A Tabernacle from the Flames and Smoke – Vaykahel

ner_tamidThis past Shabbat our congregation was touched by that which we never thought could happen to us. An early morning electrical fire destroyed our kitchen and the heat and smoke found their way to every corner of our sanctuary building. No space was left untouched by smoke or soot. And while the flames are extinguished the reminders of this tragic Shabbat morning linger. And they will linger for a long time to come.

We find gratitude in that no one was injured. The building was empty on that early morning, February 15 and our Torah scrolls were relocated and are safe. Responses about the news still come from near and far with the same message of hope: ‘we are here to help however we can and thank God no one was injured.’ ‘It’s only stuff and stuff can be replaced, a life cannot.’ Yet still we mourn because while it is only “stuff” it is Our stuff that we take great pride in and love with all our hearts and souls. Our home has been touched by the flames of destruction and our hearts break. There are those of you in our congregational family who understand this all too well and I know this event opens wounds yet again.

This week’s parasha is almost ironic, but then again, we experience that there are times in our lives that the Torah portion for that week is the one we need at this moment.

Vaykahel is a beautiful story detailing exactly how the Tabernacle was to be built. With the artist’s direction of Bezalel and his partner, Oholiab, inspired by God, the people go to work creating the architectural plans and building to God’s exact specifications the place the people will gather, pray and learn. The details are breathtaking and the clear descriptions of the materials and colors used leap off the parchment. The people bring the treasured offerings to build the Tabernacle in great quantity. Everyone wants to participate, everyone wants to be a part of building not only God’s home, but their spiritual home. No one is left out and no one holds back their gifts. It is an expression of the ultimate love for community and peoplehood.

Over the past 72 hours our community has called out asking…wanting to help. Messages of “what can I do?” “let us know what you need” and “we’re here to help rebuild” have flooded our email and voicemails. And for now, as we are just starting to strategize that plan I continue to return the messages with, “thank you, please stay in touch with us and we will stay in touch with you. We will rebuild together.”

We are the Israelites in the parasha wanting to come forward to bring our gifts. We are the Israelites today wanting to rebuild our syngagoue; our beit k’nesset, beit t’fillah, beit midrash - house of gathering, prayer and learning. And together, we will!

Even in the midst of this tragedy there remains a beacon of hope still shining bright in our sanctuary. A light that needs no electricity, no power except that which God gives to us. Our ner tamid, eternal light, is still shining! Powered by the sun and unaffected by what has befallen us, the ner tamid calls us to remember that no matter what, no matter where, God is always here with us. God has not left us. If anything, God has protected all of us. It is the beacon of hope to remind us that our congregation is not the building but rather the people who make up the Temple Beth Sholom family. We are a house of peace (Beit Shalom) and we will be a complete and whole house (Beit Shalem) again.

May each of us hold on to the light of our ner tamid within our hearts and may we be strengthened to rebuild our home as our community is strengthened with the love we share for our congregational family.

Kein y’hi ratzon – May it be God’s will and May it be ours!

Add a Little Beauty

Every Shabbat I try to do something special for the family. I’ve made it my custom to bake challah every week. I admit, there are some weeks that slip past me and I can’t get the dough up, but at least it’s a goal. Our family, like all families, is very busy. With Dahvi in high school, Yoni in fourth grade, and my Shabbat schedule, we seem to be going in too many different directions. When they were younger, it was so much easier to get the family together for Shabbat, have dinner, light the candles, say Kiddush and enjoy the challah. But today, dinner is optional. However, Shabbat is not. Even if it means we gather in the kitchen at 3:30 pm on Friday afternoon, we have to find time to celebrate Shabbat together somehow. These few minutes are precious to me and I want them to be meaningful and beautiful. That’s why I bake challah every week; carefully braiding it and baking it just the way we like it.

We are told to make Shabbat and all of the mitzvot beautiful – chidur mitzvah. This week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, makes a big deal out of making something beautiful. Almost half of the portion is spent carefully describing in great detail, the garments for Aaron, Moses’ brother and appointed High Priest for the Tabernacle, and his son’s. The ephod of gold, blue, purple and crimson yarns. The lazuli, amethyst, emerald, and sapphire stones. The woven work of the tunic that will then be adorned with gold threads and bells all along the edges so that God might hear him when he enters the sanctuary. These adornments are meant not just to identify who the Cohanim are, but rather, to make the mitzvah of their work elevated because of the beauty of how they are adorned.

