I've come to the conclusion that G‑d offers free no-risk-no-obligation trial periods. There are various packages available: some are 90-day promotions, others even longer, some may be shorter. And the welcoming gifts are unbelievable. Are you following me? You see, I figured out that this is how people who are not raised in observant homes or environments become actively observant.

This revelation came to me recently, when I was teaching a group of seminary girls, all of whom were raised in religious homes. They wanted to know how it was that I first became interested in living an observant life. As I began to describe the transformation that took place in my life more than ten years earlier, I realized that it was the commercial I had no intention of ever leading a religious life. I actually had no intentions whatsoever that must have initially attracted me. Then there were the bonus gifts, and by the time my free-trial was up, I forgot that my credit card was being billed monthly. Originally I had thought I would stick around long enough for the freebies and remember to cancel in time, but I was so hooked that I never even realized the trial was over. Before I knew it, I was a full-paying member, paying my dues and enjoying benefits far beyond my greatest expectations.

Yup, I'm convinced that G‑d knows marketing better than the best of us. He knows how to sell His product well—He's a real pro. Otherwise, why would any sane, successful and intelligent human being choose to give up a comfortably "free" secular life for one seemingly dictated only by rules, regulations and customs?

You see, I had no intention of ever leading a religious life. I actually had no intentions whatsoever. I just figured that I would live day-by-day and make decisions as they come. I liked the idea of being open-minded and open to any possibility, and feared constriction on any level. Then again, I was in college, so what better time for such an attitude?

Yet G‑d had other plans for me (doesn't He always?), and my content little life suddenly became quite difficult and confusing. It didn't help that I was spending my junior year in Israel, far away from friends and family, and in the midst of a falling-out with my immediate family to the extent that we were not speaking. Along with my vow of silence came a closed wallet, which meant that I was also on my own for all my financial needs.

I found a job as a waitress in a hotel. I was the only Jew and only woman working alongside fifty Arab men. I worked 45 hours a week and was enrolled in five classes. My schedule didn't leave much time for a social life, but at least it paid the bills.

So I wasn't exactly in a position where I was spiritually searching. I was simply surviving. And even though I was brought up in a traditional household that was kosher and grew up going to shul on Shabbat, I was, if anything, less connected to Judaism once I came to Israel. I actually was paid double regular rate for working on Shabbat, so of course, I was always the first to volunteer.

And then I saw the commercial. I met these spiritually enlightened, intellectually challenged and emotionally fulfilled people. I was jealous. I had many questions, but no real answers. These people, meanwhile, were all connected to this Torah thing and seemed to have intimate and personal relationships with the big and only G‑d.

Up to that time, I'd figured that He was hardly aware that I existed. I never made much of an effort to get to know Him, and when we did communicate, our relationship was always very one-sided. When I needed something, badly, I called to Him, and promised to change certain things that were wrong with my life. In return, I expected to be saved from my predicament.

The interesting thing is that I always took these "deals" quite seriously. If I made a promise to G‑d, I never broke it, and He, too, always kept His side of the bargain. I tried not to make too many of these promises, but when I did, I held to them. I remember one incident in particular, when I was stranded in a stalled car late at night, all alone, in a really bad neighborhood in downtown LA. I remember feeling utterly helpless. Suddenly, I began to murmur the Shema, something I hadn't done since I was a child having nightmares. And then I made one of those unbreakable promises. I promised that if He saved me from this situation, that I would never ride in that car again. And I didn't. My friends thought I was crazy, but I never got back into that car.

But then, once those moments of need had passed, I would more or less forget about Him. And, since I thought that I was the one who always initiated our occasional engagements, I assumed that He forgot about me, too.

Anyway, to get back to that commercial, it really got to me to be watching all these people who seemed to be on such buddy-buddy terms with Him. But more than a relationship, I really wanted answers. I wanted to understand the meaning and purpose in my life, and figured there was no better place to start than with the One who put me here.

And this is where that free-trial started. After the commercial, there was no immediate commitment that needed to be made, no contracts to sign, just a request for a bit of interest. And I had the interest. So, I called the toll-free number, introduced myself, mentioned that we had been in touch a few times before, and said I would like to find out more about this Creator. The problem was that my life was really busy, and I didn't know how I'd squeeze Him in. Between my work hours and school, there didn't seem to be a moment to spare.

