We Are All God's Children
June 15, 2012
Rabbi Gary S. Creditor
I want to speak in brief about a subject that has been riling the legal and legislative world of Richmond, even as its implication is universal. It is worthy of and has consumed immense volumes, seminars and lectures. In these few minutes I wish to be very tightly focused on one and only one of the many components of Judaism on this matter. I entitle this piece: We are All God's Children. I am speaking to the appointment Tracy Thorne-Begland, the first openly gay judge in Virginia, to the General District Court Bench.
Our Torah is a very special, unique and holy document. While you might expect it to begin directly with the story of the Hebrews, Israelites, Jews by any name, it does not. It begins with the exposition of humanity. After establishing God as the creator of all existence, the first two protagonists are Adam and Eve. They are not Hebrews, Israelites or Jews. They represent all humanity.
The Torah tells us nothing about them. We don't know if they are tall or short, petite or robust. The Torah's language is Hebrew but we don't know what language they spoke. We don't know where the Garden of Eden was located. And we don't know if they were white, black, brown or any color in between. Adam and Eve represent the original antecedents of all humanity. Judaism teaches clearly, unambiguously, and with a loud voice, that despite any point of differentiation we are all God's children.
The Rabbis saw this as the most important lesson in the Torah. They discussed the implications that the Torah begins the human story, our universal journey with only one set of parents.
We learn from this that no one can say that they are better than anyone else;
that no one is more important than anyone else;
that no one is greater than anyone else.
We learn from this that no one needs to feel that they are worse than anyone else;
that no one is inferior to anyone else;
that no one is less important than anyone else.
They heard Amos loudly and clearly: "To Me, O Israelites, you are just like the Ethiopians…True., I brought Israel up from the land of Egypt, but also the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir." God acts for everybody. In correlation to the piece that I wrote entitled "We Are Holy Beings" I add this piece because I completely believe in our Jewish teaching: "We Are All God's Children."
It is true that the Torah begins with one man and one woman, perhaps because its focus is on creation – procreation. Yet with the incredibly large volume of material in the Tanach, Talmud and post Talmudic writings, very little is written about homosexuality. Their focus was not on sex and gender. Neither should ours. Their focus was on alleviating the human condition of poverty and inhumanity. That must be ours.
Echoing the prophetic voice, the Rabbis of the centuries focused the development of our Judaism on creating a just society, helping the poor and the disadvantaged, dreaming about peace and the ultimate redemption of humanity from war and violence. Today they would raise their voice for the creation of jobs which leads to human dignity by honest labor and the alleviation of debt.
The Rabbis and we are the inheritors of the mantle of Abraham, the prime exemplar of one demonstrated against public policy. Abraham was the man who did not keep silent before God, when informed that God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, where possibly there were righteous people among the evil. Abraham rose up and protested: "Won't the God of justice do justice?" We believe in questioning unjust policies, because the ultimate value is justice, with righteousness and fairness.
There is no doubt that to every endeavor each one of us brings the totality of our being. I am a man, a Jew, a son, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a brother, born in Brooklyn, educated in New York City, second generation American, never served in the military, nearly forty years a Rabbi. But I am not one piece. I am the sum total of everything I have lived and everyone who has made me into who I am this moment in this place. I am a whole being. To everything I do I bring all of me, not a piece of me. We are all whole beings. We bring all of ourselves to any given moment. So does Tracy Thorne-Begland.
When I see a person as judge in court I will see the sum total of everything that brought him or her to that position. Of course they are of a gender. Of course they are of a color. Of course they are of their particular age. Of course they have their personal history. Of course! How else can it be?
But I want to see a person of courage and discernment,
of quality and honesty,
of integrity and justice.
That's who I want on the bench, of any court, at any level, from the lowest to the highest. I want to see a person who knows that they are a child of God looking at a child of God.
Nothing, absolutely nothing else matters.
Rabbi Gary S. Creditor
3330 Grove Avenue
Richmond, VA 23221