Today the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards is meeting to revisit the movement’s policy on homosexuality. There are four tshuvot (legal positions) on the table, two of which would permit gay ordination and sanction homosexual relationships in the movement. There is, of course, the possibility that they’ll delay final decisionmaking yet again, but I think today is the day.

The Torah commands us to stone to death a rebellious son who disobeys his parents after being warned. The rabbinic tradition, evidently thinking that this was a little bit harsh, found ways to qualify this law into obscurity: it’s only in such-and-such case, if he commits a very specific crime of theft stealing exactly these things with exactly this amount, and it can’t happen if X or Y or Z OR Q factors are present, etc. Similarly, the rabbis took the line, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth (etc)” and asked, “Wait, does this LITERALLY mean the offending person has to give an eye, or does it mean that he has to pay monetary equivalent to the damages inflicted?” (Eyin tachat eyin mamash… oh maimon?) The legal tradition protested what it saw as an unjust pshat (plain reading) of the text, and it found a way to foreground the sanctity of human lives over a strict and bloodless reading of halakha.

The law does not have to and should not be read at the expense of human dignity and basic notions of justice. I am praying that the CJLS does the right thing today.

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