I’ve never had great knees, but this was a bit much. At 32 years old, I was limping around, struggling to go up and down stairs, and just feeling terrible about it. Thankfully, surgery and physical therapy helped and I have long since recovered. The most important lesson I learned from my bad knees is one that I see reflected in this week’s Torah portion. Parashat Tazria-M’tzora teaches us about our physicality; its focus is on the skin, hair, fluids, and organs that make up our bodies. We learn how out of our control those things can be and we gain some insight into our relationships with those entrusted with our care.
At its best, the Torah can lift up humanity, reminding us of our place in the continually unfolding story of God’s Creation of the world and our role in the hopeful journey toward freedom. At its worst, it can serve as a tool for domination, oppression, hatred, and all that is base and vile within the human soul. As a gay man, I approached this week’s Torah portion, Acharei Mot-K'doshim, with a fair amount of trepidation.