Homosexuality and Witchcraft

19 02 2012

I recently wrote the following note on Facebook:

The Eternal Torah

The sad reality is that, every year, more and more young people in Australia are coming out of the closet and identifying as ***s. This is despite the existence of a clear verse in the Torah, condemning *** as an inappropriate lifestyle. The books that they read, the films that they watch, and every aspect of this ***-enabling country is only encouraging our youth to experiment with activities that are physically and morally harmful. Because I truly care about the moral bedrock of our society, I say that ***s should not be allowed to get married. While it is true that the Torah doesn’t actually condemn their marrying one another, it is clear that allowing them this liberty will only encourage their sordid lifestyle further, and God forbid a child be raised in such an unhealthy home. After all, everybody knows that being a *** is a choice. Trying to market it as a choice that one is entitled to make (when nothing can be more contrary to God’s will) is a travesty, and a clear indication of how low our society has sunk.

There are those who say that the Torah’s message should be reinterpreted. That perhaps it was being specific and referring only to particular activities. This is an ignorant assertion and should be completely ignored. While one who knows nothing of rabbinic law might read the relevant verse in this fashion, the truth is that the rabbis understood this prohibition as relating to both males and females. As such, the Torah deals with the sin of *** categorically. While we may no longer be allowed to actually kill these people (despite the fact that the Torah mandates the death penalty for their crime), granting them equality in the eyes of the law when all they need to do is change their sordid lifestyle is a crime unto God himself.

In a last-ditch attempt to make sacred the profane, there are those who liken the crime of *** to other “outdated” laws in the biblical literature, but they do this completely ignorant of the way that halakha works. The simple truth is that the rabbis of the Talmud did not see fit to recontextualise this particular law. If they didn’t reframe it, and make the crime of *** a phenomenon no longer in effect, then what gives us the audacity to do so? Not only that, but the law that pertains to *** is phrased in the negative! It is one thing to recontextualise a positive commandment, but another thing entirely to recontextualise a prohibition.

The number of ***s in Australia today is growing. The amount of ***-themed literature and film is on the rise. In my own neighbourhood, I see people who are proud of being ***s and it is time that rabbis take a stand. *** is disgusting. *** should still be illegal. ***s should not be allowed to marry, should receive no recognition for their activities, and should be dealt with by psychologists and counsellors only.

God’s holy Torah is immutable and in effect. If the rabbis of the Talmud didn’t recontextualise it, then who the hell are you?

– Exodus 22:17 (18 in the English).

Regrettably, not everybody understood what I was trying to say. Some thought that I was having a go at homosexuals, some thought that I was having a go at witches, and some thought that I was trying to imply that homosexuality is a type of witchcraft! By way of explaining the point that I was trying to make, consider the following reasons so often given by rabbis as to why homosexuality must not be tolerated in our society. I think this list is fairly exhaustive:

• The Torah’s condemnation of homosexuality is clearly stated (Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13);

• While the Torah only prohibits sexual intercourse between two men, the rabbis broadened the prohibition to include two women;

• The Torah describes homosexuality as a “toevah” (an abomination);

• The Torah relates homosexuality to the practices of Canaanites (as per the declaration in Leviticus 18:3, which precedes a string of prohibitions, one of which is homosexuality, and the declaration in Leviticus 20:23, which concludes a string of prohibitions, one of which is homosexuality);

• The Torah relates homosexuality to bestiality: the latter is forbidden in Leviticus 18:23, immediately after the prohibition of male homosexual intercourse;

• The penalty for homosexual intercourse is death;

• The rabbis of the Talmud never saw fit to mitigate this penalty, to recontextualise the prohibition, nor to limit its application;

• While the Torah does not speak of same-sex marriage, such a thing would be impossible: any marriage between two people of the same sex would lack kiddushin and be non-halakhic, and any permissibility granted for same-sex civil marriages will only encourage homosexuality and lead to children being raised in an environment conducive to illegitimate sexual experimentation.

And then, of course, there’s the real zinger:

Homosexuality has been illegal throughout the world for the longest time. Lifting it now to the level of heterosexuality is a slight against centuries of tradition.

Now let’s consider the prohibition of witchcraft:

• The Torah’s condemnation of witchcraft is clearly stated (Exodus 22:17/18, Leviticus 20:27, Deuteronomy 18:10-11);

• While some verses in the Torah only prohibit female practitioners of witchcraft, the rabbis broadened the prohibition to include men;

• The Torah describes witchcraft as a “toevah” (an abomination);

• The Torah relates witchcraft to the practices of Canaanites (as per the declaration in Deuteronomy 18:9, which precedes the prohibition of witchcraft);

• The Torah relates witchcraft to bestiality: the latter is forbidden in Exodus 22:18/19, immediately after the prohibition of witchcraft;

• The penalty for witchcraft is death;

• The rabbis of the Talmud never saw fit to mitigate this penalty, to recontextualise the prohibition, nor to limit its application;

• While the Torah does not speak of practitioners of witchcraft marrying, such a thing could be viewed as impossible: any marriage conducted in accordance with pagan or Wiccan traditions would lack kiddushin and be non-halakhic, and any permissibility granted for civil marriages between two such people will only encourage witchcraft and lead to children being raised in an environment conducive to illegitimate spiritual experimentation.

And while one never hears it, the following assertion is no less ridiculous than what one hears from those who lament the supposed proliferation of homosexuality:

Witchcraft used to be illegal. Justifying it now would be an insult to centuries of beautiful tradition, like the 16th and 17th centuries, when Europe and North America burned with a passion that surely ignites the spirit.

Let’s face it, Judaism seems to have developed something of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in relation to the practise of witchcraft. The reason for this is that, deep down, nobody really cares too much about whether or not you think it’s awesome to hold a séance with your friends, to go dancing in the forest when it’s a full moon, or to ask questions of a dead rabbi by writing them down and sticking them in his books. You do your thing and I’ll do mine.

But when it comes to homosexuality, people just feel a bit yuck about the whole thing. That’s a perfectly normal reaction. It’s all part of growing up and being stupid.

If you cannot think of a good reason to stamp up and down and lament the proliferation of witchcraft-themed books and films, to decry the fact that kids these days are painting their fingernails black and listening to goth music (they’re still doing this, right?), to lament with anger this “witch-enabling” country of ours and to cry about the global witch agenda, then it might be time for you to exercise a little restraint in other areas as well.

After all, if neither the rabbis nor the Torah itself drew any real distinction between the two, it’s hardly worth pretending that your hatred of only one of them is fuelled by anything other than simple-minded prejudice. Time to give it a rest.

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