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Pride Kavannah: Hamavdil

  • Posted: June 10, 2021
  • LGBTQ+

On Saturday, June 5, BJ ended Shabbat with a Pride Havdalah, where LGBTQIA+ members of the community had an opportunity to share a kavannah (intention) before the Havdalah blessings. Members Suzanne Kessler and Wendy McKenna spoke about the blessing “hamavdil bein kodesh l’hol,” the blessing of separating Shabbat from the rest of the week.

We have been active in BJ since we moved into the city three years ago, after 40 years of suburban living. It was an honor to be asked to talk about separation and offer the bracha of separation, especially at this Pride Havdalah. 

This summer we will celebrate our 49th anniversary as a couple and the 13th anniversary of our marriage. Happy Pride to everyone. 

We spent our professional lives arguing against a categorical way of thinking about gender. Separating one thing from another helps people make sense of the world, but the categories created, especially when there are only two, almost always lead to hierarchies and power differentials. This separation between “us” and “them,” as we know, can cause great harm. 

So, what do we bless when we’re blessing separation? It’s a separation between two categories that does not require an elimination or repression of one of them. In fact, they are interdependent. For example, Shabbat and work days are separate, but when we transition from one to the other, we take a bit of one into the other. There can’t be Shabbat without work days, and vice versa. If only this kind of thinking could be extended. 

Instead of treating categorical differences between people as  threats—as if your category being valuable means mine could disappear. Instead of either denying difference or privileging one category, we could honor difference as that which enriches all of us. 

So, as we celebrate Pride, here’s to blessing a different kind, a better kind of separation. Let us continue to go from exclusion to inclusion and from ignorance to understanding.