Shabbat Naso: In Honor of Pride, Queer Morning Blessings

begin with this blessing for all

ברוך אתה יי אלהינו מלך העולם שאשני בצלמו

barukh atah Ad-nai Eloheynu melekh ha’olam sheh’asani b’tzalmo

I give thanks that I am created in in Image of G*d

choose the appropriate continuation/s

for a non-binary person

  ברוך אתה יי אלהינו מלך העולם שעשני כרצונו

barukh atah Ad-nai Eloheynu melekh ha’olam sheh’asani kirtzono

I give thanks to G*d for making me according to the divine will

for a trans man

ברוך אתה יי אלהינו מלך העולם שהפכני לאיש

barukh atah Ad-nai Eloheynu melekh ha’olam sheh’haf’khani l’ish*

I give thanks to G*d for transforming me into a man

for a trans woman

ברוך אתה יי אלהינו מלך העולם שהפכני לאישה

barukh atah Ad-nai Eloheynu melekh ha’olam sheh’haf’khani l’isha

I give thanks to G*d for transforming me into a woman

for one who questions

ברוך אתה יי אלהינו מלך העולם שעשני לבקש

barukh atah Ad-nai Eloheynu melekh ha’olam sheh’asani l’vakesh

I give thanks to G*d for making me a seeker

for a (gender)queer person

ברוך אתה יי אלהינו מלך העולם שעשני כרצונו

barukh atah Ad-nai Eloheynu melekh ha’olam sheh’asani kirtzono

I give thanks to G*d for making me according to the divine will

for a cis woman

ברוך אתה יי אלהינו מלך העולם שעשני אישה

barukh atah Ad-nai Eloheynu melekh ha’olam sheh’asani ishah

I give thanks to G*d for being a woman

for a cis man

ברוך אתה יי אלהינו מלך העולם שעשני איש

barukh atah Ad-nai Eloheynu melekh ha’olam sheh’asani ish

I thank G*d for being a man

all conclude:

ברוך אתה יי אלהינו מלך העולם אשר יצר את הנפש בצלמו

בצלם דמות תבניתו והתקין אותנו בנין עדי עד ברוך אתה היוצר חיים

barukh atah Ad-nai Eloheynu melekh ha’olam asher yatzar et hanefesh b’tzalmo, b’tzelem d’mut tavnito, v’hitkin otanu binyan adey ad. Barukh atah Ad-nai Yotzer Hayim.

Blessed is the Holy Source of life for the human soul which is created in the image of all that is holy, and which shines forever in beauty. Blessed is the Creator of my life.

 

*Rabbi Yosef Pallache, Izmir 1896

Shabbat BeHa’alot’kha: Light the Way Forward

Our parashah begins with these words:
 
דַּבֵּר, אֶל-אַהֲרֹן, וְאָמַרְתָּ, אֵלָיו:  בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ, אֶת-הַנֵּרֹת, אֶל-מוּל פְּנֵי הַמְּנוֹרָה, יָאִירוּ שִׁבְעַת הַנֵּרוֹת.
“Speak to Aaron, tell him: in your lifting up of the lamps, it is toward the front of the menorah [lamp stand] that the seven lights should illuminate.” (Num.8.2)
This is difficult to understand without visualizing the menorah. It is a large, seven-branched lamp stand, and at the top are not seven candles, but seven oil lamps. They look like a simple example of the famous Aladdin’s lamp; they are designed to hold oil, poured in the larger end’s hole, which feeds the wick protruding from the hole at its smaller end.
These small oil burning lamps are ubiquitous in archaeological digs in Israel. They are about the size of your hand, and constitute the equivalent of a torch in a land without so much wood to burn.
Aaron is told to situate the lamps in the menorah in such a way that they give light at the front of the menorah. While this is a reasonable safety measure against setting the Tent of Meeting in which the menorah stood on fire, the seven-branched lamp stand and the direction of its light also invites us to consider a deeper, more symbolic level of meaning.
What does it mean to say that when you lift up a light, it should burn forward?
It is taught that the menorah might symbolize the Jewish people: seven branches, multiple paths in Jewish life. Yet the menorah is fashioned of a single piece of precious metal, demonstrating that the different paths we take need not detract from seeing our community as fundamentally united. Diversity need not lead to division. Rather, differing individual talents can be brought into a synthesis stronger for its various nuances.
Similarly, the menorah can symbolize our society: especially as we enter Pride Week it is appropriate to note the many colors of the Rainbow Flag and the beauty of diversity it evokes. Different paths need not detract from the essential light shed by the human menorah we can become together.
But it’s the light, not the seven branches, that most compels this week – a week in which we experienced the darkness shed by those who rally for racism and lift up the flag of hatred. And so Torah comes on this Shabbat to remind us that we have light to shed, illumination to direct forward. It is not enough for us to share our light among ourselves – Jewish tradition commands us to direct it forward. Onward, despite the demoralization and confusion sown by fear; upward, as our former First Lady taught: “when they go low, we go high.”
The menorah demonstrates that each of us need not agree with each other on what act is the right one for this day and this time; there are many ways forward, and we must understand that to which we are best suited, so that the light we each bring will shine as brightly as it can.
Hazak v’nit’hazek, be strong and let us strengthen each other.