Hear O Israel. The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
I’m Sarah. I grew up Jewish. We weren’t super orthodox, we weren’t super religious but every friday we would go to shabbat which is like going to church on sunday. I used to go to Sunday school which was Hebrew school. I had a bat mitzvah when I was 13. so I always wanted to know more about God but was never really encouraged to go and seek God for myself. In fact everything that we did was in Hebrew so unless you actually knew how to translate it, you didn’t even know what they were saying half the time.
About the age of 18 I had a friend in high school who was I guess the first Christian that I ever met. He was the first real-like believer that I met that said and did what he said. His church was having a passover seder which passover is the most significant holiday in Judaism besides the high holidays like the the holidays that you have to go to synagogue. We would always invite neighbors and friends over to share our traditions and the celebrations and the passover itself. If it was just immediate family, we would skip all of the tradition side of it and just be like they tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat. That’s the Jewish go-to common phrase for every holiday and so when he came to me and said that his church was doing a passover seder, I got so offended. Why is this church, this non-Jewish entity, doing my holiday? In fact, I always thought that Christianity and Judaism were like Venus and Mars, like two entirely different religions that had nothing to do with each other.
And I went for the entire purpose of proving them wrong. At the passover seder, they invited a Messianic rabbi, who is a Jewish believer so he was both Jewish and Christian, to come and lead this passover seder. And they did it beautifully. It was a very traditional Jewish passover seder. They had Gefilte fish and matzah and chopped liver and all of the things that I love. I actually enjoyed my time there and towards the end of it, they made this connection between passover and communion. I had no idea what communion was but they tied it to this Jesus person who apparently taught about the matzah and the bread and the wine and different elements of my passover seder. And I didn’t understand anything that they said. It all went right over my head but the one thing I took away was that there’s more to everything that I believed – my culture my traditions. There was more to it than what I was taught.
And so it started this journey of needing to go and find the answers for myself. I would sneak out of my house to go to the church on sundays. I would try to go to bible studies during weeknights. I would download the bible app on my phone and start reading through it. And I would constantly delete it out of fear that I would get caught. Everything I was reading in the New Testament was totally opposite everything I’ve been taught with my Jewish background. You’re reading about this God who desires to have a personal connection with you. That was totally foreign to me. The fact that God wanted to know me felt like my life was so empty. On the outside, I had a lot of my life together but it just really felt empty and there’s a lot of other things going on in my life with my sister being really sick at the time and just other family issues going on. And so to read about this life that God desires for us? I wanted that. A couple of months later, it took me a while but I came to this point where I was at a loss and I hit rock bottom and I asked my friend what should I do. And he was like “Well you should pray.” And I thought that was the most absurd idea ever. What do you mean I should pray? Praying in Judaism is saying this prayer in Hebrew that you don’t know what you’re saying. It’s repetitive. Like I said I had a bat mitzvah. I could repeat 50 different prayers from heart and he was like “No, you need to pray and talk to God as if he’s right next to you”. And so eventually I just came to God and I put up both my hands and I said “Okay God. If everything I’m reading is real, then in this hand is everything that I have control over and this hand is everything I don’t have control over. In this hand is my sister having seizures every day. So everything in this hand I knew I had to give to God. There’s no explanation for why would my perfectly healthy sister be deathly sick and we’re sitting there holding her after a seizure not knowing if she’d wake up. And in this hand it’s really the things that were making me feel empty. It was the the things I was doing that was getting me in trouble, were not getting me in trouble because I was good at hiding it but it was the things that I had control over that just brought emptiness. And so I came to God and I said “If everything I’m reading is real, I have nothing else to lose.” And so I handed God both of my hands and I said “I want what I’m reading about. I want what you promised in your word.
And so that was the day that I fully came to know the Lord. But that was just the beginning. God in his perfectly designed plan took me out of my home a month later and I started college at UF. And I was so hungry I went to a bible study every single night when I started at UF. And then it really was about two years later, I went to Israel which I love Israel. I studied abroad I went and lived there for four months and I walked where Jesus walked and for someone who was raised their entire life with nothing of who Jesus is to actually walk where he walked and then to sit at the bottom of the cross in Jerusalem, that was the first time I really understood what sin was and what his sacrifice meant to me. And that I could be both Jewish and Christian. And so he told me that my Jewish identity is unique and that he called me for a purpose with this identity. But I could be both fully Jewish and fully his.