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Moshe Gold Testimony
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. Isaiah 55:11
And when He is come, He will convince the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment. John 16:8
I am blessed to have been born into the tribe of Levi. My father’s parents were Modern Orthodox from the Sephardic tradition and my mother’s were Conservative from the Ashkenazic tradition. My journey to faith began when, as a boy, the Lord attracted my attention to Him in ways that became foundational creating in me a desire to know Him.
As the first-born among my siblings it was my honor for a number of years at the Passover Seder to recite the Four Questions. Year after year I would begin my chant with the introduction; Ma-Nishtana ha-Lila ha-zeh? Why is this night different from all other nights? Through this I began earnestly seeking to understand the depth of meaning as to why this night was different from all other nights. Not totally satisfied with the answer in the Haggadah1, its amplification by wise family members and our Rabbi, I began to develop a trait of asking “why,” which is a healthy Jewish way of learning. Typically using the framework of Judaism in what could be called a directed study, it is how we form our understanding of God, how we relate to Him, and how we develop a world view that some call “Yidisha Cop” or having a Jewish mind. Looking back I recognize that my desire was, as one of the Chosen People, to understand my place before Him. To know God my Savior, the One who brought the plagues that resulted in our freedom from slavery, the One who parted the Sea for us to walk out of Egypt with dry feet but drowned the army of Pharaoh in it, the One who gave us a new way to live and a land to call our own.
The synagogue where my mother’s family worshipped also centered my attention on God. Theirs was a Conservative synagogue modeled after those in central and northern Europe in the late 1800’s. From the outside it was nondescript and inside it resembled a semi-circular theatre. The bema2 on which stood the Aron-haKodesh3 and large ornate seats for the Rabbis and Hazen4 was on the open end, facing Jerusalem. There was a circular second bema in the middle of the floor where the choir assembled and from where the Haftorah5 and prayers were chanted. The men sat on the floor level and the women were seated on the balcony that was shielded by ornate wooden latticework. Sitting close to the bema with my grandfather I remember asking about the enormous murals painted on the walls to either side of it. The one that most interested me was a rendering of the Greek depiction of Justice, blindfolded with a set of balances in one hand and a broad double edged sword in the other. He explained that it represented God as Judge of all men who was impartial and judged every man by their works. When he said that God would sit as his own judge, he had my attention. When he said that the rabbi, my father and even I would stand before God and He would open the Book of Life to see if we were written in it, he had my undivided attention. From then on I wanted to know our God and His power over eternal life.
Sometime after becoming Bar Mitzvah I began to read Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. When reading about the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, I was confronted with the contradiction between Jewish religious practice and that prescribed by God for Jewish people to follow. I wanted to know why we no longer sacrificed animals daily and on special sacred days. I was told that we don’t have a Temple or an active High Priest and that God has showed us a newer better way to secure forgiveness of sin than by animal sacrifice. In further Bible reading, I uncovered in the Prophets that the actual reason for not maintaining the worship directed by God was due to His judgment of our national sin against Him. It seemed to me that instead of returning to God, the Rabbis had inaugurated a new religious system. Having, by High School, discovered the difference between “thus saith the Lord” and so said Rabbi So-and-so in the name of Rabbi thus-and-such, I began to question my religion, created by rabbis, built upon man’s wisdom, and no longer sacred in my pursuit of God.
