We put ourselves into groups finding the place for our particular peg. In using words to define ourselves, we place ourselves into individual categories by choice. Religious, Reform, Traditional, Straight, Gay, Bi, these are all just names we use to explain who we are.
We are humans and teachers, students and friends. We are loved and flawed, supported and ridiculed. We are people. We are all people.
The world is very large and without someplace to put down our roots we find ourselves blown about with nothing to hold on to. One of the shared characteristics amongst almost all of us is the need to find our tribe. The people that make us feel comfortable and at home in their company. It can be a place of worship, but it can just as easily be a club or a gym. Somewhere, where everybody knows our name.
It is a historical fact that where there is immigration, the groups of immigrants tend to cluster together. It is the comfort of familiarity that they are searching for. Likewise all minority groups search out the place that they can be themselves and not feel judged.
But we forget that everything changes. Life moves on and we ourselves are tempered and transformed by our experiences. The past affects our choices for the future and what suited us then, may not feel right to us now. When we are not true to ourselves it has a profound effect on the level of happiness in our daily lives.
Unfortunately, because it is scary and lonely without our tribe, we tend to stay where we are, even if it is no longer a true reflection of our inner selves. We are afraid of being judged or laughed at. We are scared of being alone. How much of ourselves are we giving away in the pursuit of acceptance by others.
Judaism has many groups and although some people move around by becoming more or less religiously observant, the groups are nonetheless quite clearly delineated. The Torah gives us laws and guidelines for living and we interpret them to the best of our ability, or according to the Rabbis that we follow.
But take a deep breath.
No-one can define your relationship with G-d. It is not dependent on your religious affiliation, sexual orientation, or the depth of your knowledge. It cannot be judged by someone else. Your relationship with G-d and your religion is yours. You are not too religious, or not religious enough, you are where you are at that particular moment in time. And that place, that level of observance, that belief in G-d, can change, depending on your stage of life and whether or not things are going well.
We are fluid, life is changing, and although religion is based on ancient texts, our understanding is also changing. In our modern world, along with prayers in traditional synagogues, you are just as likely to have a Shabbat away in nature, where you can appreciate the wonders of creation up close and personally.
The more we learn about life, about ourselves, the more we whittle away the unnecessary until we are left with our core. And at that core, regardless of where we choose to affiliate today, we are people.
In the light of the horrific attack in Orlando this week, I want to share my feelings. Just as we change as human beings, so too the world is changing. We should no longer ask “Who will stand up for me” because by acknowledging our changing nature we understand that we are all the same. We stand together.
We are all Jews, we are all Gay, we are all Paris, we are all Tel Aviv. We are all people. We will stand together as we embrace who we are today, recognise who we were yesterday, and open ourselves up, as we choose a future together for tomorrow.