Rabbi Philip Weintraub
Congregation B’nai Israel
June 4, 2021
It is an honor to stand with you tonight. At Congregation B’nai Israel of St Petersburg, we stand side by side with our entire community. This is my third Pride Shabbat with CBI. The first was absolutely amazing, the second Covid limited and now it is a joy and mechayeh to be here with you! This feels like we are coming back to life.
I want to share a teaching from Pirkei Avot which seems particularly relevant to us in this moment.
Pirkei Avot 2:16
רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר אוֹמֵר, יְהִי כְבוֹד חֲבֵרְךָ חָבִיב עָלֶיךָ כְּשֶׁלָּךְ, וְאַל תְּהִי נוֹחַ לִכְעֹס. וְשׁוּב יוֹם אֶחָד לִפְנֵי מִיתָתְךָ.
Rabbi Eliezer said: Let the honor of your friend be as dear to you as your own; And be not easily provoked to anger; And repent one day before your death.
Rabbi Eliezer’s words speak of true allyship, of accompanying and whatever the verb for being an accomplice is. If I see your honor as dear as my own, I see you as my equal, my partner, mine. I do not other you, but see you as part of me and my community. For too long in the Jewish world, LGBTQ Jews were seen as less than. My teacher, Rabbi Daniel Nevins, wrote recently about his groundbreaking teshuvah of 2006. With his colleagues Rabbis Dorff and Reisner, he paved the way to the admission of LGBTQ students into my rabbinical school. Yet in his paper, he suggested those who were bisexual try to fall in love with partners of differering genders. Looking back fifteen years later, he felt differently, acknowledging the acceptance of LGBTQ folks in Jewish life and his growth in understanding human needs.
We all can use the reminder to consider how anger serves or doesn’t serve us. There is a time for righteous indignation and a time when anger pushes us against our better nature. His last statement is one of my favorites--reminding us that since we do not know the day of our death, we ALWAYS have work to do. To discuss further is a topic for another time! Join me at CBI for more study of sacred texts and Jewish wisdom.
Today I want to say that I see you! I am proud that each and every one of you is here with us today. Our sacred Jewish traditions inspire us each and every day. As we welcome Shabbat together, we are reminded of the gift of this day, the gift of rest, the gift of joy, the gift of celebration!
May this day and every day be a time of blessing for all of us. Shabbat Shalom!