What do the rabbis know about love?
If anything, they sure haven't told us.
Strange fact. Rabbis took the Song of Songs, one of the world's greatest collections of love poems, made it part of both the biblical canon and the synagogue liturgy, and then took the human to human love out of it. They transformed the book into a theological allegory about God and Israel.
Anecdote. Some years ago, shortly after the Artscroll edition of Shir Hashirim was published, I was in the RJC synagogue in Riverdale on Passover. The synagogue's energetic Rabbi Rosenblatt began his sermon on the new Artscroll book and the congregation promptly closed their eyes to rest.
But suddenly the whole congregation awoke. The rabbi declared that the new edition presented the book too allegorically for the his taste. In a loud voice he decried that the translation that read, "Sages of Israel" was wrong. He defiantly proclaimed to a suddenly wide-eyed congregation, "The text speaks of womens' breasts and that is how it must be translated!"
Fast forward several years for a second anecdote. I had returned to my office at the university after thinking that I had given one of the best lectures I could remember on Shir Hashirim. Guided by the work of Robert Alter, I had reviewed the structure of the book, the nature of its poetry and had waxed eloquent about the interplay of the poetic echoes between the lover and his beloved.
A student appeared right afterward at my office hour with a look of concern on his face. He wanted respectfully to bring to my attention something important about the class.
He sat down and all he had to say to me was that I had referred several times in my lecture to the lover as a man and to his beloved as a woman.
I got it. I never made that limiting presumption again in a lecture at the university.
Look. Rabbis just do not get it. They don't understand heterosexual love. They don't understand gay love. As far as I can tell, they have nothing of value to say about any kind of love.
And if you argue that the rabbis do get it, then I say pointedly and simply, Show me.
Show me by finding Halakhic Talmudic Rabbinic ways to preserve the dignity and sanctity of the Torah and to permit same sex love within rabbinic Judaism.
Not easy? Okay, I agree. Not possible? Hey, did they even think about it?