The Few and the Many
Chanukah celebrates small things- a tiny leftover jug of oil, a small army, a slim chance. We celebrate the survival of Judaism and the Jewish people- who have always been vastly outnumbered by the nations of the world. We celebrate a world in which the importance of things is not measured by their size or their power- but by their righteousness.
As an Orthodox Lesbian I am part of a minority within a minority. The majority of people I meet, inevitably, find my experience to be different from theirs. Some of them wonder why I continue to live as I do. Wouldn’t it be easier, they suggest, to closet my identity as a queer person- or to abandon religion and live in a secular world that (they imagine) would better embrace me? Can’t I find a way to be less different- less of a minority?
I’m sure I could. But Judaism has taught me to celebrate the survival of a small minority, despite many difficulties, in a large world. In the time of the Macabees- the Jewish people could have chosen to disappear and become a part of the many. Instead- they resisted, maintained their integrity and identity as a small nation of jews, and persevered.
Sometimes it is hard for me to live as a minority in a world that does not always accept me. In the Orthodox Jewish world, it can be hard for people to understand my choice to live as an out lesbian woman, and sometimes those people make my life difficult. I have had to hear comments from people that I have found hurtful. I’ve had to worry that my family would reject me, and I find it hard to visit the neighborhood I grew up in- because I don’t know whether the community that nurtured my childhood and adolescence would continue to support me now. I know that there are places where I am not welcome to learn Torah, Daven, eat a Shabbat Meal, or set up a household. It is possible that it would be easier if I was in the closet, married to a man I did not love and could not love, and appearing as though I was like everybody else. I would blend in, perhaps- but it would be the wrong thing for me to do.
There are also communities, Jewish and otherwise, who are able to accept me as a lesbian, but who cannot respect my religious convictions or my Orthodox Jewish lifestyle. There are people who would love to “cure” me of my “oppressive” religion, which they imagine is at the root of all my problems- or who hope that one day I will “loosen up” and keep less of the Mitzvot. They find it difficult to believe that I have faith in a g-d who hears my prayers, gave my people the Torah, and sustains the world each and every day. Perhaps I could be more quiet about my frumkiet. I could live in a way that would make it less obvious- or abandon it altogether. I could become more similar to the people around me, stick out less, and find a place where it is always safe to be queer. But that also would be the wrong thing for me to do.
Fortunately, I haven’t had to make either choice. I have found small parts of the jewish world where I can feel fully comfortable and accepted as a queer person, while working to live my life according to the Torah I believe in. I have found a minority of people who would support me in living as my full self, and a few special rabbis and religious teachers who have supported me in seeking to understand how to live my life in a way that would be most consistent with my deeply held beliefs.
Today, as Chanukah is about to end- I look at my life and see that what has allowed me to survive thus far, has been the ability to celebrate these small things. My Jewish tradition, whose bearers have always been a small minority among the world religions, has taught me to celebrate the light that comes from a small jug of oil so small that it seemed, at first glance, inadequate to the task it was given.
Posted by queeryeshivameidel.
Entry filed under: Coming out, frum, frum queer, Holidays, Homophobia, Identity, Judaism and Homosexuality, Living in the Orthodox World, Orthodox, orthodox judaism, orthodox lesbian, Personal Stories, Torah, Uncategorized.