David and Jonathan

June 8, 2018 in Rabbi Greg Harris

David and Jonathan, St. Mark’s Portobello, Scotland

David and Jonathan, St. Mark’s Portobello, Scotland

St. Mark’s Portobello is an Episcopal church in Edinburgh, Scotland.  It was one of the first Episcopal churches to be built after the Jacobite risings in the 18th century. While I have never visited, there are many pieces of art which adorn this church.  Of particular interest is a stained glass window of the biblical figures David and Jonathan.  The window’s inscription reads, “The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David” (1 Samuel 18:1).

Many believe David and Jonathan were not just comrades but lovers.

People have grappled to understand the Tanach’s “opinion” on same sex relationships.  The reality is there is not a single clear statement.  Leviticus has an opinion (Lev 18:22) while Genesis acknowledges we are created in God’s image (Gen 1:27).  Thus, as homosexuality is not a choice but simply how we are created, this too must be in God’s image.  I believe Judaism expects us to nurture consensual, respectful and caring relationships – regardless of your partner’s gender.

I appreciate there is not unanimity in the Jewish world around acceptance of same sex relationships.  But as we continue to strengthen the Beth El community, I want to be clear that loving relationships focused on building Jewish homes are all welcome.

While the issues surrounding homosexuality continue to stir in the culture wars of America and play out in protests, court rulings and other venues, Beth El will continue to be a sanctuary for all who seek a caring community, engage in spiritual discovery and want to connect with the richness and relevance of our Jewish tradition.

A final note about the stained glass window.  Created in 1882, the window has a dedication at the bottom: “In loving memory of George Frederick Paterson of Castle Huntly who died at Portobello, 30th Sept. 1890, aged 33.” All that is known about Paterson is that he was in the army and unmarried. The window was paid for by “a friend.”

This weekend, Beth El members will be participating in an array of DC Capital Pride events.  Having attended numerous Pride parades over the years in DC and San Francisco, I look forward to hearing about their experiences.

I imagine even David and Jonathan might have chosen to march among the crowd.