To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.
My most recent column elicited a fascinating response from an American woman. Before I share that letter and my reply, I will briefly reiterate the substance of that Dec. 28 column, which was titled “My Reasons to Be Jolly.”
I wrote that I was constantly hearing the refrain of “‘Tis the season to be jolly” during my recent visit to the U.S. during the Christmas holiday season. And whenever I heard those words I would think of my own reasons to be jolly – chief among them my personal and direct relationship with our beloved One and Only God, the Master Of the Universe.
In Judaism, we don’t go through an intermediary – we have direct access to Our Father Above.
In last week’s Torah portion our God ordered Moshe to inform Pharaoh that “my firstborn son is [the nation of] Israel…. And if you refuse to free my son, behold I shall kill your firstborn son” (Shemos 4: 22-23).
Our Torah is comprised of the eternal words of our Creator, to whom we cling. They are words that are as relevant today as they were at the time of our receiving the Five Books on Mt. Sinai – a testament that has never become “old” to God’s firstborn son – the Nation of Israel.
Now, here are excerpts from the letter I received shortly after the column appeared:
I read with interest your column in which you wrote about why we Jews reject the Christian deity. When I was young and still in high school, I worked in a hospital serving meals to the patients after school. At a certain point I decided to become a nurse, and the head of the dietary department who hired the high school girls had to approve of my grades and get me into the hospital’s school of nursing.
The school was run by a Baptist church. I was very naive about that religion and not very knowledgeable about Judaism either. At the school, the other students began to pressure me to convert and be baptized but I dug in my heels and subscribed to The Jewish Press, which strengthened my Jewish observance.
During my second semester, a woman in our Conservative synagogue asked my grandmother if I would go out with her son. My grandmother agreed to the shidduch and convinced my parents. The woman’s son, a medical student, and I became engaged but were unable to marry until he finished medical school.
Before we married I agreed with him to keep a kosher home and keep Shabbos to the best of our ability. Meanwhile, at the Baptist school, I made friends with a Baptist girl with “Jewish blood” from her mother. Her father was a Baptist minister. She always tried to convert me but I would tell her I would never commit such a terrible sin.
After graduation, my husband and I moved to a frum community and were blessed with a large family. The friend with the “Jewish blood” married an abusive man who abducted their child and she had no knowledge of the child’s whereabouts for two years. Eventually her divorce lawyer informed her that she was fully Jewish according to Jewish law. She struggled with obesity and illness and attempted to repair her relationship with her child who was a stranger to her.
She located me about two years ago and after hearing about my husband, children and grandchildren, declared, “Your life is so stable.” I think that she expected to find my life in shambles and that I would now want to become a Christian.
She wants to be my friend but she posts all kinds of Christian messages on Facebook (she calls it her ministry) and quotes her Bible frequently. My rav has warned me not to give her too much information about Judaism because she could use it in her efforts to get Jews to convert to Christianity.
I do like her and don’t want to avoid her but I know I can’t get her to become a better Jew and I don’t like being “witnessed” to. What is the solution?
First, I must correct you; my article had nothing to do with rejecting what you refer to as the Christian deity. I do not reject but rather fully respect the beliefs of every man who walks the earth.
As Jews, as lovers of our Mighty God, we give no thought to other beliefs, because we strive to be totally in love with the One Above. This is our mission, But we respect all religions that make better people of their adherents.
The story is told that the Chofetz Chaim hired a gentile wagon driver to take him from his town, Radin, to another village. When the wagon driver did not kiss the cross at the town’s exit, as was customary, the Chofetz Chaim said, “I’ve changed my mind; take me right back to my home.” The tzaddik feared that since this driver didn’t acknowledge the existence of God, he might rob him during the journey.
You write that you “dug in my heels and subscribed to The Jewish Press.”
Do you know what those words do to me? During my visit to America I was at the offices of The Jewish Press and saw a giant magnificent painting of Rabbi Sholom Klass, zt”l, the man who founded this Torah journal that has enlightened so many thousands like you concerning the true meaning of “I am a Jew.”
I have no doubt that your subscription to this paper brought you, someone with a minimum amount of Torah knowledge, to the place where you could declare to your missionary friend, “I would never commit such a terrible sin.”
I must agree with your rabbi’s request that you not give your friend too much information about Judaism. The holy Rambam, Maimonides, warns us about attempting to influence Jews who have fallen into this non-Jewish yet pseudo-messianic faith that comes packaged in a Jewish wrapper, so to speak.
I have two important suggestions for you.
1. Tell your friend you love Hashem with all your heart, which pumps the blood of your atonement through the teshuvah you are always doing; and with all your soul, which is a part of Hashem; and with all your essence, with which you declare, “You [Hashem] are my everything.”
Tell her that you love the direct relationship you have with the Father and have no interest in responding to her proselytizing. But beseech her: “Come home, my sister!”
2. I suggest you give your friend a really great gift – a subscription to The Jewish Press. Page after page, week after week, she’ll start identifying with her people, her land, and other issues so important to Jews. Let us all pray that what worked for you will work for her.
Ask your rav and let me know if he agrees. May Hashem bless his Charming Nation.
About the Author: Dov Shurin is a popular radio personality and the composer and producer of several albums. He lives with his family in Israel and can be contacted at email@example.com. His Jewish Press column appears the third issue of each month.
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