The Baseless Hatred of the #TransBan


On Tuesday morning, I had the great pleasure of meeting with the chair of Temple Sinai's Kulanu committee. The aptly named Kulanu, Hebrew for "all of us", is our inclusion committee for the LGBTQ community. We met to discuss the upcoming year and what our community can do to be as welcoming as possible and ensure our Temple is a safe harbor from the hurricane of hate, bigotry, and intolerance that the world rains down on the LGBTQ community. And as if the universe was watching and wanted to reiterate the importance of such committees, Wednesday morning I woke up to a storm.

Our President misstepped, and egregiously. 

The tweets that reverberated across the world read: 

A reporter asked a retired Israeli General, Elazar Stern, for his reaction to the President's tweets, and he seemed a bit perplexed. “What?” Stern asked. “Why?...It makes [the Israeli Defense Force] strong that we don't waste time on questions like this...It’s something to be proud of…You see politicians getting votes using superficial, simplistic messages [about the military]…It’s always more about who I hate than who I love.” (LA Times)

And that is profound because this week is Tisha B’Av. Starting Monday night through Tuesday, we commemorate the destruction of the Jerusalem Temples, amongst other tragedies, carried out in hate. In fact, the Talmud teaches us that the Second Temple was destroyed because of sinat chinam, often translated as baseless hatred. But sinat chinam, is more than that.

Alden Solovy writes: “Sinat chinam is hatred without understanding the underlying price, without understanding that it blackens our own hearts. We’re not destroyed by our disagreements on how to serve God; it’s turning those disagreements into a justification for hatred that ruins our people. Sinat chinam is the belief that you can hate and get away scot-free.”

This Shabbat, we begin the book of Deuteronomy and the first words God speaks in the book are rav-lachem shevet bahar hazeh — You have stayed at this mountain long enough (Deuteronomy 1:6). From this verse, Rabbi Rick Jacobs teaches that this is God saying, “Enough dwelling in this one mindset.” But it’s even more than that because the Israelites know the promised land, the land of milk and honey, the land of peace and tranquility, is their final destination. God knows the journey ahead is long and arduous, that hard work lies ahead and only with persistence will the Israelites make it. God refuses to allow the Israelites to get comfortable in apathy at the base of the mountain. Rav-lachem shevet bahar hazeh — You have stayed at this mountain long enough.

So in a moment of lull, as many had congregated at the foot of the mountain, the President's tweets awoke us, roused us, and mobilized us. Our institutions immediately went to bat. The Religious Action Center wrote: Our Jewish faith is rooted in the intrinsic value of equality for all people, regardless of gender identity. We will continue to stand with our transgender and gender non-conforming service members and demand full inclusion and equality for all LGBTQ people.

The Central Conference of American Rabbis echoed that sentiment, saying: Reform rabbis affirm our conviction that a humanity created in God's image includes all people, wherever they may locate themselves on the full, broad spectrum of gender identities.

And now it is our turn. We cannot sit at this mountain while our loved ones, our friends, and our neighbors lack safety and equal opportunity. We cannot act as if we are comfortable in that world. We, collectively, have not reached the promised land.

This week our Haftarah comes from Isaiah, and it challenges us.

…You have blood on your hands— (God says)

Wash yourselves clean;
Put your evil doings
Away from My sight.
Cease to do evil; 

Learn to do good.
Devote yourselves to justice;
Aid the oppressed.
Uphold the rights of the orphan;
Defend the cause of the widow. 

These words from Isaiah are timeless. Our tradition knows that society evolves. It knows that we cannot stay at the foot of the mountain eternally and must relentlessly seek out and fight for the promised land. It is our obligation to do so. It is our obligation, from the days of Isaiah to today, to defend the vulnerable. It is out obligation, to pursue justice, as Deuteronomy teaches us, tzedek tzedek tirdof.

So this Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat immediately before Tisha B’Av, take a moment to reflect on the sinat chinam in our world. Take a moment to consider how you might help rid the world of sinat chinam through love and empathyAnd try this Shabbat, to take one step away from your comfortable mountain, as we link arms together and march toward the promised land.