Creating Inclusivity

This source sheet is based on a podcast by Rabbi David Levin-Kruss who outlines five stages to inclusivity in Jewish organisations.To listen to the podcast click here.

Stage 1 - Just be nice
(יד) לֹא־תְקַלֵּ֣ל חֵרֵ֔שׁ וְלִפְנֵ֣י עִוֵּ֔ר לֹ֥א תִתֵּ֖ן מִכְשֹׁ֑ל וְיָרֵ֥אתָ מֵּאֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ אֲנִ֥י יְהוָֽה׃

(14) You shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind. You shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

What might the stumbling blocks mentioned in the verse be in our generation?

Are there any potential stumbling blocks at your organisation or events?

Why is 'fearing God' mentioned in this verse? How is it connected with the first half of the verse?

Stage 2 - Our greatest leaders had disabilities
(י) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֣ה אֶל־יְהוָה֮ בִּ֣י אֲדֹנָי֒ לֹא֩ אִ֨ישׁ דְּבָרִ֜ים אָנֹ֗כִי גַּ֤ם מִתְּמוֹל֙ גַּ֣ם מִשִּׁלְשֹׁ֔ם גַּ֛ם מֵאָ֥ז דַּבֶּרְךָ אֶל־עַבְדֶּ֑ךָ כִּ֧י כְבַד־פֶּ֛ה וּכְבַ֥ד לָשׁ֖וֹן אָנֹֽכִי׃

(10) But Moses said to the Lord, “Please, O Lord, I have never been a man of words, either in times past or now that You have spoken to Your servant; I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

Why was Moses' concerned about being slow of speech and tongue?

God does not consider Moses disability to be an impediment - what messages does that tell us?

Stage 3 - We are all created in the image of God

(כז) וַיִּבְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים׀ אֶת־הָֽאָדָם֙ בְּצַלְמ֔וֹ בְּצֶ֥לֶם אֱלֹהִ֖ים בָּרָ֣א אֹת֑וֹ זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם׃

(27) And God created the Earthling [Adam] in God's own image, in the image of God God created him [Adam]; male and female created God them.

What could it mean to be created 'in the image of G-d'?

How could it change our behavior if we see every other human being made in the image of God?

Stage 4 - Everything is for the Sake of Heaven

(י) וּבַכּל יִהְיוּ מַעֲשָׂיו לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם וְאַל יִהְיֶה כְּבוֹד הַבְּרִיּוֹת קַל בְּעֵינָיו שֶׁהֲרֵי הוּא דּוֹחֶה אֶת לֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁל דִּבְרֵיהֶם... זָהִיר שֶׁלֹּא יַהֲרֹס כְּבוֹדָם אֶלָּא לְהוֹסִיף בִּכְבוֹד הַמָּקוֹם

[Maimonidies, 1135-1204, Major codifier of Jewish Law]

All of his deeds should be for the sake of heaven and the honour of people at large should not be light in his eyes. For consideration of their honour
overrides the observance of a Rabbinic
prohibition…He must take care not to ruin their honour and act only to increase the honour of the Omnipresent.

Why is 'the honour of people' so important?

What is the connection between 'the honor of poeple', and 'the honor of the Omnipresent [God]'?

Stage 5 - Every life is purposeful

וּלְהַגִּיד גְּדֻלָּתוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, שֶׁאָדָם טוֹבֵעַ כַּמָּה מַטְבְּעוֹת בְּחוֹתָם אֶחָד וְכֻלָּן דּוֹמִין זֶה לָזֶה, וּמֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא טָבַע כָּל אָדָם בְּחוֹתָמוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן וְאֵין אֶחָד מֵהֶן דּוֹמֶה לַחֲבֵרוֹ.

And to tell the greatness of The Holy One, for a person strikes many coins from the same die, and all the coins are alike. But the King, the King of Kings, The Holy One [blessed be He] strikes every person from the die of the First Person, and yet no person is quite like his friend. Therefore, every person must say, “For my sake ‎the world was created.”‎

Why do you think God created every person to be different?

What is the meaning behind every person saying "For my sake the world was created.'?

A Talmudic Story about Inclusion

תנו רבנן,לעולם יהא אדם רך כקנה ואל יהא קשה כארז,מעשה שבא רבי אלעזר (בן ר') שמעון ממגדל גדור מבית רבו והיה רכוב על החמור ומטייל על שפת נהר ושמח שמחה גדולה והיתה דעתו גסה עליו מפני שלמד תורה הרבה נזדמן לו אדם אחד שהיה מכוער ביותר,אמר לו,שלום עליך רבי,ולא החזיר לו,אמר לו,ריקה כמה מכוער אותו האיש,שמא כל בני עירך מכוערין כמותך,אמר לו,איני יודע אלא לך ואמור לאומן שעשאני כמה מכוער כלי זה שעשית,כיון שידע בעצמו שחטא ירד מן החמור ונשתטח לפניו ואמר לו,נעניתי לך מחול לי,אמר לו,איני מוחל לך עד שתלך לאומן שעשאני ואמור לו כמה מכוער כלי זה שעשית,היה מטייל אחריו עד שהגיע לעירו,יצאו בני עירו לקראתו והיו אומרים לו,שלום עליך רבי רבי מורי מורי,אמר להם,למי אתם קורין רבי רבי,אמרו לו,לזה שמטייל אחריך,אמר להם,אם זה רבי אל ירבו כמותו בישראל,אמרו לו,מפני מה,אמר להם,כך וכך עשה לי,אמרו לו,אעפ"כ מחול לו שאדם גדול בתורה הוא,אמר להם,בשבילכם הריני מוחל לו,ובלבד שלא יהא רגיל לעשות כן,מיד נכנס רבי אלעזר בן רבי שמעון ודרש,לעולם יהא אדם רך כקנה ואל יהא קשה כארז ולפיכך זכה קנה ליטול הימנה קולמוס לכתוב בו ספר תורה תפילין ומזוזות:,

Our Rabbis have taught: A person should always be soft like a reed and not hard like a cedar.

It happened that R. Eleazar the son of R. Simeon was coming from Migdal Gedor on his donkey, and he was feeling very happy because he had learned a lot of Torah.

He passed by a very ugly man who said to him "Peace be upon you."

R Eleazar did not answer. He said: "Good for nothing! How ugly this man is!"

Then he asked him, "Are all the people of your city as ugly as you are?"

The man said: I do not know, but go and tell the artist who made me, how ugly is the vessel which you have made."

When R Eleazar realized he had done something wrong, he got down from his donkey and bowed in front of the man and asked for forgiveness.

[The man] said to him: "I will not forgive you until you go to the artist that created me and tell him: how ugly is the vessel that you created."

R. Eleazar walked behind [the other man] until he reached [the man's] city. When the people who lived in the city came out to meet him and said "Peace be upon you rabbi and teacher," the ugly man asked them "Who are you calling Rabbi?"

They replied: ‘The man who is walking behind you.’ He said to them: ‘If this man is a rabbi, may there not be any more like him in Israel!'

They asked him: ‘Why'

He replied: "He did such and such to me." They said to him: "Nevertheless, forgive him, for he is a man of great Torah learning."

The man replied: ‘For your sakes I will forgive him, but only if he does not make a habit of acting this way.’

Immediately, R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon went to the beit midrash (study house) and taught: "A man should always be soft like a reed and not hard like a cedar."

And for this reason the reed merited that of it should be made a quill for the writing of the Torah scroll, tefillin and mezuzot.