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I was born in a Jewish home and brought up in the traditions of my people, Israel. In our home the Sabbath was faithfully kept. On Friday night, as the sun went down, my mother would bentchen licht (light the Sabbath candles), and my father would say the Kiddish (prayer for the Sabbath). On the Sabbath, we would attend the services in the synagogue.
Although, at the time, I did not fully appreciate having to go to the synagogue or to Chedar (Hebrew school), as I look back I am very thankful for my religious training. For example, I never had any doubts that the Tenach (Old Testament) was really the Word of the Living God. My mother used to read to us from the Scriptures. When I attended the Sabbath services I saw men touch their tallit (prayer shawls) to the Scrolls as these Scrolls were carried around the sanctuary, and then kiss their shawls on the spot where it touched the Scroll. As a youngster I thought, "You don't show such reverence and respect to a book of fairy tales." Thus, I learned both at home and in the synagogue, to respect and believe the Word of God.
I also learned about the Mashiach (Messiah) and was eagerly awaiting His coming. I knew one day He would come and bring redemption, salvation, and peace. In Chedar I was taught the "Thirteen Principles of Faith." In this connection, two of these "Principles" stand out most vividly: "I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah" [and] I believe with perfect faith that all the words of the prophets are true."
Learning about God, His Word, and the Messiah, however, made me realize something which began to bother me. From the Bible I was that God was holy, just, and righteous. At the same time I saw myself as being the very opposite. I asked myself, "How cold I have contact with this great God as did Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the prophets? What could I do to be forgiven for my sins?" Oh yes, I knew that there was sin (rebellion against Gods Holy Law) in my life and that I would have to stand one day before Him.
Of course, we kept the Jewish festivals and High Holidays. Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is the most solemn day of the Jewish calendar. It is spent in fasting and praying for the forgiveness of sins. It is the day in which, according to Jewish tradition, God records in "the book of life" whether you will have life or death, health or sickness, success or failure for the coming year. When people passed away or became sick, I asked myself, "Does this mean that God didnt hear their prayers, or perhaps they were not forgiven?"
As Yom Kippur approached in the year of my Bar Mitzvah, I wanted to really know that I would be forgiven for my sin. I realized that, as I became a "Son of the Law" (Bar Mitzvah), I would be fully responsible and would have to answer to God personally for my sin. This frightened me. Thus that Yom Kippur stands out in my mind.
Just before I became Bar Mitzvah I was in the synagogue with my parents for Yom Kippur and saw an old man two or three rows ahead of me. He had a long tallit, and he was praying to God and beating his chest and weeping. He had been fasting as we all had, and he was praying for forgiveness of his sins. I thought, "This man knows all the ritual, all the prayers; he must know all there is to know about forgiveness. I am going to ask him whether he has the assurance that his sins are forgiven."
I waited until the end of the service. As the sun was going down and we were leaving the synagogue, I went over to him and said, "Sir, do you have the forgiveness of your sins? Do you know that your sins are forgiven?"
I can still see the tears coursing down his face; he had been crying the whole day. Looking at me, he replied, "Son, I only hope so; I only hope so."
I thought to myself, "What chance do I have? I dont know all these prayers and rituals. I dont know all the traditions. If he doesnt know that his sins are forgive, how can I know?"
Thinking that I could never have an answer to these questions, I tried to put them out of my mind. As I grew older I realized that merely following traditions and going through the rituals did not satisfy the need and longing of my heart.
In college I continued the study of French, which I had began in high school, for I planned to be a teacher. At a French Club dinner, I met the young woman who later became my wife. One year after we were married we went to France to further my education.
While in France we talked about the Bible, and my wife asked me whether I had ever read the Brit Hadasha (New Testament). When I answered "No", she suggested that we read it aloud together. Thinking over her suggestion, I reasoned, "No one in my family would know or could object." After all, I was 21 years old, 6,000 miles from home, and I thought, "Well, why not?" So I opened the New Testament and saw the first verse in the book of Matthew. It says, "The book of the generation of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham."
I said, "Wait a minute. David, Abraham - these people I know. What does this Christian man, Matthew, know about these Jews?" That is when I found tout the Matthew was a Jew. His last name was Levi.
I read down a little further, "Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord, by the prophet." Prophet? What prophet? The Old Testament prophets, I was told. So for the first time in my life I really went into the Old Testament. But I went in with a belligerent attitude. My purpose in reading the prophets was to prove that Matthew did not know anything about the Old Testament.
Little by little I began comprehending for myself the prophecies concerning the Messiah. Isaiah 7:14: "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Isaiah 9:6: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Then I read in Micah, "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (5:2). That is Yeshua Hamaschiach (Jesus the Messiah).
As a Jew I had to be honest with myself. I couldn't say, "Well, because tradition says I am not supposed to believe these prophecies, I won't." I had to believe them because in Hebrew school I had learned the Thirteen Principles of Faith. "If my own prophets are telling me about Yeshua, the Messiah," I reasoned, "why shouldnt I believe them?"
I had been raised with the hope of Messiahs coming. No one, however, had bothered to tell me that the Tanach - the Old Testament - talks in detail about Him. I found in Isaiah 53 (which is not read in the synagogues) these words: "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (vv. 5-6).
It was with fear and trembling that I considered believing in Messiah Jesus, because here was something that I never thought would happen to Martin Wolf, never in a million years. "How do I know for sure?" I asked my wife.
"Well, you pray," she asked.
"I'm a good Jew; Ive prayed," I told her.
"You have to pray in the Name of the Lord Jesus," was her astounding reply.
I prayed in this One's Name? But I wanted to know for sure, so I decided to ask God.
I do not even remember the words any more, but as I lay awake in bed one night I looked up toward the ceiling and told God that if Jesus was really the Messiah and would forgive my sins I would accept Him. I prayed, "If this is all true, I ask this in Jesus' name."
I'll be honest with you. I thought that the ceiling was going to cave in, so different was this prayer from any I had ever prayed. No one could imagine what was going on inside of me. But the ceiling did not cave in. No lights flashed; no bells rang. Into my heart, however, came such peace that I knew the prayer I had prayed was right. I knew I had found the Messiah and had passed from death into life. I had forgiveness of my sins, not because of anything I had done, nor because I deserved it, but because of what He had done for me. I had come to Him with my burdens, and He had given me rest.
Life has not been easy since then, but it has been wonderful. And the way God has led and provided our needs has been beyond what I could have ever expected. I would not trade this new life for anything. I now have the peace that no education, no stocks, nor bonds, could ever give. Possessions can vanish overnight, but this peace stays.
I have not told you the whole story, but just shared a little of what happened to one Yiddish boy to whom the Lord has given eternal life. And I thank Him for it. If you, who are reading this account, have not as yet found the Messiah and believed in Him, you have missed the full meaning of being a Jew and missed the whole purpose of life.
I sincerely invite you to consider prayerfully these and many other of the more than 450 Old Testament references which the sages of Israel attributed to the Person of the Messiah. As you search the Scriptures with an open heart and open mind you too will find the peace of God that passes all understanding.