Many of my friends struggle with this week’s Torah portion because of one line:
And a man who lies with a male as one would with a woman both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon themselves (Lev. 20:13).
It’s interesting to note that none of my friends are having theological problems with wearing blue jeans (Lev. 19:19), falsifying weights and measures (Lev. 19:35) or cussing out their mothers and fathers (Lev. 20:9).
I support gay rights. I have tattoos. I’m not on an epic quest to vandalize my local Buddhist monastery a la Abraham’s idol smashing and I’m freaked out by any attempt to create a new Sanhedrin in Israel (or anywhere for that matter). That puts me in a certain camp of Jewish thinking that, at times, is referred to as Cafeteria Religion: someone who shamelessly picks-and-chooses what they want out of religion.
The tricky thing is that it is just so easy to pick and choose, when the Torah gives us so many options.
For example,holiness is not just a matter of following rules. It’s also a matter of having a pure heart, as the Torah tells us in this same portion:
Thou shalt not oppress thy neighbour…Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling-block before the blind…Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart…thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself…if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not do him wrong…thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt (Lev 19:13-34).
It begs the questions: why do we struggle with one line of Torah about a sexual act, but don’t seem to be freaked out at all by the idea that we have to be one hundred percent selfless, loving all people as we love ourselves, treating everyone equally and never doing any harm to anyone, ever?
I think the answer is pretty clear. The texts in Kedoshim which admonish what we think of as “homosexual” are texts to us, about the other. Those texts are about how others should live, and what our response to that should be. The loving texts of this same Torah portion speak to how we should treat others regardless of who they are. That’s a text that is completely about us.
It is easier to rally around an ideology that turns people into “its”, rather than an ideology that forces us to turn “its” into people.
So what are you rallying around?