This week’s Shabbat Smile was written by Rabbi Lauren Tuchman, the first ordained female rabbi who is blind.
As a rabbi and someone who is blind, I have a unique view of Moses (Moshe) and how G-d treated him. In The Book of Exodus, when we are introduced to Moshe, many interpret that he had a speech disability. In Exodus 4:10-16, G-d informs Moshe that he will lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt—from slavery to freedom. Moshe balks. He asks, “Who am I to lead this people? I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” Perhaps Moshe felt self-conscious, unable to fully grasp his own potential and greatness. Perhaps he was not feeling up to the task for any number of reasons.
G-d’s powerful response addressed Moshe’s most obvious fear. Exodus 4:11-12, we hear G-d’s bellowing statement on disability: “Who gives man speech? Who makes him speechless or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go, and I will be with you as you speak and will instruct you what to say.”
I am often asked about the theology in this passage. Truthfully, for many years, I understood this passage quite negatively. Does G-d countenance ableism and institutionalized oppression that many people with disabilities encounter daily? How can I connect to a G-d who made me as I am, in a world that presents so many barriers for people with disabilities? Is that not a punishing theology? [continue reading…]