…Not because it has anything to do with what you’re doing today, but precisely because it doesn’t. Sometimes we have to take a trip to somewhere else… a detour… a backroad…. or an excursion to get our minds out of our daily COVID funk to give us a different perspective on life.
I don’t know about your upbringing, but I spent enough time in church to hear the story of Joseph’s coat of colors many times and how his brothers sold him into slavery. Never, though, have I seen this story through the lens that Joseph may have been Autistic until now. This exploration shows how disabilities and diversity can chemically react with the heat of adversity to create the powerful energy that saved two ancient adversarial cultures from starvation and famine.
In this fascinating study, law professor and Hebrew scholar Samuel Levine looks at Joseph from the Bible with a fresh perspective. I found his arguments well-reasoned and fascinating, but I also understood some of the pushback the book received. Can any modern-day person bestow an autism diagnosis on someone who lived and died thousands of years ago?
The Life of Ludovit Feld Presented by AJC New Jersey and the Consulate General of Slovakia in New York
Featuring Silvia Fishbaum, Author of Dirty Jewess Tuesday, October 27, 2020 3:00 PM
Join us for a fascinating look at the life of renowned artist, Ludovit Feld. Born in Kosice, Slovakia in 1904, Feld was deported to Auschwitz in 1944 where, as a person with dwarfism, he was subjected to the experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele, and forced to become Dr. Mengele’s personal artist. Having survived the Holocaust, Feld moved back to Kosice where he lived until his death in 1991.
Silvia Fishbaum, author of Dirty Jewess and a student of Ludovit Feld’s, introduced by Ladislava Begec, Consul General of Slovakia in New York, will share wiht us his incredible life story and her experience of studying under him in postwar Communist Czechoslovakia, Silvia will also speak about current efforts to keep Feld’s memory and the memory of the Holocaust alive in Kosice.
The book fascinated me because I am autistic and Jewish, and because it’s interesting to think about how an autistic person might have appeared to others in the long centuries and millennia before the condition was medically recognized and named. Although “presumed diagnosis of the dead” is inherently an uncertain endeavor, it is fascinating to see how the author (a Jewish scholar who is also familiar with autism and its sensory/neurological manifestations) finds many commonalities between the Biblical figure of Joseph (as depicted in Scripture and in Hebrew tradition) and modern-day people on the autism spectrum (in terms of shared traits, inclinations, sensitivities, aversions, and so on). Samuel Levine’s book makes me wish that we could go back in time, present the Biblical Joseph with a copy of the book (translated into Hebrew or Egyptian) and ask him if Levine got it right! (I suspect that the answer would be “Yes — is he, too, a dreamer of accurate dreams?” But of course we will never know for sure). The book may be very encouraging to autistics who are Jews, and to their parents/teachers/fellow congregants/congregational leaders.
Rabbi Dr. Yitzhak (Isadore) Twersky zt”l, was justly renowned for his brilliantly insightful, meticulously researched and felicitously formulated scholarly oeuvre, concentrating generally upon medieval Jewish intellectual history and with special attention to the Maimonidean corpus. But the Nathan Littauer Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy at Harvard University also was the Talner Rebbe of Boston, as comfortable delivering divrei Torah at Shalosh Seudos in the Talner Beis Midrash as he was conducting doctoral seminars on medieval Jewish rabbinic literature in Room G of Widener Library in Harvard Yard.
“I fully believe that the Halacha [Jewish law] has to respond actively and positively to the burning challenges of the times, and, in our days, high on these priorities is the status of women.”
Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sperber is a champion of the emergence of highly-educated women taking on leadership roles in the Orthodox Jewish community today. In the acknowledgment section of his newest book, Rabba, Maharat, Rabbanit, Rebbetzin, Sperber explains why he supports this change in Jewish life.
“…and love your fellow as yourself…” [Lev. 19:18] Rabbi Akiva says: “This is a great general principle of the Torah.” [Midrash Raba, Genesis Ch. 24]
“…God asks of us to love. This may sound simple, but it turns out that it doesn’t come naturally; and it takes time and effort to learn to do it. To love others, we must uncover hidden forms of our self-interested concerns. Only then can we direct our thoughts, feelings, and actions toward giving to others. In addition, we need to recognize the aspect of divinity in each human being we encounter. When we see the greatness of others, this awakens within us our love for them. In particular, the greatness in their aspect of divinity connects our love of them to a love of God.”*
A professor at Harvard, a chassidishe Rebbe, and the son-in-law of a Litvish gadol. The combination is unusual, to say the least, but it accurately describes the late Rabbi Dr. Isadore Twersky.
Rabbi Twersky (1930-1997) was the Talner Rebbe of Boston, a professor of Hebrew literature and philosophy at Harvard University, and married to the older daughter of Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik of Yeshiva University.