Queer Liturgy

A “Commentary” on Leviticus 19

by Rabbi Lisa A. Edwards
(Known in Judaism as “The Holiness Code”)

We are your gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered children:
“You must not seek vengeance, nor bear a grudge against the children of your people.” [Leviticus 19:18]

We are your bi, trans, lesbian and gay parents:
“Revere your mother and your father, each one of you.” [19:3]

We are elderly lesbians, bisexuals, gay men, and transgendered people:
“You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the old.” [19:32]

We are the stranger:
“You must not oppress the stranger.”
“You shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” [19:34]

We are lesbian, gay, trans, and bi Jews:
“You must not go about slandering your kin.” [19:16]

We are your trans, gay, bi, and lesbian siblings:
“You shall not hate your brother or sister in your heart.” [19:17]

We are lesbian, gay, trans, and bi victims of gay-bashing and murder:
“You may not stand by idly when your neighbor’s blood is being shed.” [19:16]
We are your bi, gay, trans, and lesbian neighbors:
“You must not oppress your neighbor.” [19:13]
“You must judge your neighbor justly.” [19:15]
“You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.” [19:18]

Veahvta

(Adaptation of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 by Bracha Yael, 1999)

Hear O Israel

Just as God is One, So are We!

Just as you shall love your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
and with all your might, so shall you love all people.

Teach love, compassion and understanding to your children
when you sit in your home, while you walk on your way,
when you retire and when you arise.

Bind these words as a sign upon your arm so that you may
fight against prejudice, between your eyes so that you may
not be blind to the suffering of others, and write them
on the doorposts of your homes and gates so that
you remind yourself and others that intolerance
will not be tolerated within these walls

Ahavat Olam

by Bracha Yael, 1999

An unending love binds creation together
like a beautiful patchwork quilt
where each piece is both unique and essential.

To know only a part of it
is to know all of it
and to cherish the smallest thing
is to cherish the greatest thing.

If we quiet down we can almost hear
the Compassionate One lovingly sewing
another stitch on creation’s magnificent quilt.

Listen Israel
for the unceasing love that is buried
within the deep, sweet silence
of our souls.

HUC final drash by Rabbi Lisa Edwards 1990

11/29/90**12 Kislev 5751
“The Untaming of a Jew”

Parashat Vayishlach
Hebrew Union College–Los Angeles
Special addition for Modim prayer in Amidah on Pride Shabbat
(Written by Rabbi Lisa Edwards for Beth Chayim Chadashim’s siddur)

In the days before Stonewall, many Jews were among those
who felt the sting of homophobia and biphobia, who suffered from misunderstanding and rejection by family and Jewish community.
But You, Creator of us all, stood firm, reminding us what happened
on the sixth day of creation: va’yivra Elohim et-haAdam b’tzalmo,
b’tzelim Elohim bara oto, zakhar u’nikevah bara otam “And God created the Human in God’s image, in the image of God was it created,
male and female God created them” [Genesis 1:27], until many came to understand that You do not create in vain, do not create without intent; until many of us came to understand that we too are part of Your design, loved equally by You. And the more we have learned and understood, the more has Pride returned to our spirit and the more our Spirits have turned to You. We pray for the day when kol haneshema t’hallel Ya, when all spirits, “every soul that breathes shall praise You” [Psalm 150:6] and admire Your diverse creations.

Torah Queeries by Rabbi Lisa Edwards for the Jewish Mosaic Website

Ma’ariv Aravim

(Originally for Pride Shabbat ’96 by Rabbi Lisa Edwards,
translation based on Kol Haneshema version)

Blessed are You, Eternal One our God, Spirit of the world,
by whose word time passes. In wisdom You open heaven’s gates. With divine discernment You make seasons change,
causing the times to come and go, and ordering the stars on their appointed paths through heaven’s dome, all according to Your will.

Creator of the day and night, of wind and rain, it was You who spread a rainbow across the sky as an ot habrit, a sign of the covenant between You and all living things, telling us then and forever that all of us are Your creation, blessed and approved of by You.

Living and enduring God, remember Your rainbow, and remind us, now and always, that it is a symbol of Your covenant, of Your love,
of Your brilliant creativity, and the endless variety of Your creations. Blessed are you, Almighty One, who makes the colors of light shine forth, a vision of Your glory.

