Our youngest son Sholom peered over my shoulder as I began writing this post.
“Don’t do it,” he cautioned as soon as he saw the word “rainbow.”
“Just let me try,” I insisted. “We’ll see where it goes.”
So here goes:
I started writing this blog a year and a half ago, when I seized an opportunity to demystify Torah/Chabad life by sharing my journey from cultural Judaism to observant Judaism. It was born in response to the Pew study that detailed how religion was diminishing in importance in Jewish people’s lives and how the intermarriage rate was rising. Many people aren’t terribly troubled by these interconnected phenomena. After all, doesn’t religion cause wars, and isn’t the world a kinder, gentler place when everyone can just love whomever they want?
These are difficult points to refute from a worldly perspective. The only true reason to preserve Judaism, to die for Judaism, G-d forbid, is an inner, spiritual reason– its G-dliness. My intention has always been to share the soul of my Jewish journey, hoping to make observant life more understandable, if not attractive. I never want to write about current events unless I can connect them to something Jewish–a concept, a holiday, etc. And, despite the fact that it sells, I try to avoid controversy.
Does that leave anything to write about the Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage? A little. First, something personal, then something Jewish.
In case there’s a question, I want to clarify that I don’t dislike gay people or people who advocate for gay marriage. And I try not to judge them (or anyone else, for that matter). They’re trying to do what’s right based on what they know and feel.
But when I saw all those rainbow flags, and all those rainbow-illuminated buildings, including the White House, I felt excluded as a Torah-observant Jew. Wait, G-d made me this way and I’ve struggled for years to express my Judaism openly and proudly, and because G-d’s Torah includes an inconvenient law about “a man lying with another man,” I’m de facto outside the rainbow? I didn’t create these laws, but I do believe that I was created to follow them, that they’re G-dly and eternal. (In fact, its eternality was one of Torah’s most attractive selling points for me; I was always troubled to see how certain morals and behaviors were championed in one generation and vilified in the next.) Still, you may ask why it’s my business what anyone else does as long as it doesn’t affect me. Because the same Torah I try to follow says that all Jews are responsible for each other, that we are One people, united with One G-d. Whatever any of us says or does in this world has real spiritual ramifications that affect us all. (Talk about inconvenient.)
Everyone can agree that the Supreme Court decision shows how perseverance, selflessness and single-mindedness can and does pay off. On Facebook last week, it looked like the Redemption had arrived for some people. But unless that rainbow includes everyone, the celebration is premature.
How do we get to the real celebration, the true perfection of the world?
Believe it or not, G-d uses the rainbow to help us do it. According to Torah, a rainbow in the sky tells us that we have been transgressing in G-d’s eyes, but that He has remembered His covenant with Noah. There’s even a blessing to be made on seeing a rainbow. It’s an opportunity to thank G-d for His promise that He would never again make a flood that would destroy the world–and a reminder for us to straighten up and fly right. And yet, according to the Zohar, the classic text of Jewish mysticism, a richly colored rainbow is also a sign of Moshiach’s imminent arrival.
So, is a rainbow a sign of G-d’s displeasure or the closeness of the Redemption? In true Jewish fashion, it’s both and the reasons are interconnected. Here’s how:
Throughout the millennia, the rainbow has reminded us to morally correct ourselves and return to G-d, which we have continually done. Rainbow after rainbow. Today, the world is essentially permeated with this powerful goodness, the kind that could only have been achieved through generations of Jews returning to Him after having been distant from Him. The new and improved Messianic rainbow, bright and real, will show that the accumulated goodness has accomplished its mission of perfecting the world. And it will include everyone.
Now more than ever, it’s imperative that we ask G-d to reveal it.