Immutability of Torah Law
I was born with a neuromuscular disease known as Spinal Muscular Atrophy and have been confined to a wheelchair my entire life. Unfortunately my sister and I were raised without any religious instruction or guidance. My father wasn't Jewish and although my mother is, she openly claims to be an atheist. The "good news" is that both my sister and myself - independent of each other and at different times in our lives - realized that we are Jewish and chose to live a Jewish life.
Because of my disability, I'm not always able to attend services on Shabbat, but I always light candles, pray from a Siddur and read the weekly Torah portion. I would like to know whether, considering my situation, if using a computer is allowed during the Sabbath? I found the complete Bible online and since my computer is voice-activated I don't have to struggle to turn pages or continuously ask for assistance.
Thank you to everyone at Aish.com for making it possible for myself and so many others to learn about being Jewish and grow in the most important part of our lives.
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Thank you so much for your encouraging words and for sharing your inspiring story.
God gives each of us a set of challenges. To those more capable of conquering difficulties, He gave bigger challenges. A challenge from God is a sign that He cares about us and has confidence in our ability to become great.
It sounds like you're doing great!
As for using the computer on Shabbat, that is prohibited. A foundation of Judaism is that we need to respect God's wishes, even if we think that doing otherwise is "for a good reason." Consider this story:
A king calls in his trusted minister and says: "I have an important mission for you to perform. Go to the neighboring kingdom and meet in the palace with their leaders. But remember one thing - under no circumstances must you remove your shirt during this meeting. Now go and do as I say."
The minister sets off on his merry way and soon arrives at the neighboring kingdom. There he heads straight for the palace where he meets with the King. In the midst of their discussion, he sees some of the king's officers pointing and laughing at him.
"Why are you laughing?" asks the visiting minister.
"Because we've never seen someone with such a pronounced hunchback as yourself," they say.
"What are you talking about? I'm not a hunchback!"
"Of course you are!"
"No I'm not!"
"We'll bet you one million dollars that you are!"
"Fine - I'll gladly take your bet."
"Okay, so take off your shirt and prove it."
At which point the minister remembers the parting words of the king... "under no circumstances must you remove your shirt during the meeting." Yet, the minister reasons, a million dollars would certainly bring added wealth to the king's coffers. I know I'm not a hunchback, so I'll surely win the bet. Of course, under these circumstances the king would approve...
The minister removes his shirt and proudly displays his perfect posture. With pride in his achievement, he holds out his hand, into which is placed a check for one million dollars.
The minister can barely contain his excitement. He quickly ends the meeting and runs back to give the wonderful news to his king. "I earned you a million dollars!" exclaims the minister. "It was easy. I only had to remove my shirt to prove that I wasn't a hunchback."
"You did what?!" shouts the king. "But I told you specifically not to remove your shirt. I trusted that you'd follow instructions, and so I bet the other king $10 million dollars that he couldn't get you to remove your shirt!"
The Torah tells us "Do not add or subtract from the mitzvahs." (Deut. 4:2) Jewish law is a precise metaphysical science. Consider a great work of art. Would you consider adding a few notes to a Bach fugue, or some brushstrokes to a Rembrandt portrait?!
Perfection, by definition, cannot be improved upon. Altering Torah law is an unacceptable implication that God is lacking.
The verse in Psalms 19:8 declares: "Torat Hashem Temimah" - the Torah of God is complete. For just as adding one wire to a transistor radio means it no longer can pick up reception, so too we mustn't tinker with Jewish law. The mitzvahs of God are perfect.
May the Almighty give you strength to continue your growth in Judaism.