Thursday, January 12, 2012

What got the ball rolling

Just a few years ago, I would have bet all the money in the world that I would always be a religious Jew and that the secret of my attraction to men would die with me. There were many reasons for this, but they all together boiled down to fear. I was afraid of disappointing my family. I was afraid of rejection by my family and by everyone I know. But most of all, I had a very real fear of god. 

Fear had not always been the main driving force in my life. I can remember a time when I really did believe in the religion and was happy within it. It was nice thinking their was this all powerful, all knowing god and that I had been lucky enough to have been born a member of his "chosen people." I remember very clearly the day this changed.

I was 15 years old and in 10th grade. I went to a Jewish, Modern Orthodox private school where we learned both secular and Judaic studies. I was in one of those Judaic classes being taught by a Rabbi with whom I had a very good relationship. Someone in the class thought it would be funny to ask a question about sexuality. The Rabbi responded very seriously. He gave a list of sins for which "god NEVER will forgive you." He said that anyone that committed any of these sins, would "lose their place in heaven and could never get it back." All of these "sins" had to do with basic sexuality and I knew I was guilty. Even more so, as hard as I tried to repress it, I knew I was attracted to guys, which made my situation even worse! 

I became very scared and slowly my idea of a loving, protective god was replaced by the idea of a vengeful, angry god. Fear became the main drive in my life for many things. I also knew that being gay was a death sentence according to the bible and I started to expect death often. Every time I was in a car that turned too tightly, or every time I was on a plane and there was turbulence I thought to myself  "I'm about to get whats coming to me." 

I was luckier than many that I broke away from that life of fear at a relatively young age. By the age of 24, I left Judaism/religion behind and moved on (a story I will explain another time). But I have met many people from a number of different religious backgrounds that lived their lives in fear well into their 40s, 50s and in one case his 60s! This is so sad. We only get one chance at life. Why waste it in fear? 


  1. What saddens me is that your rabbi was dead wrong and should obviously never have been given a position as an educator. Judaism always has room for Teshuva. Judaism's vision of G-d is not that of an unforgiving, resentful being. Judaism is not meant to be a religion based upon overwhelming fear. It is a faith founded upon finding a balance between fear and love.

    1. Judaism, like all religions has so much room for interpretation. Those who see it as a tolerant, flexible and forgiving religion can find sources to back it up. Those who see it as a harsh, closed and unforgiving religion have their sources as well. I know not everyone see the religion like I do. But don't think this is the only reason I left the religion because it is not. The main reason is that I simply don't believe it.
      I'm sure I will cover that in latter posts.

      Thanks for reading Benjy and thank for the comment :)

  2. yeah i agree with Benji. there is always room for teshuva. No matter what.

  3. I do respect your opinion. I am not saying that everyone has to agree with me, I'm just writing about my experience. Thanks for the comment Karban. And I hope you and Benjy will follow my blog.
    I look forward to future comments from you both.

  4. I agree with Benjy, your rabbi was 100% wrong. A person can always do teshuva. Also, being gay is not a sin - acting on it is. Everyone has urges to sin. It only becomes a sin when you act on it. So being gay is not wrong. Having gay sex is.

    So for those who will ask, so is someone who's gay supposed to go through life without having sex? Maybe. Judaism also believes that men shouldn't have sex unless they're married. So what about a guy who just never meets the right woman? He is also supposed to go through life without sex. It sucks, but it does happen sometimes.

  5. Proud MO,
    First let me say thank you for reading and commenting. But I have to follow that by saying that your description of Judaism's attitude towards sex is completely inaccurate.
    It is true that modern rabbinic rules and certain conservative social standards have led Judaism to frown on premarital sex. However, technically if a Jewish girl were to go to a mikveh there would be very little issues with her having sex before marriage. You might just have to change the wording on the ketubah when she gets married.
    As for the guy, having sex with that girl would be no different than masturbation in the eyes of the Torah and we all know that everyone does that.
    Further, if a Jewish guy were to have sex with a non-Jewish girl, again there would be very little problems with that as well.
    As far as some people never finding the person they love, that is always sad. So why would a loving God want that? Even more so if our mission is to enlarge the Jewish nation and spread the "light of God", than why make it so that we suffer and don't find love and cannot have children?
    I don't mean to be attacking you. I respect your right to believe what ever makes you happy. Just don't condemn others to a life of misery because of your belief system.

