This is Duncan McAlpine Sennett. Last month Duncan celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at Portland's Congregation Beth Israel.
During his Bar Mitzvah speech, he explained the Torah portion he was reading from, and used it to draw a parallel to an issue he feels pretty strongly aboutnationwide marriage equality.
"In my Torah portion, Jacob works for seven years to earn the right to marry Laban's daughter, his love Rachel. Before marrying Rachel, Jacob is first tricked into marrying her older sister Leah. I find my parsha [Torah portion] interesting because it is a window into what was life was like back in the days of the Torah.Duncan mentioned close family friends who are same-sex couples, who taught him about the importance of marriage equality. He then ended his speech by saying:
"Back then, this seemed to have a perfect definition of what traditional marriage meant for their time, when as time passes we have a completely different definition today. So the question is: how has the definition of traditional marriage changed since the days of the Torah? Just looking at my Torah portion as a proof text, I think it has changed a lot.
"Leah and Rachel had absolutely no say in marrying Jacob — it was like a business deal between Jacob and Laban. Today in the United States, marriage is very different. No longer do the fathers arrange marriages and women can marry whomever they want.
"While studying my Torah portion and comparing and contrasting marriage — past and present — I found it would be irresponsible to exclude the topic of gay marriage. I am a very very strong supporter of equal rights and the freedom of men and women to marry whomever they love.
"People who disagree with me like to quote the Bible and say that traditional marriage should only be between one man and one woman. But after seeing my Torah portion that I've just read, the definition of traditional marriage is nothing like what people think it is today. Jacob married two sisters who were his first cousins."
"My Torah portion taught me that the definition of traditional marriage has changed a lot since the days of Torah. So why can't it change just a little bit more so everybody can marry who they love? And now that I'm a Bar Mitzvah, I will not only continue to support but encourage other people to support equal marriage rights. Shabbat shalom."Here's Duncan's speech:
I'm so blown away by Duncan's maturity and empathy, and his decision to make his Bar Mitzvah more than just a celebration of religious maturity. Clearly, living in a community like Portland and having the opportunity to get to know same-sex couples has helped broaden his understanding and acceptance, but this is still an impressive action, as he paralleled what he learned for his Bar Mitzvah with his awareness of the world around him. (I think my Bar Mitzvah speech rhymed, but that about sums it up, although it was 30 years ago.)
It's so easy to get cynical and pessimistic with so many people in power trying to hold back the tides of equality and choosing to discriminate, but when you see an example like Duncan's, it helps make you feel a little more hopeful about the next generation.