Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

24 Elul 5765 - September 28, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








From a Kingdom on Earth to the Kingdom of Heaven

by Rav Rafael Berlzon

This is not just "another" story of a convert. This is not just "another" story of teshuvoh. Rav Natan Gamadza's story has moved thousands. It will move you — hopefully to your own teshuvoh and kabbolas Ol Malchus Shomayim.

Rav Natan Gamadza is a ger tzedek from a unique background: He is the son of one of the true kings still in power on our days. His story is an inspirational one of teshuvoh, that also gives insight into Malchus, one of the themes of Rosh Hashonoh. The gemora says that we should try to experience earthly kingship, in order to appreciate how it is distinct from Jewish kingship that we will see when the Melech Hamoshiach arrives.


I was born in the royal palace. I was given the name Gusinti. In today's world there are not many true royal monarchies. In Belgium, for instance, there is a king, but who actually rules the country? The elected prime minister or the president.

My father is a king. He has unlimited power to do as he pleases. There are not many kings in the world who have this kind of power. Only a few monarchies remain, in Africa and the Far East. In our day, in most of the world, the title of king reflects the honor the king receives but does not reflect any actual power. And we know the definition of king in Judaism is of a true king.

I saw Father sentence people to death several times during the course of my life. Generally, it was through strangulation and sometimes by sword, depending on the severity of the violation. But this is not something that happens often. The king uses this power after weighing the matter carefully, and not out of anger or similar feelings. First he consults with his advisors and evaluates the different sides of the matter to determine whether it would be for the good of the crown.

Gamadzaland is a kingdom in Swaziland, which is located in Southeast Africa. Its territory is about the same size as that of Eretz Yisroel. Swaziland has two kings. The other king, from the Lamini Family, is more famous outside the country than my father.

The royal palace is huge, with numerous wings. There are innumerable halls and rooms and everything is built with splendor and opulence. I was raised by servants, caretakers and craftsman. I lacked nothing. Private tutors spent long hours imbibing my brother and me with comprehensive knowledge in every field.

In the royal palace there are servants whose only task is to praise the king. They extol him in detail and recall events that took place in the kingdom's history. They declare his praises all day! In the palace, the king hears tributes to him from morning to night. The king wears the royal crown only during ceremonies, but he is always recognizable because he wears special clothes.

Standing before the King

In principle the king is available to every subject who wants to speak with him. This is how one is received:

First one enters a large hall with many people. Whoever comes to the king begins to extol him with words of praise such as "the Great Lion," "the Vast Sea" and various other honorary titles. The king passes through the court and takes note of someone he is willing to receive, and then he tells his servant to summon the person to his inner chamber. The person enters and meets the king who is surrounded by his advisors. The king is never seated alone.

When somebody comes to speak with Father, he is aware of the significance of standing before a king with such great power. Those who speak with the king stand with great awe and fear, and are careful about every word that leaves their mouth. One knows that if he upsets the king, it could cost him. I saw people stutter and tremble in fear. It is a difficult experience and I saw it every day.

I think the honor and power of a king is identical to the way his subjects relate to him. We have a custom that forbids standing higher than the king. If the king is short, as in our case, everyone stoops down and draws up to him little by little. During the summer when the king sits on a rug you see the royal dignitaries crawling on all fours! As they approach they offer praises — "the Great Lion," "the Vast Sea . . . "

Sometimes people ask me if those who express their admiration for the king do so from the bottom of their hearts or because they have no choice. I think the vast majority of the people really do respect the king and are not merely showing it on the outside. The other king in the country, from the Lamini Family, is just 35 years old and does many things that are not so dignified. Therefore unrest increases in his kingdom in accordance with his conduct. I think there are people there who honor him only because this is the rule and because they are aware that he knows how to handle them.

But we have not come to a situation like this in which the king behaves in an irresponsible manner. The vast majority of the people are very happy in the kingdom and respect the royal family and want it to continue. Still I should note that the spirit of modern democracy is having its effect and therefore it is hard to foresee whether this situation will continue forever. People may want a change or may seek power for themselves. I do not know. What I can do is talk about the current situation and how the people feels in general.

