Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Mumbai Anecdote

His former name was Bahagirdesh Pradesh. His father was a high Hindu priest. He says of his father, "He had several strange idols to which he attributed different powers. I never understood how father respected man-made idols. I didn't understand why mother busied herself making meals for the idols, when often I would end up eating them covertly."

After high-school he confronted his father, "How can you believe in such nonsense?" His father remained silent. "One day I took a hammer and just smashed the idols." When his father said, "The gods will be angry", he answered, "Let them get up and do something to me!"

He continued his studies in Mumbai's medical university. There he became friends with Christian students. Sensing his keen interest in religion, they gave him the Jewish Bible (Tanach). These books excited him as he devoured their content, especially the Book of Psalms, and the figures of Abraham, Moses and the story of the Jews.

He graduated and accepted a residency in a major hospital in Mumbai. There he met his wife-to-be, a nurse. She too became drawn to the Holy Books. After they married, they decided to change their surname to Abraham, the historical figure they held in high esteem. His own first name he changed to Aaron, because of his admiration for the Jewish High Priest of ancient Israel.

They began to feel the desire to convert to Judaism. Acquaintances persuaded them to convert - as "Reform Jews". They now thought they were full-fledged Jews.

It happened the Holtzbergs, Chabad emissaries of the Rebbe, who ran a "Chabad House" in Mumbai, had a son with severe congenital problems, who needed emergency treatment. They rushed the child (who later passed away) to the emergency room in Mumbai's prestigious Breach Candy Hospital, where Dr. Aaron Abraham directed its Intensive Care Unit. From this contact with Gabi and Rivkah Holtzberg, Aaron learned that his "conversion" was, in fact, no conversion at all. He began to take classes with Gabi, while his wife took classes with Rivkah.

After the brutal massacre in Mumbai a year ago, when terrorists targeted the Holtzberg's Chabad House and murdered them in cold blood, Aaron and his wife were shaken to the core. That Chabad House had become their axis of life. There they spent every Shabbos and every holiday. Now they felt they had no more reason to stay in India. They emigrated to Israel and now live in Kiryat Arba. They continue to learn, still intent on a proper conversion to become full-fledged Jews.

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