Ray of lightRay of light

ALS-struck rabbi writes hopeful musical message

Popular Orthodox Jewish performers from across the Diaspora and Israel sing Yitzi Hurwitz’s own composition promoting peace and togetherness

Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Musical friends sing tribute to Yitzi Hurwitz, a Chabad emissary stricken with ALS. (YouTube)
Musical friends sing tribute to Yitzi Hurwitz, a Chabad emissary stricken with ALS. (YouTube)

A moving music video tribute to a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary suffering from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) has captured the heart of viewers, who are sharing it widely on social media. Posted earlier Friday, it has already racked up 120,000 views on Facebook alone.

The video features a song, “Shine A Little Light,” written by the ill emissary, Yitzi Hurwitz, director and spiritual leader of the Chabad Jewish Center in Temecula, California. The father of 7 was struck down by ALS (a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2013. Since then, he has has become almost totally paralyzed and has lost his ability to speak. However, he is still able to smile and communicate by moving his eyes and directing his gaze at letters on a computer screen.

Friends and supporters of Hurwitz came together to make the music video. Directed and produced by Chaim Marcus, the film intersperses footage of Hurwitz from before and after he took ill with performances by various American, Israeli and British singers — most with major followings among ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Among those appearing is superstar Brit Alex Clare, along with Benny Friedman, Mordechai Ben David, Gad Elbaz, and Avraham Fried. Non-Haredi performers also sing, including the legendary Israeli entertainer Yehoram Gaon, and popular Jewish a cappella group the Maccabeats.

Because of kol isha, the prohibition in the Haredi community for men to hear a woman’s singing voice in public, no women sing in the video.

Hurwitz’s own singing voice is heard at the beginning and end of the video. These snippets were taken from a cell phone recording of Hurwitz singing his original composition in 2008, before he contracted ALS and lost the ability to vocalize.

“Shine A Little Light” is a hopeful song about people — individually and together — working to bring a brighter future. This idea is expressed in all the song’s lyrics, and especially in these two verses:

When we stand together as one,
there’s nothing that we can’t do
so let’s lead the way,
to a brighter day
and the whole world will join along

We can bring a brighter day
for everyone,
it’s only up to me and you
we can see it, we all believe it,
so let us shine our light right now

Those viewing the video on YouTube can scroll down to a link to a fund set up in support of Hurwitz and his family, as well as to a link to Hurwitz’s blog, which he continues to painstakingly write every Thursday. In his blog posts, he expounds on the weekly Torah portion.

“I love when I get visitors, because when I am alone, I start thinking about myself, and like everyone else, I have things that bother me, that is totally out of my control. When I get visitors, my focus is all about them. The same is true when I write these Dvar Torahs, it makes me focus on others, and it gets me out of thinking about myself.

“It is my hope that Moshiach [the Messiah] will come soon, and all suffering and pain will end,” he wrote in his latest post.

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