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.
In “Man is Not Alone,” (p. 129) Dr. Abraham Joshua Heschel notes, “The Bible is primarily not man’s vision of God but God’s vision of man. The Bible is not man’s theology but God’s anthropology, dealing with man and what He asks of him rather than with the nature of God.”
God’s “anthropology,” His involvement in man’s affairs, is evident throughout the Book of Genesis. In this week’s Torah portion, God brings about the promised birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah. God insists that Abraham banish his wayward son Ishmael, along with Ishmael’s mother Hagar.
In upcoming Torah portions, God is, as it were, just offstage. Rebecca learns in a divine revelation that her older son Esau will be subservient to her younger son Jacob. Her subsequent actions to fulfill the prophecy trigger a series of deceptions and journeys, during which God is discernable “behind the scenes.”.
The Talmud (Tractate Nida 31A) indicates that God joins with fathers and mothers in the creation of a child. When my wife and I became parents, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin urged us to request help fro our partner to guide our children towards independence and responsibility.
Does God Partner with Parents Today?
Take a few moments to consider:
How many details of time and place needed to be “just right” in order for your parents to meet? How did they achieve that “magic moment”-breaking the ice and getting to know each other well enough to marry?
Science reveals that the process of your parents’ genes combining into your genetic blueprint took about twenty minutes. The chances of genes arranging themselves precisely to produce you were, I believe, one in 700,000.
How is it that parents draw upon hitherto undiscovered energy to nurture their offspring?
Parenting by Design
Rabbi Moshe Weinberger offers an encouraging perspective to parents who feel overwhelmed by rearing a child (I paraphrase his words here.)
“God decided that a soul needed to descend to earth. He examined every couple in every generation to determine who could best care for this soul. Every couple in every generation failed the test-except you!”
In this respect, all fathers, mothers, caregivers and educators are “special parents” – selected to provide nurturing and care to particular children.
What about parents of children with disabilities? As they seek and receive assistance from many experts, these parents can keep in mind that they have something to contribute to their child’s welfare that no technique or program can provide.
Sometimes, when God is preparing a soul to descend to live in our world, he chooses a person with a disability to be the parent. Such parents also make vital and unique contributions to their particular child’s welfare. Apparently, no other parents passed the test.
A native of Bradley Beach, New Jersey, Rabbi Michael Levy attributes his achievements to God’s beneficence and to his courageous parents. His parents supported him as he explored his small home town, visited Israel and later studied at Hebrew University, journeyed towards more observant Judaism, received rabbinic ordination, obtained a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University and lectured on Torah- and disability-related topics.
As a founding member of Yad Hachazakah — the Jewish Disability Empowerment Center (www.yadempowers.org), 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 at email@example.com