We all have complaints. Some of us sit back with the attitude of ‘What can I do? If only I had such and such, then I would be able to accomplish so much more’. And then there are the rare few who take what they were given, little as that may be, and scale the heights. Daniel Mizrachi is one of those rare gems.
Today Daniel Mizrachi is 24 years old and gets about in a wheelchair. And how he gets about! Daniel wakes up each morning and says to himself, “Now why did Hashem give me this new day? What can I accomplish with it?” It’s real accomplishments that Daniel is looking for… accomplishments that will help both him and others grow in ruchnius.
Were you born with your disability or did it happen later in life?
I was born with it. There are only five other people in the world with a similar type of CP. The doctors had predicted that I would never be able to go forward in life. Everyone, except my parents, thought I was retarded. People spoke around me, not to me, thinking I was not able to understand a thing. I just lay there like a bump on a log. In my heart, I thought to myself: Just you wait. With my belief in Hashem and my will, I’ll yet overturn worlds. If those doctors could have seen inside my head, they’d know that I was more than a bump, someone who just occupies space.
Well, you surely showed all those others who were sure that you were retarded! Are you able to use any part of your body, Daniel?
My whole body is paralyzed except for my head. When I was nine, Hashem caused the people at my school to have an absolutely brilliant idea. Since I had use of my head, they created a “hand” to be attached to my head. It was actually a stick that was strapped to my forehead. It was unbelievable. It was like having a third hand, but one that worked. It was my key to becoming independent. That little stick enabled me to get some control into my life. Now I can go anywhere moving my wheelchair with the stick. I can even make the chair spin around- very handy for chasuna dancing.
Daniel demonstrates his chasuna dance and I cheer.
I can use the stick on a computer or cell phone. I can type. I can send text messages. I can communicate. I can accomplish.
The earnest look on his face tells me how important it is to him to give! Ezer Mizion helps him a great deal. As he says, ‘ I am a ben bayis at Ezer Mizion. They do so much for me. Whenever I want to go somewhere, they are there to take me. They accommodate all my details to make things work for me. A lot of the drivers know me and some even put on my favorite CD even before I get in. ’
Even though he has learned to accept help graciously, he wants very much to give.
Nothing can stand in the way of a strong will coupled with an even stronger belief in Hashem. Belief brings such joy, knowing there is Someone watching over you. The answer to all problems in life is found in just two words: Belief and Will. My belief in Hashem has accompanied me throughout my life. It has got me to where I am and will help me to achieve even more IY’H. I feel like a passenger aboard a ship sailing on the waves of Emunah as I tear open the bars of the cage in which I was placed. That’s what I feel like- like I’m in a cage. But I’m getting out. Bit by bit.
For a moment, I think perhaps I have entered the wrong room and am attending a mussar schmooze given by a godol. Daniel continues, trying to explain to me what his life is like.
Everything I want to do in life requires some form of movement. I try so hard to figure out ways of doing what everyone else does so easily using just my head. I know I can spend my life waiting for people to take care of me but i don’t want that. I want to do things myself like everyone else.
Like what, Daniel?
I used to have to wait until someone comes every time I needed a drink. Someone would hold the cup and I would drink through a straw. It satisfied my thirst but my dignity…well, that was very unsatisfied. So I talked to myself. Daniel, I said, it’s up to you. If you want it badly enough, figure it out. Then I took the first, most important, step. I daavened. Hashem never leaves my side for a moment. I sometimes wonder when He has time for anyone else. I keep him so busy with all my needs.
Daniel grins. He seems to be always smiling. I see you have a cup of water on your wheelchair tray. Do you need help in holding it? Daniel’s grin stretches even wider.
Watch, he says.
His face now turns serious as he slowly, very slowly, enunciates a bracha. Beads of sweat appear on his forehead as he uses every bit of effort to be sure he is pronouncing each syllable correctly. I feel a bit embarrassed to be present. It’s clear that Daniel is not just rattling off a string of words but truly communicating with the Creator. Then I gasp as Daniel manages to get the cup held between his teeth, not spilling a drop. On his face is an endearingly smug grin.
Speaking is hard for me. I reserve it for when I really want to communicate. And the most important communication is, of course, with Hashem. It takes me a long time to daaven, even to make a brocha but how can I not thank the One who enables me to do so much. Daaveningshacharis can take as much as three hours. Daavening is between me and Hashem. I don’t want anyone helping me. I use a siddur with thick pages and turn the pages with my stick. I even learn with a chavrusah. After all, I’m a Yid like everyone else. It’s my Torah, too.
You are, by far, on a higher madreigah than anyone else, I whisper to myself. Daniel, what do you do after learning?
