Ha’Derekh: The Way, The Road, and The Path

First, let me apologize explicitly for the lack of updates on this blog for the last better part of a year. To say that we’ve been idle is a lie: we have been busier than ever studying, working, growing, and exploring HaShem’s (literally: “the Name,” a term  to refer to the holy Name of G-d*) sacred word. Too much has happened to note, but for starters, let’s list off a few things that we aren’t. We aren’t pregnant, we aren’t stagnant, we aren’t having any marital problems, we aren’t moving out of state, and we aren’t a couple of strange recluses that shun social life. On the contrary, we’re growing closer together in love, closer to G-d in reverence and obedience, and we do hunger for community.

Yes, we live on a mountain, and we’re at least 20 minutes from most of the people we closely interact with, sometimes even 45 minutes from those we are very close with. However, it’s 20-45 minutes no matter which way you’re traveling, as we’re the same amount of minutes away from our friends as they are from us. To be frank, it’s the same distance both ways.

Yes, we have been very busy in studying and just keeping up with our never-ending to-do-lists, and of course with our jobs. Praise G-d for my wonderful wife who is working 3 different jobs throughout the course of a week, and praise G-d for the small jobs that He has provided along the way as is needed. He always provides for us.

But where are we right now? What’s different? Why is my wife usually wearing a headcovering? What’s the logic behind my full-as-it-can-be beard? What’s with the four tassels hanging out from under my shirt? Why have we largely given up meat and many other foods?

Let’s just say that we have changed: a lot. A year ago, I would have never imagined I would be where I am at right now spiritually. This was not in my list of goals; in fact, it was something completely foreign to my thoughts and my mind. Currently, we are considering converting to Orthodox Judaism.

To sum  up this derekh (path) which we have walked upon, let us take a brief stroll through our lives since we were married in May of 2008. At the loving suggestion of my uncle who married us, we began attending a church in the area. We immediately clicked with the pastor, who quickly became our mentor and helped us discover very fascinating things about Jesus. Namely, he was a Jew. He was born, lived, and died in the sphere of 1st centrury Judaism in the land of Israel. He kept the Torah (the first five books of the “Old Testament,” literally means “instruction”): he taught it, he loved it, and he lived it. He instructed his followers to do likewise. He criticized any who did not keep it. If this was something that Jesus considered precious, why wasn’t it precious to me? Why do we keep all of the commandments except for the 4th one? Why don’t Christians eat kosher?

In discovering this Jew, we realized what he was teaching. We began to open our lives to the obedience of G-d’s divine, just law. It wasn’t easy at first. It was hard at first to surrender a whole day every single week, from Friday at sunset to Saturday at nightfall, to G-d. It wasn’t easy to subject our diets to G-d. However, in doing these things, we discovered a beauty we could have never imagined. It is not coincidence that those who criticize the observance of the Law are those who do not practice it. Inside of this newfound observance of G-d’s commands, we found that G-d really did care about our whole lives. He cares about what we do, what we say, and how we act. He cares about what we eat. He cares about what we do from Friday at sunset to Saturday at nightfall.

This major shift in our faith, in our halacha (literally “walking”), opened our eyes a whole lot and made us question many things we never dared question before. As an act of faith between communities, our pastor organized a mens’ event to go to a local Conservative Jewish synagogue on one Sabbath morning. I listened in awe as the local rabbi explained the service and introduced us to the customs. We stood and honored G-d when the Torah was brought out. We listened and sang the beautiful hymns and prayers in Hebrew with the rest of the congregation. It was a life-changing event for me personally.

The very next week, my wife joined me in attending the synagogue and was fascinated as I was with the customs, love, and respect of the Jewish people for G-d. From then on, we attended Ner Tamid around once a month. The more we attended, the more comfortable we began to feel with the service, the prayers, and the reading of the Torah. It became a familiar thing to us after some time.

We continued in Christianity, albeit a very different Christianity we grew up in, for some time. Along the way, we discovered many questions we had for which we could find no answers. Why do some people not believe in the Trinity? Is this a belief that can be justified from the New Testament ? In reading selections such as Mark 10:17, we saw true problems that couldn’t very easily be dealt with. Puzzled, we started asking questions about the Trinity, such as “Was Jesus G-d?” and “Is it essential to believe that he was G-d?” along with the simple question, “Does the New Testament conclusively define that a Trinity must exist, and what does the Torah have to say about it?”

We sought to defend our faith, and we truly found more problems than solutions. At the suggestion of a trusted friend, we came across a book, “The Changing Faces of Jesus” by Geza Vermes. We are barely into the first chapter of the book, and already we are finding solutions to many of the problems we saw with our theology. In a historical and scholarly approach, Vermes examines the main problems in Christianity, namely the Gospel of John and the Letters of Paul, as well as provides a very intimate and detailed view into 1st century Judaism. Vermes was one of the men appointed to the study and translation and Dead Sea Scrolls, and possesses YEARS of scholarly and detailed research into the 1st century. He doesn’t approach Jesus in a vicious way, but rather treats him like he was: a first-century Jew. He looks into the true, historical figure of Jesus, rather than the Jesus we know in the present who has been affected by 2,000 years of pagan influence and distance from Judaism.

Needless to say, this book has truly changed our outlook on Jesus, and we haven’t even finished it yet! We recommend this book to any and all who are curious as to what we believe, and we will happily lend or buy it for you (our friends and family). In summary, let’s address where we’re at.

Do we believe that Jesus was G-d? Presently, we don’t.
Are we open to new evidence that he was? Yes, of course, we want to understand this as much as anyone, if not more so.
Do we believe that was an extremely important historical figure? Of course! He did change history, but was he attempting to? We can’t say.

With all of this said, we know and realize that this is something very scary and foreign to many of our friends and family. We know that modern Christianity tells us that there is no such thing as eternal life without believing certain things about Jesus. (Here, I must interject: what about this verse in Isaiah? Doesn’t an everlasting name mean eternal life?) So yes, we know it’s scary for many of you.

What we ask for is prayer. We’re going forward into a new world in our lives, and we go seeking G-d. Please, we beg of you, don’t view this as an act of rebellion against G-d. We are not leaving our faith in G-d. Perhaps our faith in G-d is different than yours, but it is nevertheless faith in G-d. He is our goal, our highest hope, and we seek to please Him alone. We ask of you this one thing: trust G-d with our lives. Don’t worry about us, but if you do, pray for us. And remember, we are never closed to your thoughts and ideas. If you need to talk to us, to yell at us and tell us we’re wrong, or to ask us simply where we’re at and why, get in touch with us. I assume you know our email addresses and phone numbers, but if you don’t, please post in the comments below and we’ll contact you. Thank you all for standing by us always. We end this post with a benediction of love for you, our friends and family:

[May] HaShem bless you and keep you;
[May] HaShem make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
[May] HaShem turn His face toward you and give you shalom.
(Numbers 6:24-26)

* If you’re wondering why we do not spell the word “G-d,” it is out of tremendous respect for Him and for His Name. It follows the commandment “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the L-rd your G-d, for the L-rd will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.” (Exodus 20:7) Though “G-d” is NOT the biblical Name, we even show respect for this Name to “sanctify” or “set apart” His eternal Name.

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