knowledge of torah

The Aftermath of Reviewing Michaelson’s “God vs. Gay”

And you shall love Hashem your God …

Deuteronomy 6:5

And you shall love your neighbor as yourself…

Leviticus 19:18

Both of these statements are positive commandments. We might ask: How can a commandment demand that we feel something? Since love is an emotion, it is either there or it is not there.

The Torah does not hold that love is something spontaneous. On the contrary, it teaches that we can and should cultivate love. No one has the liberty to say: “There are some people whom I just do not like,” nor even, “I cannot possibly like that person because he did this and that to me.”

We have within us innate attractions to God and to other people. If we do not feel love for either of them, it is because we have permitted barriers to develop that interfere with this natural attraction, much as insulation can block a magnet’s inherent attraction for iron. If we remove the barriers, the love will be forthcoming.

The barriers inside us come from defects in our character. When we improve ourselves, our bad character traits fall away, and as they fall away, we begin to sense that natural love which we have for others and for God.

Today I shall…

…try to improve my midos (character traits), so that I will be able to feel love for God and for my fellow man.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
from “Growing Each Day” for Cheshvan 7

The first thing that attracted me to this daily “devotional” of Rabbi Twerski’s is the obvious parallel to the teaching of the Master:

One of the scholars heard them arguing and drew near to them. He saw that he answered well, and he asked him, “What is the first of all of the mitzvot?”

Yeshua answered him, “The first of all the mitzvot is: ‘Hear O Yisra’el! HaShem is our God; HaShem is one. Love HaShem, your God, with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your knowledge, and with all of your strength.’ This is the first mitzvah. Now the second is similar to it: ‘Love your fellow as yourself.’ There is no mitzvah greater than these.”

Mark 12:28-31 (DHE Gospels)

Rabbi Abraham Twerski
Rabbi Abraham Twerski

I don’t know if R. Twerski is at all familiar with the Apostolic Scriptures (probably not, but who knows) or even the portion I quoted above, but it seems amazing that nearly two-thousand years after the Master uttered this teaching, the same source material from the Torah should be linked together in a very similar manner by an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi and Psychiatrist.

Then, as I was performing my Shabbat devotionals, I came across the following:

The orlah, “foreskin,” symbolizes a barrier to holiness. Adam HaRishon was born circumcised (see Avos D’Rabbi Nassan 2:5) because he was as close as a physical being can possibly be to Hashem. So great was Adam at the time of his creation, that the angels thought he was a Divine being to whom they should offer praise. Thus, he was born circumcised; there was no orlah intervening between him and Hashem. Even the organ that represents man’s worst animal-like urges was totally harnessed to the service of Hashem.

-from the Mussar Thought for the Day, p.151
for Shabbos: Parashas Lech Lecha
A Daily Dose of Torah

Now compare the above quote to the next one:

Episcopal lesbian theologian Carter Heyward, whose work we briefly noted in part I, has described her project this way: “I am attempting to give voice to an embodied — sensual — relational movement among women and men who experience our sexualities as a liberating resource and who, at least in part through this experience, have been strengthened in the struggle for justice for all.” Heyward and others…are attempting nothing less than a recovery of the physical, embodied, and erotic within Christian traditions that have traditionally suppressed them. Building a theology of relationality that is reminiscent of the work of Jewish philosophers Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas, Heyward has proposed a spiritual valuation of eros — which she defines as “our embodied yearning for mutuality.” Openness to embodied love opens us to other people, the biological processes of the universe, and to God. Thus, Heyward writes, “my eroticism is my participation in the universe” and “we are the womb in which God is born.”

-Jay Michaelson
Chapter 17: “And I have filled him with the spirit of God…to devise subtle works in gold, silver, and brass,” p.156
God vs. Gay: The Religious Case for Equality

I previously quoted that paragraph in my third and final review of Michaelson’s book, but I think it bears repeating.

When Rabbi Twerski, (unintentionally) echoing the teachings of the Master speaks of loving God and loving his neighbor, he isn’t talking about erotic love or eroticizing our relationship with God or our fellow human being. When he writes of our “innate attractions to God and to other people,” he isn’t saying that these are sexual or romantic attractions any more than Messiah was speaking of sex.

