Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"Jonah fails the test."

Towards the end of the Book of Jonah, having tried unsuccessfully to escape the word of Hashem, Jonah ultimately delivers Hashem's message of repentance. Much to the dismay of Jonah, his worst nightmare comes true as the Ninevites engage in a genuine act of "tshuvah". Then, demonstrating his resentment, Jonah relocates to the outskirts of the city, where he is woefully disappointed to discover that he has once again misread Hashem's intentions. While Hashem has repeatedly tried to teach Jonah a lesson about "loving-kindness" and in particular about caring for 'The Other", Jonah resists to the bitter end. Hashem, "a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in kindness, renouncing punishment," is working as a teacher of compassion, but Jonah fails the test.

I recently heard from a mother, who after being told by her mid-thirties son that he is gay, turned to her rabbi for advice. She believed that the meeting went well and the Rabbi in turn sent her for some counseling to someone who knows more about homosexuality.

This person sent her to JONAH.

A therapist friend of mine says "JONAH makes me ill."

What parent would want to see their child put through a hellish, pseudo-psychological experience, that is not successful?

I, would really, rather, put my faith in Hashem, who is slow to anger and abounding in kindness, because JONAH fails the test.

Saul David

PS. For more information on reparative therapy go to

Monday, June 16, 2008


When I began this blog, I tried to answer each comment individually, but I was told by a seasoned blogger that this is not good form because it raises the comment and hit count on the blog. So instead, I decided to copy and paste your comments and to answer them in the body of the blog.

Here goes.......

nopeanuts said

It is unfortunate that the Rav could not offer any references. However, it is very encouraging that he was open-minded about the issue.
Open-mindedness in the OrthoJew community is the only thing that will resolve this phenomenon, and the only thing that will help Jewish homosexuals feel at home in shul. Of course realizing that this will take a tremendous compromise with and possibly even a reinterpretation of the traditional readings of certain religious conventions- and perhaps it is not even fair to ask for this tremendous step. However, it may be the right (tzadik) thing to do, even if not fair.
But it will be open-mindedness that will finally make these support groups obsolete, and hopefully cast light unto where there is darkness.

Dear Nopeanuts,

The Rav was as open-minded as he allowed himself to be, I'm afraid. As I look around the shul on any given morning I can see a few embezzlers, insurance fraudsters and experts in weights and measures, all looking frummer than the next guy.
It's going to take a lot more than having an open mind to deal with the issue of homosexuality.
It's going to take an openly honest mind.

Tanya said...

My younger brother recently announced to my parents that he was bisexual and that he has been this way for the past three years. My parents are yiras shomayim irlich people. Needless to say, they feel that they have failed; are at a loss of what to do and how to react. Amazingly, they have not stopped davening and are still so full of hope that my brother will iy"H one day lead a normal life.
They did go to a PFLAG group but were amazed at how all the parents in attendance were so accepting of their son's status and new way of life.
I recently read an article:
which talks about trying to lead a normal way of life with siyatta di shemaya.
I don't know much about this struggle and how difficult it would be for a man to overcome and live with these urges.
My brother is defiant, obstinant and not concerned at all with how much this is hurting my parents or me. He does not want to think about the future and of the prospect of raising a family. He is enjoying the here and now with his partner. I would like to get in touch with someone via email who can share advice and chizuk.

Anonymous said...

I can hear that you and your family are truly struggling with what sounds like shocking news. I am sorry to hear that, and hope that this blog gives you the chizuk you are seeking. What is interesting to me in your comments is that you seem very concerned about your parents. Having limited experience, but being as I am a proud family member, I have to say that yes its important to feel for your parents and support them but I think its also important to love and respect your brother for who HE is and for the courage it took him to open up and strength it takes him to face his surroundings daily. Not for whom he was, who you expected him to be or who you imagined him to be, but for whom he IS. This was not necessarily a choice for him, but the fact that he has chosen not to suppress his feelings and has chosen to share his life with someone, and for that matter with you is a huge step. You claim that he does not seem to care about you or your parents feelings, and with very little background about your specific family situation, I beg to differ. It seems like he very much cares, and for that reason has opened himself up and has maintained his relationship with you, despite how you yourselves and not to mention your community must be reacting to his lifestyle. I think in light of this very scary world we live in, life is very precious. Family is something that is not easy to be a part of and even harder to be without. Maybe instead of always worrying about how people will react, what the right thing to have done, or to do is, its time we see and appreciate people for who they are; including their flaws, their amazing character traits and what they have to offer and not so much the clothes they wear, the box they fit into or the flag they wave.

Dear Tanya,

I have not heard from you since you showed the courage to write on March 4th. I hope you have been reading the entries to the blog and especially the response from anonymous a week after you wrote in. "Anonymous" wrote me privately as well, but she has permitted me to tell you that she is a younger sister of a young man who recently came out to his family. She wrote me that the man has continued to be frum even though it is a constant struggle and his family is standing behind him knowing that this is a difficult situation for all of the family.

Rivka Chana said...

