Conservosexuality, II

In a comment on my earlier post, Naomi Chana asks:

Hmmm. I wonder if the Reform movement has issued a halfway coherent halakhic defense of *its* position on homosexuality. (I certainly hope so, because I'm not really qualified to write one.)

Curious myself, I used a one-of-a-kind, creative search method over millions of Web sites. It turns out that a satisfying Conservative teshuvah on homosexuality might already have been written -- by the Central Committee of American Rabbis, i.e. the Reform movement. It's longish, and I haven't had a chance to dissect it thoroughly. Maybe you, Faithful Readers, can go through it, and then we can discuss it together later. However, on a quick once-over, it seems to consider the main points I talked about earlier. The problem, I think, is that the responsum fails to acknowledge that the Rabbis themselves acknowledged the possibility of "uprooting" Torah legislation. This omission, I would guess, is due to the greater liberality of the Reform movement toward halachah, which does not see itself as a continuation of the Rabbinic tradition.

Any Conservative approach would have to answer the same question that the CCAR responsum addresses: how can we approve of homosexuality when the Torah forbids it? However, the Reform answer (which is multi-faceted) is not meant to maintain continuity with Chazal. A Conservative answer would have to convince its readers of such a continuity.

A Conservative responsum, also (and as I said earlier) would have to carefully critique R. Joel Roth's teshuvah in the proceedings of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. I do mean to post on this in the future, but it will be more difficult. Why? Well, the CJLS responsa are not on-line, as I've complained before. Making them accessible might play into the hands of those who . . . um, want to learn and teach Torah.

(Postscript: Actually, the Roth teshuvah is available on-line, through a helpful collection of resources and essays maintained by Keshet, an organization which calls itself "the Jewish Theological Seminary's student group advocating for social and religious equality for Jews of all sexual orientations within the Conservative movement." Their Web site also includes a link to a teshuvah authored by Rabbi Stuart Kellman of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley. Though liberally inclined and well-written, I don't find it as narrowly drafted as the CCAR responsum, and it fails to adequately defend the arguments which Roth attacks in his teshuvah.)

As an afterthought, it occurs to me that a Conservative responsum would also have to address one additional issue. In his teshuvah, R. Roth implies, or says directly (I don't remember which) that those who follow halachah are duty-bound to follow his conclusion. I don't mean to accuse him of arrogance -- such confidence in one's ajudication is part and parcel of the shu"t literature. However, Conservative halachah, if it is to occupy a middle-of-the-road position, must allow multiple interpretations.

That is to say, oftentimes Conservative Jews are asked, "Why doesn't the C. movement hew more closely to halachah?" When the definition of the H-word is pushed on a little bit, though, it turns out that what the questioner is referring to is his (or her) brand of halachah. Many of the assumptions, narrow readings, and over-stringent interpretations made by R. Roth in his teshuvah are not native to halachah, but only to this rabbi's instantiation thereof, which one is not obligated to follow. Unless, of course, one is a student in or member of an institution for which R. Roth is the mara d'asra. And, unfortunately, he is. Or was.

Post-postscript: On rereading R. Simcha Roth's teshuvah (thanks, Apikorsus Online, for pointing it out
-- I guess I wasn't paying attention the first time I saw it), it seems that it indeed addresses all the points one would want in a Conservative responsum on the matter.

In addition, the more I think about it, the more I realize that a point-by-point refutation of Joel Roth's teshuvah is unnecessary, and even more so by the likes of me -- especially since Dorff and S. Roth seem already to have done so.

Perhaps what is needed now is simply an internal battle in the Conservative movement, so that misplaced legal formalism can be acknowledged as such.

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