A Grain of Sand

"I will multiply you as the stars in heaven and as the sand upon the shore." - Genesis 22:17

"I can see the master's hand in every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand." - Dylan, Every Grain of Sand (on Shot of Love)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Torah Portion Chayei Sarah: In Death as In Life

I'm thinking about this parshah in light of Proposition 8. As I indicated in an earlier post, the passage of the amendment, and the Mormon Churche's declaration that it's actions in supporting the bill were beyond criticism really got under my kittel.

In reading the parshah and some midrashim attached to it, I thought about this constitutional travesty and miscarriage of justice. [Obligatory and obvious clarification that traditionally Judaism does not countenance gay marriage].

Now that that's out of the way, onward: to me the most powerful part of the midrash is when the servant Eliezer, sent by Abraham to find a wife for Abraham's son Isaac, and now far from home, finds Rebecca and gazes upon her in amazement.

He announces himself and gives her gifts of earrings, bracelets, and gold. Targum Yonatan comments that the half-shekel earing corresponds to the half-shekel contribution that the Israelites will contribute to help in the construction of the mishkan (the roving Temple used in the desert). The midrash Genesis Rabbah says that the two bracelets correspond to the two tablets of the commandments, and the ten shekel's weight of gold correspond to the ten commandments.

Time collapses at the moment that Rebecca is "discovered" by Eliezer. The Israelite present and future become one as we are reminded that the coupling of two people - Isaac and Rebecca - carries much, much more than their personal longings and desires. It is the root of the history of an entire people and it makes possible the creation of a moral future. As Eliezer gazes at her it is as though he sees the significance of his discovery of her and everything that will follow from it.

Isaac's and Rebecca's relationship is described in terms that would have Freud reaching for his cigar. The Torah says that in Rebecca, Isaac found comfort after his mother's death. The midrash goes further, indicating that Isaac's attraction to Rebecca stemmed from a similarity between the two women - Rebecca conducted herself precisely like Sarah and her presence brought reminder's of Sarah's life back to her son.

What strikes me about the story, with the midrashic details added, is the family psychology. Sarah's death hangs over the parshah; her son is invisible, presumably in mourning for his mother. He is broken, we learn at the end of the parshah, but meeting his wife has revived him and allowed him to triumph over the bitterness of his grief.

Those who seek to deny marriage to gays and lesbians are blind to the psychological depth of gay relationships. They are obsessed with seeing them as merely sexual, or rather as merely "aberrant," non-normative acts. What has become so clear, though, is that such relationships are....relationships. They are complex, beautiful expressions of personal narrative, history and intimacy. We need other human beings to help us move beyond pain, grief, loss, personal history. Anti-gay activists do not want to accept that this is just as possible in relationships between two men or two women as between a man and a woman.

And just as Eliezer gazed upon Rebecca in amazement, aware of the potential of this woman to create a new reality by a holy relationship with Isaac so too should we see the millions of gay people seeking to sanctify their relationships as bearers of history. Each relationship has the potential to transform the individuals who engage in them but also to sanctify the entire society - to build it, improve it, strengthen it with the intense love that exists between two human beings.

1 comment:

  1. Love of HaShem overrides the hostility of the world towards gays and lesbians

    I believe that for gay and lesbian relationships to flourish in love, one of the partners must have the mind of the opposite sex from the other partner.
    There is a lesbian couple at the synagogue whose bond is so well established that their love flourishes more than some married couples with opposite sexual bodies and minds.
    I have never felt more complimented than when one of them asked me hug here with a comforting loving, peaceful smile, but out of the need for someone to show her and her partner love. There was no jealousy from her partner, because their love is grounded in the foundation of the love and worship of HaShem.
    Since I am a boy just reaching sexual maturity in an old man’s body because my sexual development was arrested as a boy of 10 years old, my love for the female partner in this lesbian relationship is much like that of a boy also because of my reaching my second childhood as an adult. However, I am wise in the ways of the world because of my age and the experience and trials that HaShem has put me through in my life.
    To deny this lesbian couple the rights afforded other couples is criminal. But worse than that is the social oppression they must suffer. Since sexual relationship is only a portion of their relationship their love cannot be denied.
    There is not doubt that their sexual relationship is sin, but it is overcome by their love and worship of HaShem and each other. There is no doubt that my major sexual sins have been likewise overcome by my love and worship of HaShem and His renewal of my love for people who also love and worship Him, even if there is sin in our lives.
    The worship of HaShem at the synagogue has been freeing and enlightening in understanding His mercy for searching out the hearts of people to accept those with pure motives even if has resulted in sin.
    Rabbi Bronstein at Shabbat services spoke as if Rebecca just up and left home to go to Cannon with someone unknown to marry Isaac, Eliezer. But the messenger informed Rebecca that Isaac was a close relative chosen by the Lord God Almighty of Israel. I am sure she had confidence in the messenger because of the signs that the Lord HaShem provided.
    Rabbi Josh gets too caught up in dissecting the irrelevant details of the selection of Rebecca for Isaac along with other details in the Torah and then misses the major significance of the Parshah. For instance, he, like most of the other Rabbis, overlooked the significance of HaShem commanding Abram to sacrifice Isaac (Eliezer) to Him. The big picture is that this is a foreshadowing of HaShem’s sacrifice of His son Jesus for the salvation of the good that is still left in the world,