Parashat Tazria

A Gay Perspective On Punishment And Disease

Understanding God's presence in disease means viewing illness not as a punishment, but as an opportunity to treat others as created in the image of God.

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In that sense, we can say that God worked through the mark upon his forehead. The lesions on Prior's body are not tzara'at. The tzara'at resides within Louis, and he finally has the courage to face it.

The "angels" in the title of Kushner's play are ultimately those humans who fight the terrible disease with dignity and those who work to end it. Parashat Tazria is our wake-up call that we are not free to ignore disease just because we are healthy.

Tazria demands instead that we wage war against disease, and that we work for a cure. We may not find that cure, but we must be part of the fight--in the words of the ancient rabbinic text, "The Sayings of the Ancestors:" "It is not up to you to finish the work, yet you are not free to avoid it."

Or as Prior says in the final words of Kushner's magnificent play: "And I bless you: More Life. The Great Work Begins."

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Rabbi Roderick Young discovered that he was Jewish at the age of 23. He received ordination from Hebrew Union College, and served the Leicester Progressive Community in England, the West London Synagogue, and Finchley Reform Synagogue.