Thursday, May 23, 2013

In Response to the "Matzav"

Today, I was attacked in an ad-hominem way on the popular "Charedi" news website  You can read the article here.  I have submitted the following letter in response to the editor, and assume they will publish it.  After all, it's a general rule in journalism that one who is attacked is given a right of response.  I publish my letter publicly because I was attacked in a public forum.

Dear Concerned Yid,

A few points in response to your letter published today on

1)  First, I'd like to address the substance of your claims.  Throughout your article, you made many false assumptions.  If you're truly as concerned as you claim to be (I have no way of knowing, but you do), you might take the time to verify assumptions before publishing them on the internet.  You could have contacted me, if you're truly concerned, and seen whether your assumptions were correct.  After all, the seal of Hashem is emes, and Jews should strive to be honest and accurate in what they say.  This is prudent and religious all in one.

You posit that my support for civil same-sex marriage is a remnant of my "liberal beliefs" and "background" left over from the days before I was observant.

Truth is, while I used to be far more liberal politically than I am today, I've opposed same-sex marriage publicly and privately for as long as I've been old enough to have an opinion on the subject.  In recent months, however, I've changed my mind, specifically because of my religious observance and affiliation.  As an observant Jew, I appreciate more than ever the protections of the First Amendment.  In the United States, our small minority religion is afforded tremendous protection.  Thousands of our Jewish brothers now refuse to work on Shabbat and holidays, knowing full well that their government will support their religious convictions and penalize anyone who tries to discriminate against them by firing them or refusing to hire them.    Our rituals (brit milah, kosher slaughter, etc.) are protected by the government, and our institutions receive support, honor, recognition, and even funds from states and the federal government.  Jews in public schools are no longer coerced into Christian prayer, and a general spirit of tolerance and understanding has allowed our people a golden age like none other in the diaspora.  This is true on both a governmental and social level, and has become an important part of the fabric of our country.

Therefore, it is our obligation to argue for the protection of minorities, be they religious, ideological, etc., and to advocate to prevent the use of religious doctrine in legislation at all levels.  If the state has the power to legislate marriage based on Judeo-Christian religious principles, then there's nothing to stop the state from regulating other areas of life based on religious principles, Judeo-Christian, Christian, or otherwise.  That's only a stone's throw away from the days of "the lord's prayer" and all the rest.  It's bad jurisprudence, bad for the Jews, and coerces people against their will, which is not helpful religiously either.

One more thing.  From a purely political perspective, it's not necessarily a "liberal" argument to argue for same-sex marriage.  I'll note that there was unanimous support for same-sex marriage among conservative republicans in RI's State Senate, based on a mixture of conservative and libertarian principles.  Conservative - If gay men and women are involved in relationships (which is a given), isn't it better for them to form committed monogamous relationships with stable family structures?  Libertarian - the state ought to stay out of defining, encouraging, or manipulating people's sexual or social preferences, especially if they're doing so based on religious convictions in possible violation of the First Amendment (the Court will tell us about that shortly).  I argued as I did largely because of my libertarian political leanings, not that it should matter, not liberal ones.          

2)  A few pieces of advice.  If you want to engage in an ad-hominem attack against someone, sign your name to it and face the consequences, positive and negative.  Doing so anonymously is cowardly and characteristic of the culture of fear that pervades our community lately.  Let's be mature enough to have important conversations with each other using our real names please.  This is true both locally in the current argument and generally in broader Jewish scene.

Also, if you want to critique and argument or position, fine.  In that case, you should state what you think I advocated, explain why you think it's wrong, and support your position with reasons and sources.  For a more complete argument, you might even offer self-critique, explaining the weaknesses of your own position.  All of the personal attacks, prejudicial comments, guilt-by-association character assasination mumbo jumbo (IRF Liberal Left Wing Loving Call His Rabbis Revoke His Degree Public Consequences Chillul Hashem etc.) distract from the content of the actual debate, and are not befitting of reasoned and enlightened discussion.  Orthodox Jews should be interested in serious discussion on the merits of the issues rather than vague and uninformed generalizations.  Erev Shabbat Shalom.


Barry Dolinger, another concerned Jew  


  1. Thank you Rabbi Dolinger for sticking to your guns and not allowing these cowards to bring you down!

  2. Thank you Rabbi Dolinger. As right wing, chareidi as they get, I still respect and agree with your position. What pains many people in my circles is when Torah ideals become sacrificed on the altar political correctness and modernization. At the end of the day, we are all working toward the same goal of perfecting our own character, thereby making the world a better place, according to the dictates of the Torah. As much as you are correct about the anonymity aspect, in my experience it comes not from cowardice but from a natural bashfulness many of us feel at the prospect of putting ourselves and our ideas out there for public consumption. I hope you can understand that. May Hashem grant you much hatzlachah always, in the amazing work you do for the same of His children!

  3. It's typical for a frum person to laugh off this whole issue and say: hey, let them destroy themselves if that's what they want.

    Our sages in Medrash say לא חרבה סדום אלא על שכתבו כתובות על משכב זכור - “Sodom was not destroyed only because they wrote marriage contracts on same-gender marriage”. You can have freedom to sin but to make it "official" with a contract that's a red line that brings -heaven forbid- G-D's wrath on a nation.

