Elul 9 5776
Dear Gay Jews of London (25 of you, anyway),
Hey guys, thank you for such a warm welcome and for joining me this past Saturday night for a moving conversation about what’s wrong in our lives as gay men despite so many privileges and what we can do to make life more meaningful and happier for each of us and for each other.
The SoHo bar got the reservation name wrong and printed signs reserving the upper room for “GAY JUICE,” but I guess they knew what we were after- juicy truth about the more honest and heartfelt elements of our lives that we don’t often if ever get to share with others - especially the shame we carry from such early age, the shame of being other, of not conforming to the expected norms. That shame has been with us and manifests in so many forms of self loathing. The fix is in our hands.
We talked about how ashamed we are of dating failures and the hassle of digital dating that often brings out the worst in us; of how we don’t measure up to who we want to be and fall into the traps of self loathing, body image issues, drugs and unsafe sex, the fear of loneliness.
On this 9th day of the Elul journey into truth and self improvement, I am grateful to each of you for reflecting back to me how far we’ve come as a community to be more proud of who we are and how much more we’ve got to go to get beyond the homophobic culture that is still so hurting us.
I’m sorry that I didn’t end the talk with more concrete steps for dealing with the shame and pain and getting to the near year with some recipes for healing. I got distracted by dessert.
So here it is my brothers, for all its worth, feel free to improvise:
Self love: stand in front of a mirror today, look yourself in the eye and say with confidence - “I am alive, and I am loved, and I am worth it.”
Think of one person who you’ve hurt this past year in some romantic, erotic context, even if a hook up or a one night stand — if possible, reach out to them to fix. If not possible — write them a letter with the words you want to say and share it with a friend. Send it to me if you’d like.
Continue meeting, keep the circle of truth going to minimize unspoken shame and build community of care and pride.
Check out Alan Downs’ book “The Velvet Rage” for more on DIY shame circles.
Hope to meet you all soon again, and wishing us all a year of shameless tender truth.
PREPENT: Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie’s annual journey to the new year, with 40 ways in 40 days to reflect, refocus, recharge and restart life. This year features daily love letters inspired by Lab/Shul’s theme for the High Holy Days, “וְאָהַבְתָּ re:love.”