Balak, King of Moab, feared the Children of Israel, and sent word to Bylam in Pethor:
Come put a curse on this people for me. . . perhaps I can thus defeat them and drive them out of the land. for I know that he whom you bless is blessed indeed, and he whom you curse is cursed. (Numbers 22.6)
So begins our sidra this week.
June 28, 1969 – Stonewall. Before that, gay bars were raided by the police regularly all over this country. Gay men and lesbians lived their lives behind closet doors. Many were rejected by their own parents, siblings, and extended families. Rejected by their religious communities. Rejected by their friends. Refused employment. Refused legal protections of civil rights that other Americans took for granted. Deprived of the personal fulfillment that all of us who live in this great land of freedom and democracy supposedly have the right to pursue. Unseen as individual human beings created B’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. Our country cast a curse upon them – begrudged them their very right to live in this great country; indeed, in this world. But that night, at a gay bar in Greenwich Village, men who had been repeatedly harassed by the police and scorned by society, had finally had enough. That night, they stood up and fought back. And the Gay Liberation Movement was born.
June 26, 2015 – The Supreme Court of the United States handed down the decision legalizing same sex marriage in this country. Every state in the Union must grant same sex couples full rights of solemnization and recognition of their marriages and uphold all the legal entitlements that marriage brings with it.
I wonder if any of the brave men in that bar that night, exactly 46 years ago, ever could have imagined that a day would come when the Supreme Court of the United States would affirm the right of all people, regardless of sexual preference, to marry the person they loved, and to experience the fullness of family life.
And Bylam opened his mouth and said: “How can I damn whom God has not damned, how doom when the Eternal has not doomed? . . How lovely are your tents, O Jacob, your dwellings, O Israel! (Numbers 23.8, 24.5)
We dare not delude ourselves into believing that all ignorance and prejudice will immediately cease, and the LGBTQ community no longer has any challenges before it. There is blindness and arrogance all through our nation. But now, at least, there is legal protection against such blindness and arrogance. The better angels, if you will, have spoken. A very significant battle has been won. And in this, we are fully entitled to rejoice. We rejoice, and give thanks and blessing.
ברוך אתה יי אלהינו מלך העולם שהחינו וקימנו והיגיענו לזמן הזה
Blessed are You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has given us life, and sustained us, and brought us together to see this day.
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