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Thursday, February 2, 2012

February is Jewish Disability Awareness Month


When God speaks to Moses at the burning bush and gives him the mission as God’s spokesperson to bring B’nai Israel out of slavery in Egypt, Moses protests repeatedly that he is not up to the job. Moses insists that he is “slow of speech”.   In Exodus 4:11 God replies in seeming exasperation:  “Who gives man speech?  Who makes him dumb or deaf, seeing or blind?  Is it not I, the Lord?”   We are, each of us, the work of divine creation, but sometimes people forget.  In the Talmud, Ta’anit 20a-b, we learn the story of Rabbi Simeon ben Eleazar who happened upon a man who was extremely ugly. The man said, “Shalom to you, Rabbi!” Rabbi Simeon did not reply. Instead he exclaimed, “Idiot! How ugly that man is! Could it be that all the people of your city are as ugly as you?” The man said, “I do not know, why not go to the Artisan who made me, and tell Him, ‘How ugly that vessel is that You made!’” When Rabbi Simeon realized that he had done wrong, he dismounted from his donkey and fell down at the man’s feet, saying, “…please forgive me!” The Rabbis instituted a blessing for each of us to say when we see someone different to remind us all that difference is inherent in creation:  Blessed is God who made creations different from one another.   We have been working to create a Jewish community that welcomes, supports and celebrates all differences, whether we can see those differences or not.  Jewish Disability Awareness Month is being recognized by events both in our local community and throughout the country.