I've updated, edited and redrafted some of this post, which I wrote in haste last night...
Should I be a Jew? Or a Christian ? Does Hashem love me? Am I allowed to express my love? Have a companion? A soulmate?
And the answer is, after 10 years of difficulty, yes ! yes and yes! I am a Jew, proud of my heritage, loving every Jew, every Synagogue, loving our homeland of Israel with a passion that I cannot express. Loving & loyal, but not necessarily, understanding of our G-d and the Torah. But yet, I am LOVED by Hashem; as child of the G-d of Abraham Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, as child of Israel, made in his image, created by him.
I've known great joy, but great sadness and a deep, deep, longing to be loved by someone and to love in return. But, bit, by bit I've been able to understand these issues, thank Hashem. But thanks to YOU guys, my FAMILY AND MY FRIENDS, who have always been there for me, who have loved me and supported me through all the pain and all the difficulties.
The first thing to note is that as I am an Orthodox Jew, I do take the Torah or Hebrew Bible extremely seriously . When I say Orthodox, I mean that I believe the Torah WAS given to us Jews as people at Siani as a HISTORICAL fact, both oral and written versions are unalterable, divine and eternally binding on each and every Jew from now until the end of time. Whilst there is room for disagreement, difficulty or view on the text & interpretation & on what to take literally or as poetry, what to take metaphorically or allegorically, this does not take away any of the facts I've just listed. That is the difference between Orthodoxy and other forms of Judaism [at least to me it is]. Furthermore to me Orthodoxy is about a devotion to the G-d of the universe, the G-d of Israel, his people, the land he gave to us & Torah, whilst also loving ALL other people as your neighbour (i.e. non Jews).
In respect of the Torah, homosexuality is dealt with briefly in the famous passages of Leviticus (18,22 & 20,13). It should be noted that the traditional interpretation of these passages is that it prohibits male on male sexual intercourse; it does not legislate against lesbians and nor does it attack a person's sexual orientation. It is, in order words, the sexual act which is wrong (according to this view). It was the Rabbis of the Talmud who legislated against lesbian sex via a reading of Leviticus 18:3. This is the traditional interpretation, however, Rabbi Yossie Bloch, puts a different view across in this article here & in another one here.
In this excellent article Rabbi Zeb Ferber puts forward the compelling Orthodox case for inclusiveness and understanding for gay people and gay couples, in which he takes up the idea (via Rabbi Norman Lamm) of “oness rahmana patrei” – 'The Merciful One overlooks what is out of a person’s control' and concludes :
"Consequently, it is my firm belief that the Orthodox community should accept the fact that there will be non-celibate homosexuals in our midst and we should welcome them.I would further suggest, if only for considerations of social policy and community health, that we encourage exclusivity and the forming of a loving and lasting relationship-bond as the optimal lifestyle for gay Orthodox Jews who feel they are oness and cannot be celibate (and this is the vast majority). This type of relationship is the closest in character to the choice made by married heterosexual couples in our community. Gay Orthodox couples should not be penalized for forming a committed relationship; certainly their children, natural or adopted, must not be. It is the obligation of the synagogue to think creatively and open-mindedly about how to accommodate these families, especially when it comes to celebrating the children’s semahot. Certainly, if any homosexual Jewish man or woman feels that he or she wishes to follow the halakha and be celibate and looks to the rabbi for encouragement, the rabbi should give this person all the encouragement he or she needs. However, no Orthodox rabbi should feel duty-bound to urge homosexual Jews to be celibate. This is not a practical option for most people, and advocating this will only cause that person intense pain and guilt. In short, there should be no social penalty in the Orthodox world for being a non-celibate homosexual Jew. Homosexual congress is not a moral violation; it is purely a violation of a religious prohibition, one that is the inevitable consequence of the person’s psychological and even biological makeup. If God overlooks the inevitable, so should we".
To conclude with a quote from Rabbi Shumley Boteach argued last year :
"I’m tired of a religion that makes us feel permanently inadequate, that focuses more on what we omit than what we observe, that makes us feel guilty for our spiritual failures rather than proud of our moral accomplishments. I’m tired of reading of religion existing to primarily condemn gays or obsess over abortion, rather than giving guidance to the living as to how they can be loving spouses and inspired parents.I’m weary of a religion that is more interested in condemning the infidel rather than loving our neighbor, that is more focused on God as punisher-in-chief rather than a fountain of life and blessing.In the coming year I want to see a Judaism that inspires gay men to put on tefilin and observe the Sabbath, rather than telling them that their sexuality bars them from any meaningful place in Jewish life.I want to see a Judaism that reaches out to Jewish men and women who have married outside the faith, exposing both them and their non-Jewish spouses to the beauty of our tradition with a view toward the non-Jewish partner, giving serious consideration to halachic conversion."As a wrap up -
Love G-d, love others. Do the best you can of life. Take that, grasp that. Love G-d, love others and love life and live it, live it to your best. That is what G-d wants of you, no more, no less. :)