Love is for All

The following is a sermon on prose written by myself and Cantor David Reinwald for this past Shabbat during which we celebrated marriage for all. My sections are in purple and David’s are in red.

It started with a burst of light
God created these souls and sent them on their way
Out into the universe they traveled
Wishing to be reunited again
Two souls to become one.

It was paradise in the Garden of Eden.
Surrounded by God’s perfect creation,
There was Adam.
There was Eve.

The Tree of Knowledge stood tall,
And even after that first apple bite,
Sent onward by God into the world,
They knew one thing was always certain,
It was the wholeness of love.

From just two became four, eight, sixteen
An infinite number who filled the land
Each with their own story,
Each with a desire,
to love and be loved.

Families established,
the next generation being born and sent out
Find your love, the one whom you can share
Share all of life, love and dreams.

Then came Abraham and Sarah
A covenant that their seed should become
Greater than the number of sands in the sea
Stars in the sky.
It is their tent in which we stand
When we profess our love.

Isaac represents the will to hang on to a dream,
Sarah’s dream to create the next generation,
To carry forth their ideas and hopes,
L’dor Vador, from generation to generation.

But, it was Jacob who truly was the dreamer.
Of whose namesake, Israel, we should come to be.
Jacob had hard choices to make in his life,
To wait out the time allotted for him to marry his true love, Rachel,
To do what was right in the eyes of not only those around him,
But in the eyes of God.

And, Jacob had to do what was right for his people,
as their leader to secure the survival of those he cared for,
taking them into the land of Egypt, to set forth the destiny of Am Yisrael, the Jewish people,
whether knowing this mindfully or in his heart.

In Mitzrayim we became slaves of body, soul and heart
Yet, deep within we felt a longing to love and be loved.
And when the Pharaoh tried to drown the thirst for love
The people still grew great in number.
Too great, too passionate to forget the tent from which we came.

Through the sea we passed
To the mountain we received
Laws, stories, traditions that would be shared
L’dor Vador, from generation to generation.

And we would continue to find love
Remembering what our ancestors were given,
The promise to be great in number,
The responsibility to be chosen and choose
The memory of, “And you shall love”

In love, we were asked by God to “sh’ma” – listen
In love, we called out to Adonai Eloheinu
And continuing in love, we sang songs of prayer,
speaking of Ahavat Olam — the immense love between God and the people Israel,
an Ahavah Rabbah, a great love which we keep in our hearts every day.
We have found the personal in the collective,
And we share with the collective our personal approach to God, Torah, and Israel.

And with that love our hearts swelled in compassion
Connecting our lives to one another.
ADONAI natan, VADONAI lakach – God gave and God took away
The love of her life who she thought was the one she was to devote each passing day.
But then she turned and another was there.
Ruth thought she was alone, only to be sent into the world after she lost him.
And as another tried to encourage her to go on, she still held her tight,
allowing Ruth to live with her, be with her and be sustained by her.
Ruth could not leave, as they shared the pain of loss.
Comfort was found within her embrace her dear Naomi,
And she spoke: For wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.
And from their love and then one extended, a ruler in Israel would come forth.

King David’s psalms were written better than anyone before him,
Unparalleled by anyone to follow.
Kol Haneshamah Tehaleil Yah, Halleluyah.
From his heart, King David poured only love from his soul,
Wishing that every soul should join him and sing praises to God.

King David was admired and loved by many,
Bathsheba, a wife he gained through fragile circumstances,
And Jonathan, who he loved as his own soul.
David demonstrated that love is universal.
Arising from his days as a child hero,
Initially in the eyes of many he could do no wrong,
And he used that empowerment to be a strong leader,
Recognizing the power of his reign and legacy.
And yet he also faced great losses, and faced times of personal struggle,
He was a king judged by the eyes of God. He was mortal.  He was a human being.
And he saw the image of God in everyone before him, B’tzelem Elohim.

A young woman, unknown to herself that she is created in the image of God.
That she is linked to generations past and holds the future in her hands.
An uncle who encourages her to create a love affair with a man
a man who rules the kingdom and holds the fate of her people in his hands.
He is a simple king, one who only knows power and not love.
Esther, beautiful, smart yet complicated, dances into his life.
His heart is moved, opened and love pours in.
He offers her his kingdom, yet she only longs that her people should live
Live to love God, live to love their community, live to just love.
The happily ever after is not fully known
But we can dream that their love was eternal.

