical precedents, sanctions and norms of Jewish life, and seeks to mould it in the patterns of goodness and of holiness. Being products of historical processes, certain of its laws have lost their binding force with the passing of the conditions that called them forth. But as a depository of permanent spiritual ideals, the Torah remains the dynamic source of the life of Israel. Each age has the obligation to adapt the teachings of the Torah to its basic needs in consonance with the genius of Judaism."

Nevertheless, I want to point out that I did not say anything more than those who take a pro-position on homosexuality are violating the Pittsburgh platform, which clearly states that the Torah is the guidepost of Reform Judaism on moral values.

It is interesting to note the difference between the Pittsburgh platform and the quote above from the Columbus platform. In fact when I was a representative of the cRc to the Jewish community relations Council at Chicago's Federation, I posed this to a Reform Rabbi discussing the decision to perform gay marriage by Reform. I stated that traditionally you left the observance of the rituals of Judaism in the Torah to the individual but rejected those that were not conforming with modern society. He agreed. Now, with the establishment of gay marriage in violation of a clear passage in the Torah on morality you are violating the moral teachings of the Torah. He agreed. I then asked, If this is the case what constitutes Judaism in your mind? His reply was telling, You have a good point, I'll have to think about it. Those in attendance were surprised by his answer and looked concerned. Some even came over to me after the meeting to discuss it further.