How I Got To Where I Am Today

A close friend of my family asked about my background and how it influenced who I am today.

I suppose that I can’t be definitive about the influences of the past, but I can comment on what changed before the accident as opposed to now.

I spent many years immersed in mussar study (ethical teachings) while I was in yeshiva. As well, I worked hard on my rebbe’s shmuzin (ethical discourses).

All that I had thought I knew I quickly found out after the accident that I had no clue!

Now, I want to be absolutely clear that I really did know all about emunah and bitachon (faith and trust in Hashem).  When it really counted however, I found myself at ground zero. I had to relearn that which I had taken for granted.

My fresh new book of choice became Chovos Halevovos (Duties of the Heart). Fortunately, I had placed sticky flags at places of interest in the book before the accident. The accident rendered my hands and fingers useless.

My life saving chapter became the chapter on bitachon (trusting in Hashem).

I suddenly came to the realization that I understood life on a whole deeper plane!

What I had thought was important, no longer mattered to me.

For example, while still in the ICU after the accident I came up with the motto, “walking is overrated”.  In fact, a friend made me a T-shirt that said my motto.

I guess I’m saying that my past studies gave me a strong foundation with which to work, but I viewed life through a different lens.

Never before had I appreciated swallowing or taking a breath as I do now.  When  I regained the ability move my arms a bit, I discovered the tremendous blessing of movement.  When I got sensation back, I realized the gift of feeling.   This came in handy to know when an arm or a leg would get caught in a doorway.  And this new sensitivity spilled over to things I had not lost.

Now I realized the blessing of sight and hearing as never before.  I became super  sensitized to the myriad of gifts that Hashem has gifted our bodies with.   Now I can add eating and speaking.  I suppose it’s time for a T-shirt that says,  ” eating and speaking are overrated”.

In addition, my experience has reinforced the powerful truth that Hashem has endowed us with incredible inner strength to accomplish unbelievable feats when situation calls for it.   We’re all familiar with stories where regular people  went beyond their capabilities when in crisis mode.  The explanation is that these super human abilities lay dormant within them until they detonated with terrific force when it was called for!

My Rebbe used to relate that when he was a young man he once told his father that he felt like a hypocrite when saying the Shema Prayer. The Shema says that we must be ready to give up our lives when the situation calls for it.  My Rebbe sighed that he couldn’t honestly say those words. He was not ready to sacrifice his life for Hashem.

His father reassured him that true, he could not do so now, but when the time would come he would suddenly find the strength!

He explained to him that one is endowed with untapped strength. This unknown strength will  rush to the surface when the motivation is great.

The trick is to live life with inspired motivation so that we can tap into our true strengths and abilities!






  1. · · Reply

    such wise words and one that I go by. One day at a time and also lots of asking to hashem. Let this day be a good day. Let my husband have a good day. let my son do well for his future and find a job, let this new baby coming into our family be well and may my daughter in law enjoy being a mother. let my older son find his place for his future and continue to enjoy his fatherhood. and his family. so m any wants and sincerely not shy to ask every day I am so thankful and say the shema faithfully more now that I am older then when I was younger. Life sometimes get in the way but since we get older there is time to think about all the good stuff and yes, inspite of the yukky stuff appreciate that we get a chance everyday to make it a better day no matter how difficult. You are not alone in your journey. WE all struggle but like you I have faith too and and thankful.

    1. It sounds like you are taking speaking to Hashem very seriously! This can be the most meaningful form of prayer.

  2. Zev Singer · · Reply

    Let me tell you this, Rabbi Simes. A few days ago, I was faced with a decision: I could do things the easy way or the better way. I was very tempted to do it the easy way and almost did. Then I thought about you. I said to myself, “Does Rabbi Simes run away from a challenge? If he can stay focused on his job as an Eved Hashem, then why can’t I?” Then I made the mental effort to do the job in the best way I could. It was just one of the hundreds of tiny little decisions we all face each day, as we try to remember that each one of those actually matters. So, to your point in this blog post, you have been inspiring me to find that untapped strength.
    Thank you!

    1. Let me tell you this, Zev! I urge you to start own blog for the benefit of us all! Then, you might consider a book!!

  3. I’m sleeping over at Becky & Moti’s tonight at the end of spending this past year in Israel, and Becky sat me down to read this most recent post in your blog. With only two short days left before I return home, I’ve been filled with introspection and deep analysis over my year of Torah learning and honestly found what you wrote to be particularly relatable at this time. This year has given me a new lens with which I look at life. I’m discovering strengths from within that I simply never had the chance to utilize before. I’m gaining an appreiciation for the blessings in my life that I used to overlook, and realizing what truly matters to me and what I can do without. Clearly none of these are to the same extent of walking, eating, or feeling, but nontheless it is the beginning of a path. I am so inspired by what you write about emunah and bitachon and feel that it helps show me the potentials that I can reach. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings on your blog–it truly gives “inspired motivation” to all.
    Avital Stein

    Yehuda, you never cease to inspire us. Your thoughts are very true and ring loud and clear to all your loyal followers. Keep up your good sipirts!

    1. Beautiful words just marvelous! I am moved and flattered beyond words!
      Uncle Yehuda

  4. Marge Kaplan · · Reply

    You are special in case you don’t already know it. You are among a select few who have taken what has happened to your body and used your faith to compensate. You have problemsolved in a way that few could and along the way have used this opportunity for inspire others.


    1. Your words left me speechless, ha ha!

  5. Baruch Lederman · · Reply

    It sounds like what you’re saying is that when you experience senses and abilities all at once it is more difficult to discern the individual value of each. In your post accident experience you experienced each new sense or ability in a one by one manner so you got to appreciate each in a more focused way.

    Somehow this reminds me of learning. When you try to explain a terutz to a kasha, there may be several nekudos in your understanding of the terutz, but there is only one nekuda that answers the kasha. Your job is to figure out which nekuda.

    On a more mundane and personal note, I usually don’t like mixing food on a plate together. I like to eat foods separately. I am not OCD, I don’t care if the foods touch or anything like that. I just like to taste each food separately. I feel I enjoy each individual item more that way.

    1. As usual, very profound and well put! Thanks!

  6. Yisroel Goldbaum · · Reply

    Too bad I didn’t read this until today. Every day gone by without this message, is a day not lived to its full potential!

    1. You are too kind!

  7. Tovah · · Reply

    We had a week-long mussar class in my seminary last week, and you know what we talked about? Chovos levavos!

    I told the Rabbi about you, I just need to look up his email address so that I can forward him your blog.

    Happy Canada Day, eh?

    1. Nice to hear from you in the holy land! How is it going? We are so proud of you! Please send me a note at my email telling me all about your experiences. Thanks!

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