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Wrestling with AIDS

Parshat Vayishlach/World AIDS DAY

Genesis 32:3-36:43

This week on Shabbat we will observe World AIDS Day.  We recall so many of our friends and lovers who have succumbed to the complications of HIV/AIDS.  Those very difficult early years when the gay men’s community was decimated have given way to longer lives, better prevention and drugs that help keep opportunistic infections at bay.  Thank goodness for the research! But we are still far away from the cure. Many had hoped by this time that a vaccine would have been perfected.  But researchers are closer than ever.  The NIH has several multi-million dollar grants that have been given out to make this a reality.


And yet many in our midst still suffer.  HIV/AIDS is still in our community and in our congregation. Even as the face of AIDS in America and around the world has changed, we can’t forget that AIDS remains a part of our Kol Ami family.  Even though more and more impoverished people, people of color, and women are increasingly those contracting the HIV virus, AIDS is not gone in the gay men’s community. It still requires hyper-vigilance while dating and hooking up.


And it still requires testing.


Don’t be one who sticks his head in the sand.  If you have multiple partners for sex then get tested and get treatment early if you need to.  We have many resources in our midst. Don’t let it be a shanda.  Don’t let it be an embarrassment and a point of shame.


Shame always leads us down a path of destruction and fear.


In our Torah portion Vayishlach, Jacob wrestles with an angel of God the night before he must face his brother Esau.  So many years ago Jacob tricked their father for the blessing and his brother for the birthright.  Jacob had to flee the wrath of his brother and now soon the will reunite.  That evening, Jacob tosses and turns in anticipation.  He remembers how he deceived his brother.  And perhaps now is ashamed of all he did.  In the struggle with the Angel Peniel, Jacob is trying to work through his fear and his shame.

In the end Jacob prevails but will always carry the reminder of that wound that was caused.  He will forever walk differently because of it.  So too if we carry our shame and don’t deal with it will cause us to walk differently, with our heads bowed low rather than the dignity each human being deserves as a made in the image of God!


So let us hold our heads high. No shame in HIV.  But let us as a community care for each other and hold each other as we remember and support one another on this Shabbat of World AIDS Day.