It is well known that the Chinese ideogram for “crisis” also means “opportunity”. Any civilization that can see the blessing within the curse, the fragment of light within the darkness, has within it the capacity to endure. Hebrew goes one better. The word for crisis, mashbe, also means “a child-birth chair”. Written into the semantics of Jewish consciousness is the idea that the pain of hard times is a collective form of the contractions of a woman giving birth. Something new is being born. That is the mindset of a people of whom it can be said that “the more they were oppressed, the more they increased and the more they spread.”

These are the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

This week, I had the honor of meeting Rabbi Yitzy, a gentleman with ALS, a debilitating disease that has left him completely incapacitated and a prisoner in his own body. Rabbi Yitzy has been suffering with this disease for 10 years. He understands everything that is said and it seems his mind is perfectly coherent, yet he can only communicate with his eyes. I was able to learn his eye movements for yes and no, and with the help of an aide, we were able to converse with the Rabbi using a board and moving his eyes from letter to letter. Additionally, he has a computer screen that will share his spiritual thoughts and guidance.

I had so many emotions running through me during and after my visit. I was sad for the Rabbi even though he told me he wasn’t, and that he has complete faith that he can offer experience, strength, and hope in his current state. He told me that if you want to share real faith and suffering, look at his wife, who has had to take care of everything without his help for the past 10 years.

I didn’t want to ask questions, as I saw the effort it took for him to answer them, yet I was in such awe of this man that I needed to hear his perspective.

I also felt badly for his children, as they’ve had to grow up watching a helpless father, while dealing with their own trauma, abandonment, and sadness.

I chose in the Rabbi’s honor to do two things. The first one was charity, as the Rabbi asked me to give charity daily in his honor, and second, I chose gratitude. I chose this week to not take my faculties for granted, as in a second they can be taken away.

The Rabbi was healthy, well, and vibrant until he was struck with ALS in 2013, and within a year he was completely paralyzed.

I encourage anyone and everyone to go visit this great man. Firstly, he loves visitors, and more importantly, you will leave changed for the better.

This week, let’s practice gratitude for all the minor details that make us humans far more fascinating than any machine.

Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love


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