The Mussar thought from the Artscroll “Daily Dose” series speaks of the male sexual organ as representing “man’s worst animal-like urges.” Throughout his book, Michaelson favorably compared people to animals in that both expressed their sexuality with same-sex partners, and yet we see that the traditional Orthodox Jewish viewpoint is to separate man from the animal world.

Even setting the midrash aside, the Mussar teaches that man is to be considered unique and separate from animals and further, that the single worst urge a man must bring under control in the service of Hashem is his sexual urge.

Talmud Study by LamplightThis is why Bible study in general and Torah study in specific is so important, because it grounds us in the Word of God and thus in righteousness and holiness. It points to our flaws and urges us to self-discipline. It’s like reading a health and weight loss manual while sitting down in an “all-you-can-eat” buffet. You are immersed in temptation, and yet you hold a reminder in your hands to resist because giving in to the world around you leads (extending the metaphor) to poor health, suffering, and premature death.

The death I’m speaking of is a spiritual death if we attempt to conform our faith to the standards of the world around us rather than conforming ourselves to the standards of God.

None of this demands that we must fail to love the people around us, even those who are very different, such as gay people, and since I’m straight, gay people are different, at least as far as that one quality or trait is concerned. But as I saw by the time I reached the end of the Michaelson book, what he was driving at wasn’t just the equalization of the participation of straight and gay people in the church and synagogue, he was talking about the total transformation of the house of God. Reading Rabbi Twerski and the Mussar for Lech Lecha on Shabbos made it abundantly clear that what Michaelson was proposing, even with sincere intentions, was not at all consistent with how God defines love.

I’m sorry to keep dragging this out and as far as my current intentions go, this is the last blog I’ll dedicate to Michaelson in specific and the topic of gays in the community of faith in general. But having, by necessity, entered, to some small degree, the world of Jay Michaelson’s thoughts and feelings by reading his book, I needed to pull myself back out and re-establish myself in the presence of God through the study of His Word.

We are commanded to love other people including those we find in the LGBTQ community. R. Twerski is correct in that we need not construct barriers between them and us in terms of our compassion. That said, there is a barrier between a holy life and a profane one. In the ekklesia of Messiah, as mere human beings who are daily bombarded with the excesses of the world around us, we constantly struggle with those excesses and with our own natures to seek to remain on the path God has set before us. I know I don’t always succeed and by God’s standards I am a complete failure.

But I can’t give up and either abandon my faith or seek to morph it into something consistent with my external environment, society, and culture. Holiness must be protected and thus we maintain a barrier, not one that doesn’t permit the expression of love, but one that keeps us from getting lost in a highly liberal and distorted use of the term.

When a parent loves a child, it doesn’t mean that parent is ultimately permissive and allows the child to do whatever he or she wants simply because it makes them feel good. We say “no” a lot, and even if the child cries or yells at us and tells us we’re being “mean”, we know we are actually being loving and protective.

That’s what God does to us and those are the commandments we not only obey, but support, uphold, and teach. Even if people like Michaelson want to call me “mean” for doing so, this is how God teaches the community of faith to do love. It’s a loving thing to live inside the standards of God, and as tempting as it may be, it isn’t love to believe you can be right with God outside of the house built by those standards.

TrustTwo more paragraphs from the Mussar thought from which I quoted above will finish the picture (pp.151-2):

When Adam sinned, however, he caused his nature to change. Before his sin, godliness had been natural for him, and sin had been repulsive, bizarre, and foreign. Once he disobeyed Hashem, however, he fell into the traps of illicit desire and self-justification. Suddenly, temptation became natural to him, and Hashem became distant; and when Hashem reproached him for having sinned, Adam hastened to defend himself rather than admitting his sin and repenting. After his fall, the angels had no trouble recognizing his human vulnerability.

In several places, the Torah mentioned … “the foreskin of the heart” (see, for example, Devarim 10:16). This is the non-physical counterpart of the physical foreskin, man’s urges and desires that attempt to bar him from achieving true service to Hashem. We remove the physical foreskin as an indelible act of allegiance, demonstrating our resolve to do the same for the spiritual barriers. Nevertheless, the Torah tells us that ultimately it will be Hashem Who will complete the removal of this spiritual foreskin (see ibid. 30:6) after we have done our utmost, and this will take place at the time of the ultimate redemption.

