It was at a very young age when my spiritual journey began, having been born to parents with some Jewish ancestry, but that had been raised in Christian homes. Before I was born, my parents shifted from a more Protestant Christian theology to that of a more “Messianic” one, which included abstaining from Christian holidays, and celebrating Jewish ones (but obviously not in a kosher, halakhic way). And so by the time I was born I was raised into a generally “Messianic” theology.
While there was a supposed support for Torah, this usually was limited to one’s personal interpretation of the written Torah; while the oral Torah was looked down upon, as a result of all of the anti-Judaism/anti-Semitism in the Christian Bible. Although the main focus was on the belief in so-called messiah.
What began to draw me to Judaism was when I took a concept believed by my family and Messianic friends a little bit too far in their opinion. They saw their so-called messiah as a Jewish leader who didn’t necessarily come to make a new religion, but to “fix” the current one. Despite all of the negative views towards Orthodox or “Pharisaic” Judaism, as they would call it, I began to learn about Judaism for myself. I started mostly by reading about Kabbalistic ideas, and from there my study spread further. Since I was raised very spiritual, Kabbalistic concepts spoke to me the most, and I began to see a deep wealth of spirituality that I knew was infinite and couldn’t be compared to anything else.
I began to see how everything all of these people made real Judaism out to be wasn’t even close to the truth. It was totally different. These people themselves had no idea what they were talking about, and hadn’t looked into Judaism, whatsoever, on their own. While at the time, when I was in my late teens (I am now in my early 20s), I maintained a belief in the so-called messiah, but I was constantly becoming more Jewish in every other way. As this happened, I kept growing different from all of my friends and family, and I saw more and more contradictions in their beliefs and lives. I began to question what everyone was doing, and this brought some conflict. As time went on, I kept on the track I was headed, and kept growing different from everyone else.
A little while after high school, I went to Israel for the first time. I was in Israel for several months and during that time the experiences sealed the deal for me. I couldn’t get over (and still haven’t) the beauty of the Land of Israel. I realized, it isn’t just a physical beauty. That beauty is combined with a spiritual one, a holiness that could not be described with words. Seeing so many people, the people of Israel, and experiencing Jewish culture and life just made me feel like I couldn’t be anywhere else. My return to America was met with depression and feelings of futility. I felt the emptiness of life, how nothing had any meaning to me if it wasn’t Israel and Torah.
In my initial stages of searching out Judaism, I came across Rebbe Nachman. I always loved what he had to say, and he was a huge favorite of mine from the start. And as I eventually came to drop my belief in so-called messiah some time after that first trip to Israel, I studied his words a bit more. However, it wasn’t until the last and final time I made a trip from America to Israel that I really got into Rabbenu Nachman. I had been helped tremendously by a Yemenite Breslever in getting settled in Israel. I knew him as well as other people I considered some of my teachers and guides. However, the others didn’t support Rebbe Nachman either fully or at all. I came to a fork in the road, and had to choose which route to go.
I chose Rebbe Nachman because I just felt and knew that he is right. And from that point on, I have had nothing but blessings and miracles in my life. Last year at Rosh HaShanah, I made my first trip to Uman. It was so amazing and intense of an experience. I could literally feel Rebbe Nachman there at the Tziun. I remember reciting Tikkun HaKlali in the midst of many, many holy Jews crowded around the Tziun. I cried my eyes out. I couldn’t get through singing the holy words of those 10 Tehillim and confession and repentance of my own sins without bursting into tears. It was a soul-cleansing experience, incomparable to any else I have experienced.
Thanks to HaShem, I have come from the false, psudo-tzadik to the real, true Tzadik. From death to life. And let me tell you: the difference is REAL. It is an absolute miracle that I am where I am today. And I didn’t even know that I achieved it way back then in my former state through hitbodedut; simply asking HaShem to show me the right path. ‘Lead me to Israel! Help me do what You want me to do!’ While I wasn’t taught as a child to pray to anyone other than G-d, this really did help me back then when I was so distant from the truth of HaShem. I know firsthand how true and effective Rebbe Nachman’s advice on hitbodedut is.
I hope that everyone who reads this who is not observant or maybe isn’t entirely sure about Judaism, or even someone who is, but doesn’t quite know who Rebbe Nachman is will benefit from my story. I encourage you to do two things: talk to HaShem and search for the truth. If you’re sincere and you ask HaShem, and you try to find it - you will find it. With HaShem’s help, may we see Israel fully redeemed with the full redemption and the true Mashiach coming soon!