and subjugating all those who are 'not-us.' But just as it's always been a part of our bloody history, it is ALSO true that rising above that urge is what makes us truly human. We are not merely evolved primates (though we are that as well), we are also made in God's image, and so we tear down boundaries, we educate ourselves about the 'scary' customs and traditions of other groups, and we strive to communicate and build understanding. This week, the US Supreme Court brought us all a little bit closer to our Divine image.
One of the great things about being a rabbi is that you can find SOMETHING in any Torah portion that lends itself to what you want to talk about. And if you can't find it in the Torah, the Haftarah usually comes to the rescue! In our case, the Haftarah does indeed have
something to say about the recent court decision to strike down DOMA, which has moved us one step closer to marriage equality and equal rights for all members of the LGBTQ community. Our story comes from the First Book of Kings, chapters 18 and 19. We are told that the prophet Elijah is forced to flee for his life, because the evil king, Ahab, and his wife, Jezebel, are killing all the Israelite prophets. Elijah is forced to hide in a cave, and he laments to God that "the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant" (19:10). It is yet another example of the oppression of 'the other.' Ahab and Jezebel don't like what the prophets have to say, and so they kill them off, and for a while, it appears as though society condones, and even supports, their actions.
How fitting it is that when God comes to save Elijah, God declares: "Tzey!" - "Come out!" Whether from a cave or a closet, it is time to come out, and it is time to rise above the persecution that destroys our society. God's power is then demonstrated to Elijah.
In a very famous scene, a mighty wind passes in front of the prophet, splitting mountains and shattering rocks, but it is merely the precursor to the Divine Presence. After the wind comes an earthquake and then a fire, and once again, they are each just the opening acts to what will follow. Finally, God arrives in "a soft, murmuring voice" (19:12). After all that pomp and circumstance, God's Presence is manifested in the form of speech; a symbol of our own ability to change the world through communication.
What is real power? How do we affect change on a communal, national, or even a universal level? It is not through violence or intimidation, grandiose displays of power or the vanquishing of one's enemies.
We bring about enduring transformation through education and dialogue, through gradual - yet resolute - insistence that we MUST change. In the terrific song "Same Love" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, the artist sings, "We press play. Don't press pause. Progress, march on!" This is it, right now. We are pressing play and continuing to move closer and closer to a society that is worthy of the designation, "Made in God's Image." Are we ready to 'Tzey,' to come out and do what must be done to ensure equality for everyone? We are getting there, slowly but surely. And I know Elijah would have been incredibly proud of us all.
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