Spiritual Autobiography Started on October 20th 2010 and completed on July 11th 2012
This morning I woke up with the idea/impression to begin writing in detail my personal spiritual history. I’ve written much of this in fragments but never all of it in one place. I want to write this for three major reasons 1) To reinforce my faith that God has a plan for each of us 2) To have a wellspring of personal stories to draw upon while teaching and 3) To leave a record for my posterity
I was born on December 14th, 1987 to goodly parents in Tel Aviv Israel. I grew up in Tel Aviv in the company of my relatives until I reached the age of 3 and a half and then moved to Florida and grew up there.
I don’t remember religion being an especially large part of my early early childhood. I am sure we went to synagogue on high holidays while in Israel, but none of those memories especially stand out. I do remember going with my relatives in Bat Yam to a beautiful synagogue, but I think that I was likely a lot older then and visiting rather than when I lived there. I began to attend Jewish schools in the U.S and so I remember daily prayers especially birkat hamazon. I never really got a lot from those prayers. They seemed very rote and not connected to my concerns. Most of my classmates would mock the prayers and change the words to sing about ‘sour cream’ or other silly things.
Around the same time or perhaps a few years later, I began to think deeply about what happens to people after death. I asked my parents and they did not really have a strong response though my mother told me a little bit about an afterlife. I remember making a trip to the public library in Aventura/ North Miami Beach and reading a book written for kids about what death is. It basically said that we do not know what happens, and I was not very comforted by this. My anxieties over the question continued until my grandfather actually died. Experience with the real thing diminished my fear though I continued to occasionally wonder.
When I was in second/third grade I wrote a short book ‘Stories my Grandfather Told Me” that did well in a written and illustrated contest. While doing that I became aware of Antisemitism probably for the first time. It shocked me that Jews could have been persecuted just for having been born in a faith. Around this time I first became aware that we were a small minority in a largely Christian country although that didn’t mean much to me at the time.
When I was around 7 or 8 I began to feel very strange. I never told another person about what I was feeling, but it expressed itself in bad moods and a foul temper. For some reason I got the idea that I had been possessed by a demon or sorts. It was right after we’d moved to our house at 406 Poinciana Drive in Hallandale and I kept thinking that the way to get rid of this awful feeling was to immerse myself in water. It was Fall/Winter and so it was too cold. When spring came and I could finally go in, I don’t remember it making too much of a difference, but I did eventually feel clean and the feeling of taint and guilt did go away with time. It was only on the day of/after my Baptism 12 years later that I even truly remembered this strange period in my youth and connected it back to my reaching the age of accountability and desiring to be baptized. It’s interesting what connections like that I can now find.
I also remember well the yorzhite for my grandfather. I had not been there for the funeral , but on the one-year anniversary I could see the sorrow in my grandmother’s eyes. I hated the feeling of cemeteries as they were cold and gloomy. It didn’t really seem like there was much hope in anyone’s eyes as they spoke of the dead. It seemed so final and absolute. My grandmother’s death does not stand out nearly as strongly in my mind, but I remember the late night phone calls from my sisters. My dad left for the funeral as he had when on a cruise we received word of my grandfather’s passing. He was always the one to take charge when things like that happened and I remember even then admiring him for his strength and resolve. It was painful to see my grandmother suffer and slowly loose herself. A lesson I’d later learn from that experience is the importance of having a strong self-foundation not dependent on another person alone.