Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

So about those Russian kids....

Nearly 2 years ago, Russia abruptly terminated international adoption to the United States, as well as expelled American NGO's working in orphanages.  Many families who were already in process were prevented from completing their adoptions, leaving behind children whom they had already met.   Russia's Children's Ombudsman promised that all these children will be well taken care of domestically, including the numerous children with special needs.

Seems that, ahem, more work needs to be done....


Monday, September 8, 2014

Haftorah Beam - Ki Teitzeh

In comparison with the Torah portion, this Haftorah is simplicity itself:  It is G*d's proclamation of eternal love for the people of Israel, offering full redemption in compensation for the years of rejection. Rabbi Siegel argues that G*d loves us eternally, but requires us to show lovingkindness to one another in order to merit it from Him.  This interpretation was not apparent from the translation, so I looked it up in the original:

ז  בְּרֶגַע קָטֹן, עֲזַבְתִּיךְ; וּבְרַחֲמִים גְּדֹלִים, אֲקַבְּצֵךְ.7 For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great compassion will I gather thee.
ח  בְּשֶׁצֶף קֶצֶף, הִסְתַּרְתִּי פָנַי רֶגַע מִמֵּךְ, וּבְחֶסֶד עוֹלָם, רִחַמְתִּיךְ--אָמַר גֹּאֲלֵךְ, יְהוָה. 8 In a little wrath I hid My face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have compassion on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer. 

Each phrase seems to imply "In one circumstance, I rejected you; and in a different circumstance, I shall redeem you".  But it could also be grammatically understood as referring to the people's demeanor:

In [your] moment of smallness, I left you;And with [your] great mercy, I shall gather you.In [your] frothy fury, I briefly hid My face from you;And with [your] lovingkindness for the world,  I shall condole you.
When we act small, or froth with anger, G*d's presence appears to depart.  And it is when we act with mercy and lovingkindness that we experience G*d's love for us, as well.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Haftorah Beam - Shoftim

This week's Torah portion is famous for the phrase צֶדֶק צֶדֶק תִּרְדֹּף - Justice, justice shalt thou pursue. This phrase, with the repetition of the word Justice, emphasizes that the end does not justify the means -- even in the pursuit of justice, just methods must be observed (c.f. current events in Ferguson MO and elsewhere....)

The Haftorah, from Isaiah 51 and 52, echoes this style, with FOUR separate repetitions:

51:12:אָנֹכִי אָנֹכִי הוּא, מְנַחֶמְכֶם  
I, I am He who comforts you!

הִתְעוֹרְרִי הִתְעוֹרְרִי, קוּמִי יְרוּשָׁלִַם, אֲשֶׁר שָׁתִית מִיַּד יְהוָה, אֶת-כּוֹס חֲמָתוֹ 
Rouse, rouse yourself!
Arise, O Jerusalem,
You who from the Lord's hand
Have drunk the cup of His wrath

עוּרִי עוּרִי לִבְשִׁי עֻזֵּךְ, צִיּוֹן
Awake, awake, O Zion!
Clothe yourself in splendor

And finally, 52:11:
סוּרוּ סוּרוּ צְאוּ מִשָּׁם, טָמֵא אַל-תִּגָּעוּ
Turn, turn away, touch naught unclean
As you depart from there;

Once again, the repetition is significant.

Does the repetition mean the same thing both times?  In Genesis, G*d repeats Abraham's name when he stays his hand from completing the Akedah, in case the first time was not heard.  How often do we need to hear a message more than once before we get it?  And yet, the repetition is not the same.  It is more urgent: a greater need for the speaker, and more "urging" -- insisting, pushing, nagging -- for the listener.

How can we recognize G*d when He repeatedly calls to us?

How can we repeatedly awaken and rouse ourselves in the face of adversity and "clothe ourselves in splendor" instead?

How can we repeatedly turn away from the things which wreak havoc in our lives?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Haftorah Beam - Re'eh

After re-reading my drash of last year on the the Torah portion, the Haftorah seemed right on target.  The theme of prosperity as the reward for obedience is explored in detail.  Particularly salient is the beginning of Isaiah 55:

א  הוֹי כָּל-צָמֵא לְכוּ לַמַּיִם, וַאֲשֶׁר אֵין-לוֹ כָּסֶף; לְכוּ שִׁבְרוּ, וֶאֱכֹלוּ, וּלְכוּ שִׁבְרוּ בְּלוֹא-כֶסֶף וּבְלוֹא מְחִיר, יַיִן וְחָלָב.1 Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye for water, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
ב  לָמָּה תִשְׁקְלוּ-כֶסֶף בְּלוֹא-לֶחֶם, וִיגִיעֲכֶם בְּלוֹא לְשָׂבְעָה; שִׁמְעוּ שָׁמוֹעַ אֵלַי וְאִכְלוּ-טוֹב, וְתִתְעַנַּג בַּדֶּשֶׁן נַפְשְׁכֶם.2 Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your gain for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.

