Life can be somewhat confusing. Add religion and life becomes a bloody mystery.
CEO of Chik-fil-a, Dan Cathy, publicly presented his position on marriage. Cathy doesn’t like same-sex marriage and this is what he had to say about it:
“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”
I’m not a Christian because the religion confuses me.
On one hand, Christians follow a belief system based on what they refer to as, “The New Testament”. Doing so permits them to dismiss a lot of Jewish law found in Torah (“The Old Testament”).
Christians don’t keep kosher, they “round the corners of their beards”, mix wool and linen, and do not (as a group) keep the festivals and fast days mandated within Torah.
But they get all excited about Leviticus 18:22 and its prohibitions against homosexual practices.
[Interestingly, they take no note that there are no biblical prohibitions on lesbian relationships, aside from violating the commandment to “be fruitful”. Despite this, they cheerfully disdain lesbians in the name of G-d…while giving heterosexual couples who fail to procreate a pass.]
For a while, I took pride each morning during my prayers, in reciting…”Thank G-d for having made me a Jew.”
I remembered my friend, a Reform rabbi, who sincerely believes Torah was written by a bunch of men and that it was edited to today’s form by “The Redactor” (believed to be Ezra the Scribe). According to my friend, the Exodus never happened and there was nothing given at Mount Sinai. He dismisses Jewish traditional practices outlined in the Talmud.
Consequently, and unlike me, he doesn’t “lay tefillin”; those funny looking boxes some Jews affix to their heads and arms during weekday prayer. “That’s Talmud, not Torah”, he explains.
I asked why, then, does he have two lit candles at the front of his sanctuary every Friday night? Those come from Talmud and Torah says nothing about lighting two of anything on Friday night. The funny boxes, on the other hand, are mentioned.
It gets even more confusing!
Every time a Reform kid has a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, out comes the Torah scroll. There’s a lot of ceremonial hoopla that accompanies taking out the Jewish groundhog.
At one point, my Reform rabbi friend hoists the Torah high above his head and chants:
“V’zot ha-Torah asher sam Moshe lifnei b’nei Yisrael, al pi Adonai b’yad ha Moshe.” (“This is the Torah which Moses placed before Israel, G-d’s word through the hand of Moses.”)
I asked him how he can say things he doesn’t believe.
“Well, I don’t” he admitted honestly “Usually, I just mumble.”
It was puzzling.
Reform Judaism doesn’t mandate belief in anything or mandate against anything. The choice is left to the individual who makes an “informed decision”. Most Reform Jews follow the theory that Torah was written by a bunch of guys aligned with various schools of thought, G-d never enters into the deal. A few, (very few) are steadfast Torah believers.
It was puzzling.
“So why do you do it if you don’t believe it?” I asked.
“It’s meaningful to some people and I’m obligated to do what is meaningful to others”, he replied.
“So, if a member of a mixed marriage family wanted a picture of Jesus on the bimah (altar) for their kid’s bar mitzvah, you’d do it?”
It is puzzling.
Not to pick on the Reformniks, but the bokker boys over at the orthodox joint have a similar problem that ties to Dan Cathy.
Rahm Emanuel is the mayor of Chikago.
Rahm is an orthodox Jew who belongs to the oldest orthodox congregation in Chikago, Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel. The synagogue has an interesting history. It all started with a fight over a hat:
One hot day in the summer of 1870, Duber (Dov Ber) Ginsburg, an immigrant from Mariampol, Lithuania, appeared for services at the Bais Medrash Hagodol synagogue wearing a straw hat, but the leaders of the shul took exception to its frivolity, and threw him out. Offended, Mr. Ginsburg assembled a minyan from his old-country friends, and founded a competing shul called Ohave Sholom Mariampol, at Polk and Dearborn Streets.
Oy veh! But then, orthodox Jews seem to take a perverse delight in tossing out fellow Jews for this ‘infraction’ or that ‘infraction’…it’s a TRADITION! (Cue “Fiddler on the Roof” theme)
…As an orthodox Jew, Emanuel is supposed to see himself bound by all of the commandments of Torah and by the precepts set forth in the Talmud. This is to be unquestioning and solid obedience.
Including obedience to Leviticus 18:22!
Including obedience to Talmudic teachings that a person who permits (or encourages) another person to “sin”…he/she becomes accountable for the sin which another person commits.
[That someone tells someone it’s “okay” to do a forbidden act is no excuse: “Ayin sheliach l’devar aveirah” (“Sin has no messenger”). Our sins are ours alone.]
Mayor Rahm Emanuel blasted Chik-fil-a’s leadership for their anti-gay stance.
“Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement to the Chicago Tribune. “They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents.”
The mayor and like-minded Chicago political-types took to blocking the firm’s planned expansion in the Chicago market.
The chicken peddlers never indicated a willingness to beat up gays and do not post “G-d Hates Fags” signs in the windows of their stores. Dan Cathy stated his personal opposition to gay marriage.
Mr. Cathy can hold that opinion as long as he doesn’t discriminate against the GLBT community. Mr. Cathy is not a public official and cannot ban gay marriages or mandate them.
I don’t have to eat a Chik-fil-a sandwich. There are no laws saying I must.
On the other hand, Rahm Emanuel is an elected official. He’s using his political might to keep Chik-fil-a out of Chikago.
The mayor claims to be Jewish, but his real religion is liberal, progressive politics. Otherwise, he would side with Cathy.
The mayor should say:
“I share Mr. Cathy’s beliefs because my religion shares those beliefs. However, my religion does not dictate the laws of the land. No religion can do that in America. I chose a political life in America. Doing so means that I must put aside my religious beliefs in favor of equal rights for every American. If I could not do that, I would be unfit to lead an American city. Therefore, against my religious beliefs, I must support the right of all Americans to marry whom they wish to marry. I believe I will be held accountable for my decision. That’s between me and G-d.”
Mayor Emanuel’s shul would not provide wedding services to a gay couple. But Mr. Emanuel wants to tell Mr. Cathy he must embrace gay marriage in his speech or his chicken shops need not come to Chikago. Should the City of Chikago, likewise, refuse to provide services (or permit expansion) to Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel?
If Chik-fil-a’s values are “not Chikago values, neither are the values over at the shul.