Reading Kabbalah helped Rafati rebound
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
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.”