June 22 -2010

Caspari Center Media Review – June 22, 2010

During the week covered by this review, we received 2 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews and attitudes towards Christianity. Of these:
1 dealt with Messianic Jews
1 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity
This Review contained another report of the Deri case, together with alleged Christian influence on Jewish thinking about homosexuality.
Messianic Jews
Sha’ah Tova, June 17, 2010
This report carried the story of Howard Bass’s law suit against Yehuda Deri (see previous Review).

Attitudes towards Christianity
Haaretz, June 18, 2010
Under the headline, “The summit of sin?,” Admiel Kosman contributed a lengthy review of an article published by Rabbi Yisrael Rosen in Shabbat Beshabbato, “the most veteran of the Sabbath bulletins distributed in tens of thousands of copies around the country each week. It also appears on the website of the Zomet Institute for Science and Halakha (zomet.org.il), which is linked to large organizations like the Defense Ministry, the Israel Defense Forces and the Chief Military Rabbinate.” Kosman is a poet and Talmud professor, born to an Orthodox family in Israel but currently serving as Professor of Religious and Jewish Studies at Potsdam University and the academic director of the Abraham Geiger Reform Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin. While obviously not in agreement with Rosen’s views regarding homosexuality, Kosman’s focus appears to be just as largely directed towards a denunciation of what he sees as the “Christianization of Judaism”:

“One of the phenomena obvious to a researcher of the history of Jewish rabbinical law could be called ‘the Christianization of Judaism.’ That is to say, the absorption, mostly unconscious, of the influence of Christianity’s dualistic vision of the world. In this article I will analyze a piece published recently by a leading national religious rabbi, Yisrael Rosen, in response to the gay pride parades organized annually by Israel’s gay and lesbian organizations … As I see it, in Rosen’s words, one finds a definite Christian element penetrating, almost openly and in the light of day, into the system of rabbinical views in Israel. This element runs like a leitmotif through the rest of the article, though I will have room here to concentrate only on the innovation as it manifests itself in the first paragraph … ‘The city of Sodom became a symbol of wickedness and crime, but not in fact because of the magnitude of its sins – qualitatively or quantitatively. Sodom was “awarded” its designation as the summit of sin, between man and his fellow man and between man and God, because the sin became a law, a norm, a legitimate act. Our sages, in many of the homilies in the Aggadah, report on laws of wickedness that prevailed in the inverted city, laws that overshadow and dwarf the attempted harassment of Lot’s guests and his daughters by the people of the city … The sages’ term, “manners of Sodom,” means the disgraceful behavior was tailored to the “manners” and measurements of Sodom. That is to say, it was normative, an ostensibly natural flow. Moreover, “the manners of Sodom” are characterized, among other things, by the preaching of them, education and even the forcing of all the people of the place to conform to these “manners.” The sin is magnified many times over in the flying of the flag of Sodom, for all to see and with patriotic rapture: “Here is Sodom!” “We are all Sodom.”’ This entire section, which inveighs against gay pride parades, thus deals with those ‘inverted’ standard-bearers of homosexuality, linked by Rabbi Rosen’s homiletical threads to the inverted city, Sodom (on the basis of what is stated in Genesis 19:24-25: ‘Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire … And he overthrew those cities’). The Hebrew root in the word translated here as ‘overthrew’ – heh-peh-khaf – also has (among others) the meanings ‘invert’ and ‘transform’ … Right at this stage, Rabbi Rosen’s innovativeness is evident, as this explanation has no previous basis in our ancient sources. No one in the rabbinical sources before him has made the connection between the ‘overthrowing’ of Sodom and the epithet ‘inverted’ for homosexuals. Moreover, Rosen also explains this characteristic of ‘inversion’ as connected to gays because they transform the sin into a norm; he argues they depict their ‘laws of wickedness’ as ‘natural flow.’ This argument, like the general claim often heard against gays that their practice is contrary to nature, has no basis in the literature of the sages … However, just like Rosen, this is what Augustine of Hippo argued in Book 3 of his ‘Confessions’: “Therefore are those foul offenses which be against nature, to be everywhere and at all times detested and punished: such as were those of the men of Sodom” … [The] connection between the demand by the men of Sodom to lie with Lot’s male guests (i.e., homosexuality) on the one hand, and the fact that these guests were angels (i.e., meaning there was sexual congress between humans and celestial beings) on the other hand, is an obvious connection in this text. However, from our perspective, the main thing to note here is that we are landing in clearly Christian territory once again, because the myth of the fallen angels constitutes a foundation of its extreme dualism. This connection – between the disruption of order and the doing of a deed against nature, on the part of the angels who rebelled against God and took human women, on the one hand, and the behavior of the men of Sodom, on the other – is also found in the single chapter of the Epistle of Jude (6-7) in the New Testament in an explicit way … Rabbi Rosen’s most significant leap in this article, however, leads him far beyond this. The origin of the title “The Manners of Sodom” and the talk of this indecent attribute in relation to gays …is something that has never existed in the Jewish sources. It must be said, however, that this is most definitely and entirely drawn from Christian sources. I will explain: The term “Sodom” (or “sodomy”) in its various lexical and grammatical forms is today, in modern Hebrew (as in English) a reference to an act of male homosexuality. This is how the “Even Shoshan” Hebrew dictionary defines it. There is, however, no basis for this definition in early Jewish texts. Modern Hebrew has borrowed it from the European languages, which inherited it from the Latin, which accepted the Christian tradition. This Christian tradition identified the essence of the sin of the city of Sodom as homosexual licentiousness … In rabbinical texts, and in Hebrew in general, there was no connection in the past between the “manners of Sodom,” or the epithet ‘sodomite,’ and homosexuality, sexual preference or different varieties of lust … Unlike in Christianity, our sages never saw the major sin for which the city was destroyed as homosexuality, but rather the malevolence of the people of Sodom.”
Kosman comes to the lamentable but perhaps predictable conclusion that, “Anyone who is acquainted with gentle young gay men who aspire to build a Jewish couple relationship in all the purity of a sanctified life will be astounded to encounter venomous articles like this one depicting them as sodomites and distancing from us any hope of improving the bleak situation of gay people in Israel’s religious communities. If a sodomite is defined as a malevolent person, it must be asked in all sincerity on which side of the fence the true nastiness can be found today. I remember how in my youth I was astounded to hear the strange prophecy from that elderly man Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who declared that the future of the extremist settlers is: They will become Christians. And much to my sorrow, as the years have gone by, with all the pain entailed in admitting that Judaism is being conquered (from within) by the Christian approach even in its last bastions, this strange prophecy seems less and less distant.”