    We live in cities together, can we rely on our own merits to be saved from G-D's wrath?

    The Hamodia Magazine of Passover 2011, quoted R’ Avigdor Miller z"l mentioning the above Medrash regarding Manhattan, it was right before his passing which was 6 months before 9/11!

    Why cant we stand up for what we hold dear, we can tell the outside world look at Sodom, non-Jews know about Sodom, after all there are crimes here in the States that are called Sodomy.

  4. Rabbi Dolinger:

    Yasher Koach for speaking out for what you believe.

    (Rabbi) Bruce Bublick
    Passaic, NJ

  5. Daer Rabbi Dolinger,

    As a native Rhode Islander, though I now live in Teaneck, where I a gabbai of my Orthodox shul, it was a particular thrill for me find a facebook posting of your testimony. Your presentation was articulate, sensitive and compelling. It is unfortunate that more in our community do not see this issue in the terms you set out so clearly. For this reason, I applaud you all the more and I hope to meet you in RI someday.

    Joe Spraragen

  6. Rabbi -

    I want to ask you, did you consult with any of the Rabbis who ordained you at RIETS/YU before taking the unprecendented step of being the first Orthodox Rabbi to testify for legalization of homosexual marriage?

    Also, will you now advocate legalization of polygamy (banning it discriminates against Mormons and Muslims)? If not, why not?

    It seems that you just decided to jump on a liberal bandwagon here. Seems opportunistic to me.

    Also, please tell us, who recommended and arranged for your testimony to the RI Senate? A homosexual advocacy group perhaps?

    I recommend to the readers here to visit and see the many comments there responding to this post, many making great points, pointing out serious flaws in your position, which you do not respond to.

    1. Polygamy should be legal. The problem that was happening was the underage problem. If you follow every work in the torah as literal, then you should know polygamy was practiced and God sanctioned and commanded it.
      Rabbi Dolinger did not say that he believes that the Torah is wrong when it speaks about man lying with another man. He simply testified that if we limit the freedoms of others, this will only backfire on us as a religion. He also does not need to get permission to speak what he feels is right.
      If we use religion as a tool to oppress others, it will be used by other religions against us. The Muslims, Christians and others have persecuted the Jewish people because what they believe their religion says about us.
      Lastly, telling people to go to to read comments there is like taking a poll for President Obama on Fox News.

  7. Rich - do you advocate legalizing incest as well? Bestiality? Lowering age of consent? Please don't hold back. Share with us the rest of your program for liberalizing the laws in this area.

    1. You shouldn't be ashamed of sharing your opinion. If you are confident in your opinion then sign your name.

    2. If you're going to go the whole route of comparing homosexuality to bestiality or incest, okay, but consider this:
      - from a completely secular point of view I do think that incest is currently frowned upon based on religious principles. That being said, as time evolves I believe incest will STILL be frowned upon due to its dangerous or possibly fatal outcomes to the offspring.
      - Bestiality has no consent, and therefore can be considered either rape or animal cruelty - whichever way you cut it.
      - The risk of lowering the age of consent is based on not allowing a younger person to be manipulated into such a situation. Even if it is 'consent' it is possible that such a gap in age could have manipulative effect which the government should indeed intervene it.

      Now, homosexuality is completely separated from all the above. If you aren't convinced, I implore you tell me how they are related. The ONLY argument against homosexuality and gay marriage is a religious one. If your concern is preserving the traditional family structure, that ended ages ago and results have proven that keeping the world like 'Leave It To Beaver' doesn't yield any better results.

  8. "incest will STILL be frowned upon due to its dangerous or possibly fatal outcomes to the offspring."

    Babies born from incest can be healthy.

    "Bestiality has no consent"


  9. Also, the comments are not helpful when someone called anonymous tries to compare homosexuality to everything and the kitchen. Bottom line is let's focus on why he said what he said.
    Lastly, mr. Anonymous.. We are all entitled to share our views and opinions. We have brains of our own and are allowed to use them. If God wanted us all to be robots, he would have created us that way. My opinion on polygamy is my opinion and not someone else's. Rabbis are there to guide you, but not tell you what to do. People can still learn and make their own decisions. We are not in a shtetl or something and must follow the ruler. We are all created in gods image and have some of our own sacredness to make decisions. You may think it's liberal, I think it was gods intention. Yes, that's how I feel and you can call everyone a heritic that doesn't agree with you but that only distances you from the mission on this earth. We use our hearts and minds...

  10. Robert, btw Midrash is not the gospel. It says many things to make points, not to be taken as literal. Just an FYI! I can go through a ton of examples.

    Also, for anonymous I wanted to say about the underage.. Our forefather married rivkah at age 3. But, we judge things based on society today. What was accepted in the Torah has been forbidden by the rabbis in their thinking that it was important with changing society. They also made many laws with certain intentions, which some do not apply today. It seems really absurd that we can't repeal those laws that were made for the times. My opinion : the rabbis should have made provisions to repeal them when they no longer were needed. Especially yom tov when we eventually know the dates and so on. I think it's important for us to see that at times the rabbis could be fallible and have lacked some of the foresite... But, why should I waste my time trying to convince you of any of this. May Hashem bless you!