Running in a Different Race

I reread the Opinion page of Rabbi Yehoshua Berman many times to confirm that I had read the article correctly.

How presumptuous to assert that “a handicap is powerless to determine your destiny.” While it is true that the handicap may be “less important” (perhaps a poor choice of words?) than how we view the trajectory looking forward, barring nissim v’nifla’os, which few are privileged to merit, there is a conventional expectation. Of course we are all mispallel and make every effort to maximize our potential to the very best. In fact, the story that is told of the Rebbe, Reb Zushe of Annipol, the great chassidic master, is that he was worried that after 120 he would be asked, “Why weren’t you more like Zusha?” and not as the popular maxim goes, “Az men vill nar ken men zein der Vilna Gaon” — a belief or a promise that has led many astray in their misguided effort to be someone they could not be!

People with physical limitations will win races, but not the same race, in the same conditions, that a person with two healthy legs wins. An individual with cognitive disabilities, especially more serious ones, will never achieve the kind of future that you envision for your cerebral and intellectual children. And an emotionally disturbed person, likewise, faces unrelenting challenges for which he may, or may not, have the G-d-given gift to overcome his destiny.

A.E.

Rabbi Berman responds:

Dear A.E.,

Thank you very much for taking an interest in what I wrote and for taking the time to bring your point to my attention. I agree with you 100 percent that it is wholly unreasonable to suggest that an individual struggling with a significant handicap can be expected to achieve in a manner similar to those not burdened with that struggle. That was certainly not my intention, and I apologize for not being more careful in my choice of words regarding this sensitive subject.