To family and friends,
It seems that we are in a kind of “day of reckoning”: right now, with people making firm decisions about their lives and lifestyles, and then pronouncing such changes and affirmations openly. I feel it is time for me to make a proclamation myself and clear the air, lest rumors fly and inaccuracies occur in the speculative reporting of the situation.
Anyone who knows me also knows I am a pretty religious person. Make no mistake, things of a spiritual nature have always been important to me, as well as the idea of “doing the right thing” whenever I could, according to the knowledge I had at the time. This has been a struggle for me, since all people want to be happy, myself being no exception. However, there has always been a tension in my soul between pursuing happiness and pursuing meaning. One does not always lead to, or bring about, the other. Unfortunately, I have also projected such a paradigm onto others, including my children. I cannot really apologize for that, being as how I still believe that meaning in life is should always be pursued even at the cost of happiness, which I believe is fleeting and dependent upon circumstances. Happiness can be stolen from you,but meaning never can be.
However, the pursuit of meaning and truth is a journey that requires taking different paths, viewing things from various perspectives and at times exposing oneself to rejection and pain. I do apologize for putting my family and friends through any pain they may have suffered as a result of my pursuit of meaning and truth. On the other hand, I also hope that my children , family and friends have enjoyed a deeper life experience on some level as a result of the same.
The pursuit of meaning and truth has no end, and is always in motion. It often means “trading-in” one paradigm, or mindset, for another. These trade-offs can sometimes demand not only a change of thought, but a change in lifestyle that accompanies that change of thought, if one is to be consistent. However, I have also learned that compromise is not always bad, and that oftentimes compromise is the wiser path. Obviously there are those who would vehemently disagree.
In 1999, during a time of personal distress over my circumstances. I made a decision to let God take my life and mold it into whatever He thought best. This decision led to convictions about many things. The first of which was to surrender completely to God. I decided to persue my Christian faith in an uncompromising way and to open my heart to anything God wanted to show me. It was at this point that questions came to mind:
1- Why do people pray to Jesus if Jesus said to pray to the Father and not to him?
2- Why don’t Jews, who had the Law,the Prophets and a rich history of deep spiritual persuit of truth accept Jesus?
I had actually made a phone call to a local synagogue in order to ask a rabbi why he did not accept Jesus. At this point I had no information on the matter being as how the “Information Age”, i.e., the Internet, had not yet made it to my household. The rabbi was not available at the time, so I decided to try at a later date.
I was able to find an old friend from my “Christian rock band” days, ________,who was now a pastor, and made an appointment to discuss these things with him. His answer was that Jesus was not what the Jews expected in a Messiah:
1- A warrior to destroy the Romans, so they could dominate the world
3- The egotistical Jewish leadership saw Jesus as a “threat to their power”
These seemed to satisfy my curiosity for a while. I also asked Pastor _____ why people pray to Jesus when Jesus said to pray to God. Of course the answer was that Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit were all the same God, and to pray to any one of them was to pray to them all. It still made no sense, but I pursued my Christianity with great zeal nonetheless. As most of you know, I later became a Seventh-Day Adventist due to my conviction that God’s laws could never be changed, since God himself could never change. But in the spirit of transperancy I must add that SDA was not my first choice.
All of my life I have had a strong and inexplicable pull toward Israel and the Jewish people. Prior to attending the Adventist Church I investigated “Messianic Judaism”, that is, a form of Judiasm that was also Christian. However, the congregations were few and far between, and the ones I found were focused more on political Zionism than God. I had no problem with Zionism ( centering on Israel as a nation), but I was hungry for God and his truth. I has already begun keeping the Shabbat ( Sabbath), adopted a kosher diet and taught my children accordingly.
I joined the Adventist Church, took and Adventist wife and later took a job at a Seventh-day Adventist high school in Oklahoma. During this time, I continued my pursuit of truth regarding my very first question as a “born-again Christian”: Why do people pray to Jesus when Jesus said to pray to the Father? Christianity was very “Christ-centered”, but Jesus seemed more “God-centered”, at least in the Synoptic Gospels. I got many different answers for this, bit none satisfied that nagging curiosity that goaded my conscience and my intellect.
I continued my research for the next couple of years in earnest to uncover this odd mystery . Much to my surprise, I discovered that the SDA Church was nontrinitarian for its first 90 years, and that the trinity was only made an official doctrine in 1980! I then wrote a piece using my over 1000 pages of gleaned study notes, which resulted in the manuscript called “The Trinity Chronicles”. This MS made its way around the globe, was translated into several slavic languages, and eventually found its way to the leadership of the SDA denomination. Calls were made by the General Conference to the school I was on staff at and my contract was not renewed for the following year.
I then began to investigate my original question: why do Jews not accept Jesus as messiah?
