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Introducing Joshua

The following is an Letter from an extraordinary young man, Joshua Harris, age 18, from Manchester in the UK. With his mother's kind permission, I haven't concealed his identity like I normally do in such posts, for Joshua has the capability of inspiring other autistics and giving hope to their families.

Joshua's life is not easy. He suffers excruciating physical and emotional pain. Digesting food for Joshua is like having sabers pierce his intestines. It's amazing how he endures; apparently, his burning desire to learn Torah is what keeps him going. He also has a lion's share of daily humiliation from thoughtless people. The Chazon Ish of blessed and saintly memory used to stand up on his feet before people like Joshua, for he said that they are reincarnates of tzaddikim that have come to this world for the benefit of others at the expense of their own suffering. Here's what Josh writes:

Dear Rabbi Brody:

Typing can really liberate those who cannot talk.

I am Joshua and I am autistic. I am getting ready for the rest of my life.

I was introduced to facilitated communication three years ago whilst a residential student in a special needs school, having been assessed by them as functioning at the level of a two year old. It causes me pain that people have low evaluations and expectations of me. Life has not shown me much respect yet. People doubt me and my writing. It is important for people to believe in me. The people teach you that acceptance is worth pain. I think the reason I want hand support is it really holds the emotions steady.

My ambition is to be the first autistic Rabbi. To study to be a Rabbi I will need to learn in a Yeshiva. I want the teachers at Yeshiva to include me like everyone else. I need to have a Jewish education like a normal guy. You need to be Jewish to facilitate Jewish studies well. The people that work with me (my personal assistants) are all from the same community, my community. I really want to be in control. I want and need good, well thinking people to support me to do ordinary things in an extraordinary way.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, Rabbi Brody, for believing in me, and for giving me a forum in front of thousands of people. This is very dear to me.

Joshua Harris

Here's my answer to Joshua:

Dear Joshua,

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches that we must judge others fairly. The average person is blinded by external appearance, especially since society and the media put such an emphasis on bodily appeal. Spiritually, you are light-years ahead of most people, so it's you that should be feeling sorry for them. Before I forget, I want to tell you that since I spoke to your parents on the phone, I've been devoting a special portion of my personal prayer in begging Hashem that your physical pains should be eased. Nevertheless, it could very well be that as a tzaddik, your suffering is serving as a spiritually-protective umbrella for the entire Jewish people. If people knew who you really were and what your contribution truly is to the Jewish people, they'd be bowing down to you and kissing your hand in the streets. But, since they lack spiritual awareness, please forgive them of the humiliation they cause you; pity them, since they simply don't know better.

Ben_golden_and_lazer_brody Autist Ben Golden (left) learning Rebbe Nachman's teachings with Lazer

If life hasn't shown you much respect, you're in good company. This topsy-turvy world has little respect for Torah and those who learn it. The suffering makes your dedication to Torah all the more valuable. I believe in you and in your potential, Joshua, for I've had the privilege of meeting other autistics, such as Ben Golden in Jerusalem, that are capable of literally leading this generation.

Your goal to become a rabbi is fantastic. The more we all learn about facilitated communicaton, the more we'll be able to help you. You have my friendship and support always - I firmly believe, with Hashem's loving grace, that you'll succeed in all phases of Torah.

Remember, Joshua, you're not a candidate for parliamentary election so you don't need to win a popularity contest. It's enough to have a few loyal friends that understand and believe in you. Be happy also for your wonderful parents - they're the greatest. Feel free to write whenever you like. With blessings and warmest friendship, Lazer Brody