Read­ing Kab­balah helped Rafati re­bound

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY JOSH MENDELOWITZ

IN 2003, Khalil Rafati hit rock bot­tom.

A home­less heroin ad­dict asleep on the cold, hard floor of a Los An­ge­les County jail, Mr Rafati knew he had nowhere to go but up.

Four­teen years later and he is on top of the world. Or, at least, on top of Los An­ge­les.

“I es­caped from hell,” he says while driv­ing through the streets of LA.

He used to live in the worst parts of the city. Now, he is a mil­lion­aire and the proud owner of a fast-grow­ing fruitjuice chain, SunLife Or­gan­ics, that is spread­ing across the United States.

He never for­gets to count his bless­ings, though.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate the loving grace of God ev­ery sin­gle day for keep­ing me alive,” he ut­ters, like a true man of faith.

A man of many faiths, to be pre­cise. He is the son of a Mus­lim fa­ther and a Ro­man Catholic-raised

Jewish mother.

His mother was dropped on a stranger’s doorstep by her own

Jewish mother as she fled to Hun­gary from Nazi-oc­cu­pied Poland. Those strangers adopted her and raised her a Catholic.

Mr Rafati knows lit­tle more than that. “The past is the past” is all his mother would ever tell him.

He is ex­pan­sive, how­ever, about his own tale of sur­vival.

Last year, he de­tailed his strug­gles Rafati to­day and (left) when he was home­less in LA

in his mem­oir, I For­got to Die. In the book, he de­scribes how he left his trou­bled child­hood be­hind in 1992 as he set out from Ohio for Cal­i­for­nia aged 21. He wanted to be a movie star, but the City of An­gels got the bet­ter of him.

In just a lit­tle over a decade, he was ar­rested count­less times, had nine heroin over­doses and mul­ti­ple brushes with death.

It was his last jail stint that fi­nally con­vinced

him to go to re­hab and turn his life around.

On his path to so­bri­ety and ul­ti­mately suc­cess, Mr Rafati re­turned to his Jewish roots. He started study­ing Kab­balah and now car­ries copies of the Zo­har, a book of Kab­bal­is­tic teach­ings, every­where he goes.

He later be­came friendly with his lo­cal Chabad rabbi who would wrap him in tefillin, a feel­ing he de­scribed as “elec­tri­fy­ing.”

As he grew con­nected to the Jewish com­mu­nity he be­gan to re-ex­am­ine his own Jewish iden­tity.

“I even­tu­ally got tense with my mom. I told her, ‘you are a Jew and you need to get hon­est about it’.”

Still, she would not budge. “I don’t know, just leave it alone,” she told him.

With­out her con­fir­ma­tion, Mr Rafati’s life re­mains steeped in a spir­i­tual am­bi­gu­ity that makes it dif­fi­cult to fully emerge from what he calls a re­li­gious “no man’s land”.

“I’m not 100 per cent sure if I’m Jewish. I’m only 70 or 80 per cent sure. But in my heart of hearts, I feel like I’m a Jew.”

The lack of a clear re­li­gious iden­tity has its ben­e­fits too, he says.

“If I was raised in one spe­cific re­li­gion, I wouldn’t be able to ex­plore all the dif­fer­ent faces of God.”

And ex­plore he has. His list of re­li­gious ex­pe­ri­ences spreads far be­yond the re­li­gions of his par­ents and past his own coun­try’s borders.

“I’ve checked out Bud­dhism. I’ve looked at Hin­duism. I’ve trav­elled to In­dia. I went to In­done­sia for a month and stud­ied yoga. I went to a Hare Kr­ishna tem­ple. I went to a Baha’i tem­ple and med­i­tated. It’s been great.”

His busi­ness might, too, soon spread be­yond the US. He hopes to land a li­cens­ing deal in Ja­pan and per­haps open a store in Lon­don.

Fa­mous Bri­tons al­ready flock to the store. The daugh­ters of bil­lion­aire Bernie Ec­cle­stone fre­quent the shop. Harry Styles of One Direc­tion and Chris Martin of Cold­play have stopped by too.

Should he bring his juice chain to Lon­don, ex­pect to find a mezuzah above the front door of ev­ery store.

“I don’t know what the mezuzah says, but I know it rep­re­sents God. And that’s all that mat­ters to me.”

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