Friday, February 7, 2014

Message from the Rosh HaYeshiva

February is Jewish Disability Awareness Month, and my parasha piece below is dedicated to that theme. 

I have also made available a translation of a powerful teshuva from the Maseit Binyamin on a blind person receiving aliyot. The author of the Maseit Binyamin was Rabbi Benjamin Aaron Salnik, who was a student of Rema and Maharshal, and a major Ashkenazi posek of the 16th century. He himself had become blind, and this motivates him to write a responsum regarding the halakhic permissibility of giving an aliyah to a blind person.

There is a real poignancy in his description of his own blindness and sense of being excluded, and a powerful articulation of the halakhic mandate of inclusion. In particular, he makes the point that excluding people not only is terribly hurtful, but it ultimately pushes them away from religion. It is, in his terms, "casting the yoke of mitzvot off of these people".  I hope you have an opportunity to learn this teshuva with others and I encourage you to find other ways to engage the community around issues of disabilities during this month.

We have two big mazal tovs this week. Mazal Tov to Yael Slonim and Rabbi Jack Nahmod (YCT 2005) on the birth of a new baby girl! Shetizku li'gadlah li'Torah li'chuppah u'li'maasim tovim!  And Mazal Tov to Livia and Sorin (YCT 2007) Rosen on the birth of a baby boy! Shetizku li'gadlo li'Torah li'chuppah u'li'maasim tovim u'li'hakhniso li'brito shel Avraham Avinu bi'zmano!

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