I am happy to see another Orthodox parent who is accepting of his/her son's being gay. It seems that you are in Israel. Do you think it makes it easier or harder? We are in New York, and I have not yet met another "accepting" set of parents. My son is in his late 20s and came out to us about 6 years ago; he is selectively out to other people. I'd be happy to have a dialogue/conversation with other interested families.
Rivka Chana

Dear Rivka Chana,

I have not heard from you since you wrote in February. You may be surprised how many "accepting" parents there actually are out there.

Please keep in touch with all of us. It is the only way, at this point in time, for "accepting" parents to realize that they are not alone.

Anonymous said...

Three and a half years ago I too 'came out' to my parents.

Let me say first, I cannot even begin to express my admiration for your empathetic, and honest manner in grappling with the myriad emotions in assimilating what your son's revalation means to you.

I also wanted to, from a very specific vantage point, point out how courageous I think your son is.
You see, when I came out to my parents it was in the same phone call that I informed them that my marriage was ending. That the 'perfect couple' that had given them wonderful grandchildren were anything but. That their 'perfect son' had decieved them, their daughter in law, and had violated her trust and the sanctity of their marriage.
I meet people like your son (and I am involved with JQY so odds are I have met him) - people ten years or so younger than me and I have nothing but admiration for their self-honesty and courage in not doing what I did - taking the easy path of listening to those shiduchim, of dating the girls, of denying first to himself, than a wife, that this is not the path Hashem meant him to take.
I know your hearts are shattered by the loss of the life you envisioned for him, but allow me to have the chutzpah to say that this is the right path, the one of yashrus and honesty. I would give anything to turn back the hands of time and find the voice inside myself to say, No, I am gay, no I won't have the beautiful wedding and the beautiful wife. It would have been pain but it would have been honest pain and it would have spared my ex-wife and parents all that followed.
So whatever complicated feelings you may feel about your son, I wanted to point out that in the world he comes from, the deception of self and others is the path of least resistance. I hope you and your wife can find a way to take pride in the fact that he bucked that and was honest with himself first and then with you.

Enough written for now.

For those who have written comments, thank you for the courage you have shown. I am sure that you have given some strength to those who are reading this blog.

Thank you.

Saul David

Sunday, June 8, 2008

"To'evah hi"

It has been three full festivals since my son told us he is gay. He told us on the first day of Sukkoth. We spent the Chag digesting the information. Pesach was spent together as a family, coming back together for the first time since Sukkoth. The time was spent getting back to a normal family life. We shall spend this Chag alone, since two of our children are in Israel, one child is in Silver Springs and my son is teaching in Turkey.

As is our tradition on this Holiday of Shavuoth to spend the entire night in the study of the Torah, I have come up with my own Tikkun Leyl Shavuoth. I plan to spend the entire night studying the following twenty-two passages in the Torah that use the term “to’evah”. I want to understand the context in which this term is used.

Even though it is tempting to editorialize, I shall refrain from doing so. I do reserve the opportunity to do so at a later time once I have learned and digested and fully understand the text and the context in which it is written.

To remain consistent I used the JPS edition of the Tanakh for its translation of the text. The passages which I found are as follows……….

“The Egyptians could not dine with the Hebrews, since that would be abhorrent to the Egyptians.” Ber/Gen 43:32
“You may stay in the region of Goshen for all shepherds are abhorrent to Egyptians” Ber/Gen 46:34

“Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abhorrence.” Vay/Lev 18:22
“But you must keep My laws and My rules, and you must not do any of these abhorrent things.” Vay/Lev. 18:26
“For all those abhorrent things were done by the people who were in the land before you, and the land became defiled.” Vay/Lev. 18:27
“All who do any of these abhorrent things – such persons shall be cut off from their people.” Vay/Lev 18:29
“You shall keep my charge not to engage in any of the abhorrent practices that were carried on before you.” Vay/Lev. 18:30

“You shall consign the images of their gods to the fire; you shall not covet the silver and gold on them and keep it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared thereby; for that is abhorrent to the Lord you God.” Dev/Deut. 7:25
“You shall not bring an abhorrent thing into your house, or you will be proscribed like it; you must reject it as abominable and abhorrent.” Dev/Deut. 7:26
“You shall not act thus toward the Lord you God, for they perform for their gods every abhorrent act that the Lord detests.” Dev/Deut 12:31
“If it is true, the fact is established – that abhorrent thing was perpetrated in your midst – put the inhabitants of that town to the sword.” Dev/Deut 13:15

“If it is true, the fact is established, that abhorrent thing was perpetrated in Israel, you shall take the man and the woman who did that wicked thing out to the public place, and you shall stone them, man and woman.” Dev/Deut 17:4-5
“When you enter the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to imitate the abhorrent practices of those nations.” Dev/Deut. 18:9
“For anyone who does such things is abhorrent to the Lord, and it is because of these abhorrent things that the Lord your God is dispossessing them before you.” Dev/Deut. 18:12
“Lest they lead you into doing all the abhorrent things that they have done for their gods and you stand guilty before the Lord your God.” Dev/Deut 20:18

“Cursed be anyone who makes a sculptured or molten image, abhorred by the Lord.” Dev/Deut 27:15