Our King, Our Father

As a prince I had a special status. I could have a private audience with the king himself without any advisors present, but first I had to ask permission. I couldn't say, "Father, I need you now." First he was the king and only afterwards my father. Not "Ovinu Malkeinu" but "malkeinu ovinu."

Actually this is logical, since those who are really close to the royal court have to be more wary with his honor than those who are more distant. The king's true honor is apparent through those close to him more than through those who are far removed. Usevivov nis'aro me'od (Tehillim 50:3).

One of the things I mention in my lectures is the structure of tefillas Shemoneh Esrei. When I discovered Judaism I was very surprised to see that the order of tefillas Shemoneh Esrei is precisely the same as the protocol of a meeting with the king in my country: Saying praises, laying forth requests and the manner of parting by taking three steps back. This is identical to a meeting with a king today!

I was surprised that Jews know how to conduct themselves before a king when there has not been a king of flesh and blood for thousands of years. To this day, I notice to what a great extent the issue of royalty is central to Judaism.

For me personally, it is easier to make HaKodosh Boruch Hu King over me. Crowning Hashem comes more naturally to me because I have lived this. I don't need to use my imagination. Other people, particularly people from the West, find it very difficult to envision royalty because they are unaccustomed to it.

"What is a king, anyway?" one thinks to himself. "How do I `crown' Hashem?" One must activate his power of imagination before he begins to feel fear and awe before Hashem, while to me this comes naturally. But I think every individual can arrive at this feeling. I only have an advantage in terms of my starting point, but not to where this can be taken.

How It All Got Started

Since childhood, I was troubled by the questions of why we are here on earth. And what is the purpose of life?

But I continued to receive the prestigious education I was provided. While I was still a boy, the death of the other king in the country began to draw near. Irresponsible figures began to whisper to him that Father planned to overtake his kingdom after his death and to oust his son. Feelings of unease formed between the two kingdoms and to help restore calm, Father agreed to move to England for a time.

I continued my education at prestigious schools in England. Actually, it is customary around the world for princes to attend British academies. My father is an educated person and all my brothers and sisters studied at universities as well. In England, I saw a lot of Jews, but I still did not make my way into Judaism.

When we returned to Gamadza I wanted to continue my university studies in South Africa. My mother was born in South Africa and she tried to persuade me not to take this step. She told me about the discrimination against blacks that pervades South Africa. But my decision had been made. I made an idealistic decision to study in a university where the majority of students were white, thinking that I would prove there that skin color does not dictate one's intellectual level.

At the university, I majored in German and Italian. Once I was sitting in a very boring class on Italian literature. I noticed a student was writing from right to left in some strange writing. After class I went over to him and asked what he had been writing. "My Hebrew homework," he replied. Hebrew! That looked interesting. I decided I wanted to study the language of the Bible as well.

That's really how it all got started . . .

Outreach . . . by a Goy!

I went to the Hebrew department and signed up for a class in Hebrew grammar. After six months, I went into the language lab where an Israeli translator had been brought in to help us understand texts. He played us a tape in Hebrew and the first segment we heard was the chapter on Akeidas Yitzchok.

When I heard Loshon Hakodesh I felt like there was something pulling me. I also experienced Avrohom Ovinu's mesirus nefesh in the Akeidoh and the difficulty he had to go through. To this day, when I read this, it does something to me, for that was really my entry into Judaism.

African states are essentially secular but most of the citizens create for themselves a combination of Christianity and African religions. I always believed in one thing: there is a Creator. Not only did I believe, but I also lived with a certain feeling since birth, a feeling I was unable to explain to myself. When I discovered Judaism I was able to identify the feeling I had always felt. "This is it!" I said to myself. "This is what I want."

