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Thankfully I burned the ''conversion'' certificate

Thankfully I burned the ''conversion'' certificate

Team HaShem TeShuva Story!

Hi everyone, my name is Yishai ben Avraham; to be honest my story is spread out over multiple locations and there have been multiple ups and downs in my teshuva till I met Rav Yaron Reuven.

The spark of Judaism that I received and my desire to convert happened in the most unexpected place and time. I had this strange desire to start putting Tefillin, keep mitzvot and start fasting on Yom Kippur and Tisha B'Av while reading about Judaism online and Jewish topics like Hanukkah, Shabbat and the Holocaust. This spark started at around age 10-11 in Saudi Arabia out of all places. I even started fighting with my parents to let me fast on Yom Kippur at least, as I need to keep the fast since I am reaching bar mitzvah age and need to practice. My parents were not the most happy and my father started showing me all kinds of anti-Semitic imagery to try to get me off from Judaism; mainly because I started to tell everyone in my class that I want to become Jewish (It was a Muslim country after all). I started doing research on Judaism, teaching myself basic Hebrew and learn all I could about Jewish history from a very young age. I also developed a deep desire to one day go and live in Israel. Since I was not in a place where I could meet any Jews and kept moving from place to place; I became highly depressed and slowly my desire towards Judaism mellowed down; even though I kept reading and researching about Jewish history, Israel etc.

I then came to Canada 5-6 years later (2011) and started high school in Calgary. My best friend there was Israeli, and of Jewish origin (though not halakhically Jewish) and I started to convince him about how much he should keep his faith and how amazing are Jewish people. He was just the opposite and his family criticized Jews and Judaism. I never understood why someone would look down upon the best religion in the world.

Even before reaching adulthood I was thoroughly convinced about Judaism, but just didn't know how I could do my conversion. Sadly, I ended up reaching a Reform synagogue in Calgary and ended up doing a ''conversion'' there after ''studying'' with the Rabbi for 6 months and not even doing Brit Milah (thankfully I burned the ''conversion'' certificate as Rav Yaron told me to). After a while, I started to feel weird about the shul as I remember that one of the first topics that I researched about Judaism in Saudi Arabia was Tefillin. I never saw anyone in the synagogue wear them. Though they wore tzitzit and read the Torah and had prayer services, it was strange why they would not wear this.

Thankfully, I got to see a lecture from Rabbi Mizrachi in 2014 (a few months after my Reform conversion) and knew about the whole truth. I decided to not tell my parents, friends or anyone and quickly left the city for Vancouver. There, I went to Chabad and other Orthodox synagogues where I started learning about Judaism and Torah for the first time in my life. I met with students of the PTI yeshiva on a regular basis. However, they unfortunately told me that there was no Beit Din in Vancouver and so I have to move to a different place.

I was really torn between moving to Israel for my conversion or staying in Canada. I sadly had to face a lot of double standards from both the Israeli government (who denied me entry to the country; possibly because I lived in Saudi Arabia) and the Beit Dins in Canada, some who refused to speak to me till I moved to a Jewish area and in other cases, talk to a Rabbi that they would recommend me and not just anyone I was connected to. Even though I taught myself to read Hebrew and knew many things; somehow they needed more convincing. Just like the Jewish Agency that never told me why my Israeli visa was rejected.

I didn't have any support or way to reach out to anyone and was in a very bad financial state. I decided to go back to India and stay with my family rather than face any more of this. I reluctantly told myself that my purpose was probably to just remain a Noachide.

However, at that time I had already taught myself a lot about Judaism and still felt that it cannot be that I am only supposed to be a Noachide. I had started to watch shiurim by Rav Yaron Reuven and 2 of them caught me by surprise (Wasting seed and why non-Jews cannot keep Shabbat). This is because no one ever mentioned them to me. And his style of speaking is something I really connected with. This was especially so, after I heard his life story.

Now, it was Tu B' Av 5776 (August 18, 2016), while at my uncle's office (where I was working) I made a random call to Rabbi Yaron Reuven. I was convinced that I need to talk to him and explain my situation and start helping his organization. It was like 3 AM in Miami, but the Rav still picked up the phone and decided to talk to me and answer my questions. He said that he can help me convert and that I should get in touch with his assistant Vimesh who lives in India.

Ever since then, I have been following Rav Yaron and have watched almost all of his Mussar Pirkei Avot series, which truly helped me to do Teshuva more than anything else. Besides that, being part of Team HaShem and sharing his clips on Facebook has not only saved me from dangerous encounters with my anti-Semitic family (especially from my uncle who made it his life mission to stop me from watching Rav Yaron's shiurim and threatened to harm me physically and quite possibly kill me), but also from falling into depression after all the double standards I continue facing from Batei Din and the Israeli government; and from losing faith and keep being stronger in Torah and mitzvot. I have seen my spiritual life improve beyond measure and I am a firm believer in spreading the Rav's message everywhere.

I am now aiming to finish my conversion soon with either the Beit Din in Queens, NY or go to Israel and study with Rav Zamir Cohen (Recently, I had a miracle, as Rabbi Zamir Cohen approached me and offered me to come to his yeshiva in Beitar Illit. He said he could fix the issues I have with the Israeli Ministry dealing with visas etc.

I still have a long way to go in achieving most of my spiritual goals, but there is one thing that has saved me from a roller coaster of a life I have had so far (especially the past 3 years) and strengthened my resolve to be a part of Am Yisrael  - Zikuy HaRabim and the firm words of Rav Yaron Reuven.

Yishai Srivastava

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