Another (Mis)Take on Chanuka

        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 (, 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.

29 responses to “Another (Mis)Take on Chanuka

  1. WOW what an article! Kvod HaRav *Pruzansky Happy Hanukkah!*

  2. Any so-called “Orthodox Rabbi” who publicly supports the gays or their wickedness should be publicly denounced and condemned by:
    YU, the OU, NCYI, Agudath Israel, etc; and a public proclamation should be made that they are no longer Rabbis.

  3. Sefer Mitzvot Katan, Mitzvah 82:
    It is forbidden to kill any person, except:
    someone who pursues his fellow to murder him, or someone who pursues a woman to rape her, or a man who pursues a male [with similar intentions]…

    CHRONOLOGY: Sefer Mitzvot Katan was written by Rabbi Yitzchak ben Yosef of Corbeil in 1277 of the Common Era in France. He was one of the authors of the Tosefos commentary on the Talmud.

  4. Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe was told by an individual that he was willing to keep the Torah excepting homosexual activity.

    Rabbi Wolbe pointed to a nearby tall roof and responded that he go up and jump off (told by his son-in-law Rabbi Erlanger).

    Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, born 1914 in Berlin, died 2005 in Jerusalem


  5. Shevet Mussar, Chapter 14, Paragraph 27:
    Quotes the Arizal:
    He who commits homosexuality will be reincarnated as a rabbit.

  6. Shevet Mussar, Chapter 4, Paragraphs 11 and 12:
    In these paragraphs, the author gives tactics for combating the temptation to commit homosexuality.

  7. Sefer Charedim, Chapter 63, page 219 of menukad edition:
    He who committed homosexuality, after he abandons his sin,
    [he] must immerse [in a kosher mikvah] and fast 233 times…

  8. Babylonian Talmud, tractate Gittin, page 57B:
    400 Jewish boys and girls were captured by the Romans and were being taken to Rome on a ship. They all committed suicide by jumping into the sea.

    Rashi: The boys did this [committed suicide] to avoid being forced into homosexuality and the girls did it [committed suicide] to avoid becoming concubines to Gentile men.

  9. Babylonian Talmud, tractate Sotah, page 13B:
    Rab taught:
    Gabriel [the angel] emasculated Potiphar because he wanted to sin with Joseph.

  10. Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer, chapter 43:

    The people of Ninveh wrote many unjust contracts and robbed each other and committed homosexuality and other similar wrongdoings.

    The Holy One Blessed Be He sent Yonah [the Biblical Prophet Jonah] to prophecy to them and to destroy them, but Pharaoh [who was King of Ninveh at that time] stood up from his throne and tore his garments and wore sackcloth and ashes, and proclaimed to his entire nation that they fast for three days, and whoever failed to do these things would be burned with fire.

  11. Jerusalem Talmud, tractate Berachot, chapter 9, law 2, page 64A:
    Rabbi Acha taught:
    [Earthquakes happen] because of homosexuality.
    תלמוד ירושלמי מסכת ברכות דף סד/א
    אמר ר’ אחא בעון משכב זכר

  12. Parshat Haazinu, chapter 32, verse 16:
    …with loathsomeness they angered Him [G_D].

    With loathsome behavior; for example, homosexuality and sorcery, which are depicted as loathsome (in Vayikra, chapter 20, verse 13).

  13. Babylonian Talmud, tractate Chullin, page 92A,
    2nd line from bottom of page:

    Ulla taught:

    There are three mitzvot that the Gentiles accept [that protect them].
    One of those three mitzvot is that they do NOT write marriage contracts for men [to marry each other].

  14. Midrash Rabah, Parshat Bereshit, Chapter 26:

    Rabbi Huna taught in the name of Rabbi Yosef*:

    The Generation of the Flood [Dor HaMabul] was not blotted out of the world until they made official marriage contracts between people of the same gender…

    Rabbi Huna was active around the year 270 of the Common Era.

    * Another edition says Rabbi, meaning Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, active around 180 CE.

    מדרש רבה בראשית פרשה כו פסקה ה
    רבי הונא בשם רבי אמר דור המבול לא נימוחו מן העולם עד שכתבו גמומסיות לזכר

  15. Sefer Charedim, Chapter 29, Paragraph 102:

    We must quickly rescue a Jew who is being pursued by someone whose goal is murder or rape or homosexuality.
    If necessary, we must injure the pursuer to save the victim.
    And if that is not possible, then we must rescue the victim even by killing the pursuer.

    MICROBIOGRAPHY: Rabbi Eleazar ben Moshe Azkari (or Ezkari) was a popular preacher who lived in Safed (Israel) in the 1500s. His Sefer Charedim was published in Venice in 1601, a year after his death. Several well-known piyutim (Jewish hymns) are attributed to him, including Yedid Nefesh.

  16. Sefer Charedim, Chapter 33, page 141 of menukad edition:

    Whoever commits homosexuality will be reincarnated as a rabbit or hare.

    NOTE: The beginning of chapter 33 teaches that the reincarnation punishments are in addition to the punishments in the grave and the punishments of Gehinom [Hell].

  17. Sefer Charedim, Chapter 45, Paragraph 4:
    [The Sages] forbade a man to look at his own male organ, and if he does, he will not father children. And even more so if he looks at the male organ of another man.

