|Gov. Linda Lingle consulted with ministers and others from the faith community about the civil unions bill that awaits her decision when she returns to Hawaii next week.
Lingle, who is Jewish, pointed out that even the two local rabbis have opposing opinions about the issue of extending rights to same-gender and heterosexual couples that are now held only by those who are married. The rabbis accepted an invitation to present their views. Rabbi Peter Schaktman is the religious leader of Temple Emanu-El, a Reform Jewish congregation. Rabbi Itchel Krasnjansky leads Chabad of Hawaii, an Orthodox Jewish organization. In keeping with traditional Jewish belief, Krasnjansky does not spell out the name of God.
Over the past several months, much has been written and debated about the questions of granting civil union partners the rights and privileges of traditional heterosexual couples. Without addressing some of the critical theological points at length, I would like to make a brief note of some important points:
» Whether homosexuality is a choice or a predetermined tendency. According to the famed medieval Jewish doctor and philosopher Maimonides, an early codifier of Jewish law, it is a matter of choice. And, as with all matters of free choice, one can choose to either surrender to or deny these inclinations. The very fact that the Torah forbids homosexual relations tells us two things: that anyone can succumb to this, and, at the same time, everyone has the ability to abstain from engaging in this type of relationship.
» Whether anyone has a right to judge those who choose this alternative lifestyle. Far from condemning anyone, the Torah teaches us to judge every person, without exception, favorably. If someone is wired in such a way that they don’t have to wrestle with homosexual urges, they should ask themselves whether there are any other areas in their life where they do have great challenges. Confronting our own greatest hurdles engenders empathy for the challenges of another. Respect for one who is struggling with gay tendencies is what needs to be one’s attitude. There is a clear distinction between a person and their behavior; loving and accepting one while rejecting and not legitimizing the other.
» Whether the civil union legislation is a step toward legalizing same-sex marriage. If we step back and take an objective look at the law passed by our state legislators, the answer to this question is a resounding yes. Notwithstanding the fine legal distinctions now being made between civil unions and marriage, this legislation will surely be translated as an endorsement and major step toward same-gender marriage.
According to the Jewish sages of old, the Torah is the blueprint for our lives. Its instructions are revelations of our truest and deepest nature.
From the Jewish perspective, life is a gift and a privilege; we are all guests, seated at the royal table. Everything in our lives is a gracious gift from G-d – our health, our success, our loved ones and, one of the greatest gifts of all, the most deeply felt of all human experiences, our sexuality. Marriage, the mystics teach us, is a reunion of two halves of one soul, two halves that are intrinsically connected, divided at birth and then reunited in marriage. The physical union of husband and wife is an expression of this soul connection. It is only this union of marriage that leads to the ultimate blessing, where we become partners with G-d in the miracle of creation and produce children, who in turn ensure the continuity of life.
Judaism cannot make peace with homosexuality, for it denies Judaism’s most fundamental principle: the sacredness of the family, the bedrock of all mankind. The secret of Jewish survival through many tumultuous millennia has been the sanctity of family life.
Modern physics teaches that the atom is a reflection of the Infinite. The family unit is the atom of society. If the family is healthy, then society is vibrant and strong, elevating human life from the animallike to the G-dly.
In a pluralistic society, such as we are blessed to live in, the way to ensure a dynamic, vigorous future is by aspiring to the highest common denominator. We have too much respect for every human being, who is created in the divine image, to diminish G-d’s standards.
To believe in G-d is a lesser act of faith than for G-d to believe in us. In our ability to choose life and those practices that engender a nourishing, well-balanced, fulfilled life, we validate the gift of freedom of choice with which we were bestowed. The stark truth that history has borne out is that a society that embraces the homosexual act as the norm travels a sure path to oblivion, as witness ancient Greece and Rome.
Let us remember that we are all links in a golden chain that goes back to the beginnings of time. In following the ways of previous generations, by strengthening our families, we continue the beautiful story of the human saga by building loving homes, constructed on the eternal principles that are the pillar and the very foundation of a healthy and moral society.