On Shabbat, we hope to make things a bit different than the rest of the week. We hope to adorn it with a table set with the candles, Kiddush cups, and challah. We braid the challah to show that this is not just an ordinary loaf of bread. We braid the challah to bring some beauty to our Shabbat. Even though the meal might be as simple as ordering pizza, because that’s what we have time for, how can we add something beautiful to our Shabbat table for that moment? How can we make the mitzvah of observing Shabbat that much more beautiful so that it does not just roll into the rest of the week?

I know not everyone has time to bake challah every week – I put the dough up on Thursday afternoon and bake it that night. But, we all have time to add a little something different and beautiful to our tables, our kitchen counter, our home, to physically acknowledge the beauty of Shabbat is with us. This coming Shabbat, consider bringing out the candlesticks you might not have used in a while. Or fill the Kiddush cup and offer the blessing for just a moment. Or even set a tzedakah box out as a reminder at the end of the week that the change we have in our pockets or wallets can go to do some good for someone else bringing beauty to their lives.

Yes, life is busy and sometimes we are going in so many different directions that we don’t think one small act of making Shabbat beautiful will make a difference, but try it. You might be pleasantly surprised that a little chidur mitzvah, making a mitzvah beautiful, can make such a difference in a week.

If you want to try baking your own challah, here’s the recipe I use each week. Then get creative and try some other ingredients to your liking. Make it your own.

1 cup hot water
2 Tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons yeast
Mix them all together in a bowl and let the yeast start to do it’s work.

In another bowl:
½ cup oil
½ cup honey
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
5-6 cups flour. (I sometimes use wheat or combine wheat and white flour)
Add the yeast mixture.

I mix it all in a Cuisinart. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a cloth and let rise till doubled or when you can get to it.

Divide the dough into 3, 4 or 6 and braid. Here’s one link to get your started to braiding your challah.

Brush with egg wash – 1 egg scrambled with a little water.

Oven 350 degrees for 45 minutes (or less if you like it a little underbaked). Tap on it, if it sounds hollow, it’s done.  However, pay attention to the challah as it bakes. If it starts to get a little too brown on top, put a piece of foil lightly over the top.

Shabbat Shalom!

 

Don’t Forget To Breathe!

Stand tall, feet squarely on the mat.
Feel the earth below your feet.
Breathe in and out slowly.
Let go of the to-do lists and everything that’s in your head.

Wait! I have to let go of what!?!? I need my to-do list. What if I forget to call someone? I have a list a mile long that needs to get done today. It’s my one day off of the week and I need to be productive! If I let go of the list, then what will happen to it?

Then it appears in front of me, a suitcase. It welcomes me to put the list in there. Don’t worry, it will be safe. I put my list in the suitcase, it closes and locks itself. I swear it smiled at me letting me know that it will come back after this hour that is just for me.

As you begin your balance pose, remember to breathe!
We’re not holding our breath.
Breathe in deep from your nose down through your body.
Feel the breath as it courses through you and opens not only your muscles

Feel the breath as it courses through you.

I take deep breaths, trying to hold the balance pose. One foot on the ground, the other crossed over my knee, bending with hands at heart center. Now I know why I had to put everything into the suitcase. I needed to focus on not falling over! And then I realize, I’m supposed to breathe! I’ve been holding my breath. Not just at this moment, but I’ve been holding my breath all week. How beautiful breath is – not just life sustaining, but life affirming. It flows in and out of me. When something is stuck in my head or my muscles, I breathe. Then it loosens itself just enough to move so I can see it more clearly and not let it take a strangle hold on me.

Breath, it is the neshamah, the soul that flows within me. The breath is not only in my lungs, but it is every part of me. Don’t forget to experience it. Don’t take it for granted and dismiss it. Let the neshamah flow.

Savasanah – just lie on the floor and breathe.

Sounds pretty easy, right. Not so much. Savasanah requires us to lie there without thinking about anything. Is my suitcase still there? Wait! Let go! Breathe! And I breathe. And then, the bell – roll on to our sides and come to a sitting position. The hour is over. I’ve stretched and strengthened and my muscles are reminding me of that. I’m grateful for the hour and the reminder to breathe. My suitcase returns and opens itself before me. Yes, everything is still there. But it’s all a little more clear and not so overwhelming.

Breathe! I must remember to breathe all week and honor my body and soul.

Namaste!

Changing my Profile Picture Doesn’t Mean I Forget

Jewish supermanI struggled with trying to find the right time to change my Facebook profile picture. For the past couple of months my picture was one to send love and support for a family and a little boy battling refractory acute myeloid leukemia. But on Shabbat, December 14, Sammy Sommer lost his battle and we lost an amazing little boy who will forever be eight years old and in the short time he lived, he  changed the world.

