This week’s Torah portion covers the story of the Flood and the Tower of Babel.
* Leviticus Rabbah 23:9
Rabbi Yishma’el taught: The generation of the Flood were kings, and were only wiped off the earth because they were soaked in sexual sin…
Rabbi Huna in the name of Rabbi Yosef (said): The generation of the Flood was not wiped out until they wrote gemamasi’ot for (the union of a man to) a male or to an animal.
There are several rabbinic passages which take up, or very likely take up, the subject of same-sex marital unions – always negatively. In each case, homosexual marriage (particularly male homosexual marriage) is rhetorically stigmatized as the practice of non-Jewish (or pre-Israelite) societies, and is presented as an outstanding marker of the depravity of those societies; homosexual marriage is thus clearly associated with the
Other. The first three of the four rabbinic texts presented here also associate homosexual marriage with bestiality. These texts also employ a rhetoric of fear: societal recognition of such homosexual relationships will bring upon that society extreme forms of Divine punishment – the destruction of the generation of the Flood, the utter defeat of the Egyptians at the Exodus, the wiping out of native Canaanite peoples in favor of the Israelites…
Three of the four unions mentioned here are explicitly forbidden in Leviticus 18. Moreover, the biblical source suggests that any sexual contact between the people listed is forbidden. That is, although this passage mentions only marriage explicitly, this does not imply that sexual relationships between these persons outside of marriage is condoned or overlooked. Also, this is the only source to mention women marrying women as well as men marrying men.2
There is no explicit prohibition on female homoeroticism in Scripture, but by linking marriage between two women with the other
forbidden sexual pairings here, the passage rhetorically implies that the prohibition/sin involved is of a similar degree of authority and seriousness. Two parallel passages in amoraic midrashic texts also link same-sex marriage to the destruction of the society in which they take place; in this case, it is the generation destroyed in the Flood who is “guilty” of this sin.
What all of these sources suggest is that in the rabbinic mindset giving societal recognition to same-sex marriage is among the most egregious violations that human beings can commit. Only non-Israelites might be suspected of sanctioning such relationships; there is no suggestion that Israelites would ever consider such a thing. Indeed, Israelites are to avoid this in no small measure precisely because it is the (imagined) practiced of the Other. Homosexual contact, especially between men, is already highly stigmatized in rabbinic literature and is often associated with non-Jews (see, as just one example, Sifra Acharei Mot, perek 13:86). Marriage between members of the same gender, however, goes beyond forbidden sexual acts between individuals to the level of societal approval of this sin. When sin is no longer recognized as sin by a society, the rabbis would assert, that society loses its right to existence – like the generation of the Flood, or the defeated Egyptians and Canaanites, such a society deserves to be swept away.
Leading into the discussion, guest host [Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.)] noted Faith2Action’s documentary, Light Wins, which is about the LGBT movement and the attacks on real marriage. He said to Porter, “But in the video you point out, according to the Babylonian Talmud — a book of rabbinical interpretation of the scriptures written 1,000 years before Christ — there was only one other time in history when homosexual marriage was practiced.”
“It wasn’t the time of Sodom and Gomorrah,” he said. “Although homosexuality was rampant, according to the Talmud, homosexual marriage was not. It wasn’t in Babylon or even ancient Greece or Rome.”
“According to rabbinical writings, the only other time in history where homosexual unions were authorized as marriage was ‘in the days of Noah,'” said Rep. Gohmert, a former state district judge for Texas.
* The story of the Flood reminds me of the Alt Right’s view of the United States of America — these worlds are irretrievably corrupt and must be destroyed and made over. After all, if American democracy and the U.S. Constitution lead inevitably to same-sex marriage and trannies in the bathroom, then the AR wants no part of democracy and the U.S. Constitution. If that is true, then the AR have given up on America. They might feel like God in the beginning of this week’s parasha. “God saw the earth and behold it was corrupted, for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth.” (Gen. 6:12)
* What’s the point of preserving a country if it is to be filled up by people hostile to you? The reason that the country of Israel matters to Jews is that it is a country filled with Jews and run by Jews. If all Israeli Jews were replaced by Arabs, then Jewish attachment to Palestine would be diminished.
* The plain meaning of the Torah text seems to indicate that God does not know the future. God seems unpleasantly surprised that the world has gone to hell. If people have free will, then God can’t know the future. Rabbinic commentator Gersonides held this.
