Watch: The Rebbe’s had a ground-breaking approach on Jewish inclusion and how we should relate to individuals with special needs or a handicap.
When meeting a child with Down Syndrome or someone in a wheelchair, the first thing we tend to notice is their limitations and what sets them apart from the rest of society.
In the 70s, Dr. Robert Wilkes, a renowned psychologist, consulted with the Rebbe about the Jewish perspective on individuals with disabilities. The Rebbe rejected the label “retarded” which was commonly used at the time to define special needs and handicapped individuals. Instead, the Rebbe chose to use the title “special.”
If Hashem created a person with a specific limitation, then He also granted them extraordinary capabilities in other aspects of their nature. The Rebbe suggested that if proper aptitude tests would be performed on special children, they would score very high in certain areas.
In another conversation with parents of an autistic child, the Rebbe stressed the unique relationship that their son has with Hashem. While their child seems to be in his own world, he can relate to Hashem as much, if not more, than anyone else.
In a letter, the Rebbe described how doctors and nurses saw this in front of their eyes. Patients who were ranked depressed, senile, or oblivious to the world displayed interest and joy at the sight of a Lulav and Esrog. A mitzvah is a tangible connection between a special individual and the world around him. Every Jew can and should be included in the Jewish experience.
The Rebbe’s approach also empowered those with physical disabilities. In a sicha addressing a group of disabled Israeli veterans, the Rebbe suggested that the term “disabled” be replaced with “metzuyanim beyisroel” — the exceptional of Israel. The Rebbe clarified that this is not just a name change, but expresses the reality as it is.
The Rebbe created a paradigm shift in the definition of special needs and handicapped individuals. Their strengths and unique capabilities should be their defining factor.
What will you think about the next time you meet a child with Down Syndrome or someone in a wheelchair?
Coming Up Next: Birthday Bash Jewish-Style
Contact us to dedicate this upcoming clip! Whatsapp +1 646-770-0303.
Illuminate by Maor offers powerful presentations of the Rebbe’s timeless talks, fused with engaging narration and explanation. These weekly videos are bite-sized and simple to grasp, designed for learners of all levels.
To subscribe, click here http://wa.me/16467700303?text=AnashSubscribe or Whatsapp +1 646-770-0303.
Watch all past episodes here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPs_fLGrzpYunjDN1MR_edA/videos
In keeping in line with the Rabbonim's policies for websites, we do not allow comments. However, our Rabbonim have approved of including input on articles of substance (Torah, history, memories etc.)
We appreciate your feedback. If you have any additional information to contribute to this article, it will be added below.