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Esau's Blessing:
How the Bible embraces those with Special Needs

by Ora Horn Prouser

“Essential reading for educators, parents, and students of Bible.”
Edward L. Greenstein, director of the Institute for Jewish Biblical Interpretation of Bar-Ilan University

“Opens our eyes to the special needs figures of old whom we come to know and love in the Bible, helping us to embrace and to see with clearer vision the special needs children and adults who deserve our respect and our attention today.”
Bradley Shavit Artson, author, The Everyday Torah

Jacob limped. Moses was “heavy of tongue.” Isaac was blind. But did Isaac also suffer from a mild mental retardation? Did Esau show symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder? Was Joseph “gifted”?

In Esau's Blessing, Dr. Ora Horn Prouser offers a provocative new reading of the Hebrew Bible that applies a contemporary “special needs” perspective to the ancient texts. The resulting insights into biblical characters makes the Tanakh a source of educational and pedagogic wisdom.

“Who makes [man] dumb or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” says God to Moses (Exodus 4:11). Prouser shows how reading the Bible can, in her words, “help us to imagine our special needs brethren in the embrace of a loving God, and instruct us to respond in a similar compassionate manner.”

This book confirms that the Bible wants people with disabilities to be treated with dignity and respect. It shows that characters with disabilities are among the most heroic personages in Scripture.

For those working in the field of special education, this book provides a framework that anchors their good work firmly in an ancient tradition and calls attention to its holy purpose. For those with loved ones with disabilities, Esau's Blessing shows how God's love and covenant extend to everyone.

About the Author
Dr. Ora Horn Prouser is executive vice president and dean at The Academy for Jewish Religion. She received her Ph.D in Bible from The Jewish Theological Seminary and has been teaching Bible on the graduate level for over twenty-five years. She has also enjoyed consulting on educational efforts such as the MaToK Bible curriculum and the Day School Standards and Benchmarks Project in Bible. Dr. Prouser has taught and served as scholar-in-residence at many institutions, including synagogues, adult education programs, and camps.

She lives in New York with her husband, Rabbi Joseph Prouser, and is the mother of three children.

 

Few books make one a significantly more sensitive reader of the Bible. Few books on the Bible make one a more sensitive person. Ora Horn Prouser's book does both, with the insight and grace of a scholar, a teacher, and a parent.

Prouser's interpretations of Biblical stories and characters draw on what professionals have learned about special needs and challenges and provide new and humanizing perspectives on mostly familiar Biblical stories.

Readers will be moved by the book and moved as they never were before by the Bible. They will never read the Bible-or anything else-the same way again. The book is essential reading for educators, parents, and students of Bible.

Edward L. Greenstein, director of the Institute for Jewish Biblical Interpretation of Bar-Ilan University

There is infinite wisdom and abiding compassion in the Bible when approached with a wise heart. Ora Horn Prouser is that sage­-resilient, loving, courageous. She opens our eyes to the special needs figures of old whom we come to know and love in the Bible, helping us to embrace and to see with clearer vision the special needs children and adults who deserve our respect and our attention today.

Bradley Shavit Artson, author, The Everyday Torah

A well-researched, respectful, fresh perspective on disabilities in Biblical narratives.

Judith Z. Abrams, author, Judaism and Disability: Portrayals in ­Ancient Texts from the Tanach through the Bavli

Ora Prouser’s moving book Esau’s Blessings offers “a compassionate reading of the biblical text,” as she focuses on a range of biblical characters who are challenged by what we call today “special needs.” Esau, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Miriam are only a few of the ancestral figures whose lives are shaped around their “disabilities.” Prouser’s beautifully written and classically argued book allows us to see how these characters’ strengths are inseparable from their infirmities, and also how the God of the Bible models for us a way of loving and learning from those who are exceptional. Professor Prouser has done a great service both to the Bible and to her readers, renewing our sense of Scripture as a text of hope and humanity.

Peter Pitzele, author, Scripture Windows: Towards a Practice of Bibliodrama


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