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Thursday, 5 November 2015

Not disabled, but differently abled

Daf Yomi Sotah 10


Stevie Wonder is awesome.  He was one of the best musicians of the late twentieth century.  Signed to Motown Records at age eleven, he was a fabulously talented child prodigy who went on to release a number of hit singles and records.   What was most incredible, though, was not his musical ability; but that he achieved his unbelievable success, blind.  Due to his premature birth and an oversupply of oxygen, he lost his sight shortly after birth and yet still managed to master multiple instruments, in particular becoming an awesome pianist.  How did he accomplish such an amazing feat despite his impairment?

Rabbi Yochanan taught: Bilam was lame in one leg, as the verse states, “And he walked limping.”  Samson was lame in both legs, as our patriarch Yaakov prophesied about him, “[The descendant of] Dan shall be a snake on the way, slithering along the path.”

Can you believe that the strongest man of all time was actually lame in both legs?  Here he was pulling down the Philistine amphitheatre in his wheelchair!  We imagine him as an Arnold Schwarzenegger, but meanwhile he couldn’t even walk properly!  How did he manage to pull off his superhuman powers with such a debilitating disability? 

When I was in the airport terminal in Trinidad, I noticed a seat near the gate that was labelled For Differently Abled Persons.  I said to myself, ‘That’s an interesting way of putting it.’  With a little research, I found that back in the 70s and 80s, in an effort to sound kinder, they employed similar terminology in North America.  But the disabled community rose up in opposition to the appellation. 
‘Who are you kidding?’ they exclaimed, ‘If differently abled is merely a euphemism for disabled, then you’re not doing us any favours with the term.  Just call it like it is and admit that we are disabled!’

The truth is, however, according to Kabbalah, ‘differently abled’ is the correct term.  The Almighty infuses each and every individual with a certain amount of Divine energy.  When that energy is unable to express itself through a particular limb due to a disability or deformity, it doubles its impact elsewhere.  That is Stevie Wonder’s secret: since he can’t see, he has more spiritual energy to direct to his other limbs – in his case, he is an incredible pianist, vocalist, and composer!

Likewise, Samson might not have been able to walk properly.  But he was differently abled.  He had the superhuman strength to bring the house down upon his Philistine captors.  How so?  Because he never resigned himself to living life as disabled.  Instead, he worked on supersizing and maximizing every able limb in his body.  Until he became Samson the Mighty!

What disability or hang-up do you have holding you back?  It might not be a physical impairment.  Maybe you’ve never gotten over your rotten childhood.  Maybe it was a financial setback.  Perhaps you’re the victim of a terrible divorce and told yourself that life will never be the same again.

It’s time to break free of your disability.  You are not disabled.  You are differently abled.  If Heaven has impeded your ability to perform in one area of your being, you can be guaranteed that you have awesome powers to unleash in another area of your existence. 

You might not be a brilliant scholar, maybe you even have a learning disability.  But that may mean you are destined to become an incredible baal tzedakah (philanthropist).   You might not have a strong family support system.  But that may mean that you have the power and capability to become a father or mother figure and mentor to other lonely individuals.

It’s true, most disabilities are incurable.  Nevertheless, your disability is a sign that you are indeed differently abled.  May you discover your hidden powers and talents and utilize them to carry out your Divine mission and change the world for the better!