Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Haftorah Beam - VaEra

The Haftorah reading for this parsha echoes the theme of punishment meted out to the Egyptians.  Lost in the gory details of punishment, however, is the underlying purpose:
25 Thus said the Lord God: When I have gathered the House of Israel from the peoples among which they have been dispersed, and have shown Myself holy through them in the sight of the nations, they shall settle on their own soil, which I gave to My servant Jacob, 26 and they shall dwell on it in security. They shall build houses and plant vineyards, and shall dwell on it in security, when I have meted out punishment to all those about them who despise them. And they shall know that I the Lord am their God.
The purpose of the punishment is to create security for the Jewish people to:

  1. gather in Israel to settle on their own soil;
  2. build houses;
  3. plant vineyards;
  4. know G*d.
The phrase "and [they] shall dwell on it in security" is repeated twice.  It is not enough to come to the Promised Land -- one must feel secure enough to build permanent homes, as well as do the long-range planning of agriculture.  Why vineyards?  There are two reasons.  First, we are told that the ultimate goal is to "know G*d" -- the vineyards are for the purpose of making the sacramental wine.  Beyond that, however, is the level of both security and comfort which must be achieved for people to afford the luxury of wine.  It is a non-essential food item, so the basics must already be covered.  But also, one must be pretty secure to permit oneself to be intoxicated, lest one's enemies take advantage of the compromised revelers.

This blog talks about adoption and special needs from a Jewish perspective.  I recently read a guest post on an adoption blog by an adult who was adopted at age 16.  She writes:
As a parent, you must provide a safe place for all of your children. This is your primary responsibility. This comes before making them productive citizens, helping them to adjust to your expectations, or feeling the same way about them that you feel about other children.
Before addressing the issues of productivity, expectations, and emotions, it is our job to provide our children with safety.  Without the battles with "Pharaoh", we will not be able to create the space for our children to "dwell in security".

Friday, December 27, 2013

Haftorah Beam - Shemot

Starting the second book of the Torah - Exodus - the Torah portion recaps the genealogy of the Hebrew tribes in Egypt as they transformed from a large clan to a nation.  There are 2 different Haftarot for this parsha, one favored by Ashkenazim, and the other by Sefardim.  The Ashkenazi selection focuses on the oppression and redemption of the Jewish people, while the Sefardi version focuses on the experience of the prophet tasked with leading the liberation.  I find the second more inspiring!

Like Moses in the Exodus story, the prophet Jeremiah protests his inadequacy, especially in the area of speech:
Ah, Lord God!
I don't know how to speak,

For I am still a boy.
and, in a reply which aptly echoes His words at the Burning Bush, G*d says,
Do not say, "I am still a boy,"
But go wherever I send you

And speak whatever I command you.

 Have no fear of them,
For I am with you to deliver you
He proceeds to outline the hardships and challenges which will befall the Jewish people as the two kingdoms separate and fall before their enemies.  However, G*d then repeats the call, promising His support in the face of all obstacles, as well as the eventual victory:
17 So you, gird up your loins, 
Arise and speak to them 

All that I command you.  

Do not break down before them, 

Lest I break you before them.

 I make you this day 
A fortified city, 

And an iron pillar, 

And bronze walls

Against the whole land — 

Against Judah's kings and officers, 

And against its priests and citizens.

 They will attack you, 
But they shall not overcome you; 

For I am with you — declares the Lord — to save you.
This time of year, the secular calendar offers us a chance to turn a new leaf.  Many people make New Year's Resolutions.  What obstacles seem insurmountable this year?  Which are worth tackling?  Which pursuits can we envision G*d challenging us to "gird up our loins" in, and pledging to be with us in battle?

Happy New Year!

Haftorah Beam - VaYechi

I'm so behind, it's distressing.  Some Haftarot are so inspiring, they just write themselves.  The Torah portion for this parsha was pretty fruitful last year.  I used it as an opportunity to connect to the Russian ban on international adoption by Americans.

The Haftorah, like the Torah portion, centers around a leader (David vs. Jacob) passing on his legacy.  It begins with a grand statement of the power of faith and tradition:

Chapter 21 When David's life was drawing to a close, he instructed his son Solomon as follows: 2 "I am going the way of all the earth; be strong and show yourself a man. 3Keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in His ways and following His laws, His commandments, His rules, and His admonitions as recorded in the Teaching of Moses, in order that you may succeed in whatever you undertake and wherever you turn. 4 Then the LORD will fulfill the promise that He made concerning me: 'If your descendants are scrupulous in their conduct, and walk before Me faithfully, with all their heart and soul, your line on the throne of Israel shall never end!'
The rest of the passage, however, is a litany of allies and enemies, unfinished business that Solomon must take care of before he can be secure in his kingship.  David is extremely human in this passage.  I did not know what to do with this, until a recent holiday concert (where my husband's new barbershop quartet was one of the featured acts) included this famous tune, which really sums this up for me:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Seeing a need

