Covid has been difficult for all of us. But for Yitzi Hurwitz, legendary Chabad rabbi in California who has continued to maintain a lively social and spiritual life despite grappling with ALS, they have been particularly challenging.

Before the coronavirus reared its head, his Los Angeles apartment bedroom was a bevy of activity, with study partners, well-wishers and fellow musicians coming and going at all hours of day and night.

Unable to speak or move, Hurwitz makes use of eye-tracking technology to greet and entertain his visitors, learn Torah with them and otherwise communicate.

With the spread of the virus, however, he was forced into isolation, and the lively sounds of Torah study, jam sessions, debate and farbrengens have receded into the past.

Approaching his 50th birthday, the rabbi is looking forward to what has become an annual tradition that began as a surprise for his 46th birthday: thousands of mitzvahs performed in his honor, especially men and boys putting on tefillin.

Every year, using the hashtags #TefillinForYitzi and #ShabbatCandlesForYitzi, thousands of people around the world snap pictures of themselves (and others) performing mitzvahs in the rabbi’s honor, which they then submit to be presented to the rabbi.

According to Dina Hurwitz, one of the most beloved aspects of her husband’s work was putting on tefillin with men in his community and encouraging them to purchase their own sets so they could do so themselves regularly.

“He loves his tefillin, and it was his passion to put them on with other people,” she tells “When he turned 40, I bought him a new pouch for his tefillin. It is a mitzvah I know he loves, and if I could make it more beautiful for him, that would be the perfect gift.”

“Ever since thousands of you began gifting me these incredible #TefillinForYitzi campaigns for my birthday,” the rabbi has written, “I feel like I’ve regained a big part of my prior life and, actually, in greater measure than before!”

Many thousands of women and girls also distribute candles to be lit on Friday afternoon before sunset and submit them for inclusion with the hashtag #ShabbatCandlesForYitzi.

This year, the campaign will take place from Feb. 27 to March 4.

Mitzvahs can be submitted at, and photos can be shared via WhatsApp/text to +1 (770) 810-5134. Email can be sent to: [email protected].

For his first four decades, the life of Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz followed the typical contours of a Chassid. He was raised in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., the epicenter of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, where he observed and learned from the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.

He studied in yeshivah, enjoyed singing, strumming his guitar and dancing, and otherwise threw himself into Chassidic life.

Following their marriage, he and his wife, Dina, established a Chabad center in Temecula, Calif., where they raised their seven children.

Then the improbable happened, and the rabbi was diagnosed with a disease that robbed him of his movement but not his optimism and faith.

The family relocated to Los Angeles, where he became part and parcel of the culture of the city’s yeshivah, with students and faculty trekking through his apartment for prearranged and impromptu sessions of study, inspiration and joy.

In the years since his diagnosis, the father of seven became a bastion of inspiration to millions worldwide through his uplifting, transformative (and always optimistic) writings on, his musical compositions and through the bright smiles he shared with the yeshivah students.

The students had the idea ofsurprising him on his 46th birthday with 4,600 mitzvahs, and shepherded the campaign into an organized global effort that gains more and more traction every year.

This year, they are aiming for 30,000 tefillin donnings and thousands of other mitzvahs besides—an ambitious increase over last year’s goal of 20,000 mitzvahs, each one documented and shared with the rabbi.

Visit and submit your mitzvah gift for Rabbi Yitzi to become part of the world’s largest birthday mitzvahthon in history!