Anat Gopstein’s latest column in the online Shabbat publication Gilui Da’at:
Believe in your roots
“And now, we take upon ourselves the yoke of Heaven. Repeat after me”, said the dayan (religious court judge). “Shema Israel, Hashem Elokenu, Hashem Echad” (Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One).”
And she shouted it out with a loud voice and continued alone, “Baruch Shem Kvod Malchuto leOlam Va’ed” (May His name be blessed forever and ever)“, and she went on to the rest of the portions of the Shema reading: “V’Ahavta (and you shall love)”, “V’haya im shamua (And if you hearken)”. And that was accompanied by heartbreaking crying. This was a scene that caused me to shed a few tears. Every return to Judaism is moving, but this one especially made me shiver.
“I grew up in a religious home. I studied at a religious school, I know how to pray. I observed Shabbat, holidays; I don’t know what happened to me, I don’t know how I agreed to convert to Islam”, she said. “I did it only because my partner did not agree to marry without my converting to Islam. He told me that I need to say 3 sentences, and that’s it, and he told me that I’ll remain a Jew. A Jew always remains a Jew. That’s what I learned, at least. I didn’t understand what my conversion to Islam meant, I didn’t know it’s disconnection from the Jewish people, disconnection from my roots. I didn’t think of these things”, she said painfully afterwards.
The status of the Beit Din made a strong impression on her. She felt as if she was reborn. So since then, she changed her lifestyle, came back to Judaism. She came back to herself. To her roots.
Every Jew has a soul that’s connected to a root. “For man is a tree of the field”. Like the tree, the Jew is thirsty for water, and as our Sages teach us, it’s not water, it’s Torah. The Torah, which is likened to water, nourishes the spirit, life and soul. A person implanted with deep roots, connects to the Torah; to the Tree of Life. The deeper the roots, the stronger and more stable the tree. But sometimes the winds blow, the tree dries out and gets tired, the leaves fall off, and there remain no signs of life. In such situations, one must strengthen him/herself with faith, to continue to nourish, to connect and to be connected.
The seed that is planted in the earth during childhood, sprouts roots. Even if it seems that the person is getting lost, moving away and grazing in foreign fields, he/she does not lose the soul or faith.
Faith is the root. It is what gives a person stability. It grants the person internal resilience even in times of crisis. With the help of faith, the person gets connected to him/herself and his/her G-d, and like the tree – yields his/her fruit in due time.
Happy Tu B’Shvat.