PROVIDENCE – On June 9-10, Temple Emanu-El’s LGBTQ+ affinity group, TEQ, hosted a remarkable weekend. The event featured Rabbi Mike Moskowitz, the esteemed Scholar in Residence for Trans and Queer Studies at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, in New York City, the world’s largest LGBT synagogue.
The weekend commenced with a lively and heartwarming Friday night service dinner, attended by nearly 120 individuals who delighted in a delicious congregant-cooked meal. There were also presentations on Friday night, as well as Saturday morning and during Kiddush, drawing over 200 participants.
Rabbi Moskowitz’s teachings addressed LGBTQ+ themes, including the recognition of multiple genders in ancient Judaism and the community’s imperative duty to ensure the inclusion and safety of non-binary individuals.
He also shed light on the notion that misrepresentation and lying are considered the most reprehensible abominations in the eyes of God. This concept is eloquently elaborated on in Rabbi Moskowitz’s blog (Times of Israel, March 4, 2020):
“The verse most frequently cited to denounce homosexuality is Leviticus 18:22 .... The meaning of the word toeiva, typically translated as abomination, was much less clear during the times of the Mishnah. In Nedarim 51a, the Talmud recounts a conversation between Bar Kapara and Rebbe, the redactor of the Mishnah.
“Bar Kapara inquires about the meaning of the word ‘toeiva,’ and Rebbe presents several explanations that Bar Kapara rejects. Eventually, Rebbe asks Bar Kapara for his interpretation, and Bar Kapara explains: ‘Toeh Atah Ba,’ understood by commentators as ‘you are straying from your wife to be with another man.’
“We find further evidence connecting toeiva to deceitfulness. Deuteronomy 25:16 employs toeiva to describe those who possess unjust weights and measures. ‘For everyone who does those things, everyone who deals dishonestly, is abhorrent to the Lord your God.’
“Just as God despises the deception inherent in presenting false weights as truthful, God does not want us to be deceitful in our most intimate relationships. By denying the existence of gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals and coercing them into heterosexual relationships, we are perpetuating toeiva, a fundamental and enduring deceit, exactly as the Talmud understands the prohibition of Leviticus 18:22.”
Another insight gleaned from Rabbi Moskowitz’s teachings is the inherent inclusivity of people with diverse genders and sexual orientations in our Jewish tradition.
Looking ahead, TEQ has exciting plans for 5784, including movie screenings, an LGBTQ+ Shabbat Chai, panel discussions and more. LGBTQ+ congregants are invited to participate in the committee and seek collaborative opportunities with other affinity groups in the broader Rhode Island Jewish community. If you’d like to get involved, or have questions, please email email@example.com.
RABBI MICHAEL FEL is the senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El.
STEVEN HOREN is co-chair with FRED FELDER of TEQ at Temple Emanu-El, in Providence.