Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Expectation of Perfection

“Anyone dealing with children who are mentally retarded should start from the basic premise that the retardation is in each case is only a temporary handicap and that in due course it could certainly be improved and even improved substantially. This approach should be taken even if it is contrary to the specialists in the field since this is the precondition for greater success and will stimulate more intensive research.” Rabbi M.M. Schneerson in a letter to the director of Coney Island Hospital

There are two kinds of tzadikim referenced in the Talmud. One is called a complete tzadik (tzadik gommer) and the other is referred to as an incomplete tzadik (tzadik sheh aino gommer).

The complete tzadik is also referred to as a tzadik v’tov lo or a more literal interpretation would be a tzadik to whom it is all is good and the incomplete tzadik is known as a tzadik v’rah lo or a tzadik to whom there is the opposite of only goodness attached.

To begin our discussion let us understand that the tzadik is a person who comes into the world as a complete and perfect neshamah and therefore has nothing in terms of his neshamah that he needs to be fixed or polished.

All tzadikim are in this world to cause others to do good.
This is a level of existence that is beyond our simple understanding of the world. This is a person who never in his/her life did one thing that was hepech to Torah. Not once!

Yet a perfect tzadik even though he possesses a sitra achra or an "influencer" from the side of evil whose job it is to confuse and distract and cause the person to err, does not. And yet this sitra achra is converted to actively doing good and fully participating in good all the time for as long as it is with a complete Tzadik. Whereas an incomplete tzadik who possesses a sitra achra or a yetzer hora is so called primarily because his Yetzer is asleep and is forced to endure a passive role in all of the goodness that this tzadik participates in even if it is not as an active participant.

A complete tzadik who is also known as a tzadik for whom it is all good is easier to comprehend. After all if it is complete then there does not seem to be any contraditcion. Therefore the tzadik who is the opposite of good or “rah lo” on the surface is a bit more difficult to fully understand.

This incomplete tzadik then comes into the world as a perfect neshama who is not here for himself but rather to cause others to do good. So how does an incomplete tzadik who is v’rah lo cause others to do good.

A child born with Down syndrome is a perfect neshama in a less than perfect package. This then could be seen as an example of the definition of a tzadik v’rah lo.

The Chazon Ish z”l was reported to have said concerning children born with Down syndrome that they did not come into this world for the purpose of tikkun (healing their character defects). Instead, by bringing out the best or the opposite in others, their very existence allows others to reach greater spiritual heights if they deal with the situation in a positive manner.

Every baby born is an individual and a child born with Down syndrome requires a wide range of flexibility in order to achieve his potential.

Who better to fill the role of an incomplete tzadik or a tzadik sheh aino gommer than a person born with Down syndrome?

People born with Down syndrome have an IQ that falls mostly within the mildly to moderate range of intelligence. Children are definitely educable and educators and researchers still do not know the full educational potential of people with Down syndrome. This includes even the least intelligent amongst them.

Today with the initiation and involvement of children with Down syndrome in the infant stimulation programs and the early intervention classrooms we are seeing adults reaching goals of self fulfillment never thought possible just a few decades past.

There are approximately 5,000 infants a year born with Down syndrome and up until about 15/20 years ago the vast majority of those born to the orthodox Jewish community were given away.

In the religious Jewish communities there is a significantly higher incidence of Down syndrome births than is found in non religious or non Jewish communities.

The primary reasons are that within the orthodox Jewish circles there is rarely an amniocentesis performed since the option of an abortion is out of the question in this religious milieu.

Responsibility, however, is an important factor not to be overlooked in this discussion.

We shrink or expand our horizons based upon our ability to succeed in these moments of challenge. We must act responsible and cause others to also take proper advantage of these opportunities.

The child you have just given birth to has been born with Down syndrome and while that sounds like the end of the world...it is not!

We all feel as if we have failed, or we are being punished publicly, or have suddenly become deficient or different because we have given birth to a baby born with Down syndrome.

We all experience doubt and feelings of firsthand failure. We have just entered into the world of the unknown. Anything within the realm of the unknown is frightening.

And yet if this tzadik whose potential intellect is in question causes us to do good by their mere presence shouldn’t that be enough in and of itself?

The next fearful step is, “should we keep it quiet?” “In whom shall we confide?” “Should we keep the baby?” "Should we place the baby or dump the baby?" "Should we include the baby and accept the baby?" "What exactly am I afraid of?"

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