Special addition for Modim prayer in Amidah on Pride Shabbat
(Written by Rabbi Lisa Edwards for Beth Chayim Chadashim’s siddur)

In the days before Stonewall, many Jews were among those who felt the sting of homophobia and biphobia, who suffered from misunderstanding and rejection by family and Jewish community. But You, Creator of us all, stood firm, reminding us what happened on the sixth day of creation: va’yivra Elohim et-haAdam b’tzalmo, b’tzelim Elohim bara oto, zakhar u’nikevah bara otam “And God created the Human in God’s image, in the image of God was it created, male and female God created them” [Genesis 1:27], until many came to understand that You do not create in vain, do not create without intent; until many of us came to understand that we too are part of Your design, loved equally by You. And the more we have learned and understood, the more has Pride returned to our spirit and the more our Spirits have turned to You. We pray for the day when kol haneshema t’hallel Ya, when all spirits, “every soul that breathes shall praise You” [Psalm 150:6] and admire Your diverse creations.

A Prayer before the Election 2008 (Prop. 8/ Obama vs McCain)
written for Shabbat Noach (including the story of the Tower of Babel)

Holy One, walk with us next Tuesday, as poles [polls] apart we walk to the polls to cast our votes and with those votes to cast our fate.

Temper both sides;keep winners away from triumphalism and losers from despair.
Keep our anxieties from overcoming our certainties.

Remind us, if we need reminding, that our relationships are true and truly blessed by You.

Holy One, we know that unlike love, elections and government are only human, and not holy, remind us that not one side or the other is blessed by You, but rather all of us are — designed by You and in Your image.

Ever since Babel we have sought ways to communicate with others who do not speak our language.

Help us continue in that path. May this election;
as divisive as it threatens to be;
somehow bring promise too ;
a promise that all the citizens of our nation acquire newfound desire to pick up the pieces and put them together in new ways that we might begin to construct – not a tower into the heavens – but new bridges to understanding here on earth. Holy One, walk with us next Tuesday.

-By Rabbi Lisa Edwards 10/31/08

Two Prayers for Strength After the Passage of Proposition 8 for Shabbat Lech Lecha:Take Courage (Based on Haftarah Lech-Lecha – Isaiah 40:27-41:16)

Why do you say, O Jacob,
Why declare, O Israel,
“My way is hid from the Eternal,
My cause is ignored by my God?”

Help us remember that our cause is Yours -
the cause of justice and equality for all.
Our way is to embrace all of Your creation,
To honor and include all Your children
.

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Eternal is God from of old,
Creator of the earth from end to end,
God never grows faint or weary,
God’s wisdom cannot be fathomed.

Let us honor God’s creation from end to end,
And resist those who disparage God’s children.
Do you not know that we are all created in God’s image?
Male and female, gay and straight
God’s wisdom cannot be challenged – God does not create in vain.

God gives strength to the weary, fresh vigor to the spent;
Youths may grow faint and weary, and young men stumble and fall,
But they that trust in the Eternal shall renew their strength
As eagles grow new plumes:
They shall run and not grow weary; they shall march and not grow faint.

We have already begun to march; we will march on and never grow faint.
We have run one race and nearly won; we will run again and never grow weary.
We will march and run together and we shall never fall -
Never fall victim to despair, never fall into the trap of returning hate with hate.
God give us strength!

Each one helps the other,
Saying to his fellow, “Take courage!”
The woodworker encourages the smith;
He who flattens with the hammer
Encourages him who pounds the anvil.

Let us each help one another,
Saying to our fellow seeker of justice, “Take courage!”
The straight woman encourages the lesbian – “I am with you”
The gay man encourages the straight – “We have seen this hate before
And we are not afraid.”

“I chose you; I have not rejected you -
Fear not, for I am with you.
Be not frightened, for I am your God;
I strengthen you and I help you,
I uphold you with My victorious right hand.”

God of justice, strengthen us
as justice, justice we pursue.
Let us not be frightened nor despair,
Cause us to strengthen one another
Until justice is ours and victory is Yours.

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