I chose the path of Torah life when I was still a teenager. My family emigrated from the former Soviet Union when I was 12 years old, and settling into the new country was very challenging. I knew I wanted more than material abundance; I yearned for meaning and purpose, and I saw Judaism as a manual for a meaningful life with a mission statement. Now, years later, I am still often asked why I decided to become observant, and I struggle to think back to the exact moment when I accepted upon myself the life of Torah and connection.

Throughout my journey, I’ve encountered moments thatI yearned for meaning and purpose remind me why I chose—and continue to choose—this life. I remember witnessing the groom covering the bride’s face before the chuppah at the first religious wedding I attended. There was something so pure about the groom being escorted to his bride by his male family and friends, covering her face as if to say, “I see you for more than just external attractiveness; I see your inner beauty.” I remember tearing up in complete awe, rekindling my commitment to mitzvah observance.

This year, I encountered another “ah-ha” moment.

Many of us are aware of Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz and his wife, Dina, who deal day in and day out with his advanced ALS diagnosis. Rabbi Yitzi’s health has deteriorated to the point that his only method of communication is a computer device operated by eye movements.

A spiritual leader’s best sermon is his own life. Thousands of therapists have tried to discover the secret behind perseverance and transcendence, yet many of these scholars live lives that contradict their own principles.

To see Rabbi Yitzi and his wife facing their challenge with such dignity, and ongoing devotion to G‑d, each other, their children, and the entire Jewish people, is not just inspiring but life-changing. Many of us can preach that the soul is eternal, and that the body’s function is secondary. Yet when any of our body parts fail to function, we immediately forget this philosophy and are faced with feelings of resentment towards the Creator. I ponder, as I read the articles Rabbi Hurwitz writes for Chabad.org with his eye movements, how he finds the strength in his heart to trust this unfathomable plan that was designed for him by the Almighty G‑d. How is he able to continue his work as a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary? But I know the answer. When the mission of one’s entire life is to be a shliacha messenger of the Rebbe, and of light and positivity—obstacles don’t stand in the way. Rather, every situation becomes a vehicle to move forwards.

I have never met this incredible man, but I consider him and his wife real heroes. It takes extraordinary people to be faced with such overwhelming obstacles and not be constantly discouraged, and to continue to live with his original vision; to lead, to inspire, to educate and to face illness with such dignity, despite the circumstances.

There’s another life lesson the Hurwitzes have taught me about our nation. Jewish community offers a sense of belonging that cannot be found anywhere else. Many of us have encountered the world as jungle-like, where people are left to fend for themselves and where the fittest must survive at any cost. Yet this personal challenge of one Jewish family has become part of the lives of thousands of people. Jewish people throughout the entire world help them financially, physically, and continuously pray for Yitzi and his family. His plight is no longer a private challenge, but one shared by the many who care deeply about his situation.

So when I am asked again as to why I chose to turnOur leaders are authentic in their faith my life around and commit myself to Torah, I will reply that our leaders are authentic in their faith, regardless of challenges along the way. We are led by examples of unbreakable family bonds, a sense of mission and belonging that transcends all circumstances. Regardless of obstacles, we are all emissaries with a mission to spread the light of Torah. Together with Yitzi and Dina, we are part of one Jewish nation—a people that stand strong for our G‑d, our values, and each other.

Today, I renew my commitment. Thank you, Yitzi and Dina. We may or may not ever meet, but you both should know that my life has changed because of the lessons I have learned from you.