Dear Rav Linzer,
I have a name, but I fear to speak it. You see, I am a student at Yeshivat Maharat and just like many of my friends, learning partners, and future colleagues at YCT, I have felt threatened and bullied into silence over the last week. After much intentional spiritual formation and reflection, I have decided I can remain silent no longer. If it pleases you to give me a name, you may call me Shoshana.
I recognize that you are one of the great Talmidei Ḥakhamim of our generation. But one of the things that drew me to Maharat and my friends to YCT, is that we do not believe in “Da’at Torah.” We are encouraged to think freely and question our halakhic authorities.
Accordingly and with all due respect, I believe that after the events of the past week, you owe answers not just to myself and the YCT/Maharat community, but also to the LGBTQ+ community to whom you have positioned yourself as an ally and champion, and to the donors who fund our respective schools because they rightly see us as an authentic Orthodoxy that is as welcoming and inclusive as possible within the framework of Halakhah.
Here are my she’elot:
Question 1: You have claimed that Daniel is not receiving s’mikhah from YCT because by moving in with his boyfriend and getting engaged, he “broke a deal” he made with Rav Lopatin when he enrolled. Why does Rav Lopatin deny this and why is he on Daniel’s side?
Question 2: You are on record as saying that, “Regarding halakha . . . there is a Biblical prohibition for two men to have (anal) sex with one another. This does not necessarily mean that two men cannot, within halakha, live in the same home, have a committed, loving relationship, and raise children (if they choose) together as a family.” Further, “our focus has to be not on halakha, but on communal acceptance and on making gay men and women, and their spouses or partners, as well as their children, fully welcome and fully a part of our communities, synagogues, and schools.”
Given that you have repeated these opinions many times in public, and privately made pronouncements of Halakhah L’Ma’aseh in keeping with them, why should Daniel have assumed that it would be a problem for him to, as you put it, “have a committed loving relationship . . . together as a family” with his fiancé?
Question 3: Why are YCT musmachim, in your name, promoting the false equivalency that if a straight student was living with his fiancé before his wedding he would also be denied s’mikhah?
Unlike the hypothetical straight student, there is no halakhic Kiddushin for two men. Moreover, you have suggested that it should be possible within Halakhah for two men to “live in the same home, have a committed, loving relationship, and raise children.”
Question 4: You state that yiḥud between gay men is much different than between men and women: “The Gemara states that there is no prohibition of yichud for two men (Kiddushin 81b), the Shulkhan Arukh (EH 24) states that when there is a concern that they will have [anal] sex together, they should not be in yichud . . . Whether this is meant as a strict halakhic requirement as part of the rabbinic rules of yichud . . . or whether it is a practical, yet non-halakhic, safeguard to prevent against transgression, is not clear.”
Why would you have less trust for a gay rabbinical student not to have anal sex than for a straight married rabbinical student not to have niddah sex?
Question 5: If this is really about the requirements of Halakhah and not politics, why did you not say anything when Daniel got engaged six months ago? Why did you continue promoting him and using him as an example of your commitment to inclusion and allyship for the LGBTQ+ community throughout these past six months until abruptly deciding to terminate him just a few weeks ago?
Question 6: If this is really about the requirements of Halakhah and not politics, why did YCT accept two openly gay students and then for the past few years reject every other gay applicant, single or partnered, even telling many of them that it was because they were gay?
Thank you for reading my letter, Rav Linzer. I look forward to your reply.