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Uri Yitzchak Shachor

He suffers from cerebral palsy and yet, as of this week, he is also a rabbi. Uri Yitzchak Shachor, 25, successfully passed the exams of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. Recently, he told me about the path to this milestone, a rare achievement that proves how spiritual strength and determination can overcome physical limitations.

“I want the disabled in Israel to have a rabbi,” he explained, “someone who truly understands their struggles. The Torah belongs to the entire Nation of Israel, including the disabled. So I told myself: ‘In a place where there are no worthy people, strive to be worthy.’ I studied and learned a lot over the years and I succeeded.


“In my childhood, it was difficult, but today I understand that the disabled have tremendous strengths that not everyone sees. When G-d takes something from the body, he gives something else in its place. True, I am physically disabled, but I learn quickly and my memory is very good. Everything I studied in the Tanach (Bible) and the Gemara I learned by heart. Up till now, I have completed the entire Talmud twelve times.”

Sometimes he sees the lives of other people as limited. “The pace of the world is very fast,” he says. “Practically everyone is thinking about several things at once. There is almost no importance placed on hard work, on the process. Everything is solely about the end goal. I think that because of my situation I live differently. I appreciate every little thing, every small bit of progress.”

Uri studied at the Shavei Shomron Yeshiva and presently studies at the Sderot Yeshiva, where they danced this week in his honor. In successfully completing the rabbinical exams, he wanted to thank these two yeshivas. As he struggled to enunciate each word, I was reminded of another rabbi who appears in this week’s Torah portion. He is known as Moshe Rabbeinu and he describes himself as “slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

May you enjoy success in all your endeavors, Rav Uri.


Two Holy Scoops

This past week marked the 24th of Tevet, an appropriate date to recall two revolutionary ideas. They come from two spiritual giants with a rich and enduring legacy whose passing is commemorated today.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad chassidic movement, passed away 210 years ago. In the book of Tanya he writes the following: “The second soul of a Jew is mamash a part of G-d above.” He explains that we have two souls – an animal soul and a G-dly soul. The second soul, actually, is pure G-dliness. Many commentators pause over the word mamash (truly or actually). Do we understand that this is truly so, that there exists within us something that is supernal and holy? And do we grant it sufficient space in our lives?

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler passed away 69 years ago. His idea is not about what is going on inside us, but about the outside world and our relationships to other people – to our spouse, our family, and all those around us. “More than love leads to giving, giving leads to love,” he wrote. This is a radical idea since we are accustomed to thinking that how much we give depends on how much we love whereas, in truth, how much we love depends on how much we give. The more we care about and devote ourselves to others, the more our relationships with them become deeper and more meaningful.

May we be privileged to apply these two ideas throughout our lives. In their memory.


Aviv Kochavi Bids Farewell To The IDF

Aviv Kochavi, Chief of Staff of the IDF, is retiring after 40 years of military service. This is an appropriate moment to quote an excerpt from his new book, Achareicha or Follow You, a title that evokes “Follow Me,” the unofficial motto of the IDF. The book was published yesterday and contains insights into effective leadership from which all of us, not only military commanders, can learn.

“Why did Cain kill Abel?” Kochavi asks. Because his sacrifice was not accepted by G-d. In other words, because he did receive recognition. Recognition is the ‘mental oxygen’ and prime motivator of human beings.

An experiment was once conducted in a factory of the Western Electric Company near Chicago, Illinois. Researchers periodically changed the conditions of the workers – increasing or decreasing the amount of light and changing the temperature in the factory during certain hours, altering break times and their duration, and providing food during breaks, among other innovations. The productivity of the workers increased with nearly every change in working conditions, which led to a significant and far-reaching conclusion: It was the special attention given to the workers by the experimental team and factory management that led to an increase in productivity.

Every human being has a basic need for recognition. Recognition nourishes self-confidence. People stand tall and shine when they are recognized and those who are not feel small and fade away.

As a battalion commander, I adopted the practice of sending handwritten letters of appreciation. More than once I saw them hanging on the wall of a tank maintenance facility or office. As Chief of Staff, I adopted the additional practice of having a conversation with every fighting force that crossed the border to engage in military action upon their return.

Recognition of others means taking the time to listen, to pay attention, to respond to requests, to encourage feedback, to reassure and show interest. Recognition can be expressed in speech, in writing, or may come down to a single glance.”

Thank you Lieutenant General Kochavi for this insight and for the last 40 years.


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Sivan Rahav-Meir is a popular Channel 12 News anchor, the host of a weekly radio show on Galei Tzahal, a columnist for Yediot Aharonot, and the author of “#Parasha.” Every day she shares short Torah thoughts to over 100,000 Israelis – both observant and not – via Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. Translation by Yehoshua Siskin.