Many adoption bloggers cite New Testament quotes to support their mission.  This one is no different. But the parts that I found most moving were those where she not only spoke from the heart, using her own words, but these words were universal in relevance:

In our large family, my kids hear me say all the time, "You see a need, you fill it. If you see something that needs doing, and you are able to, do it. If there is a pile of stuff at the bottom of the stairs waiting to go to the top, take the stuff with you when you go upstairs. If you are near the sink and a little person asks for a drink, fill his sippy cup. If you find an empty box in the pantry, throw it away." It's not a difficult concept, right? You see a need, you fill it. 
There is a child that has no one. I am someone. He can have me.
and finally,
If you have ever considered adoption, I want you to know, to really understand, that your child is worth it, too. Your child, the one that has not yet stolen your heart simply because you have not yet laid eyes on him or her, waits for you, perhaps in a country in which you have never landed. He's worth it, you know. She's worth it. Take a leap.

Haftorah Beam - VaYigash

This is my wedding anniversary parsha.  I really can't think of it as anything else.

The Haftorah is so appropriate for a wedding. We picked the wedding date based on our scheduling constraints, but the theme of both the Torah and Haftorah reading -- family reunification in the former, and national reunification in the latter -- is a great metaphor for the joining of the 2 families.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Haftorah Beam - Shabbat Hanukkah

This past week's Torah portion was Parshat Miketz, but the usual Haftorah portion is substituted with a special reading for Hanukkah.

In this reading, the prophet Zechariah heralds the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, recounting a vision of the ordination of Joshua, the first High Priest who would serve in the Second Temple, as well as the grander vision of an age which shall be ruled, "Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit — said the LORD of hosts."

This age is symbolized by the Hanukkah menorah -- the triumph of light over darkness, of a small band of believers against an empire dedicated to self-gratification:
Chapter 41 The angel who taked with me came back and woke me as a man is wakened from sleep. 2 He said to me, "What do you see?" And I answered, "I see a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl above it. The lamps on it are seven in number, and the lamps above it have seven pipes; 3 and by it are two olive trees, one on the right of the bowl and one on its left."
This theme is also reflected in the earlier section of the Haftorah reading, where Joshua is called forth to serve in the Temple:

Satan was seeking to incriminate Joshua, the first High Priest to serve in the Second Temple, because of the "soiled garments" (i.e. sins) he was wearing. G‑d himself defends the High Priest: "And the Lord said to Satan: The Lord shall rebuke you, O Satan; the Lord who chose Jerusalem shall rebuke you. Is [Joshua] not a brand plucked from fire?" I.e., how dare Satan prosecute an individual who endured the hardships of exile? "And He raised His voice and said to those standing before him, saying, 'Take the filthy garments off him.' And He said to him, 'See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I have clad you with clean garments.'"
This expression, אוּד, מֻצָּל מֵאֵשׁ is an apt metaphor for oppressed and marginalized people, who are clothed in "filthy garments" - poverty, disability, discrimination and so on. Just as the Jewish people are "a brand plucked (literally, 'rescued') from the fire" throughout history, so we are called upon to see beyond Satan's "filthy garments" and rescue these brands from the fires of their oppression.

ז  מִי-אַתָּה הַר-הַגָּדוֹל לִפְנֵי זְרֻבָּבֶל, לְמִישֹׁר; וְהוֹצִיא, אֶת-הָאֶבֶן הָרֹאשָׁה--תְּשֻׁאוֹת, חֵן חֵן לָהּ. 7 Who art thou, O great mountain before Zerubbabel? Thou shalt become a plain; and he shall bring forth the top stone with shoutings of Grace, grace, unto it.' 


י  בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא, נְאֻם יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת, תִּקְרְאוּ, אִישׁ לְרֵעֵהוּ--אֶל-תַּחַת גֶּפֶן, וְאֶל-תַּחַת תְּאֵנָה.10 In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig-tree.
Happy Hanukkah!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


We spent Thanksgiving (and the first half of Hanukkah) with my in-laws at their new home.  It was lovely, and we miss not having them nearby anymore.  We did get to use the Menurkey:

We got the plaster version. It came plain like that, but we did paint it while we were there. I will edit this post when my darling husband sends me a picture of the painted final product.... (hint, hint....)

We were having so much fun feeding chickens and going Black Friday shopping (when you have teenage girls, you do that...) that I didn't get any blogging done.  Hope to catch up this week! (Egads, it's Tuesday already!)

Jewish Bloggers
Powered By Ringsurf