We walked into Kol Haneshama last night and hanging from the ceiling and on the reader’s desk were rainbow flags. This Shabbat Balak was dedicated to the plight for equality for all people, especially the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) community.
Parashat Balaam, hired by King Balak, was sent to curse the Israelite people. However, as Balaam learns from his donkey, who speaks to him with the aid of an angel from God, cursing the Israelite people is not in his cards. Balaam is instructed that while he is hired to curse the Israelite people, that he is only to look down upon them and speak the words God tells him. All that Balaam can speak are words of blessing. And Balak, not wanting to give up this opportunity to curse the people, sends him to three different locations on high, hoping that these different vantage points will result in a curse. Yet, only blessings pour forth.
Balaam does not just bless some of the people. He never says, ‘you over there, wearing the red robes, or you by the fires or the tents, I’m only going to bless you.’ No, Balaam blesses ALL the people.
Mah tovu o’halecha ya’akov, mish’k’notecha Yisrael – how beautiful are your tents O Jacob, your dwelling places O Israel!
All people, no matter the color of their skin, their religion, their sexuality, are blessed. One cannot say, ‘I will only bless you, but you, who are created in the image of God; I will not bless you.’
Our prayer last night was this:
Shekhina whose name is Love, God who created us in Your image: We thank You today for the pride and strength You have given us to live our lives, each of us in our own way, as equal members of our community and of society.
We honor the memory of pioneers who challenged, received wisdom and demanded their right to renew the old and to sanctify the new. Gay men and lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders and their supporters tired of labels and diagnoses and brought upon us, like the blessing of their rainbow, countless ways to understand and realize Your counsel: It is not good for a human to be alone.
As we sought to live our life faithful to the nature You implanted in us, those who profane Your name, claiming that they hate in Your name of God, rose up to humiliate and criminalize us, to brutalize us and erase us. In Your great mercy, You stood with us in our time of trouble and gave us the courage to stand together, to open our eyes and the eyes of the world around us, to see that all Your creations deserve the freedom and the right to love. Today, too, strengthen us that we might witness and create wonders, be who we are and love whom we love – not in the shade, but in the light of life; that we might live as Jews in the embrace of community, sanctifying our unions and celebrating before each other and before You.
The stone that the builders rejected has become a cornerstone. May we never know shame again.
And let us say: Amen.