The spirit prevailed

Despite severe physical limitation, Uri Yitzhak Shachor became one of the prominent scholars in the Nahalat Yosef Yeshiva in Shavei Shomron.

Yosef Ehrenfeld, Besheva ,

Uri Yitzhak Shachor
Uri Yitzhak Shachor
Amichai Bachar

"Up until the second year, I struggled with my disability. I did not want to be disabled," shared Uri Yitzhak Shachor, a fourth-year student at Nahalat Yosef Yeshiva in Shavei Shomron. "Being handicapped is suffering. How much more money should be spent each month on a disabled person? Therapeutic swimming, transportation from yeshiva and back to yeshiva... It requires a lot of money and loads of strength, which I did not always have." In 11th grade, he reached a breaking point. ”I returned home and was very depressed. I had tremendous pity on my parents. During this time they raised seven children. It was difficult for me knowing I was a burden. All I wanted was to have a normal life. "

However, at one point Uri Yitzhak's attitude towards the disability changed. It was a sentence he heard from one of the rabbi's during a moment of crisis. "The rabbi asked me, 'Why are you crying? Perhaps there might be something positive about you being handicapped.' At first, I was amazed, but after a few minutes I started to change my thinking."

Uri Yitzhak Shachor is considered a rare phenomenon in the yeshiva world. Already at the age of 22, he has managed to complete the entire Shas 11 times. He achieved this remarkable feat despite his cerebral palsy, which confines him to a wheelchair. Now he aspires to the next goal: to become a rabbi in Israel, and at the next stage – a Dayan, probably the first disabled dayan in Israel.

He is the eldest son of eight brothers and sisters, and his family lives in the religious moshav Sde Yaakov in the Jezreel Valley. His father Yishai is a doctor and a mohel, his mother, Judith, is a veterinarian who runs a home clinic.

From the moment of birth, the parents realized that they were expecting quite a challenge, but only after a few months did the extent of the challenge become clear. "The family was interested in 'what Uri Yitzhak has' - how come not everything is right. Slowly things became clear until the precise diagnosis that it was cerebral palsy," he describes. Today, after a long and intense process, Shachor is willing to share his life story, with the goal of empowering those who are in a similar situation to his own. Despite the sensitive stories, his speech is slow but confident and he's not hesitant to open his heart.

"The handicapped are the greatest in the generation"

Undoubtedly this is a brilliant kid. Although he's forced to move with a wheelchair and needs basic function assistance, he is completely focused on telling his story. Beginning from Second grade, he attended the local school in his moshav, and did his high school studies at the Nahalat Yisrael Yeshiva in Migdal Ha'emek. But for a long time his awareness of his own physical state was not on his mind. As mentioned, only two years after he arrived at the yeshiva in Shavei Shomron, his consciousness changed with regard to his condition.

He gives the major credit for his attitude change to his yeshiva friend, who also helps him physically on a daily basis. "The person who really opened a completely different view of things, of what it means to be a disabled person, is Re'em Bernstein, my close friend and aide, who said a powerful and true sentence. He said that the disabled have tremendous powers that not everyone sees, and that the handicapped are the greatest people of the generation.

"At first I couldn’t understand how a disabled person can be so great, and only then did I realize that I had the opportunity to live life to the fullest. True, it is hard to be disabled and all things are done slowly, but there is also a positive side to it. A person who does things slowly, lives every moment of life. Realizing that I have limited power, but with the power I have, I do my best. Every person must understand that, even though their powers are great, they have a limit too. Not everything is achievable.

Re'em Bernstein, the friend and aide, describes Uri Yitzhak's upheaval during his first Yeshiva years. "At first, he didn't do much. His friends would help him and pamper him endlessly. By the second year, I started demanding things from him, like getting out of bed alone, brushing his teeth, adjusting the water in the shower on his own, getting in and out of the shower alone, putting on a shirt - and today he does it all by himself. I help him only as a "caddy", to bring him the objects he needs. He went through a profound change here. It really stabilized him. That's how he managed to write his own Torah commentaries. Next year he also plans to do a year of volunteer service. Without the yeshiva, his situation would've remained stagnant for many more years. He became more independent and balanced. "

Despite the physical progress he has made in recent years, Uri Yitzhak still devotes a good part of his day to physical needs. But he does not give up. "Although I am disabled, instead of everything that God takes, he also gives," he tries to balance his point of view. "I can study Torah very swiftly. My fantastic memory makes me proficient about much of the studying. In Talmud studies I learn between 15 to 20 pages of Gemara daily. "

What remains in memory of the vast volume of pages you study in order?

