Choosing the Light, Letting it Shine
By Patrice Worthy
It is said that when Moses received the Torah on Mount Sinai every Jewish soul that has ever lived, and will ever live, was there. Moses shared the Torah with Hebrews who became Jews when they made an oath to be loyal to G-d and his people. The laws and guidelines that were given helped us maintain our b’rit (covenant), making Jews “a light unto the nations.”
The irony in the holiday of Shavuot is the Jewish people celebrate a covenant with G-d that came when Jews were newly liberated. The set of rules and guidelines seem counterintuitive. Why would they want to be restricted again? Wouldn’t they want to be free to do as they please? But I believe, to choose Judaism is to choose life.
When I tell my story I am reminded of how Judaism saved my life. It gave me a sense of humanity that isn’t readily accessible to everyone in this world, and with that humanity came a sense of responsibility.
I was taught chesed or loving-kindness, the value of constant learning, and the importance of my relationship with G-d and his people. In a world that bombards Black women with messages like “stay quiet to survive,” and the hyper-sexualization of the Black body, Judaism gave me a safe space. In that sacred space I am free to grow, to see myself outside of my sexuality, and embrace a set of standards that amplifies my humanity.
In a world that despised my voice I was taught that a Jewish woman clears her throat and speaks up. In a society where money and power make men idols, I was taught there are no idols. And in a world where entertainment is becoming the guide post of truth, I was taught to question everything. As I learn I question, and as I question I learn more about myself. The experience helped me to understand how each of our commitments to G-d is different, but equally important.
As a member of the American Jewish Committee Access Steering Committee, I use my unique perspective as a Black Jew to advocate for Jews around the world. I use my platform as a journalist to share the voices of Jews of color. It’s a small responsibility in exchange for the magic of the Torah that gave me the freedom to find my light and let it shine.
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