Owning Our Word, Interpreting Their Meaning: The Torah And LGBTQ Issue

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As you know, the Orlando attack has led to passionate discussions about some complex issues that we are wrestling with nationally. One of the issues in the spotlight is the fact that homophobia has deep roots in religious teachings. Islamic teachings pertaining to LGBTQ issues have made the headlines since the Orlando attack, but the fact is Judaism contains very troubling teachings concerning these same issues.

It is imperative that we understand and come to terms with the reality that the Torah – the same sacred book that our kids read as they become Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the same holy book we read every Shabbat and on the High Holidays – contains seeds of hate that have the potential to do great harm. This is why tonight, during our 7:30PM Shabbat Service, I will be talking about a few verses of Torah that not only condemn LGBTQ individuals (Leviticus 18:22) but also promote violence against the LGBTQ community. Yes, you read that last part correctly.

Many in the Jewish and Christian community who believe that the Torah is the true word of God and often hide behind the “you can love the ‘sinner’ but hate the ‘sin’,” overlook that the Torah teaches that “homosexuality” is punishable by death (Leviticus 20:13). Our holy text supports the idea that LGBTQ relations are not just abominations, these relationships are capital crimes!

As the passionate discussion surrounding Orlando and dangerous religious teachings continue, the Jewish community must own what our sacred text says, wrestle with the words in the text and determine how we, as a congregation that proudly includes many members of the LGBTQ community, interpret these words in a way that supports the values that we live by today.

I hope you will join us this evening. I encourage you to bring older children and teens with you (young children are always welcome but will probably not be engaged by the discussion!). If you can’t make it, the service and discussion will be streamed live, as always, here. For those of you on Twitter, we will also be live on Periscope (@rabbijacobs) at 7:30PM. The discussion should begin around 8:00PM.

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