If you were to stand at Lake Itasca in Minnesota, where the Mississippi River begins, you might doubt that so mighty a river could spring from so small a source. And yet, were you to follow a leaf that fell into the river at its headwater you would soon see how the river grows until it reaches its destination in the sea, some 2,350 miles later.
Studying Judaism's development is something like taking this journey down the Mississippi. The difference between the point where we start and where we leave off is so tremendous that one might doubt that the two have anything in common. Only by beginning at the source and following the development of this faith and culture can one see that traces of the original water are present in the mighty river; here, we will travel that river more than halfway through its journey. The "leaf" we will follow will be the part of Judaism that deals with persons with disabilities. By making this our focus, not only will we learn about our topic but we will be able to follow some of the major constants, and shifts, in the development of Judaism apparent in the Tanach, the Jewish Bible, through the Bavli, the Talmud of the land of Babylonia.
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