Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What the Jewish New Year says about the Cheneys' Disagreement on Gay Marriage

Tonight Jews around the world welcome in the year 5774, using a lunar calendar, counted from the time Adam spoke. Language is the defining characteristic of humans; though physical evolution is compatible with Judaism, the underlying concept of undirected randomness leading to our complex creation is not.

Liz Cheney, candidate; Mary Cheney, pro-gay marriage
So on the eve of our celebration, Rosh Hashana, while I should be busily baking round challah breads, I find myself distracted by a news item over language, a disagreement between the two daughters of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Liz Cheney is a candidate for the Senate from Wyoming, and does not support (nor oppose, actually) legal gay marriage, saying voters in each state should decide. Her openly-gay sister Mary said Liz is "dead wrong," and that re-defining marriage "is not something that should be decided by a show of hands."

No, Leonardo, you're not King of the World.
On Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, we reaffirm that God is the King of the World, the movie Titanic aside. Kingship is a major theme, and our willingness to be His subjects is repeated throughout our two-day celebration.

Of course, since language is the basis of our humanity, and the bible the basis of Jews' link to God, its language, the words in the bible, are extremely significant. In fact, when we celebrate the next major Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, our Day of Atonement, probably the most-highlighted errors for which we apologize involve the words we've said.

Redefining marriage from its thousands-of-years, cross-cultural purpose of permanently linking man and woman (granted, in some cultures one man and several women) certainly isn't something done with a show of hands. It's something not done at all, if the bible continues to be the source of one's beliefs.

Here in America, of course, a "show of hands" by marking ballots is how we decide our leaders. It's how we resolve issues, and often how we impose taxes. A "show of hands" reminds us that accomplishment is by those who show up, and who make a difference using their hands.

Marriage in our secular society has always been our foundational institution because of its beneficial function: the binding of male and female gives offspring their best chance of health and success, and offers a format for harmonizing feminine and masculine differences. Also, because our founders were guided by the bible.

The important change that Mary Cheney demands and Liz Cheney steps back from is government's endorsement of a redefinition of the institution. Without laws transforming marriage from "one man, one woman" to "any two adults," gay marriage advocates remain dissatisfied.

That brings us back to Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, when we affirm the One whose words we obey. It's no coincidence that kingship is the concept with which we enter the year. Without designating who is the authority, there's chaos, each person with equal claim to follow his inclinations. In America, our legislators gain their authority via election by a "show of hands," assigned to represent their constituents by making laws to their benefit.

Jews on Rosh Hashana every year choose the authority God, and accept His laws, because we believe the King knows what He's doing. The language in His lawbook is unequivocal that marriage unites man and woman. It's not approving of male homosexuality.

To some, that's homophobic and antiquated. They can't believe that a loving God would create people whose aversion to the opposite sex is sin. Certainly each individual's religious beliefs must be respected. But on Rosh Hashana, we affirm the Source of our beliefs, and accept there's a wider view, beyond what we can fathom, that they express.

Happy New Year to all my Jewish friends. May 5774 be a year of health, accomplishment and love for you and your families. May we all use language to uplift and inspire, carefully, remembering its role in elevating humanity and its potential to do the opposite.

On Rosh Hashana, it's traditional to shape challah in a circle, representing the circular nature of the year. Between now and the conclusion of the major Jewish holidays, culminating with Sukkot, we dip slices in honey, representing our hope for a "sweet year."

Jews wish our friends "L'Shana tovah u'metuka!" (May you have a good and sweet year!)
And that is what I wish for you. Here's my challah recipe (back by popular demand), but instead of braids, shape rounds.

Diane Medved's Challah

2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
2 cups warm water
8 1/2 cups King Arthur bread flour
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
2/3 to 3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 beaten egg, room temperature, for glaze

Sprinkle yeast on warm water in measuring cup; set aside for about 10 minutes. In large food processor with dough blade, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add oil and eggs but don't mix. Return to yeast/water and gently make sure all yeast is combined in water and starting to bubble. Flash blend while slowly adding yeast mixture, then process until dough moves in one clump around processor bowl. Remove the clump to a trash bag-sized plastic bag; knead a little and then seal the bag with a twist-tie, leaving room for dough to expand. Place in a warm place several hours until risen. Line 2 large baking sheets with foil and spray with nonstick spray. Punch down and divide dough into four large pieces. Divide one of the large pieces into three strands and braid onto the baking sheet; repeat so there are two long loaves per baking sheet. Set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush beaten egg on loaves and bake for 16 minutes, til golden. Say a blessing, and enjoy.

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