"If you search for Him with all of your heart and all of your soul"
Team HaShem TeShuva Story!
I was born in Minneapolis, MN but when I was very young my dad decided to take a business opportunity in Guatemala. My mother was ecstatic, she is Salvadorian, so we would be next door neighbors to my family on her side. So we packed our bags and moved to Central America.
My mom was a Christian, now she doesn’t really have a religion, my dad is a nonreligious catholic. There is an extremely low number of Jews in Guatemala (at least that I knew of), and even the very few Jews that I did know, were extremely secular. Point is, I grew up knowing nothing about real Judaism, except that some don’t mix meat and dairy for who knows what reason and that they celebrate Chanukah instead of christmas. Even though our parents baptized us, made us do a first communion and a catholic confirmation (the three initiations into the catholic church), my sisters and I weren’t raised religious in catholicism or christianity. We explored some catholic and christian churches with our parents, but decided that wasn’t for us, it never felt right. I always believed in G-d, and I even prayed to Him sometimes, I just never identified myself with any particular religious group.
Years went by, I left Guatemala and came back to the U.S for college and lived a normal college life. During my senior year, I started exploring some churches again. I remember sitting in mass, trying to get into it but would always catch my mind wondering, thinking about other things, I just couldn’t connect. I had a friend who was a hardcore christian and whenever he would talk to me about it, which he did very often, I would notice that after a while I would stop paying attention and would just wonder when he’s going to stop talking. I even thought if I also spoke about it with enthusiasm and pretended to be a devout christian, maybe my heart would follow. It never did. After a while I gave up on it, decided I wasn’t a fan of getting JC shoved down my throat and that I was right years ago when my sisters and I decided that we weren’t destined to be good christians.
I went back to a non-religious life, doing whatever I wanted. I still believed there was a G-d but I connected to Him in my own way. I graduated college and shortly after started working at a nice, big, fancy company, everything was good. I started dating this guy; he was good-looking, funny, great company and a Jew. Some people warned me: “Be careful with him, Jews have a tendency of only wanting to marry other Jews! Make sure you’re not wasting your time!” I was 23 at the time, and not looking to get married any time soon, after all, I had to establish my career and become the CEO of Google before I could settle down and start a family, so I just ignored them. We would go out, like all secular couples do, go eat, drink, hang out with other friends, movies, etc.
Sometimes I would ask him questions about Judaism, like “Why do women have to cover their hair?”
Him: “For modesty”
Me: “How does covering your hair make you modest? It’s just hair.”
Him: “Hair is considered attractive, so in order to help men watch their eyes and keep away from sin, women cover their hair.”
Me: “That’s not fair, why do the women have to cover their hair, because the men can’t control themselves? WHY DO THE WOMEN HAVE TO SUFFER BECAUSE THE MEN ARE ANIMALS? THAT’S SEXIST!” (If it’s not obvious from my response, I used to be a feminist)
As we would get into these debates, he would tell me what he knew, but he was secular so it wasn’t much. Most of the time he would end the argument by saying, “I don’t really know, you would have to ask a Rabbi.”
One day he told me he wanted to start keeping Shabbat, I responded, “Um ok, what’s Shabbat?” He told me from Friday sunset to Saturday nightfall, you don’t go out, and you have a meal. I thought that didn’t seem so bad, we’ll just stay in and watch movies Friday nights and we’ll go out on Saturdays. So we started “keeping Shabbat” together.
Then one day he told me about this interesting Rabbi he started listening to, who can prove the Torah is real and all other religions are fake. Even though I wasn’t a religious anything, we all want to believe that the religion we are born into is the right one, so I was intrigued. He introduced me to the lectures of Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi. I was hooked. We were listening to Rabbi Mizrachi’s shiurim every day and I truly believed the Torah was real (and still do). My boyfriend and I would discuss the newest posted shiurim with such excitement; it was like a whole new secret world had been opened to us.
