19 Iyar 5779 / Friday, May 24, 2019 | Torah Reading: Bechukotai
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One Cool Jew    

One Cool Jew

“Shmali, what kinda weird name is that?” At the time I had no clue that Shmali was short for Shma Yisrael – the coolest name ever – so befitting for one cool Jew…


Life wasn’t so simple. I was trying to find my way back. But you know how it goes for us FFBs (Frum from Births). If I wake up and say Modah Ani, then I for sure have to wash Negel Vasser. If I can do that, then I can daven brachot before I eat, and make brachot before my food, after food, and after the bathroom……All that was just way too much for me. Let alone 6 hour waits between meat and milk, Shabbat, skirts……the whole 9 yards. I really wanted to find my way back, but didn’t know how to take baby steps, and big leaps relapse before you can say Hamentaschen.

There is a woman in Tzfat named Talya. My first exposure to Breslev. She met me right after I moved there and I told her that all I really wanted was to have a family. Raised with divorced parents and no siblings, I really craved to have MY family. She kept on mentioning that she was going to Uman, to the kever of Rebbe Nachman and several other Tzaddikim, and that I should write a letter for her to put by the grave. As much as I really wanted to do that, I thought to myself, “How can I pour out my heart to Hashem in this letter and then wake up the next day and continue my routine? I have to be ready to make a change.” And of course, I kept on pushing it off. Until one night, very late…she knocked at my door. Without too many details….there was a little party happening. Oops….. So I took a deep breath and said, hey guys….this is Talya. Clearly out of her element, her face turned red, but was adamant about not leaving without my letter. She had high hopes for me. So I found a paper and a pen and I had no clue what to write. …and then my pen kinda did its own thing and it wrote out the following: “Hashem, WHERE ARE YOU??????” I folded it a few times and gave it to her.
In my mind I knew I had “sorta” gone way off the trail, and ventured on some twists and turns. Yet, I knew the general direction I wanted to go in, but really had no clue how to get back to the path that would lead me there.
So off she went with my “letter” in hand. She arrived in Uman Friday morning and I felt my life begin to change. I call that my first Shabbat. I kept it with my whole heart. Not because my parents or my teachers, or my friends were watching, but cuz my soul was at Har Sinai. Cuz Shabbat was inside me. Inside my neshama. Shabbat glowed from the inside out. Not from the outside in.
Saturday night was Lag Ba’Omer in Meron. All day long I was convinced that I would see my soulmate there. It was just clear to me. My friends said that I was crazy… Its ok, they’re still my friends. : ). Motzei Shabbat came along and we all went to Meron. I lost hours of time staring into the fire and saying Tehillim. When I kinda snapped out of my trance, this guy was standing on a rock not too far away from me. Ripped jeans, tie dye shirt, crocheted kipah, long peyos, and a big smile. My religious experience growing up was kinda geeky and after traveling down the roads I chose for myself, I just couldn’t image becoming a religious geek again. This guy had the perfect combination of Jewish pride and coolness. A combination I had no clue existed. (Thank You Rebbe Shlomo Carlebach). The person sitting next to me yelled, “Brother Shmali – How are you?” and gave him a big hug. And I’m thinking to myself, “Shmali, what kinda weird name is that?” But I made a mental note of the whole experience and tucked it away somewhere safe. At the time I had no clue that Shmali was short for Shma Yisrael. – the coolest name EVER!!!
A few weeks later, a girl named Sarala knocked at my door. We had some mutual friends and they wanted to introduce us. She was passing by and decided to introduce herself. We had some tea and talked through the night. An instant connection. Somewhere along the ways, she said something like this:
Blah blah blah, my twin brother Shmali, blah blah blah. And Suddenly, I could see his face in hers. We asked each other a bunch of questions and she called home to ask Shamli to stick around for the upcoming Shabbat in Yerushalayim cuz she wanted to bring a friend of hers to meet him.
Shmali (photo, left) and I immediately felt comfortable with each other. We played a few games of backgammon, and walked to the Kotel Friday Night. When we got back to the Witt’s house, we were all around the Shabbat table. I could feel heat on my face and I looked up to see Shmali’s kind eyes looking at me. It was so intense. I had to look away. It happened again and I was feeling really exposed sharing these intimate glances with my potential soulmate that I barely knew, yet knew on the deepest level possible, in a room packed with people. So I looked around to see if anyone witnessed the whole thing. Everyone was minding their own business. Enjoying every morsel of Emuna’s delicious Challah and soup…until I looked at Shmali’s father, Yehoshua Witt. He was nodding his head and smiling at me…
Gulp. Help?!?!? Where should I run? Where could I hide? And then he spoke…”Whats your name?” I took a deep breath and answered, “Avigayil Yeret”. His response shocked me…he said, “We know Yerets from Pennsylvania. Avraham and Sarah Yeret.”
My parents!!!!!! From Hickville, USA!!!! What he said next really shocked everyone!!!! He continued to say, “They made our Sheva Brachot 25 years ago.” Need I say more? Our wedding was underway, although Shmali waited an EXCRUCIATING 10 DAYS before actually proposing. What took him SO long?
Yehoshua and Emuna Witt were making aliyah in the middle of their Sheva Brachot and stuck in NY waiting for their flight. Rebbe Shlomo Carlebach bumped into my father who then lived in Brooklyn, and asked if he could do a mitzvah for a holy couple. My dad asked my mom who was so flattered to have Rebbe Shlomo request this of her that she didn’t hesitate for a minute and started getting things ready. Who knew what Rebbe Shlomo really had up his sleeve???
I would like to thank:
My mother, Sarah Rosenblum, for being so enthusiastic about doing Mitzvot. May you be rewarded over and over in this life time and the next.
My mother in law, Emuna Witt for carrying and giving birth to my holy sweet husband – May you only have nachas from your children and grandchildren.
Talya Lipshitz for seeing the light within the darkness – May you always be stubborn for holiness.
Rebbe Shlomo Carlebach of blessed memory for playing matchmaker and for creating the concept of cool Jews – May your soul rise higher and higher with every niggun sung, and every story shared.
Rebbeinu, Rebbe Nachman for opening all the heavenly gates for me – May your light draw Moshiach so much closer.
And last but not least.. Hakadosh Baruch Hu..for constantly bringing me out of Egypt - physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, mentally….you get the point.

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  3 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  Connection with Witt Family
Marina6/7/2017 7:00:35 AM
  Holiness begets holiness.
rutimizrachi5/23/2010 6:46:01 PM
  I'm proud of you
Anonymous,5/23/2010 5:50:47 PM

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