16 thoughts on “The Aftermath of Reviewing Michaelson’s “God vs. Gay””

  1. “…the commandments we not only obey, but support, uphold, and teach…this is how God teaches the community of faith to do love.”

    The heart of the matter always comes back to obedience, and a choice to obey or not. We do love to others by obeying G-d.

    Man was given free will, and choices have consequences.

    It is unfortunate that those being loved might not experience a community’s obedience to G-d as a pleasurable thing, and thus seek to remake the argument to be not about obedience, and the effects of obedience, but about the perceptions and reactions of those that choose not to obey.

  2. James, you said that gentiles are able to offer at the temple. Yes, but my point is that using Proclaims logic, Gentiles can offer anywhere and do not need Jews, Temples, or Law of Moses.

    If Abel can offer sacrifices without a priest, what is to stop other gentiles from offering in their back yard.

    Where is the commandment to gentiles that they can not offer sacrifices without Israel? Where is the commandment to gentiles that they can not be gay?

    1. @Steven — You seem to be wishing for someone to show you an explicit negative commandment, either about gentile sacrifices or about homosexuality. You seem to be neglecting the value of the positive commandments presented in the scriptures about human sexuality and sexual morality in general. Even further, there are considerations of holiness commanded for Jews, and at least recommended for gentiles who wish to interact with HaShem and to obtain the benefits of doing so.

      If one possesses a positive commandment or example outlining what one is supposed to do or to be, then one does not require a negative commandment to forbid (or, at least, to discourage) doing anything that differs or deviates from that positive prescription. The broad negative is implicit in the explicit positive. Negative commandments, on the other hand, are explicitly restrictive and their implicit positive liberties are so broad as to be virtually undefinable.

      Further, beyond the black-and-white notion of “do” or “do not” commandments, there is the notion of “instruction” which is more nuanced with notions or “better” and “worse”, and examples of relative consequences. That is why Jewish tradition has noted that the Torah includes at least four categories of information, identified as torah and mitzvoth, ‘hukim and mishpatim, which translate as instructions and commandments, laws and precedents. Some would summarize these a bit more simply as precepts and principles. However categorized, they provide a basis from which all manner of instructions for living may be derived.

      1. “…and commanded the sacrifices at the Temple ” and “Since that system has since been established…”, “…commandments presented in the scriptures…”, “…holiness commanded for Jews…”

        Ok, we are getting closer guys!

        What do all these things you are telling me have in common?

        The Law of Moses. that is all I was trying to get you guys to admit, and you did a great job of trying to hide that you knew this. (Except for sojourn who was honest).

        No one can properly determine the role of homosexuals in the Church and assess Michaelsons’ book without understanding when it comes to homosexuality, the Church follows the law of Moses.

  3. @Questor: That’s true and most of the time, we know when we’re being obedient and when we’re not. The real tragedy in books like Michaelson’s is that he attempts to redefine what obedience is and what it means through the lens of his own sexual and romantic requirements.

    @Steven: No where have I said that Gentiles need to be Jews to offer sacrifices, but time has changed since the days of Cain and Abel. When they lived, there was no Temple and God had not yet placed His Name in a specific geographic location and commanded the sacrifices at the Temple was we have them recorded in Torah. Since that system has since been established, neither Jews nor Gentiles may offer animal sacrifices at any ol’ place on Earth. The animal sacrifices have been suspended until the Temple is re-built in the days of Messiah.

    This does not preclude drawing nearer to God in any way, since humanity has always drawn near to God through the “sacrifices of a broken spirit and a contrite heart” to quote David from Psalm 51.

    As far as our connection to God having to go through Israel, all of the New Covenant language in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36 is directed at Israel and no other nation. We are grafted in to the blessings of the resurrection, the receiving of the Holy Spirit and knowing God through our faith in Messiah’s accomplished works. God’s plan of redemption for Israel also benefits the rest of mankind, but without Israel, mankind has no hope because she is the nation and people directly connected to God via the covenants.

  4. @ Steven

    Yeshua ha Mashiach was a Jew, following Jewish laws, and telling all his Disciples to go unto the world and make more disciples…not of their own ideas or ways, but of His…which were fully Jewish.

