Asperger, Us, and the Yomim Noraim

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9 Responses

  1. Yossel says:

    Neurotypicals struggle with moral requirements that come naturally to those with Aspergers.
    Aspergers people also tend to be very honest and reliable. It’s rare for them to tell a lie, steal, renege on a promise or even be late for work.

    Perhaps it can be argued that AS people struggle with man’s arbitrary rules, but comply more naturally with HaShem’s rules.

  2. Yehuda says:

    One of the things we daven for every day is “shetargileinu beTorasecha.” Torah observance shouldn’t be something strange or arbitrary to us. Indeed, it isn’t, as we all learned the entire Torah before we were born and returning to it is the most natural thing – for our neshamos, not our bodies. The problem only starts when we get too used to following our baser desires and don’t struggle to regain neshamah awareness.
    Also, we hope that we will not always be fighting the same battles. Indeed, that is rarely the case. If we are moving up, as we should be, then our challenges will constantly be mutating, and ditto if we move down R”l.
    But strange and arbitrary? How could Torah ever be perceived like that?
    In answer to Yossel September 2: I think it would be wise to leave the two issues, that of AS, and that of morality, separate. There are people with AS who are naturally more inclined to tov and others whose moral challenges are more acute. Just as there are those with other physical disabilities (and surely AS is a brain disability?) who are better or worse than others.
    Personally, I have a very little knowledge of one person with AS, my brother-in-law’s brother. I recall my sister telling me of the time her baby was playing on the floor and this guy with AS circled him, chanting repetitively, “Smack the baby.”
    There are certainly those with AS who are constantly checking up “Did I do that right?” or “What should I have said instead?” But unfortunately, there are probably just as many who lack even that awareness, or who have not made the decision to try to fit in.
    That being said, I don’t think “bad” people with AS are any more dangerous than “bad” people without. But not less dangerous, either.

    [YA – Reread the Moreh, 3rd chelek, in the taamei hamitzvos discussion, and refresh your memory about what he says about the details of mitzvos]

  3. Yehudit Spero says:

    Fantastic article. It makes me see things in a completely different light. I hope that this article will get to a large audience. Worth the read for sure. Shanna tova and thanks. Excellent “mashal”.

  4. Raymond says:

    The wife of a childhood friend of mine, thinks that I have Asperger’s Syndrome. While self-diagnosis is inherently biased, I of course disagree with her. What I have been tested as being, is an extreme introvert. I do not know all of the implications of this, but one is very similar to what was described above, which may be why my friend’s wife thinks that about me. See, I also process information very slowly. I am not stupid, at least I hope I am not; on the contrary, so many people have remarked to me how intelligent I am, that I suppose I believe them to a point. However, I am not quick on my feet either, perhaps because social situations do make me feel uncomfortable. In one way or another, I very often get the feeling that people disapprove of this or that aspect of me, and would not mind if I simply disappeared. So, while talking to a person, I may not grasp right away everything that is being said. Only later on, when I am by myself, and relive those conversations in my head over and over again, do they begin to make any sense to me.

    Plus, I do not like to understand things on a superficial level. I must analyze people’s words over and over again, and try to fit it all in with things I have read, and lectures I have heard, leaving no stone unturned in the discussion taking place, all in my head. I also prefer the old and proven, to the new and experimental. So the Internet is a paradox for me, because its newness should repel me, yet I am always on it, as it allows me to respond to people when I am way from them, by myself, and thus not feeling pressure from them. Even the kind of music I like, tends to be both melodic and harmonious…for that means it is making sense…and slow, as that fits in with my contemplative nature. Probably a fitting example of this is Pachelbel’s very famous Canon in D major.

    As for Franz Kafka, I can very much sympathize with his worldview, as the world so often does not make sense to me. It is not easy to trust a G-d that appears to be indifferent to the terrible suffering and pure evil that makes up so much of our cruel world. I do not think that anybody can deny that we live in a broken world. On the other hand, I have to wonder how different that Franz Kafka’s worldview might have been, had he been given a solid Torah education.

  5. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful and sensitive piece on Asperger’s.

    While I understand the analogy you are trying to make, I think there are two issues with it. First, I believe the “rules” that are at issue are more what we’d call social mores. People will AS don’t have trouble following the rules of society, e.g traffic laws, tax laws, etc. (As one of the commenters pointed out they are probably better at them!) It would probably more akin to a person who never experienced Shabbos being thrown into a family Shabbos setting and all the nuances involved. (You know the ring in mouth joke?)

    Secondly, I’m not sure that “the weight of so many restrictions and limitations” we are “groaning” under are mostly “G-d’s rules”. The number actual Godly commandants we need to adhere to are relatively few and the number of rules that are “not humanly comprehended” are a fraction of those. (I think, as maaminim, bnei maaminim, we could all live with the occasional Shatnez restriction or Para Aduma conundrum.) What many may be “groaning” under are the ever increasing number of man-made rules, restrictions, and newfound “customs”. Most, if not all, of which should be completely understandable and logical. And maybe that’s a better analogy. Many of our “rules” are more like the social mores that people with Asperger’s have so much trouble navigating.

  6. lawrence kaplan says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein: A thoughtful and thought provoking article. It occurs to me that on the internet most of us find ourselves in an AS-like situation. We lack the cues present in face to face or regular snail mail or even one on one e-mail interactions that enable us to read the other person’s tone or meaning. Note how people have to provide artificial cues: LOL or smileys to assure the public they are communicating with that they are not being serious and not to take offense. Perhaps if we were aware of this we would act with more care in our internet interactions. To the contrary, alas, the medium seems to encourage shooting from the hip. Let’s remember that when we are on the internet we are in a socially artificial situation and act with more caution and greater care.

    On another note, I was somewhat surprised by your comment “We trust that… all His rules are for our sakes, not for His.” What of “Avodah tzorekh gavoah”?

    A Ketivah ve-Hatimah Tovah to all.

    [YA – I think I am going to weigh in as Maharalian on that one. If I read him correctly (IIRC, one of the first perakim in Tifferes Yisrael), our attitude in performing mitzvos should be that HKBH wants it (kevayachol) and demands it, and we therefore comply. We try to perform with this understanding, artificially banishing from our consciousness the ultimate reality that He needs nothing, and anything He demands of us is for our our good. KVT]

  7. Shua Cohen says:

    > “We have the advantage of sensing the depth and beauty of most of His rules – it is a minority that trouble us.”

    I think what troubles many of us in the current climate of Orthodoxy (and I wonder if this is truer of BTs than FFBs) is the question of how many of the “minority” of rules are, in fact, “His rules” at all. This has been an era of chumras and stifling takanahs, bannings and issurim, slanderous invective against shomrei Torah & mitzvot coming from the bottom of Jewish frum society and the top as well (Rachmana Litzlan), the likes of which, perhaps, have the Ribbono Shel Olam shaking His head in wonder and dismay. While many of us simply ignore the dictates from on high (purported by their advocates to come from On High), others take to stadiums for oratorical displays of displeasure with the world, or worse, to the streets yelling and screeming like lunatics. How has extremism in defense of religion become such a virtue to so many bnei Torah in our day and age? It’s all very disconcerting to this particular BT.

    [YA – It is true of plenty of FFBs as well. But who’s counting?]

  8. YM Goldstein says:

    Shua, do you have a Rav? If you do, ask him if these things you hear about in the Media apply to you or not? In most cases, he will probably tell you not.
    If you don’t have a Rav…it is really difficult to be Orthodox without a Rav.

  9. Bob Miller says:

    When acting on behalf of those they love, people don’t mind attending to the many fine details needed to succeed.

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