Memorial services for the 49 innocent men and women killed in the terrorist attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 12, 2016, have been taking place throughout the United States. At most of these services, the Rainbow Flag, symbolic of support for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) communities, has been raised.
Tonight, the City of Yonkers, NY, will raise this flag during its memorial service as a statement of support for this community. I will be there with a broken heart, as a Chaplain of the Yonkers Police Department, as a Rabbi, and as an individual with a resolute heart, who will not allow hatred of any Americans to divide our country in the face of the evil of terrorism.
I believe that the terrorist who attacked those people was really attacking all of us. The rage and hate that drives our enemy is a product of ‘Sinah’ in Hebrew – hate fueled by envy. This is the very same rage that has animated attacks against the Jewish Community for millennia and today is directed at all who live in a free society. You see, in countries governed by Sharia Law (promoted by the terrorists) a club like ‘Pulse’ could never exist. Under Sharia gays are arrested and killed. But in America we have freedom of expression. People can live, for the most part, however they wish. They can frequent these types of clubs at will. This is as it should be!
The “experts” are struggling to ascertain the motive behind the terrorist’s actions but I believe that hatred and envy fueled his acts of barbarism and savagery – hatred of our freedom to express ourselves and murderous envy of those societies that permit and support this freedom.
The fact that this terrible massacre occurred during the Jewish Holiday of Shavuoth, is NO COINCIDENCE. I believe there is a divine message within it and that our response is well in keeping Shavuoth’s message.
The modern Jewish Community thinks of Shavuoth as the Holiday of the Giving of the Torah, or the Ten Commandments. However, in Biblical and Temple times, Shavuoth was the Holiday of the First Fruits (Hag Habikurim) and the Holiday of the Harvest (Hag Hakatzir). But in the Book of Jubilees, “Bereshit Zuta” which is part of the post-biblical writings of the Apocrypha that were not canonized into the Jewish Bible, the patriarchs are known to have celebrated Shavuoth as the Holiday Commemorating the Pact of the Rainbow!
Jubilees 6:1-22 “(1) And on the new moon of the third month he (Noah) went forth from the ark, and built an altar on that mountain … (4) And the Lord smelt the goodly savour, and He made a covenant with him that there should not be any more a flood to destroy the earth; that all the days of the earth seed-time and harvest should never cease; cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night should not change their order, nor cease forever.
And the pact created with man, just as told in the Genesis narrative regarding Adam and Noah, includes his appointment as ruler over all living things. Permission is given to kill for food but great value is placed on human life blood because… “(8) Whoso sheddeth man’s blood by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God made He man...
Then, Jubilees explains the relationship between Shavuoth as the Holiday of the Giving of the Torah and the Rainbow Covenant created with Noah: “(11) On this account He spake to thee that thou shouldst make a covenant with the children of Israel in this month upon the mountain with an oath, and that thou shouldst sprinkle blood upon them because of all the words of the covenant, which the Lord made with them forever…. (15) And He gave to Noah and his sons a sign that there should not again be a flood on the earth. He set His bow in the cloud for a sign of the eternal covenant that there should not again be a flood on the earth to destroy it all the days of the earth. (17) For this reason it is ordained and written on the heavenly tablets, that they should celebrate the feast of weeks in this month once a year, to renew the covenant every year.
In the Jewish Apocryphal tradition, the Book of Jubilees “Bereshit Zuta” shows that Shavuoth was chosen for the giving of the law because on that day in ancient humanity, during the time of Noah, God had already established the symbol of the rainbow as an eternal pact of forgiveness. Joining these two events together, the Apocryphal tradition reminds us that the law of God rests on kindness and forgiveness, not on hatred and judgmentalism.
According to this tradition the patriarchs observed the holiday as relating to the Rainbow. And then it was forgotten until the day of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai when it was renewed again through the giving of the Torah:
“(21) For it is the feast of weeks and the feast of first fruits: this feast is twofold and of a double nature: according to what is written and engraven concerning it, celebrate it. For I have written in the book of the first law, in that which I have written for thee, that thou shouldst celebrate it in its season, one day in the year, and I explained to thee its sacrifices that the children of Israel should remember and should celebrate it throughout their generations in this month, one day in every year. . These are written and ordained as a testimony forever. And Noah ordained them for himself as feasts for the generations forever, so that they have become thereby a memorial unto him.”
In the name of God we support each other. In the name of God we call upon the symbol of the rainbow, established at the beginning of human history, to save us from those who might pervert God’s teaching to drive them to kill innocent people in His name.
Today, because of the tragic events in Orlando, the rainbow flag flies freely – the symbol of God’s tolerance and His covenant of forgiveness created at the dawn of time.