Every Friday night, as I sit amongst the congregation in Shabbat services, I feel blessed and filled with gratitude to work for such an amazing temple. I welcome in Shabbat each week at Beit T’Shuvah, a 120-bed Jewish residential treatment center for addiction as well as a full congregation here in Los Angeles.
I always look forward to the moment when our Rabbi, Mark Borovitz, tells us that it is time to chant our traditional Shema together. No matter what mental state I’m in at that moment, how chaotic my day has been, or if my head is tied up in knots, I’m able to allow myself to be absolutely present and connect to my highest self and ultimately to God.
Amazingly, when I allow myself that moment to look around, I can see myself mirrored in those around me, as they too feel their inner oneness, a sense of peace, and that absolute wholeness that the sacred space of the Shema can bring. As we chant those sacred words, I can physically feel all the things that have instigated inner turmoil throughout my week just melt away.
Last night, as I reflected in Shabbat services, I began to think about how our annual Pride celebration relates to that sacred moment I feel as I chant the Shema. I found that they correlate because of the sense of peace that they both bring. In the past, as I have experienced the Pride celebration, I have allowed my defenses to drop, knowing that I’m in a safe space and can allow myself the freedom to experience my whole being.
For me, there is that same sense of oneness amongst the LGBT community as we proudly come together to celebrate a part of ourselves that is not often encouraged or fully accepted by society. This weekend will be like one big Shema for me, as I integrate all the parts of myself and strive to become more authentic.