Although every ger tzedek has his own amazing story, Rav Haturi’s story is unique. Born Novo Taka in the city of Naguya in 1960, Haturi was a spiritual individual since his youth. He studied to be a minister for 6 years.
He received a divinity degree, married, and became one of the youngest ministers in Japan. At 27, he received his first position in a church. He engaged in missionary activity in schools and universities, and worked with young and old.
His first visit to Israel took place in 1985 with a group of fellow ministers. He was brought to all the Christian sites, but felt apathetic to them. He found the Jewish sites much more interesting. He went to the Kosel and was riveted by the worshippers wearing tefillin. One day, he parted from his group for a few hours to walk through Meah Shearim. He bought several books on Judaism in English including a siddur and began to study them when he returned to Japan.
“When I became a minister, I hoped that my questions on faith would disappear,” says Haturi, “but they only intensified.” He found himself preaching to his congregation, while in his private chamber he was studying Judaism. “I lived a double life. In the morning I preached Christianity and at night, I learned Judaism.”
Finally he gathered his courage and told his wife about his faith dilemmas in Christianity. He was surprised when she told him she felt the same way. Together they began to study Judaism.
They began to keep mitzvos as they found about them. Haturi was particularly attracted to Shabbos. One Friday night his wife lit candles, he made Kiddush and they spent the rest of the day doing nothing because he didn’t know what one is supposed to do on Shabbos. When it got dark, he made Havdala and then went to his room to prepare his church sermon.
Once he was carrying out the sacraments in church, and as he lifted the tray, the words spilled out of his mouth “Baruch Ata Hashem…” He caught himself, although his congregation looked in puzzlement.
After this, he and his wife looked at each other and said, “It’s time to leave the church.” At that point, he submitted his resignation and told his congregation he wanted to spend a few years in Israel to study Tenach. They happily sent him to Israel, because they thought he would return after a few years and be a leading light in their church. No one dreamed what was going on in his mind.
Haturi and his wife flew to Israel, unsure where they would live or what they would do. “We weren’t planning to convert. We kept mitzvos because we simply loved them. We found an apartment in downtown Yerushalayim. Every evening, my wife and myself wondered what we should do now,” Haturi recalls.
He was assailed by many doubts. How would he make a living? If he would convert, would he be accepted in Jewish society? Conversion meant losing his large family in Japan, because they worship idols. For instance, if a family member passes away, everyone must bow down to him because he attains the status of an idol. If one won’t bow down, and then suffering befalls the family, everyone will blame him.
It took Haturi a month and a half until he decided upon giyur. “I wanted to be able to recite the blessing ‘asher kidashonu bemitzvosov’ with all my heart,” he explains.
After opening a file in the Rabbanut, many tried to talk him out of it. He told the rav, “How can I learn Torah if I don’t convert? A goy cannot learn Torah.” He took a private teacher who taught him in Hebrew, and he translated for his wife.
“I loved learning Torah and fortunately, the people who were taking care of our file in the Rabbanut saw we were serious,” he recalls. Within a short time, he was permitted to complete the process and he and his wife became Moshe and Tzipora Haturi.
After becoming Jews, he sent a letter to his church asking for their names to be removed from the church’s membership roster. The church sent an outraged messenger to Israel with a letter full of curses. “I understand them,” says Haturi. “They invested a lot of money in me so I would become their minister and I betrayed them.”
Haturi had still not found his place and a community where he would feel comfortable. Then eight years ago, he came across the sefer “The Gaon — the life and teachings of the Vilna Gaon” by Rav Dov Eliach and found the inspiration he had been seeking.
He heard the story of how the Gaon was willing to give away part of his Olam Habo just to get an esrog for Sukkos, and he was convinced that he had found the man of truth he sought. He accepted upon himself Nusach Ashkenaz in general and minhagei haGra in particular.
“The chapter on the ger tzedek R’ Avraham Potozki made me dance in joy.,” says Haturi.
Haturi moved to Shaarei Chesed, planning to pray in the GRA shul there.
“Only afterwards did I realize the hashgocha protis I had,” he reflects. After a few weeks, he summoned his courage and entered Yeshivas Maalos Hatorah and introduced himself to the rosh yeshiva, Rav Shmuel Auerbach. Right away, Rav Shmuel welcomed him and treated him like a son. He felt completely comfortable with the bnei yeshiva.
Since then, he davens daily in the yeshiva and says he feels “hashra’as hashechina.” He feels he has arrived at his final destination.
“In Japan, I wanted to meet my Creator,” he says. “Finally, today, I sit here most of the day with the gemora open and I study Rashi, Tosfos and Rishonim and afterwards the Gaon’s biur on Shulchan Aruch. I truly feel like I’m living with Hakodesh Baruch Hu.”
Haturi says, “Japan is one of the few places in the world where until today, they have idol worship and idolatrous temples. When I study Meseches Avodah Zara, the concepts are well known to me.”
When asked about the controversy over geirus which has rocked Israel in the past year, Haturi says,”I support Rabbinical Supreme Court dayan Rav Sherman 100%. His view is the correct halachic view. There are no compromises on geirus. Long before I saw Rav Sharman’s psak, I knew of the problem and even discussed it with Rav Elyashiv. I’m acquainted with several geirus files.
“Unfortunately, true gerim are very few today. From my personal knowledge, most gerim stop keeping mitzvos after their giyur, because they find it difficult. Until the giyur, they’re willing to keep the 613 mitzvos because they need the giyur certificate, but afterwards, the yetzer hora tells them ‘You’re already a Jew, and there are plenty of Jews who don’t keep mitzvos either…’ But the truth must be said. If the gerim don’t completely accept upon themselves mitzvos, they’re not gerim.”
About the Pope’s recent visit, he was very critical. “The Catholics believe, nebich, that he is a substitute for G-d. He is the symbol of idol worship. To bring him to the Kosel, is like setting up an idol in the Sanctuary.”
He also has much sympathy for the 3 yeshiva bochurim who are imprisoned in Japan. “I don’t believe all the exaggerations they are saying about the boy’s situation and how they are being abused,” Haturi says. “When I was a priest, I was acquainted with Japanese prisons. There are limits to what they will do. But I’m sure those boys’ situation is much worse than that of Hamas terrorists in Israeli prisons.
“With the Japanese, everything goes according to procedure, and there is no negotiating. In Israel, things can change from one day to the next, but not there. For instance, if you go to the bank in Japan, and all the clerks know you, but you forget to bring in one paper, they’ll send you back home. That’s how the Japanese are. There’s no wiggle room.”
Haturi had previously told the rabbonim dealing with the bochurim’s case that he was willing to intercede on their behalf with the Japanese justice system. Rav Weiss from Antwerp and the boys’ lawyers took up his offer this past month. He left for Japan this past Sunday with the blessing of Rav Shmuel Auerbach.
A confidant of Rav Weiss said, “Moshe Haturi knows how to work with the Japanese. We expect that his presence in Japan will contribute much to the efforts to release the boys in custody and reduce their punishment.”