Is Compromise Possible?


I am stuck between two generations. Many people of my father’s generation cannot comprehend why anyone would approve of homosexual relationships–and many of my kids’ generation cannot fathom why anyone could possible be opposed to two people loving each other just because they happen to be of the same sex.

The Film “Trembling Before G-D” is a documentary about orthodox Jewish rabbis caught in this same bind.  They are trying to remain faithful to their binding traditions and laws; and at the same time to give compassionate spiritual guidance to gay members of their congregations.

Their Holy Book–the book of Leviticus in particular, the central book of the Torah–is responsible for the prohibition against “a man lying with a man as with a woman.”  They can’t deny the teachings of the Torah without denying their faith; nor can they deny their responsibility to teach the Torah in a way that enhances life and affirms human dignity.

They various rabbis struggle with multiple possible answers, none entirely satisfactory.  Two of their answers in particular intrigue me.  One said to the man he was counseling,

Everything you do throughout the day for your partner, acts of kindness, taking care of him, being faithful–that’s all good, it’s mikvot.  It’s just  that one thing you do that’s forbidden–

The other rabbi said,

“A woman comes to me with a question about a chicken.  I first say to her, ‘Tell me about your family.'”

I assume the question is whether the chicken is kosher, whether she can serve it to her family.  Maybe it fell out of a grocery bag into the street or something.  But his questions about her family mean his answer must be tailored to her needs and circumstances.  If her family is wealthy enough to buy another chicken, maybe he will counsel her to give it to a gentile neighbor.  But if her family is poor and her children need the nourishment, he will find a way to make the chicken kosher.

[Disclaimer: I saw this film over a year ago; the quotes above are from memory, and may not be verbatim.  See it yourself and tell me how close I got!]