Dear Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg,


I am writing this letter to you from the depths of my broken heart.

My name is Hagar, and I am 29 years old. I live in the Bavli neighborhood in Northern 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.

I saw the pain and suffering, the grief that nearly drove me out of my mind. The rivers of blood that had not yet dried. But amongst all this, it was your image that stood out.

Yes—your image.

In pain yet proud, suffering yet whole, broken yet maintaining your faithStanding 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 is a bothersome drug that prevents us from integrating within the international community, that faith is an existential danger to science, an existential threat to the thinking man.

My parents are Holocaust survivors, and I, their only daughter, 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.

"Judaism existed in Poland," my father would say, "and it remained there. You don't need it, believe me!"

But I didn't believe him. I rebelled.

I would get angry and then reconcile. I suffered. But my parents looked at it all as a "teenage crisis," and 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 being myself.

For many years, Rabbi Rosenberg, I'm trying to desist. But something within pushes me to know. Pushes me to feel.

I had almost given in, but Someone Above made sure that I should see you on all the news broadcasts.

That I should see your tears, but your certainty that "G‑d gave and He took away, and may His Name be blessed."

At that moment I knew that this was the sign for which I had been waiting for years. It was the signal for me to enter the Jewish world. If this is how we mourn in Judaism, then I want to be a Jew.

And if this is how they weep and eulogize in the Chabad movement, then today, more than at any hour or minute in my empty life, I would like to be connected to your movement, Rabbi.

Affiliated with Chabad.

But I am absolutely certain, dear Rabbi, that I will return to the home of the righteous AbrahamJust tell me one thing, dear Rabbi Rosenberg. How does one rise higher?

How do I ascend to this bright pure light—from the depths of the pit where I find myself now?

Who will save me from myself? From my so-called career? From my foolish status in the business world, ruled by egocentricity, power games and conflict?

I feel so tainted by my identity. By my actions until now. By my immersion in the gluey substance that surrounds me in my world. By the almost impossible task of purifying myself from it.

I am Hagar. Like the Biblical Hagar, banished to the wilderness, my soul lies on the burning sands craving a little water, so that I don't die of thirst—my great thirst for a pure spirit.

But I am absolutely certain, dear Rabbi, that I will return to the home of the righteous Abraham. Once again I will wander in the barren world that I have been treading through for three decades, and I will carry great comfort with me.

The comfort of the mourners for their dead on the one hand, and the comfort of those that rise from the darkness on the other.

Thank you, dear Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, for enabling me to be a Jew without fear. Without hesitation. Without having to look for excuses.

This week, Abraham's Hagar begins to do teshuvah.

Please convey my condolences to the rest of your family, and a big hug from me to little Moishie.

It is to your credit that I became a Jew.


Originally published on Translation from Hebrew courtesy of