Author Archives: Jay Michaelson

Jay Michaelson

About Jay Michaelson

Jay Michaelson is the author of four books and two hundred articles on the intersections of religion, spirituality, sexuality, and law. His most recent book, God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality, was an Amazon.com bestseller and Lambda Literary Award finalist. Jay is a contributing editor to the Forward newspaper and associate editor of Religion Dispatches magazine, and his articles have appeared in The Daily Beast, Salon, The Huffington Post, and other publications. His other books include Everything is God: The Radical Path of Nondual Judaism and Another Word for Sky: Poems. Jay is also a longtime LGBT activist, and is the founder of Nehirim, a national LGBT Jewish community. Jay’s advocacy on behalf of sexual minorities in religious communities has been featured on CNN, NPR, and in the New York Times.

Parashat Vaetchanan: A Less Innocent Love

Jews read sections of the Torah each week, and these sections, known as parshiyot, inspire endless examination year after year. Each week we will bring you regular essays examining these portions from a queer perspective, drawn from the Torah Queeries online collection, which was inspired by the book Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible. This week, Jay Michaelson imagines how LGBT people can fulfill the commandment to love God with all of our hearts, souls, and might.

Creative Common/philippe leroyer

Creative Common/philippe leroyer

A tension: We are commanded, in Parashat Vaetchanan, to love God with all our heart, soul, and might – v’ahavta et adonai elohecha b’chol levavcha, b’chol nafshecha, u’vchol me’odecha. But what about everyone else? Do we love our families and God “in different ways”? At different times? Do we love other people as God, in a pantheistic sense – as incarnations of the One? And if so, what of their particularity?

Love itself may be simple, but its articulation is not. Continue reading

Posted on July 16, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

It’s the Purity, Stupid: Reading Leviticus in Context

Jews read sections of the Torah each week, and these sections, known as parshiyot, inspire endless examination year after year. Each week we will bring you regular essays examining these portions from a queer perspective, drawn from the book Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible and the Torah Queeries online collection. This week, Jay Michaelson looks at the Levitical prohibitions around purity – including the ones related to homosexuality – and finds that ethics and morality have nothing to do with them.

Creative Common/sea turtle

Creative Common/sea turtle

For gay and lesbian Jews, parshat Acharei Mot contains some of the most infamous passages of the Torah, but the preceding two, Tazria and Metzora (usually read together as a “double portion”) contain some of the most obscure. In these portions, we learn about the laws of leprosy (actually tzaraat, a skin disease similar to it but different in various ways), seminal emissions, and menstruation; here we are told the detailed method of sin-offerings and wave-offerings, and the methods of purity and contamination. Few people spend much time poring over the vivid anatomical and biological details of Tazria-Metzora. And yet, how can we understand the meaning of the Levitical sexual prohibitions without a sense of their immediate context?

Continue reading

Posted on April 8, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Parashat Vaera: Into Life

Jews read sections of the Torah each week, and these sections, known as parshiyot, inspire endless examination year after year. Each week we will bring you regular essays examining these portions from a queer perspective, drawn from the book Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible and the Torah Queeries online collection. This week, Jay Michaelson looks to LGBT Jewish liberation as a demonstration of Judaism’s fundamental commitment to life.

Parashat Vaera. Creative Commons/Peter Pearson

Creative Commons/Peter Pearson

The exodus from Egypt has symbolized the movement from servitude to freedom for generations. Whether for African-American slaves or for our own gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender elders, the story resonates far beyond its Israelite particularity to any struggle for liberation.

There is another aspect to yetziat mitzraim (the Exodus from Egypt), though, beyond the move from bondage to freedom. After all, as many Jewish scholars have noted, freedom is the beginning of the Israelite quest, not the end of it. The parting of the Red Sea is a cinematic moment, but it is not the climactic one: the real point of the story comes at Mount Sinai. Egypt is the womb, and the Red Sea is the birth canal — but it is at Sinai where our people comes of age and begins its forty-year adolescence. (Only upon entering the land of Israel can it be said to have attained adulthood.) Continue reading

Posted on January 7, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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