Parashat Mishpatim: Revolution is the Easy Part

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, Kerrick Lucker discusses how LGBT Jews can examine their own behavior, and learn to treat one another more justly.

Creative Common/yanni

Creative Common/yanni

It’s one thing to break down barriers of oppression. It’s quite another to build up a community of shared liberation. This is what Moses and the People of Israel are learning in this week’s Torah portion, parashat Mishpatim.

A shared sense of community sometimes arises naturally out of shared oppression, but when liberation happens – and we start to experience the brisk wind of real freedom – that sense of community often quickly dissolves. Freedom is hard work. Self-governance is hardest of all. People under the yoke of oppression seldom think about this in the face of all of freedom’s obvious benefits, but oddly enough, once you’re out in the desert and having to find your own food and make your own laws and mediate your own conflicts, there can be a strange yearning for the old days in mitzrayim, the narrow place.

At Chochmat HaLev, the synagogue in the San Francisco Bay Area where I used to work, there are many different ways that our community members engage with Jewish practice. There is room for any number of different interpretations of Jewish law and tradition by those among us. Some of us observe Jewish laws very closely; others of us would be hard-pressed to recite even a dozen of the 613
mitzvot
. Still others don’t consider themselves Jewish (or do now, but didn’t grow up that way). The standards to which we hold ourselves in our covenant with G-d are very different. So how much more do we need to hold ourselves to common agreements about how we treat each other!

Posted on February 4, 2013

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