The Blind Rabbi & the Brazilian Cantor
by AuthorName, AuthorTitle, AuthorMinistry

As I write this text, my heart is filled with joy and gratitude. Our God blesses us with more than we deserve and more than we expect. My name is Moshe. I'm a Brazilian Jew who has lived in Israel for two years. When I moved to this beautiful country I never imagined what the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would do to me and for me.

My story began about 10 years ago, when I started to return to the Jewish roots of my family. I was raised as a Christian, but I knew that my family had a Jewish background. It was common to hear our parents and grandparents tell stories and legends about "when we were Jews ..." A decade ago, while studying everything possible to rediscover my Jewish inheritance, I decided to take some private Hebrew lessons. To my surprise the teacher's husband was the rabbi of a Messianic community. I understood this was the path God had prepared for me, and I began to attend that congregation.

Joy after Torah reading
Initially the prayers and Jewish customs were unfamiliar, but gradually I began to feel at home. Suddenly, a day of sadness arrived. Unexpectedly our rabbi, a serious and admirable man, broke out into tears and shared his plight: an eye disease was progressing fast. In a short time he would be completely blind! Everyone started crying. In addition to the dimension of personal tragedy, our small community was at risk because no one else could perform the weekly Torah reading or sing the traditional Jewish prayers. This might be the end of our Messianic synagogue.

"Rabbi, if you're going blind, from now on I'll be your eyes!"

These were the words that jumped spontaneously out of my mouth as the Spirit sparked something that would change my life forever. Within a year I was leading the prayers every Sabbath at our synagogue.

The Torah Effect

All my life I had felt like an alien, unable to adjust. Depression consumed my youth. Shyness stole my friendships and opportunities. The enemy undermined my communion with God. Years passed. Then the irresponsible and hopeless young man who was me, underwent a profound change through exposure to the Holy Scriptures. The Word of God cleanses and restores.

When I tried to read the weekly Torah portion in Hebrew the first time, all I could say was:

"Lord, help me because I have no idea where to start!" And He did.

Something that usually takes years to learn, suddenly became clear. God showed me how to read and sing the Hebrew. Interaction with the text began to change me from the inside. I found myself remembering biblical texts that before were indecipherable. The prayers put me in touch with Holiness. As time passed by, the Holy Presence transformed me. Like a Bar Mitzvah boy, I was becoming a man. In a few years I became part of that congregation's leadership.

"Get out of your country ... from your father's house, to a land that I will show you" (Genesis 12:1).

The blind rabbi and I
Sometimes our lives take completely unexpected turns. Doors begin to close and comfortable routines become a burden. Change becomes inevitable. I was now a married man with a family and a prosperous company. But several problems began to force a change. While seeking God's answer, I received an unthinkable challenge. We were called to emigrate to Israel. Despite loving Israel and being an active Messianic Jew and Zionist, I had never thought about the possibility of making aliyah. But that's what eventually happened in August of 2012. At age 40 I landed with my family in Israel.

The beginning was hard. War and rumours of war came fast and frightened us. But what followed was worse. Here I was, a former business owner, now an unemployed immigrant seeking professional stability in a strange land. I went through a year and a half of immense suffering and hard trials, more than I thought I could endure. After some time, the period of God's testing passed. The period of mercy started, and I was finally at peace again - serving God in a serious congregation, received as a loved one, despite all the cultural differences and potential difficulties. Praise God, who made a way to settle a Brazilian family in the midst of the Russian Israeli community in Haifa!

The Young Cantor

There are moments when we can see that our lives have come full circle. We are like a leaf in the wind when in the hands of God. He takes us wherever He chooses. Although often a mystery, there is always a bigger plan behind His decisions, and I saw it up close this week.

During my years serving as a cantor, some of my greatest joys came from preparing boys for their Bar Mitzvah "becoming a man" ceremonies. I've had the opportunity to teach many, including some here in Israel, but none impacted me like this last one. The boy stood up before the assembly to read publicly from the Torah scroll last Saturday in our congregation. The difficult text was sung without errors, in a pure and fluent way, almost supernatural. I was overwhelmed. You see, the young man Ariel is the eldest son of the blind Brazilian rabbi who changed my life.

An Invitation

For the past decade Shavei Tzion (Return to Zion) congregation has developed several social projects in various sectors of Israeli society: From Holocaust survivors to underprivileged children. From Messianic soldiers to homeless people. New immigrants, war refugees, and others have been touched by our attempt to reach new disciples for Yeshua. And we also want to serve the Messianic community in the Diaspora.

From this successful experience, hosting a Brazilian family and performing their son's Bar Mitzvah in our congregation, came the idea for a new venture. It is our desire to extend this opportunity to the nations. We want to open the doors of our synagogue to Jewish families that want to provide their child with a meaningful and enriching Bar Mitzvah experience.

It will be our privilege to provide interested families a period of preparation for the Bar Mitzvah ceremony including online training, quality lodging and the use of our facilities and Torah scroll. In addition, there will also be the opportunity to tour Israel with Messianic guides.

If you're part of a Messianic congregation, have children close to the age of 12 and want to know more about this project you're invited to contact us at: info@shaveitzion.org

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