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From Wilderness to Holiness
by Sheneur Zalman Berger

It was in the middle of the Yom Kippur War. A tank unit under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Yoav Vasfi fiercely defended the settlements of the Golan Heights, repelling the Syrians again and again. The unit had fought for ten days and then on the twentieth of Tishrei, Yoav was killed.

After his passing, the Chief of Staff awarded the family a decoration of bravery, which said, In everything he did, he displayed great courage, a calm spirit, leadership, and wise counsel.

However, it wasn't the medal that comforted the widow and orphans but the letter Yoav had written to his wife Sarah and his three children, Arnon, Vered, and Einav, which briefly described the tremendous spiritual arousal he felt upon seeing many miracles in battle.

Dear Arnon, Vered, Einav, and Sarah, I began to believe there is a G-d in heaven. Yoav. These words were actually a last will and testament for the family.

Young orphaned Einav grew up in a family that believed in G-d, but did not observe most mitzvot. At home we ate kosher, more or less, but outside, my friends and I ate everything. I went to shul only on Yom Kippur, and I didn't even daven; I just stood nearby and chatted with my friends. The shul was a place to meet people.

His first connection with religion and Chabad was after his sister Vered became religious. I remember the bitter debates we had. 

When Einav served in the army, his mother was worried about his behavior and at her daughter's suggestion, she wrote to the Rebbe and asked for a blessing for him. The Rebbe's response was that there was no reason to worry.

After Einav's release from the army, he got a piece of land and began to grow apricots. He devoted himself to this primarily in the summer, and spent the winter in South America. On his very first trip, he already had a Tanya and some booklets about strengthening faith. He took it with him thanks to his sister's influence. He did not intend to study the books, but took them as a good luck charm.

Chile was his first stop and where he spent winter 5753 (1993). The following summer Einav went back to South America, this time to Brazil. From S. Paulo, the capital, he went to Salvador, where he met two friends from Israel. The friends lived there for a while and attended shul on Shabbos. Einav joined them.

This was the first time I prayed the entire service from a siddur. When we finished praying, we went touring.

The next morning, Einav went to the beach, and had an encounter with a Rastafarian guru. Einav sat for hours with the Rastafarian and spoke about philosophy. The Rastafarian explained his religion, and in order to convince Einav about the truth of his religion, he repeatedly said that the Jew is the most important of all, for Jews are the Chosen People. In order to prove his legitimacy as an important religious figure, he tried to convince Einav of his mystical powers.

We sat on the shore, looking at the waves breaking on the rocks, and continued to speak about spirituality. Suddenly he said to me, 'Until now you have seen a world of mysticism, a world of magic. The time has come for you to be a part of it.' He offered me a position in his cult!

I was shaken. I knew that I was a Jew and that I could not convert to another religion, but I didn't know how to explain it. I finally said that I had the Torah of Moses, and this was my Torah. He didn't give up, but tried his best to convince me to stay with him.  However, I knew that I was a Jew and could not remain with him.

All the occult practices I had been exposed to had affected me in a terrible way. I felt that I had to return to Judaism before the forces of impurity would overpower me. Ironically, it was the forces of impurity that pushed me back to Judaism.

I took a book of Psalms that I had with me and, together with my friend, recited Psalms with great fervor, with the prayer that everything I had experienced shouldn't harm me.

When summer came, Einav returned to Israel. He was in a great spiritual upheaval after what he had experienced, but he didn't know how to express his strong feelings. He decided not to work in the apricot orchards on Shabbos.

My friends thought I was crazy, he laughs. I didn't work in my orchards on Shabbos, even though this entailed a tremendous loss of money. When apricots ripen, they must be picked immediately, or they spoil. Despite my not working on Shabbos, I didn't have the guts to publicly announce that I kept Shabbos. My harvest was much larger than that of my neighbors who worked on Shabbos, and this convinced me that I was on the right path.

Einav continued his path of study and gradually increased his observance, eventually studying in Yeshivah. Today, Einav is a fully observant Jew and a firm chassid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. 

 

 


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