This week we usher in Pride Month. Throughout June in Canada, the LGBTQ+ community is celebrated and brought into focus throughout public spaces and various cultural, educational and religious organizations. The celebration happens from within the community, as well as being led and supported by allies, family members, friends, colleagues, neighbours...everyone and anyone. There are parties and there are also arts events. There are quiet circles for sharing (like our LGBTQ+ community sit happening on Sunday, June 4th at Makom) and Pride Shabbatot (like the one that Beth Tzedec is a partner on, taking place on Friday, June 16th at the Cecil Street Community Centre).
As I enter this month, buoyed by the freedom and safety I experience in my own Queerness, I am struck by the number of emails I have been receiving about the horrifying circumstances for many LGBTQ+ people around the world. As an example, I read about the situation in Uganda where an ‘anti-gay’ law was just passed. In a matter of days, all those living openly in the LGBTQ+ community as well as anyone who knowingly supports them or houses them will face various prison terms including a life sentence. And the confirmation of this law has validated violence by mobs throughout the country. The abuses reported around the world are difficult to fathom. This discrimination and oppression, however, does not only target those who live far away from us. It happens with the laws being enacted in the United States, and we in Canada are not immune. A lack of safety and much worse is navigated by people in our own country and in this city too.
Our Torah portion this week, Naso, contains within it Birkat Kohanim, the Priestly Benediction. As there are no more Priests like there were in the times of the Temple, we each carry the responsibility to offer blessings to those around us, to create sacred and safe space, to build holy community where all are welcome. So, my dear Beth Tzedec family, on this Shabbat Naso, when we celebrate our beloved Rav Baruch, the first Shabbat in the month of Pride celebrations, I'd like to offer you the following three blessings in the spirit of Birkat Kohanim.
May God Bless you and keep each and every one of us safe and cared for.
May the light of the One shine upon you and may that light help you radiate your fullness to the world around you, inviting the light of each and every being’s full self to shine as well.
And, may we be able to experience the Divine Presence turned towards us reflected in each other’s faces, as we commit to being part of making a space of Shlaymut, a peace that is wholeness for each and every being.
Shabbat shalom and Happy Pride!