This week is the Shabbat of cows. We read parashat Ki Tissa which recounts the incident of the golden calf. And also this Shabbat is Shabbat Parah, one of the special shabbatot leading up to the celebration of Pesach, when we read about the mysterious red heifer; a cow whose ashes both defile and purify. There have been many interpretations about the meaning of both these bovines, their place in the tradition and what we can learn and understand from them. Tradition teaches us that there are 70 facets of Torah, every passage has multiple interpretations and it is for us to turn it, turn it and turn it again until we uncover the many ways we can find meaning in our ancient texts. Our challenge is to continue to refine and shape our Judaism through interpretation, midrash and alongside the challenges of modernity, to discover that meaning and include all in the embrace of Judaism.
In some cities this week is the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. We, at TBS, join with the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) community in Harrisburg during the past 7 summers to appreciate the many gifts which they bring to strengthen the spirit of diversity. During the years, we have used the process of interpretation and understanding to reimagine the laws of Judaism to be inclusive and welcoming of gays and lesbians. But there is still a long way to go – both legally and within our culture. Many young people have difficulty coming out, and others have very strained relationships with their families – or co-exist in loveless marriages, unable to find the support to step away.
It is up to us all to help change attitudes and get to know our GLBT brothers and sisters, for we all stood together at Sinai and together we now shape the Judaism that we want for the future. May we continue to work together to create a Judaism which celebrates diversity, is embracing and welcoming of each individual with our uniqueness and finds the holiness and godliness within us all.