Sunday, March 13, 2011

Torah for More Than It's Own Sake

Shalom Berger, a friend and Jim Joseph Foundation Fellows colleague shared this with me, and I thought it might interest some of you or some of your older children. When my 12 11/12 year old son heard about it, he got to work. I invite you to do the same and share it with the young folks in your orbit who might be interested in sharing some words of Torah with Moshe, his family and community. And do it quickly - there is a deadline! 

When someone asks you the meaning of chidur mitzvah and how to increase Torah in the world, I would direct them to Stephen Glickman.

Dvar Torah Request- Parshas Kedoshim

Dear friends-

Thank you for your time. Women's League Community Residences is a social services organization in Boro Park, Brooklyn that, among other things, runs group homes for Jewish children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I am writing this letter to tell you about one of the boys we have living with us, and to ask for your help in celebrating a milestone in his life. His name is Moshe, and he has Canavan Disease.

Canavan Disease is a Jewish, genetic, degenerative brain disorder that causes a variety of cognitive and physical disabilities. While children with Canavan disease appear healthy at birth, the disease usually begins to take its toll before a child’s first birthday. Moshe cannot walk, talk, or see. Many children with Canavan disease, including Moshe, need to be fed through a tube because they cannot swallow on their own. Many develop seizures, and respiratory (breathing) issues are common. While the disease itself is rare, it is estimated that one in 37 Ashkenazi Jews (Jews of Eastern European descent) are carriers of the Canavan gene.

When Moshe was first diagnosed with Canavan Disease shortly before his first birthday, he was not expected to live past the age of three. That was about twelve years ago, and I am pleased to let you know that Moshe will IY"H (if God wills) be celebrating his Bar Mitzvah on the 21st of Nissan 5771 (April 25th, 2011), the 7th day of Pesach (Passover), Parshat Kedoshim.

Despite his disabilities, there are many things that Moshe is wonderful at: His bright smile and contagious laugh warms the hearts of everyone who comes into contact with him. The simplest of his accomplishments, like grasping a toy, leads you to marvel at his persistence. And, when Moshe is comfortable and content, you cannot help but share in his serenity. At the same time, however, there are many things that Moshe cannot do for himself and that we, to varying degrees, must do for him. This is why we are asking for your assistance.

One of the things Moshe cannot do for himself is prepare for his Bar Mitzvah. In trying to find a way to have others do for him what he cannot do for himself, we have come up with the idea of creating a collection of Divrei Torah on his Bar Mitzvah Parsha to be presented to Moshe’s family and friends at the seudat mitzvah. We would be extremely honored if you would consider writing a Dvar Torah for this occasion.

As noted, Moshe’s Bar Mitzvah Parsha is Parshat Kedoshim. Our intention is simply to collect Divrei Torah in honor of Moshe’s Bar Mitzvah. The Dvar Torah need not be about chesed (kindness) or disability, but rather reflect the activity of learning the Parsha for learning’s sake. Our intention is solely to have people learn Moshe’s Parsha for him because he cannot learn it for himself. The Dvar Torah can be written in any language, and we would like to collect Divrei Torah from people of all ages, from all walks of life, and at all levels of ability.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. While we are happy to encourage Torah learning at any time, the deadline for inclusion in the printed collection for Moshe’s Bar Mitzvah is April 17th, 2011. You can mail the Dvar Torah to the address below, or you may e-mail the Dvar Torah to us at

Please include your name and location when you send us the Dvar Torah. If you are in school, please let us know which one and what grade. Also, please feel free (and encouraged) to spread the word about this project to anyone and everyone that you know, and feel free to forward this message to any person, school, synagogue or organization you believe may consider taking part.

Through our collective learning, we pray that Moshe will be rewarded with the zechut (merit) of promoting Torah study throughout the world. May the merit of our work help to bring forth a refuah sheleima (complete healing) for all the cholim of Klal Yisroel (members of the Jewish community who are extremely ill), and may we be zocheh (worthy) to witness the bias goel tzedek, bimheira biyameinu (the coming of the righteous redeemer in our time-the messiah).

Stephen Glicksman, Ph.D.
Developmental Psychologist
Women’s League Community Residences
1556 38th Street
Brooklyn, New York 11218

(Nearly all of the translations are mine, not Stephen's.  Errors or choices that are different than yours are my repsonisbility alone. - Ira)

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