Dear Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg,
I am writing this letter to you to give you a brief description of my broken heart.
My name is Hagar, and I am 29 years old. I live in the Bavli neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Like everyone else, I followed the story of the dreadful terror attack in India in which your daughter and son-in-law were murdered.
The pain, sorrow, and terrible suffering that I witnessed almost drove me out of my mind. The rivers of blood that had not yet dried were bad enough, but what really moved me the most was your image.
You stood before the entire nation, in pain yet proud, suffering yet whole, broken yet maintaining your faith.
I was born on a kibbutz and raised and educated with the Communist doctrine that religion is the root of all of the world’s evils, that Judaism was a bothersome drug that prevented us from integrating within the international community. For me, faith was an existential danger to science, an anathema to the thinking man.
My parents are Holocaust survivors, and I am their only daughter. I was born when they were already quite old. The thought that one day a new Hitler would arise and kill me only because I am a member of the Jewish race caused them to treat me with a certain harshness and to deny me any connection with the Jewish faith.
“Yiddishkeit existed in Poland,” my father would say, “and it remained there. You don’t need it, believe me.” But I didn’t believe him. And I rebelled.
I would get angry and then somehow reconcile myself to the situation. I really suffered. But my parents looked at it all as a “teenage crisis,” and even sent for a volunteer from the Hallel organization [an anti-religious organization that encourages Jewish youth to become secular] to convince me to desist. To desist from myself.
For several years, Rabbi Rosenberg, I’ve tried to desist, but something within me keeps pushing me to know. It pushes me to feel.
I had almost given in, and then Someone Above made sure that I would see you on all the news broadcasts. I saw your pure tears, mixed with the faith that “G-d gives and He takes away, and may His Name be blessed.” (Please forgive me for my paraphrasing.)
I immediately knew that this was the sign I had been waiting for all these years. It was the signal for me to enter the Jewish world. If this is how the bereaved are within Judaism, then I want to be a Jew.
And if this is how they weep and mourn in the Chabad movement, then today, more than at any time in my empty life, I would like to be connected to your power, Rabbi.
Connected to Chabad.
Just tell me one thing, my dear Rabbi Rosenberg, how do you ascend?
How do you reach the bright pure light from the depths of the pit where I find myself right now? Who will save me from myself? From my so-called career? From my foolish status in the business world, ruled by selfishness, power games, and conflict?
I feel so tainted by myself and my actions until now, from immersing myself in the materialism that surrounds me in my world, and from the almost impossible task of purifying myself from it.
I am Hagar. Like the Biblical Hagar, who was banished to the wilderness, my soul lies on the burning sands craving a little water, without which I will die of thirst – my tremendous thirst for the pure spirit.
But I am absolutely certain, my dear Rabbi, that I will return to the home of the righteous Avraham. Once again I will leave the barren world that I have been wandering through during the past three decades, and I will carry great comfort with me.
The comfort of the mourners over their dead on the one hand, and rising from the darkness on the other.
Thank you, my dear Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, for allowing me to be a Jew without fear, without hesitation, without having to look for excuses.
This week, Avraham’s Hagar began to do Teshuvah.
Please convey my condolences to your family, and a big hug from me to little Moishy.
In your merit, I became a Jew.