    The Laws of the Sinai Covenant given to Moses, and the Israelites as a perpetual covenant with G-d are how all humans are to live and do good to others, but they do nothing for us except make us feel a little more in tune with G-d; receiving the satisfaction of knowing we did good to others; and the blessing of G-d for walking the straight and narrow path towards Him, when He chooses to bestow those blessings.

    Salvation is totally another matter…that is only by trust in G-d.

    Abraham had enough faith in YHVH to be considered righteous on his own. Moses was given the Torah as the beginning of the way to be blessed by G-d, and demonstrate the values of G-d by living a certain way, but salvation was by trust in the promises made to Abraham, in whose Seed (Yeshua) the entire world would have access to G-d… through that Seed, Yeshua, by His sacrifice of Himself as a sin offering for our load of sin.

    Yeshua is the ransom from the curses brought upon the Israelites by not performing Torah commandments in obedience to their covenant with G-d. But G-d allows Gentiles to partake of the New Covenant through Yeshua as well, because of the promises G-d made to Abraham about the entire world being blessing in him, Abraham…God’s friend. We gentiles may not pick up the entire Sinai Covenant in this life, nor are we required to do anything other than receive the Holy Spirit, and let Him work in us.

    We are, however, already committed and bound up in Yeshua to the New Covenant, which contains all the covenants made before it…including the Sinai Covenant. The Holy Spirit is already writing the commandments of the Torah into our hearts, even though the Kingdom is not yet on the planet other than spiritually. Perform the commandments of Torah, doing love by obedience to G-d, and you are blessed. Refuse to obey and you are cursed. The curse usually shows in this life on this world, but it is possible for a human to avoid being cursed here…and just be cursed after death for eternity instead. The Adversary is often very good at protecting, and prospering his tools on the planet in order that the Adversary’s plans may be properly carried out, as allowed for by YHVH.

    The Israelites as a nation are the world’s example of how G-d operates on this planet with the humans that are desirous of becoming His adopted children, but the Torah works for non-Jews, if they love G-d, and are doing Torah for love of Him, YHVH, and the part of Him that took up a tent of human flesh in Yeshua.

    Yeshua was the Torah made flesh, and living among mankind, just as He was the Word and the Right Arm of G-d in human form.

    I am a Torah Observant Gentile who is as obedient as I can manage to be, day by day, because the Holy Spirit asked me to be more Torah Observant…a bit here, and a bit there. You might say, since Yeshua is the Torah made flesh, that I am being Yeshua observant. I keep adding on Torah commandments to my life just as any child learning how to live properly does. But my trust is in Yeshua, and His righteousness is my salvation.

    I have no righteousness of my own, no matter how many commandments I keep, or how well I keep them, and this is true for all of mankind.

    1. I am in the New Covenant made in the flesh and blood of Yeshua and in Yeshua he contains no such thing as curses. How is the Sinai Covenant in the New Covenant? Only as fulfilled in Yeshua.

      Those who think that God has commanded a temple with animal sacrifices again are wrong. Our atonement was already made, those who can not except that are doomed.

      The temple commanded to be build by Messiah is the Church, God does not dwell in temples made by human hands. Ezekiels temple was never commanded to be built, and in it the prince is seen making atonement for Israel. To believe this will happen in the future is antichrist. It denies that Christ already came and made atonement.

      1. Well, Steven, there are a few scriptures you really ought to re-examine. The new covenant referenced by Rav Yeshua is defined clearly in Jer.31 as being made solely with the houses of Israel and Judah, that is, solely with Jews (the two houses that existed in Jeremiah’s time were re-united fully by the end of the Babylonian exile). It renews and strengthens the Sinai Torah covenant by writing it metaphorically onto hearts of flesh rather than merely literally on tables of stone or scrolls of parchment. Non-Jews do not participate in this covenant, but benefit from HaShem’s Grace and redemption in a manner similar to it if they exercise an Avraham-like faithful trust of HaShem’s atonement in the Messiah.

