….Mom, sitting in front of what appears to be a Tallit…
Some people from my past, when they see me wearing a Kippah and Tzit-tziyot, ask me, “When did you convert?”
The question used to take me aback, because I never saw myself as having ‘converted,’ as in the worldly understanding of it.
My de-facto answer these days is “Forty-one years ago, when I came to trust in Messiah Yeshua in a tiny, country, Baptist church!”
It’s funny, because Jews never ask me the question! They see me as Jewish, and then, when they learn I am Messianic, most of them [the non-religious] do not question my Jewishness; they’re just bewildered by my belief in Yeshua as the Messiah, because they see HIM as the world does, a ‘former Jew’, or not Jewish at all.
In Israel, on my first trip there, I had so many Israeli Jews come up to me and call me brother; and they meant it in the most literal sense of the word. At that time I only wore the Kippah and tzit-tziyot during religious rites, so they had no reason to assume, other than my looks and locale. On my first day in Israel, I was standing at the Kotel, [The “Wailing Wall”, an outdoor synagogue] preparing to pray the Shema, an instinctive urge I had, not knowing it was customary, and I had my eyes closed, standing inches from those ancient stones. I felt an arm go around my shoulder, and a voice spoke softly into my left ear, “Welcome home…” This Rabbi knew it was my first time, I guess. And saw my reluctance, perhaps. He asked, “Have you prayed the Shema yet?” To which I said no, and he gave me some space. A few minutes later, we talked, and found out we had a common friend in Houston, a Rabbi, and that he also knew the family of one of my other Jewish friends in Houston! He never once asked when I had converted, or questioned my pedigree. The Rabbi friend we had in common here in Houston, when I met him, I volunteered my ‘goy’ status, and he corrected me! We met at work. Our companies shared the same building complex, and he and I both would go to a connecting hotel lobby at noon for prayer. One day, he was reading Torah as I walked by, having completed my prayers. I saw him with books, and I asked, “Are you reading Torah?” He smiled real big, “You know Torah?” And he handed it to me when I smiled and nodded. I read a few verses aloud out of his Hebrew-only Tanakh, and he was shocked. “You’re Jewish?” “Well, my grandmother was, and one of my dad’s grandfathers was.” “Well then, YOU’RE Jewish.” He added that my observance of Shabbat affirms it as well. And for the eight years that I worked there, we were buddies and brothers.
But, my ‘conversion,’ as I said, was not the same as others who do convert to Judaism. Mine was an ‘organic’ process.
What do I mean?
First, in regard to ‘genetics’, I am Jewish, and have been all my life. My mother and father both had Jewish parents or grandparents. My mother didn’t know this until late in her life, after I asked my grandmother if she was Jewish. I’ll never forget how matter-of-fact she was, and the big leather tome of her Jewish history she dug out to show me our heritage. My dad did not believe it, thinking my grandmother was delusional. [he wasn’t there in Georgia, but was at home in Texas] And he was not aware of his Jewish great-grandfather who was on the registry of Jewish Civil War Soldiers for the confederacy, along with my grandmother’s grandfather! That was my own discovery while I was getting a Master’s in [Jewish Military] history. So, I do have a bit of a genetic, Jewish pedigree. But, while our blood runs thick with our Jewish forebears, we did not have the Torah nor the customs, but a watered-down version of them we inherited through Christianity. Our Sabbath had been moved, and the feasts perverted. But both sides of my family LOVED the Word of G-d nonetheless. So, at 11 years old, when I stood in a Baptist church and heard of the Son of G-d, knowing already He was Jewish, and I heard that he died to take the penalty of my sin into His own flesh so that I would not have to, I trusted that good word. And I changed. And I became more Jewish than all my Jewish grandparents. Because the organic, life-giving event that transformed me was the beginning of the process of circumcision of the heart, [Rom 2:29, 11:13-20], and according to the inspired Word of G-d, on both sides of the book, THAT is what makes one a Yehudi: A True Jew!
So, I converted nearly forty-two years ago, and am still being converted. I am being transformed, and conformed into the image of the Son of G-d. That ‘image’ is ONLY clearly expressed in The Word of G-d. Every testimony outside of the Word MUST be measured against The Word ONLY. In the Tanakh [OT], it [the image of Yeshua] is a mystery. In the Brit Khadashah, it is a manifestation. [Heb 1:1-4] Yeshua lived His life as a Jew, died as a Jew, and for Jews. But, He died not only for our [Jews] sins, but for the sins of the whole world.
I love my Jewish heritage. I was honored to find out I had the blood of the tribe of Messiah in my veins. But I put NO STOCK in that, nor in my Torah walk, to save me or give me righteousness. I obey the Torah and follow His Customs to ‘show’ the mystery of Messiah to others, because I love G-d, and want to do it HIS WAY. I wish everyone would, and that all could see how simple, and pure, and easy this walk truly is. And how glorious doing what HE says is, making the wise simple, and the simple, wise.