Since then, from the moment I discovered Loshon Hakodesh, nothing else interested me. I knew I absolutely must uncover the inner secret of Loshon Hakodesh. What was it? What was going on here? I knew something lay here, that something was going on here. I continued studying Hebrew and searching for what I called at the time the secret of Loshon Hakodesh.

One day I found a book called Mishnoh Torah, written by the Rambam. Why did this book pique my interest? I don't know. I began to leaf through it and I told myself I would take this book and read it from cover to cover.

During this period I would share things with my Jewish friends at the university. I would show them and say, "Look what the Rambam writes, look what he says." Little by little, my friends began to take an interest in the Rambam and to draw closer to Judaism.

Lech Lecho

At a certain stage, I decided to concentrate on my major subjects, German and Italian. A professor from Israel came to the university to teach Hebrew. He checked the enrollment list and asked about me. He was told I had left the department. The professor tracked me down and asked why I had left. "I saw you got very good marks," he said.

I told him I wanted to continue with German and Italian and then he suggested I do a Ph.D. in Hebrew in Eretz Yisroel. I listened to his proposal and wondered how the idea of going to Eretz Yisroel had fallen into my lap.

From the material I had read, I knew there was a tight connection between Eretz Yisroel and Jewish identity. When I studied Tanach, I tried to understand why Avrohom Ovinu had been told to go to Eretz Yisroel. Why couldn't he stay where he was?

I realized there was something special that connected discovering truth and Eretz Yisroel and I wanted to receive a full picture of this connection. When I accepted the opportunity to come here, I felt I was being sent a Divine gift. A gift that would help me down the road.

During this period, I did not know what to do with the fact that I was taking an interest in Judaism. At that stage I was not considering conversion. I simply felt that HaKodosh Boruch Hu was taking me by the hand and I would have to exercise patience. Eventually I would arrive at the place he was leading me to.

I came to Eretz Yisroel and began to study Aramaic at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Back then I did not know how this would help me, but of course after my conversion my Aramaic studies helped me a lot in gemora study.

I enjoyed my studies greatly, but I walked around with an inexplicable feeling: Why do I feel there is a great gap between the mesirus nefesh of Akeidas Yitzchok and what I was seeing here? Why couldn't I find any inner meaning that spoke to me? I started to think that my decision to come to Eretz Yisroel had been mistaken.

One day I received a phone call from my Jewish friends at the university in South Africa—friends who had gone back to their roots through me and now they were telling me they were studying in Eretz Yisroel at a yeshiva called Ohr Somayach and they wanted to see me.

I went to the yeshiva to visit them and was surprised to see that they had become real chareidi yeshiva bochurim! I was amazed at the long journey they had traveled and the changes they had undergone in their way of life.

They asked me how it could be that a goy had brought Jews closer to Judaism? They told me that reading the Rambam had given them chizuk until they became observant Jews. They told me I was "to blame" for the process they had gone through.


"Are you thinking of converting?" they asked me.

"As long as I am able to sleep soundly at night, I won't take such a step," I replied.

That may have been an extreme answer but I felt great confusion at the time. Let me tell you why. I was very preoccupied with the question of why HaKodosh Boruch Hu had given me a desire and enthusiasm for something that did not belong to me. What was the connection between a young African and Judaism?

I was frustrated by the thought that if I wanted to become a Jew I would have to exert myself internally and spiritually, whereas my friends had been outsiders and all of a sudden they had become insiders, studying in a yeshiva.

I searched for an answer to the question of why I had been placed in such a situation of being a goy with an attraction to Judaism. If I should be a Jew why hadn't I been born a Jew? After all there are Jews who are unaware of their tie to Judaism and they have no interest in a connection to Judaism. Why couldn't I switch places with them? Let them be born goyim and me a Jew . . .

By then I already understood Judaism does not work like that, but I was frustrated by the situation I was in. I took an angry stance and decided if that was the way things were then I would never convert.

I had to go through some very powerful experiences before deciding to convert.