        The restoration of the Temple and its sacrificial Levitical operations are clearly outlined by prophets like Yehezkel and Zacharyah; and Rav Yeshua emphasized in Mt.5:18 that the entire Torah including its smallest details remains valid as long as the current heavens and earth endure (which takes us through the duration of the entirety of the millennial messianic kingdom). Thus the validity of the sacrifices also continues and is not in any degree contrary to the Messiah’s atonement. The earthly Temple operations complement the heavenly ones; they are not antagonistic one to the other. The curses outlined in Torah for Jews who disobey it, or for those who curse the Jewish people, also remain valid along with the rest of Torah; but they are removed from and are inapplicable to those who return to Torah obedience, which is also an expected result that should appear in the life of any Jew benefitting from Rav Yeshua’s atonement as they enact the consequences of its concomitant repentance. Non-Jews benefitting from Rav Yeshua’s atonement would likewise be expected to be freed from any tendency to curse the Jewish people, hence also to be ineligible to be affected by the corresponding curse presented in Torah. Of course, repentance from sin and departure from it by anyone is an escape from the “curse” of its ongoing intrinsic consequences.

        I don’t know precisely what constitutes your notion of “the Church” (as denoted particularly in formal terms with a capital ‘C’). However, no such notion appears in the apostolic writings except as a metaphorical “assembly” (or “synagogus”) of the aggregated body of Rav Yeshua’s committed disciples; and in no way does it replace the Temple or become a Temple of any kind. Temple metaphors are used for several purposes: one being a reference to Rav Yeshua’s physical body that would be killed and resurrected, another being to the aggregated body of disciples who participate in it as “living stones”, yet another is to the individual disciple in whom HaShem’s Spirit of Holiness dwells. None of these metaphors is intended to detract from or diminish the value of the actual physical Temple that still remained in operation at the time when most of these illustrations were employed. Similarly they do not invalidate the prophecies about the restoration of such a Temple and its Torah-defined operations.

        @Marleen — The notion of “Church” is invoked by Michaelson as the body that must change to embrace these novel sexual definitions and alternative notions of spirituality, which may explain why Steven also referenced the term for a slightly different purpose in response to Questor’s mention of the curses of the Torah.

      2. Proclaim. I can only hope that someday you shed your anti Yeshua as he is and anti Church bias. Then you might begin to understand what was reveal to babes, but not to the wise and educated. Shalom

  5. YES! To James and Questor! BTW, in my reading, I noticed Abraham did not conceive Isaac until after the covenant of circumcision. I think HaShem is trying to tell us something.

  6. Steven, maybe you would like to elaborate on Ezekiel’s temple not being “commanded to be built” and that temple, I guess you are saying, being people (of course I am aware of Corinthians being told to see themselves as some kind of temple whether that is Ezekiel’s or not). [I have explained to some extent before that Church, for a confluence of reasons, is not a fitting term for the people of God in general, but that’s not the same thing as disagreeing with the possibility of the concept by some other nomenclature.] {I’ve just looked at the heading of this thread/meditation again. How does it relate?}

  7. Marleen, no one can just build God a temple. There are 3 who were command to build a temple. Soloman, Cyrus/Zerubbabel, Yeshua. There is no one commanded to build Ezekiels temple. If was a pattern that if Israel were to repent, Ezekiel was to SHOW to Israel. There is no prophecy that explains why this pattern was to be shown that I know of. An no commandment to anyone to build it.

    “see themselves as some kind of temple” no, thats not what scripture says. It say “…don’t you know that you ARE the temple of God” and this is because it had become revealed that Yeshua was preparing a “body” for God. Temple means body. God does not live in a body made by human hands, but lives in the spiritual body built by Yeshua.

    It relates because the subject is how gays fit in the “body of Christ”, the temple of God, what in english is called The Church. And, it corrects the idea that some future physical temple will be built where atonement will be required by animal sacrifices for Israel.

    Anyone who does not confess that Yeshua came in the flesh and made atonement once and for all for Israel is antiChrist.

    The term Church is the english term for assembly and it was Yeshua who decided to use this term. Church and Assembly are the same thing. If it is good enough for Yeshua, its good enough for me.

  8. It relates because the subject is gays in the church. The term church is just english for assembly and Yeshua used this term for the “body” or “temple” that he was commanded to build. 3 Temples were commanded. Soloman, Cyrus/Zerubbabel, and Yeshua alone have mandates to build. He lives in the spiritual temple or “body” that Yeshua built by his word and sent his holy spirit into and placed the “glory” upon, and he also gave it the name of God so now the church is the “place where my name dwells”

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