It Hurts to Be So Compassionate: My Life as a Rabbi on the Spectrum By Tsema Yore. The Modern Bible (c) 2022m ISBN 9798836-444075; page 153. $19.99.
SAN DIEGO — Tzemeh Yoreh is a rabbi in the Jewish humanist movement who heads the City Council of New York City.
According to his own assessment, being a rabbi who must preach before a congregation and empathize with the congregation in times of loss or emotional stress, given his high-functioning autism, is a feat that others may find difficult. is a challenge one might believe is insurmountable.
Yoreh was clever and tempted to write “wonderful”, but first he got a PhD in Biblical Criticism from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and later a PhD in Ancient Wisdom Literature from the University of Toronto.
Moreover, Yoré is a poet who can compress abstract ideas into structured forms.
Structure and routine are very important to Yoreh, but as we all know who belongs to the Jewish congregation, change can come from many sources. There are pressures of events outside the synagogue, personality clashes within the synagogue, and rabbinic innovations. Be acceptable to the congregation.
One aspect of Yoreh’s autism is difficulty understanding social cues, whether verbal or expressed in body language.
He has no tolerance for falsehoods (“white lies” or not) and is virtually impossible to tune his voice. People may think he is yelling when he is simply trying to communicate.
Yoreh is acutely aware of all these traits and works hard to mitigate them. His congregation seems to accept him because of his rigorous emphasis on fairness to all and intellectual honesty in presenting his ideas.
Rabbi has become an art in the humanitarian movement because nothing can be believed without evidence.
He vacillates between atheism and agnosticism.
He is not afraid to take political positions. It is not his composition to set the sails of his opinion.
Ravi has a “deep” child on the autism spectrum. At the time of publication, his grade-school son had not uttered a word for years.
This prompted deep reflection on Yoreh’s part. He knows how he likes to be treated by others, but just as neurotypical people don’t fully understand his way of thinking and his needs, his son’s needs and desires are not. I have a gut feeling that you can’t know for sure what your needs are.
Yoreh’s memoir challenges readers to ponder issues, feelings, and relationships. One of her reasons for the book’s appeal is that Ravi is uncompromisingly honest about herself.
Donald H. Harrison is editor emeritus of San Diego Jewish World. He can be contacted via his firstname.lastname@example.org.