We have much bigger problems than this

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Homosexuality is powerful — powerful enough, it would seem, to bring about Middle East accord. Muslim clerics who have steadfastly refused to condemn the shahids who blow up civilians as an abomination against Islam, have now joined many haredi authorities in decrying Jerusalem’s gay pride parade which, at this writing, faces the threat of violence.

Finally, an issue we can all agree on.

I have always found it puzzling that religious people of all denominations continue to see gay men and women as the single greatest threat to civilization and the ultimate sin. To the Islamic clerics the gay marchers are a greater affront than the thousands who kill in the name of Islam.

For religious Christians in America homosexuals are the single greatest threat to the family, even though gays are no more than 5 percent of the population, while the heterosexual divorce rate stands at 50 percent.

So who needs gays to finish off the family when straight men and women are already doing that job admirably?

One would have thought that Judaism, with its legal framework always allied to reason, would surely take a wiser approach to the homosexuality question and place it in its proper context. A nation that faces so many existential threats can respectfully oppose public demonstrations of homosexuality, but without making it the defining religious issue of our time.

Not so. The vitriolic Orthodox and haredi response to the gay pride parade show that we Jews are just as capable of mistakenly turning gay sex into the foremost religious issue of our time.

In the last parade there was, of course, the haredi attacker who stabbed three participants and is currently serving a 12-year jail sentence. And while Jews passionately eschew religious violence and condemn such disgraceful attacks, the fact remains that stopping the parade has become a holy cause for many.

Where were the haredi demonstrators when they were needed to protest disengagement? I do not recall hundreds of thousands of haredim mobilized to protest the evacuation of yeshivas and synagogues which were later ransacked by hate-filled Palestinian Arabs.

Yarmulke-wearing men and boys were dragged, and pregnant women with their hair covered were torn from their homes. And even today, as so many of the residents of Gush Katif continue to live in makeshift housing, I know of few great ultra-Orthodox authorities who call what happened by its proper name: an abomination.

Is it gays who threaten the future of the Jewish state? Or is it terrorist killers, emboldened by concession after concession made by the Israeli government, a great many of which have been sanctioned by those great rabbis now fighting an all-out war against the parade; even as they have given sanction to making deals with terrorists.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is a case in point.

I was a yeshiva student in Jerusalem in the 1980s, when the Lubavitcher Rebbe pleaded with the Israeli government not to trade land for insincere promises of peace which, he predicted, would lead to scores of dead Jews. But there was Rabbi Yosef ordering the Shas Party to participate in government coalitions that weakened Israel’s security immeasurably and gave us the Oslo catastrophe.

Rabbi Yosef is one of the foremost opponents of the gay march, calling it an “evil mob seeking to defile the holy city of Jerusalem.” He has called on every Jew “to protest against the abomination in the holy city,” and has even suggested that the parade take place in “Sodom.”

But what is the greater abomination? The thousand-plus Israelis blown to pieces as a direct result of the Oslo Accords which Yosef claimed Torah law supported, or gay men marching with placards? And when he calls gay people “evil”, did he use the same word for Yasser Arafat, whose deals with the Israeli government he supported?

I am an Orthodox Jew, and I do not deny that homosexuality is labeled a sin and an abomination in the Bible. But the word abomination appears 122 times in the Torah, including for such behavior as eating certain non-kosher foods (Deut. 14:3), a wife remarrying her first husband after she has been married to someone else in the interim (24:4), and offering a sacrifice that is blemished (17:1).

King Solomon in Proverbs goes so far as to refer to envy, a false heart, and a lying tongue as abominations before God (3:32, 16:22). Oh, and he also adds, “He that sows discord among brethren” is an abomination.

Which should lead us all to the following conclusion: It would have been good if the organizers of the parade had sought an alternative location so as to respect the city’s special character and not create an unnecessary schism in a country that needs all the unity it can muster.

But even if that did not happen, it would have been good if we Orthodox Jews had remembered that our conduct must always sanctify God’s name through its righteous character, and that whether or not the parade is held, the Jewish people today have far more pressing issues that need to be addressed.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s latest book is “Parenting with Fire: Lighting Up the Family with Passion and Inspiration.” He is based in the U.S.