Build Sanctuaries With Our Lives: On the Pulse Gay Nightclub Massacre

Pulse vigil

Photo by John Raoux/AP

Build Sanctuaries With Our Lives
Parashat Naso, June 18, 2016
First Narayever Congregation – Gay Pride Month

We are talking this week about sanctuaries. Creating sanctuaries. Building them. Staffing them. Bringing offerings to furnish and decorate them. Consecrating them. Blessing them. And hearing God’s voice in them.

First we count the Levites tasked with carrying the Ohel Moed, the portable sanctuary, through the desert on the way to the promised land. These are the ones that help make sure we’re always heading in the right direction, toward freedom, toward a better place, and that we’re taking with us all our holy things, not forgetting where we’ve come from, even taking the broken tablets with us – our injuries, our broken places, our losses.

Toward the end of the Torah portion, we hear about Moshe finally finishing setting up and dedicating the mishkan, and all the tribes bringing beautiful offerings toward this communal sanctuary. bringing of themselves. And of course, we hear the Priestly Blessing, given by God to Aaron with which to bless the people; and we hear how Moshe would speak with God and hear God’s voice from the Ark.

We encounter many different kinds of sanctuaries around us. There is of course this sanctuary, our religious space in which to focus on matters of the spirit, on prayer, on song, and community. We speak of offering sanctuary to those in need, to refugees, to those being pursued. Sanctuary as resting place. Even a sanctuary for animals, who are then protected.

Sanctuary means feeling something holy, connecting with others, feeling safety, understanding, and protection.

Last weekend, as you all know by now, the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida was attacked by a gunman bent on doing violence to LGBTQ people. In so many forums, I saw that for the LGBTQ community, Pulse and other gay bars and nightclubs are not just bars and nightclubs. They are safety, understanding, protecting, holiness, and community.

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