Novák Zsombor Péter | zsombito

Levél Tamás rabbinak

Letter to Rabbi Tamás

in Személyes történetek - Personal Stories

Dear Tamás!

In this letter I turn to you as my spiritual mentor, as the master of Judaism and with your permission – due to the sincere nature of the letter – as a friend as well. I dare to use this noble expression, because to me the idea of a friendship based on trust and honesty, means the dimension, where I can truly speak about the important things in life. When it comes to the essence of life, I think, I will share the most important story, that happened in my life on Earth. I’m bound to take a detour through time, before getting to the main event, in order for you to see clearly, how long my journey was in the complexity of the spiritual world.

My roots go back to an unreligious family, where I didn’t come across the idea of religion or faith. My self-awareness began to rise after the divorce of my parents. The pain, that I felt back then, made me realize, that I exist. I was six years old at that time. I grew up as a child of divorced parents – sadly. My father’s faith was in sports and his love for Tisza, my mother’s was based on the endless patience and endurance in caring for us. But harmony was never present at home. After somewhat 10 years I decided to say goodbye to these surroundings. I came across an opportunity in high school to spend a whole year in Ecuador as an exchange student. That was the first time ever hearing about religion and God. My faith relied on the wonders of nature, dance, the power of music, getting to know foreign cultures, but most of all the desire of peace in the family. My first time praying and going to church consciously was at the equator, where I could debate with my age group and adults about religion and learning something new about Jesus daily.

Staying true to my elite athlete nature, I began to climb in the Andes Mountains. With a German and Swiss friend of mine, we decided to climb the snow-covered Cotopaxi, the world’s highest active volcano, with its 5987 meters. We rented professional gear, trained hard for it and we started off on our journey to conquer the mountains of the Indians. After climbing a somewhat 4500 m high mountain we reached Cotopaxi: many cold days, strong wind, frozen drinks and food, high heartrate, lack of sleep and oxygen. From 4800 m we started off our nearly ten-hour long journey in such state. We were reaching 5500 m height, where I noticed I’m constantly praying. Jesus, whereof I heard so much thus far, appeared in my prayers as well. I felt like, I reached the top owing to the prayers. Standing on the top of the world, my tears were falling down on my face as I was waving the Hungarian flag.

During my staying in Ecuador, the high school in Szolnok became an ecclesiastical institution, which was not so strange for me - unlike for my schoolmates. Bible classes weren’t obligatory, so from the two classes of the year I was the only one, who wanted to learn about the Catholic religion. A nun held me separate lessons for two years. In the light of complete honesty, I have to tell, that as a result of these lessons I became Catholic when I was 18 years old. Of course, my family didn’t understand it. Although I didn’t have much self-awareness back then, but practically I took my first steps by myself on the road of faith at that time. To be honest, I never felt at home in church, but most importantly, I didn’t believe in God. I couldn’t dive deep in Catholicism.

After years I found myself in the Vasvári Pál Street Synagogue, where for some reason I felt at home. That’s when I fell in love with Judaism. Since then, you’re familiar with some parts of my journey: I visited communities in Budapest for years, I was looking into the religion more deeply on a daily basis, I visited Israel many times and I was thinking deeply about entering – which goes 4 years back now –, and then I applied to the University of Jewish Studies. Love turned into commitment.

Due to my sensibility, I was fighting for survival my whole life. What have I been looking for? I believe, what every human being wants to understand: what is our life about, is there a use of suffering and death, are we on our own or is there a universal, all-pervasive Conscience? But I looked at religion as a biologist would look at cells with its microscope: I took it to pieces, observed its shape and distinctive signs, attachments, interactions with other substances, its quantity, but I couldn’t see the real essence with my instruments.

Before last week’s Shabbos – which occurred on All Hallows’ Day – I visited two friends of mine, a Reformed pastor and a Catholic priest in Eastern Hungary. I look up to them as mentors as well, who gave evidence of unclouded honesty and trust. We’re friends. After the meeting and visiting the Wonder Rabbi’s tomb in Nagykálló, I got on a train in Nyíregyháza, where a smiling man sat in front of me, holding the book with the title ‘The Priest’ in his hand. Later on, during the ride he moved to sit beside me, saying: ‘I will sit closer to my little friend’. He talked about being a reformed pastor, and we kept talking until we arrived in Szolnok. And in the meantime, something happened.

How can I define it, what my childlike faith can’t? I found myself in an extraordinary altered state of mind: I didn’t just feel and know, I was certain about it. I have a bright smile on my face just thinking about this state of mind, however I’m not smiling in pain, but in joy. I just can’t rightly define this experience for lack of a better word.

The most beautiful Sabbath of my life came after this. Before this I was just roaming around in the synagogue, as someone, who was desperate because of the long-lasting loneliness, who couldn’t pick fruits from the tree he planted and nurtured for many years. This Saturday was completely different: I spent that day being in the comforting presence of my brother, enjoying his unusual interest, swimming in joy after getting acquainted with the honorable presence of the pastor that day, being recharged with energy through spending time with my distant consecrated friends, feeding upon your endless knowledge, and being in the prime of my faith, moreover, my conscience. Believe me – Dear Tamás –, that this time I can exaggerate and say: I’ve never felt so blessed. This was certainly a paradigmatic change in my life, since then I experience countless doubts, pleasures, questions, fears and ways of escape.

What’s my journey? Am I suited for serving God? Is it necessary to do it under the name of only one religion, and if yes, which one? Why do I feel such a strong affection and bond to Judaism? Did I reach Judaism through Catholicism? How do I place Jesus in His rightful place in myself? What about my sins and the mistakes I made along my journey? How do I look after this treasure? How honest can I be to others? What about my own death? Can I talk about God? Where and how can I be authentic? And most importantly: What can I do for others?

It would be an honor to talk to you about these in person, your guidance would be particularly important for me!

Your Friend: Zsombor

Grafika: Nagy Katalin Matild

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