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Rabbi Mirvis should clarify philosophy behind homophobia stance



Michael Levy

However, it would have been nice if the article had also reported the philosophy behind – and the timing of – his stance. Without this, a whole slew of important questions is raised and remains unanswered. 

For example, how does the Rabbi justify his jettisoning of Leviticus and Hashem’s command there that persons who perform homosexual acts “shall surely be put to death” because He finds that an “abomination”?

The Chief Rabbi’s recommendation that “we (my italics) must take a step beyond condemnation and open our hearts and synagogues so that no Jew feels persecuted or excluded from our communities” completely contradicts this – capital punishment has to be one of the final forms of exclusion. 

Or does the Rabbi’s definition of “Jew” as such exclude gays?



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  1. nat cheiman

    Jun 29, 2016 at 9:06 am

    ‘My personal view is that neither rabbi gave his blessing to homosexuals, however, they should not be excluded as Jews to come to shul.

    One need not condone those acts but surely, as Jews, they should be welcomed to form part of a minyan. ‘

  2. Marc Lipshitz

    Jun 30, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    ‘It always amazes me how uneducated people are as to the legal process in Judaism which was required to sentence someone to death.  So lets give a brief overview:

    1) The Sanhedrin has to be sitting in the Chamber of Hewn stone in the Temple. If they are not, then NO

    Jewish court can impose a death sentence! Immediately that shows that in the modern era we cannot utilise the death penalty. Thus the rest of the requirements are based on a time when that will be possible- i.e. he messianic era or in the past when the temple stood.

    2) The action has to be done with the knowledge that it is forbidden, and withthe intent to do it regardless of it being forbidden. If it was done accidently or without intent, the person brought a Korban Oleh v’yored (a variable sin sacrifice). If the person had killed someone accidently, they had to go and live in one of the cities of exile until the death of the current Kohen Gadol

    (if he happened to do it at a time when there was no Kohen Gadol, he stayed there for life even if one was appointed, and then subsequently died while he

    was in exile).

    3) The people have to be warned beforehand by two kosher witnesses. They warning has to include the fact that the action is punishable by death (some authorities are stricter and say not only must they state it is a death penalty offense, but state which form of death penalty is involved- a wrong form or

    leaving it out invalidates the warning). So, think about it this way, you are about to commit a forbidden action- two people who are known to be upstanding

    citizens are standing and watching you and tell you that what you are about to do will earn you the death penalty… which leads to the next point

    4) The person has to ACKNOWLEDGE the warning! So continuing the example above, you have these two people warn you- and you tell them you have hard the


    5) The person then has to immediately perform the forbidden action. This is defined as doing it within the time it takes to say “Shalom lecha Rebbi”- in

    other words around 3 seconds. So, as we continue our example, the person is warned, acknowledges the warning and then, in front of these two upstanding

    citizens that have warned him, he immediately does the forbidden action! Not a highly probably sequence of events!

    6) The court has to have a minimum of twenty three judges. (In Jerusalem there were three courts- but only the great Sanhedrin of 72 judges heard capital

    cases). In front of the judges sat three rows of disciples with the most seniour disciples at the back, closest to the judges. They had to be there for the entire case and if a judge died, one would be elevated to replace him.

    7) The witnesses were asked two sets of questions- one which established the facts such as when, where, how etc, the other based on their observations. Any

    discrepancy would render their testimony invalid.

    8.) Witnesses could be called to either defend the accused or to claim the other witnesses were lying (eidim zomemim)

    9) The judges would deliberate- While deliberating a judge that argued for innocence could not then raise an argument to find them guilty- a judge who had

    argued they were guilty, could raise an argument that they were innocent (after which he could not raise further arguments for their guilt)

    10) The most juniour judge would put their arguments across first and then it would continue in order of reverse seniority so that people would not be

    worried about contradicting the more seniour judges after they had spoken

    11) ) The disciples could raise an argument to find the defendant innocent, but could not argue for his guilt. A disciple that raised an argument would be

    temporarily elevated to the position of judge.

    12) when a vote was finally taken only a majority of one was needed for innocence, but a majority of two needed for guilt (A note here- those judges

    who had argued for innocence, while not allowed to raise arguments for guilt, could vote for the person to be found guilty)

    When it come to the sexual immoralities it states the witnesses had to see the actual penetration- exactly how probablyl do you think it is that anyone was actually ever sentenced to death for secual misconduct given these requirements.  In fact the Talmud records that a Sanhedrin that sentenced to people to death in seven years (and that is for any offence) was considered bloodthirsty (and a minority says two in SEVENTY years made them blood thirsty!)

    The statement of the death penalty was given as an indication of how serious an offence was, not as a practical punishment!  So Rabbi Mervis is stating what has always been the position- we have to condemn and have zero tolerance for the sin, but the person is someone we need to connect to and help to navigate through a very difficult area.  Since we cannot condone the action, we are essentially saying the person has to live a celibate life- and a life without physical intimacy is not easy!  Thus we need to encourage, help and ensure we provide all the support we can for individuals within the confines of the halachah, never forgetting that ulitimately it is a human being that has to wrestle with this challenge and we have to be there to help them, not hinder!


  3. tony

    Jul 2, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    ‘Oh, again we must be subject to this kind of pilpul….. Bottom line. Its against Torah and the law stands. The law wasn’t made NOT to be carried out because of extenuating circumstances or because we don’t have this or that. When Moshiach comes and the Third Temple arrives, Torah demands that (dare is even say the word) – gays – be put to death!

    Harsh, sure. Torah, Sure.’

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