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Pride Shabbat: Selected Liturgy, Readings, and Poems

Twilight People

Rabbi Reuben Zellman

As the sun sinks and the colors of the day turn, we offer a blessing for the twilight, for twilight is neither day nor night, but in-between. We are all twilight people. We can never be fully labeled or defined. We are many identities and loves, many genders and none. We are in between roles, at the intersection of histories, or between place and place. We are crisscrossed paths of memory and destination, streaks of light and swirled together. We are neither day nor night. We are both, neither, and all.

May the sacred in-between of this evening suspend our certainties, soften our judgments, and widen our vision. May this in-between light illuminate our way to the God who transcends all categories and definitions. May the in-between people who have come to pray be lifted up into this twilight. We cannot always define; we can always say a blessing. Blessed are You, God of all, who brings on the twilight.

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Our LGBTQ Siblings: A Prayer of Remembrance 

O God, remember today our LGBTQ siblings who were martyred in years past: those murdered by fanatics in the Middle Ages, those who perished in the Holocaust, and those struck down in our own city, in our own time. Remember also those who took their own lives, driven by despair by a world that hated them because of their love or gender. And in mercy remember those who lived lives of loneliness, repressing their true natures and refraining from sharing their love with one another. O God, remember the sacrifice of these martyrs, and help us bring an end to hate and oppression of every kind.

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She’asanu Betzelem Elohim
Adapted from a speech by Rabbi Adam Rosenwasser

One of the most important teaching of the torah is v’ahavta l’reacha kamocha, love your neighbor as yourself.  There are no ifs ands or buts.  We are commanded to love all members of the fabulous human family. In the creation account of the Book of Genesis, God creates us betzelem elohim, in God’s image.  That means that all of us—no matter our race, religion, gender, gender identity, nationality, economic status, disability, or sexual orientation—are reflections of the Divine Being who created us all. Therefore, when we act with love and compassion toward one another, we become holy.  But holiness is not enough.  Being holy means we become aware of our task, to fix this broken world.  The biblical prophets urge us on with their words, “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” Pursuing justice means that we will keep working until our objectives are achieved, until we gain full civil rights for all, including marriage equality and non-discrimination protections across our country.

Each one of us carries the divine spark within, and when these sparks come together, be they two sparks in marriage, or many more sparks in community, there is that much more godliness in the world.  Bigotry prevents the sparks from uniting, from joining with other sparks. Bigotry and hatred keep people in their shells, afraid.  Bigotry is the absence of justice.  So pursuing justice means dealing with bigotry head on.  It means educating others about the diversity and beauty of Gods creation.  It means not being afraid of ourselves.  It means letting our sparks shine as bright as they can, for where there is light, there is hope, and justice penetrates the dark, Baruch atah adonai, elohaynu melech haolam, she’asanu betzelem elohim.  Praised are you our God, ruler of the universe, who has made all of us in your image, as amazing, awesome, and wonderful creations.  

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I Am Unique
From Siddur Sha’ar Zahav (p.191)

My God, I thank You for my life, my soul and my body; for my name, for my sexual and affectionate nature, for my way of thinking and talking. Help me realize that in my qualities I am unique in the world, and that no one like me has ever lived; for if there had ever before been someone like me, I would not have needed to exist. Help me make perfect my own ways of love and caring, that by becoming perfect in my own way, I can honor Your Name, and help bring about the coming of the Messianic age.

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For LGBTQIQ People
Andrew Ramer

Our people came out of Egypt a mixed multitude, the spray of dividing waters sparkling diamonds all around them. 
We stood together at Sinai, all of us—future, present, past—amid the rumble of thunder and the crack of bright lightning to enter into  covenant with the One who loves us, in whose shining image we are all created, over and over again.

We have wandered bleak landscapes, built flimsy tents of skin and then houses of stone. We have planted orchards and vineyards, seen two Temples rise and then go down in the surging flames, forcing us into exile. We have loved and lost, grieved and danced, transgressed and celebrated. Hidden, suffered, thrived.
And we gather here this day, in the community of our people, a mixed multitude, and we sign out: Hear O Israel, we stand together, all of us, descendants of the single first human created on the sixth day, and of our myriad parents down through the generations, too numerous to name. We stand together, link arms, and pray.
Blessed are You, God of the universe, who sanctifies us with the commandment to love ourselves and one another –in all our varied ways—and blesses us with a diamond-bright radiance that still ripples out from Your first spoken words of creation.

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We Come Together
Kol HaNnshamah: Shabbat Vehagim

We come together this Shabbat, each bringing to this sanctuary a private world of hopes, of fears, of dreams. Some of us are burdened by anxieties and cares that all but crash our faith in the future. Others have hearts filled with happiness, grateful for the joys of the past week, yet aware that even the most fortunate are vulnerable before the mystery of tomorrow. Every life is a unique blending of joy and sorry, of fulfillment and frustration. 

Beneath our uniqueness we are all bound together by our common humanity. All of us most deeply year for the blessings of freedom and peace. Each of us seeks the personal liberation of a mind that is not enslaved to conventional wisdom. A heart that is able to love without fear, a spirit that cries “yes!” to the universe. Each of us strives too for the inner peace that comes with finding a harmony between our aspirations and our abilities. This is the Shabbat peace to which we aspire.

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The crossing 
 Dan Bellm

God did not lead us by the nearer way
when Pharaoh let the people go at last,
but roundabout, by way of the wilderness --

pillars of fire and cloud marking night and day --
to the edge of the flood-tide -- uncrossable and vast.
If God had led us by the nearer way,

we cried, we wouldn’t die here; let Egypt oppress
us as it will; let us return to the past.
But we have come out, by way of the wilderness,

in fear; on faith; free now, because we say
we are free; no longer the unchosen, the outcast.
God did not lead us by the nearer way,

but into rising waters, which do not part unless,
with an outstretched arm, we step forward, and stand fast.
Roundabout, by way of the wilderness

we have come, blessed with love, lesbian, gay
or sanctified in ways of our own, to bless
our God, who did not lead us by the nearer way,
but roundabout, by way of the wilderness.                

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When I heard at the Close of the Day
Walt Whitman

WHEN I heard at the close of the day how my name had been receiv’d with plaudits in the capitol, still it was not a happy night for me that follow’d;
 
And else, when I carous’d, or when my plans were accomplish’d, still I was not happy;
 
But the day when I rose at dawn from the bed of perfect health, refresh’d, singing, inhaling the ripe breath of autumn,
 
When I saw the full moon in the west grow pale and disappear in the morning light,
 
When I wander’d alone over the beach, and undressing, bathed, laughing with the cool waters, and saw the sun rise,

And when I thought how my dear friend, my lover, was on his way coming, O then I was happy;
 
O then each breath tasted sweeter—and all that day my food nourish’d me more—and the beautiful day pass’d well,
 
And the next came with equal joy—and with the next, at evening, came my friend;
 
And that night, while all was still, I heard the waters roll slowly continually up the shores,
 
I heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and sands, as directed to me, whispering, to congratulate me,
For the one I love most lay sleeping by me under the same cover in the cool night,
 
In the stillness, in the autumn moonbeams, his face was inclined toward me,
 
And his arm lay lightly around my breast—and that night I was happy.