Rabbi Joseph Dweck, the senior rabbi of the S&P Sephardi Community, has issued a clarification of his controversial lecture on male sexuality, saying that his words had been “misunderstood and misinterpreted”.
In a statement published on the SPSC’s website, he said he had been saddened that “much of the response was used as a political manoeuvre rather than a halachic or philosophical argument”.
But he avoided direct mention of the outspoken attack made on him earlier in the week by Rabbi Aaron Bassous, head of a Charedi-learning Sephardi community in Golders Green, who denounced him “dangerous”.
Conceding that there were moments when he might have been clearer in his talk – delivered earlier this month – he said as a teacher with more than 20 years’ involvement in education, “I know that when many students do not understand the teacher’s lesson, much of the blame can be found with the teacher”.
He added there was bound to be a passionate response to a “sensitive topic which is emotionally, morally and socially charged”.
But he stressed, “Important subjects that trouble our people should not be used for political positioning”.
Rabbi Dweck made clear he had not said that the act of male homosexual intercourse alone was prohibited.
But a distinction was to be drawn between that act and what he referred to as “peripheral acts” – or abizrayhu as they are called in the Talmud.
These peripheral sexual acts were equally forbidden in Jewish law, whether between members of the same sex or between a man or woman.
He also clarified the comment from the talk that had brought the greatest backlash, that “the entire revolution of feminism and even homosexuality in our society… is a fantastic development for humanity”.
In his statement, he said: “I did not say that homosexual acts were fantastic. I said that the development in society had residual benefits much in the same way that Islam and Christianity did as the Rambam [Maimonides] pointed out.
“These residual effects in my opinion are that it has helped society be more open to the expression of love between men. I was not asserting law, nor for that matter, demanding a particular way of thought. I was simply presenting a personal observation.
“Admittedly, ‘fantastic’ was an exaggerated word.”
He said he regretted some people had found reason to “invalidate my faithfulness to Torah, mitzvot and my commitment to teaching and encouraging living by our Torah”.
Torah, he said, “is my life and my only desire is to show the beauty of Torah to Yisrael and to encourage living our lives by and through its beautiful vision”.
Rabbi Dweck's statement can be read here https://www.sephardi.org.uk/?s=clarification