Centuries pass and history is shared
L’dor va’dor, one generation to the next.
Our lives become more intertwined and we as a people grow.
On our lips remain the words, V’ahavta et ADONAI Elohe’cha
And we shall love ADONAI our God with all our hearts and souls.
And throughout the generations this love is put to the test
And we are forced to walk through the furnace of hate and prejudice.
Flames are thrown at us by those who hate us for who we are,
but we learn, like Abraham did in the furnace of Nimrod,
to dance through the flames and survive and love and be loved.

And we move into the present on this Shabbat and weekend of Orange County LGBT Pride,
We celebrate the amazing milestones that have happened recently and in the past,
To allow everyone to be who they truly are, without need to hide their identity,
To allow love to prevail, no matter one’s orientation or gender,
We celebrate the triumph of Stonewall.
We honor leaders such as Harvey Milk, who in their bravery, put their lives on the line for the simple desire of equality,
We smile today knowing that Prop. 8 and DOMA have both been overturned,
But recognize the great strides it took to reach this place.
We honor all those who stood before us to reach this moment today.

This Shabbat we celebrate the beauty of love.
The ability to love who you want and no one can say no.
The strength to stand up and hold the hand and kiss and be with the one who has your heart
and you have theirs.
We as a Reform movement have always recognized
that all people are created in God’s image and all should be treated equally.
It was the Reform movement who first stood openly under the chuppah with all
It was the rabbis of yesterday and today who have marched over bridges
through court houses and in the streets to say,
Everyone should be treated with kavod and ahavah, respect and love.

This Shabbat is one in which we celebrate peace and love for all.
This Shabbat and every Shabbat we celebrate our true colors
For the color that fills your heart and soul is truly beautiful
For every one of us, man, woman, straight, gay, proud
Is truly beautiful and is truly a blessing.



Maccabi in OC – Be Proud!

This past Sunday, Orange County’s Jewish community welcomed over 2300 youth from around the United States, Canada, Mexico, Great Britain and Israel for this year’s Maccabi games. Started in 1982, the Maccabi games bring the Jewish community together in the spirit of competition, sharing talent, and developing lasting friendships.

Sitting in the stadium Sunday evening, I was in awe of the energy and emotion all around me. Everyone knew each other in some manner – through synagogue or Jewish community involvement. Out of town guests were welcomed with open arms and the questions of, “do you know…” penetrated every conversation.

What moved me the most was watching all of the athletes, artists and coaches march into the stadium. Orange County youth who participated in the Jr. Maccabi games earlier this spring held the signs for each delegation. Many teams took these youth and hoisted them on their shoulders. Each delegation was proud to be there and showed it through either a brief choreographed greeting, to throwing beads, sunglasses or other hometown gifts into the crowd. And the fans in the stands cheered them all on as if they were our own. And finally, the crowd jumped to their feet as the Orange County delegates entered the stadium.

The thousands of hours of preparation for this moment was finally realized.  Organizers like our own Irv and Nancy Chase, Hersh Cherson, and Sam Cohen, from the JCC, began to see the fruits of their labor coming to life.  And we, as a community should be so proud to host this week! This is our opportunity as the Orange County Jewish Community to show off what an amazing and welcoming community we are.

But my pride swelled the most as I watched all our TBS youth marching in to the stadium ready for a week of not only hosting, but competing and celebrating with thousands of other Jewish youth from around the world. Each of them is amazing in their own right but even more incredible as a group. Many of them are on teams, some are competing in individual events, but all of them are making connections with other Jews from various communities that will last a lifetime.

I am grateful and thrilled that our own TBS community is so involved in the events of this week.  Many of you are hosting, coaching, and volunteering in many different capacities. Thank you! Your gift of time and energy is truly priceless and ensures the success of this week.

The oath of the games recited by the athletes, artists, coaches and spectators included the importance of having rachmanus, compassion for all! And from what I experienced on Sunday night, to what I am hearing throughout this week, there is so much compassion being shared by all. Be proud TBS! You are truly a part of an historical week in which we continue to build community and connections. Yasher Koach!

(Follow this week’s Maccabi events)