What Jewish Disability Wisdom Teaches Us About Shabbat

December 20, 2023

By Chaim Ezra Harrison and Talia Makowsky

Last week, Keshet staff had the honor of learning about rest with Rabbi Lauren Tuchman, a discussion that was inspired by Julie Watts Belser’s recently published book, Loving Our Own Bones. Rabbi Tuchman is a powerful leader, speaker, and educator, and is the first blind woman to enter the rabbinate (Jewish Theological Seminary 2018). As a disabled Jew, Rabbi Tuchman approaches rest through the lens of disability wisdom.

Informed by disability wisdom, we can see Shabbat – the traditional Jewish mandate to rest each week for 25 hours – as a time to let go and to dream. Shabbat urges us to let go of the rush of the work week and disrupt the societal demand to produce at every moment. 

Disability justice, a framework developed by disabled activists of Color, sees all bodies as unique, essential, and with needs that must be met. Similarly, our Jewish values recognize every person as created b’tzelem Elohim, in God’s image, and therefore inherently valuable and deserving of dignity. 

Shabbat is a time to rest and also to dream. We dream of the world to come: a world of peace, a world that is just and kind, a world where we can live fulfilling lives without working ourselves to exhaustion, a world in which every person’s needs are met without question or hesitation.

At Keshet, we work hard, and we dream. We imagine a future with full liberation and equality for the LGBTQ+ community, disabled people, and all who exist on the margins of society. 

But while our work is vital, it is only possible if we have moments of rest like Shabbat. This Shabbat, we invite you to rest, recognize your inherent worth and dream with us. While the work to bring about the world as it should be may seem daunting, we know that victory will be as nourishing as Shabbat rest and as sweet as Shabbat wine.

An early Shabbat Shalom,

Chaim and Talia