There are thousands who follow Rabbis Phyllis and Michael Sommer’s blog, Superman Sam.  They invited us to join in their journey-truly a precious gift. They took us through each moment and were never shy about expressing times of hope and tragedy. We laughed and we cried together.

Many others changed their profile pictures to ones resembling Superman. I was excited to find the Jewish Superman logo. It was a common bond amongst so many friends I do know and now friends recently created because a little boy brought us together.

But when do I change my profile picture? If I change my profile picture will it mean I am choosing to let go? No. It does mean that life moves forward and we take Sammy’s memory with us. It means that our work is not yet done and we have to fight with all of our strength to ensure that no child, no family ever endure what Sammy and the Sommer’s have over the past 18 months.

Today, there are those who have changed their profile pics to: 36+ rabbis are shaving their heads for a little known organization called St. Baldricks Foundation – “a volunteer-driven charity committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and give survivors long, healthy lives.”

While I am not shaving my head I am trying to help raise money and awareness in order that we can help find a cure.  Find a cure so that other ‘Sammy’s’ may live and change the world through their actions. Please, click on the link to St. Baldrick’s Foundation and give.

Yes, I’ve changed my profile picture but I have not nor will I forget Sammy, z’l. He’s changed my life in ways he never knew. He brought me closer to so many and for that, I am grateful. Loss is painful and life is beautiful. Now, it’s time to write the blessings for a new tomorrow.

What Matters Most

I don’t know a parent who wouldn’t sacrifice everything for their children. We don’t realize the impact children will have on our lives until they are first placed in our arms. We would do anything to ensure they are safe, cared for and given every opportunity to have a full and good life. Yet what is frustrating are the moments when we might become powerless.

Joseph’s brothers stand before him in Egypt, Benjamin being accused of stealing a silver goblet from the palace. The man who stands before them is their brother, yet he has not revealed himself as of yet. This “Egyptian official” threatens to imprison Benjamin and the rest of the brothers are free to return to their father, Jacob, in Canaan. Judah, the fourth brother in line, steps forward and speaks for his brother, Benjamin, and pleads on behalf of his father. He asks that this “Egyptian” take him in place of this younger brother, son of his father’s dead wife, Rachel. Jacob made them promise to bring Benjamin safely home and Judah knows that if they return without him, it will literally kill their father.

Judah is in the place to feel the pain of losing children. Judah lost two of his sons early in their adult lives, both married to Tamar. He knew all too well the pain of losing children and did not want his father to endure this again, for Jacob already believed he lost Joseph years earlier.

Judah therefore makes the ultimate sacrifice and tells this ruler in Egypt, whom they do not yet know is Joseph, that he cannot let his father endure the pain of losing yet another child. Judah’s compassion for his father was so great especially as he was able to empathize with him in such a personal manner.

Yes, parents have buried their children and the pain seems too great to comprehend let alone survive. Some pour their energy into sharing their children’s story and others do all they can just to get out of bed every day. I can’t even begin to understand the pain a parent feels when s/he must bury a child.  But the lesson I learn is that ultimately, nothing else matters but our families for it can all be taken away in an instant. While we pursue our own goals and dreams, we do so with our family at our side. We do so in hopes that these moments are such that we create memories to last a life time, and even the most stressful or chaotic will some day be fantastic stories to be shared with grand and great grandchildren.

Be it child, spouse, or friend, there are those moments in our lives when we would make the ultimate sacrifice so that they may live. We recognize and are aware that there seems to be an order to life. But when that order is disrupted, we pray that God provides strength. We pray that one should never feel alone, and that even in the most painful of moments, mourning can be turned into dancing. And we pray that every day, we remember what truly matters.

Amen

Love is for All

The following is a sermon on prose written by myself and Cantor David Reinwald for this past Shabbat during which we celebrated marriage for all. My sections are in purple and David’s are in red.

It started with a burst of light
God created these souls and sent them on their way
Out into the universe they traveled
Wishing to be reunited again
Two souls to become one.

It was paradise in the Garden of Eden.
Surrounded by God’s perfect creation,
There was Adam.
There was Eve.

The Tree of Knowledge stood tall,
And even after that first apple bite,
Sent onward by God into the world,
They knew one thing was always certain,
It was the wholeness of love.

From just two became four, eight, sixteen
An infinite number who filled the land
Each with their own story,
Each with a desire,
to love and be loved.

