My Introduction to Hebrew, Jews and Judaism

When my wife and I got married, I was nineteen and she was eighteen, about to turn nineteen at the end of that month.  I was working at a Pizza place and she was working at Meijer Thrifty Acres, a store similar to that of Wal-Mart.  Sometime within the first six months of our marriage, she said that she found a bunch of records on sale at the Christian bookstore.  They were all Lamb albums.  Lamb, I discovered later, was a Messianic Jewish group. It was a type of music I had never heard before, but I found myself drawn to them, their songs, as well as the Hebrew words that were there in their songs.  I found myself listening to them over and over again.  There were times, I’m sure, I drove my wife nuts listening and re-listening to these albums as much as I did.

It was around this same general time period when the pastor of the church that Karen and I were attending discussed the difference in how Christians viewed the soul and how the ancient Hebrews viewed it.  The Christian view is that man is a spirit with a soul living in a body.  The soul being that part of a person that doesn’t die but continues to live on forever.  However, the ancient Hebrews viewed it differently,  In Genesis 2:7, it says,

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

From his teaching, he said that the Hebrew point of view was not that man possessed a soul, but that man is a soul.  In other words, in the Christian view, if we save someone’s soul, then we’re saving that part of him that will live forever, but in the ancient Hebrew view, if we save someone’s soul, then we are saving the whole person, who that person is physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. In other words, every aspect of that person.

This really got my mind wondering what other differences there were between how Christians have traditionally viewed things versus how the ancient Hebrews, as well as the Jews today (the modern Hebrews) viewed them.  My curiosity was ignited, and as I began to read and study about Jews and Judaism, I discovered other things, which led to more curiosity, and more reading and studying.  However, although I was reading about them, I had never actually met one, at least as far as I knew.

Then about six months after we were married, I lost my job and she was a little more than five months pregnant.  We were fortunate enough, though, to be able to move in with her parents for a short time. During that year, I went out looking for work, and I did manage to get some temporary part-time jobs here and there, but nothing full time.  We ended up having to sign up for welfare and food stamps.  While I was still looking for work, I was told as part of the requirements for receiving food stamps I needed to attend these classes that they were putting on that would teach me the techniques and resume writing skills that I would need to help me find full-time employment.  It was at these meetings that I met an Orthodox Jew for the first time.

I remember how fascinated I was at seeing him.  Although he wasn’t that tall, he had dark hair and a bit of a beard.  We started talking, and we became friends.  Sadly, though, I don’t remember his name, but I do remember that he drove a Saab.  Through our acquaintance and beginning friendship, I discovered that I liked Jewish people.  He was a very nice and polite man.  Even during the lunch break when he would try to get alone to pray with his prayer book, I followed him.  He probably wondered why this strange goy (non-Jew) kept hanging around with him, even while he was trying to pray, but I sat there and quietly watched.   And for the first time, the word “Jew” was no longer just a word to me, it took on form and life, and in a rather strange way, my friendship with him made my Bible and studies seem more real to me.

When I met him, I was at a point in my life where things were seemingly falling apart.  I couldn’t find work, I had to drop out of college for awhile, and my marriage was beginning to feel rather rocky.  God at this point felt distant, and I was doubting whether He actually loved me at all.   And then I met this Jewish man there at the class sessions.  But in the back of my mind, I thought if I could like this guy who is Jewish, then maybe, I could like Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) too.  From that “aha” moment, I had a renewed interest and reason to find out as much about Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) and Judaism as I could.   Some may wonder at what I am about to say, but the thing that has really attracted me the most to Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) has not been His divinity, but His humanity, and more specifically, His Jewishness. It was like the more about “Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) the Jew” I discovered and learned, the more I about Him I liked and the more intrigued I was with Him.

The first activity we did as “Messianic believers” was to throw a Purim party.  We had a friend who said we could use the clubhouse at their apartment complex, and so we all dressed up in costume, brought food, and had an extremely fun time celebrating Purim, which commemorates the bravery of Queen Esther (Heb. Hadassah) in saving her people from extermination.  During the celebration, I read the book of Esther, while the kids and adults sat around listening.  Little did I know that it would be the first of many presentations regarding the various feasts found in the Scriptures.

Now here it is thirty-four years later, and I find myself even more intrigued, even more passionate for Him.  In fact, my passion and love for Him grows daily.  I’ve come a long way since back then, and my marriage today now gets better and stronger with each passing day.   I never really understood what drew me to the Jewish people and Jewish studies, I just knew that I was drawn to them.  However, at the beginning of this month (November), the Lord spoke to my wife and gave her this revelation about me:

Don’t let there be any doubt or unassurance to what I have been calling you to do.  I know you love Me, I know you love My Torah and commandments.  How do I know this, My son?  I am the One who implanted it inside of you and have put this desire inside of you for such a time as this.  I want you to go and tell My story to the nations, telling them that I am real and that I am coming back, and I have not deleted anything from My Torah, says the L-rd G-d Almighty.

It was through this and other messages that the Lord has spoken to us that so many things in my life have suddenly made so much sense.  God has moved in my life through so many things to bring me to the place that I am today, and one intricate and very close person in my life that God has used has been my wife.  She has become my closest friend and companion in this journey we’ve both been called to travel. In fact, the Lord has shared with us that it was He who brought us together.  It was all part of His plan for our lives.

It was God who implanted within me my love and passion for Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus), the Jewish people, as well as their culture, history, values, and beliefs.   And it was God who shared with us that it was He who put us on this journey together, a journey that He ignited through these events.  It is my hope and prayer that you will find these memories a blessing, and that God has implanted within you – as He did us – a passion for Him, His Word, and His people.  However, if He hasn’t yet,  then I pray that God will grant you to have your own series of experiences that will ignite that same passion and love within you.  May God richly bless you and direct you in your walk with Him and the Messiah Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus).

 

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