Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Eugenics of intelligence

Two perspectives on genetics of intelligence.

Scientists have de-activated the extra chromosome #21 in-vitro, potentially blazing a path for gene therapies for Down syndrome (Trisomy 21).

And then:
Chinese scientists seek genetic basis for IQ, potentially allowing embryo selection for extra-smart babies through IVF.

How many people who feel comfortable with eliminating Down syndrome (whether by gene therapy or by selective abortion) would feel equally placid about the prospect of pitting their own children against genetically engineered geniuses?  What if some future society decides that genius is to become the new normal?

Yes, this is personal.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Torah Connection - Matot/Masei

Yep, it's yet another double parsha, concluding the book of Leviticus!

The journey is almost over, as Moses and the tribal leaders plan the conquest of the Promised Land.  The lands to the East of the Jordan have already been subdued, and two tribes - Reuben and Gad - figure this would be a pretty good place to settle:
Chapter 321 The Reubenites and the Gadites owned cattle in very great numbers. Noting that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were a region suitable for cattle, 2 the Gadites and the Reubenites came to Moses, Eleazar the priest, and the chieftains of the community, and said, 3 "Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon — 4 the land that the Lord has conquered for the community of Israel is cattle country, and your servants have cattle. 5 It would be a favor to us," they continued, "if this land were given to your servants as a holding; do not move us across the Jordan."
Moses doesn't think this is such a great idea.  In fact, recalling the episode of the spies, he sees this as potentially bringing on a similar calamity:
6 Moses replied to the Gadites and the Reubenites, "Are your brothers to go to war while you stay here? 7 Why will you turn the minds of the Israelites from crossing into the land that the Lord has given them? 8 That is what your fathers did when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to survey the land. 9 After going up to the wadi Eshcol and surveying the land, they turned the minds of the Israelites from invading the land that the Lord had given them. 10 Thereupon the Lord was incensed and He swore, 11 'None of the men from twenty years up who came out of Egypt shall see the land that I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for they did not remain loyal to Me — 12 none except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they remained loyal to the Lord.' 13 The Lord was incensed at Israel, and for forty years He made them wander in the wilderness, until the whole generation that had provoked the Lord's displeasure was gone. 14 And now you, a breed of sinful men, have replaced your fathers, to add still further to the Lord's wrath against Israel. 15 If you turn away from Him and He abandons them once more in the wilderness, you will bring calamity upon all this people."
The Reubenites and Gadites, however, seem to be taking responsibility for this decision:
16 Then they stepped up to him and said, "We will build here sheepfolds for our flocks and towns for our children. 17 And we will hasten as shock-troops in the van of the Israelites until we have established them in their home, while our children stay in the fortified towns because of the inhabitants of the land. 18 We will not return to our homes until every one of the Israelites is in possession of his portion. 19 But we will not have a share with them in the territory beyond the Jordan, for we have received our share on the east side of the Jordan."
Moses relents, and in fact the two tribes are good for their word.  They fight alongside their brethren, and only settle their lands after all the tribes have received their portions.  They have paid their dues and earned the Good Life, the comfort and plenty beyond the Jordan. So all is well.

Or is it?

Rabbi Wein suggests that Moses had the right idea at first.  Just as the spies shied away from the Land of Israel because of the apparent challenges, preferring the "security" of bondage, so do these two tribes misjudge the value of material comfort in exile compared to the effort of living the life that G*d envisioned for them in Israel:
But all of this temporary gain comes with cost and a price. Separated from their brethren west of the Jordan, the tribes of Gad and Reuven have a difficult time defending themselves and are the first tribes to be exiled. They produce no major leaders or heroes for the Jewish people and their dreams of prosperity and material success are only fleetingly realized.
Even today, Israel is not an easy place to live in. By many measures, it appears that the costs outweigh the benefits. And even today, we see the attitudes of both the spies and the Trans-Jordanian tribes reflected.  Those who reject the Zionist enterprise entirely, and those who "support" it from the presumed safety of the diaspora.  Both groups miss the point.  The rewards of living in Israel are not material, but spiritual.  And in the long run, the spiritual life is what sustains us, both as individuals and as a community.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Baruch Dayan Emet

File:Yahrtzeit candle.JPG

An orphan died.  Last week?  2 weeks ago?  We don't really know.  At some point a file was updated, and we learned that this little boy is no more:

His hydrocephalus left untreated, he died alone, unattended, and was likely buried unceremoniously on a weed-infested hillside behind the orphanage, alongside many others who preceded him:

Cemetery of Forgotten Children

A Canadian citizen, born with a similar condition, but fortunate enough to have had the benefit of modern medical treatment and the love of his family, has organized a special memorial service for this child at a local Russian Orthodox church.  This service will take place this coming Friday, July 26.  Will you please join me in lighting a candle (virtual or physical) for the boy we know only as "Hanson"?

Bayom hahu, bayom hahu, yihie Adonay ekhad, ushmo Ekhad.

On that day, G*d shall be one, and His name is One.

Although we are of different nationalities and religions, let us remember this young life cut short.

Buddy Walk By the Sea this Saturday!

Falmouth, MA, this Saturday July 27 at 9AM!!!!

If you think you can make it, please let me know so we can meet up!

And if you want to sponsor me, that would be great too!

Vacation highlights

We spent 2 weeks at our new vacation home in northeast Ohio.  My husband has some family there, so we find ourselves going there often enough that having our own place makes sense.  I've been having fun scouring Craigslist for some amazing deals, taking 3-mile runs by Lake Erie, and watching my kids get to know their cousins.

