By Rabbi Shraga Freedman, author of Living Kiddush Hashem
“Everyone, please stand up. I would like us all to do the hokey pokey together.”
With those words, Yehoshua Hoffman began a presentation he was delivering to a group of teenagers. The topic of his presentation, “True Happiness,” had piqued their interest. But his opening line earned him quizzical stares from every direction.
The puzzled teenagers rose to their feet, but their mystification did not last long. They immediately saw that Yehoshua did not stand up — because he was unable to. Yehoshua is a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down due to a horrific car accident in the summer of 2007. That accident took the life of another passenger in the car and changed Yehoshua’s life forever. The audience was in tears as Yehoshua demonstrated how he could not lift his legs and “shake them all about,” and how he could barely lift his arms to shake them. When he did raise his arms, it was clear that he had very little control over his fingers. But the most incredible part of the scene was the broad smile plastered across his face as he spun around over and over again in his wheelchair, demonstrating his own unique version of the “hokey pokey.”
If anyone could have an excuse to not be happy, it would be Yehoshua Hoffman. Before the traumatic accident, he was a powerhouse of energy, a person who was constantly on the move, running to learn and pray, enthusiastically hiking and biking. His debilitating injury robbed him of all that and much more. He struggles to perform even the simplest tasks — taking food out of the refrigerator, washing his hands, tying his shoes, or even turning from side to side to avoid dreaded bed sores. It is not difficult to imagine the average person surrendering to despair under such oppressive circumstances. But Yehoshua has found a mission.
The message that Yehoshua broadcasts with every waking moment of his life, and his main goal in his public speaking, is to demonstrate how one can appreciate the gifts of life no matter how difficult the situation. We all have many blessings that we shouldn’t take for granted. Let’s count those blessings and live happily. After that memorable hokey pokey, the teenagers in the audience would think twice before they complained about the minor nuisances in their own lives. Yehoshua has taken his tragedy and used it to make the world a better place. He has made an everlasting impact on everyone who has met him.
I encourage you to watch his short video of his life and its mission:
Yehoshua lives a life of Kiddush Hashem. Learn more about our all encompassing mission of Kiddush Hashem. For a free download of the sefer Mekadshei Shemecha and more resources, please contact [email protected].