I went to several hashkofoh shiurim at Ohr Somayach and immediately recognized what I had been searching for all the time. I felt the connection to Akeidas Yitzchok and to the Rambam's book. I was on the right track! I realized the university was not really what I was looking for and that I wanted to be in yeshiva learning Torah.

The answer to the question of why I had been born a goy, I received only much later. At first HaKodosh Boruch Hu allowed me to understand that He is the Baal habayis and He does not owe me any answers. When I eventually got my answer, it was like a getting a present from HaKodosh Boruch Hu.

Four years ago, I transferred to the English-speakers' shiur at Shaarei Binoh in Tzfas. It was parshas Yisro and I posed a question I had heard from HaRav Moshe Carlebach at Ohr Somayach. Chazal focus on the fact that Yisro was the first to say, "Blessed be Hashem, Who saved you from the hands of Egypt" (Shemos 18:11). Why? Why did the first "boruch Hashem" not come from the Jews themselves?

The answer is that there is greater honor for HaKodosh Boruch Hu if an outsider recognizes Him and accepts His reign.

When I heard this, a thought popped into my head as if it had been sent from Shomayim. Nu? . . . And I understood what this "nu" was. What do you think in your case? Is this not a show of greater honor for HaKodosh Boruch Hu when someone is brought to Judaism from so far away? How can you still ask why you weren't born a Jew?!

When I saw how people derived chizuk from my life story I understood the answer. But first I had to understand that I was not the focus of the matter, rather the whole world was created for HaKodosh Boruch Hu's honor. My life story is not a personal story but a story of what HaKodosh Boruch Hu wants to reveal in His world.

Running Away

But during my period of study at Hebrew University I still did not have an answer to my question.

"You've gotten yourself into a real bind," I said to myself. "Whether you stay at the university or go to yeshiva you will remain a member of a small minority—mi'uta demi'uta. A goy among Jews. You will not be able to develop this way and you won't be able to discover why it was you were born a non-Jew because you are trying to identify with people who are different from you."

I came to the conclusion that I should leave it all behind and continue living the life I had been born into. This sounded logical to me and when the university went on vacation I traveled to Rome. It was an escape—or an attempted escape—from Judaism. In Rome I was among goyim and I told myself, "Here in Rome Judaism wouldn't be able to find me."

As an aficionado of Italian art, I went into the Vatican to see the works of art. I was astonished by the beauty I saw. I marveled at how the Roman people had controlled the whole world and made such great contributions to Western culture. I held them in high esteem. As I was walking around, I began to think about some of the things I had heard during the hashkofoh shiurim I had attended in Jerusalem.

"Hold it," I said to myself. "Do you remember what these people you so admire did to the Jewish people? They waged an Inquisition. They burned people alive! They were extremely cruel people!" I asked myself how I could admire such perverse people.

I left there thinking about all the suffering Am Yisroel has experienced throughout the generations. I recalled what a Jew says when he gives his life to sanctify Hashem's Name: "Shema Yisroel . . . " I went back to my hotel room and for the first time in my life I covered my eyes and said, "Shema Yisroel . . . "

I felt a tremendous power as if all those who had died through kiddush Hashem throughout the generations were together with me saying Shema Yisroel. It was such a strong, palpable feeling! I was very afraid because I did not know how to explain what I felt. And then once again I asked myself, "Why is HaKodosh Boruch Hu revealing this to me? What is the connection between me and Shema Yisroel?"

But my cynicism prevailed. I decided to disregard the matter and continued touring Rome.

One morning I went down from my hotel room to eat breakfast. I sat next to the plate, picked up the fork and drew it towards me, but I didn't put the food in my mouth. This happened three or four times.

"Why don't you eat?" I asked myself. "What's the problem? Don't tell me the food is not kosher: You're a goy and you can eat whatever you want."

Suddenly I recalled one day I had been with my Jewish friends and nobody ate. While I was with them I felt it was not appropriate for me to eat either. We spent the whole day together and in the evening we went out to eat. Was this the same day of the year? I dismissed this out of hand. Impossible.

