Recently, I inspired by an award-winning documentary that I watched on Netflix called Praying With Lior
(2007).The movie is about the development and spiritual maturation of a Jewish child with Down Syndrome to his Bar Mitzvah (and a few years past).As a young child, Lior Liebling is comforted by his mother, who is a Rabbi, who teaches Lior to pray and sing to G-d.
She holds him and they share an amazing bond both maternal and spiritual that never leaves Lior.
Unfortunately, the mother has breast cancer and passes away when Lior is only 6.
Right before his bar mitzvah, Lior goes to his mother’s gravesite and clings to it saying, “I miss you,” and then breaks down in tears that I could feel or imagined rising up to the heavens itself.
Lior is deeply loved by his family–father (also a Rabbi), stepmother, and 3 siblings–who play, engage, teach him, and learn from him as well.
Lior means light in Hebrew, and Lior brings light to everyone he meets–inspiration to overcome challenge, deep love of G-d and community, and faith that his mother is watching over him.
Lior makes it to his bar-mitzvah–and becomes a proverbial Jewish man–he says the blessing, reads from the Torah, celebrates with his family and loved ones, and even gives a speech on the importance of Torah.
At the celebration, he goes over to another retarded girl, and says something about how she is special and that “I am going to marry you.”
I watched this young man, Lior, pray with a rigor that I have not been able to do for some time, and I was inspired not by the words he said, nor the song he sang, or even the cheer he brought others, but rather I think I was moved by the simple sincerity and purity of his heart.
Lior didn’t want anything, didn’t have an agenda, wasn’t trying to do anything to anybody, he was just a soul that reached out to others–loving them, hugging them, kissing them, and yes, praying with them–often actually leading the services.
One of Lior’s classmates that was interviewed said that everyone has a test, and Lior’s is an incredibly difficult one–but he is succeeding extraordinarily by not only surviving with his disability, but also showing others the way.
Thank you Lior for being such an amazing inspiration to us all–may you go from strength to strength and someday reunite with not only your heavenly father, but also your mother who awaits to sing and pray with you in great joy again.