These are very different subjects and to mix them risks offending everyone. Yet, at least for me, there are deep commonalities.
I stopped for a coffee while taking Mitzpah to the dog osteopath. I sat on the grass and took out one of my favourite Hasidic works, Derekh Hamelech by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira. The book fell open at the following passage, as if the text knew exactly what I needed to read:
…Speech comes from the soul… it is only when the listener is able to understand the soul of the speaker, only when his soul is close to the speaker’s soul, that he truly hears.
The rabbi then turned to the world of nature: animals and birds understand each other, but we humans fail to comprehend them because we regard ourselves as higher beings and are not close to them in spirit. It’s not surprising, therefore, that we don’t hear
the call of all the worlds, every level of creation…crying out constantly that God is one…
I sense this ever more deeply the older I get, often to my shame: there is a great symphony of life to which we belong but to which we do not listen.
Because we refuse to heed them, we do our partners in life’s music the most terrible harm. We must learn to listen again, to the wind and water, to every living thing which sustains the life on which we too depend. We need to do so fast.
This has nothing to do with Pride. Except that I cannot be alone in appreciating that here too there needs to be a journey of listening.
When I was asked to help our community decide whether to conduct same-sex marriages, I was stopped more times than I can remember in corridors, corners, even on the underground, and the conversations almost all began like this:
Can I talk to you about how this feels to me?
I want to tell you about my daughter…
This is what happened to our close friend’s son…
I don’t want to convey the notion that the LGBTQ community is a ‘them’ for those of us who are not gay, and that we form a totally separate ‘us’. I wish to communicate something quite different. There is a symphony of life, to which we all belong. Whatever my own melody, whichever my own notes, if I disregard part of the music I both fail to appreciate its gifts and I myself am also incomplete. I would address any form of prejudice in this manner, including in myself: it hurts others, it shrinks my own heart.
I was moved by Alfie Ferguson’s poem in the leaflet prepared for the Jewish group at the UK Black Pride event, celebrating LGBTQ Jews of colour:
Who am I? Another Black soul like you, walking this earth the best way I can…
My Jewishness is me, the same as my Blackness is me, as my queerness is me.
The connection is so strong, honouring family, ancestors and pioneers.
People may think my priorities are wrong, too green, too whatever… There are many ways of describing life’s ultimate purpose. To my mind, the most important matter is to deepen and expand our hearts, to broaden and make brave our deeds, in compassion for all of life, in ceasing from hurting and striving to heal. I believe this is what serving God means. In that task I look every day for teachers and companions.