Friday, October 20, 2006

I Don't Have Any Answers

(Picture courtesy of

Reading an recent editorial entitled "For a kinder, gentler Judaism " made me think about a sensitive halachic issue at the shul where I daven. In her editorial, Linda Maurice wrote, "My 100-year-old observant grandmother did not go to shul on the first day of Rosh Hashanah this year. She did go on the second day. The reason for her absence the first day was not due to illness, but because her Orthodox rabbi did not want her to attend if she had to arrive in a wheelchair."

Linda Maurice's grandmother instantly made me think of "Shalom", a middle-aged paraplegic man who davens at my shul. Each Shabbos, Shalom's non-Jewish nurse drives him to shul and he makes his way inside with the help of his electric wheelchair.

I realize that this immediately raises many halachic problems since it involves violation of Shabbos prohibitions, and that Orthodox rabbis would counsel him to refrain from doing this. I also realize that Hilchos Shabbos will never be revised to make an exception for cases such as Shalom.

Despite all of this, in my heart of hearts I truly empathize with Shalom's situation. I will never even begin to understand the difficulties he faces in his life.

I will never know the specific reason why Hashem chose to send Shalom's neshoma down into this world and what his mission is. Does Hashem prefer that Shalom stay at home and not be in his electric wheelchair during Shabbos, or does Hashem understand Shalom's motivations for wanting to daven with a minyan on Shabbos even though it involves breaking Shabbos?

I am not even going to pretend that I am on such a lofty level that I could even give Shalom rebuke.

I don't have any answers; only questions.


At October 20, 2006 at 7:18:00 AM EDT, Blogger Jewish Blogmeister said...

Perhaps having a regular wheelchair and someone to assist in taking her?

At October 20, 2006 at 10:48:00 AM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Tough issue. Regardless of how Shalom get to shul, the motivation to go and daven with other Jews is still inspiring.

At October 21, 2006 at 6:04:00 PM EDT, Blogger The Tzionisher Rebbe said...

Even Rebbes don't have all the answers. Still, Hashem would not test a person with something that he can't pass.

What ever Shalom and Linda's grandmother do, they are worthy of much 'zchuyot' (best translation is probably Brownie points) when their day of reckoning comes.

The Rebbe

At October 22, 2006 at 12:53:00 PM EDT, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

I can only speak for myself, but it seems to me that this should not prevent them from being able to go to shul to daven.

We are taught not to separate ourselves from our community.

At October 23, 2006 at 5:32:00 AM EDT, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

A Simple Jew: Here in Israel, there's a "grama motorized buggy" -- which has a rabbincal certificate from machon Tzomet.

This buggy is meant for people who can't get around otherwise (and I'm almost positive they have motorized solutions as well) -- and it works totally on "grama" (indirect labor) so it's permissible for disabled people to use on shabbat.

Sorry this is in Hebrew, but the link is here:

I'm sure that Tzomet has solutions for motorized wheelchairs as well.

At October 23, 2006 at 6:33:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Jewish Blogmeister: You must be referring to the grandmother, correct?

Neil: I agree

The Tzionisher Rebbe: Interesting thoughts.

Jack: True. However, while we are taught not to separate ourselves from our community, we are also taught not to violate Shabbos.

Jameel: Thank you for the link. I found this to be very interesting.


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