It was about a year after I began to become observant that I asked my older brother to tell me his story. All I knew was that he had been religious for decades, and that reality was beginning to appeal to me. He was the oldest of us four kids born to parents who survived the Holocaust. Our mother had been raised in a traditional home in Eastern Europe, and our father was from Communist Russia where religious identity was forbidden. Their compromise: a lukewarm form of Judaism. My brother asked to go to Hebrew School at age six, which paved the way for the rest of us to receive a Jewish education.

He was tired and cold and unsure of which path to takeWhen he was in college, my brother joined some friends on a cross-country ski trip during winter break. The first day went well. Somewhat sore on the second day, yet still possessed with adventurous spirit, the group set out with greater ambition, choosing more challenging trails. Late in the afternoon, as the other guys briskly traversed forward, my brother lagged behind. At a fork in the trail, his companions decided to play a trick on him. They went ahead in another direction, without letting him know. Proceeding slowly, he soon realized he had lost sight of his buddies. He was tired and cold and unsure of which path to take. He was deep in the woods, alone.

Despite his age (late adolescence being a time of presumed invincibility) and his size (he was a big guy), my brother began to become fearful. Dusk was rapidly approaching. He had no idea how to get home; no food, no flashlight, no map. In the stillness of the woods, where everything was the white and brown and blue black colors of the winter woods, he became aware of the minutest sounds – snow crunching underfoot, his arms swinging, his ski poles being planted in the earth. Mostly, he heard the staccato rhythm of his own quickened breathing dominate the stillness.

Anxiety mounting, he longed for company. He made his own voice a friend. He decided to sing. He sang a tune he remembered from Hebrew School – the tune to a familiar prayer, Adon olam, which means Master of the world. In the quiet of the forest, in the company of the words, he became comforted. As he sang, it dawned on him that G‑d is the Master of the world. G‑d put him in that forest. G‑d would take him out. And He did. Singing and striding, my brother was led to a clearing. A short distance ahead he spotted his surprised friends and rejoined them, completing the last leg of the trail before nightfall.

G‑d guided my brother along many other dark trails in the two dozen years that followed that incident. He travelled to the Former Soviet Union, to the death camps of Europe, and to the Holy Land. He gave up a PhD program in philosophy, moving from atheist to believer. He enrolled in a program of Rabbinic Studies, and with G‑d's help, my brother continued to find his way. He became observant, married and raised children. Always, he filled his home with Jewish books and music. He studied medicine, and put his heart into helping others, particularly Russian Jews and singles in his neighborhood. But as life would have it, sometimes he still struggled to stay on the trail, to find his way home when it was dark.

In the darkness of my young nephew's grief, only the Jewish music that his father loved offered solaceWhen my brother died suddenly at age forty-three, eleven years ago, his sixteen-year-old son came to live with me and my husband for a few months. In the unbearable darkness of my young nephew's horror and grief, only the Jewish music that his father loved offered solace. History repeated itself. Heartfelt melodies about trust and faith gradually guided my nephew out of the forest of despair.

Today, my nephew and his siblings are traversing their individual life trails. Each strives to find his or her own connection with G‑d. I am grateful to have heard my brother tell his story shortly before he passed, when Torah observance was so new to me. I wish I had been close with my brother during those years when he sang at his Shabbat table, celebrated the births of his children, and taught Torah to the people he welcomed into his home. But this I know: if G‑d guided my brother out of his personal darkness, He will certainly continue to illuminate the way until redemption reunites us with our loved ones. May it be speedily in our days.