Rabbi Michael Levy's blog

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

Va-et-chanan: Personal Prayer, A Sanctuary With No Barriers

I grew up attending Temple BethEl in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Worship was a group activity. We recited the liturgy together, sometimes in response to the rabbi.

Communal worship binds Jews together. Parts of the liturgy, such as the Kedusha and Kaddish, may be recited only in a minyan, a gathering of ten adult Jews.

For some of us with disabilities, praying with a community is difficult. The synagogue may be inaccessible. Individuals who process verbal and written language differently from the “average congregant” might struggle to find and maintain their place in the prayerbook, keep pace with other worshippers, and switch between Hebrew and English.

The “Ordinary Man” From The Tribe Of Dan: Inspired By Torah Portion Pinchas

Part One

Time:  About 2245 on the Jewish calendar (3500 years ago.)
Place:  Hebron, Israel

Poor Dan!

Eleven of Jacob’s twelve sons had two or more children.  Benjamin had ten!

The twelfth son, Dan, had one son, Chushim, who was deaf.  Like many parents today, Dan might have worried, “What will be the future of my disabled child?”
 
The phrase “special needs child” hadn’t been invented yet.  On his own, Chushim, trying to be ordinary, would communicate “What’s going on?” when he didn’t understand a situation.

Rabbi Michael Levy

The Truths My Father Taught Me--A Father's Day Tribute (Part 2)

Editor's Note: In honor of Father's day, Rabbi Michael Levy shares this loving tribute to his father. Click here to read Part 1, which ends with a doctor's discovery of a spot on his father's lung.

My parents tried to cover up this health crisis like all the medical problems of the past.  This was especially so because my wife Chavi and I were expecting.

In September, all four of our parents helped with our "big Sunday." We moved and arranged furniture from morning until evening.  The file cabinet made its way from the "second bedroom" into ours. A bed disappeared downstairs into the storage area. 

A big empty space appeared along one wall of the second bedroom, waiting for a crib. I didn't see my mother's tears when my mother-in-law caught her off guard with the question "How's Aaron?"

I learned about the spot on Dad’s lung only as they were preparing him for the operation. The bicycle ride of so many years ago came to mind. The collision had happened. 

Rabbi Michael Levy

The Truths My Father Taught Me--A Father's Day Tribute (Part 1)

Editor's Note: In honor of Father's day, Rabbi Michael Levy shares his moving tribute to his father. Part two will be posted on Sunday.

"Look, a two-headed bike!" said a kid passing by. This confirmed for me that Dad and I, on our tandem bicycle, were invincible.

Riding on the two-seated bicycle with Dad, I didn't think about being blind. I did what everybody else did on the back seat of a tandem, no steering, just pedaling.

Doing what everybody else did. That’s the kind of childhood my parents gave me. If you feel included and valued by your family, then no future obstacles in your path will deter you.

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