D’Var Torah July 17,2010, by Sy Zivan

D’Var Torah (Talk relating to topics within the Torah) July 17,2010, by Sy Zivan
Moses, concerned that the Israelites will ask for the name of the God who sent him on his mission of freedom, asks God’s name. God said to Moses, Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh. I Am That I Am and I Will Be What I Will Be. There is and there will be but one God. This from the book of Sh’mot (Exodus).

Earlier, in B’reishit (Genesis), we learned that God created Male and Female in God’s likeness. It is not to be believed that the likeness referred to is physical because we do not know of God’s physical appearance. There are many other ways to conjure up how God’s likeness may be mirrored in human beings. One way I would do this pertains to being true to ourselves. True to what we are. Not faking it. Not being what others want us to be if that is not what we are. I Am That I Am and I Will Be What I Will Be.

Even though I am not a physician or a psycho-therapist, I would assume irreparable harm may be done to those who try to fake it and hide their true essence. If nothing else, one who hides what or who they are, certainly feels ashamed of what they are hiding. You keep secrets about what you are ashamed of or feel guilty about. You keep secrets about what others, society in general, tells you is not normal, perverted, something to be shamed. Believe it or not, my parents kept my sister’s juvenile diabetes a secret from the world. Imagine how guilty my sister must have felt that she was a juvenile diabetic. Secrets are good for the combination for the safe. They are not good when wrongly placed guilt is at stake.

Today is Gay Pride Day in Rochester. For ever so long, Gays and Lesbians have been asked to keep their sexual essence a secret by a condemning public. Let’s face it. The condemning public utilized the prohibitions of our own Torah as the foundations of its hatred even though Gay men are treated harsher and Lesbians seemingly not at all. One has to wonder why a couple of lines in Leviticus have been made to be the foundations of so much hatred while adultery gets off scot free. For that matter, when have you seen crowds with signs reading, “Stone the Shellfish Eaters”. The mathematician Blaise Pascal said, “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”

Many think that the turning point for Gay Rights in America, when the pressure inside the vessel popped the cork, took place at a struggle with New York City Police at a Gay Bar in New York named Stonewall in 1969. Time had come for a group of human beings to say who they were and be oppressed no longer. It is so very important to be able to openly say who you are and not fear for your life. Not to hide any longer. Not to lie any longer. Not to be ashamed any longer. They were who they were.

I find it of special interest that so many who are openly homophobic and fight every move to extend civil rights to Gays, Lesbians, Bisexual or Transgendered people have themselves been keeping a secret about their sexual essence.

In fact, there is sort of a doctrine in some religious circles, some Orthodox Jews, to tell Gays to “Get over it! Find a woman! Get married and form a family!” Why not ruin your life, your partner’s life and the life of your children.

I have been involved in an outstanding Organization named PFLAG, Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, for many years. At the first national conference I attended in Indianapolis, perhaps 15-20 years ago, a speaker stood up and said that if every Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and transgendered person, their parents , sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles and children, simply raised their hands, the problem would go away. No secrets. No lies. No shame. There is a Tipping Point.

A friend of mine, David Horowitz, is a retired Rabbi of a Reform Congregation in Akron, Ohio. He is also the incoming President of National PFLAG. He tells of the time as Rabbi in his 500-600 family congregation when not one congregant ever walked into his office for counseling concerning relatives or friends who were Gay or Lesbian. Then, one evening, his daughter sat down with mom and dad and said, “Guess What”. She came out as a lesbian to her parents. He did not know how to handle this with his congregation but worked it out with the President and Board that he would talk about this experience from the pulpit. Within the next two years, 200 people came for counseling about relatives and friends who were Gay and Lesbian. From no one to 200 just because one person raised her hand. The importance of coming out. The importance of being who you are. The importance of being an image of God.

This afternoon, I will march in Rochester’s Pride Parade. I do this because I am so very proud of the fact that my wife and I have raised two children who are equally aware and proud of their sexual essence, one a Lesbian and one a straight man. We know who our kids are and they know who they are and are proud of it.

We open the Book of D’varim (Deuteronomy) today. We are at the border of the Land of Promise after a lifetime of journeying. The journey to The Land could have taken eleven days given the distance that had to be traveled. It took 40 years. We believe the Israelites arrived here with a greater awareness of their true essence than if there were no decades of struggle. Let us hope and pray that the struggle for civil rights for Gays and Lesbians will have resulted in everyone’s greater awareness of who they are, no one faking it, everyone in the image of God.

S. M. Zivan

July 8, 2010

Rochester, New York