Yom Chamishi, 23 Elul 5774
Thursday, 18 September 2014
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Read an inspired commentary on this week’s Torah portion by one of our free-thinking Liberal Rabbis.

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Parashat Atem Nitzavim
by Rabbi Sandra Kviat

19th September 2014

Standing in the Twilight
Atem Nitzavim - We stood for hours that day, from the cool of the morning, through the burning midday sun, until the afternoon when the shadows grew long, and the twilight blended everything blue. We all stood there; the old and the young, leaders and members, men and women, families, new comers, everyone. We stood there listening to our story being told and retold. We stood there all through Rosh Hashanah listening, thinking and commenting. 

But over the years we discovered that people were standing outside of the circle looking in, and slowly out of the shadows they joined the circle. First came women, wanting to be seen and counted, not as a shadow of their husbands or sons, but as people in their own right, with equal rights. Then out stepped men and women who refused to be marginalised because of the gender of the person they loved, and then out stepped women and men who refused to be marginalised because of the religion or lack of religion of the person they loved. And so our circle was complete. Our community proudly open and equal for everyone we thought, and no one left in the twilight.
And then people came forward and invited us into the twilight, to leave the safety of the circle, to step into the blueness of the in-between. And the twilight wasn’t dangerous or dark or wrong. We discovered the blessing of a place where definitions fade and labels doesn’t fit.  In the twilight we found that everyone could be themselves and more, we could all be ‘
both, neither, and all’.

After Conchita Wurst won the Eurovision Song Contest, the existence of transgender or gender queer people have become more visible. Thought Conchita is a drag queen, her blurring of the boundaries between male and female has raised the awareness of people living in the twilight. People who have either changed their gender, is in the process of changing from one to the other, or live somewhere in between and  resist the gender binary man/woman, because it does not fit with how they experience themselves. They are the TQI (transgender, queer and intersex) in LGBTQI*[1]. They are called transgender, or genderqueer, someone who is either transforming or moving from one gender to the other or who transcends gender descriptions altogether. They are Twilight People, ‘in-between, both, neither and all’ as Rabbi Reuben Zellman describes it in his poem.

The Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe is a twilight zone, a journey through what was, is and can be. The themes of parasha Nitzavim-Vayelekh helps us prepare for this journey of ‘crisscrossed paths of memory and destination’. In reading it we open ourselves to thinking about what covenant really means to us, and what being in community could and should be. We look at the blessings and the curses, we look at the choices we have; life and prosperity or death and adversity. This Shabbat is the ‘warm up session’, next week is the ‘real deal’, the time when we all enter the sacred twilight of soul searching and teshuva. For some the twilight only lasts ten days, for others twilight is a permanent state of being. I offer this prayer by Rabbi Reuben Zellman, as a reminder that the twilight isn’t necessarily a place of otherness, but can be a positive multi-faced, plural space for us all. May the sacred in-between of the High Holy Days ‘widen our vision and soften our judgement’.

Twilight People

As the sun sinks and the colors of the day turn, we offer a blessing for the twilight,

for twilight is neither day nor night, but in-between.

We are all twilight people. We can never be fully labeled or defined.

We are many identities and loves, many genders and none.

We are in between roles, at the intersection of histories, or between place and place.

We are crisscrossed paths of memory and destination, streaks of light swirled together.

We are neither day nor night. We are both, neither, and all.

May the sacred in-between of this evening suspend our certainties,

soften our judgments, and widen our vision.

May this in-between light illuminate our way to the God who transcends all categories and definitions.

May the in-between people who have come to pray be lifted up into this twilight.

We cannot always define; we can always say a blessing.

Blessed are You, God of all, who brings on the twilight.

[--Rabbi Reuben Zellman, TransTorah.org, Keshet guide*]

If you are interested in any of these topics please visit the Rainbow Jews website http://www.rainbowjews.com, or read Surat Knan’s blog Twilight Journeys for Jewish News http://www.jewishnews.co.uk/the-ponderings-of-a-transgender-jew-in-the-uk/ 



1. *Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning and Intersex People. The Asterix symbol * signifies that it is an umbrella term that refers to all identities within the spectrum.