A top Religious Zionism rabbi has said that he thought gay people were treated too “aggressively” by religious society, but did describe them as “unfortunate”.

Rabbi Dr Aharon Lichtenstein, a senior Religious Zionism rabbi, has said that gay people should not be condemned more than Shabbat desecrators or frauds, reports Ynet.

He said that the religious population should soften its “aggressive” attitude towards gay people.

Rabbi Lichtenstein heads the Har Etzion Yeshiva, a highly regarded Torah institution  and is considered one of the leaders of Modern Orthodoxy.

One of the rabbi’s students, Dov Karoll, took note of what he said at the religious society, and published it on his blog. According to Karoll, Rabbi Lichtenstein said:

“To be fairer and more honest with ourselves and with our communities,” Karoll wrote on behalf of the rabbi, “let us understand that if you deal only with the use of the term ‘to’eivah,’ you can only push that particular envelope as far as you push the cheating on the weights and the measures – so all the revulsion, the moral energy, that you bring against that, you should bring against this, too.”

He continued: “That’s not what happens today.”

The rabbi went on to discuss the claim that “sodomy” was defined by the Torah as an “abomination”, which is a definition not given to every religious offence, but that it did apply to instances of not supporting the poor, and deception in trade.

Comparing the failure to give to charity with homosexuality, he said the former was a “public sin” and therefore gay people shouldn’t be treated as strictly as they are by the religious society.

“I’m not in favor of homosexuality, God forbid,” he clarified. “But we do need to agree to abide by a greater measure of honesty in dealing with that community than I think at present applies.”

The rabbi then presented his student with a rhetorical question: “Which is a greater sin – desecration of Shabbat or homosexuality? Is it appropriate and fair to say to our communities that we have no problem with all of the Jewish people’s sins… but that there is only one scapegoat?”

He did, however, go on to blame the gay community for the current situation, saying:

“It created such a buzz because it’s very aggressive, and the response was that some of the people on our side became aggressive too.”

He continued that “the fire that burns in many hearts today, and the fears which go beyond the revulsion, are beyond what I think is proper.”

The rabbi said his personal view on gay people, which he described as “very unfortunate”, was mixed:

“I have a combination of – I wouldn’t say revulsion, that may be too strong a term – I certainly have criticism, disapproval, but tempered with an element of sympathy.”

He said that gay people shouldn’t be to blame for their “inclination”.

The Kamoha association for gay Orthodox Jews responded to the rabbi’s comments, saying it was pleased at some of the things brought to light by the rabbi. In a statement it said:

“We are pleased to hear that through the comparison to Shabbat desecrators, the rabbi placed a mirror in front of the public, demonstrating that many times the fear of homosexuality does not stem from halachic considerations but from pure homophobia.

“Kamoha respects the rules and spirit of the Halacha, does not march in parades and views the connection with the rabbinical world and religious public as extremely important,” the association said in a statement.

“We are glad that a senior rabbinical personality like Rabbi Lichtenstein chooses to voice his opinion openly and without fear.”

The association did go on to express disappointment with Rabbi Lichtenstein’s use of the word “unfortunate” to describe gay people, and said: “we are not unfortunate, but live a more challenging and complex life.

“For the challenge to be easier, it’s time for the rabbinical world to take a further step – to the phase of answers and response. Rabbi Lichtenstein himself has raised the questions of a homosexual cantor, adoption of children, accepting the child into a yeshiva, etc, and it’s time to deal with them.

“We invite the rabbi to one of Kamoha’s monthly meetings to discuss the issues and look into ways to advance them.”