Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Haftorah Beam - VaEtkhanan

I really enjoyed re-reading my drash from last year for this Torah portion -- it felt so relevant for how I feel about my current project!

For the Haftorah reading, I want to highlight 2 excerpts.  First,

ט  עַל הַר-גָּבֹהַּ עֲלִי-לָךְ, מְבַשֶּׂרֶת צִיּוֹן, הָרִימִי בַכֹּחַ קוֹלֵךְ, מְבַשֶּׂרֶת יְרוּשָׁלִָם; הָרִימִי, אַל-תִּירָאִי, אִמְרִי לְעָרֵי יְהוּדָה, הִנֵּה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם.9 O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain; O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah: 'Behold your God!'
י  הִנֵּה אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה בְּחָזָק יָבוֹא, וּזְרֹעוֹ מֹשְׁלָה לוֹ; הִנֵּה שְׂכָרוֹ אִתּוֹ, וּפְעֻלָּתוֹ לְפָנָיו.10 Behold, the Lord GOD will come as a Mighty One, and His arm will rule for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.
יא  כְּרֹעֶה, עֶדְרוֹ יִרְעֶה, בִּזְרֹעוֹ יְקַבֵּץ טְלָאִים, וּבְחֵיקוֹ יִשָּׂא; עָלוֹת, יְנַהֵל.  11 Even as a shepherd that feedeth his flock, that gathereth the lambs in his arm, and carrieth them in his bosom, and gently leadeth those that give suck. 

In the context of the current conflict with Hamas in Gaza, this points out several things.  First, Zion was synonymous with both the people and land of Israel since biblical times. As Martin Luther King Jr. reportedly said, "When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You're talking anti-Semitism."

Second, the G*d being praised here is simultaneously a powerful, mighty ruler, and a gentle, nurturing shepherd.  This is the behavior of Israel's army, the IDF: It is powerful, striking mightily at those who seek to drive the Jews into the sea; and yet, it goes to great lengths to minimize civilian casualties, and provides field hospitals for the local injured.

The other excerpt is:

כט  נֹתֵן לַיָּעֵף, כֹּחַ; וּלְאֵין אוֹנִים, עָצְמָה יַרְבֶּה.29 He giveth power to the faint; and to him that hath no might He increaseth strength.
ל  וְיִעֲפוּ נְעָרִים, וְיִגָעוּ; וּבַחוּרִים, כָּשׁוֹל יִכָּשֵׁלוּ.30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall;
לא  וְקוֹיֵ יְהוָה יַחֲלִיפוּ כֹחַ, יַעֲלוּ אֵבֶר כַּנְּשָׁרִים; יָרוּצוּ וְלֹא יִיגָעוּ, יֵלְכוּ וְלֹא יִיעָפוּ.  31 But they that wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint. 

When life gets us down and we feel like all is lost, faith can often restore power to our endeavors.



Haftorah Beam - Devarim

Where the Torah portion focused on the power of words, the Haftorah reading emphasizes actions.  Indeed, after a long diatribe denouncing the people for their evil ways, rejecting their prayers and sacrifices, the prophet suddenly changes his tone:
16 Wash yourselves clean;
Put your evil doings
Away from My sight.
Cease to do evil;
17 Learn to do good.
Devote yourselves to justice;
Aid the wronged.
Uphold the rights of the orphan;
Defend the cause of the widow.
18 "Come, let us reach an understanding,
--declares the Lord--
Be your sins like crimson,
They can turn snow-white;
Be they red as dyed wool,
They can become like fleece."
Not prayer, nor sacrifices, but doing justice, aiding the wronged, and fighting for the downtrodden constitutes true repentance.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Down syndrome stereotype

People with Down syndrome are often seen as "happy, loving, and sweet".  As anybody who knows actual people with Down syndrome, they have a full range of emotions and dispositions.  So where does the stereotype come from?

My husband suggested the following hypothesis:
Because children with Down syndrome are disproportionately aborted (or, in some cultures, institutionalized), the parents who choose to keep and raise these children are probably endowed with greater compassion and kindness than average.  And this parenting translates into children that grow up to be compassionate, kind people, regardless of genetics.

This is not a complete explanation.  Children with other disabilities are also vulnerable to abortion and abandonment, and yet children with spina bifida, blindness, or physical deformity do not have this reputation.  I think there is a feedback loop, though.  Children with Down syndrome have characteristics which elicit a different kind of parenting.  And this parenting does seem to encourage the stereotype.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Haftorah Beam - Masei

The Haftorah for this Parshah (last year it was a double parsha, but this year Matot and Masei are separate) culminates the cycle of readings from the 17th of Tammuz to Tisha B'Av (the anniversary of the destruction of both Temples).  These readings follow the course of Israel's fall from grace which caused destruction and exile.

5 Thus said the Lord:What wrong did your fathers find in MeThat they abandoned MeAnd went after delusion and were deluded?6 They never asked themselves, "Where is the Lord,Who brought us up from the land of Egypt,Who led us through the wilderness,A land of deserts and pits,A land of drought and darkness,A land no man had traversed,Where no human being had dwelt?"

And yet, the final verse promises hope:
Chapter 3
Just now you called to Me, "Father!
You are the Companion of my youth."

