Jewish Reggae and Chassidic Stories

Be within.

But stay above.



The Fox in the Vineyard

From the Midrash

A sly fox passed a lovely vineyard. A tall, thick fence surrounded the vineyard on all sides. As the fox circled around the fence, he found a small hole in the fence, barely large enough for him to push his head through. The fox could see what luscious grapes grew in the vineyard, and his mouth began to water. But the hole was too small for him. So what did the sly fox do? He fasted for three days until he became so thin that he managed to slip through the hole.

Inside the vineyard the fox began to eat to his heart’s content. He grew bigger and fatter than ever before. Then he wanted to get out of the vineyard. But alas! The hole was too small again. So what did he do? He fasted for three days again, and then just about managed to slip through the hole and out again.

Turning his head towards the vineyard, the poor fox said: “Vineyard, O’ vineyard! How lovely you look, and how lovely are your fruits and vines. But what good are you to me? just as I came to you, so I leave you…”

And so, our Sages say, it is also with this world. It is a beautiful world, but—in the words of King Solomon, the wisest of all men—just as man comes into this world empty-handed, so he leaves it. Only the Torah he studied, the mitzvot he performed, and the good deeds he practiced are the real fruits which he can take with him.




Once, the great Hassidic leader, Zusya, came to his followers. His eyes were red with tears, and his face was pale with fear.

"Zusya, what’s the matter? You look frightened!"

"The other day, I had a vision. In it, I learned the question that the angels will one day ask me about my life."

The followers were puzzled. “Zusya, you are pious. You are scholarly and humble. You have helped so many of us. What question about your life could be so terrifying that you would be frightened to answer it?”

Zusya turned his gaze to heaven. “I have learned that the angels will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you a Moses, leading your people out of slavery?’”

His followers persisted. “So, what will they ask you?”

"And I have learned," Zusya sighed, "that the angels will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you a Joshua, leading your people into the promised land?’"

One of his followers approached Zusya and placed his hands on Zusya’s shoulders. Looking him in the eyes, the follower demanded, “But what will they ask you?”

"They will say to me, ‘Zusya, there was only one thing that no power of heaven or earth could have prevented you from becoming.’ They will say, ‘Zusya, why weren’t you Zusya?’"


Some Hasidim of the Maggid of Mezheritz came to him. “Rebbe, we are puzzled. It says in the Talmud that we must thank God as much for the bad days, as for the good. How can that be? What would our gratitude mean, if we gave it equally for the good and the bad?”

The Maggid replied, “Go to Anapol. Reb Zusya will have an answer for you.”

The Hasidim undertook the journey. Arriving in Anapol, they inquired for Reb Zusya. At last, they came to the poorest street of the city. There, crowded between two small houses, they found a tiny shack, sagging with age.

When they entered, they saw Reb Zusya sitting at a bare table, reading a volume by the light of the only small window. “Welcome, strangers!” he said. “Please pardon me for not getting up; I have hurt my leg. Would you like food? I have some bread. And there is water!”

"No. We have come only to ask you a question. The Maggid of Mezheritz told us you might help us understand: Why do our sages tell us to thank God as much for the bad days as for the good?"

Reb Zusya laughed. “Me? I have no idea why the Maggid sent you to me.” He shook his head in puzzlement. “You see, I have never had a bad day. Every day God has given to me has been filled with miracles.”


The Horse’s Reflection

retold by Doug Lipman

A shop-keeper came to Rabbi Meir of Premislan. “Rabbi, I am ruined. Do you know what is happening across the street from my shop? Someone else is opening another shop. He will take all my business. I will lose my livelihood!”

Rabbi Meir said to the frantic man, “Sit down. You have sometimes taken your horse to drink from a pool of water, have you not?”

"Yes, Rabbi. But…."

The rabbi continued. “Have you ever noticed how the horse stamps in the water before drinking?”

"Yes, of course."

