Rabbis Rabbi Freirich Freirich and Judith Schindler
As we grow up we all hear voices that influence who we are and how we look at ourselves…the voices of teachers, the voices of the media, the voices of politicians – those of the left and the right, the voices of friends and adversaries, the voices of those who are kind and the voices of those who are cruel.
Throughout this conference, throughout this weekend and throughout this service you have heard different voices…voices of reason and support, voices of experience and wisdom, voices of what some call God.
Today we offer a homily in two voices spoken by two clergy. In Judaism, a Rabbi is not some elevated religious spokesperson for God. The title Rabbi means teacher. Today we offer you more two more voices -- a masculine voice and a feminine voice that bring to the ear some of the spoken and written words from the wellspring of our Jewish tradition from our 4,000 years of history.
Today we share with you a voice of Genesis.
B’tzelem Elohim, the Hebrew can be translated as “in the Divine image”. What some read to restrict, we read to expand. If all we know about the Divine is that it is not limited, then to be created makes us inherently of infinite variety – humanity comes varied, and we embrace change as we develop who we become.
When we read Genesis we read deeply to use the text to transform ourselves and our communities into places that celebrate variation. We embrace change and evolution as expressions of the infinite image within each of us.
We hear the voice of Genesis that calls us reflections of the limitless.
We speak with the voice of Genesis that cherishes the infinite in all of us.
In the book of Genesis we hear echoes that call us to be open…to open our hearts, our minds, and our souls. The texts held by the three monotheistic faiths and beyond call us and our communities to embrace the value of hospitality.
In Genesis, as Abraham, at the age of 99, was healing from circumcision “God appeared to him by the terebinths of Mamre; he was sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew hot." Strikingly, when Abraham catches a glimpse of three strangers, three passersby, Abraham jumps up and leaves God's presence to greet three foreigners:
“As soon as he saw them,” the text tells us, “He ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them and to offer them food and water and a place to rest their weary bodies and souls.”
Jewish legend teaches that Abraham's tent was open on all four sides so that he could welcome travelers approaching from all directions. Another text tells us: “All the years that Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was alive...the doors of the tent were wide open.... There was blessing in the dough of the bread....There was a light burning from Sabbath eve to the next Sabbath eve.”
Creating welcoming communities, making room for other voices than our own, opening our tents, and our hearts and our minds, enriches and enlightens us. As a text a second century Rabbbi Ben Zoma taught, “Who is wise - the one who learns from every person.” We lift ourselves when we listen and learn from others. May each of you be blessed to surround yourselves with faith communities, with circles of friends and families that offer open hearts, open minds and most importantly, open arms that warm, embrace, appreciate and love you for who you are.
Today we share with you a voice of Jewish spirituality.
Jewish mysticism demands connection to the world – we do not withdraw from others as we seek a path of deeper meaning, for how we behave with others reflects our deeper selves as well. We cannot become a mystic, without also being a mensch, the Yiddish word for “righteous ethical person”.
Ethical behavior comes from recognizing that deeper meaning in each of us. The tradition of Kabbalah reads the creation of light at the beginning of Genesis as the projection of infinite possibility into our limited world. The Jewish mystic identifies every living being as a bearer of a shard of the Divine, of that original light. When we relate to each other as reflections of the infinite, we must embark on a spiritual journey that opens our eyes, minds, and souls to the beauty in diversity.
When we embark on a journey of self-discovery we pursue a path of deeper meaning. When we recognize everyone else as sharing that traveling path, we open each other to a more meaningful existence.
When we listen with a spiritual heart, and speak with an ethical voice, we participate in the positive transformation of the world.
Today we share with you a voice of Jewish prayer.
In Judaism, we have are meant to utter 100 blessings a day: when we wake, when we study, when we eat, when we lie down to sleep. We are meant to be ever appreciative of who we are and what we have.
When we see someone who is different from ourselves, we are meant to say:
Baruch Atah Adonai eloheinu melech haolam m’shaneh habriyot… blessed is our God, who makes all human beings different.
God created every human being differently. As we seek for those around us to celebrate the spark of the Divine within us, the unique gender that we are, may we always celebrate the Divine within others.
Today we share with you a voice of Jewish activism.
Abraham Joshua Heschel, rabbi and activist once said:
“A religious [person is one] who holds God and [person] in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair.”
When our highest ideals come forth in righteous behavior, we listen to all our voices, and insure a world where all will be heard.
We hope you will hear the voice of community… that has created this conference, that stands up for you and fights for your rights, that works to establish justice for you and for the entire GLBTQ community. This past April, three clergy, supporting by eight organizations and fifteen other clergy, set out for Washington to legally marry seven gay couples – it was a front cover story. We will speak, we will preach, we will travel to stand for you and with you – to help your voice calling for equality be heard. We have created in Charlotte, a brand new Interfaith Equality Coalition, that works for GLBT equality.
And finally, of all the voices we hear each day and throughout our lives, we hope you will here the voice of kol dmamah dakah, the still, small voice of God within you.
In the Book of First Kings, the prophet Elijah, believing that he was the last living Israelite prophet and fearing for his life, yearned to see God. God promised to appear to him. There was a great wind that rent the mountains, but God was not in the wind. There was an earthquake that shook the earth beneath his feet, but God was not in the earthquake. Then there was a fire, but God was not in the fire. Then there was a kol demama daka, a still small voice. And God was there.
May you find God inside you. May you hear God in that still, small voice. May you see God in the gender that you have become or are becoming and always were. May you know that you are created b’tzelem elohim – “in the image of the infinite”.
May all of our voices rise together, painting a tapestry of infinite colors, transforming the world to a place that appreciates diversity, and welcomes us all.