Suddenly I recalled leaving Eretz Yisroel shortly after Rosh Hashonoh. "I know this is all nonsense," I thought, "but why don't you go check the dates anyway?"

I went to my room, took out a schedule book and began to count how many days had gone by since I'd left Eretz Yisroel. I saw one of the squares was marked, "Yom Kippur."

No, this can't be! It's impossible. I took out another schedule book and it, too, indicated it was Yom Kippur. I thought I was out of my mind. I left the hotel, stopped a taxi and drove to the Jewish quarter, Il Quatro Sol. I went into the nearest beis knesses and saw everyone was cloaked in white.

I stepped in further, sweating and trembling all over. How could it be that I had felt the holiest day in Judaism?

I left, recalling how I had told my Jewish friends that I would not convert as long as I was able to sleep soundly at night. I felt as if HaKodosh Boruch Hu was telling me, "If you don't want to sleep well at night that can be arranged . . . "

I don't know how to explain it. I felt as if HaKodosh Boruch Hu had forced me to recognize this, allowing me no escape. HaKodosh Boruch Hu gives a person a certain number of opportunities. "If not now, then when?" I asked myself.

I was afraid if I didn't do anything when my time came I would be told, "You cannot say you searched for the truth, because when you were shown the truth you fled from it."

"I know the Torah is true," I said to HaKodosh Boruch Hu, "and that Am Yisroel is Your nation. I see where you're leading me to and I'm going back to Eretz Yisroel to convert."


When I was asked in beis din why I wanted to convert, I replied by quoting the verse, Va'ani kirvas Elokim li tov (Tehillim 73:28). After my conversion, when I laid tefillin I felt a tremendous closeness to HaKodosh Boruch Hu as I whispered the verse, Ve'eirastich li le'olom. Klal Yisroel is HaKodosh Boruch Hu's bride!

Before my conversion I knew it meant severing ties with my family and giving up everything. Even according to Western standards, my father has a great deal of money and power. He has everything he could want. But I knew, even if I were to receive things like this I would not feel comfortable about it. I knew how hard it would be. My ties with my family were severed for 16 years.

During the Persian Gulf War, my father worried about me. Missiles were falling in Eretz Yisroel and he wanted to know what was happening with me. He found out where I was and he was told his son had converted and was studying Torah in yeshiva.

Father was very angry. I can understand his reaction. Any parent who sees his children choosing a different set of values is pained by it. I think this is perfectly normal, especially since Father is a king. But I was afraid he would use his power against me. I realized right away I would not be going anywhere near Swaziland for a long time.

After 16 years of being cut off, my father called and said, "Son, we haven't seen you for 16 years. We all miss you. Your brothers and sisters have married and have children of their own. We want to see you. You don't have anything to be afraid of," he added. "Nothing will happen to you."

I decided I was willing to meet, but only on neutral territory because I was still worried that Father held a grudge against me.

I met the whole family at the airport in Johannesburg and we all cried. When I saw Father I recited the brochoh one says upon seeing a non-Jewish king, "Boruch shenosan mikevodo levosor vodom."

I saw an old man before me. Actually, all of us had aged. It was a very emotional reunion. "You're all grown up now," Father said to me, "and you've made a commitment to live your life like this. I've come to terms with it. We just want you to continue to stay in touch with us."

Judaism Simply Reflects Reality

During the course of my spiritual journey I skipped over Christianity. I couldn't even come near it. It's like going up to a trash bin to see if there's some food inside. I felt that it was all lies.

In Judaism I discovered something that greatly surprised me. It is not kept hidden that HaKodosh Boruch Hu demands difficult things from you—He demands mesirus nefesh! And this was the first thing I learned: Akeidas Yitzchok.

In Judaism there is no hiding that Hashem's wrath might be manifested, killing thousands of people at once. Judaism does not hide the tikkun cheit of teshuvoh and various other things for which the individual himself is responsible.

