This past Sunday, 49 people were killed in the largest attack on United States soil since 9/11. These 49 people were killed at Pulse, a dance club in Orlando that was a communal hub for LGBTQ individuals.
They were killed, and all they did was take pride in their identities - they were dancing, celebrating, socializing. In fact, what those 49 were doing in Orlando is not too dissimilar to what we do here - we gather together in celebration, we socialize, we pray. We are here to display our pride - our Jewish identity.
One Orlando native said, "There’s a home that’s gone now. Gay and trans people get pushed out of churches all the time, and oftentimes our safe havens become nightclubs. It’s the place that you feel safe. And so, to have this happen at a nightclub, a gay nightclub, is just like—it hurts. It’s home.”
And this ... this is our home.
I don't always agree with everything our reform movement does, but I have always been proud of its staunch adherence to equality, inclusion and diversity. Black, white, man, woman, trans-gender, gay, lesbian - all are home here - all have equal rights and responsibilities in our sacred spaces.
And in our homes, at school, at work, we have talked with each other about yet another mass shooting. And amidst our anger and tears, what can we do?
We have heard lots of talk about prayer. We must remember that most effective prayers are those that we heed ourselves. Prayer must motivate us to action, to doing good in the world. If prayer does not help us act with compassion and holiness, our prayers are for naught. Prayer is necessary, but not sufficient.
A few days ago, there was a seven hour wait to give blood in Orlando because so many want to help. Cities around the world have held rallies and marches, reminding us that love will always be stronger than hate. Parents are having important conversations with their children, such as discussing why the American flag is being flown at half mast in recent days. Many are lobbying Congress for reasonable gun control measures. Muslims that are celebrating Ramadan, fasting from sunrise to sunset, have been in those lines to give blood. All over the world people have shown over and over again that love is stronger than hate. It is These acts that are the truest prayers.
Our most holiest of books, our Torah, contains some reprehensible laws. Leviticus teaches us that "A man shall not lay with another man." Whereas I can not redact the Torah, I will unequivocally reject this law. "It's in the Torah" or "It's in the Bible" is not enough of a justification to perpetuate unjust speech, customs or laws. In 2016, when gay men and women can legally marry one another, it is not acceptable to tolerate the continued exclusion of them in the guise of religious principles.
Amidst my anger, I recognize that I have been a part of many Jewish communities where all have felt at home.
But that is not good enough. Orlando's shooting painfully reminds us that we need to help create these kind of homes everywhere, and not only in our warm enclave of CCI. As the Torah correctly teaches us, we must be a light onto the nations. We must advocate for things we believe in, reaching out to leaders and lawmakers. We must not tolerate any language that may further alienate.
But tonight. as we celebrate Shabbat, we do pray. May our prayers, our actions, our advocacy and our love give honor to those 49 whose lives were taken, their families, and to the God who created all of us in God's image.