Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,
As Shabbat approaches, we pause to take stock of the week now ending. Where did we live up to our hopes, and where did we miss the mark? What do we need to celebrate, and what do we need to release, in order to be emotionally and spiritually open for Shabbat?
It’s been an intense week on the American political scene, and many of us have been glued to our media sources following the Supreme Court’s landmark decisions.
In overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Supreme Court repealed an unjust law which denied same-sex couples access to 1,138 federal benefits granted to married couples and thereby equal protection under the law. Here in our state of Massachusetts we enjoy equal marriage rights — and I hope and pray that someday our friends and loved ones across this nation will enjoy the same rights which are our birthright here. I join CBI’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members (and straight allies and supporters) in celebrating this ruling.
Intermixed with joy at the end of DOMA is sorrow at the Supreme Court’s other decision this week, which struck down an important provision in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. They argued — I think erroneously — that racism is no longer a problem in our country. The likely end result of this decision is that many voters will experience increased discrimination as they endeavor to exercise their right to vote.
These two issues — minority voting rights, and the right to marry one’s beloved — intersect. And both impact the liberty and the righteousness of our nation. The work of eliminating prejudice and discrimination, and of ensuring that everyone has full access to the equal rights which are our God-given inheritance, remains ahead of us. The road to liberation is long and there are miles to go before we sleep.
But Jewish tradition teaches us to celebrate our victories, even when there is still further we need to go. We’re called both to celebrate, and to roll up our sleeves and rededicate ourselves to fixing what’s still amiss in this nation which we love.
Join us at CBI tomorrow morning for Shabbat services led by Rabbi Pam Wax. The Torah study discussion will focus on the lived Torah of this week’s human experience: these landmark Supreme Court decisions, and how they relate to Torah, and how they might help move us closer toward the ideal of what Jewish tradition calls redemption.
May we each experience a Shabbat of connection and joy.