From queer text study and institutional inclusion to profiles of queer clergy and youth voices, the Keshet blog features new ideas and reflections by and for LGBTQ Jews and their allies. The blog is produced by Keshet, a national organization with offices in the Bay Area, Boston, and New York that works for full LGBTQ equality and inclusion in Jewish life.
The Torah was given on a low mountaintop to equate that vantage point, offering the best view to navigate the valley, with the insights of the Torah, providing an outlook on how to best walk through life. A commitment to action was a prerequisite to receiving the Torah. We said “We will do and we will listen!” When we hear of social injustices, like the bill in Massachusetts that would make it legal to deny services to trans people in movie theaters, restaurants, hotels, and other public spaces, the Torah instructs us to take action to preserve human dignity and our values.
Keshet is leading the Jewish mobilization effort as part of a statewide coalition, Freedom for All Massachusetts. The campaign will kick off with a Jewish Community Town Hall to Defend Trans Equality in partnership with Freedom for All Massachusetts and Hebrew College on Monday, May 14 and will continue up through Election Day.
The evening of May 14th is also Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the beginning of the month when the Torah was given. In the mystical tradition, Sefer Yetzirah teaches that this month is governed by the letter “ז” zayin, motion (הלוך), and corresponds to the tribe of Zebulon. The Torah was intentionally given during the month relating to the tribe that was known for going out into the world, Deut. 33:18, because the Torah is meant to be applied in the world as a theology of practice. It is not enough to just love peace, we must also pursue it.
The Zohar explains that the letter “ז”, which literally means armaments, speaks to how we are meant to fight against oppression and discrimination through our communal strength in support of righteousness. Halacha, Jewish law, means to walk or go, holech, because it obligates us to show up in the streets for what is true and just. The Talmud teaches that after the destruction of the temple, the only place where God is found in this world is in the four cubits of Halacha. It is in the forward motion of advancing radical inclusion, perfected at Mt. Sinai when we were like one person with one heart, where God is found.
This week’s Torah portion starts with the Divine promise that “if we go out” (תלכו) with the Torah, then God will provide for us to dwell securely. In response to this offensive bill we are required to “go out” and partner with the Almighty to make sure that all of God’s children can dwell securely. If we don’t fight against the erasure of truth and equality, then we surrender to a society of fake holiness.
The light of the Torah is here to dispel the darkness of this world. Please join me at the town hall meeting and mobilize to defeat this unjust bill.