Grasshoppers!. Our Torah portion this week, Shelach Lecha (Numbers 13:1-15:41), emphasizes that we saw ourselves as grasshoppers. Moses is commanded to send out twelve scouts to scout out the promised land. While Caleb and Joshua give favorable remarks, ten return and say: “All the people that we saw in the land were of great size – we saw giants there – and we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them” (12:32-33).
Clearly, if we see ourselves as grasshoppers, we fear others see us this way as well. But we never stop to acknowledge why we might see ourselves as grasshoppers and who or what might cause us to think of ourselves as grasshoppers. When we are told that something is wrong with us, we begin to feel that something is wrong with us, we believe that something is wrong with us.
This Shabbat, we introduce onto the bimah the Israeli Pride Flag, as we celebrate Pride Shabbat this weekend. We have discussed this in our Worship Committee and a question was raised why we proudly hang our pride flag. The Jewish community already knows that we are welcoming and inclusive. After all, we are located in New Jersey. This is the problem with most religious institutions. We thinking it is good enough to be welcoming. We think it is acceptable just to be accepting.
Too many of our institutions refuse to acknowledge the hurt and pain that we have caused. So many of our synagogues and churches, schools, camps, and youth groups caused so much pain to our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer community members for so long. We not only turned away so many amazing individuals from organized religion and God, but also pushed a hetero-normative culture, and hid behind a specific verse of scripture – or a particular rabbinic interpretation of said verse – to suggest that there was something wrong with them because of who they love or how they identify. Our communities are at fault for far too long treating our loved ones, our community members who identify as gay, trans, bi, queer, gender non-binary or gender fluid, as grasshoppers.
And too many institutions, too many houses of worship refuse to even do teshuvah and acknowledge the pain that we caused on generations of members of our communities. It is amazing how many religious communities celebrate the LGBTQ community. It is not enough to just accept our community members. We celebrate. We wave our pride flags high to celebrate. We recite pride blessings to celebrate. We participate in the Pride Festival to celebrate. We celebrate as a way of doing teshuvah. We celebrate so that no one here should ever feel as if they are grasshoppers. We celebrate so we all always feel like giants. We celebrate so that every home we enter, whenever we stand on the precipice of our promised lands, we don’t have to fear entering that new land or fear coming out of the closet. Rather, we celebrate each and every person, and in doing so, we celebrate our faith in God because we celebrate our faith in ourselves, being created in God’s image.