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Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Haggadah, yetzias mitzrayim, and gay liberation

Rabbi Avi Katz Orlow (Yeshivat Chovevei Torah class of 2004) participated in the creation of a Haggadah for an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) seder. He endorsed it so strongly, that he "incorporated a lot of it into [his] own seder."
Keshet also sponsored an LGBT seder. "In preparation for it, the group wrote a haggadah and put it up online," Rabbi Orlow says. "Not that the traditional haggadah is homophobic, but this was a tremendous opportunity in the traditional seder to talk about liberation in many ways. It's a wonderfully rich haggadah, and I've incorporated a lot of it into my own seder."
- Some find things have changed, but challenges remain St. Louis Jewish Light

The Spring 2005 edition of the YCT newsletter published a full-page profile on Rabbi Avi Katz Orlow. Rabbi Orlow stated:
"We created a meaningful Haggadah for the GLBT [Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, transgender] community, which spoke to their understanding of what it means to be liberated. Our sages teach us that in every generation we must come to see ourselves as having left Egypt’s enslavement. The Torah that emerged from these students’ serious study of the Haggadah shows their keen awareness of the Sages’ teaching and will remain with me for every Pesach to follow."
Since this was published in the YCT newsletter, does this mean that YCT validates the LGBT Haggadah concept and Rabbi Orlow's participation in that Haggadah?

Some Torah commentary
Taking a Torah approach, I discuss the incongruity between the concept of an LGBT Haggadah and what the traditional Haggadah actually represents. This is NOT my personal commentary or opinion concerning individual sexual preferences/orientation. Jews should outreach to all Jews. I merely question if participation in and endorsement of an LGBT Haggadah is appropriate for an Orthodox rabbi.

In the book of Vayikra, parshas Achrei, chapter 18, verse 2, Hashem states, "Do not perform the practice of the land of Egypt in which you dwelled…"

The Torah then admonishes Eqypt for engaging in specific behaviors, listing the laws of "Forbidden Relationships". One of those laws forbids male homosexuality - which the Torah labels as Toevah (abomination). In the book of Vayikra, parshas Achrei, chapter 18, verse 22, Hashem states, "You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a woman, it is an abomination."

In the last pasuk of parshas Achrei, Hashem reinforces the severity of emulating the Egyptians, "You shall safeguard my charge not to do any of the abominable traditions that were done before you [in Egypt] and not contaminate yourselves through them; I am Hashem your G-d."

In the sefer Gvuros Hashem (chapter 4) the Maharal explains that the galus (exile) is suffering that is the exact opposite of the composite spiritual makeup of the Jewish people. The Maharal specifically refers to "abominable acts" as an example of that suffering. Hence the Jews were being liberated from the behaviors of Egypt…including homosexuality.

I wish I had a copy of the LGBT Haggadah to evaluate, but I don’t. I will give the benefit of the doubt that the Haggaddah has no references at all to LGBTs. Even so, is it appropriate to associate the liberation of the Jews from Egypt and its "abominable acts" with the promotion of an act that the Torah says is abominable? Isn’t a Haggaddah that represents Gay liberation completely antithetical to the Jewish people’s liberation from Egypt?

Does anyone have a link to download this Haggadah?

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