"Good. I will tell you why the horse stamps his hoof." The rabbi leaned forward in his chair. "The horse sees his reflection in the water. He doesn’t know he is seeing himself; he thinks there is anotherhorse at the pool. The horse is afraid there won’t be enough water for both of them. So he tries to chase away the other horse by stamping.”

The rabbi paused.

"But there is plenty of water for many horses. God’s abundance flows like a river."

The rabbi leaned back in his chair and smiled. For the first time that day, the shop-keeper smiled back.


By Jane Langille | Posted July 1 2011021
INOVATIVE DEVICES TO HELP DISABLED CHILDREN COMMUNICATE

Empowering children with disabilities – Access innovations reduce barriers
A non-verbal boy with multiple disabilities communicated independently for the first time at age 16, using a Hummer, an external neckband device that translates humming sounds into language on a computer. For his first word, he chose the name of his educational assistant, the one who had been helping him for many years. When he realized it worked, he quickly typed his second word, “Doom 3”, the name of a computer game he wanted.
 
Another fellow with multiple disabilities communicated his first word at age 26. It’s hard to imagine what his life was like until then, or how his mother must have felt, unable to communicate with him for so many years. His first word was “MUTHER”, all the more astonishing because nobody knew until then that he had acquired any language skills.
These are a few of the many stories of disabled people who are now able to communicate, thanks to the breakthrough pediatric rehabilitation-engineering program led by Dr. Tom Chau. He is a biomedical engineer at the Bloorview Research Institute in Toronto and the Canada Research Chair in Paediatric Rehabilitation Engineering. Chau says, “pediatric rehabilitation engineering is so important, because it is a fundamental human right to be able to communicate and indicate personal preference.”
Nearly 50 million Americans have disabilities. Chau says, “Post-natal care has increased over time, so there are more and more children who have profound, multiple disabilities who 25 years ago would not have survived past the age of two, but are now able to live long and near-normal life spans.” Their needs are complex, so they need new technologies to help them engage with their world.
Chau and his team perform a detailed assessment to determine the labile channels for a child – the changes that occur when the child tries to communicate. He says, “We leave no stone unturned. Regardless of their inability to communicate through speech and gestures, we look to see if their body is communicative in some way.” The team then designs an external, non-invasive device that the child can activate, using either a mechanical or physiological switch. Devices can be engineered to read brain activity, spikes in skin electricity, residual motor activity, changes in heart rate, or fluctuations in breathing patterns.
Jacob, an eight-year old born with a rare neurological disorder, could only previously communicate yes or no by moving his head or opening his mouth. Now, he can scroll and select from a menu of phrases read to him at a low volume on an iPhone. When he finds the phrase he wants, he hits a switch with his cheek, and the iPhone reads his choice aloud at a volume his communication partner can hear. Now he can tell his mom, “I want a great big hug.”
Chau says there are about two-dozen children using the Hummer device right now. By vibrating their vocal folds, they produce periodic sound that is easy for the device to distinguish from other neck noises like coughing or swallowing. Children who use the Hummer can use it all day, unlike mechanical switches, which many find tiring by midday.
Recently, Chau’s team launched the Infinity Communication Access Lab at Sunny View Public School in partnership with the Toronto District School Board. A unique initiative, this embedded lab in a school setting allows the research, development and testing to be linked to school curriculum. Researchers will track a host of standardized measures to determine the impact these new technologies have on the children’s daily life, social life, self-esteem, and academic progress.
Chau says the future lies in the collaborative efforts of the bright minds who bring energy and passion to the field of pediatric rehabilitation engineering, from various industries like aerospace, kinesiology, physiology and automotive. His mission is to keep the research moving forward, to ensure that disabled children have the opportunity to develop to their maximum potential.