I had many questions, but no real answers

And that is when those free gifts started pouring in. I made a request and BOOM, there was the answer. It was like the genie in the bottle. I was working too much? Hated my job? No problem. The next day a friend took me out to lunch, the place needed a waitress, and before I knew it I was working half the hours for double the pay of my previous job. Only one catch—I couldn't work on Shabbat. They were actually closed on Shabbat.

The bonus gifts just kept pouring in. When the classes on Judaism I wanted to attend conflicted with my university schedule, the schedule changed. So now I was making good money, had my weekends free, could attend Shabbat meals with local families (very popular thing for university students in Jerusalem to do), and went to the local yeshiva in the morning for some learning. Not bad.

It started getting scary. I'd make a request, either verbally or even just in thought, and give or take 24 hours, I saw a result. For a while I thought it was quite cute. I liked being the recipient of daily miracles. It felt empowering to have an open line to the One Above. But then I realized that this was no longer a purely one-sided relationship. Granted, I was being given my space, but I was expected to give something back.

At this point the academic year was about to end, and I had some serious choices to make. I knew I was at a crossroads in my life; I just wasn't sure which road I was going to take.

I had definitely fallen in love with Judaism. I had never felt more alive or more in-tune with my life and the world around me. Yet I was far from ready to make the transition from a life of no rules or boundaries to one of structure. The festival of Shavuot—commemorating the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai—was approaching and I figured I would use the opportunity for serious reflection and introspection.

But then again, my plans and my reality were not exactly the same. A few days before Shavuot one of my best friends arrived in Israel to surprise me. She was only around for the week and desperately wanted to travel to Egypt with me. I didn't know how to explain to her that I had really intended on spending the night studying and then walking to the Western Wall along with the sunrise. She would not have understood and I was not prepared to try and explain.

So, there I was, the day before Shavuot, in Dahab, Egypt. Dahab is on the Sinai desert's southeastern tip, and is known for its beautiful beaches and extremely relaxed atmosphere. I must admit that it didn't take me long to forget that I had not wanted to come. As I soaked in the sun and ate incredible food, Shavuot became a distant memory. That is, until I was suddenly jarred awake by the woman next to me.

"So, where are you from?" she asked, nicely enough. Though I was not really in the mood for conversation, I answered that I was studying in Jerusalem for the year. To my great surprise, her eyes lit up and she started asking me about Judaism. I started to share my limited knowledge and instantly found myself passionately and intensely describing how incredible I found Judaism to be emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. We spoke for over five hours until we realized that we were sitting in the dark. She had to leave, but before doing so, innocently asked whether or not there was some Jewish holiday that night. My heart stopped. It was the eve of Shavuot. I had completely forgotten, and I was in Egypt.

For the first time in my life, I cared. I felt that I was losing out. It was as if I had been invited to a very special meeting with G‑d, and I simply decided to do something else. As far as I could see, the damage was irreparable.

It was the eve of Shavuot. I had completely forgotten, and I was in Egypt

I was quite depressed and felt trapped in this "resort." I dragged myself to dinner with my friend and a group of others. To my great surprise, I ran into Mike, who attended Hebrew University with me. Although he wasn't what one would describe as religiously observant, he was quite spiritual. He joined us for dinner, and then said he had to leave. I couldn't imagine what he had to do in Dahab, so I asked.

He told me that he had specifically come to Dahab for Shavout, as it is very close to the site believed by many to be Mount Sinai. He wanted to spend the night learning and asked if I cared to join him. I couldn't even respond, but the tears rolling down my cheek sufficed for my "yes." We bid our friends goodbye and were off.

We found a small hut that was illuminated by candlelight. Mike had brought with him an English/Hebrew Bible, and we decided we would take turns reading. We had no idea what we were doing but felt we should say some kind of blessing. So we washed our hands as we had seen people do when eating bread, and pronounced a blessing of my own, "Baruch Atah Hashem…al HaTorah."

As the candle began to flicker out, I realized that it was no longer needed. The sun was about to rise and we had spent the entire night learning Torah. I resolved during that time that I would stay in Israel for the summer to enroll in a full-time program. I resolved that I would speak with my parents and repair our damaged relationship. And I resolved that I would no longer view Judaism and its observance as an outsider, but would do my best to keep G‑d's Torah and His commandments.

It was Shavuot, and I had merited to receive the Torah. I walked out toward the ocean and said the Shema with all the power of my heart soul, and mind. I knew G‑d was listening, always had been, and always would be.

And so my free-trial period had come to a close. There were no more refunds and no more returns. Which is exactly how I wanted it.