Families established,
the next generation being born and sent out
Find your love, the one whom you can share
Share all of life, love and dreams.

Then came Abraham and Sarah
A covenant that their seed should become
Greater than the number of sands in the sea
Stars in the sky.
It is their tent in which we stand
When we profess our love.

Isaac represents the will to hang on to a dream,
Sarah’s dream to create the next generation,
To carry forth their ideas and hopes,
L’dor Vador, from generation to generation.

But, it was Jacob who truly was the dreamer.
Of whose namesake, Israel, we should come to be.
Jacob had hard choices to make in his life,
To wait out the time allotted for him to marry his true love, Rachel,
To do what was right in the eyes of not only those around him,
But in the eyes of God.

And, Jacob had to do what was right for his people,
as their leader to secure the survival of those he cared for,
taking them into the land of Egypt, to set forth the destiny of Am Yisrael, the Jewish people,
whether knowing this mindfully or in his heart.

In Mitzrayim we became slaves of body, soul and heart
Yet, deep within we felt a longing to love and be loved.
And when the Pharaoh tried to drown the thirst for love
The people still grew great in number.
Too great, too passionate to forget the tent from which we came.

Through the sea we passed
To the mountain we received
Laws, stories, traditions that would be shared
L’dor Vador, from generation to generation.

And we would continue to find love
Remembering what our ancestors were given,
The promise to be great in number,
The responsibility to be chosen and choose
The memory of, “And you shall love”

In love, we were asked by God to “sh’ma” – listen
In love, we called out to Adonai Eloheinu
And continuing in love, we sang songs of prayer,
speaking of Ahavat Olam — the immense love between God and the people Israel,
an Ahavah Rabbah, a great love which we keep in our hearts every day.
We have found the personal in the collective,
And we share with the collective our personal approach to God, Torah, and Israel.

And with that love our hearts swelled in compassion
Connecting our lives to one another.
ADONAI natan, VADONAI lakach – God gave and God took away
The love of her life who she thought was the one she was to devote each passing day.
But then she turned and another was there.
Ruth thought she was alone, only to be sent into the world after she lost him.
And as another tried to encourage her to go on, she still held her tight,
allowing Ruth to live with her, be with her and be sustained by her.
Ruth could not leave, as they shared the pain of loss.
Comfort was found within her embrace her dear Naomi,
And she spoke: For wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.
And from their love and then one extended, a ruler in Israel would come forth.

King David’s psalms were written better than anyone before him,
Unparalleled by anyone to follow.
Kol Haneshamah Tehaleil Yah, Halleluyah.
From his heart, King David poured only love from his soul,
Wishing that every soul should join him and sing praises to God.

King David was admired and loved by many,
Bathsheba, a wife he gained through fragile circumstances,
And Jonathan, who he loved as his own soul.
David demonstrated that love is universal.
Arising from his days as a child hero,
Initially in the eyes of many he could do no wrong,
And he used that empowerment to be a strong leader,
Recognizing the power of his reign and legacy.
And yet he also faced great losses, and faced times of personal struggle,
He was a king judged by the eyes of God. He was mortal.  He was a human being.
And he saw the image of God in everyone before him, B’tzelem Elohim.

A young woman, unknown to herself that she is created in the image of God.
That she is linked to generations past and holds the future in her hands.
An uncle who encourages her to create a love affair with a man
a man who rules the kingdom and holds the fate of her people in his hands.
He is a simple king, one who only knows power and not love.
Esther, beautiful, smart yet complicated, dances into his life.
His heart is moved, opened and love pours in.
He offers her his kingdom, yet she only longs that her people should live
Live to love God, live to love their community, live to just love.
The happily ever after is not fully known
But we can dream that their love was eternal.

Centuries pass and history is shared
L’dor va’dor, one generation to the next.
Our lives become more intertwined and we as a people grow.
On our lips remain the words, V’ahavta et ADONAI Elohe’cha
And we shall love ADONAI our God with all our hearts and souls.
And throughout the generations this love is put to the test
And we are forced to walk through the furnace of hate and prejudice.
Flames are thrown at us by those who hate us for who we are,
but we learn, like Abraham did in the furnace of Nimrod,
to dance through the flames and survive and love and be loved.

