Saturday, November 10, 2012

Invocation for Veterans Day 2012

I was honored to be invited by the City of Rockville to deliver the invocation at the Veterans Day Ceremony tomorrow. Here is the text I composed for the occasion:

Almighty God, we gather today to honor the beloved veterans of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, brave men and women who have fought valiantly to defend our freedoms and to preserve our liberties. We are humbled by their commitment, their patriotism and their courage.  We are inspired by their selfless sacrifices and their indomitable spirit.  
Please God, grant our veterans strength and support so that they may continue to serve as examples of true heroism for us and for our children. Heal those who have been wounded physically or emotionally and comfort those who have suffered loss. Bless the faithful and devoted families of our veterans with good health and success; watch over them and protect them always.

As for the citizens of this great Nation, implant in our hearts wisdom, discernment and compassion, so that we may acknowledge and appreciate all that we have received from our veterans and so that we pay fitting tribute to their service. May we be ever mindful of our obligation to treat them with the full measure of respect to which their deeds have entitled them. Let us never take our lives, our freedoms or our civil rights for granted.
As for our active servicemen and women, wherever they may be - on land, in the air or at sea - protect them, shield them, and bring them home to their families speedily and unharmed. Let their battles for the sake of human dignity, justice and democracy be victorious, and may their principled and noble conduct illuminate our world and enlighten its inhabitants.

As for those revered men and women who have lost their lives in service to our country, bless their souls and their memories forever. Preserve their names, their families and the legacy of their heroism for generations to come. Console the bereaved – parents, spouses, siblings and children left behind - who continue to mourn their absence.
We seek not war but peace, not discord, but harmony and brotherhood. Creator of the Universe Who makes Peace on High, do not let the sacrifices of our veterans be in vain.  Help the United States of America to lead its fellow nations in the quest for true and lasting peace on Earth, and may we be fortunate enough to witness the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, “and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

 May this be the will of God, and let us say, Amen.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Washington Jewish Week on Marriage Equality

As you may or may not know, in the State of Maryland, several referendum questions will be presented to voters in the ballot box on Election Day. Question #6 asks the voter whether he or she supports "marriage equality" - in other words, whether we believe that the government should grant gay marriage the same status and recognition as traditional marriage in our state. 

In its latest edition, the Washington Jewish Week ran a piece entitled "The Kashrut of The Questions", in which members of the staff attempt to identify the proper "text-based" and/or "Jewish" way to vote on several of the issues (a number of them, including one that will further legalize gambling and allow casinos to operate in Maryland, have a moral as well as a political dimension). 

It is worth a quick read of the piece to get a sense of the surprisingly cavalier approach that was taken to these very sensitive subjects. To the casual reader it is immediately obvious that, rather than research these topics from a Torah standpoint, the authors made up their own minds and then searched for Jewish texts and/or scholars to support their opinions.On the issue of "Question #6", for example, the paper unequivocally states that the Torah and Jewish community fully supports marriage equality and that those who want to vote Jewishly based on Jewish texts should support it...In response, I wrote this:

Dear Editor,

I was profoundly dismayed to read the pre-election editorial piece in which your staff presented their conclusions as to the proper and text-based "Jewish view" on the various referendum questions that are set to be decided by Marylanders in the ballot box this Election Day.

In particular, I thought it was irresponsible and inappropriate for the Washington Jewish Week to speak for the "Jewish Community" and "the Torah" in its support for so-called marriage equality, without mentioning so much as a single dissenting viewpoint.

While correct in noting that companionship is a value promoted by the Torah, the author of the column failed to mention the most basic principle of all - namely, the fact that the homosexual lifestyle is clearly and unequivocally forbidden by Jewish law, both for Jews and Gentiles.

It is unfair and offensive of the paper to claim to represent the Jewish community as a whole - which should include those among us who are Orthodox, traditional and Sephardic - when its political and ideological views are squarely at odds with many of ours.

Personally, I am opposed to discrimination and prejudice in all forms and I strongly condemn any and all gay-bashing. I believe that all American citizens should enjoy the same civil rights and that our government should establish rules and regulations for domestic partnerships (not marriages) that do not involve endorsing, validating or rejecting anyone's values, inclinations or personal choices. I would prefer if our legislatures didn't handle marriage at all, restricting themselves to civil and domestic arrangements and leaving concepts like "marriage" to religious and social orders to define and regulate.

Moreover, I support efforts to make sure that Jews of all backgrounds and orientations have a home in the synagogue, whether or not their lifestyles are consistent with the principles upon which it is founded.

Nevertheless, I stand by the Torah's definition of marriage and believe that it is an eternal, universal and inviolable one. I do not believe that it is the government's place to redefine a sacred and time-honored institution by legislation or referendum in this manner. And I know that I speak on behalf of many laypersons and leaders of the Orthodox and Sephardic community as well.

In the future, kindly refrain from implying that the views and opinions of your editorial staff accurately represent those of the Torah or the Jewish community and please do not encourage people to act or vote based on a vision of Judaism that is purely your own and with which many of us vehemently disagree.

Sincerely Yours, 

Rabbi Joshua Maroof