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You & I Can Change the World

06/11/2019 06:06:56 PM

Jun11

Rabbi Scott Hausman-Weiss

With less than two weeks until the 2019 Houston Pride Celebration, as a Rabbi, I would like to address a group of people, who despite tremendous advances in how our society treats, embraces, and legislates the affirmation of rights for LGBTQIA people (don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot more work to do!), still feel heavy doses of shame, the roots of which are so unfortunately found in the Bible and religion. To those, who still struggle with the internal, gut-driven, heart-filling and -breaking understanding that they love people who are their same gender or sexual preference, but still feel overwhelmed with guilt and suffer from what still feel like sharp arrows shot at them from the Bible and religion, I have three things to say (that you don’t need me to say to know about you but I wish to say affirmatively about Judaism):

  1. I am sorry.
  2. You are not a sinner. How you live your life is not an abomination. While it is true that to some, the infamous Leviticus verse seems to suggest otherwise, it’s time to reread it. First off, this verse does not at all refer to a loving, consensual, affirming, rewarding homosexual relationship. It’s an ancient proscription that has far more to do with an ancient cultic reference than anything else.
  3. As a rabbi, if you have ever heard me speak or studied with me, you’ll know that, if the lack of a modern-day reference were the primary litmus test for the value of a text, I’d have little to say about. For one really must wonder why this one Leviticus text seems to be the only text our ancient sages didn’t engage with what an old professor of mine calls, “rabbinic calisthenics.”

If...

…the Deuteronomy text commanding the stoning of a rebellious teenager can be redeemed (and is redeemed as early as the first Sages) as a story of what should not occur….

…“eye for an eye” comes to mean (and according to the Talmudic masters, always meant), “monetary compensation” and was never seen as an adjuration to vigilante justice…

…Jacob’s wrestling with the angel gives him the appellation of Yisrael (wrestler with God), this name (not Abraham or Isaac) becomes the source of our namesake, and we Jews are meant to be the God-wrestlers…

Then...

It is indeed strange that classical commentators did not reimagine, re-envision, re-interpret, or redeem from its perceived surface meaning, the single verse that seems to state that male-male intercourse is an abomination before the Lord. And therefore, we must understand that this is the anomaly, not the rule.

So...

What drove this lack of reinterpretation of that particular Leviticus verse that in no way, shape, or form relates to anyone’s fair and loving understanding of homosexual love and relationship? It is born of fear and homophobia, not a love and appreciation for Torah or the dynamic tension between the world as it is and the world as it should be that it is meant to ignite in us.

And...

I know that all of the above are just words. But it is with words by which the world was and continues to be created. B’tzelem Elohim (“God’s image”) are words and “self-evident” are words. But when these words become the foundation of the worlds we dream, envision, create, build, and protect, Ani v’Atah n’shaneh et haolam, You and I can change the world.

And with that, I wish you all a good and sweet and exciting Pride Celebration to come! Be sure to join Shma Koleinu on Friday evening, June 21st for a multi-congregation Shabbat celebration of Keshet (Houston’s Jewish LGBTQIA organization) at Beth Yeshurun with Shabbat service and dinner (RSVP info below) as well as on Saturday evening, June 22nd for Havdalah and walking with Keshet in the Pride Parade (info below).

Events for the Week of 6/10/2019

  • Shabbat at Channing Hall, First Unitarian Universalist Church - Friday June 7 - More Info + Please consider bringing a nosh to share for the Oneg
  • Saturday Morning Shabbat + Torah Study - Saturday, June 15 -
    More info
  • In place of Shma Koleinu Shabbat, we will join Keshet along with Congregations Beth Yeshurun and Brith Shalom at the 2019 LGBT Pride Shabbat Dinner at Congregation Beth Yeshurun - Friday, June 21 at 6:00 pm - More Info + Sign Up for Dinner (deadline June 17) Note: Shma Koleinu will not hold a separate service.
  • 2019 Houston Pride Festival & Parade - Saturday, June 22 - More Info + Sign up to march in the Parade with Keshet
Wed, October 16 2019 17 Tishrei 5780