QOTD re Including the Disabled

It says in the Torah, “Teach your children.” There’s no fine print in there that says only the perfect ones.

Shelley Cohen speaking to rabbinic students about incorporating the disabled



4 thoughts on “QOTD re Including the Disabled

  1. The Torah and Halacha are quite clear about being kind and considerate to all people, disabled or not. But there are some Halachic limitations which may seem cruel to us ‘Western culture’ people. As G-d created all of us, including the handicapped, and yet gave us the Torah, which has some clear rules regarding ‘Baalei Moom’ / disabled, we do have to realize that there is much we can’t really understand.

    The book of Iyov (Job) deals with this, though the answers are still not real satisfying (to me, anyway), because in our culture we don’t deal well with being told that something is beyond our capability to comprehend.

    • But halachic rulings can be more or less attuned to these issues. For example, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach used the halachic principle, mipnei kovod habrios iirc (because of human dignity) to allow the hard of hearing to wear hearing aids on shabbos. This was great but very rare and becoming rarer by the decade.

      It seems almost all ultra orthodox poskim have resolved to eliminate this concept which was more frequently invoked by earlier poskim. Consider for example the famous decision by the רמ”א (Rabbi Moses Isserles) to allow a wedding on Shabbat to avoid shaming an orphan girl. (And mind you, this contradicted his own ruling in the mapah of the shulchan aruch (Isserles’ additions to Joseph Karo’s code of Jewish law to conform with Ashkenazic practice).

      I have learned of many prominent poskim who admit they are afraid to rule leniently because they will be harassed by the zealots.

      Thus, while it is true that halachah constrains the options for inclusion, at this point, many of the constraints are artificially generated and then falsely attributed to the requirements of halachah.

      • The principle of Mipnei Kovod Habriyos (human dignity), can be applied in many circumstances to Rabbinic prohibitions, but for Torah prohibitions “Ein Chochma V’Ein S’vuna…” (loosely – there is no human knowledge and understanding against G-d’s word), except for the Torah commandment not to stray from the Rabbinic rules. (Brachos 19b)
        It’s often a difficult Rabbinic decision to apply this concept, because there are many other factors to take into consideration, most notable how it will affect the observance of these Rabbinic laws by others.

        However, the objections in the article seemed to include Torah and Sinai principles – those are what I was referring to above.

        That being said, I was originally hoping that your statement, “Teach your children … not only the perfect ones” would be applied to the many schools which have become very elitist and won’t accept Jewish children due to their haphazard acceptance standards, which as HaRav Shteinman said in the famous video is “Gaava, Gaava, Gaava”. (Haughtiness!)

        • I don’t know why you are assuming I was suggesting applying principles of “human dignity” in any specific case. And yes, the leeway is primary regarding rabbinic enactments. Though there is even heavier artillery for flexibility such as ais laasos (a time to break some rules in order save Torah observance altogether).

          My point in my comment was that many ultra orthodox rabbis are either insensitive to cowed into overly restrictive rulings because these days even a hint of leniency damages careers and income.

          When I quoted Mrs. Shelley Cohen I was focused on the disabled because that was the focus of the conference at which she spoke.

          However, I was also thinking about elite yeshivas which reject kids who fall short of extremely high and narrow standards. This has already has been decried across the frum world but less so in Lakewood where the problem is probably the worst. Rav Moshe Feinstein’s psak restricting grounds for refusing to educate a boy is routinely ignored. (He restricted grounds for expulsion to a kid who prevents others from learning). I was also thinking of chanoch al pi darkoi (educate each child in the manner appropriate to him/her). This also raises the question of ignoring the authentic aptitudes of kids other than those emphasized by the standard curriculum. I marvel at the idiocy and harm of banning music education by Satmar in Kiryas Joel. I could pile on other examples. But I am sure you know what I am talking about.

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