And we move into the present on this Shabbat and weekend of Orange County LGBT Pride,
We celebrate the amazing milestones that have happened recently and in the past,
To allow everyone to be who they truly are, without need to hide their identity,
To allow love to prevail, no matter one’s orientation or gender,
We celebrate the triumph of Stonewall.
We honor leaders such as Harvey Milk, who in their bravery, put their lives on the line for the simple desire of equality,
We smile today knowing that Prop. 8 and DOMA have both been overturned,
But recognize the great strides it took to reach this place.
We honor all those who stood before us to reach this moment today.

This Shabbat we celebrate the beauty of love.
The ability to love who you want and no one can say no.
The strength to stand up and hold the hand and kiss and be with the one who has your heart
and you have theirs.
We as a Reform movement have always recognized
that all people are created in God’s image and all should be treated equally.
It was the Reform movement who first stood openly under the chuppah with all
It was the rabbis of yesterday and today who have marched over bridges
through court houses and in the streets to say,
Everyone should be treated with kavod and ahavah, respect and love.

This Shabbat is one in which we celebrate peace and love for all.
This Shabbat and every Shabbat we celebrate our true colors
For the color that fills your heart and soul is truly beautiful
For every one of us, man, woman, straight, gay, proud
Is truly beautiful and is truly a blessing.

 

 

Maccabi in OC – Be Proud!

This past Sunday, Orange County’s Jewish community welcomed over 2300 youth from around the United States, Canada, Mexico, Great Britain and Israel for this year’s Maccabi games. Started in 1982, the Maccabi games bring the Jewish community together in the spirit of competition, sharing talent, and developing lasting friendships.

Sitting in the stadium Sunday evening, I was in awe of the energy and emotion all around me. Everyone knew each other in some manner – through synagogue or Jewish community involvement. Out of town guests were welcomed with open arms and the questions of, “do you know…” penetrated every conversation.

What moved me the most was watching all of the athletes, artists and coaches march into the stadium. Orange County youth who participated in the Jr. Maccabi games earlier this spring held the signs for each delegation. Many teams took these youth and hoisted them on their shoulders. Each delegation was proud to be there and showed it through either a brief choreographed greeting, to throwing beads, sunglasses or other hometown gifts into the crowd. And the fans in the stands cheered them all on as if they were our own. And finally, the crowd jumped to their feet as the Orange County delegates entered the stadium.

The thousands of hours of preparation for this moment was finally realized.  Organizers like our own Irv and Nancy Chase, Hersh Cherson, and Sam Cohen, from the JCC, began to see the fruits of their labor coming to life.  And we, as a community should be so proud to host this week! This is our opportunity as the Orange County Jewish Community to show off what an amazing and welcoming community we are.

But my pride swelled the most as I watched all our TBS youth marching in to the stadium ready for a week of not only hosting, but competing and celebrating with thousands of other Jewish youth from around the world. Each of them is amazing in their own right but even more incredible as a group. Many of them are on teams, some are competing in individual events, but all of them are making connections with other Jews from various communities that will last a lifetime.

I am grateful and thrilled that our own TBS community is so involved in the events of this week.  Many of you are hosting, coaching, and volunteering in many different capacities. Thank you! Your gift of time and energy is truly priceless and ensures the success of this week.

The oath of the games recited by the athletes, artists, coaches and spectators included the importance of having rachmanus, compassion for all! And from what I experienced on Sunday night, to what I am hearing throughout this week, there is so much compassion being shared by all. Be proud TBS! You are truly a part of an historical week in which we continue to build community and connections. Yasher Koach!

(Follow this week’s Maccabi events)

One More Step Toward Equality

There was a late anniversary present for my parents last week – Doma, the Defense of Marriage Act was declared unconstitutional and Prop 8 was declared void and unconstitutional. My parents celebrated their 50th anniversary two days before and as the court handed down their decisions, I cried tears of joy. Finally, we are on the right road toward marriage equality.

This ruling means that the 13 states in which marriage is legal for GLBT, the Federal government must recognize the marriage and the over 1138 rights and benefits afforded each couple.

I’ve read and heard the stories of families overjoyed when they told their children they were finally equal and legal. No family should have to fight for the basic rights each of us should be afforded. No child should have to defend the love of his or her parents to peers.

Why was this an anniversary present for my parents? Because they have always taught me that every individual should be treated equally and with dignity. When my mom moved to Florida as a teenager, she was outraged at the sight of separate water fountains, one for whites and one for blacks. Just to spite them, she drank from the water fountain marked for blacks.