This question took me to a few different rabbis, all of whom had a different story than the standard Christian response. The rabbis took me through the Jewish Bible, called Tanakh, which includes what Christians call “the Old Testament”. They showed me that, in fact, there was an entire litany of scriptural requirements spelled out plainly in the Bible which must be met for any messianic claimant; events that would accompany his arrival into the world ( this is only a partial list):
1- The Messiah is not God or a divine being, but a mere mortal, and will not be worshiped in any way
2- He will be of the tribe of Judah and tribal affiliation comes through the father’s bloodlines
3- The Third Temple will be rebuilt and fully functional, including Levitical priests
4- Universal knowledge of God, nobody will have to preach anything to anyone
5- The Jewish Bible says nothing about eternal salvation being dependent on “believing in” the messiah.
I then went back to the Christian side for their response. I was presented with “over 300 prophecies about the Messiah that Jesus fulfilled”. Rather than study all 300, I asked for the “top 40”; those that were considered the plainest and most important. I took these prophecies one by one and studied them in their context and in their original language ( Hebrew) using my concordance and lexicons. Of the 40 I was presented, I concluded that Jesus only fulfilled three:
1- He was human ( the seed of Eve)
2- He was Jewish ( His mom was Jewish so he was too)
3- He rode a donkey into Jerusalem ( although he had his disciples steal the donkey for the sole purpose of fulfiling that prophecy)
Most of the “messianic prophecies” I was presented with were not even prophecies. And those that were prophecies were taken out of context or had a verse attached to the context , such as sins the “messiah” would be repenting of, that would eliminate Jesus as the New Testament presents him. One proof text even tells of a false prophet … and Christians applied this text to Jesus!
I stopped attending the SDA church entirely and there was growing contention with my wife and in my home. Eventually, we divorced in 2010 ( not just over religion, but several reasons).
I attended the Conservative synagogue in Oklahoma City for three years, from 2008 to 2011, while also studying with Orthodox rabbis over the phone and by internet ( the Orthdox rabbis believed I have a “Jewish soul” that is trying to find its way home). I was asked by the rabbi in OKC to convert. But by 2011 my life had become lonely. The synagogue I was attending hired a new rabbi, who became vocal in [liberal] politics from the pulpit which was a turn-off for me ( my friends know I lean conservative, but I also do not enjoy secular political activism from the pulpit) and I found myself in the middle of an emotional “no man’s land”. I missed my “old life”: my wife, my kids, my step-kids and my SDA friends, and tried my best to win back as much as I could. My youngest daughter was still Christian as well.
On the strength of all these difficulties I decided to “hold my nose” and return to the SDA church, burying my antitrinitarian and “non-Jesus” thoughts as best I could. I made no secret of the fact that my Christian faith held by only a weak thread. But in the back of my mind, I knew I was not walking out my convictions, and every Adventist sermon that centered on Jesus grated on my conscience ( I actually appreciated the ones that centered on the law and God’s justice). I found it increasingly difficult to add “in Jesus’ name” to my prayers. You know that feeling when you tell a lie and you know you are lying? Like a “mini headache”, right?
The point of personal crisis came at a communion service when the pastor made it clear that only a human being was sacrificed on Calvary, because God cannot die. A human sacrifice was made by the God who condemned human sacrifices as evil? I got up and walked out, never to return.
I said all of that to announce that I am converting to Judaism once and for all and at any and all cost. In my personal experience I cannot accept anything else in my pursuit of meaning, truth and of who God made me to be. I cannot be atheist or angostic, as it has been to clear me from my life’s experience that there is a God and that this God does in fact intervene in mankind’s affairs, else I would not be here today ( I’ve got stories!). A personal God, in my view, is self-evident.
There is no doubt in my mind or my heart that I was meant to be Jewish, or that I always was before my birth: with all of its trials and difficulties, with all of the hate directed toward us from so many directions, but also with every spiritual form, blessing and tradition given by God to His people. Anything else would be a denial of who I really am. I long to wear a tallit, kiss the Mezuzah on my door post and repeat the Sh’ma in unison with the entire people Israel. The Shabbat has always been in my heart, as has the nation of Israel; the people , the language I seem to somehow recognize on the inside but have to “relearn” on the outside. But mostly, we think differently. It is not a Western linear way of thought, but a cyclical and poetic way of thought. We do not see God’s laws ( mitzvot) as restrictions but as freedom and a way to show God we love all He has supplied, which is everything and everybody. To us, God is not a fictional “Flying Spaghetti Monster” nor a mean-spirited ogre that demands a human sacrifice to assuage His anger. Does God get “angry”? In a way. Is he an “angry God”? Not at all. Judaism goes as deep as anyone could comprehend, but God’s request of His people is still so simple a child can understand it.
Anyway, that is all I have to say at this point. I hope this clears up any speculation of confusion as to my thoughts, my beliefs and my motivations.
Blessings to all in His glorious name!
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal