The Difference Between Yes and No

This entry was posted in Life on by .

In today’s Jewel of Elul, Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University, writes about learning to learn Torah with his autistic son:

As someone who fell in love with God and Torah as a collegian, I dreamed I would have a child with whom I would share my newfound passion. At my rabbinical school, I would see professors and their children swaying together in prayer or over a text, and I would imagine the thrill of sharing that piety with my (as yet unborn) child.

When my wife, Elana, and I were told she was expecting twins, my heart and my fantasies soared. Yet, my beloved daughter, Shira, is not drawn to religious services. My son, Jacob, diagnosed with autism at age three, has difficulty speaking or turning the pages of a book. I had dreamed of a child who would love the Torah as I do, and who could share that love with me. God, it seemed, had denied my dream.

As Jacob prepared for his bar mitzvah, he mastered Facilitated Communication, an assisted typing technique that proved he had taught himself to read! Able to hear through walls, Jacob had achieved remarkable sophistication and depth by ruminating on the conversations of others.

Jacob and I began to learn together. We studied the weekly Torah portion and the prophetic readings. We studied the prayer book, and Jacob composed a soulful commentary. After his bar mitzvah, I committed to learn how to facilitate Jacob’s typing, which meant we could embark on further learning and have real conversations, too. Every Sabbath, Jacob and I sit in my study, and we discuss, and we learn – Torah, Heschel, Jewish history or philosophy. His comments continually lure me, and with the purity I see sparkling in his eyes, he reminds me to love God and Torah.

It turns out that it was not God who said “no� to my dreams. It was my rigid sense of what “yes� was supposed to look like that blinded me to God’s great, big, wonderful “YES� and almost blinded me to the miracle that is my son.

elul.jpg

Posted on September 2, 2008

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Privacy Policy