By Jane Langille | Posted July 1 2011021

INOVATIVE DEVICES TO HELP DISABLED CHILDREN COMMUNICATE

Empowering children with disabilities – Access innovations reduce barriers

A non-verbal boy with multiple disabilities communicated independently for the first time at age 16, using a Hummer, an external neckband device that translates humming sounds into language on a computer. For his first word, he chose the name of his educational assistant, the one who had been helping him for many years. When he realized it worked, he quickly typed his second word, “Doom 3”, the name of a computer game he wanted.

 

Another fellow with multiple disabilities communicated his first word at age 26. It’s hard to imagine what his life was like until then, or how his mother must have felt, unable to communicate with him for so many years. His first word was “MUTHER”, all the more astonishing because nobody knew until then that he had acquired any language skills.

These are a few of the many stories of disabled people who are now able to communicate, thanks to the breakthrough pediatric rehabilitation-engineering program led by Dr. Tom Chau. He is a biomedical engineer at the Bloorview Research Institute in Toronto and the Canada Research Chair in Paediatric Rehabilitation Engineering. Chau says, “pediatric rehabilitation engineering is so important, because it is a fundamental human right to be able to communicate and indicate personal preference.”

Nearly 50 million Americans have disabilities. Chau says, “Post-natal care has increased over time, so there are more and more children who have profound, multiple disabilities who 25 years ago would not have survived past the age of two, but are now able to live long and near-normal life spans.” Their needs are complex, so they need new technologies to help them engage with their world.

Chau and his team perform a detailed assessment to determine the labile channels for a child – the changes that occur when the child tries to communicate. He says, “We leave no stone unturned. Regardless of their inability to communicate through speech and gestures, we look to see if their body is communicative in some way.” The team then designs an external, non-invasive device that the child can activate, using either a mechanical or physiological switch. Devices can be engineered to read brain activity, spikes in skin electricity, residual motor activity, changes in heart rate, or fluctuations in breathing patterns.

Jacob, an eight-year old born with a rare neurological disorder, could only previously communicate yes or no by moving his head or opening his mouth. Now, he can scroll and select from a menu of phrases read to him at a low volume on an iPhone. When he finds the phrase he wants, he hits a switch with his cheek, and the iPhone reads his choice aloud at a volume his communication partner can hear. Now he can tell his mom, “I want a great big hug.”

Chau says there are about two-dozen children using the Hummer device right now. By vibrating their vocal folds, they produce periodic sound that is easy for the device to distinguish from other neck noises like coughing or swallowing. Children who use the Hummer can use it all day, unlike mechanical switches, which many find tiring by midday.

Recently, Chau’s team launched the Infinity Communication Access Lab at Sunny View Public School in partnership with the Toronto District School Board. A unique initiative, this embedded lab in a school setting allows the research, development and testing to be linked to school curriculum. Researchers will track a host of standardized measures to determine the impact these new technologies have on the children’s daily life, social life, self-esteem, and academic progress.

Chau says the future lies in the collaborative efforts of the bright minds who bring energy and passion to the field of pediatric rehabilitation engineering, from various industries like aerospace, kinesiology, physiology and automotive. His mission is to keep the research moving forward, to ensure that disabled children have the opportunity to develop to their maximum potential.



Virtual instruments let disabled kids make music



Professor Tom Chau’s work in creating devices to improve the lives of disabled children has received a huge funding boost, […]

By Humairah Irfan






Professor Tom Chau’s work in creating devices to improve the lives of disabled children has received a huge funding boost, as the researcher has been named the Canada Research Chair in Paediatric Rehabilitation Engineering.



