Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What God Wants, Not What We Want: A Jewish Gay Man Opts for Torah

We are approaching the Jewish Yomei Noraim, the days of awe, of Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur. The theme of the Yomei Noraim is tshuvah, repentance. The Hebrew word tshuvah literally means return, and the image is that we are returning to God. One of the main themes of Rosh Hashonah is the akeidah, the binding of Isaac, when Abraham obeys the command of God to travel to Mount Moriah and there offer to God the son whom he had fathered at 100 years of age, the son who God had promised would be Abraham's spiritual and temporal heir. As Abraham raises his knife over his son, who is bound on an altar, to fulfill God's command, an angel commands him to stop. Instead of Isaac, Abraham offers a sacrifice of a ram that is entangled in a nearby thicket. Among other motifs, the blowing of the shofar, the ram's horn, on Rosh Hashonah calls to mind the akeidah, the willingness of Abraham to fulfill God's commandments without regard to personal cost or desire.

David Benkof is a Jewish gay man. Eight years ago he decided to stop having same-sex relations and to eventually pursue traditional Jewish family life married to a woman. In a moving article in the Jerusalem Post, Benkof describes how the akeidah reinforces his decision to arrange his own life according to what the Torah requires, rather than his personal desires.


Anonymous CarlH said...

Thank you for posting about Mr. Benkhof's article with such helpful background information. I agree his article is moving, but also very brave. The very notion that life and its struggles (whatever they may be) is not all about "me, me, me" is so antithetical to the modern culture that, even when grounded in scripture (perhaps especially so), it comes across as radical and, to some, very threatening.

Thursday, September 18, 2008 7:34:00 AM  
Blogger Iguana Montana said...

Wow. That was just.... Wow.
How brave and strong of this man to stand up to his desires and struggles and live as he believes God expects him to live.

Maybe if we all lived how God expected us to live the worle might just be a better place.

Thank you for sharing this story.

Friday, September 19, 2008 7:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I hope Mr. Benkhof's choice of celibacy is true to himself, I feel very sorry it has and will continue to lead him down the road of lifelong self-hatred in what he believes is the desire of God.

Or perhaps he isn't being true to himself, as this article explores. It is a criticism of Mr. Benkhof's wobbly principals, which unfortunately lean more towards homophobia than righteous self-acceptance of being a celibate Orthodox "out and proud" member of the gay community.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 11:59:00 AM  

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