by Gustavo Simao Godeghesi,
Welcome, Gustavo, to Blog Midrash! How exciting that you have agreed to share your very unique story with us here. Please welcome him warmly. :) Deena
My name is Gustavo Simao Godeghesi, and I would like to share a pretty interesting story, that can be seen as a mere coincidence or a spiritual illumination depending on the amount of religious load used to interpret this remarkable event that took place on a beach in my home country, Brazil. I would like first to give a little bit of my background in order for this whole story to make more sense.
I was born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Four years ago I moved to Canada in order to go to university and ended up getting married to my wonderful wife Elaine who has lived in Canada her whole life. I come from a family of Jewish background, but the religion and culture were lost around 400 years ago when my ancestors where persecuted in Austria and were forced to convert to Christianity. Today my whole family, to a certain degree, belongs to the Christian religion.
In a life long quest for my identity and background, I came across the fact that coincidently, both my parents’ have the same sort of family history. In other words, they both come from Jewish backgrounds and somehow lost the culture and religion due to persecution. This made me realize that my blood and soul are Jewish. I only came to this conclusion though, several months after the story that I’m about to tell.
It was a beautiful day at the beach with my family and then fiancé, and I was looking at this guy selling these beautiful white sheets that were supposed to be used to lie down on the sand or to be wrapped around the body for protection against the hot Brazilian sun. I turned to Elaine and said, “I would really like to buy one of those.” She naturally asked me why and I answered instantly without much thought put into it, “For praying.”
Again I must remark that I never had any contact with the Jewish religion, and knew pretty much nothing about it, except that there one day a year when they couldn’t eat, because on that day, a bunch of kids would miss school. Since the Jewish community of Sao Paulo is enormous it is very likely that during your lifetime you will come across quite a few Jews.
After I said that I wanted the sheet for wrapping myself in and praying, my wife asked the most obvious question that she could ask since from when I was a kid, I hadn’t really followed any religion and neither did she. She said: “Pray to who?” I didn’t really know what to say, because I really didn’t know who to pray to, but I had this strange urge to do it.
After about five minutes I kind of realized that there wasn’t much point to it so I let it go.
A few months later, after the resolution of my spiritual quest, when I was already somewhat involved with the Jewish religion, I came to Shabbat services for the first time and saw a tallit (prayer shawl). It was quite amazing what I felt when I saw it. I immediately recalled the blanket from the beach. It was almost as if all the effort that I was putting into the initiation of my conversion was then a grain of sand, because in a split second it all made sense to me; I was sure that what I was doing was right and finally my soul and my mind were looking in the same direction. Today, thank God, my wife has also found herself in the Jewish religion, and we are both about 1 year into this amazing journey of proudly becoming a part of the Jewish nation.