Chau, with his team of clinicians, therapists, physicians, students and engineers, serve thousands of children with brain injuries, amputated limbs, and debilitating afflictions such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. His lab is home to many state-of-the-art devices, including prosthetic hands that convert sounds and vibratory signals into mechanical actions, enabling kids to grip things. The Aspiratometer, designed for kids with severe muscular diseases (who often cannot speak, and must be fed by others), uses sound signals to alert caregivers if a disabled child is swallowing food improperly and in danger of choking.
Working with disabled children can be a huge mental challenge, but Chau finds it to be a very rewarding experience.
“Our job is to improve the quality of every life we touch, both the child’s and their parents,” he says. “Once I worked in the corporate world, where I sat in front of a computer designing circuits, and everything was done for the profits at the end of the day. That didn’t do it for me. I wanted something with human contact, to make a difference.”
The Virtual Music Instrument has empowered Kajan Vigneswaran, 11, suffering from spinal muscular atrophy, with the ability to master many musical instruments, including the guitar and piano. “I was nervous initially, but it went well” he says, talking about his first recital at school. A giant TV screen setup in front of him has huge multi-coloured balloons, each representing a different musical note. With his image superimposed on the screen from a small video camera focused on him, he creates music by waving his hand across each coloured ball.
“The needs of these kids are not static, so the technology needs to be dynamic,” says Chau. “We want to focus not on what they can’t do, but on what they can. This concept is called ‘functional intent’. A key goal is to endow our devices with the ability to evolve. We want to move the onus from the individual adapting to technology, to technology adapting to individuals.”
The prestigious Canada Research Chair position came with a five-year, $500,000 federal grant to continue the Prism Lab work at the hospital. But this is not nearly enough, says Chau, as many disabled children still wait for help. He says governments, grant boards and foundations are far more willing to direct scarce health care research dollars to efforts which promise dramatic results, or with the potential to end high-profile diseases. It is a much tougher task to find funding for treatments or technologies for disabled kids who will never leave their wheelchairs, or those fated to die young.

Virtual instruments let disabled kids make music

Professor Tom Chau’s work in creating devices to improve the lives of disabled children has received a huge funding boost, […]

Professor Tom Chau’s work in creating devices to improve the lives of disabled children has received a huge funding boost, as the researcher has been named the Canada Research Chair in Paediatric Rehabilitation Engineering.

Chau, with his team of clinicians, therapists, physicians, students and engineers, serve thousands of children with brain injuries, amputated limbs, and debilitating afflictions such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. His lab is home to many state-of-the-art devices, including prosthetic hands that convert sounds and vibratory signals into mechanical actions, enabling kids to grip things. The Aspiratometer, designed for kids with severe muscular diseases (who often cannot speak, and must be fed by others), uses sound signals to alert caregivers if a disabled child is swallowing food improperly and in danger of choking.

Working with disabled children can be a huge mental challenge, but Chau finds it to be a very rewarding experience.

“Our job is to improve the quality of every life we touch, both the child’s and their parents,” he says. “Once I worked in the corporate world, where I sat in front of a computer designing circuits, and everything was done for the profits at the end of the day. That didn’t do it for me. I wanted something with human contact, to make a difference.”

The Virtual Music Instrument has empowered Kajan Vigneswaran, 11, suffering from spinal muscular atrophy, with the ability to master many musical instruments, including the guitar and piano. “I was nervous initially, but it went well” he says, talking about his first recital at school. A giant TV screen setup in front of him has huge multi-coloured balloons, each representing a different musical note. With his image superimposed on the screen from a small video camera focused on him, he creates music by waving his hand across each coloured ball.

“The needs of these kids are not static, so the technology needs to be dynamic,” says Chau. “We want to focus not on what they can’t do, but on what they can. This concept is called ‘functional intent’. A key goal is to endow our devices with the ability to evolve. We want to move the onus from the individual adapting to technology, to technology adapting to individuals.”

The prestigious Canada Research Chair position came with a five-year, $500,000 federal grant to continue the Prism Lab work at the hospital. But this is not nearly enough, says Chau, as many disabled children still wait for help. He says governments, grant boards and foundations are far more willing to direct scarce health care research dollars to efforts which promise dramatic results, or with the potential to end high-profile diseases. It is a much tougher task to find funding for treatments or technologies for disabled kids who will never leave their wheelchairs, or those fated to die young.