Entering college I exercised my new found freedom from religious restraint. With a goal of gaining more understanding of God my Savior and Judge, I “tried on” various concepts of God garnered from studies in philosophy and world religion courses. The ones that seemed to fit the character of the God of Israel became part of my personal theology and the ones that did not, I rejected. In my senior year, I enrolled in a course in a directed study where a research topic was chosen for each of us; mine was the concept of atonement in Judeo-Christian writings. I expanded the word to at-one-ment, the quest for acceptance with God. I stumbled at the Suffering Messiah concept in the Tanakh and its supposed fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth. Since childhood I had been anti-New Testament, being taught that it was not a book about the God of Israel, but rather some pagan god of non-Jewish people whose writings were anti-Jewish. I struggled with my topic. It cut to the core of my struggle for balance between God my Savior and God my Judge. At that time Campus Crusade for Christ was active and I periodically encountered their volunteers. I tried deferring conversation by saying, “I’m Jewish.” To my disappointment they beamed with joy at this, which slightly angered me since I was hoping this would abruptly end any hope they had of conversation. They rejoiced in telling me that they worshiped the God of Israel through the Messiah of Israel, Jesus. When I protested, they encouraged me to read Isaiah 53 and the Book of Matthew in the New Testament. Isaiah 53 was already troubling to me and in my research of the New Testament I did not find substantial proof in secular writing that Jesus of Nazareth even existed! Without the kind of outside verification that the Tanakh has, I found no reason to accept Jesus as Messiah, let alone His resurrection.
I graduated from college with membership in an honor’s fraternity and a degree but without peace of mind about my God. I tried to fill this void with a code of life that seemed moral and ethical, not realizing that I had fallen into the same rationale as those I criticized for following man and not God. Even marriage to my beloved Shoshona and setting up a home together did not satisfy me. It only caused me to recognize my lack of peace. One night we were with friends staying in a cabin owned by a “born-again” relative of theirs. All the books on the fireplace mantle were Christian except for one; so I thought by its title. Thus, I began to read The Late Great Planet Earth. It intrigued me how it wove the words of the Prophets with the New Testament Book of The Revelation. That night the heat from the cabin’s fireplace ignited the books on the mantle; all were lost except for that one, which I had placed on a side table. For me it was a sign to keep reading.
Through this I was reminded about the volunteers I encountered in college and the portions of Scripture they suggested I read. I re-read Isaiah 53, and I began to realize that it spoke of Messiah not Israel. Boldly and without my previous bias, I picked up the New Testament and opened to The Gospel according to Matthew. I was amazed, even comforted by the opening lines, finding that this was a Jewish work written by a Jewish man for Jewish people. In time I read all the Gospels, yet still lacked the empirical evidence I needed to acknowledge the New Testament as God’s Word, thus truth. I found this proof in the book Evidence That Demands a Verdict. With more time and reading, I came to the conclusion that Jesus was the Messiah and that if I wanted to escape the judgment of my God I needed to accept the salvation my God had offered in Messiah. At age 30, this brought comfort to my heart and a certain confidence that I had finally found the answers that my soul had quested for since the age of 10. However, true biblical salvation did not come until about a year later.
I had made a rational ascent that Jesus was the historical Messiah of God who offered escape from judgment to all who believed in Him. What I lacked was a biblical understanding of sin and repentance. It took another year for me to understand that I was a sinner in rebellion against God and needed to turn to Him His way to have His peace. Sin would allow me to think that I had somehow conquered it through intellect, ethics or morals and then I would helplessly watch myself doing the things I did not want to do and not doing the things I should be doing. I needed His control over my life, His salvation. In that year Shoshona had come to faith and we were sporadically attending a church. One Sunday sitting in the service, I was totally crushed under the stress of sin that was separating me from knowing God. I admitted to Him that I was a sinner and needed His forgiveness through Messiah Jesus to save me from myself. I submitted my will to His, acknowledged His control to do with me as He wished and trusted Him to organize my life as He saw fit. He, in His mercy, has given me the awesome privilege of serving Him, first in the local church and now as a minister of the Word of God with Jewish Awareness Ministries. I have fulfilled the calling of my tribe to be a servant of God and am at peace knowing God as my Savior who will judge me as worthy because of the Messiah.
1 Traditional booklet used to tell about and explain the Passover
2 raised area/platform
3 the closet containing the Scrolls
5 Weekly portion of Scripture read from the Prophets that compliments the weekly portion read from the Torah
4 Responses to “From Synagogue to Savior”
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