When I discovered these things in Judaism I felt this approach was correct. This concurs exactly with the reality. If a person violates the law he cannot come to court and say, "Oops, sorry about that." That won't help. Following a transgression one must pay a fine or go to jail. The same applies regarding sins. One must rectify the distortion as much as possible.

In my view Judaism simply reflects reality.

A Personal Kabbolas HaTorah

Rav Natan Gamadza's appearance reveals nothing: a white shirt, black pants and a large black yarmulke. His calm, modulated voice belies his turbulent life story. His speech is as regal as that of an intelligent European prince who expresses himself in a clear, measured manner.

He is 40 and has a command of 12 languages, including "a bissel Yiddish." He carries himself with the polished refinement inculcated in him while studying at a British prep school, but his hand gestures are distinctly Jewish. As he speaks, his hands are constantly in motion, fitting the image of the timeless Jew.

"I have no ambitions," declares the prince—the rov, that is. "I just want to come to HaKodosh Boruch Hu every night and say to Him, `You gave me this day. Here, take it back. I did everything you commanded me.' "

Rav Natan is married to an American Jew of Ashkenazi descent. He keeps people riveted during his lectures for Arachim, gives shiurim at Sholom Rov and Shaarei Binoh in Tzfas, where he lives, and continues to study in kollel!

The Ph.D. degree he began at Hebrew University remains unfinished. "I already knew that was not what I was looking for."

He wanted to study Torah.

The recitation of birchos HaTorah is very dear to him. Asher bochar bonu mikol ho'amim. "HaKodosh Boruch Hu chose me from among my whole family, from among all the people I know . . . HaKodosh Boruch Hu chose me and gave me Toras Emes. I know what I came to into the world for. Vechayei olom nota besocheinu . . .

"All of Us are Princes, All of Us are the Sons of Kings"

Yated Ne'eman: Jews are the sons of kings—bnei melochim. Do you feel like a Jewish prince now?

Rav Natan: In the Torah we are told to be a mamleches kohanim vegoy kodosh (Shemos 19:6). I feel all of us are princes.

YN: We know it, but you feel it!

Rav Natan: I feel my Jewishness as a Jew, but that does not diminish from the Jewishness of another Jew. I do not feel I am a prince within Am Yisroel any more than anybody else. All of us are princes, all of us are sons of kings.

YN: Describe how it is easier for you to feel the state of "standing before the King." Do you feel this when you speak with Hashem?

Rav Natan: To be perfectly honest, I don't feel it. But on the other hand, as a king, my father was limited in his behavior and responses towards me. The throne restricted his fatherhood. But with HaKodosh Boruch Hu there are no limits, no boundaries.

YN: Was it easier for you to accept ol Malchus Shomayim compared to other converts? It seems easier to switch one king for another.

Rav Natan: I suppose so, relatively speaking.

YN: Tell us honestly: If you were offered the throne in Swaziland would you accept it?

Rav Natan: Me? I don't think so.

YN: And if, let's say, you were allowed to conduct yourself as a Jew?

Rav Natan: Look, first of all I have an older brother . . . But in any case I see my mission as a member of the Jewish people. Even if I was offered my father's kingdom, I would rather have HaKodosh Boruch Hu's Kingdom.

Coming Home

Right after my conversion I rushed to lay tefillin before shekiyoh. When I put on the tefillin I felt like I was connected to all of Jewish history, to Avrohom Ovinu, to Akeidas Yitzchok and that now I was a part of this story. I felt I was returning home and that now I could live my life.

Today I know what my task is in the world, what I have to do here. It no longer troubles me that life goes by so fast. I have things to do. I have a task.

I know that with every mitzvah one acquires eternity and that each and every moment is important. Time is not something that passes without meaning. When I discovered Judaism, I found answers to questions I had always raised about the meaning of life. I felt like I was beginning to live.

Perhaps I was a bit stubborn but eventually I came home.

Arachim: Full Circle

An Arachim seminar in Italy. A diverse audience fills the hall. One lecturer finishes speaking and the participants glance at the program, waiting to see who the next speaker is. The name is strange, hard to pronounce. Gamadza.