  6. Ultimately, I think what it really comes down to is faith in an afterlife. Judaism believes that this world is only a preparation for another world, which is eternal. We also believe in the possibility of reincarnation to atone for past sins, so that the afterlife can be better.

    So why would God cause pain to some people? I can't say for sure, but I can say possibilities. What if someone, in a past life, caused many people to lose those who they loved? Maybe someone was a murderer, and caused people to live most of their lives knowing their loved one was dead. God then sends the person back to this world doomed to never find love. In this way, he can atone for the sins he committed in his past life.

    A friend of mine once described it well - it all comes down to "No, you can't have the lollipop now." My kids would always love a lollipop. Sometimes I won't give it to them, no matter how much they cry and beg. Why? In their minds, they're suffering by not getting it. It's because I know that it's much better for them not to have it, and when they get older and wiser, they'll realize why they couldn't have it. Same thing with us and God. We're just children, and we don't really know what is best for us all the time. We may think we're suffering, but it's all just to save us from something far worse down the road.

    I just also want to say that I don't condemn you to anything. Just because I think what you're doing is wrong doesn't mean I can stop you. Just don't expect me to say I think it's ok.

    Your question regarding having children is something I've questioned also, although for different reasons. I have a family member and a close friend who couldn't have children naturally. If it's a mitzvah to have children, why would God not allow them to do it? But you know what, there are plenty of people who can't do all the mitzvos. You just do your best to do the ones you are able to do, and God knows that you're trying. Just don't give up.

    1. I believe that living your life for an afterlife that there is no proof of is dangerous and a waste. It devalues your life now and it can lead to fanaticism. A Muslim suicide bomber can do what he does because he believe in an after life.

      Also, this life style tells me to accept pain and to see it as something good. I use to live my life like that, in fact I'm about to write a post about it. I would not wish that kind of life on anyone.

    2. Proud MO, you seem to think that Judaism is predicated on some kind of afterlife. The idea of "Olam Ha'ba" is a relatively latecomer to Judaism. It only really seems to gain some kind of predominance in the later amoraic period when life became so difficult and cruel for Jews that the only way to keep faith was to imagine some kind of better different mythical goal.

      Examine the written Torah. All of the rewards and punishments God lists - all of them - are physical. They are things like long life, a prosperous nation, no illness. Punishments are things like disease, conquest, exile. God says these are my mitzvot for you to live by, "vachai ba'hem," not to die by. Halacha is a code of how to live life here and now in this world, not some unprovable next world.

      I am not saying there is no next world. I am simply saying that the goal of Judaism is to live in this world and to make it a better place through Torah. The very notion that we might be punished here for something we had no control over, ie. previous lives, or simply so God can give us better afterlives, makes the concept of reward and punishment ridiculous and it makes God sound more petty than Ami's Rabbi made Him sound.

      Regarding homosexuality, I do not know why God would make people gay and say they cannot have sex with people they are attracted to. It does appear to be sadistic. On the other hand, God also tells a kleptomaniac that he cannot steal, and a psychopath that he may not murder. I will note what my Rabbi said to me growing up - the punishment for gays having gay sex is probably significantly less strict than for straights having gay sex (or even forbidden straight sex) since they have such a strong temptation to it and possibly cannot help themselves (from having gay sex, not to say gays are uncontrollable sexual deviants).

      Lastly, I just want to say that so long as we tolerate ANY sinner, adulterers, thieves, talemongers, there is no reason not to tolerate homosexuals.

      Ami - nice blog. I will probably read every so often. I knew you had understanding issues related to God and Judaism. I had no idea they were so deep and gay related. It's too bad. I probably would have enjoyed talking to you about those things. I have been delving into Ayn Rand very much of late, so there we go.

    3. Mayer, all very good points. Again, I just want to say that I know Judaism has thousands of different interpretation and each version claims to be the correct. I am condemning the stricter and sadly what appears to be the growing main stream version. I do not condemn all religious people. I do not believe in religion not just because I disagree with it, but also because I simply do not believe it to be true.

      I do have an issue with you placing homosexuality in the same context with kleptomaniacs and murderous psychopath. In both those cases people are being targeted to be hurt. With homosexuality people are simply enjoying and loving. So your comparison is inaccurate in my eyes.

      I am glad you like my blog and I am glad I can count you as a reader. I think had I been less in denial and less scarred back than we could have had wonderful debates and conversations. If you do ever want to talk, it would be great to catch up and as always I would enjoy hearing your opinions.

  7. hmmm......topics about the religions always lead a long list of comments.

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