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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 19, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 42
Marriage equality: A Jewish perspective
Section One
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Marriage equality: A Jewish perspective

by Rabbi Aaron Meyer - Special to the SGN

Your attention, please! Would Aaron Meyer please report to the Guidance Office? Aaron Meyer to the Guidance Office!

Me?!? A boy who still held his mother's hand to cross the street at age 15? My sense of doom was eventually assuaged when I realized it was simply my turn to flip through college scholarship possibilities. After viewing some 200 offerings for various groups of students, I grew flustered: 'Isn't there a scholarship for average, middle-class, Caucasian males from the suburbs?' It wasn't until some years passed that I realized how misguided I was.

I recently had the opportunity to spend an interfaith summer with students from Andover Newton Theological School, affiliated with the United Church of Christ. We studied a number of texts, but none were so personally influential as Peggy McIntosh's essay Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Privilege, she says, is like an invisible, weightless knapsack that we carry on our backs, stuffed full of all of the unearned assets upon which we rely throughout our lives.

After studying this article, I began to enumerate those privileges that I enjoy - I began to unpack my own invisible knapsack. Foremost in this discussion, as a heterosexual male, my partner and I had the privilege of getting married last November. As a religious person - as a rabbi - I believe that our prayers inspire us, our sacred scriptures challenge us, and our shared Jewish values obligate us to stand for justice and equality for everyone created in the image of God.

OUR PRAYERS INSPIRE US
When Jews pray the words of Hashkiveinu, 'Shield and shelter us beneath the shadow of Your wings,' we ask for God's shelter of peace over all of us, regardless of the color of our skin, our gender, or our sexual orientation. When we pray the words of Oseh Shalom, asking God to bring shalom - peace, wholeness, completeness - for us and for all humankind, we do so without discrimination. When I pray to a God who loves righteousness and justice, I also pray that I have the strength to stand for that justice in the world.

OUR SACRED SCRIPTURES CHALLENGE US
When we pull individual Biblical lines out of context, we do violence to the text and to Jewish tradition. When we uphold these distorted texts above all else, we do violence to each other. Will we, as religious people, lift up those verses that seem to put down homosexuality - all four out of 23,000 of them in the Hebrew Bible - or will we stand in support of those that affirm the humanity and equality of all people?

OUR VALUES CHALLENGE US
Judaism is a religion that challenges adherents to work for the betterment and perfection of this world. Driven by our belief in one God and inspired by the history and traditions of our people, we all endeavor to live our lives in accord with our highest values, including the rabbinic notion that we are all equals in God's eye - encouraging dignity and respect for all human beings, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Rabbi Aaron Meyer is a member of the clergy of Temple De Hirsch Sinai, a Reform community in Seattle.

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