  18. Sefer Charedim, Chapter 63:
    Our Rabbis of blessed memory taught that the Bible verse:
    “AND G_D SAW THAT THEY TURNED AWAY FROM THEIR EVIL WAYS” (Bible, Yonah/Jonah, chapter 3) refers to: homosexuality, robbery and theft, that they accepted upon themselves to never do again until they day they died, and they returned the stolen objects to their owners.

  19. Rabbi Avi Billet said:
    G_d did not spare the children in His destruction of Sodom and in the Flood.

    The Jewish Star, 2011/7/22 page 6,
    article titled: Revenge Anything But Sweet

    The destruction of Sodom and the Great Flood in the era of Noah were both caused (at least partially) by homosexuality.

  20. Mr. Cohen is certainly a prolific contributor!

  21. Too much so. Mr Cohen should confine his remarks to his own blog, not tag onto someone else’s.

  22. I agree. It does seem like personal status issues will require modern orthodoxy to either blend into the Yeshiva World’s approach — based on emes v.emunah, not science and madah — in which case why have a “modern orthodxy”; or find a way to respond to these issues that takes “modern” seriously. Indeed, the spirit of universalism rings louder in the master’s hands than in those of the “modern orthodox.”

  23. Vayikra, chapter 20, verse 13:
    “If a man has intercourse with another man in the same manner as with a woman, both of them have committed a disgusting perversion.
    They shall be put to death by stoning.”

    NOTE: translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in year 1981 in THE LIVING TORAH

  24. Devarim, chapter 23, verse 18:
    “There may not be a harlot among the daughters of Israel,
    nor may there be a male prostitute among the sons of Israel.”

    NOR MAY THERE BE A MALE PROSTITUTE: For homosexual relations.

  25. Babylonian Talmud, tractate Succah, page 29A:

    Our Rabbis taught: Four things cause an eclipse of the sun:

    {1} When a Chief Justice of a Jewish court dies and is not mourned correctly.

    {2} when a betrothed damsel calls for help and no one comes to the rescue

    {3} homosexuality

    {4} when brothers murder each other.

  26. With self-identified “orthodox” rabbis like Akiva Herzfeld giving public, religious support to the latest anti-religious and anti-family leftist program, and with 75% of all American Jews voting in support of the left’s feminist-Marxist vision, Judaism would benefit from welcoming more converts who actually respect halacha and believe in family, community, and tradition. Perhaps newcomers who know the barbarity of the secular left face-to-face will more ably defend Judaism against the deadly ideas that threaten not only to overwhelm Judaism from without but to undo it from within.

  27. Shulchan Aruch, Chelek Yoreh Deah, Siman 252, Sif 8:
    We [must] redeem a [captive] woman before a man [when it is not possible to redeem them both]. But in a place where they are accustomed to commit homosexuality, we must redeem the man first.
    שו”ע יורה דעה – סימן רנב
    (ח) פודים האשה קודם האיש, ואם רגילין במשכב זכור, פודין האיש קודם.

  28. While I appreciate being brought into the conversation and seemingly equated with great scholars by Mr. Cohen, I just wanted to point out that my comment quoted above was taken very out of context.
    The article is on my blog at this address:!/2011/07/revenge-anything-but-sweet.html
    It was about the war with Midian and the question of the disturbing instruction of killing even the little boys – my argument had nothing to do with homosexuality causing anything. Look at the line Mr. Cohen quoted in context. Much appreciated.

    “And now, kill every [Midianite] male child and every woman who has lain with a man kill [as well]. The females who have never been with a man can be spared.” (Bamidbar 31:17-18)

    Could God have truly dictated such a command? Was the Midianite crime so terrible that an all out war to kill even all the male children was necessary?

    This is neither the first or last time an entire nation was to be wiped out in the Torah. Amalek is the poster-nation for this concept in the Torah, and wars were waged or declared against them in Shmot 17 and Devarim 25:19, as well as in Shmuel I chapters 15 and 30. Similar rules were enforced in wars waged against the seven nations of the land (Devarim 20:16).

    Certainly, God did not spare the children in His destruction of Sodom and in the Flood.

    Questioning God’s decisions as to how He runs His world is a silly exercise. A God-fearing person recognizes that God may choose who will live and who will die. These are judgment calls He makes on a regular basis. We may not always like it, but that is the way of the world.

    But why does He have to put such a possibility into the hands of man?

  29. I read your article and Jews, “liberalism” (sic) and Obama and I’d like to comment.
    I believe that the Progressives have won this country, not necessarily because of the “free stuff” but more that they own:

    The educational system from Pre-K through Ph. D. including unions, administrators, instructors, professors and most text book authors;

    The media;

    The entertainment industry from owner corporations to the performing monkeys, singers, dancers, writers through sports stars;

    The government through union workers and bureaucrats;

    The “activist” world of endangered species through weather (warming, cooling, changing);

    The non-profit world;

    Minorities, from Jews to Hispanics to Blacks.

    And more. It doesn’t leave much.

    It’s over for the American Experiment, brought down by the exact fears of our Founding Fathers: factions, ganging up on the rest of us. Group by group until they have a majority of votes. We are there. It is over, only time will show what the end is. Whether dictatorship (likely) or anarchy (less likely).