When God Pays Parents a Compliment
This morning I saw a boy from a neighborhood school for the severely handicapped passing by with his teacher.
Looking at him as he slowly limped along, it appeared to me that this was a boy who was so severely mentally and physically disabled that he would never talk. He would never dress himself. He would never be toilet trained.
So when the boy fell behind and I heard the teacher calling out to him, I was surprised.
She called out “Natanel! Come here!”
And tears came to my eyes as I imagined the mother who had just given birth to a baby who would never talk and never dress himself and never be toilet trained.
And when she saw this baby, she told her husband, “We should name him Natanel—- God gave him to us.”
Binah Magazine recently featured a roundtable discussion with leaders in the Orthodox community who are also fathers of special-needs kids called “Someone Special: Public Figures, Private Challenges.”
The discussion included Rabbi Yaakov Reisman, the director of Agudas Yisrael of Long Island and the father of four sons with developmental delays (one son passed away last year at the age of 32), Reb Nussen Sander, co-founder of Yeshiva Bonim LaMakom and the father of a son with Down Syndrome, Rabbi Moishe Mendlovitz, the director of the Rachmastrivka Cheider and the father of a 5-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome, and Reb Chanoch Rosenberg, educational and mental health specialist and author who is the father of two teenage sons with muscular dystrophy.
Reb Chanoch Rosenberg shared the following story:
“I lived in Eretz Yisrael, and when the kids were diagnosed [with Muscular Dystrophy], we came back to the States. Someone saw me pushing my son’s wheelchair and asked, ‘What’s his name?’ I answered, ‘Yechezkel Elimelech.’ ‘Is he Yechezkel Elimelech ben Mindel?’ the man asked. ‘Yes,’ I answered. ‘And is his brother Bunim Menachem ben Mindel?’ ‘Yes,’ I answered.
“He told me, ‘I heard from a friend in Eretz Yisrael that you have two children who are sick and that you are very special, and I am praying for your children every day!
“It felt good. It’s nice to get a compliment from a friend.
“But it’s much better to get a compliment from Hashem.
“Hashem looked for parents who would take care of these children and do their job. And if Hashem has chosen me to do this job, I feel special and I am thankful for it. It [Being a parent of special-needs children] has its maalos [good points] and it has hardships, but by now, I am very proud to do this job with a smile.
“I had difficulty pushing the wheelchair publicly at first. There was a time when I would run to shul early or go after to avoid the hundreds of people, but now, baruch Hashem, I can go with a smile. And I’m proud that Hashem chose me to take care of my sons. It’s the biggest compliment.”