By Chaim Ezra Harrison
This week’s Torah portion is, in part, about idolatry. This is a concept repeated over and over again in Torah: that we must not worship false idols. Today we are not at risk of melting down our gold and turning it into a calf the way the impatient Israelites did when Moses was busy listening to God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 32:1-6). Instead, I define idolatry as anything that distracts us too much from the divine oneness of all things, making it easy for anyone to inadvertently fall into that trap. Everyday we create idols when we care more about the things we buy than the people around us, when we consume more than we recycle and sustain, and when we adhere to ideologies like straight, cisgender normativity over the divine humanity of every person.
In the United States, we’re witnessing a wave of harmful legislation against the LGBTQ+ community, especially against trans youth. There are currently almost 400 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in the 2023 legislative session. These bills seek to silence the LGBTQ+ community, censor our history, deprive us of access to gender-affirming healthcare, and more.
These bills were built by hateful ideology. The politicians and those who support them have created their own “golden calves” by adhering to straight, cisgender normativity instead of remembering that we are all connected in the divine image, and therefore that we as LGBTQ+ people are holy and deserve to be treated with honor, dignity, and respect.
And yet, it’s also important to recognize that the Israelites did not create their idol because they hated God, but because they were afraid of the unknown. Their prophet trekked up a mountain and abandoned them. They created their idol out of fear to give them a sense of protection and something tangible to worship.
Like the Israelites, those adhering to anti-LGBTQ+ ideology are doing so out of fear, because it’s something they don’t understand. Instead of trying to learn from us and embrace our interconnectedness, they feel alone, and are letting that guide them.
And so, just as Moses pleaded with God to not destroy the Israelites, I too seek not to reciprocate hate with hate, but with love; the very love I have for all of my LGBTQ+ siblings and our allies. Together, we can raise our voices to silence transphobic dialogue, turn our prayers into tangible action by protesting and contacting our elected officials, and fight ignorance by showing up fiercely and proudly. When we do all these things out of love, not only can we shut down the anger sown out of fear, but we can also, God willing, change the minds of those who are fearful of us.