Magazine article Variety

The World Can Change Belief, Even as Belief Can Change the World

Magazine article Variety

The World Can Change Belief, Even as Belief Can Change the World

Article excerpt

A few years ago I officiated at a marriage that I never thought I would as a rabbi in the Conservative branch of Judaism. I married together two Orthodox Jews. Given my sense of tradition and how foreign such a wedding seemed to me then and still does on some level now, only a radical shift informs why I was in that situation, but not for the reason you may be thinking.

I married them because their rabbi wouldn't. Their rabbi couldn't even be asked; he didn't even know it was taking place. That's because Orthodox rabbis don't mariy two men, and some Conservative rabbis don't.

Since performing this wedding, the subject that has been marinating in my soul relates to how I arrived at that spot, and what it meant and means for me as a leader committed to Jewish values.

When 1 used to think about this issue, I thought to myself the same way many of my peers and colleagues did: My heart aches, but there is no way to meld gay marriage with what I understand to be explicit Jewish law. Received tradition can sometimes be painful even when it remains authoritative.

Then I began watching society and myself change. The truth is that modern religionists are in a symbiotic and intense relationship with evolving civilization. Sometimes we take stances that push against the direction that society is going. We do teach values back to the society. But sometimes we have the humanity of the world, and the truths that come from science and others' faiths, shaping our own traditions and norms.

Back when I applied to be the rabbi of Temple Beth Am, I was still torn on the issue. 1 remember giving answers that I knew were equivocating during interview sessions, probably making many people wonder what my religious leadership on this topic would be.

But what brought me to that gay wedding at which I officiated happened to be my cousin. He had been with his partner for years, bringing him to family events. He said that after his home state opened up the possibility for gay men to marry, he wanted, finally, to marry the man who was already his devoted life partner.

How could I not want love for him? And how could his Judaism, which he loved so much, deny him and his partner, whom he loves so much?

When I think back to what it was like for me that day, 1 felt a mixture of emotions. I felt proud. I felt confused, wondering how I had gotten there. I felt great joy for my cousin. And seeing the lack of acceptance by his partner's Orthodox parents, and their discomfort with being there, it reinforced to me how much love this couple needed from me and from Judaism. …

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