My friend the atheist couldn’t believe it when I went ahead with my conversion. For years he jumped from religion to religion until he chose to follow nothing while I kept pursuing (and studying) Judaism. I devoured books on the subject (Kaddish by Leon Wieseltier, Surprised by G-d by Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, books by Elie Wiesel, Ari L. Goldman, Chaim Potok, Isaac Bashevis Singer, the Tanakh, the Talmud, The Palm Tree of Deborah, Anne Frank’s diary, Mihail Sebastian’s journals, etc., etc.,) while the atheist slept around with various women and tried various drugs. The drugs almost killed him and one of the women, maybe more than one, gave him an incurable disease. Sometimes, when I think of him, I also think, “It could have been me instead of him.”
One night, after work ended, I met this girl outside the hotel where the atheist and I used to work. She was young, not that pretty but with a good body, and she was looking for fun. By fun I mean sex. I had seen her before, at the hotel, and we chatted briefly. She chatted with the atheist too and a few other guys, and, because she was lost, she wanted to mislead us. It could have been me but I said no.
I was tired, so tired of sin, tired from sinning, and I was trying to live a quieter life, a life away from sin. There’s no point in me painting a nice picture of the old me. I was there, at the doors of Hell, and I bathed myself in sin. But there’s only so much one can do before he gets lost permanently in Hell. Instead, I chose to walk away and become someone else, a new me, a better me, a quieter me. Me, me, me; sometimes we have to give up on everyone else for a while and give some attention to ourselves.
After I walked away, months later, I looked back and I wrote a poem about it all, about the hell I left behind
This life, O G-d,
I close my eyes and
I relive my mistakes, and I see my sins,
One by one,
Or in pairs, holding hands,
Flashing across my eyes,
Laughing at me,
Making fun of me,
Trying to lure me back,
But I left that life behind
Because of You,
Thanks to You.
But I also have to give some credit to the little man,
Because I found in me the strength to walk away,
But I know that it was You who saved me,
Because You listened to me when I was crying in the woods,
Alone on my birthday,
A rope waiting for my neck.
You listened to me
And You saved me,
And now here I am,
After leaving Hell behind I finally started to write. Maybe the sins were holding me back, stopping me from dreaming.
And as I look back, I recall that night with that girl when I said no, and I remember the atheist on the next morning telling me that he went out with her. And they did it. And as usual he wore no protection. What if she were the one who gave him that incurable disease? I’m not proud of myself for saying no because I know that it could have been me instead of him as I did said yes various times before that girl. Instead, I’m grateful.
My friend the atheist doesn’t believe in G-d nowadays although there are days when he believes. He asks me how can I believe and I shrug my shoulders.
What can I say?
I’m just a simple Jew, happy to be here.
My friend the atheist had a rough life, a tough upbringing, and he had to give up on his dreams (and later on, on his true love) and he started working from a young age just to survive, so I can see why he is bitter.
And I’ll be honest here and admit that I too used to be bitter (but I always believed), and in the past there were times when I turned away from G-d, and just when I thought that I had turned my back on Him completely (and He on me), He decided to come and rescue me from Hell. But the atheist has been saved too, and he has been given a new chance, another shot at happiness, and he has found a good woman to love.
This life is a strange life, but there’s more to come after we leave this life. There’s so much more. Sometimes we just need to have a little faith.
Slowly, bit by bit, my friend the atheist is starting to believe.