Rabbi Michael Levy's blog

Not So Special: My Bar Mitzvah Year, 50 Years Later

In 1965, the phrase “special needs” hadn’t yet been coined. I felt just like the other 15 students — excited about our Bar Mitzvahs, but bored by the four hours of preparation each week.

The Broken Sidewalk: A Mother's Day Tribute

Even when I was only 5, my mother, Etta Levy, encouraged me, her blind son, to explore the area near our house.  She didn’t allow me to cross the street, but there was still plenty to discover.

The tree roots, searching for water underground, had cracked the sidewalk in many places.  The slight downward slope followed by the large upward bump informed me that I was in front of our basement window.  At the eastern edge of the property, I felt the pavement change to a different texture of concrete.  Farther along, the recently repaved sidewalk by Anthony’s house was miraculously smooth. 

Etta Levy, z''l. Courtesy of Michael Levy

All Are Welcome At The Seder

In your mind’s eye, look around at those with whom you have celebrated past Seders. 

A contemplative girl is full of questions: How could a respected family in Egypt so quickly become an enslaved nation? Why was Pharaoh so stubborn?

There’s the "Squirmer." If he doesn’t declare outright that he’d rather not be at the Seder, his body language clearly broadcasts the message.

Seated next to each other are two frustrated guests. One is always losing his place in the Haggadah, and the other’s eyes often stray to the kitchen.

During its recounting of the Exodus from Egypt, the Haggadah “pauses” to consider Seder participants resembling those described above. They are portrayed as four sons: one wise, one wicked, one simple and one who doesn’t know how to ask. 

Rabbi Michael Levy

Jewish Disability Awareness Month: How To Keep The Message Alive

Last month, many people worked tirelessly to make congregations and communities across our country aware of the capabilities and aspirations of Jews with disabilities. What can we do to transform the message of Jewish disability awareness into meaningful changes that bring us closer to full integration into Jewish life the other eleven months of the year?

Dramatic and widely publicized events have their place, but how long will their message remain effective? The experiences of the Biblical stories of Moses and Elijah remind us that ongoing “small quiet voices” must be heard after the fanfare. Let’s look at some “awareness initiatives” from early Jewish history that can help to guide us.

Rabbi Michael Levy

The Exodus from Egypt: A Model for Future Liberations

Each Shabbat from January 10 through January 31, 2015, the Torah portions recited in synagogues recount how God liberated the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. For those who are oppressed, Jews and non-Jews alike, the Exodus recalls the determination of slaves to be free and the compassion of God, the Liberator.

Belief-The First Step Towards Liberation

Before the Exodus, no slave had ever escaped from Egypt. Many Israelite slaves, even as redemption neared, succumbed to despair. An important first step towards liberation is realizing that God is not limited by what we humans may consider "the impossible."

How Children View Disability: A Refreshing Perspective

While I waited to donate blood at my local firehouse, I was introduced to a friend’s five-year-old daughter.  I covered my face and said “I’m shy.”

Empowering the Newly Disabled: Inspired by Hagar's Revelation

This week's Torah portion “Vayera" (And He (God) Appeared), relates a traumatic episode in the life of Hagar, Sarah’s servant and the woman who bore Ishmael to Sarah’s husband, Abraham. Hagar behaved haughtily to Sarah, and Ishmael’s behavior verged on violence. 

Rabbi Michael Levy

Moses' Greatest Victory

On Thursday night and Friday we will celebrate Simchat Torah. Amid singing and dancing, we complete the reading of the Torah and, without pause, begin the Torah reading cycle again. I have often marveled that, like a massive oak growing from a small seed, our religion has developed from a portable scroll. 

Rabbi Michael Levy

That All May Participate: Isaiah's Message Of Accomodation

The Yom Kippur Haftarah portion describes God’s reaction to rituals that are practiced without regard to people who need help and deserve respect.

“To be sure, they (worshippers) seek Me daily,
Eager to learn My ways….
They ask Me for the right way,
They are eager for the nearness of God:
"Why, when we fasted, did You not see?
When we starved our bodies, did You pay no heed?"….

Because on your fast day, You see to your business, & oppress all your laborers! ...
Such a fast (will not) make your voice heard on high.

Rabbi Michael Levy

A Teacher And His Runaway Student: Preparing for the High Holidays

On Tuesday night, August 26, the "spiritual pre-season," leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, began. We celebrated the first day of Elul, the Hebrew month during which Jews traditionally examine their behavior and contemplated self-improvement.

Rabbi Michael Levy
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