As many of you know I was away this past week at Queer Talmud Camp, a program that Rabbi Benay Lappe and SVARA organize. (I am excited that there will be some KT people at the July QTC in California!) The concept of svara comes from the Talmud itself. It is one of those words that takes an essay to define. It is often understood to mean "informed moral intuition." It is a term from Jewish law that reflects the 2,000-year-old rabbinic notion that the most powerful source of truth is insight which grows out of the experience of our own lives informed by Jewish learning. In fact, in the Talmud, when one's svara and a verse in the Torah conflict, svara has the power to trump even Torah, when that svara is understood to more accurately reflect the deepest foundational principles of Jewish tradition. This notion of svara has been instrumental in my own spiritual life as a queer and trans person. Over and over again, it teaches us to truly trust ourselves and to remember that there is Torah within us.
This week I learned yet another layer to the meaning of svara. It turns out it has a secondary meaning of hope. While on the one hand this changes its meaning altogether. There is a big difference between reason or intuition and hope. Yet somehow, I found the connection fitting. In the month of Pride and the week when we honor the memories of those lost in the Pulse Massacre, in a week full of violence, I am reminded that we must not only pursue truth and trust in our moral intuition, but we must also cultivate hope. Perhaps, the rabbis of the Talmud seem to be suggesting, they are inextricably linked.
What do you make of that?
Holding Ernie Steiner close in our hearts after the lost of her husband Andrew Stiller. Looking forward to celebrating the marriage of Jon and Henry and the Bat Mitzvah of Maddie Church tomorrow at 10 am!
Rabbi Ari Lev