Is it possible that this can happen today?
It is inconceivable to me that in a world where we understand the meaning of kindness, of sweetness, of what it means to care for and love another human being, we could so coldly hurt the feelings of a male or female, dismissing them for something that is not their fault, and which does not detract from their ability to be a fit or capable parent.
I have become aware of something which disturbs me greatly. It is that within this great realm of dates, there is a group of people, a sub-strata, which is dismissed almost immediately. This group of people has done nothing wrong; they are not evil people, and they have done no harm. However, for whatever reason, and through no fault of their own, they have a physical disability. Perhaps there is a height difference between one leg and the other. Perhaps they are blind, or will be blind when they grow older. Perhaps they are deaf, or perhaps they cannot walk without the assistance of a cane. Perhaps they cannot even walk at all. This disability can range from something very minor, a club foot, a disfigured hand or finger- to something major. But no matter what it is, those who have or suffer a disability find themselves in the same category of people- those who are rejected immediately, without having been considered, without anyone taking the time to know them or their story.
I am not telling someone that it is their obligation to sign up for something they cannot handle. There are some people who cannot conceive of having a partner who is in any way physically disabled, and that is fine. No one states that you must marry a person out of charity or pity; indeed, that would be awful- the other person would not want such pity. But to immediately dismiss a person, to assume you know her and all that she has faced- this implies cruelty. If you have not met the person, how would you know what she is like? How can you know whether the difference between one leg and the other, or the fact that she will one day not be able to hear or see, means immediately that she is not for you? Are you even interested in the story behind this disability? Often, these people have miraculous, incredible stories. They have survived life-threatening illnesses, cancer perhaps- and this physical disability is all that is left to them, their only scar. Or perhaps, they were born with this disability, and have learned to cope with it, to make up for it. But what is clear in every case is that anyone who is born with what is seen as a disadvantage becomes a uniquely special person because of it. Their outlook on life is decidedly different. Because these are people who were made to fight. They were born different, or were made different, and their spirit has grown accordingly. They have been tested. These are women and men whom one wants as partners, people who have faced challenge and who have grown because of it, whose hearts and souls have been broadened and opened. And yet, these are people who are shunted mercilessly to the side.
Can you imagine how it hurts to be thrust aside so easily? A person has not even met you, but they have dismissed you because of your physical appearance or a disability- they know nothing of who you are, what you are, the essence of who you are as a human being- but already, you are viewed as being a failure, a nonentity. How can you do this to a person? If you know from the outset that it is impossible, then I understand. But if you have never met the person, if you do not know how they compensate for their disability, their personal story and all that colors it, then how can you push them aside so easily? Does everything else mean so little to you?
Do you know what is even more hurtful? When this population of people is informed they will never be sought after by the "normal" crowd; instead, they must marry each other. One person who cannot hear well must marry another; one person who is physically disabled and finds it hard to walk must look for such a person as well. Did you ever hear the like? And what happened, may I ask you, to the beauty of a person's soul, of her spirit, of everything that she is? What even to the beauty of her body? These are beautiful girls, and yet they are dismissed because of one small attribute! How can this be? And how can we be living in a generation of men who feel themselves to be benei Torah and yet see no harm in their actions? Again, I do not say that everyone must force themselves to raise the hopes of a person if they really believe there can be no future with her. But I cannot believe there is nobody who believes they can live happily with a physically disabled person?
There is a woman who is extraordinarily important in my life, who has done remarkable things, and raised an incredible family. She does chesed for her entire community, most of it unnoted. Whenever women give birth and are in the hospital, she cooks enough for an army and sends it off to the family of the newly-delivered mother. She counsels couples who need her advice. She is a listening ear like no other. People do not know the half of what she does and what she juggles. Her love for her family is sincere and real. And yet, she cannot use one arm. Everything she does, she does with only one arm- with one hand. Everything. Imagine taking a shower and only being able to shampoo your hair or soap yourself with one hand because you cannot move the other arm. Imagine cooking for hundreds of people, mixing everything together and tossing in ingredients- with one hand. Now imagine that you are so incredibly gifted at doing all this that nobody knows, except for a select few, that you even have this disability at all.
I can assure you, the man who married her, not only does not think of her as disabled, but thanks God every day for His having blessed him with her as a wife. He thanks his lucky stars that she is in his life, because he knows how differently his life could have turned out without her, and he knows that she helps him in far too many ways to count. This woman is capable, and loving, and beautiful. And yet, by the logic that is practiced upon these other women by these men- where they dismiss them because of their height or hair or their ability to see or hear or walk or who knows what else- this woman would never have gotten married. Or she would have been married off to another physically disabled person, never having been given a chance by anybody else. And that, my dear people, would have been a tragedy.
So I urge you, if this in any way affects you, to think long and hard about the people who are presented to you, and not to be rash in your dismissals of them. You truly hurt people when you dismiss them, especially people like the ones who I have just described. And the fact is, this can happen to anybody, or everybody. What if, God forbid, I were in a terrible car accident and survived it with a horrible disfiguring scar, or a broken leg, or some other contusion or problem? Would no one love me because of this; are we so shallow as a people? It is by God's grace that I walk around whole, and that I have not been given the struggles and difficulties that have been given to others. It is by God's grace that I have arms that work, and legs that work, and that thank God I am not in the position that others are in. But God can take all these things away, so that one day I could find myself a disabled person, and so could you, and so could anyone. This is nobody's fault- this is simply what can occur. And so, for you, or I, or anyone, to judge another human being and see them as less worthy because of this- because of something that could happen to me or you- is awful, and ridiculous. Whatever the form our bodies take, our souls are pure and untwisted, made only of God's light, and His grace. It is these that matter, more than anything.
All I am asking, all I am begging you for- is to give people a chance. And to be kind. To look at the world through the eyes of the other person, and realize how they feel. And to try to make their life a little easier, if it is possible. Because who knows? Even if you do not marry the person, I am sure they will have taught you an extraordinary lesson- simply by how they cope with their everyday existence, how they deal with the injustice that has been perpetrated upon them, with the way in which they encounter God and their world. And I know this from personal experience. Because I have met these people, and been awed by them. They have a great courage and grandeur with which I have not been blessed, not having faced their challenges, or having been put in their situation. There is greatness in them, and it will out. Be one of those who was willing to learn from that greatness.