This seems to emphasize the same message as the excerpts I focused on:  That the difference between abundance and need is perspective.  I have recently had a new epiphany in this area.  I realized that 90% of everything we ever attempt actually fails.  However, THIS IS OK!!!  It is as though we are given a 10-sided die to control our lives with.  If you had such a die, what would you do?  Just keep rolling it!  The losing rolls don't matter -- if you keep rolling it, the winning face will come up many times! When things don't go well, just keep taking more actions in your life ("Hearken diligently" -- i.e. over and over) and delight in the positive results.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bloggy Blog Hop!

My friend Hevel took time between ducking rocket attacks to participate in this blog hop about writing, and he invited me to hop on.  So here I am!  Like him, I am tagging 4 people instead of 3 to increase the chances of the blog hop continuing.

1 – What am I writing or working on?
I have been writing this blog for the last 2+ years, spanning topics from disability rights, to orphanage conditions and adoption stories, to exploring issues in Judaism and modern politics.  Outside of the blog I am starting a coffeeshop as a social enterprise to create opportunities and inclusion for people with disabilities. Please support!

2 – How does my work differ from others of its genre?
There are many adoption bloggers.  Nearly all of them are Christian.  There are many special needs bloggers, some of whom are Jewish, although most are not focused primarily on the Jewish angle on things.  And there are some Jewish-themed blogs.  I started this blog specifically in order to provide a Jewish voice on disability, on adoption, and... anything else.  

3 – Why do I write what I write?
I explain my original motivations here.  At this point, I also use my blog as a platform to promote Power Cafe!, as well as to explore Jewish liturgy and philosophy.

4 – How does my writing process work?
I consciously write a feature about some part of Jewish liturgy throughout my blog.  This gives me something to write about even when I am feeling blocked, and helps maintain the focus of the blog.   I started with the Shema, continued with Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), then the Amidah.  Last year I blogged each week about the weekly Torah reading, and this year I am nearly done doing the same thing with the Haftorah reading.  What will next year bring?

Now, in true IceBucketChallenge form, I challenge the following 4 bloggers to continue the hop..... Or dunk their heads in a bucket of ice water!

Jisun blogs at Kimchi Latkes, mostly about family (including an adorable boy with an extra chromosome) and related issues.

Ellen blogs at Love that Max, and hosts a regular blog linkup every weekend. Max is an awesome boy who loves cars and want to be a firefighter.  

Dave blogs at Rolling Around in my Head.  He is a passionate advocate for all marginalized people.  He has written about disability, race and sexual orientation, to name a few.  And he even fits some of these categories.

Lisa blogs at Jewish Special Needs Education, and provides an interesting take from a professional angle.  She says: "I helped to build an inclusive synagogue school from the ground up and I firmly believe that everyone has a right to learn & feel connected to his/her heritage. I consult with faith organizations to offer professional support & expertise in developing inclusive practices and programs. Each one of us is created b'tzelem elohim, in God's image, so let's do what we can to act like it!"  Here is her entry.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Haftorah Beam - Eikev

When I read the Haftorah for this week's reading at shul on Saturday, a theme that jumped out at me was Motherhood.  There are three references to it: at the beginning, middle and end.

First, we read:

49:14 Zion says,"The Lord has forsaken me,My Lord has forgotten me."15 Can a woman forget her baby,Or disown the child of her womb?Though she might forget,I never could forget you.

Later on,

50:1 Thus said the Lord:Where is the bill of divorceOf your mother whom I dismissed?And which of My creditors was itTo whom I sold you off?You were only sold off for your sins,And your mother dismissed for your crimes.

And finally,

51:2 Look back to Abraham your fatherAnd to Sarah who brought you forth.For he was only one when I called him,But I blessed him and made him many.

While G*d begins by proclaiming His love for us to be more steadfast than a mother's love for her child, He seems quite callous in casting away a mother on account of her children's transgressions.  Seems the mother is actually sticking by her kids, through good and bad, while G*d is prone to rejecting those who fall short. This is resolved in the final excerpt, where the Matriarch Sarah is cited. "But I blessed him and made him many," -- Sarah herself IS the blessing.  Motherhood IS the link to G*d's love for us. Even when we feel rejected, looking back to our ancestors (both distant and recent), we can reconnect with our Source.

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.

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