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An inspiring story: When former addict meets judge who put him behind bars

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

The following letter was received last night by Rabbi Eitan Ekstein, Director of Retorno, a center for treatment of addictions:

"Shalom Rabbi Ekstein, My name is Shmuel Herbst and I serve as President of the Shalom Court in Jerusalem. Today I was privileged to visit Retorno for the fourth time with the judges of our criminal court.

This time we were privileged to hear the amazing story of Tal Aviram, counseling coordinator at the recovery center. This was not our first meeting. In 2009 I served as prosecutor in the Jerusalem District Attorney's Office. I was the one who prosecuted Tal Aviram. I was the one who put him behind bars.

His file always astonished me considering the special circumstances of his life. Tal was a gifted child who, due to a crisis, became addicted to gambling. He piled up debts of more than seven million shekels and fell into the abyss. I told my children about him whenever we passed by the kiosk where he would buy lottery tickets.

Years passed. Several years ago, Tal appeared before me in court, not as a defendant this time but rather as a mentor to one of Retorno's rehab residents. I recognized Tal immediately, identified myself, asked to shake his hand, and expressed my admiration for what he had done.

Today I heard his entire story. Tal has been addiction free for ten years. At the end of our conversation, we embraced and I appreciated what a great person he had become. He is a kind of ba'al teshuvah at a level that we 'normal' people can never truly understand."

Thank you Judge Herbst and Tal Aviram for all the messages conveyed in this story. It's a story about people's ability to move from despair to hope, no matter how far they fall, and about their ability not only to rehabilitate themselves, but also to rehabilitate others. Finally, it's a story about the ability of the accuser to recognize the greatness in the accused".


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