Tradition Today: Honoring those with special needs

02.06.2012                      12.Siwan. 5772                      Nasso

Judentum:

Tradition Today: Honoring those with special needs

The rabbis taught: "Everyone must say, ‘For my sake was the world created!’ ”

Can children with special needs, mental or physical, celebrate a bar or bat mitzva in a synagogue? This question was put to the Committee on Jewish Law of the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel many years ago. There were such children, including the visually handicapped and hard of hearing, who were being denied this privilege on the basis of the ruling by some authorities that the rabbinic teaching that the “heresh” (deaf) and the “shoteh” (mentally deficient) are not obligated to perform mitzvot means that they cannot become bnei mitzva. In my responsum, I showed that the rabbis were referring to people who had no means of communication with the outside world or people who were psychotic and could not be held responsible for their actions. These definitions would not apply to the deaf or hard of hearing today nor to children with learning difficulties….