As a prosecutor, one is always concerned about a criminal’s intent, known as mens rea, during the commission of a crime. What did he or she intend? What was his or her motive? Was that motive propelled by fear? By rage? By hatred? The Talmud, a foundation of our entire American justice system, raises these very questions.
This issue is discussed quite succinctly by the writers of Torah.org and cited here in part: “If a person was asked, which is the more severe kind of stealing, stealing in secret or stealing openly, he would likely say that stealing openly is worse. However, the Rabbis tell us that stealing in secret is more severe – why is this the case? He shows a strong element of hypocrisy – he fears the opinion of other people, but has no regard for the opinion of Hashem.” I must contend, that this is also true of those who harbor Sinat Chinam, speak Lashon Hara, or harm another Jew, when they think no one can really see them.
Why do I write this, you may ask? Because I believe that G-d sees and hears what you say or do, even when I cannot hear or see you, and even from behind the anonymity of the web. During the three weeks, as we were all preparing for Tisha B’av, I unfortunately learned that lesson. As I read through some of the comments on my posts, I noticed a pattern of those who called me anti-Torah, anti-Halacha, a liar, a hater, a sinner against G-d, and accused me of having an agenda. I even wondered, why is it only me who has an agenda and not the ones trolling my posts?
But what was even worse, was the fact that someone so angry and so hateful, from within my own community, reached out to one of these trolls on Facebook, half way across the world, and gave them misinformation about when and where I held my civil ceremony and what they believe I had done to incur my exclusion. (I’m pretty sure I remember that special day accurately!) But clearly, my posts have angered them and motivated them to cowardly reach out to another, rather than post anything themselves. But even if I do not see, G-d sees. I believe that with my whole heart and soul.
And each day that I exist I know that G-d sees me, my family, my fellow Jews and what we do to each other, or say about each other, or how we present ourselves in the world. This is what motivates me each day in my life and job, to uphold the highest ethical standard, to decide things with every strand of my moral fiber, to temper justice with mercy, and to always remember that no matter who I am dealing with, they are first and foremost a human being — a Tzelem Elokim; because G-d sees. And I would suggest, that it is a Kiddush Hashem to always have these things in mind when we take any action, before the eyes of our fellow human beings.
Since I have started speaking and writing, I have been contacted by many different people seeking some kind of support or assistance, or advice. One of my last posts included resources for that reason, as I only have my own life experiences to go on, and so I turn to people greater and more knowledgeable than me in different fields, and I direct those in need to them. But I continue to write and post for those who reach out, and for those who do not, but simply read along as they and I struggle in this life.
I write for the teacher who reached out concerned about a child struggling with sexuality issues and who was cutting themselves; for the LGBT person across the Atlantic struggling to come out in the frum world; for the rabbi who asked me what he should tell the congregant who is the parent of a trans-gendered child (I said, “Tell that parent to tell that kid they love them no matter what, and then find them a really good therapist that deals with gender dysphoria.”); for the concerned parent with a kid confiding in them that they had a gay friend whose parents wanted to throw that child out; for the friend dealing with coming out to their spouse; for the kindred spirit who reached out as they struggled with their sadness – I write for you, I write for them, because I want each of you, each of them, to know that you are not alone.
And know this too — you need not abandon your faith, the only Judaism you know, the rituals and customs that warm your heart, the Sabbath songs you love to sing, the nigunim you listen to in shul, the way of our people, simply because you are different, or because people are hateful, or because some push you away; because G-d sees. G-d hears what they say and sees what they do. He sees them hiding behind their computer screens, while they spread hatred through their keyboards, or speak Lashon Hara in secret. And even if we cannot see or hear, rest assured, they are the ones that have no regard for the opinion of Hashem. Just think about how many times sinning through speech is mentioned in the Yom Kippur davening — and as they pound their chests, G-d sees into their hearts and knows what they have done. And this is my point: they need matter so little to you, if at all, or to me, because G-d sees.
How do I know this? For every negative comment, I am sent a hundred words of support and kindness, for every name calling, I am strengthened by those with the courage to fight them back and defend me, and for every cowardly action, I am comforted by the fact that G-d sees. He sees them and he sees me, the LGBT Jew, imperfect and struggling each day to make the world a better place. Maybe that is my agenda – a bit of Tikkun Olam and the spreading of a lot of Ahavat Yisrael. And for that, I will plead guilty as charged.