this morning i entered the kitchen. as the day before was exhausting for both my wife and i, the sink was loaded with dirty dishes. while ever so tempted to finish up on this blog ever so important blog post, i refrained. grabbing the emerald green container of palmolive, i squeezed out some onto a sponge, turned on the hot water, and got to work. what was the rationale? guilt came into mind. with no doubt, had the dishes not been done, i would have incurred wrath and accusation. after all, she purchased the groceries and prepared last night’s meal. on the other hand, fairness also was an internal concern. as a household member, there was an obligation to contribute to its upkeep and functioning. dishwashing was a necessary task. as such, the act was self-satisfying- i was a contributor.
to be cautionary and to not act out of anger is perhaps tired but often true saying. does the same apply to acting out of guilt? is acting out of guilt something healthy or productive?
the torah portion acharei-kedoshim, in modern times, contains perhaps the most controversial and divisive provisions. laser beams focus on the line “you shall not lie down with a male, as with a woman: this is an abomination.” this section in leviticus-18[line 22] is provided in the torah along with a plethora of other sexual prohibitions- including many that heterosexual. the provision, in medieval times, must have been received as being clear. rashi’s commentary has no discussion on the line.
in the present time, however, some religious leaders, and others confront the section with guilt. we live in a time, not unlike times in the past, where the cultural view of sexuality is different. historically, other cultures, i.e. hellenism, embraced today’s popular views. as the lifestyle is mainstreamed, they feel guilty.
acting out of this guilt, they try to rationalize and reject this particular piece of scripture. are these individuals taking the time to explore the rationale behind this specific provision? was it intended to prevent molestation of male children? was it intended to protect the sanctity of marriage by eliminating a possible form of adultery? was it intended as a prohibition against rape? was intended to distinguish the children of israel from the practices of other local societies? was it something else? was it all of the above? unlike the medieval times of rashi, there is the need for dialogue on this topic.
in sum, guilt alone should not be determinative in any discussion concerning leviticus 18:22. to do so ignores our understanding of the concerns that existed at the time the rule was enacted. it is only when there appreciation of these concerns can one move forward without solely acting upon guilt.
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