Still recovering from an accident that left him a quadriplegic, Rabbi Yehuda Simes is using the Internet to inspire readers around the world
“Home screen. Mouse grid. One. Three. Seven. Five. Click.”
With those words spoken directly into a microphone, the mouse clicks the bookmark “Rolling Rabbi” on Rabbi Yehuda Simes’ web browser and his blog opens up on the screen.
“Well. Comma. There ya. Backspace. Delete. You, have it. Exclamation point,” says Rabbi Simes into the voice-recording technology called Dragon that is set up on his home computer. The program allows him to navigate the computer and type posts on his blog without lifting a finger.
“Technology has been a life saver, actually, a life changer,” said Rabbi Simes, who was in a tragic car accident three-and-a-half years ago that broke his neck and made him a C4 quadriplegic.
Six months ago, he started the Rolling Rabbi blog – www.rollingrabbi.wordpress.com – which now has more than 14,000 page views. Most of those views have come from where he has lived or has family – Canada, the United States and Israel – but an astonishing number of views come from places as far reaching as Nepal, South Africa and Poland.
“Part of my mission is to inspire people,” explained Rabbi Simes, who says he wants his blog to help others overcome obstacles and meet challenges. He eventually wants to expand the blog to offer Torah classes via Skype to students all over North America and in Israel. The American-born rabbi recently started a pet project of placing pins on a map of North America on the places he has been to or has Skyped with. He hopes to cover the map entirely in pins.
“We are about to enter my central control office,” said Rabbi Simes, as he shuttled down the elevator installed in his home.
There, he shows off the cardio-cycle machine that allows him to fix his fingers around two handles and spin for as long as he can. His record, he says proudly, is 31-and-a-half minutes, non-stop.
Rabbi Simes glances over to another machine in his office, a tilting table that allows him to briefly stand on his own two feet.
“This is the most challenging thing for me,” he said describing the brief moments when he has been able to stand up over the past eight months. The challenge is not physical, he explains, but emotional, due to his longing to stand again.
Many other people might be shy about divulging such heart-wrenching personal information, but Rabbi Simes insists on being open about his situation.
“I am who I am. I have nothing to hide,” he said.
Still, he is happy most of the attention he garnered from stories in local, national and international media has died down.
“I want to be a regular, normal, person,” he said.
Rabbi Simes’ recovery is slow, painful and constant as he continues to work daily with a physiotherapist. But he is showing improvement. Lately, he and the physiotherapist have been forcing his wrist to bend in an intensive splint to shorten the tendons so he can eventually turn his wrist over and pick things up.
“That’s the next frontier,” he said.
Rabbi Simes also continues to teach at Torah High, the supplementary high school he co-founded.