January 8, 2011

So Arizona, in addition to making it more or less impossible for Latino non-citizens to live in the state (and I imagine pretty difficult for Latino citizens to do so), has now banned a high school Latino studies program.

I recently read an excellent book called Wrestling With God and Men, an examination of homosexuality in the Jewish tradition, by Rabbi Steven Greenberg.

Lots of people talk nowadays about the idea that the sin of Sodom wasn’t homosexuality but inhospitability—that when God, in Genesis 18:21, said, “I will go down and see whether they have acted altogether according to the cry that has reached me,” He was talking not about homosexuality or sexual excess in general but about arrogance, greed, and scorn for the poor.

I always assumed that this was to some extent a modern reinterpretation, but it turns out that this has been the Jewish view of Sodom for literally thousands of years. Rabbi Greenberg has this to say:

“Rabbinic legends about Sodom describe an area of unusual natural resources, precious stones, silver, and gold. Every path in Sodom, say the sages, was lined with seven rows of fruit trees. Jealous of their great wealth and suspicious of outsiders’ desire to share in it, the city’s inhabitants agreed to overturn the ancient law of hospitality to wayfarers. The legislation later included a prohibition to give charity to anyone. One legend claims that when a beggar would wander into Sodom, the people would mark their names on their coins and give him a dinar. However, no one would sell him bread. When he perished of hunger, everyone would come and claim his coin. A maiden once secretly carried bread concealed in her water pitcher to a poor person in the street. After three days passed and the man didn’t die, the maiden was discovered. They covered the girl with honey and put her atop the city walls. The bees came and ate her. Hers was the cry that came up to God, the cry that inaugurated the angelic visit and its consequences.”

All I can say is that I’m very glad I don’t live in Arizona right now and that, if I did, I would make sure, as I got the hell out of there, not to look back.

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9 Responses to So Arizona, in addition to making it more or less impossible

  1. Sharon says:

    Wow, you ha no idea how much worse Arizona was going to become today when you posted this, huh?

  2. Khalil says:

    I hadn’t realized there was a vibe that the hospitality interpretation of the Sodom story was commonplace, as I got this interpretation from my Latin teacher in high school. Check out Ovid’s Baucis and Philemon tale for the same lesson in a slightly different parable.

    It’s probably not surprising that early Christians, a group of people facing regular persecution and fixated on the next world, would rather think the problem had to do with nonprocreative sex.

  3. Joel Derfner says:

    Sharon, alas, you’re right.

    Khalil, as far as I’ve been able to tell early Christians didn’t really have a big problem with boy-on-boy action. It wasn’t until well into the last millennium that they started getting fastidious about that sort of thing.

  4. Roxzana Sudo says:

    Hi Joel! Have you stopped posting? I hope not! But I do hope you are spending your times doing wonderful things in the theater and writing (I’m sure you are.). Hope to hear from you soon. –Roxzana

  5. Joel Derfner says:

    Roxzana, I haven’t stopped posting–my blog has stopped functioning and I haven’t been able to get it fixed yet! I’m working on it, though. . . . I’m glad you’re still interested.

  6. Jonathan says:

    “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.” — Ezekiel 16.

    Hmmm… “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned”. That sounds like a lot of modern anti-gay American Christians!

  7. kaysootee says:

    So if I want to see what/where you’re curretnly writing/blogging, where shall I go? 🙂

  8. kaysootee says:

    Also, ACK, “currently.”

    The end.

  9. cj says:

    The first thing Satan asked Eve was “Did G*d really say…?”

    Please do not be deceived by Jewish mythology that is not contained in Torah. If inhospitality were so awful that G*d would annihilate the entire citizenry and vegetation of two large cities, why did He not make it a capital offense in the Covenant at Sinai?

    Re. the passage quoted above in Ezekiel, a key word is ‘detestable’ which means in Hebrew ‘loathsome’ or ‘morally disgusting.’ Please do not base your moral choices on fables.

    May G*d have mercy on you and guide you in your search for truth.


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