So then things got real. What do I do? Should I become a Jew? There are so many rules though! And if I do convert, I don’t want to convert for a man, I want to do it for HaShem. Who would I even go to for help? I live in FL and Rabbi Mizrachi lives in NY so that’s not really an option, and it’s not like I know any other rabbi. Then, Hashem had mercy on me and gave me some Siyata Dishmaya. I was listening to the newest Rabbi Mizrachi shiur and he introduced a guest Rabbi who came to tell his life story. He shared how he used to be a multimillionaire on Wall Street, he was secular and was married to a non-Jew, had a simple surgery gone wrong, almost died, was battling for his life and then started becoming religious and getting his wife into it. She ultimately converted and now they both live as orthodox Jews doing kiruv and helping Am Israel. This was Rabbi Yaron Reuven. After I heard his story, I was shocked! His story reminded me of my own, and even more crazy, he mentioned he lived in FL! I immediately Googled him and found out he lived 15 minutes away and had weekly lectures at his house.
My boyfriend and I decided we were going. We met with Rabbi Reuven after the shiur, told him about our situation and talked about the possibility of conversion. Long story short, I started intense daily Torah studies under the supervision of Rabbi Reuven. I remember being so worried that Mashiach would come and I wouldn’t be finished with my conversion process. I prayed every day to HaShem that He please wait for me, I wanted to be Jewish when the Geulah came. The day Rabbi Reuven told me I was ready and he would call the Beit Din to set up a time and date, I was beyond happy and excited, I’m pretty sure I cried. With the help of HaShem I had a kosher Orthodox conversion in Queens, NY.
Baruch Hashem, that boyfriend who helped me discover the truth is now my husband. We had a simple kosher chuppah, which was exactly what we wanted. Throughout our journey to Judaism we kept each other strong, motivated, and when things got hard, never let each other forget that the sacrifices we were making were worth it, just to get closer to Hashem and the ultimate Emet. I’m not going to lie, conversion is tough. Everyone who takes upon themselves this amazing journey will have to make sacrifices. I gave up my fancy well-paying job, my friends, I strained relationships with my family, faced discrimination, and much more. But you know what? With everything I lost and with every hardship I faced, HaShem payed me back beyond sevenfold! I can truly say that we’ve never been happier.
Hashem says in Devarim (4:29):
“From there you will seek HaShem, your G-d, and you will find Him, if you search for Him with all of your heart and all of your soul”
This is a promise from Hashem, whoever truly wishes to find Him and find the truth, Hashem will help you, I tell you from personal experience. How else can you explain someone who knew nothing about Judaism and the Torah, chose to take upon herself all of the mitzvot? It would be much easier just to be a righteous Noahide, and keep 7 mitzvot instead of 613! But the Torah is so sweet, it’s addictive, I just couldn’t settle for second best. I wanted closeness to Hashem and I wanted to be part of the nation that HE chose to be HIS!
This is the reason it breaks my heart to see natural born Jews mistreat the precious gift that was given to them. Secular Jews who have no idea what it means to be Jewish, or worse, religious Jews who complain about how burdensome the mitzvot are, HaShem Yerachem! They were born into royalty, yet they choose to hang out in the slums. Some have to work hard to earn their Judaism. So if you were born Jewish, please don’t waste the precious gift HaShem gave you, many yearn for that gift and are unable to obtain it.
Now, Baruch Hashem, even though we still have a lot of Teshuva to do, we do our best to live an observant lifestyle under the guidance of our dear Rabbi and Rabbanit Reuven, keeping the mitzvot and trying to help others find their way back to Hashem, just like we did.
My last note is this: Rav Efraim Kachlon, Rabbi Yaron Reuven and Rabbanit Levanah Reuven’s Mesirut Nefesh is beyond imaginable. They sacrifice their lives, time and resources for Am Yisrael without expecting anything in return, purely for the sake of Heaven. The help that they have given my family alone, cannot be repaid. They are doing what many of us cannot or will not do, the least we can do is support their Zikkuy HaRabim. May HaShem bless everyone who supports their holy work. Be’Ezrat Hashem we will all have a part in bringing Jews back to HaKadosh Baruch Hu!
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