Whenever I am in LA, I make sure to visit my friend, Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz. Yitzi was diagnosed with ALS a few years ago, and has been fighting the battle like a soldier. Yitzi and I had a number of interactions during our yeshivah years. We also connected at summer camp, and his wife was a neighbor of mine when I was a child. Throughout the years, we've maintained our friendship.

Instead of giving up and succumbing to this horrible illness, Yitzi has actually turned the illness into a blessing. He now writes a weekly column, along with personal notes, musings and essays. His writings are uplifting and inspiring. His message is that people should not give up when life throws them challenges, but rather find the blessings within those challenges, using them as a tool to find a deeper self.

Recently, I visited Yitzi with one of my older sons. I was looking forward to talking, sharing some strength, and hopefully absorbing some of his incredible energy. I also wanted my son to learn that things are not perfect in real life, and to see how one incredible individual responds to tragedy.


We arrived and were welcomed with the metallic computerized words: “HOW IS PEABODY?” The words came from Yitzi’s special machine, on which he types using his eyes. The technology is incredible, and you can actually have a real conversation. He asks questions, he answers, and he is fast and smart. While only his eyes and lips are moving, his brain is clearly operating at full speed, and perhaps faster and sharper than most people’s.

I played guitar and sang a few songs, as music is another one of Yitzi's passions. It also helped keep the energy festive, happy and light.

Before I left, he asked me to take a picture with him, which of course I did. But I wondered why. At first I thought he was hoping that I'd post it to Facebook so that it would be his little reminder to the world, that "Hey, I am still here, and I am still relevant," or something logical like that. Later I understood how wrong I was.

He messaged me almost immediately after we left, thanking me for coming over.

When we returned home, I mentioned to my wife how positive and uplifting Yitzi is, and she replied with a simple but profound statement: "Because he is so positive, that is why you want to be with him."

Think about it. Most of us have problems. Some of us (perhaps very few of us) are mature enough not to spread the bad energy around to those near to us. But when faced with a major life issue, it is totally normal to feel bad and mope, to be dark and negative and wallow in misery.

To be positive, optimistic, energetic, and a proactive and productive force in the face of such a predicament, well, that is simply not human.

But Yitzi is just that. Human, normal, positive, energetic and upbeat. He does not take from those around him, but he gives and inspires. You leave feeling like you need to dig deeper into yourself to find a better you.

Positivity breeds positivity. Positivity is attractive. Yitzi's steady stream of visitors are not there because of sympathy. They come because people are attracted to, and want to be around his positive, uplifting and optimistic energy.

In fact, Yitzi has such a steady stream of visitors—yeshivah students, minyan services, musical jam sessions, etc.—that I felt privileged to have had him all to myself.

That is Yitzi. That is why he wanted me to take that picture. Not for him, but for me! To remind me, and all those in my sphere of influence, about what is the right way to act, think and respond to challenge.

Thank you, Yitzi.

I love you, Yitzi.

May G‑d bless you and heal your physical medical situation, Yitzi.

P.S.: The costs for Yitzi’s ongoing treatment, technological tools and facilities is exorbitant, so please contribute to the special fund put together to help him and his family. I have, and I hope you will too!