I am proud that we are a congregation who believes and states that we are a congregation for all. We put this on the front of our website:

We celebrate our rich diversity as a congregation, a community of many communities. We are a great intergenerational family in a place where we care for and about one another. We are newcomers and old-timers, children and adults, individuals and couples and families, multi-racial families, LGBT and straight, Jews by birth and by choice, non-Jewish partners and spouses. Interfaith families are always welcome.

We know that there is still much to do toward bringing marriage equality and adoption rights to each state. There are still 33 states in which one can be fired for being gay. No, the fight is not over. But last Wednesday was a wonderful beginning.

 

B’Midbar – Who’s Counting?

I’ve been thinking a lot about names lately. In just the past couple of weeks, I have been honored to help families give seven children Hebrew names! This must be a record! One family of three, one set of triplets and a baby boy. But still, to offer seven Hebrew names in such a short time, awesome! These are the names that each of them will be called upon when they are called to Torah; these are the names that they will sign the ketubah; these are the names that God and Israel know them by as they perform acts of loving kindness in making our world a better place.

Parashat B’midbar is an accounting of the people who were in the desert following the Exodus from Egypt. We are gathered together and God instructs Moses to take a census of all the tribes. The tribal leaders come forward by name and share the count of those who are with them. While the count only includes the men, we know the women stood there with them and today, that count would be very different, very inclusive. But why count? The numbers are great! 603,550 men – again, include the women and children and you have a whole new number!

This great number marks stability amongst the Israelites. They are so great in number that they are not going away, no matter how much some of the surrounding nations wish they would. The people are flooding the desert like a great river flowing through a canyon. They extend for miles, as far as the eye can see. Truly, the Israelites are a stable and growing nation.

We too are growing, we welcome new children and people into our community at all times. There is stability within the count of the Jewish people. And how appropriate it is that we read this portion the Shabbat prior to Shavuot, the holy day during which we celebrate when God gave the Torah to the Jewish people. We are taught that every Jewish soul who lived then and who was yet to be born but would be a part of the Jewish people (born into and those who choose Judaism) stood at the mountain together. All of us, together, in the shadow of a great mountain and with the potential of what is yet to even be fully realized.

We are still at that mountain and we still receive Torah today. While the words might be fixed on the parchment they are still fluid in understanding and inspiration. It is each of us, called by name, who are responsible for reading, embracing and sharing these words of Torah. It is each of us who are called by name to hold these words and the traditions shared by each generation, given to us, and then share them with the next generation. It is each of us, called by our name who are to stand up when called, be counted as a part of the Jewish people, and know that the gift we are given in our names is a precious one, one that should not be forgotten, for every name, every person, is a blessing.

Passover is to Celebrate Freedom for All

I am inspired that today, the first day of Passover, one of the holiest days of the Jewish year, the day that we celebrate our freedom from slavery in Egypt and not take for granted our own freedom today. But we do take so much of our freedom for granted, especially the freedom to love and be loved. Today, on this first day of Passover, arguments are being heard in the Supreme Court regarding marriage equality for all and tomorrow, DOMA.

In 2003, I was 7 months pregnant with Yoni and had to get doctor’s clearance to fly to Washington DC so I could perform the wedding of my two friends, Sarah and Rachel. I walked into a colleagues synagogue that was bustling with activity that Sunday. Sarah and Rachel were already upstairs taking pictures and quickly walking past me, was an orthodox Rabbi heading straight for the Rabbi whose synagogue we were in. Seemed that he was here for a bris taking place downstairs. He stopped to glance at me, in my maternity suit, kipa on my head and talit in my arms. He gave me a once over and seemed even more perplexed. He went to my colleague and asked, ‘what else is happening here today?’ Calmly and with a bit of over excitement in his voice, my colleague said, ‘oh there’s a wedding today! And she’s the rabbi, pointing to me.’ The orthodox rabbi looked at me again, and then back to my colleague, ‘I saw the two kalot, where are the grooms?’ And without missing a beat he said, ‘no, no grooms, my colleague there is marrying two women together!’ You could have seen the steam from his ears! I smiled and headed straight upstairs to celebrate with Sarah and Rachel!

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Almost 10 years later, Sarah and Rachel are proud moms of adorable children. They live a life like any other married couple, except for the fact that Federal Law still prevents them from having the same rights as Matt and me or any other heterosexual married couple. This is not freedom!

Today, Passover, is about freedom for all! We are all created in the image of God and we all deserve the same rights to love and be loved by the one we want to spend our lives with.

I’ve since performed other weddings for same sex couples and I am proud to stand under the chuppah with each of them and those yet to come. Today is about celebrating our freedom, I just pray that everyone can share in that freedom as well.