* We condemn Nazis and communists for genocide, but in this week’s parasha, God kills everyone and all the animals. So is mass genocide ok when God does it?
* From this week’s parasha, it seems that surviving in a filthy society is not enough. You either have to clean up the filth or you leave.
* According to the Torah, there is one universal moral law whose source is God. Morality is not set by democracy. If people vote for legalizing same-sex marriage, that does not make it moral.
* Gen. 9:24: “When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him.”
So what did Ham do to his father? He took a selfie next to his naked passed out dad and posted it on Facebook.
If you mess with parental authority, you mess with civilization. Leon Kass writes:
Noah, without his clothes, and prostrate in his tent in a drunken stupor, lies dehumanized and “unfathered,” stripped of all human ways (though as a result of a peculiarly human way, the way of Bacchus). Ham’s viewing confirms and ratifies his father’s unfathering. To put it sharply, Ham’s viewing—and telling—is, metaphorically, an act of patricide and incest, of overturning the father as a father. Without disturbing a hair on Noah’s head, Ham engages in father-killing.
This overturning of the father is not the overturning of his biological paternity or the taking of his life; on the contrary, he is overturned precisely by being reduced to mere male-source-of-seed. Eliminated is the father as authority, as guide, as teacher of law, custom, and a way of life. Ham sees and celebrates only the natural and barest fact of sex; he is blind to everything that makes transmission and rearing possible…
Modern times have produced a third human type—neither tyrant nor philosopher—who is also deaf to authority and who knows neither awe nor reverence: democratic man. For him, all hierarchy is suspect, all distinctions odious, all claims on his modesty or respect confining. Last names, and even familial titles like Uncle or Aunt, are much too formal. Honor and respect, fear and awe, and filial piety seem increasingly vestiges of an archaic world. Sex, utterly demystified, is now sport and chatter; nakedness is no big deal. Severed now from their source in what is truly venerable, the customs of respect and modesty become anemic; increasingly petrified, they crumble beneath the avalanche of equality, explicitness, and the “right to be myself.” We are all pals now. But we should not be self-deceived. The sins of unfatherly fathers are still being visited on the sons. Canaan will still—and again—be cursed to live like a pagan. If you need a monument, just look around.
When I was growing up a Seventh-Day Adventist, the mother of my best friend held that there was nothing wrong with her walking around the house naked. My parents thought she was very wrong.
You can see gadolim naked if you go to the right mikveh. I don’t think I’d like to see a gadol naked.
For most people, they see God the same way they see their father. If your father was absent, God will be absent. If you love your father, you’ll likely love God.
* The Tower of Babel story teaches us that God loves ethno-nationalism. He deliberately separates the people of the world into their own nations and languages.
5. But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
Making a name for yourself is not considered a sin in Judaism. God promises Abraham that He will make his name “big.”
Only those blinded by the secular humanist cult of equality can fail to see that “the Bible teaches that mankind is composed not of an amorphous mass of individuals but of nations.” Maurice was sure that the “dispersions” and “distinctions” of the nations were “the fulfilment of God’s designs for the race which He had made after His own likeness.” Others observe that in Genesis 10 we see that “God organized mankind into discrete nations in the aftermath of the Great Flood.” In Genesis 11 the sons of Noah built the Tower of Babel in an attempt to frustrate God’s design thus demonstrating their power and independence. God’s response was to destroy the Tower and scatter its builders “over the face of all the earth.” But, as HA Scott Trask observes, “the scattering was neither arbitrary nor chaotic. According to the Biblical account, people moved with their nations in an orderly exodus that fulfilled God’s purposes.” Each nation or people received its own lands separated from the others by territorial boundaries. Clearly, both the Old and the New Testament sanction the love of nations, each grounded in its own distinctive ethnic stock.
* Orthodox rabbi Sforno said that the real crime of the Babel builders was that they wanted to have just one religion.
