There are few Jewish holidays that are as popular and well-known outside the Jewish world as is Chanuka, and almost none that are subjected to as much misunderstanding and outright distortion. But a recent article in a Maine newspaper set a new standard for mendacity and misrepresentation, in rooting the support for same-sex marriage of an Orthodox rabbi in the miraculous events of Chanuka. The article can be found here (http://www.pressherald.com/opinion/at-hanukkah-rejoicing-over-peaceful-victory-for-same-sex-marriage_2012-12-12.html), and inverts the story of Chanuka on its head in order to make a political point that is shockingly shallow and entirely bereft of Torah wisdom.
“The Jews fought for religious liberty.” This has become the trope by which Chanuka has assumed its place in the American tradition of winter holidays. But this news would come as a shock to those who actually began the uprising and waged the battles that freed the land of Israel from Hellenist domination and liberated the Holy Temple from those who had desecrated it. Even a Sunday School child is aware that the elderly Matityahu (father of Judah the Maccabee) provoked the rebellion by slaying a Jew who had dared to eat pork at the command of the Syrian despot. So much for religious liberty.
Indeed, much of the war was fought against the Hellenist Jews who sided with the Syrian-Greeks and betrayed their Torah and their people. Chanuka was as much a civil war as it was a war against foreign domination. That is why the Maccabees were the “few prevailing over the many;” they were the few – unlike any other insurgent uprising in history in which the occupying army is always the minority – because they had to fight as well against the indigenous but unfaithful Jewish population. And when they won, no allowances were made for deviant interpretations of Torah, nor for alternative views, practices or lifestyles. They fought for Torah, period. Surely the rabbi knows this.
“With my very own eyes, I have seen a great miracle this year right here in Maine. A small group of people, homosexuals and their supporters, stood up for their equal rights in marriage.” Well, this is certainly a more subdued understanding of a “miracle” than one to which most of us have become accustomed, but since when is same-sex marriage a “religious right” or even a “rite?” If the battle of Chanuka is going to be mislabeled as a war for “religious liberty,” then what is the “religious” dimension here? The demand for same-sex marriage is personal and political, but not at all religious.
What makes the irony even more pungent is that the Greeks – against whom the Maccabees fought and prevailed – were avid supporters of and indulgers in homosexuality. It was just one of the immoral practices of the Hellenists that the faithful Jews found so repugnant, and therefore went to war in order to purge the land of it. In other words, to be faithful to the Chanuka story, the rabbi should have opposed same sex marriage. I.e., rather than succumb to the morality of the dominant culture and wrench the definition of marriage from its traditional moorings, he should have stood with the faithful Jews of yesteryear (and today) and preached the truth of Torah even if – particularly if – he would thereby remain in the minority. That is, after all, a dominant theme of Chanuka historically: that the Jewish people have survived not by mimicking the fluid morality of others but by clinging tenaciously to our own timeless moral norms. Surely the rabbi knows this.
“It was not easy for me to publicly support same-sex marriage.” The only inhibition would be a fidelity to Torah. That aside (literally, that aside), the easiest position for any public figure today to adopt is support for same-sex marriage. One receives acclaim and adulation from across “enlightened” society, and one gets to bask in the glow of endless praise about self-growth and moral development. Much of that is self-praise; the preening itself can make one dizzy. Besides, who would want to be numbered among the “nasty opponents” of same-sex marriage?
No one wants to stand in the way of love, of course. But, then, the rabbi must now justify his opposition to incestuous marriages (of adults, of course), polygamy, polyandry, polyamory, and a few other polys. Why should any of these unions “be subject to discrimination?” They may not be my cup of tea, but admittedly I have not “grown.” Has the rabbi “grown” sufficiently to endorse any other form of marriage beyond same-sex marriage, and monogamous same-sex marriage at that? Why should those people with overwhelming amounts of love to share be limited to only one spouse at a time? That doesn’t seem very constitutional. And the world could always use more love.
“The truth of their hearts helped me overcome my wall of religious textual evidence that helped justify arguments for the other side. Now I know with complete faith that the love of homosexuals should be respected as equal by society. I am an ordained Orthodox rabbi…” That “wall of religious textual evidence” is known to us as the Torah. It is our lifeblood, and contains the definitive code by which we govern our lives. It is not a “wall” that has to be “overcome” to allow us to live the way we want to live, but the “wall” that sanctifies our homes and our lives, and connects us with G-d’s eternal truths. Those truths are so eternal, that we fought for them on Chanuka and have been martyred defending throughout our history. Surely the Rabbi knows this.
How then can a self-described (and ordained) Orthodox rabbi invoke “G-d’s blessings” on unions that G-d has prohibited, except by invoking a “god” of his own creation? The Torah prohibits same-sex relations, much less marriage, for Jews, and the same is prohibited for non-Jews as one of the Noachide laws. Surely he knows the Talmudic statement (Chullin 92b) praising the Noachides for “not writing marriage deeds for males,” notwithstanding their debauched conduct in private. Even the “miracle of love” cannot overcome G-d’s will, at least not in the religious tradition with which I am familiar.
“Still, we should not impose our belief system on others and certainly should not discriminate against other human beings.” But all law is a reflection of a belief and value system, the only issue being whether that value system is of divine or human origin, and all law imposes restrictions on people. That is the very purpose of law. Yet, on the political left, we hear very little uproar about the imposition of belief systems when the system encroaching on our freedoms comes from believers in “global warming” or Mike Bloomberg’s campaign against the sale of large, sugary sodas. I’ll take the divine system any day.
The opposition to same-sex marriage, which is now being forced underground, is a classic example of a value that has extended from the Torah across the entire civilized world for millennia. There is a reason why civilized society depended on marriage for the maintenance of its basic foundations. The family, moral traditions, a sense of continuity and an allegiance to ideas that transcend the self are dependent on it. The alternative is to mandate, for example, that children be taught that it is acceptable to marry a man or a woman. The simple question to a child implicit in the new morality – “do you think you want to marry a man or a woman?” – is cause enough to understand why there is such confusion over sexual identity among today’s teenagers, rampant unhappiness, and a collapsing family structure.
The Defense of Marriage Act was overwhelmingly passed by Congress in 1996, by votes of 85–14 in the Senate, and 342–67 in the House. Haters all? I think not. It was not that long ago. Credit the homosexual lobby for marketing its cause well, and for wrapping itself in the mantle of “equal rights.” That is a chimera, for a number of reasons, but especially because the “equal rights” issue has been resolved by the creation of “civil unions” which provide the legal framework for rights of survivorship, visitation, etc. There should be limitations though in the extension of equal treatment to any voluntary pairing in society. Two roommates can also be a “family,” of sorts, but only in a society that is seeking to devastate the family as we know it.
“We have witnessed a miracle, as a small group of people of faith won victory over strongly entrenched, wrong beliefs.” Wrong beliefs? But those were your beliefs, rabbi, until you renounced your heritage, abandoned the Torah, and embraced the political correctness of the age – just as the Hellenist Jews did in ancient times.
Surely, that is your right as an American. But please leave Chanuka out of it, once and for all.