I spend a lot of time at Ezer Mizion. We daven, learn, have activities.We travel to mokomoskdoshim. This year, it wasMaarosHamachpela. Volunteers brought us all up the many stairs.
Can you tell us how you got interested in music?
I especially find it fulfilling to express my feelings in song. I’ve been zoche to publish four albums. I still remember when I first realized that I can express myself through song. I had attended a performance and suddenly I wanted to join in. I moved up front with the singer and just began to sing along. The audience loved it and, for the first time, I saw how much easier singing is compared with talking. In a flash, I saw how I could share my feelings about emunah with others by means of song. That’s when I began to compose songs. I just took my feelings and tried to put them into words. You see, my emuna is boiling inside of me. I want to share it. One song, ShmaKoleinu, I just had to sing myself. I poured all my feelings into it. People could sense that. It feels really good when people tell me how my songs affected them. One person even became a baaltshuva because of a song.
Yes, Daniel actually composes these heartfelt songs. Below is a translation of the chorus of one:
One day I looked at the natural world
And knew clearly Who created it
There is a Creator in the world (2)
He is concerned with every one of His creations.
Daniel is anxious to share his experiences.
“I got a call from one of the radio broadcasters. I got so excited that it was hard for me to speak. “We are calling from KolBaramah. We heard that you are celebrating your 24th birthday and we would like to host you and hear your latest songs.” My whole wheelchair trembled with excitement. Of course, I needed transportation but there was no question who I would call for that.Whenever I call, the answer is always, “Sure, Daniel.” Even my stick probably knows the Ezer Mizion number by heart. During the program the Mayor came on the line to wish me Mazel Tov as well as the king of Chassidic music, Avrahom Fried.
It’s easy to compose songs but the hardest thing is to get it typed up before it flies out of my head.
Daniel demonstrates how he types. It’s very time-consuming and the tremendous effort is obvious but he is amazingly accurate. I glance at the email he had sent me, marveling at how long it must have taken him to respond to my questions.
Once I got the urge to design the CD cover.
Design?? How were you able to do that?
Well, I had an idea in my head. I wanted to use a picture of Har Sinai to represent Emuna and I knew just how I wanted it to look. So I felt I had to do it myself. I got some writing materials attached to my stick and presto, there it was. Well, not exactly ‘presto’. It did take a lot of work.
Any more ideas in that busy head of yours?
Well, yes. One thing led to another and one day I decided I wanted to organize a musical event. So I did.
So you did? Just like that?
It was somewhat complicated. Getting the singers. Working out how much they would be paid. Advertising. Selling tickets. Getting a venue. In fact, the original venue cancelled on me and I had to get another one at the last minute and notify all those that had bought tickets of the change in address. The event was out of this world. I’ve done quite a few of them already.
Honestly, Daniel, I would be overwhelmed if I had to organize such an event. How do you do it?
It’s mostly done by email. Most of the people don’t even know about the CP until we meet.
He shows me his inbox. It’s jammed! Daniel has a message and he is not about to let a little thing like ‘impossibility’ stand in his way. In fact, he lectures frequently to groups composed of both disabled and those with full abilities.
“Everyone has problems,” he tells his audience. “The trick is to know how to look at them.”
Daniel has internalized the concept that we are all put here on this earth to fulfill a specific mission and we were given whatever tools we need toward that end. He continually searches for new avenues in which he can go forward.
Those of us engaged in normal activities cannot begin to imagine the effort that Daniel puts out each day to achieve what he has. A break here and there is just the vitamin he needs to continue.
Did you go to Ezer Mizion’s recent retreat?
I sure did. I try not to miss them. We had a Shabatonin Elul in Golan that truly strengthened us enabling us to continue in spite of all the difficulties we encounter. The summer Shabbaton at the Kinnnerit which began with a boat ride on Thursday was another one. They played Chassidishe music the whole way. I even got to feel the waves later after the boat ride right there from my wheelchair. And there was the jeeping trip. I can still feel the thrill of that drive! I saw people worse off than I am. I thanked Hashem for giving me so much!I clearly see how much Hashem loves me for creating me just as I am, and not in a more difficult situation. Even though I only have use of my head, I can do so much. That week gave me a charge of energy that is impossible to describe and filled me with strength for the entire year to come! Thank you, Ezer Mizion, thank you!”
I look back in awe at this giant in a wheelchair .He is called disabled??? He has more ability anyone I know. The glow on his face. The supreme happiness as he metaphorically holds Hashem’s hand. The stick attached to his forehead- he uses it sort of as a joystick and, for him, it is truly a stick of joy.
To contact Daniel regarding speaking engagement in US: danielmizrachi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
To contact Ezer Mizion: www.ezermizion.org 718 853 8400