Who Can Be Commanded?: Disability in Jewish Thought and Culture

Recently two dear friends asked me to advise them about their pregnant daughter, who just discovered that her fetus has Noonan syndrome, a genetic condition that can result in heart defects, unusual facial features, short stature, and learning problems. The pregnant daughter wanted to keep the child, but her husband was afraid that the child would have a difficult life and was concerned about possible consequences for the rest of the family. My friends presented the possibility of abortion in this case as a Jewish legal question. May a person, they asked, decide over life and death? What is our responsibility to act on this, and where are the limits? My reply:
Though such children have a difficult path to follow, yet it is a life with many possibilities for fulfilment.

Becoming a Jew Is Dangerous — Circumcision Is the Least of It

Matthew Taylor initiates his sharp critique of brit milah (the covenant of circumcision) with anger … as a rabbi, I would of course be very engaged by such a confession and would want to know more. But as an introduction to a learned discussion over a ritual practice that is so central to the Jewish narrative, this expression of anger is not exactly conducive to a rational exchange. It is, however, honest and deserves a sober response.

Prophets and Sages in Tikkun

According to R. Yannai, the prophets’ utterances must be refined, just as silver from a mine needs to be refined: “The words of Torah were not given as clear cut decisions (chatuchot). For with every word which the Holy One, blessed be He, spoke to Moses, He offered him forty-nine [seven times seven] arguments by which a thing may be proved pure and forty nine-arguments by which a thing may be proved impure.”