In the poetic song of Ha’azinu, Moses proclaims:
When the Most High gave nations their lot, when He separated the sons of man,
He set up the boundaries of peoples according to the number of the children of Israel. (Deut. 32:8)
…Japanese and Britons wait patiently in queues for trains and buses. Compare that to the scene in a New York City subway at rush hour, or at a crowded Tel Aviv bus stop when there are only a few seats left. The Italian language is melodic, and lends itself to romantic and passionate lyrics; the German language lends itself to scientific and philosophical precision, or to the epic and the serious in poetry and song. Such generalizations reflect some real truth, which the Torah recognizes. These national characteristics, and the distinct bounded lands that give rise to them, are part of G‑d’s providential plan.
…Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi) explains:
“The mighty men of Israel would dwell in the border towns and lock the frontier so no enemies could enter; it was as if it were closed with locks and bars of iron and brass.”
The borders posed a unique danger, and Jewish law mandated that authorities search out the real motivations of those who would enter the country. It cautioned that a deadly danger could lurk, and we should be wary of all who wish to cross it. So much so, that we are permitted to transgress the holy Sabbath for these security concerns. As the Code of Jewish Law puts it:
“In a border city, even if the non-Jews approach you [ostensibly] regarding straw and hay, one must violate the Shabbat to repel them, lest they take over the city and proceed from there to conquer the land.”
…In addition to security concerns, Jewish law recognizes that there are ideological dangers as well. Expounding on the negative commandment of not allowing idol-worshippers a holding in the land of Israel,8 Maimonides writes:
“When Israel [meets the conditions for observing the Jubilee], it is forbidden for us to allow an idolater among us. Even a temporary resident or a merchant who travels from place to place should not be allowed to pass through our land until he accepts the seven universal laws commanded to Noah and his descendants, as the verse states: “They shall not dwell in your land”9—i.e., even temporarily. A person who accepts these seven mitzvot is a ger toshav, “resident alien.””
…It is true that verse tells us that “one Torah and one law shall there be for you and the stranger who comes to live with you.”23 However, the prophet also proclaims:
Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to G‑d for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.24
This implies that we must not only conform to the laws of the city to where we migrate, but also to devote ourselves actively to its welfare, not just merely comply with its rules. As Rabbi Yehuda Loew (Maharal of Prague) puts it:
“Since the prophet commanded us to pray to G‑d for the place to which we were exiled, how could we ordain something the opposite of that, G‑d forbid, thereby transgressing the prophet’s words? To the contrary: the sages warned us to accept the sovereignty and the rule of the nations. After G‑d decreed that we should be under their authority, it is proper for us to accept their rule, and not to act as if the decree were void.”
* New Yorker: “Birth of a White Supremacist: Mike Enoch’s transformation from leftist contrarian to nationalist shock jock”
The media pretends to be fascinated, or is genuinely fascinated, by the process that produces “white supremacists.” To me, marginalized people join marginalized movements.
* Andrew Joyce – banned in the USA. I doubt this would have happened if James Alex Fields had not driven his car into the Antifa protesters in Charlottesville. Andrew is about to become a father for the fourth time. I wonder if he circumcises his sons? Andrew replies: “Lol fuck no. We’re European.”
* Orthodox rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz has a PhD in Ethics from Columbia. He writes:
It would be blasphemous for one to apply one’s chosen construction of what is “normal” or “natural” to marginalize another. Doing so would be nothing short of challenging the full Divine potential of the first human who subsequently encapsulates all future human natures. Denying that any unique permutation was fully created in the image of God is akin to denying God.
I fear that today, with the lingering effects of racism, xenophobia, and the stigmatization of gay and trans people, humanity is still needlessly looking for reasons to divide itself. While I may not understand or approve the underlying reasons why each person chooses their particular lifestyle, as a Modern Orthodox pluralistic rabbi guided by the Torah, I feel it is my obligation to seek out those who are most vulnerable and advocate on their behalf. It is not enough to tolerate differences, but to cherish and nurture individuals so that they have the fortitude to go out into the world to live an actualized life. The raison d’être of the Torah is to enhance human dignity and freedom and never, God forbid, to diminish it.
I say yes because for many American Jews, their American identity is stronger than their Jewish identity. Also, for many Jews, their European genes outnumber their Middle Eastern genes. Also, many Jews are indistinguishable in appearance from whites. Many Jews identify more with the West than with Israel or Judaism. Many Jews understand that from an Arab and black perspective, the Jewish state of Israel is an outcrop of white supremacy in the midst of brown people. Many Jews and non-Jews see Zionism as a subset of white nationalism aka a distinct type of European nationalism.