In response, Uri Yitzhak invites me to test him on the pages. "The Lord granted me great memory," he replies simply, "The head of the Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehoshua Schmidt tested me and can testify that not only am I a constant learner, but that I am well versed in everything I have learned. My parents also say, 'We have a great 'Siata Dishmaya' that we have Uri Yitzhak, because sometimes there are things, like halakhic questions, that my parents don't know and they ask me."

The pace of learning the Gemara pages brought Uri Yitzhak to an almost unprecedented level: To this day, at the age of 22, Shachor completed the Shas no less than 11 times. He began to learn the Gemara in its order already in ninth grade, and by the end of tenth grade, he completed the Shas three times. But only when he came to the Yeshiva in Shavei Shomron, he began to attribute importance." Rabbi Schmidt talked a lot about the need to make an interest in studying the Torah. Among the soldiers there is a high demand to become an officer that is a much-appreciated role. If we valued any smart student who graduates from rabbinical school or dayanut studies, there would be no room in the yeshivas of religious Zionism movement. Appreciating the 'Gdolei Hador' is very important, but the problem is that only they are appreciated. Less appreciated are young and smart students. It's important to remember that studying is not an easy thing, so every smart student should be appreciated."

Shachor was gifted with an outstanding memory. Each experience and event is documented in accurate detail. For example, he remembers the exact date he decided to study at Nahalat Yosef Yeshiva: "On the eve of Rosh Chodesh Adar, Masechet Beitza was concluded at the Nahalat Yisrael school, where I attended high school. Rabbi Schmidt came to attend the graduation and tested every student on the Masechet. I marveled at the depth and extent of his proficiency in the Masechet, and I overheard that this was the educational way of the yeshiva. I decided that this is something I want to be a part of, "he says." This is radiated not only in major graduation events. Every motzei shabbat night after dinner, Rabbi Schmidt's holds a 'tish', during which boys from the yeshiva finish Masechetot. "At his impressive pace of learning, Uri Yitzhak is among the finishers almost every week.

Another field where Uri Yitzhak's proficiency is evident is the Bible. When he was only in the 10th grade, he went to the national Bible quiz and came in sixth place.

How do you do the 'four minim' (four spieces of Sukkot) with only one hand?

One of the things that caused him many years of frustration is the public's attitude towards the handicapped. "This is mainly due to the speed at which the world is running today," he assesses. "The world is moving at a very fast pace. There is hardly anybody who does not think about several things at the same time. It causes a great glitch in society. Today one looks only at the quantity, how much one has achieved. That's all. No appreciation for hard work or all the challenges one has overcome". This insight, which meant that the handicapped can only proliferate through a language that is appropriate to their lifestyle, led to the fact that last winter, he began studying for the rabbinate's tests, "so that there will be a handicapped rabbi in Israel who for once, will truly understand their struggles."

The reality of a disabled person, even in the halakhic point of view, is something that a normal person finds difficult to comprehend. To understand better, Uri Yitzhak gives as an example the mitzvah of 'doing the four minim' on Sukkot. "What will a man do with only one hand? How will he complete the mizvah of the four minim? In halakhic law there are two options. Take each one of the minim separately, or do it with your mouth or foot. So is the question of whether a disabled person is being wheeled with a motorized wheelchair , "These are examples of questions that an ordinary person does not think about."
halakhic issues have occupied him from an early age. All his handicapped dealing was accompanied by not so simple halakhic questions. In the first period after receiving a motorized wheelchair, Uri Yitzhak debated about his permit to use it on Shabbat. "Basically, there are such chairs today with a Shabbat command system. When I was 14, I contacted Rabbi Dov Lior, who is our relative. Rabbi Lior said the only problem was incandescent light bulbs, because they technically were a real burning fire, but in the chair itself there was no problem of 'Deorita', so the lights in the chair were replaced with LED bulbs. "On Shabbat he reads the Torah from time to time as he sits in his chair, as he did on his Bar Mitzvah.

This past summer, the Chief Rabbinate changed the prerequisite conditions for becoming a rabbi, so that any man who turned 21 could take the exam, and not just the married ones. Uri Yitzhak pounced on the opportunity. "Not long after I arrived at the yeshiva, Rabbi Schmidt urged me to study well without any exemptions. - the Beit Yosef column, 'Shulchan Aruch' and its subjects, so that I had extensive background in the topic. The first exam in which I began to study for was in halakhic laws, along with circumcision laws.

In the month of Cheshvan this year, Uri Yitzhak and his mother traveled from Sde Yaakov to Jerusalem to take the exam. "I don't know any other parents who pushed and supported so much so their son can succeed in the Torah. I'm not sure a normal parent would be able to face the challenge". According to the Chief Rabbinate, close to 5,000 people from all over the country were tested at this time, with Uri Yitzhak being the only disabled candidate. "They told my mom this is the first time a person in a wheelchair came to take the bar. Basically, the test is in writing, but since I can't write, a tester came up and typed the answers for me. The test was long and hard, with no reference material, I needed to remember it all, including the 'shakla and terya'.

