As parents, we all have those moments when we feel that we must have done
something right. For instance, your son comes home from yeshiva on Friday
after one of Jerusalem's infrequent snow storms and, without being asked,
immediately begins shoveling a path between your building and the nearby
shul so that an elderly neighbor will not have to risk life and limb that
night on an icy pavement.
Far rarer, however, are occasions when a whole group of boys or girls
simultaneously demonstrate that their education has penetrated their souls.
A few years ago, the father of a boy with severe learning disabilities
described one such moment at a dinner for Chush, an Orthodox-run school in
Brooklyn for learning disabled children.
He began his speech with a question: If everything G-d does reflects His
perfection, where do we see that perfection in a boy like my son Shai, who
cannot learn like other children?
He then told the following story:
After studying all week at Chush, Shai attends class at Yeshiva Darchei
Torah in Far Rockaway, New York on Sunday. At a time when some yeshivot seek
to burnish their reputation by catering only to the brightest boys, Rabbi
Yaakov Bender, the principal of Darchei Torah, insists that his school
remain a neighborhood school serving boys from across the educational
One Sunday afternoon, Shai's father came to pick him up. Some of Shai's
classmates were playing baseball, and Shai tugged at his father's sleeve
asking, "Do you think they will let me play?" His father knew that because
of his motor coordination difficulties Shai could not really play with the
other boys. But he saw how much it meant to Shai, and so he decided to
approach one of the boys to ask if Shai could join.
The boy hesitated momentarily before nodding his assent. The fact that his
team was trailing by six runs in the eighth inning made the decision easier.
Nothing Shai would do was likely to affect the outcome anyway. Shai was
given a mitt, and went to stand in short center field as his team's tenth
Shai's team staged a small rally in the bottom of the eighth, but still
entered the ninth inning trailing by three runs. With two outs in the bottom
of the ninth, Shai's teammates loaded the bases. The potential winning run
was due up. But the next scheduled batter was none other than Shai.
Would his teammates protest that they should not be penalized for letting
Shai play and demand to put up the next batter? No. Shai was handed a bat
and pointed to the plate.
Shai did not even know how to hold the bat. Recognizing how hard it would be
for Shai to hit the ball, the opposing pitcher moved in a several steps and
lobbed the ball gently to the plate. Still Shai did not manage to get the
bat off his shoulder until the ball was in the catcher's mitt.
Before the next pitch, one of Shai's teammates joined him at the plate to
help swing. Once again the pitcher lobbed a soft pitch. This time Shai made
feeble contact sending a slow dribbler back to the mound for what looked
like the game-ending out.
After fielding the ball, however, the pitcher threw it way over the first
baseman into deep right field. Shai's teammates shouted at him, "Run to
first, Shai, run to first," as they accompanied him down the first base
By the time, the right fielder tracked the ball down, Shai was headed for
second, with a wide-eyed, startled look on his face. The right fielder
quickly grasped the pitcher's intention. Instead of throwing Shai out at
second, he threw the ball way over the third baseman's head.
By now both teams were chanting together, "Run, Shai, run." As Shai passed
second base, the shortstop hurried over and turned him in the direction of
All eighteen players joined Shai on his triumphal run home, and together
they hoisted the hero, author of the game-winning grand-slam, onto their
Shai's father was crying by the time he finished telling this story. Now he
was ready to answer his original question.
"That day, those 18 boys reached their level of G-d's perfection," he said.
"Without Shai, they could not have done it."
AM ECHAD RESOURCES
Jonathan Rosenblum serves as Am Echad's Israeli director and is a columnist
for the Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.