Religion & Beliefs

Trembling Before Aish

It’s not a new film, and it got a HUGE amount of press, so a lot of you know all about it, but I’m thinking today about Trembling Before G-d.  So I suggest that if you haven’t seen it, you … Read More

By / December 14, 2006

It’s not a new film, and it got a HUGE amount of press, so a lot of you know all about it, but I’m thinking today about Trembling Before G-d.  So I suggest that if you haven’t seen it, you should!  (It follows the stories of several Orthodox Jewish gay men and women).

I’m not sure why this movie popped into my head today, but maybe it’s because the conservative movement took a great step forward this week, in deciding to “allow the ordination of gay rabbis and the celebration of same-sex commitment ceremonies.”  Which means that the entire Jewish community (at least formally) agrees on the issue…

Except the Orthodox. 

Which makes the divide a little greater.

Of course, my own way of thinking places me solidly in support of gay men and women who choose any religious affiliation or lifestyle.  I’ll always argue in support of inclusion. To a fault. 

And yet I’m also someone who believes that it’s hugely important NOT to live a life in conflict.   I’m an advocate for telling people what you think, reconciling yourself TO yourself, kicking your neurosis in the ass.  

And so I cringed (in a good way) while watching this movie.  NOT because I don’t support the rights of gay men and women to live as observant Jews, but because it seemed to me that in choosing to do so (live observant lives), they were choosing a life of perpetual conflict.   The movie helped me understand why, but it still hurt me to see them forced into such a choice… the abandonment of their worlds, or their selves.

Then  today, as I was thinking, I read this article at Aish… which is harsh (Aish is a pretty Orthodox organization, however it describes itself as pluralistic). 

The article closed by saying:

"Trembling Before G-d" wrongly answers the most important Jewish question imaginable: Is Judaism about what we'd like God to do to accommodate us, or about what we are honored, exalted and sanctified to do to obey Him?

And I think it’s a good point, though I disagree with how they see the film. 

I think that the men and women in the movie DO want to honor and exalt God.  I DON’T think they are asking for accommodation. I think they are trying to help affect change for the better, whether they know it or not. 

I think that in the struggle to continue living observant lives, they are a light to the rest of us.  God’s light.  They are teaching us (the secular world) just how much observance is worth.  And they are teaching the Orthodox world that the gay community cannot be dismissed as a new/crazy lifestyle choice created by the nutty secular world.