The middle book of the Torah is called Exodus in English and Shemot (Names) in Hebrew. Names play a crucial role in Torah language and thought. When God gives Adam responsibility for keeping the earth safe, Adam’s first responsibility is to name the creatures of the world, and in that way, connect with them. Know their names and not their skills.
In this week’s Torah portion, Vayehi, Jacob speaks to each of his children, honestly and directly. Jacob’s blessings look at the events of his son’s pasts, and his evaluation of their individual futures. This Torah portion began the tradition of Ethical Wills. Ethical Wills focus on the legacy of values we leave to our children and not a legacy of material goods.
Last week I observed a first-of-its kind gathering – a five-day intensive professional training for American Jewish leaders on inclusion of people with disabilities. The forum took place in a kosher retreat center outside of Baltimore, and people had came from many cities to learn a special curriculum that was designed by inclusion experts Shelly Christensen and Prof. Steve Eidelman.
In just a couple of days, nearly five thousand Reform Jews will descend upon the San Diego Convention Center for the 72nd Union of Reform Judaism Biennial Convention. Despite that impressive number, this experience has not been fully inclusive of those with disabilities.