One cousin was graduating High School.  I remember meeting her soon after my husband and I married.  She was a cute little chubby girl.  Now she is tall and stunningly beautiful, and heading off to college!

Another cousin had her second baby while we were there!  We all overdosed on awesome newborn sweetness.  My 13-year-old composed a lullaby just for her.

Another cousin had a birthday.

We celebrated the 4th of July.... sort of.  Got rained out of any possibility of a barbecue. Too rainy to go see fireworks.  But the fireworks, mixed with the thunderstorms, sure made it hard to get the littles to sleep!

One of my craigslist finds brought me very close to JEllen's House of Fabric, where I said hi to Sarah Ely and browsed some lovely quilting fabrics.  Unfortunately, I've never gotten into quilting.  But I did buy my 4-year-old a little tie.  He loves dressing formal.

And yet another cousin - whom we met at the graduation party - told us all about her latest project.  She and her fiance helped found an activity center for adults with developmental disabilities near Columbus, OH.  She invited us to come see it, and we made a day trip down there.  Wow. Just wow.  The love and dedication that was apparent was truly inspiring.

Oh, and just to top it all off, on the way back we stopped in upstate NY at the birthday party of yet another cousin.  Lots and lots and lots of kids!

And now we are home.

Torah Connection - Pinchas

I really struggled with this Parsha.  What a mish mash!

1. Recap of the end of last parsha, when, right after getting Bilaam's blessings, the Jews are seduced into idol worship, resulting in massive divine retribution, which only ends when Pinchas kills several of the perpetrators. Ugh.  Not a nice story.

2. Rundown of the census, in preparation for the upcoming war of conquest.  Um, OK.  G*d's decree that the slave generation would die off in the desert is confirmed -- only Caleb ben Yefune and Yehoshua bin Nun, the faithfuls spies, are spared.

3. An interesting anecdote, and a hat-tip to Biblical-era women's rights:
Chapter 271 The daughters of Zelophehad, of Manassite family—son of Hepher son of Gilead son of Machir son of Manasseh son of Joseph—came forward. The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 2 They stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the chieftains, and the whole assembly, at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and they said, 3 "Our father died in the wilderness. He was not one of the faction, Korah's faction, which banded together against the Lord, but died for his own sin; and he has left no sons. 4 Let not our father's name be lost to his clan just because he had no son! Give us a holding among our father's kinsmen!"
5 Moses brought their case before the Lord.
6 And the Lord said to Moses, 7 "The plea of Zelophehad's daughters is just: you should give them a hereditary holding among their father's kinsmen; transfer their father's share to them.
8 "Further, speak to the Israelite people as follows: 'If a man dies without leaving a son, you shall transfer his property to his daughter. 9 If he has no daughter, you shall assign his property to his brothers. 10 If he has no brothers, you shall assign his property to his father's brothers. 11 If his father had no brothers, you shall assign his property to his nearest relative in his own clan, and he shall inherit it.' This shall be the law of procedure for the Israelites, in accordance with the Lord's command to Moses."
4.  G*d tells Moses to climb Mt. Abiram, look over the land of Israel, and die there.  Moses points out that he has not yet appointed his successor.  With G*d's guidance, he proceeds to commission Yehoshua bin Nun (Joshua) in an official ceremony with all the priests.  Then he realizes that we still have the whole book of Deuteronomy before he can die.

5. Let's go over some more sacrifices!  Daily, weekly (Sabbath), monthly (new moon), and festivals (Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkoth).

I can't get a coherent theme out of all this, and I am so behind, I'll just let this sit there.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Torah Connection - Balak

What an interesting story.  So much psychology going on, in the interaction between Balak and Bilaam, between Bilaam and the donkey, and Bilaam and the angel.

Where is G*d in all this?  First He tells Bilaam not to go to Balak.  Then He says Bilaam may go, but he must  do what he is told.  Then G*d is angered again, and sends the angel to interfere.  But instead of the angel talking to Bilaam, he reveals himself to the donkey, which shies away, pressing Bilaam against the rock (literally between a rock and a hard place...)  Only after Bilaam beats his donkey 3 times does the angel finally reveal himself to him, shedding clarity on the situation and allowing Bilaam to proceed with his mission.

Why this divine fickleness?

Is it G*d who is fickle, or is this an allegory of the uncertainty we feel about attempting to discern G*d's will about important decisions?

And what about the angel?  The flaming sword is pretty clear.  As soon as one sees it -- even a donkey -- the message is self-evident.  Bilaam apologizes for his faiings.  From here on he speaks with moral clarity.

Bilaam, the greatest of gentile prophets, realized that something must be wrong. A simple donkey saw the revelation of an angel. He did not. He realized that there are experiences he should have been able to grasp and appreciate. If he didn't it was not a donkey's fault. It was not an angel's fault. It was his fault. He realized then and there that it was he who was lacking. 
How often does G-d cry out to us in newspaper headlines, be it earthquakes, wildfires, or human tragedies? We should stare at the sight and see the divine figure standing with an outstretched sword. We do not. We flip the paper and strike at the donkeys who struck out.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Back from vacation!

I have to figure out how to post when I'm away...  2 weeks is way too long! I have a bunch of posts to catch up on:

* Torah Connection x3
* Vacation highlights
* Current events
* Disability awareness
* Upcoming stuff

But now I have some errands to run -- TTFN!

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