Using only his eyes and a computer screen to communicate his heartfelt wishes, Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz, who has inspired and uplifted people around the world since being immobilized by ALS in 2013, wrote a deeply personal message describing his joy that thousands of Jewish people are doing mitzvahs in honor of his 48th birthday, and asked that even more mitzvahs be done.

In a letter painstakingly composed over more than 12 hours, he writes how difficult it was to lose his abilities, particularly the ability to joyously assist others in performing mitzvahs, and shares how the cruel tentacles of ALS had first attacked his head and his left arm, the two places where tefillin are placed, making the campaign (dubbed #TefillinForYitzi) all the more meaningful for him.

“Ever since thousands of you began gifting me these incredible #TefillinForYitzi and #ShabbatCandlesForYitzi campaigns for my birthday,” he writes regarding the two-year old international tradition, “I feel like I’ve regained a big part of my prior life and, actually, in greater measure than before!

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“It seems to me that to make up for the tefillin that I cannot don on my own, and for the tefillin and Shabbat candles that I can no longer aid others with, and for the birthday parties I can no longer lead—in lieu of all those holy acts, I’ve now actually been gifted every one of them, but many, many times over!” he continues. “It’s almost as if I’m now putting on tefillin, and lighting Shabbat candles, and celebrating my birthday, tens of thousands of times!”

He goes on to describe that “the greatest present of all” is knowing that the lives of others are being positively impacted because of him: “To know that somehow because of my birthday, you were blessed, and that all those around you were blessed, and that these blessings will keep paying themselves forward across the globe for eternity! Wow! Now that feels like living life at its very highest! What more can I possibly say?”

Citing the source of his remarkably positive, proactive, even joyous attitude about life, Hurwitz notes how growing up around the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, he was deeply “infected” by the Rebbe’s love and passion for every single individual, and how as a result, “I made it my own life’s mission to help others.”

“We also know of the Rebbe's response to tragedy and darkness,” writes Hurwitz. “Bring even more light and goodness into the world!”

Noting how anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head in the West, he writes that “I wish I could be out there on the street right now helping people to perform these mitzvot [as a show of defiant Jewish pride]. Alas, I cannot. But to all of you who can: Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures! Please go find someone else—in your office, in your neighborhood park, on the street, wherever—and encourage them to do another mitzvah. Trust me: Even if you must go out of your comfort zone to do so, you will forever be grateful that you did.”

Read the entire message

Here’s information on how you can join the public celebration:
Take a picture of your mitzvah.
(Shabbat Candles: Take a picture of your pre-lighting preparation on Friday, Feb. 28, and send AFTER Shabbat!)

Send pictures by WhatsApp (or text) to 770-810-5134, by email to TefillinForYitzi@gmail.com or online at TefillinForYitzi.com.

Keep checking TefillinForYitzi.com for latest photos and videos! Pre-candlelighting pictures from this Friday (Feb. 28) will be posted beginning March 2 on TefillinForYitzi.com/ShabbatCandles.

#TefillinForYitzi signs are available for print at TefillinForYitzi.com.