Judaism and Disability: Portrayals in Ancient Texts from the Tanach through the Bavli

by Judith Z. Abrams. Gallaudet University Press, 1998.

In this scholarly exposition of the historical basis for attitudes towards persons who have disabling conditions, author Judith Abrams provides insight and explanations about their limited status in the Jewish community as it evolved from interpretation of the Torah and subsequent commentaries through the centuries. The sages separated people by their level of "da’at" (capacity for cognition and purposeful action) at a time when persons who were hearing impaired could not communicate and persons who were developmentally disabled could not perform daily obligations of prayer and study. With her explanations of the ancient categorization system for persons with disabilities and the attendant restrictions on full religious participation, Rabbi Abrams provides a foundation for understanding the long struggle for acceptance and inclusion in Jewish communal life. For today’s Jewish clergy, educators, and other service providers, as well as for individuals with disabilities and their families, this book offers a thorough exploration of the Jewish historical perspective on special needs.