Is he from Argentina? Maybe from Ethiopia? A black chareidi man steps onto the stage. He opens his mouth and begins to speak. What a surprise! He speaks fluent Italian.

"I am Prince Gamadza," he begins. "The son of King Gamadza."

The people in the audience smile — but a minute later their smiles vanish. The prince gazes out at the audience and continues to speak. Nobody remains indifferent listening to the power of his words.

"I was born in a palace. It is said that my family is descended from ancient Egypt. The inhabitants of Gamadza subsist as farmers, living in peace and quiet. They work the fertile land and accept the rule of the monarchy unquestioningly. As long as I can remember, my parents were busy with the task of running the country and holding royal ceremonies. Receptions, hosting events, meetings, consultations."

Rav Natan tells his life's story. Towards the end he says, "And here I am now in Italy, lecturing before you at an Arachim seminar. For me this trip brings me full circle. I once fled from Eretz Yisroel. I fled from the thoughts enveloping me and telling me to draw closer to Judaism and to convert. Like Yonah Hanovi I searched for a ship sailing for Tarshish. No fish swallowed me up but here in Rome, the center of idolatry, the spark of Judaism ignited in my heart."

"Suddenly He Broke out in Tears"

YN: How do you come to terms with the fact you came to Judaism from so far away while others who are really quite close are actually so far?

Rav Natan: I can only answer that question through a story. Seven years ago I took a bus from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. A young secular man sat beside me and we struck up a conversation. "Tell me," I said. "Do you feel something special when you travel to Jerusalem?"

"No," he said. "I feel the same way I always feel. I live in Tel Aviv and I go to Jerusalem to visit friends."

I was taken aback. Again I asked him, "You don't feel any kedushoh? You don't feel anything inside?"

Suddenly he burst into tears. He was touched to see I could not understand how he could be so blase. I think that bus ride opened up something in him.

To answer the question, I really don't understand this. I just can't comprehend. Maybe it's because I felt HaKodosh Boruch Hu so powerfully during my lifetime, maybe this is why I can't understand this indifference. I am quite curious to find out how it could be that they feel nothing.

"I Didn't See Anything of Which I Could Say: Aha! This Makes Life Worthwhile"

I suppose you could say that throughout my lifetime I lived with the issue of death and immortality.

I would picture to myself a person who wakes up in the morning and plans to go out to buy a newspaper to read over breakfast. He steps outside and crosses the street without looking carefully for cars.

A bus slams into him and it's all over. No newspaper. No breakfast. No nothing. Everything's over. So what's going on here?

At every moment of a person's life, things can change from one extreme to the other.

What does that tell me? It tells me there must be something very profound here.

When I was four or five years old, my grandfather on my mother's side passed away. I think that was the first time I asked myself the question, What are really here for?

As I grew older I delved into these questions in greater depth but even as a boy I thought about it. I had a powerful awareness that one day I would have to leave This World and I wanted to understand what I would take from here at the end of my 120 years. I saw people chasing after honor their whole lives and I asked myself what they stood to gain.

I didn't tell my family members about my uncertainties and I don't think it would have interested them much. They were caught up in the race of life. I guess they felt satisfaction with where they were in life. But I did not feel satisfied with life. I try to understand them but I can't understand their way of thinking. I just don't understand it.

I contemplated these questions, and all of a sudden life seemed totally empty to me, lacking in content. I was constantly pondering this and could not understand it. I felt like I was on another planet, looking down on This World and trying to comprehend the meaning of all that takes place here and how it affects me. I didn't see anything I could point to and say, "Aha! This makes life worth living!"

At this stage I said to myself that there must be something beyond what I see. There has to be some rational reason why we are here. What did we come here to accomplish?

I think a ger tzedek follows the path of Avrohom Ovinu to a certain extent. All the people around him were idolaters. His father was close to the malchus but nevertheless he knew there was something missing!

He searched for the truth and HaKodosh Boruch Hu helped him find it.


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