Anyone who’s ever known me is aware that I wear my love of my hometown city and state with pride. As I write this, I am actually wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with St. Louis. I walk through life loudly proclaiming my thanks to a city that made me. That’s why it was especially saddening these past couple weeks seeing the latest in a long saga of damning and toxic anti-trans legislation.
If you want to read more, check out this powerful piece from the New York Times. In short, the Missouri House of Representatives is attempting to push through legislation that would limit medical care and athletic participation for transgender children. This is part of a record number of pieces of legislation against the LGBTQ community as noted by the ACLU.
Needless to say, the hometown pride is low these days. Yet, it’s also bolstered by fellow clergy and holy humans fighting the good fight against these dehumanizing efforts. There is much worth raising a ruckus about in our world while so many people in power seem oddly obsessed with people’s genitalia.
The lack of ability to see the beauty in the diversity of humanity is apparent in these efforts. As author Joyce Carol Oates wrote this week:
The only thing that the “vast majority” has to fear from the private lives of individuals who represent a small minority of the population is that their irrational hatred for this minority will poison their souls & lead their own children to abhor them.
Hatred and fear drives these people. It pushes them to see someone different than them and immediately think “what fault can I find in them that will prevent me from seeing my own flaws?” Diversity is anathema to them. On the contrary, our Torah loves and welcomes the gift of diversity.
Our parshah this week starts off the section relating to the construction of the tabernacle. In the beginning of our portion, we learn that the gifts of each person came מֵאֵ֤ת כׇּכל־אִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִדְּבֶ֣נּוּ לִבּ֔וֹ, from the giving heart. Riffing off this notion, the Sefat Emet notes that everyone 's gift was uniquely their own, looked different, and reflected their own heart. Had every person brought the same thing, the tabernacle could not have been constructed. He goes even deeper:
The Midrash . . . offers a parable of two merchants, one who has silk and the other peppers. Once they exchange their goods, each is again deprived of that which the other has. But if there are two scholars, one who has mastered the Seder Zera’im (the Order of Seeds in the Mishnah) and the other who knows Seder Mo’ed (the Order of Festivals in the Mishnah), once they teach each other, each has both orders.
Ours is a tradition, not of stuff, but of wisdom. That wisdom comes in the form of the Torah that we each have to share with one another. When we teach one another about our gifts, the potential for community is endless. If one person opens up their giving heart to me to share their Torah, I, and we are made stronger for it.
All of these beautiful souls who are being targeted by this legislation are being stripped of the chance to offer their heart-gifts to the world. On top of that, record number of issues of mental health and suicide rates are skyrocketing within the trans community as a result of this type of legislation.
Think about how much Torah and life we are not accessing because of the actions of these politicians. In the eyes of the Sfat Emet, the mishkan would not have been built without the unique gifts of each person. Our world cannot stand if people’s humanity is being taken from them. Lives have been and will continue be lost.
God dwells among not just the sanctuary but among “them” we are told in the beginning of the parshah this week. It’s not just the edifice in which God dwells but that godly spark is within each of us. Every political effort that we see to snuff this out is an attack. on the Divine as well. May we all find the courage to fight this sacred fight and find our pride once more.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Weekend
Right on, rabbi