Parashat Vaetchanan: A Less Innocent Love

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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.

And of course, for gays and lesbians, love is something that must, in a sense, be learned. Not the movement of love, of course – rather its articulation and its validity. Those of us who, for some period of time, denied our sexuality know that we need to love. The physical energies of sexuality may be dissipated in a variety of ways. But the spiritual and emotional energies of love must also find an outlet.

Perhaps, then, religion holds a perverse appeal: yes, it is the source of the repression, but it also offers an avenue to express the repressed. As the queer African-American poet Langston Hughes wrote:

To some people love is given

To others, only heaven.

Imagine a lifetime of romantic repression, and of alienation, and of the tight bond of secrecy linking the hidden homosexual with the One Who Knows all things. Is it any surprise that so many mystics, from Rumi to the Native American winkte, shared this bond of substituted passion?

Posted on July 16, 2013
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