You Shall Pursue

October 27, 2013

Parshat Chayyei Sarah: Love in all its Forms

Filed under: D'var Torah — Tags: , , , , — marleyweiner @ 5:54 pm

I delivered this D’var Torah at my student pulpit on October 26

This week has been all about weddings. Last Sunday, I was privileged to officiate at a wedding between two of my close friends. The day after, I learned that Governor Christie has no plans to appeal the New Jersey court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage in this state. And this week we read Chayyei Sarah, a Torah portion that contains a funeral and two weddings. And I am struck, this week, by the restorative power of love and family and the beauty of binding together in covenant with the one that you love. And of what a blessing it is to be able to honor those commitments.

After last week’s parsha, Isaac is not doing so well. He has just been nearly sacrificed by his father. And the strain on their relationship shows; the text never describes another relationship between the man and his son.

And yet Abraham still cares about his son, and his welfare, so he sends his right hand man to find perhaps the feistiest woman in Torah, his niece Rebecca, to be his son’s wife. And the text tells us that, upon meeting her, “Isaac loved her, and thus found comfort after his mother’s death.”

Isaac is able to move on from the trauma of the last chapter, and begin a new family with this woman by his side.

Which brings me to New Jersey’s recent acceptance of same-sex marriage. While our rabbis may not have recognized same-sex couples, they do recognize the fundamental power in having a life partner. In tractate kiddushin in the Talmud, the rabbis explain that a requirement for good parenting is to find one’s son a proper spouse. Students are not able to study the mysteries of Kabbalah unless they are married. In general, our tradition teaches that access to love and partnership are one of the most fundamental human needs, the grounding through which the rest of life comes. And while certainly not all of us seek to find love and connection through romantic partnerships, it is a cruelty to deprive people who want that connection from the ability to honor and celebrate their love.

In our story, Abraham is adamant that not any woman will do for his son; she must be of his kin. And the servant seeks her out not by beauty or status, but by her kindness towards a stranger. And it is because of her good heart and good sense that she is able to serve as the mother of the family dynasty; correctly predicting which of Isaac’s children is the fit inheritor.

This text teaches us that when two people of “like kind,” find each other, that is a blessing. When two people of similar morals and values come together to find each other, it is a rare and beautiful miracle. As such, I am thrilled by this decision to allow recognition of more kinds of supportive partnerships.

And when I was watching the videos of the recent weddings on the steps of the Paramount Theater in New Jersey, and as I watched the faces of my dear friends on Sunday, I was struck by the utter joy on those faces. Not just of the faces of the marrying couples, but also of the watching witnesses, of friends and family, of everyone who is able to participate at weddings. As Jews, we know that it is our duty to turn out in style to celebrate weddings, to send couples into the world with communal support. And having just been part of creating a ceremony that helped two people that I love to bind to one another, I realize what a blessing it is for an entire community to participate in the celebration of a marriage. When we do not celebrate, when we allow fear and bigotry to get in the way of joy, it is not just the couple that suffers, it is the entire community.

As such, there is more work to be done. I am thrilled by recent rabbinic and local government support for gay marriage in my home state, but Pennsylvania may still be years away from overturning its same-sex marriage ban. And it is certainly not the only state in which same-sex partnerships are second-class partnerships.

As a concerned citizen who loves many people in same-sex partnerships, including many of my professors and class-mates, and the president of my school, it pains me deeply that people I care about are told that their love and commitment is less-than. I owe it to them, as we all owe it to the people we are about, to fight for recognition of loving bonds, however they may look. No person should have to fight for the right for their friends and loved ones to dance at their wedding.

The story of Isaac and Rebecca is a story of love and life after loss. May all of us be blessed to find such support in our lives to help us through the hard times and challenges. And may all of us be blessed to help to support and celebrate the brides and grooms in our lives, whomever they may love.

March 26, 2013

In Honor of the Supreme Court Deciding on Proposition 8

Filed under: Social Justice — Tags: , — marleyweiner @ 3:50 pm

I think this article sums up my feelings on the subject beautifully.

Because we live in a country where it is still legal to fire someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in 34 states. That is more than half.

Because we live in a country where 40% of homeless youth are LGBT, many of whom are forced out of their homes when their parents discover their sexual orientation.

Because we live in a country where rhetoric around public assistance still focuses on marriage as the be all end all to help people, especially women with children, escape poverty (and that rhetoric is unhelpful at best, and actively pernicious at worst).

Because we live in a country where the rich give about half as much of their income to charity as the poor do.

It is beyond important that anyone who chooses should be able to make a family, whether that is through marriage or through other means. And everyone, especially those who build non-normative lives and families, deserve respect, dignity, and justice.

March 12, 2013

Reasons that I Love my Rabbinical School, Part Eleventymillion

Filed under: Rabbinical School — Tags: , , , , — marleyweiner @ 5:35 pm

RRA Resolution on Gender Identity

“Whereas, there will soon be openly transgender and gender nonconforming rabbis who are members of the RRA;

“Whereas, there is a long and painful history of employment discrimination in the United States against transgender and gender nonconforming individuals;

“And whereas, the RRA believes in the right to equal employment opportunities for all of its members;

“Therefore be it resolved that the RRA directs its executive director and board to move forward, in cooperation with the RRC and all relevant associated entities, in educating RRA members about issues of gender identity, to urge the Reconstructionist movement to similarly educate its constituency and to adopt policies that will do all that is possible to provide full employment opportunities for transgender and gender nonconforming rabbis, and to explore how the Reconstructionist movement can best influence the wider Jewish and non-Jewish world to welcoming and inclusive of all people, regardless of gender identity.”

 

See this kids? This is what commitment to ongoing change to support your constituency looks like.

June 20, 2012

Homeless Queer Youth

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — marleyweiner @ 3:05 am

Homeless Queer Youth

This article is old, but the problem of homeless youth in New York is not new, and is only getting worse. There are far fewer shelter beds than people who need them, which leads to children sleeping on the streets. While I’m afraid that I didn’t post this in a time sensitive fashion, it is still vitally important that we as a community see the faces and hear the stories of this country’s most vulnerable citizens.

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