This speech was delivered yesterday by a Rabbi who is a member of the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry. I thought it was too beautiful not to share it.
Speech delivered by Rabbi Dan Judson, Interfaith Rally and March, June 14, 2007
Good morning, I wanted to begin this morning by teaching everybody some Hebrew words. To say good morning in Hebrew you say boker, meaning “morning,” and “tov,” meaning good. And what you learn, when you learn Hebrew is that the response to boker tov, “good morning” is boker or. Now, if you were to walk down the streets of Jerusalem, no one would actually say boker or to you, but this is what you learn in formal Hebrew school. But I want to say it with you this morning. I am going to start this morning by saying boker tov, and if you can respond with boker or, because here is what boker or means, it means a “morning of light.” And this morning is most certainly a morning of light. It is a morning full of light.
I became a part of the RCFM nine years ago, so it feels like I have been preaching and talking and arguing about marriage a long time. And it feels like there is nothing new to be said, it is the same conversation with people again and again. I just hear the questions, I can press the button in my mind that has the answer I have given countless times.
“Rabbi, Rabbi, what about the bible Rabbi, a man shall not love a man the way a man loves a woman, how can we have marriage Rabbi what about the bible?” Press button number 1 in my mind, bible. Right I always say to folks who ask me this, that’s great that you think that verse in the bible is so important because the bible actually says nothing about lesbians, doesn’t mention it all, so you must be okay with two women getting married, you’re halfway there.
Listen I say to them, I love the bible, but I am not a fundamentalist, and if you don’t stone your rebellious son, or do any work on Shabbat than you are not a fundamentalist either. So what part of the bible are you going to listen to — the one oddly phrased verse in Leviticus or the countless times the prophets enjoin us to care for those who are marginalized, the countless times the bible tells us to love our neighbor, love the stranger?
Rabbi, Rabbi, but marriage is the foundation of society. It’s always been one man and one woman. Button number 2, history of marriage. It’s a great point I always tell the person, it’s just that the history of marriage in my own Jewish culture was that the man acquired the wife like property. And then I ask the person who is talking to me if he would like for me to get his wife to discuss a return to traditional marriage values.
Rabbi, Rabbi, but it’s just too dramatic a change, in America we are not ready for it. Can’t they just settle for civil union or something like that? Button 3, civil union. Yes, we should have one category for straight people and one category for gay people, separate but almost equal works out so well in society. I was just thinking that we should have separate categories for Jewish and Christian marriage that would work well.
Rabbi, Rabbi, I get this one sometimes, usually at the end of an argument, Rabbi Rabbi, it’s just the forces of political correctness, gay marriage is just being pushed by the Massachusetts gay liberal agenda. And to this I say absolutely, it is the gay liberal agenda.
Maybe you have heard of the Massachusetts gay liberal agenda, I call it justice.
Maybe you have heard of the gay agenda, I call it equality.
Maybe you have heard of the gay agenda, it is called not living in fear anymore.
Maybe you have heard of the gay agenda, it is called embracing family.
Maybe you have heard of the gay agenda, it is called the real promise of America that we can live in freedom.
Maybe you have heard of the gay agenda, it is called the voice of the prophet calling out let my people be who I have created them to be.
Maybe you have heard of the gay agenda, I call it grace and truth and love.
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So like I was saying, I have been a part of the RCFM for 9 years. And I remember when we used to have rallies. I very clearly remember we had one on City Hall Plaza, maybe 6 or 7 years ago, and we had maybe 15 people there. And I remember that people had signs that were two interconnecting rings that said, “Freedom to Marry.” And I remember people walking by and they had no idea who we were, what in the world we were talking about, and they asked ,”Huh? Freedom to marry who?”
Freedom to marry who?
Nobody needs to ask freedom to marry who? We have gone from being cold outside on the plaza to being inside, with the governor and the leaders of both houses walking by our rally not asking who we were or what we were about, but saying “I am with you.”
Not that long ago, you remember just 5 or 6 years ago, nobody was really seriously talking about marriage being law, we were just hoping to fight off defense of marriage acts which cropped up every year in the legislature. Legal Marriage was a distant dream.
But here we are, dream no more, as the psalmist said, Even maasu habonim, hayta le-rosh pina – The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.
I have this vivid memory from like 6 years ago, there was a defense of marriage bill that we were going to testify on. And the clergy on the other side were called to testify immediately, it was like a delegate of the archbishop and an orthodox rabbi and Martin Luther King’s niece or something, and they said hateful, noxious, facile things about gay folk, and we waited to be called and waited for hours and hours and hours to explain about love, about acceptance. I am not even sure we ever got to speak that day.
But here we are today, love has beaten hate. That is what is so amazing. Love has beaten homophobia. The people who traffic in ignorance and hate have lost. Do they really think that after reaching the promised land we will settle for going back into the wilderness? I hope this ends today, I am tired of having these conversations, it is so painfully obvious what is right. But even if it doesn’t end today, the people of Massachusetts will vote the right way. We will never go back to the days of being outsiders, we will never go back to the days when our voices were not heard, we will never go back to the days when gays and lesbians were stigmatized.
Today is a day full of light. Regardless of the vote, today is a day when love vanquished hate.
Rabbi Daniel Judson is the rabbi at Temple Beth David of the South Shore.