In August of 1979, I and my wife
Katya, together with our two children, moved back to Baltimore from Long
Island, New York. I was to take over the leadership of a small Baltimore
Messianic congregation paying me fifty dollars a month for my services.
Since this was obviously not enough to live on, within a couple of weeks I
found a job repairing old houses throughout the city.
The neighborhoods in which I worked were formerly 98% Jewish. Now they were
98% Afro-American. Consequently, the numerous synagogues had become
churches. Among them was a synagogue my family had attended when I was
growing up and in which I had become a bar mitzvah nearly twenty
years before. Now it was home to a Pentecostal church. One Sunday morning,
I thought it might be an interesting adventure to attend services there. I
walked into the entryway minutes before the service began, slipping into a
seat in the back of the sanctuary. They were the very same oak pews I had
sat on as a child with the fold down shelf to hold the traditional Jewish
prayer book (siddur) and the little cubbyhole underneath to store
one's prayer shawl (tallit).
The ark that held the Torah scrolls was gone, as was the "ner tamid"
(everlasting light) that hung above it. Yet its holy presence still
lingered on the bare wall in the faded but still visible Hebrew words,
"Know before Whom you stand." Gone also was the large desk, in the center
of the sanctuary, where the scrolls were read. Everything else seemed
unchanged, except the Hammond organ and drums (sounding a bit like Booker
T. and the MGs) and a thirty voice, white-robed choir singing gospel songs.
I sat reflecting about the past from a future that I never could possibly
Two Messianic Movements
When I became a bar mitzvah in this Chabad synagogue, Rabbi
Schneerson was already leading his Chasidic movement from its headquarters
in Brooklyn. Then some began to think Schneerson was the Messiah (!). I
reflected on how this was picking up momentum among his followers. I had
also been gripped by a Messianic movement, but one that long predated the
founding of Chabad. According to Micah 5:2, my Messiah's "goings
forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity." And the Messiah
who had come into my life had only been in the grave for three days before
he arose, unlike Schneerson whose followers have been waiting since 1994
for his resurrection.
We are now in the season of the fall festivals. Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur
and Tabernacles. Rosh HaShana is called the head of the year, because it
is the anniversary of the creation of the world. Like most birthdays it
tends to bring a heightened awareness of the passage of time. Another year
has passed, a new one begins bringing fresh reflection. The sound of the
shofar grips our consciousness and calls us to prepare ourselves for what
lies ahead. The Day of Atonement is a day of fasting and reflection.
I still follow the yearly cycle in Yeshua. Much is the same and much
different. How amazing is the journey on which God leads us! And by the
hand of God's Spirit, these precious foundations are woven into who I
am. I still worship in a congregation with an ark and a Torah scroll.
During the fall festival season, someone would always come to my childhood
synagogue and make a strong appeal for purchasing Israel Development Bonds.
Now I contribute to the development of Israel, not by buying bonds, but by
investing my life and the life of my family in this land. Here in Israel as
well, we look back and remember all that the Lord has done. And we press
on with confident expectation for the future because we know that Israel
will yet hear the sound of the heavenly shofar. They will embrace the
atonement of Yeshua. Then He, the rightful king of Israel, will come to
take up His throne in Jerusalem, and the Tabernacle of God will be in the
midst of His people.
This article is edited from the original version in
Israel's Restoration September 2009 Vol 18 No 9, which can be read