We in the Jewish community just spent forty-nine days counting the Omer, the period from liberation to revelation, from leaving slavery in Egypt to receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. We marked the passage of time, each day, remembering, recalling, and reflecting. We arrive at Shavuot, and prepare to receive the gift of Torah, our story, our memory, our history, our guiding law.
The journey of the Israelites and the counting of the Jewish people have striking parallels to the work for marriage equality in Minnesota. The Israelites wandered for forty years, we are taught, after leaving slavery. Forty years is a long time of waiting, of watching, of wondering. They left Egypt full of hope and promise, but that youthful optimism quickly faded, and those who left slavery did not live to see the Promised Land.
We have been waiting a long time, some of us have been waiting for generations. I stood at the Capitol Monday with people who openly wept, remarking that they never could have imagined this day when they came out many years ago. They gave up marriages, children, homes, jobs, friends, family in order to be themselves and they doubted that their state would ever recognize them. They’ve been on a journey, stretching across miles and years. They never thought they’d live to see the Promised Land. But yet, in some ways, they have.
Marriage equality symbolizes the acceptance they have been seeking. And standing at the Capitol in St. Paul with 6,000 people for the bill signing is a feeling of community openness they never thought they would experience.
And our task as a community working for justice is to retell the story, to remember the liberation as much as the revelation, to remember the struggle as well as the victories.
We are like the Israelites at Mt Sinai. We have come so far. We are accessing something no one felt possible. But yet, we still have a distance to go. Safe schools legislation still needs to pass. Transgender nondiscrimination legislation is sorely needed. We still have a Federal Defense of Marriage Act and 80% of Americans live in states without the freedom to marry. We have a long way to the Promised Land. But we get there by joining hands, marching, together.