Are we moving closer to the Divine in our lives? It certainly may feel more divine with Spring upon us and Summer on its way. But I am talking about the divine within us and the Divine guiding us. We can be a part of a Divine revelation.
For those of Jewish faith, the festival of Shavuot seven weeks after Passover is a time of Divine revelation. As GLBT people, we understand revelation, the act of 'making known,' more than most. Revelations happen to us all the time. We don't wear our sexuality as a skin color or as a culture or as a perceived gender. We must reveal our sexuality to those around us—strangers we just meet and loved ones we've known for years. Every time we reveal ourselves to someone by coming out, that is a revelation. Every time we demand that our relationships are acknowledged and honored, that is a revelation.
Shavuot is the time that God revealed Himself to the Jewish people. What will be our divine revelation today and this month to those around us?
Stephanie Friedman of Congregation Or Chadash challenges us as GLBT people to demand that our divine revelation be seen and heard.
As you read this, Jews around the world are literally counting the days until Shavuot, the holiday that commemorates when God gave the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) to the people of Israel. Such an auspicious moment was this, tradition claims, that all Jews, no matter what gender, age, or social status—even those Jews who had yet to be born—stood at the foot of Mount Sinai to hear the revelation. 'We will do and we will hear,' the people said in response to what God said that day. Their affirmation was immediate and complete.
These days, it's hard not to be cynical about revelation, about the notion that God could talk to anyone but crazy people, and that divinity could enter into the world anywhere, in any way. Perhaps that's why modern Jewish thought stresses the belief that God's divine will to increase life and blessing can only be felt in human history through human deeds, thought, and speech. In other words, our hands are God's hands and our mouths are God's mouth when we work to create, comfort, or heal, rather than to destroy, deride, or poison.
This understanding of 'acting according to the divine will' can be particularly compelling for us as LGBT folk. Some may deny the divinity of those of us whose hands and mouths express love for a person of the same gender or those whose hands and mouths express a gender manifest in our hearts rather than in our physical biology. Yet what is coming out, if not a moment of revelation, after which we promise, as did the people assembled at the foot of Mount Sinai, that 'we will do and we will hear'? In each of us exists an impulse to listen to the still, small voice within us and to reach toward life and blessing as a seedling reaches toward light. As LGBT people, through the very fabric of our lives, we can become the 'army of lovers' who 'cannot fail,' to recall the slogan from the early days of the Gay Liberation Movement. We must truly believe that our hands are God's hands, that our words are God's words, and make our own particular divinity manifest in the world. Our acts and our words, when we struggle for liberation both within and without, carry forward the promise to do and to hear anew, in every generation, the call to bring God into history.
Stephanie Friedman is the Immediate Past President of Congregation Or Chadash, a community of LGBT Jews which meets in Chicago's North Side. For more information, see www.orchadash.org .
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Amy c/o firstname.lastname@example.org . People of various faiths contribute monthly to column. Matheny is a co-host of Windy City Radio, Sundays, 11pm WCKG, 105.9FM.