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Parashat Beha'alotcha

June 17, 2022
18 Sivan 5782
Numbers 8:1 - 12:16

Dear Friends,

In this week’s Torah portion, beha’alotecha, Moses complains to God about being overworked. God suggests he bring seventy elders of the community to help him, and says that God will put some of God’s spirit into the elders. Moses does so, and it turns out there are two elders, Eldad and Medad, who aren’t by the Tent of Meeting but get this spirit anyway. They start to speak their truth in the camp, and Joshua complains to Moses that they are out of line. Moses says he doesn’t have a problem with other prophets being around. In fact, there should be more of them. Talmud tells us that Eldad and Medad never stopped being prophets.

Recently, at my parents’ synagogue, a change was proposed to one of the prayers. The purpose of the change was to make things more inclusive; instead, what it would do is cement a gender binary structure, leaving out anyone who is gender non-conforming. My mother knows how to change that prayer with a non-gendered option, and she called me to ask if she was right about it – and she was. Five or ten years ago, she wouldn’t have noticed. However, now that she has become attuned to looking at who is excluded in that way, she can’t not notice it.

Of course, human rights movements are always led by people in the affected group. However, without consistent communication to others so they can understand the issues, our voices are often unnoticed. I imagine Eldad and Medad as people who stayed away from the Tent of Meeting because they didn’t want to be separated from the people they served. I think they were therefore gifted with the ability to voice the needs, concerns, and fears of the people around them. If we stay in communication with each other, even when it’s difficult, we can work for our mutual liberation.

I think it is fitting that we are celebrating Pride Shabbat just before Juneteenth. The movement for queer liberation depends greatly on Black activists and the methodology of the Civil Rights Movement. There are similarities between the concepts of Pride and Black Joy. 

As we continue to work together to solidify and expand liberation, I am excited to take a day of rest with you as we celebrate Pride Shabbat together.

Jay Stanton

Sun, June 26 2022 27 Sivan 5782