n 1975 we were young believers living in Santa Fe. It had been less than a full year since we moved into the city after our six years as hippie farmers in the mountains of northern New Mexico. That year a man walked into our life whose influence would change the course of our destiny. His name was Eliezer Urbach.
On the first day of Sukkot, October 3, 2009, Eliezer stepped into eternity. This article flows from my desire to pay tribute to a father in the faith who nurtured us and linked us to our ancient covenantal heritage. I am convinced that without his contribution to our walk with God, we would not have shifted our entire focus to Messianic Jewish life and ministry, leading us ultimately to the land of Israel.
In the infancy of our exploration of our Jewish roots, God sent us a real Jew. A Holocaust survivor, Eliezer fled Poland as the Nazis were coming to exterminate his family. After interminable years, thousands of kilometers, numerous brushes with death, a forced stint in the Soviet army, imprisonment, escapes, and ravenous hunger he arrived in Palestine. Having lived by his wits and by the unseen protection of God through the most dangerous and disastrous era in all of our history, Urbach was now needed by the fledgling state as a soldier, to resist the onslaught of Arab nations attempting to destroy Israel at birth. The full account of Eliezer and Sarah's story is recorded in a compelling book titled "Out of the Fury." I recommend it. You will be touched, inspired and drawn into a portion of the modern Jewish saga that forms the immediate backdrop for our portion of history.
DISCIPLE of YESHUA
The early 1950s were not easy years in Israel. By now Eliezer, his wife Sarah, and their children (Nechama and Chaim) were struggling for economic survival. They sought a new beginning in Brazil, where a relative spoke of opportunity. They did find a new beginning, but it was an entirely unexpected one. Through the kind, patient witness of a Brazilian believer, Eliezer encountered his Messiah. Returning to Israel, the Urbachs took part in one of the first Israeli New Covenant congregations in the 20th century. Fresh relationships always energized Eliezer. That, combined with his newfound burden for Jewish people to know Yeshua led the Urbachs to North America, Bible training and entry into full time ministry.
MENTOR to the MESSIANIC MOVEMENT
Eliezer became a spiritual father to us when we were only beginning to discover the meaning of being both Jewish and followers of Yeshua. The visual epitome of the Jewish patriarch, Eliezer patiently instructed and loved us in his warm, charming way. His passion for accessible authenticity of Messianic Jewish expression and tireless readiness to introduce Jewish people to our Messiah were contagious. We grew steadily in the miracle of Jewish biblical celebration as believers. He gave us our first chanukiah (Chanukah lamp), our first shofar, led our first Messianic Passover Seder and helped us attend our first Messianic conference in 1976. Bringing his own homemade Shabbat wine, this devoted friend created warm and happy memories for our families that became a foundation for decades to come.
These years were also a strategic time in the development of the emerging Messianic Jewish movement. Eliezer impacted numerous young Jews like ourselves, who had searched for spiritual reality in the plethora of alternative lifestyles and religious paths of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Many of these are now leaders in the movement. For those of us who were born in the aftermath of the Shoah, and on the relatively unscarred shores of America, this man was a living bridge to our history as Jews. Eyes heavy with what he had seen, he nonetheless smiled with a redeeming twinkle in his eye. When we were naïve, he did not chide us, but patiently filled in the numerous gaps in our awareness.
SERVING GOD'S PURPOSES
We often use the phrase "lay down your life for Yeshua." Here was a man who truly did that.
Looking back, there was a six year period during which Eliezer left a permanent imprint on our lives. From 1975 until 1981 he visited once a month, faithfully travelling from Denver to the Albuquerque/Santa Fe area. Though Eliezer usually stayed with Russell and Jane Resnik in Albuquerque, a few times he came up to Santa Fe and was our house guest. Those were treasured occasions which included generous attention to our children, David and Hannah. During those visits Eliezer was determined, yet patient, in finding opportunities to speak with Jewish people about Yeshua. These conversations could stretch into hours. It didn't matter.
Through devoted friendship, stories, humor, unfeigned knowledge and a passionate heart for each of us to participate in the redemption of our people, Eliezer left an immeasurable, unforgettable and inspiring example for us to follow. What a valuable life! How much impact one person can have! How many people can be touched by one yielded heart? It is now for those of us in whom Eliezer invested himself, to make ourselves all the more available to the Most High.
For 55 years he served God's purposes, blending a natural attraction to people with an amazing gift for languages (I lost count, but Eliezer could function well in no less than 10). That example stirs me to ask, what are you and I pursuing? Where are our energies and our days focused on? Am I touching the lives around me as Eliezer did? I long to.
This is what Abba Eliezer taught us. But true learning is transformation. It happens through emulating our teachers' lives, not just memorizing their lessons. In the days to come we will need the courage, creativity and consistency with which our brother pursued the calling of the King.
Eliezer Urbach made it possible to know the Jewish saga through the soul of one who traversed our worst tragedy: the Holocaust, fought in Israel's War of Independence to establish the Jewish State out of its ashes, and then took hold of Tikvat Yisrael, Yeshua the Messiah. Now that he has been united with the One he served, my family has a compelling need to express our gratitude to the Living God for placing this man in our lives. What a gift he was to us, arriving just when we needed him the most! May we now follow in Eliezer's footsteps.
|Let us know what you think - why not comment to this article. The authors of these articles are often involved in intense ministry and are thus unable to respond to most comments. As is normal with print and online magazines, Tikkun reserves the right to publish only those comments we feel are edifying in tone and content.|
Also in this issue of the newsletter:
|Daniel Juster: Rediscovering the Roots that Remain|
|Marty Shoub: Sasha - He Who Edures to the End|
|Freddy Intrater: Light to the Nations|