Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz’s wife, Dina, used to call him Tigger because he just had that much energy. He was enthusiastic and full of life, and it showed in his calling to be a rabbi in Los Angeles.
“He loved knowledge and teaching and had a joyful way of sharing it with others,” Dina said. “He gave a thousand percent all the time.”
One time he heard about a wedding that was happening in his area. The bride and groom didn’t know a lot of people in the area, so Yitzi got a bunch of his friends together to go to the wedding, dance, party and welcome them into the community.
He was just that kind of person.
When he met Dina, his friends described them as a key and lock, a perfect fit.
“No matter how hard our lives have gotten together, if he’s there, I can do it,” Dina said.
And there’s no doubt their lives have been hard these past few years.
On his 41st birthday, Yitzi, a father of seven, was diagnosed with ALS — Lou Gehrig’s Disease — a condition that left him 95-percent paralyzed and unable to talk.
An Untimely Diagnosis
Now 46, he’s no longer able to speak, but that doesn’t mean he can’t communicate. With the help of technology — something along the same lines as what helped Stephen Hawking communicate — Yitzi does everything from dote on his wife to writing a weekly Bible blog by using his eyes to type out the words.
His blog takes an entire day to write, and Dina said the process is exhausting, but he still manages to get a long post out every week.
In his blog, he talks about in-depth aspects of the Old Testament as well as things like marriage tips and the power of music.
“Music has the ability to move us,” Yitzi wrote. “Music is the language of the soul.”
Shine A Little Light
Some time after ALS took hold of Yitzi, his daughter found a SIM card in their home. She was curious to see what was on it, but she certainly didn’t expect to find a recording of her father singing a song he’d written and composed years earlier — “Shine A Little Light.”
They shared the song with the boys at the Jewish school in their neighborhood, and at Yitzi’s next birthday, the boys played it back to him — complete with guitars, harmonicas and harmonies.
“We knew that the song was being made, but we didn’t know how much love was being put into it,” Yitizi typed. “That was a surprise, and it made us feel so loved.”
From there, the song gathered more and more interest until several recording artists came together to make a full-length recording of the song.
“Shine A Little Light” has been played more than 400,000 times on Youtube. Dina said others have reached out to her to share stories of how they were inspired by it.
“I’ve heard people tell me that that’s the song that got them through the cancer ward,” Dina said.
Through all the pain and struggling Yitzi has been through in the past few years, he says it was his faith in God that kept him going.
“What keeps me going is the realization that God is real and He has a plan for the world, and I am part of it,” Yitzi typed.
Now, in the words of Rabbi Yitzi, go out into your community and “shine a little light.”
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