Each One of Us Counts

Disability is not the defining characteristic of a person; Removing the Stumbling Block

The time on the Jewish calendar between the holidays of Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot is reserved for counting the omer. This mitzvah (commandment) derives from the Torah commandment to count forty-nine days beginning from the day on which the Omer, a sacrifice containing a measure of barley, was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem, up until the day before an offering of wheat was brought to the Temple on Shavuot, the holiday that commemorates the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

We use this time for reflection on our journey through the wilderness as we move from freedom to revelation. As such, there are many wonderful commentaries and teachings on what it means to "count". Here are some of my thoughts: Prove that Every Child Counts.

In the coming weeks we will read the Torah portion Bemidbar, a census-taking of the Israelites in the wilderness. The Torah spends intentional time identifying exactly who was counted, listing them by names and by their families. This was a significant way of telling them: “You have names, you have families; you are dignified human beings, you are not objects...you EACH count!”

Too often people with disabilities are referred to by their classification, diagnosis, physical attributes or limitations. We hear people say, “the Autistic boy in my class” or “that girl in the wheelchair”. Even worse, we still hear words like crippled, retarded, handicapped or diseased. These words and statements are demeaning; undermining individuals for who they truly are.

It should be our goal to move away from the disability as the primary, defining characteristic of an individual, and rather recognize it as but one of several aspects of a whole person.

This sums it up nicely, I think: 

The importance of names in disability inclusion; Removing the Stumbling Block

As we relieve our journey through the wilderness, as we count the omer, let us remember God’s message to the Israelites, for it is still a message that we must embrace today:

 “You each count.”

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