New Wine

from Diksha

It was because of car trouble that I came to Ananda—my spiritual path and spiritual home.

I was born in Israel, raised by a devout father as a conservative Jew. I loved the Jewish services, ceremonies, and celebrations. But in my teens I began to question the meaning of life and the existence of God. By my late twenties, disappointments in career and relationships had left me empty and dissatisfied.

Lying in bed one night, I shocked myself with a sudden desperate prayer. “God, show me the way!” I cried. It was a turning point.

By this time I had moved from Israel to Japan. Now I felt compelled to go to America. I ended up living with a friend in Palo Alto, California.

I had begun to explore Eastern spirituality. Looking through a directory of spiritual groups, I was overwhelmed with choices. How could I know which path was mine? I prayed deeply, “God, You have to guide me.”

Soon after, walking down the sidewalk one day, I saw a small sign, “Yoga Center.” It was the early days of Ananda Palo Alto, and at that time they had a “storefront church.” I went inside to look around. On the altar was a picture of Jesus Christ.

If you aren’t Jewish, you may not understand how impossible it was for me to stay in a place where a picture of Jesus was reverentially displayed. I felt like a betrayer. “I AM JEWISH!” I declared to myself, and walked out.

A few days later I had to run some errands, but my car wouldn’t start. The battery was dead. I didn’t know what to do, so I stood on the sidewalk in front of my house and prayed that someone would help me. A neighbor driving by stopped and asked, “Is there something you need?”

“Yes,” I said, “the battery in my car is dead. I need to borrow a car so I can go get a new one.”

“Happy to help,” she said, and gave me her car to drive.

On the way to the auto shop, I pushed the start button of the cassette player without any idea of what was in there. A woman’s voice came on talking about harmony in relationships. Her words touched a responsive chord in my heart. It was Asha, co-director of Ananda Palo Alto.

I started going to Ananda—but only to their library to borrow more tapes. For months I listened to recordings of Asha’s classes. There was a deep resonance between what she said and my own inner longing. I began to meditate and, finally, came to a Sunday service. Asha was speaking. Afterwards in the greeting line, when it was my turn, I blurted out, “I am Jewish! I don’t know why I am here!”

To my astonishment, pointing to her husband David and herself, Asha said, “We are Jewish, too.” Later, Asha reminded me that Jesus had also been Jewish. “He never stopped being a Jew,” she said. “His followers called him ‘Rabbi.’ It was long after he died that Christianity became a separate religion.”

Even though I knew Ananda was the answer to my prayer, it wasn’t easy to overcome the deep mistrust and many layers of self-identification that caused me to flee that first day. But, through God’s grace and my own longing for truth, eventually this Jewish girl embraced not only her Hindu guru, but also Jesus, her Christian/Jewish rabbi as well.