A Rose by Any Other Name

This post kicks off my 2019 Pride Month series “Proudly Reaffirming Identity, Diversity, and Equity,” exploring present-day issues facing the LGBTQ+ and allied communities.

We all know Shakespeare. We all know Romeo and Juliet. Perhaps not the first illicit love, but surely the most notorious. MacBeth gave us witches, and Hamlet gave us unanswerable questions, “To be or not to be?” and Romeo and Juliet gave us words.

Words, however, should not be underestimated.

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Forgive Me

I want to write a profound and moving post about Yom Kippur. About atonement, about forgiveness, about redemption and revival. I want to write a poem about the pounding of my fist against my heart as I echo, in harmony with the congregation around me, the confessions of our sins. I want to paint a picture of the closing gates with such vividness my readers will forget they’re reading and think they are seeing into heaven itself.

But Yom Kippur is not about grandeur, and what else are these desires?

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If You Please

This weekend was none other than the 25th annual North Carolina Pride. Actually, the event has been going on all week, but it culminated with the Pride Parade on Saturday. I had the opportunity to go once before, and it was a lot of fun and so sunny all my pictures were washed out from the intense sunlight.

Yesterday it rained.

But in this rain, the festivities went on with a crowd as strong as could be, and after the parade I ended up in a lengthy conversation with a visiting Christian who was shouting to all of us that we were sinners and would all go to hell. I hadn’t realized how significant that encounter had been until I reread today’s teaching.

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Two for One and One for Five

Or, Observations; or, Character Profiles of the Rabbinical Kind

This week’s lesson is not a lesson at all. This week’s lesson is a list; and not a list like last summer’s three precepts, pillars, or principles, but a list of names: five students, in fact. It teaches nothing, nothing at all. It is merely a forward to next week.

2.10 Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Zakkai had five disciples, namely:

Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ḥananiah, Rabbi Yose Ha-Kohen, Rabbi Shimon ben Netanel, Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh.

Not very much to work with, is it? I pondered for a moment, I could discuss names, but that’d be a topic teaching little and lasting less, so I thought, if the point is to study, why not go until we have something to study? That is, this week, I’m doing TWO teachings! So let’s carry on, shall we?

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Kung Fu Rabbi

It’s been nearly a year to the day since I wrote my very first post about the Pirkei Avot, and I refer anyone new to the series to that post. It’s a good start, and I promise you, it’s the only one I think you should read to get introduced to the whole thing (although my last one is also well worth the word court).

So here I am again. I was in services this morning for our teacher’s appreciation Shabbat and since I was there a few minutes early, I decided I’d read ahead. Obviously you can see it’s now past midnight, so I’ve had plenty of time to let this story steep. And the truth is, I’ve needed every minute of it. And probably then some, too.

So without any further ado… Press the button below to follow me on this next (and I assure you, rather exciting) step on my journey through the so-called Ethics of the Fathers.

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Sanctity and Solace

Maybe it’s just me.

One thing that irks me to no end is going to religious services and instead of being welcomed into a calm air of heartfelt love and prayer, being immersed in an ocean of chatter and discourse. True: Community is integral to any religious congregation, but isn’t the point to find religious fulfillment, not gossip and how-are-you’s?

When our rabbi gently whispers into the microphone, “Shh…,” people listen, take their seats, and soon thereafter such an atmosphere of selfless love is fostered and culminates in the utterance of what I’m most thankful for tonight.

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The Pursuit of Evil

1.7       Nittai, of Arbel, taught:

Keep far from an evil neighbor;
Be not a partner with an evil person;
Never despair of retribution for the wicked.

Back in the Garden of Eden, everything was lavender and chamomile until they ate the fruit. The one fruit that God had said never to eat. The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.

What we’re not told, however, is that it was not merely the Tree of Knowledge (Adam and Ever weren’t stupid), it was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We can be wise. We can be wise beyond words. But no amount of wisdom necessitates the distinction between good and evil. We can know a thousand ways to kill a man without knowing whether killing is good or bad. We can no a thousand ways to change the world but not know which of those are good and which of those are bad. The power to distinguish good from evil, however, changes everything.

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