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Saturday, 22 February 2014

Homosexuals in the Orthodox community

Sukkah 19

Jane and Susan came to see me about naming their new baby in the synagogue.  “We’re assuming that you won’t accept us in your Orthodox shul, right?” 

It’s not the first time I’ve had conversations of this sort with gay couples.   Sometimes I almost feel as if I’m being tested, so that they can point their finger at Orthodox Judaism as unaccepting and intolerant. 

“Of course!  We would be honoured to have the baby-naming in our shul,” I replied, “welcome to our community!”

Rabbi Oshiya teaches that one may sleep under invalid schach that is less than three tefachim (handsbreadths) wide since it joins together with the valid schach, thereby becoming validated.   Rabbi Yitzchak ben Elyashiv notes that in fact if there was not enough acceptable schach to cover the sukkah, the unacceptable schach would actually validate the acceptable schach by completing it!

He compares it to liquids such as mud that on their own could not be used in a mikvah.  Nevertheless, when they are added to a kosher mikvah that is lacking the requisite volume of water, they effect the completion of the mikvah and thereby validate it!

A community in Hebrew is called a tzibur.  Our Sages explain that the word tzibur is an acronym for “tzadkim v’beinonim u’reshaim” – very observant people, traditionally observant people and less observant people.  It takes all types to make up a community. 

When we exclude certain people from our community because we feel that they are not worthy, we lose our status as a tzibur.  In other words, we are only a valid tzibur when we are joined by all types.  If we were to exclude any individual due to their behaviour or lifestyle choices, we would be incomplete and thus an invalid community!  

What’s more, our Sages are teaching us that there are always going to be different types of people, some more observant, some less observant; some excelling in certain mitzvot, others excelling in different mitzvot.  Our job is to love every person equally and to be as inclusive as possible.  Otherwise, we are incomplete.

Today I pledge to be as inclusive and tolerant as I can be.  I shall fight for the inclusion of all types in the community, because without all types, I am not part of a true community of G-d.  

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