web analytics
May 26, 2015 / 8 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

What I Learn From My Super Son

Rabbi Cohen and Yedidya

Rabbi Cohen and Yedidya

There is always some tension surrounding Super Bowl Sunday as one decides whether to watch the big game with friends or go it alone. I have a friend who makes a compromise. He watches the first half with friends – or, as he explains, “the novices,” those who aren’t “real” fans – but the second half, generally the more intense part of the game, he watches alone.

For me, the choice is an easy one.

I watched the first quarter of the big game this year with a huge football fan and my very special football friend. His name is Yedidya and he is my eldest child. He is seven and a half years old and he has Down syndrome, but more importantly, he loves football. He loves it so much that he sleeps in his Dallas Cowboys uniform (confession – I helped him pick my favorite team). He also can’t wait for his issue of Sports Illustrated to arrive in the mail each week – hopefully with a football player on the cover.

I enjoy streaming a game on my computer while Yedidya sits on my lap and always roots for the “red team.” Sometimes we are lucky enough to actually have a team with a red uniform playing on the screen before us, like San Francisco in this year’s Super Bowl. Sometimes not, but that doesn’t dull his enthusiasm for the tackling, kicking and general movement on the screen.

Football is a raw game and it can stir genuine emotions. In the wildcard round of this year’s playoffs, Robert Griffin III (RG3), the Redskins’ star rookie quarterback, wearing a red uniform, went down with a terrible knee injury. Yedidya immediately pointed to the screen and poignantly exclaimed “Daddy – sick!” He was genuinely pained by the spectacle of the player sprawled on the ground in obvious agony.

Yedidya isn’t the most articulate child just yet, but his purity of spirit and sensitivity are very evident when it comes to feeling the pain of others. Watching RG3 crumpled on the ground, his articulate father could not have expressed the moment any more succinctly, meaningfully or compassionately.

This past Shabbos, I was singing a niggun at my Shabbos table and was gently tapping my drinking glass to the beat of the song. Somehow, the flimsy glass completely shattered and cut my finger. The adults at the table realized quickly that it was a surface wound and no glass had penetrated the finger. Yedidya ran to the phone, picked it up and began saying “ambulance.” He doesn’t know how to call 911, and I strongly prefer that he doesn’t pick up the phone unnecessarily on Shabbos, but the sentiment was incredibly touching.

I recently finished reading a life-altering book – Daring Greatly by Brene’ Brown. It discusses having the courage to be vulnerable and how this perceived “weakness” can actually transform our lives. At a point in the book, the author quotes Pema Chodron, a spiritual guru, who writes: “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” (This concept is also expressed in the title of another interesting book, The Wounded Healer, by Henri Nouwen.)

I thought of my special son when I read these lines. Maybe subconsciously, because he is “wounded” or “imperfect,” he is able to express real compassion and potentially be a healer of sorts. It’s ironic, because many don’t perceive a developmentally disabled person as their equal.

I would posit that at the core, developmentally challenged individuals may even be superior to the typically functioning. They sometimes lack the inhibition or cognition to hide their vulnerability, but that is what makes them our “equals” in critical moments. Imagine spontaneously expressing intense care or feelings for another while being completely indifferent to how it will be perceived by those observing. Imagine being free from all the silliness and protocols that often dictate our lives.

The more esoteric sections of Jewish tradition confirm this analysis. They teach that the disabled possess a higher or more pure soul than others. Their physical or intellectual blemishes remove a barrier to their spiritual charisma, which is not the case in typically functioning people. The great mid-twentieth century scholar Rabbi Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz, popularly known as the Chazon Ish, would regularly stand up for such individuals.

About the Author: Dovid M. Cohen, Esq., is rabbi of Young Israel of the West Side in Manhattan (www.yiws.org).


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “What I Learn From My Super Son”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
President Obama watches helplessly as his two-year-old Passover Seder guest throws a tantrum.
Photo of Obama Seder’s ‘Fifth Child’ Tantrum
Latest Indepth Stories
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Many books have supported the preferability- not to be confused with desirability- of the status quo

Pope Francis at the Western. Is he praying there should not be too many Catholics in the world?

Consider the Pope’s desperation, reading daily reports of the slaughter of Christians by Muslims

Former US Senator, Joe Lieberman

The contrast between a Dem pretending to love Israel & a Dem who truly loves Israel is CRYSTAL CLEAR

israeli-american flags

Pentecost, derived from the Greek word for 50, is celebrated 50 days after Easter.

U.S and European demands for the creation of a Palestinian State in the West Bank is world hypocrisy.

We take a whole person approach, giving our people assistance with whatever they need.

During my spiritual journey I discovered G-d spoke to man only once, to the Jewish people at Sinai

20 years after the great Ethiopian aliyah, we must treat them like everyone else; no better or worse

Connecting Bamidbar&Shavuot is simple-A world without Torah is midbar; with Torah a blessed paradise

Many Black protesters compared Baltimore’s unrest to the Palestinian penchant of terrorism & rioting

She credited success to “mini” decisions-Small choices building on each other leading to big changes

Shavuot 1915, 200000 Jews were expelled; amongst the largest single expulsions since Roman times

Realizing there was no US military threat, Iran resumed, expanded & accelerated its nuclear program

“Enlightened Jews” who refuse to show chareidim the tolerance they insist we give to Arabs sicken me

Somewhat surprisingly, the Vatican’s unwelcome gesture was diametrically at odds with what President Obama signaled in an interview with the news outlet Al Arabiya.

The recent solid victory of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party produced something very different.

More Articles from Rabbi Dovid M. Cohen
Torah Curtain (detail) (2011) by Mark Podwal Fabricated by Penn and Fletcher Courtesy Yeshiva University Museum

There are three Jewish crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of kingship.

Shimon Peres speaking at funeral service for Gilad, Naftali and Eyal

“Am HaNetzach Eino Mefached Mi Derech Aruka” (An eternal people doesn’t fear the long journey).

The first month of 2014 has brought an intense high and a profound low.

At some point I noticed an arresting picture on his wall and discovered that his maternal grandfather was Rav Dovid Lifshitz.

There is always some tension surrounding Super Bowl Sunday as one decides whether to watch the big game with friends or go it alone. I have a friend who makes a compromise. He watches the first half with friends – or, as he explains, “the novices,” those who aren’t “real” fans – but the second half, generally the more intense part of the game, he watches alone.

It’s been a rough few weeks. It began with the news of a heinous crime just blocks from where I live on Manhatan’s Upper West Side: a nanny viciously took the lives of her two young charges. Hurricane Sandy came next, contributing additional loss of life and financial devastation of a magnitude never before experienced by our East Coast brethren.

I once heard a story about a single man struggling to find a spouse. His main challenge was his insistence that a potential mate permanently welcome his widowed mother into their marital home. A friend suggested that he speak with the great authority, Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt’l. The man shared with the Rav his delicate predicament. The Rav validated the man’s approach as acceptable. Sometime later, the man met his bashert, the special woman willing to live with his mom. They returned to Rav Shlomo Zalman for his blessing. Surprisingly, the Rav called the man aside and told him that they cannot live with his mother anymore. The young man was shocked. After all, on the previous visit, the Rav had supported his desire to find a woman who would accept their living with his mother.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/what-i-learn-from-my-super-son/2013/02/20/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: