Let’s be honest, bar mitzvah d’var Torahs are usually pretty bland. It’s a tall order for a 13-year-old to offer a sophisticated analysis of a particular Torah portion—especially when most of the training for the bar mitzvah service focuses on reciting the Hebrew correctly and learning the centuries-old pronunciation and tune. What you’re left with is usually a nervous teenager explaining simplified themes like good deeds, charity, and the importance of treating others with kindness. (It’s why Vanessa Bayer’s Jacob the bar mitzvah boy character on Saturday Night Live is so spot-on.)
But during his bar mitzvah service, Oregon native Duncan McAlpine Sennett did something different, using his Torah portion—the one about Jacob working for Laban for seven years to marry his daughter Rachel, only to be tricked into marrying her sister Leah, then working for seven more years marry Rachel for real—to talk about the changing definition of marriage. Seriously.
While studying my Torah portion and comparing and contrasting marriage in the 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.
I’ll let Duncan take it from here:
Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.