Sign In Forgot Password

Looking Backward, Looking Forward

12/16/2021 06:35:08 PM

Dec16

My remarks from this past shabbat, about how the things we say might be heard, about how our congregation welcomes LGBTQ+ Jews, and my own family’s journey, have provoked significant comment and discussion.  If you haven’t heard them you can watch them on https://vimeo.com/656188886.  You may also be interested in my comments from earlier this fall at https://www.bnaitorah.org/rabbi-heller-blog?post_id=1254055.  This week I’d like to share some thoughts on how the Torah guides us forward.

The Torah and Haftorah readings for Vayehi are both marked by powerful figures trying to provide instruction.  In our Torah portion this week, we read about Jacob’s final instructions to his children end of his life.   On his deathbed, Jacob offers feedback to his sons on the major events of their lives to date, and gives them insights as to how their personality and character might be reflected in the tribes that would bear their names. Jacob blesses and berates his sons. In some cases he is quite harsh  in some cases he even warns them, but he does not give them guidance how to change the path that is pre-ordained for them

In contrast, in the Haftorah, David gives very specific guidance to his son Solomon on how to treat friends and enemies, how to grow and succeed in a new environment.  He shares his regret for things that he had not done, and encourages Solomon to do differently.  

As I think about how our conversations might continue, I would like to choose a path that chooses the best advice of Jacob and David, and goes beyond both.  While the errors of the past can be instructive, our goal cannot be recriminations. This is not Jacob cursing those who made mistakes  in the past.  What is far more important is our path for the future- concrete steps.  In the coming weeks and months,  I’ll be collaborating with our staff and lay-leadership to plot those steps.  I believe that some of the most productive efforts will include:

  1. Encouraging members of our community who have a personal stake in these questions, to join with those who want to be actively supportive, to create safe spaces (bridges group, study groups, etc).
  2. Offering opportunities for congregants who have questions or concerns, and want to learn more, to do so in a non-confrontational, non-judgmental environment
  3. In previous years, we had already reviewed our policies and practices, materials and forms, to ensure that we are a welcoming institution, but that work must be ongoing, and we can benefit from partnerships with organizations like USCJ, Keshet and Sojourn.

Any important institutional effort takes time and collaboration.  David and Jacob had the disadvantage that they were out of time.  They could not continue the work of building their families.  We have the blessing of knowing that we have work to do, but also time ahead to learn and grow.  

Fri, December 2 2022 8 Kislev 5783