D'var Torah: Let There Be Pride

Each week, Rabbi Michael Bernstein of Congregation Gesher L'Torah in Alpharetta, GA, sends out a d'var Torah via email. Here is this week's message, which focuses specifically on Pride.

This Sunday at 1PM will be the annual Atlanta Pride Parade to celebrate the gay and transgender communities and promote full support for all across the diverse spectrum of sexuality and gender. This year Gesher L' Torah will again be one of 44 Jewish organizations co-sponsoring the parade whose Grand Marshals will include SOJOURN, the Jewish Resource Network for Sexual and Gender Diversity. For many, it is obvious why communities like ours stand for values such as inclusion, acceptance, and equality. These values speak to some of our core principles of being both American and Jewish. 

But what about pride? Can pride itself be a Jewish value? Isn't "pride" the opposite of "humility," which is one of the most important aspects of a life of faith?

Pride gets somewhat of a bad name in many religious circles. According to Proverbs, "It goeth before a fall," and is the root of straying from a path of G*d. And there is a kind of vanity and arrogance associated with pride that can be a barrier to experiencing what is more profound in the world and a gateway to selfish behavior. Humility could be a counter to this kind of pride.

However, at the same time, pride is also a necessary human emotion to recognize one's own self-worth. Far from being a blockage to encountering meaning, such pride can be a necessary reminder that one's life is precious and that each of us is irreplaceable. The opposite of this pride is not humility, but shame. And to feel shame about who one is, how one loves, the way one relates to the world and desires to be treated can do serious damage.

Beyond the pride of self-centeredness and the pride of self-worth is yet a third definition of pride. It is an admiration, pleasure or satisfaction over something regarded as highly honorable or meritorious. We are proud of our neighbors, loved ones and friends at moments when they rise above, when they are authentic, or when they speak a truth about which we either agree or to which we aspire. 

Often, of course, the pride we experience is complex, not wholly one type of pride or another, but an opportunity to connect ourselves to others; pride not that lifts ourselves above someone else, but that helps us see a different part of ourselves. By standing with you I'm saying something to both others and myself about myself.

This week in the Jewish community we read again in the Torah from the very beginning of the human story - Genesis. While the travails of Adam and Eve are read by many as a blueprint for particular human behavior, the Genesis account of humanity begins not with a test, but with the creation of human beings in the Divine likeness, with the stamping of the unbounded and diverse image of our Creator on each individual, and with the declaration of humanity as "very good." Just as G*d sees creation in all its diversity and declares it "very good," so do we have the opportunity to affirm the goodness at the heart of each of us. 

Rabbi Akiba in the Talmud said, "Beloved are human beings that they are made in the Divine image, but even more love is felt when we know that we are made in the Divine image." And that is something about which to have all kinds of pride.


Want to join us on Sunday?
We'll meet at 12:30 pm. Parade begins at 1:00 pm.
Civic Center MARTA to Piedmont Park
More information: https://www.facebook.com/events/908724595861671/