Faith is such a difficult first step to take. We must summon all the energy in us to take that leap of faith. Ever so often though we doubt and redoubt ourselves, unable to fully yield ourselves, to let go of our fears, to love without fear and to live without the shadows of anxiety.
A child is akin to watching your heart and life outside of yourself. You can neither will it to submission nor defeat it. A child only brings hope and the truth that life flows on, every time we see them. Children may seem defenseless and helpless but they are in fact as resilient as the wiry bush in the desert. Every child is a gift to the world. Lior is a very special gift who teaches us of our inherent goodness.
Lior was born with Down’s syndrome a genetic disorder characterised by slow intellectual growth, slurred speech and growth delays. Lior was also born with the remarkable ability to pray, with his Jewish family’s prayer time being his favourite hour. His mother Devora a rabbi thought of Lior being very blessed. She wrote in an article that she longed to see him at his Bar Mitzvah which he would undertake at the age of thirteen, but knew her cancer would probably not allow that.
The Bar Mitzvah is a coming of age ritual of the Jewish community, after which the individual has to take responsibilities for their own actions. Prior to the Bar Mitzvah, the parents are accountable for the child’s actions.
Ilana Trachtman, producer/director of Praying with Lior was struggling with her own spirituality when she met Lior. Attending a Jewish prayer retreat she hears an off-key, ecstatic voice praying. She finds herself envious of this ‘disabled’ child who is so extraordinarily gifted and seems to have a deep connection with HaShem (the name) or God. She learnt of Devora’s open letter and then decided to film Lior’s Bar Mitzvah.
Praying with Lior is a film about faith, family, community and inclusion. Lior is quizzed before his Bar Mitzvah on what he thinks it is. He replies that it means he will become a grown-up. “Does it mean you can drive a car?”, asks Illena. “No, wrong guess. I can drink beer”, he says.
The movie is full of such moments. His younger siblings annoyance at Lior getting all the attention, his elder brother’s love and support. Class-room skirmishes and viewpoints by classmates make it for great viewing.
Lior is a member of an orthodox Jewish day school thanks to his father’s deep belief that faith and ritual can give his son strength and direction. Lior is open with his feelings. Hugs and kisses he is generous with. In times of doubt,he turns to prayer. He is unerringly polite, cries unabashedly when he is sad. Lior’s Bar Mitzvah speech that leaves no eye dry is one of gratefulness. He is full of gratitude for his family, his friends, and community. His deep faith and love for HaShem he declares freely and happily.
Lior is a beautiful movie,that tells us that we all have something to offer the world. In Lior’s case it is hope and faith.