Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Southern Rabbi Stands for Marriage Equality

Steven Lebow, of Temple Koi Emeth, in Marietta, Georgia used the Yom Kippur service to take a stand on marriage equality.

Most societies treasure everything in marriage until, well, until things aren’t quite so easy. As soon as there is a variation from the norm, things fall apart, and the center will not hold.

So here is the problem, and here, as Shakespeare says, here is the rub: Some people think that marriage should be a beautiful, permanent, sacred and honorable institution—as long as it’s not between two people who love each other.

Like gay men or women.

I know some will question how I can preach on a political topic. But how can I not address the greatest civil rights issue of our generation: Should gays and lesbians have the same civil rights, the same rights to property, the same rights to inheritance, the same rights to making medical decisions for a loved one, the same rights to marry as the rest of us do?

At the end of the day, what really is wrong in granting gays the same rights to marry as we have? No matter what you may have heard, there is absolutely no proof that gay marriage spells the end of society as we know it!

You will want to know the Jewish or the biblical background to these questions. It is true that a few parts of the Bible criticize gay sexual activity.

But as Reform Jews, we are bound to read the Bible critically and scientifically. In other words, what the Bible says for the year 2000 B.C.E. is not necessarily true 4,000 years later.

The only major condemnation of male homosexuality in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) comes from Leviticus, Chapter 18, Verse 22. The Bible says, “If two men have sexual relations, it is an abomination.”

An abomination? That is pretty strong language and presumably condemns homosexual activity for all time.

Or does it? Not having read the entire Bible puts you at a disadvantage. The term “abomination,” which sounds so indisputable in English, is actually very ambiguous in the original Hebrew.

Calling something an abomination doesn’t mean the same thing in Hebrew as the translation implies. The word in Hebrew is actually toevah, and toevah in the Bible simply means things that our tribe does not accept.

Would you like to know what else is described as a toevah or abomination in the Bible? Of course you do.

Toevah in the Bible also describes working on the Sabbath, witchcraft, many types of sexual relations, and, of course, my favorite abomination, or toevah, in the Torah—if you eat oysters, lobsters, clams, crabs or particularly shrimp cocktail, you are an abomination.

Oh, my gosh, just forget about gay marriage. Apparently those of us who have ever dined at Red Lobster are in really big trouble!

Read the entire sermon here.

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