L'havdil literally means "to separate" in Hebrew. The ritual ceremony separating between the Sabbath and the rest of the week is called havdala.
"L'havdil" (sometimes magnified with the additional "elef havdalos" - "one thousand differences") is used as a phrase by religious Jews to make a verbal transition from two completely different topics, usually when one is about mundane things and the other is about holy ones.
I couldn't help but think of this phrase when I heard about when and where the Gay "Pride" parade was scheduled.
You see, I will be in Jerusalem this coming Friday through Shabbat. No, not to protest, and definitely not to parade! I work part time as one of the balaniyot (attendants) of the mikvah in my yishuv. I will be in Jerusalem for a weekend workshop held once every two years for mikvah ladies who work in the settlements of the Shomron. (For a beautiful explanation of the ritual of mikvah immersion, see here.)
We get together for these workshops to learn from Rabbis and other mikvah ladies about what new issues have come up that affect our work. Medical advances and cosmetic procedures are always cropping up that require new halachic (Jewish law) rulings. At past conventions I have learned the newest abridged version of CPR, I have learned about tips on how to calm new brides who are using the mikvah for the first time, and I have learned about the responsibilities of a mikvah lady if she sees that one of her clients has been physically abused by her husband (which thank G-d I have never had to deal with).
Another reason that we get together is to share stories with other women who share the same work. If I am confronted with a delicate situation, or I am particularly moved emotionally by something that I have encountered, I have no other source of help or outlet for my feelings than these other women. I cannot speak to my friends, and especially not to my husband, about the things I deal with in my job, because of the need to protect the privacy of the women who use the mikvah.
Why am I telling you this? Because I think that it highlights one of the most central aspects of the Orthodox view on intimacy. My job as a mikvah attendant is really only a tangential part of the web of laws regarding marital relations, but even in this small area the ideas of modesty and discretion are paramount. One of the crucial tenets of my job is that I must be discreet. When there is a halachic question and I speak to the Rav of my yishuv, I give him the details, without giving any hint as to the identity of the woman in question. The fact that women use the mikvah at night is to protect their privacy. We even have the luxury, in our small community, of scheduling the women in such a way so that they avoid bumping into each other coming in or out.
Orthodox Jews are very careful (or should be) when discussing the topic of marital relations. We are careful never to be crude in our language and some things are never spoken about in mixed company. I think that many adults, of all faiths and religious levels, can see that this is one way of treating this part of life with the dignity it deserves.
Compare this, l'havdil, to the very idea of the Gay "Pride" Parade. Here you have a group of people, some if not all clad in outlandish costumes, who want to walk down the street and announce their sexual proclivities. Then add the fact that they want to specifically do this in a city which is considered holy by all three major religions.
I personally find this highly offensive, as do many others. (And yes, I would find it just as offensive if it were heterosexuals doing the parading). The fact that a small minority are taking this sense of affront to violent extremes has caused quite a lot of attention to be paid to them, and has opened the way for many bloggers to write indignant posts about the violence, while ignoring the main issue. Some have even, ironically, claimed that those who are against the parade just hate people who they find objectionable, and then use this excuse to enumerate the reasons why they personally hate the Charedim! You can't have it both ways folks - either you judge individuals on their merits alone and not because they are part of a group or you don't - black coats and hats are not an exception!
There has been a call for a non-violent protest to take part at the same time as the parade. Unfortunately, due to the law of physics, I will not be there because I can't be in two places at once.
So, I won't be protesting. Or better yet, I will be - in a circuitous way. I'll be learning ways to help add kedusha (holiness) to the very beautiful gift of intimacy that G-d has given to us.
No matter what, l'havdil, is going on outside.