Aharei Mot-Kedoshim: Gay and Lesbian Inclusion



Rabbi Benjamin David



This Dvar Torah uses the themes of Aharei Mot and Kedoshim to reinforce the importance of gay and lesbian inclusion.



This is one of the rare times in the Jewish year when we have not one but two Torah portions to cover in a single Shabbat.  Think of it as a double header.  The double portion is known as Aharei Mot - Kedoshim.  What’s interesting is that these two portions, these two stories, though they appear back-to-back, really have very little in common.
The first begins by asking us and asking the Jews of the Torah how exactly the Jewish community can go on after the tragic death of Aaron’s two sons.  In this difficult time, how can we respond?  Given the many emotions, the hurdles between our current place and a place of contentment, how can we take a step forward, together?  How might we best face challenge, together?
The second portion is about the way in which we bring holiness to our world on a day to day basis, not merely on the high holy days or on Mitzvah Day.  Kedoshim means holiness.  And the portion reads like an essay on paths to holiness: honoring our parents, teaching our children, helping the poor, living lives of honesty and generosity.
The lists of commandments and good deeds noted in this portion surround and uphold and celebrate perhaps the Torah’s most important of commandments: love your neighbor as yourself.
Love them as the unique and complicated and sacred selves that they are.  That we all are.
Such seemingly small actions become large actions, actions that influence our own character and perspective, actions that change the character of the world around us.
Tonight, on this Shabbat sponsored by our Gay and Lesbian Inclusion Committee, led so capably by (person's name), we could say we find ourselves nestled between these two ideological touch stones.  On the one hand Aharei Mot: Where might we find strength, direction, amidst on-going ignorance and persecution?

When gays and lesbians are still denied so many of the rights they deserve – we all deserve – how might we best respond?  How might we best face these challenges, take steps, together?  These are questions for the here and now.
On the other hand Kedoshim: How might we bring an environment of holiness to our world?  Beyond politics and lobbyists, how might we create a more accepting and open community?  How can we as Jews, so often on the outside looking in, now welcome in those who have been cast out by hate and close mindedness?  These are far reaching questions, timeless questions.
On this night, it is truly my pleasure to welcome to our congregation (people's names), both of whom work with the gay community and a wonderful organization known as PRIDE.
Shabbat is not merely about the stories of the Torah.  It is about personal stories.  (People's names) will share some of their story with us so that together we can learn and together we can continue to make our world a more sensitive, more inclusive, and more loving place.
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