Posts filed under ‘Torah’

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.

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December 29, 2008 at 4:10 am Leave a comment

Some Halachic Writings by Frum Queer Women

The status of lesbians in Halacha is, for the most part not mentioned. Modern books on the halachic status of homosexuals tend to focus mainly on men, and mention women only glancingly, if at all.  Recently, learned women have begun to research the subject and sift through the sources for a greater understanding of the halachic traditions approach to lesbian sexuality and family life.  

While they are not Poskim and certainly do not claim to be, Lisa Liel of Orthodykes and Ziva Ofek of Bat-Kol have written learned articles on the subject.  They are available on the Orthodykes, and Bat Kol websites. Lisa Liel has written in English, including translations of the origional halachic texts, and Ziva Ofek has written in hebrew (I hope she will consider translating her work to Enlgish to make it more accessable). 

I am glad to see that these women, for whom halacha is so important, have chosen to share their thoughts and insights with us.

Posted by queeryeshivameidel.

November 25, 2008 at 1:34 pm 5 comments

Reflections on the Nine Days

For these nine days, I try to focus on and mourn the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash (holy temple).  In our generation, we can’t remember what it was like to have a Temple.  Some of the time, I mourn the fact that I have no idea what it is that I am mourning.  But mostly, it has become a time for me to mourn the distance between us as a people and our g-d, and a time to mourn the distance that separates some of us from each other.   As part of my mourning, I think about why the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed, and still remains unbuilt. 

The Gemara in Yoma teaches us that in the time of the second Beit Hamikdash, the jewish people observed the torah and the commandments, and performed kindnesses, but they hated each other for no reason, and as a result of that Sinat Chinam (baseless hatred), which is equal to idolotry, murder, and sexual immorality, the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed. (Yoma 9b)  

Today I mourn the Sinat Chinam that still exists among us.  I mourn the difficulty with which queer people find welcoming shuls, and a safe place to observe the mitzvot in jewish community- even in communities that perform many kindnesses. The ability to be kind, it seems, does not make it impossible for us to hate.  I mourn the concern of a young straight frum girl who tells me she worries it will be hard for her to find a shidduch because her brother is gay.  I mourn the children of gay and lesbian parents who are not welcomed to certain jewish day schools, and as a result are denied the opportunity to study Torah.  Even those who observe mitzvot sometimes forget to look around themselves and ensure that others can also observe the mitzvot and worship g-d. 

But at the same time I celebrate those who have practiced Ahavat Chinam- groundless love. I celebrate people who have made a special effort to accept and welcome gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-gendered people in their communities.  I celebrate the queer people who have continued to identify with and contribute to communities that do not always include us.  And I celebrate those of us who have taken the time to support one another, in whatever way, in living lives of love in the face of hatred. 

The Gemara in Masechet Taanit teaches us that those who mourn the destruction of Jerusalem will merit to see the happiness of Jerusalem. (Taanit 30b)  Perhaps the gemara means to teach us that the act of mourning itself acts as a catalyst for us to face the Sinat Chinam in ourselves and in our communities, and begin to transform it into Ahavat Chinam.

May we all merit to celebrate together.

Posted by queeryeshivameidel.

August 7, 2008 at 8:36 pm Leave a comment

Why a Lesbian Relationship is not a Cheeseburger

I have never had a cheeseburger. Not once.

They might taste good. I like cheese, and I like burgers, and it’s possible that they would be good together. I’ve heard people say so, and I’ve even lived in a country (the U.S.) where they are advertised relentlessly. Somehow, despite the influences of Pop Culture and the Secular World- I’ve managed (gasp!) not to eat milk and meat together at all.

So I find it confusing when, every once in a while, in a conversation about the place of lesbians in the orthodox world- someone mentions that there are no communities for frum jews who eat cheeseburgers. No support groups. A decent orthodox Jew has never been seen walking into shul and receiving an Aliyah with a cheeseburger in his hand. As such, they say- gay jews should not expect to be welcomed along with their partners to shul. Certainly, there is no cause for communities to support lesbians, they say.

And if the woman of my dreams was a cheeseburger- they would be right. But women are not fast food. I wonder if these people conceive of their own sexual and romantic relationships as being akin to a meal in McDonalds- a cheap food with dubious nutritional value? If so, I worry about them.

For those who have found themselves in a loving frum relationship, be they queer or straight, I’m sure that relationship is nothing like a cheeseburger. We do not seek it merely to satisfy a fleeting and exclusively physical desire, nor would jewish values allow us to do so. The way in which we are asked to relate to one another as frum people, the values of “v’ahavtah l’reiacha kamocha” (loving your fellow human as you love yourself) , gemilut chassadim (acts of lovingkindness) and “areivut” (mutual responsibility), would make it impossible. What we seek in relationship is to become “Reyyim Ahuvim”, (beloved companions) to one another, supporting each other in a life of Torah and Mitzvot. Kohelet teaches us:

“Two are better than one, as they have a good reward in their labor. For if they fall, one will raise his companion upright, and woe to the one who falls without a companion to raise him up. Also, if two lie together it will be warm for them, and for one- how will it be warm? And if one attacks him, the two will stand against him, and the three-ply string will not easily break. ” (Kohelet IV:9-12)

When I seek community with my fellow frum queer women, it is because I know that we have much to teach each other and celebrate together. Their insights, humor and camaraderie have kept me going, and strengthened me in my commitment to living a frum jewish life. When I come to my orthodox shul with my girlfriend, I am proud to share my life with someone as kind, wise, and caring as she is, and grateful to Hashem (and to our very wonderful friend- who made the shidduch) for helping us to find each other.

Posted by queeryeshivameidel.

July 15, 2008 at 2:01 pm 1 comment

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About Tirtzah

We are a community of frum queer women who gather to celebrate and study our yiddishkeit. We are committed to the value of shleimut (wholeness) and to supporting one another in observing a meaningful, integrated, honest and joyful Jewish life.

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