Each Of Us Deserves To Imagine Our Future: Lessons From Lech Lecha
search

Each Of Us Deserves To Imagine Our Future: Lessons From Lech Lecha

Rabbi Michael Levy: As a founding member of Yad Hachazakah, the Jewish Disability Empowerment Center, Rabbi Levy strives to make the Jewish experience and Jewish texts accessible to Jews with disabilities. In lectures at Jewish camps, synagogues and educational institutions, he cites Nachshon, who according to tradition, boldly took the plunge into the Red Sea even before it miraculously parted. Rabbi Levy elaborates, “We who have disabilities should be Nachshons, boldly taking the plunge into the Jewish experience, supported by laws and lore that mandate our participation.” Rabbi Levy is currently director of Travel Training at MTA New York City Transit. He is an active member of Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, N.Y. He invites anyone who has disability-related questions to email him.

The difficulty of paying attention while praying is so well known that it is a source of mirth. Tom Sawyer squirms until the minister's "Amen," after which he feels free to capture an annoying insect. Our sages were well aware of the mind's tendency to wander. They rarely made concentration during prayer absolutely mandatory. One exception is the end of the first paragraph of the Amidah (silent devotion): "Blessed are You, Lord, the Shield of Abraham." The origin of the prayer perhaps explains the need to concentrate during its recitation.

An Ancient Moment of Frustration

In this week's Torah portion, "Go forth," Abraham (still known as Abram) miraculously achieves victory in war, freeing Lot, his nephew and possible heir. Lot unhelpfully returns to Sodom, where the trouble started. Abraham realizes that Lot may not be a worthy successor.

God tells Abraham "Do not fear, Abram, I am your Shield, your reward is very abundant" [Genesis 15:1]. Abraham can no longer contain his frustration. He responds, "Lord God, what (protection) can You give me, since I am childless?" [Genesis 15, 1-2]. In other words, what difference does it make whether or not you shield me; my estate will in any case not be passed down to my children?

God causes Abraham to enter into a trance so profound that it borders on terror. God reveals to Abraham that his descendants will be enslaved by a foreign power in a foreign land, and that He will rescue them. God is reminding Abraham that his descendants will indeed need the protection that God is promising him now. Abraham is praised for his renewed faith.

What About Your Future?

In moments of despair, it's easy to imagine a bleak future. This is especially true for children and young adults who have been led to believe that, to put it bluntly, they won't amount to much of anything in life because of the challenges that they face in terms of abilities. They may be steered towards especially planned educational and social settings, and may be "placed" in employment, but that just about sums up the life that others have planned for them.

A child or young adult with a disability is too often defined according to that disability. When your whole life is structured around the defining central characteristic of your disability, less room is left for your to explore your uniqueness, pursue your unique dreams, and strive towards your unique future.

Abraham's vision reminds us that the future of each individual should hold possibilities beyond conventional outcomes. Frustration and uncertainty, to a certain degree, strengthen our ability to "regroup" and strive for a future that fulfills our needs and potential.

The next time you recite "Blessed are You, O Lord, the shield of Abraham," reflect on Abraham's momentary despair and on the God-given hope for possible futures of greatness.

As a founding member of Yad Hachazakah, the Jewish Disability Empowerment Center, Rabbi Levy strives to make the Jewish experience and Jewish texts accessible to Jews with disabilities. In lectures at Jewish camps, synagogues and educational institutions, he cites Nachshon, who according to tradition boldly took the plunge into the Red Sea even before it miraculously parted. Rabbi Levy elaborates, “We who have disabilities should be Nachshons, boldly taking the plunge into the Jewish experience, supported by laws and lore that mandate our participation.” Rabbi Levy is currently director of Travel Training at MTA New York City Transit. He is an active member of Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, NY. He invites anyone who has disability-related questions to e-mail him.

read more:
comments