With the approach of the Chanukah season, marking the Maccabees’ valiant efforts to defend Jewish values and time-honored practices, a group of over 100 American-trained Orthodox Rabbis issued a statement this week reaffirming traditional Jewish views of marriage. The group of Orthodox rabbis represents a spectrum within the community, spanning nineteen states in the United States and three other countries, and the signatories include several prominent Orthodox rabbinic scholars, synagogue rabbis, organizational rabbis, and other Orthodox rabbinic thinkers in the United States and Israel.
In their statement, the rabbis clarified that “Jewish tradition unequivocally teaches that marriage can only exist as a union between a man and a woman, to the exclusion of a homosexual relationship. It is a distortion of Torah to confound that sacred principle.” Expressing disapproval of recent media reports that have suggested possible movement towards a change in the position of Orthodox Judaism on the subject of gay marriage, the rabbis emphasized: “The public should not be misled into thinking that Orthodox Jewish views on this issue can change, are changing, or might someday change. The Rabbinical Council of America recently declared that ‘the Torah, which forbids homosexual activity, sanctions only the union of a man and a woman in matrimony.’ This is the only statement on this matter that can reflect Orthodox Judaism. Any claims or statements to the contrary are inaccurate and false.”
In their letter, the Orthodox rabbis reaffirmed Orthodox Judaism’s recognition of the inherent conflicts sustained by some who seek to live an authentically Orthodox Torah life while confronting personal challenges that threaten to compromise their abilities to live conforming to Torah values.
Expressing compassion and emphasizing the traditional role of pastoral care played by Orthodox rabbis as accessible life counselors, the rabbis added: “Rabbis are always available to discuss congregants’ personal issues, including intimacy. We understand from our experiences in offering pastoral care that some individuals experience deep inner conflict as they seek a holy path to serve G-d and to fulfill their spiritual needs. As rabbis, we devote our lives towards helping all those in our broader community achieve their loftiest spiritual potential, while fully upholding the timeless values expressed in our Holy Torah.” Nevertheless, the rabbis made clear that “By definition, a union that is not sanctioned by Torah law is not an Orthodox wedding, and by definition a person who conducts such a ceremony is not an Orthodox rabbi.”