Six months ago, his 75-year-old grandfather, the late Rabbi Shmuel Friedman, died suddenly. He was a very active person and came to Shavei Shomron at least once a week to study with his 'chavruta' Uri Yitzhak. Towards the Grandfathers 'Shloshim' Uri Yitzchak published a booklet "Lehavot Yitzchak - Siftei Shmuel" - Torah commentaries on the book of Numbers he wrote himself, along with reminiscences about his grandfather."

"Re'em saw that I was in a glum mood in the days following the death of my grandfather. He encouraged me and served as a listening ear. He suggested that we publish a booklet of Torah in his memory. This raised my mood a bit. There is no greater comfort than that, which the grandson pulls out a booklet with Torah for the 30th day of his grandfather's death."

The idea of ​​publishing a Torah booklet was conceived even earlier. "I thought to myself: 'If I'm not for myself, than who is and when I'm only for myself then what am I? 'If I study Torah only for myself, what am I? It's time to put my thoughts into action."

In the booklet in memory of his grandfather he collected Torah commentaries on the book of Numbers, which were already written down by his yeshiva friends. They are now in the final stages of preparation for the publication of the full book of Uri Yitzhak's Torah commentaries, towards K"A Adar, the day of the death of Rabbi Elimelech of Lyzansk, who wrote "Let us see the virtue of our friends and not their shortcomings." His aspiration and main goal is to make "Handicapped Day" a day in which the public stops and salutes the disabled.

"A disabled person is not inferior"

In addition to investing his time and energy in the rabbinical studies, and subsequently ordaining special Dayan litigation, Shachor also works to make the basic services needed for every Jew available, such as the mikvahs.

He discovered that things could be changed and executed better. When he came to study at the yeshiva in Shavei Shomron, the yeshiva was not accessible and handicapped friendly at all. "The yeshiva has turned itself inside out for me," he describes excitedly, "the place was inaccessible and had to raise more than NIS 40,000. They brought in a contractor so that the Yeshiva will be accessible. Today we are proud that the yeshiva is accessible. The Torah belongs to all people of Israel, including the disabled. "

In contrast, the status of the mikvahs in Israel, he says, is far from satisfactory. "Today, for a handicapped man to bathe in the mikveh is a tremendous effort. I have to find where and how. I want to change that reality. To create a situation that every city will have an accessible mikveh. Wherever a handicapped man goes, he should be situated to Torah and faith. The next stage is to make all yeshivas accessible. "

In the near future, Uri Yitzhak has plans to open a Facebook page where he will share his personal experiences as a disabled person, with the aim of changing the public consciousness towards people with disabilities. "The idea came after some very sad stories, where the handicapped were looked upon as someone only with disabilities and not more. People didn't realize the size of their treasure and didn't realize they had spiritual powers. If they say that a disabled person has no powers and is an inferior person, then why should a disabled person make decisions, or even become an 'avrech'? To combat the disabled perception, I will open a Facebook page and hope to inspire the general public. My slogan is: 'A person with a disability is not inferior', "he said.

He quotes a rabbi who once said to him: "A handicapped becomes a disabled person because the body could not meet the size of the soul and is therefore broken." "Some people do not understand it," he said, "sometimes even people who are very close to the handicapped do not understand it. Disability is a cover, and when you open the cover, you find unbelievable spiritual strengths."

"Uri Yitzhak is a symbol of strength in his insistence," says Rabbi Yehoshua Schmidt, the head of the yeshiva, "he could give up and get lost so easily. Even in classes, he participates and does not give up. Apart from the single individuals that help him every day, the entire yeshiva is committed to him and wants him to be happy. We're glad he doesn't feel alone. Many times we take him to the center of the dance circle. He joins us in weddings also and we don't give up on him. On Simchat Torah we danced around the neighborhood and, and of course, took Uri Yitzhak with us. "

"When Uri Yitzhak first arrived, we knew there was a big task to be managed," Rabbi Schmidt recalls, "to take a boy with disabilities who leaves home for the first time to a full time boarding school. Apart from the physical difficulty, there was also the difficulty of moving. We saw this as a task, but we didn't know exactly how big exactly it was going to be. At first there were difficulties and it was unclear how we would get past them. We had a lot of conversations with the boys and his parents, who have boundless powers, very strong people who give us great sustainability. Today we are at the point that Uri Yitzhak is an essential light in the yeshiva. We cannot picture the yeshiva without him. His knowledge, his thoughts, his behavior, his Torah and his wisdom of life. We hope that all the yeshivas will take on boys with disabilities. It will enhance them and make them better people."