“The first husband who divorced her shall not take her to wife again, since she has been defiled – for that would be abhorrent to the Lord.” Dev/Deut 24:4

“You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep that has any defect of a serious kind, for that is abhorrent to the Lord your God.” Dev/Deut 17:1

“You shall not eat anything abhorrent.” Dev/Deut. 14:3

“You shall not bring the fee of a whore or the pay of a dog into the House of the Lord your God in fulfillment of any vow, for both are abhorrent to the Lord your God.” Dev/Deut 23:19

“A woman must not put on man’s apparel, nor shall a man wear woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is abhorrent to the Lord your God.” Dev/Deut. 22:5

“You must have completely honest weights and completely honest measures, if you are to endure long on the soil that the Lord your God is giving you. For everyone who does those things, everyone who deals dishonestly is abhorrent to the Lord your God.” Dev/Deut. 25:15-16

Have a chag same'ach.

Saul David

Thursday, June 5, 2008

"Accepting the Unacceptable"

A few weeks ago, an old friend came to visit me. He is a rabbi who lives in Chicago, and after telling him about this journey, he offered some assistance, especially in terms of resources. Within a week he sent me a link to a study which was conducted by a marital and family therapist who has a doctorate in social work from the University of Illinois.

In her study, “Accepting the Unacceptable: Religious Parents and Adult Gay and Lesbian Children,” Linda Freedman, PhD, “debunks the perhaps popular perception that religiously oriented people, especially the orthodox, are sure to reject persons with sexual minority orientations, even their own children.”

With Dr. Freedman’s permission and the permission of the Alliance for Children and Families, I would like to offer a review of this study.

The study analyzed parental acceptance of adult gay and lesbian children. It included religiously oriented parents and parents who had not affiliated with any support group.

The study begins with certain facts and certain assumptions. It states that “research findings indicate that parental support mitigates risk to individuals identifying as homosexual. Increased visibility has led to a rise in illegal, socially sanctioned, physical attacks on gays.” It goes on to state that in a “clinical and empirical study of sexual minority families, parental support may provide sexual minority children a buffer against the prejudices and dangers inherent in a heterosexual society.” An Israeli study found that “family acceptance has a positive impact on psychological adjustment and self-esteem.”

The study continues to state that “we might assume, based upon the literature, that religiously oriented parents who believe that the sexual lives of their sexual minority children are sinful may not be able to function in a way that buffers their children from some of the dangers and challenges of a heterosexist society…Homophobia has been consistently found to be associated with religious orthodoxy and negative attitudes toward gays and lesbians.”

From these facts and assumptions, Dr. Freedman begins her study. The makeup of the subject groups was as follows, two thirds belonged to some sort of support group and one third did not. The study continues to explain to the reader the questions that were posed and how the analysis was computed. The study ends with a detailed discussion of the themes and issues which emerged in the analysis of the data.

Four themes emerged. They were as follows:

1. Initial reactions to disclosure

2. Coping strategies

3. Thoughts about therapy and counseling

4. Resolving conflict over time.

The first theme, Initial reactions to disclosure, the study reports that “initial reaction to learning that a child was gay did not differ between groups. Parents from all three groups had extensive lists of fears, including career-related concerns for the child and worries about health, social stability, and safety, especially from gay-bashers and murderers.”

“Losses and dashed expectations predominated the negative reactions and made initial acceptance difficult for most parents. They grieved the loss of grandchildren and marriages of children…”

“Parents reported initial social withdrawal followed by a period of adjustment and a flurry of interest in socializing with others who had a gay child. Some sought advice immediately..from parents in similar circumstances and expressed relief that they were not alone.”

The second theme to emerge was coping strategies. “Coping strategies, regardless of group affiliation, included reading everything possible about homosexuality and seeking information from people who knew about it.”

“Several parents described staying involved with their child as their greatest coping strategy….they learned to become defiant with people who criticized the child.”

The third theme dealt with the parents’ thoughts about therapy or counseling. In the study two thirds of the parents sought out some form of counseling, either pastoral or secular. “Parents who related to the counselor found the process a normalizing, learning experience. Positive comments about treatment alluded to a clinician’s ability to de-shame, comfort, reassure, and offer hope as an alternative to a parent’s helplessness and confusion.

In the fourth and final theme to emerge, resolving conflicts over time, “most parents said that they were ‘okay’ with their child and had hope for the future. A minority did not feel that they would ever resolve their issues.”

Dr. Freedman concludes her study as follows. She states that “the findings of the current study corroborate data that parent reactions to sexual orientation, especially when parents are religiously oriented, are complex. Most parents came to accept the child’s sexual orientation over time.”

“Most parents asserted that support groups helped them accept what they could not change….having an evolving positive relationship was better than conflict or cutoffs that accomplished nothing.”

“The only parents to profess to having rejected their children were those who had not attended any support group.”

Dr. Linda Freedman concludes that “this study nevertheless debunks the perhaps popular perception that religiously oriented people, especially the orthodox, are sure to reject persons with sexual minority orientations, even their own children.”

Thank you, Dr. Freedman.

Saul David

For more information please see and