By Rabbi Mordechai Levin
At the age of two, an Israeli child, Avichai Sheli, lost his hearing due to a disease. The physicians told his parents that their son would never speak, and until he was four years old, they thought he was mute.
But his mother ignored the physicians and taught Avichai to speak. Eventually the boy also lost his sight, but his parents insisted that he should study in an ordinary school, instead of attending a special school.
In 2002, Sheli, along with another participant, was awarded first prize in the 39th International Bible Contest, held in Jerusalem. He competed against 53 participants from 25 countries. Sheli spent four years studying for the competition, reading the Hebrew Bible in braille. In addition to his Bible studies, the young man also enjoys sports, music and mathematics. He has also served in the Israeli army, studied business administration and now works in the stock market.
In the acceptance speech he gave during the Bible Contest award ceremony, Sheli thanked his parents for their love and support and — filled with emotion — he said, “They are the ones who have won today.”
What would Avichai Sheli’s life have been like if his parents had resigned themselves to his fate? He probably would never have spoken or gotten to where he is today. But his parents did not give up. They defied what had been deemed impossible.
Therefore, we should never lose our hope and never write a person off. We should not be disheartened by discouraging words from others — and we should not discourage others. We should not be dispirited by thoughts — another’s or our own — that there is an insurmountable obstacle blocking our hopes; we should not give up if our first efforts fall short of the desired end.
It is good to remember the words of the sage Ben Azai in the Mishnah (Pirkei Avot 4:3): “Do not disdain any person and do not underrate the importance of anything; for there is no person who does not have his hour, and there is no thing that does not have its place.”