Haftorah Beam - Matot

In the haftorah for this parsha, more insights into what makes a prophet:

ו  וָאֹמַר, אֲהָהּ אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה, הִנֵּה לֹא-יָדַעְתִּי, דַּבֵּר:  כִּי-נַעַר, אָנֹכִי.  {ס}6 Then said I: 'Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak; for I am a child.' {S}
ז  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֵלַי, אַל-תֹּאמַר נַעַר אָנֹכִי:  כִּי עַל-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר אֶשְׁלָחֲךָ, תֵּלֵךְ, וְאֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר אֲצַוְּךָ, תְּדַבֵּר.7 But the LORD said unto me: say not: I am a child; for to whomsoever I shall send thee thou shalt go, and whatsoever I shall command thee thou shalt speak.
ח  אַל-תִּירָא, מִפְּנֵיהֶם:  כִּי-אִתְּךָ אֲנִי לְהַצִּלֶךָ, נְאֻם-יְהוָה.8 Be not afraid of them; for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.



Haftorah Beam - Pinchas

The Haftorah for this Parshah contains the famous "small still voice" passage:

יא  וַיֹּאמֶר, צֵא וְעָמַדְתָּ בָהָר לִפְנֵי יְהוָה, וְהִנֵּה יְהוָה עֹבֵר וְרוּחַ גְּדוֹלָה וְחָזָק מְפָרֵק הָרִים וּמְשַׁבֵּר סְלָעִים לִפְנֵי יְהוָה, לֹא בָרוּחַ יְהוָה; וְאַחַר הָרוּחַ רַעַשׁ, לֹא בָרַעַשׁ יְהוָה.11 And He said: 'Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD.' And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake;
יב  וְאַחַר הָרַעַשׁ אֵשׁ, לֹא בָאֵשׁ יְהוָה; וְאַחַר הָאֵשׁ, קוֹל דְּמָמָה דַקָּה.12 and after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

Interestingly, the verses immediately before and after this are nearly identical.
Before:
ט  וַיָּבֹא-שָׁם אֶל-הַמְּעָרָה, וַיָּלֶן שָׁם; וְהִנֵּה דְבַר-יְהוָה, אֵלָיו, וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ, מַה-לְּךָ פֹה אֵלִיָּהוּ.9 And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said unto him: 'What doest thou here, Elijah?'
י  וַיֹּאמֶר קַנֹּא קִנֵּאתִי לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵי צְבָאוֹת, כִּי-עָזְבוּ בְרִיתְךָ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל--אֶת-מִזְבְּחֹתֶיךָ הָרָסוּ, וְאֶת-נְבִיאֶיךָ הָרְגוּ בֶחָרֶב; וָאִוָּתֵר אֲנִי לְבַדִּי, וַיְבַקְשׁוּ אֶת-נַפְשִׁי לְקַחְתָּהּ.10 And he said: 'I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, thrown down Thine altars, and slain Thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.'
And after:
יג  וַיְהִי כִּשְׁמֹעַ אֵלִיָּהוּ, וַיָּלֶט פָּנָיו בְּאַדַּרְתּוֹ, וַיֵּצֵא, וַיַּעֲמֹד פֶּתַח הַמְּעָרָה; וְהִנֵּה אֵלָיו, קוֹל, וַיֹּאמֶר, מַה-לְּךָ פֹה אֵלִיָּהוּ.13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entrance of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said: 'What doest thou here, Elijah?'
יד  וַיֹּאמֶר קַנֹּא קִנֵּאתִי לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵי צְבָאוֹת, כִּי-עָזְבוּ בְרִיתְךָ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל--אֶת-מִזְבְּחֹתֶיךָ הָרָסוּ, וְאֶת-נְבִיאֶיךָ הָרְגוּ בֶחָרֶב; וָאִוָּתֵר אֲנִי לְבַדִּי, וַיְבַקְשׁוּ אֶת-נַפְשִׁי לְקַחְתָּהּ.  14 And he said: 'I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, thrown down Thine altars, and slain Thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.' 

The prophet hearing G*d's voice didn't change any of the actual facts of what had happened.  The covenant had been forsaken, the prophets had been slain, and Elijah himself was still alone and vulnerable.

All that has changed was the meaning attached to these events, and the context in which he placed them.  Elijah was now clear that the might of his enemies -- the wind, noise and fire -- will not prevail.  But his own "still, small voice" will suffice to bring hope to the next generation.



Thursday, July 24, 2014

Power Cafe!

I have been out of the blogging loop for the past few weeks because I have been ramping up to unveiling my latest project.  I'm starting a coffee shop!   Rather than just talk about disability rights, and bemoan the lack of opportunity for people with special needs, I decided to do something about it, and put my money where my mouth is.  Power Cafe! will be a coffee shop in the Boston area (location TBD) which will be staffed and run entirely by people with disabilities.  I am working to put all the pieces together, and if all works out, we could open as soon as September or October.

Is this exciting or what?!  Please help make this a reality by contributing to my IndieGoGo campaign, and share with your friends on social media, too!

Thanks so much!!!!


Jewish Bloggers
Powered By Ringsurf