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A Former Rabbi's Testimony
By: Asher Levi
Like Paul, I Am Able To Say, "Are They Hebrews? So Am I. Are They Israelites? So Am I. Are They the Offspring of Abraham? So Am I."
I was a Sephardie Jewish Rabbi for a period of 35 years. Born in Sarajevo Bosnia, in Yugoslavia, I was reared in a most orthodox Jewish home. I learned to recite conventional prayers and to war phylacteries, which are enjoined upon every devout Jew. Deuteronomy 6:8, 11:18.
At the age of fifteen I entered the Theological School for Rabbis, where I was duly trained in the Old Testament and Talmudic Commentaries, and I was ordained at the age of twenty-one and had my first pulpit to Ploesti, Romanai. Successively I served in Antwerp, Belgium; London, England; and in Los Angeles, California, which was my last synagogue here in the United States.
I Was Restless and Dissatisfied
Outwardly I was happy and successful in my work - I got on pretty well; but inwardly I was restless and dissatisfied, for I suffered much from an inadequacy about life in general. So it happened when I was in Miami Beach, Florida, six years ago, I came in contact with a Jew who I did not know was a believer in Christ, and I asked him to advise me about my situation. His reply was: "Read Isaiah, chapter 53". I read this famous chapter concerning Jesus of Nazareth, saying that "He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities." Yet, I felt constrained to search the Hebrew Scriptures, and I found the words of Isaiah, saying:
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulderHis name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God. The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever." (Isaiah 9:6,7). In addition I read:
"Hear ye now, O house of Davidthe Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:13, 14). "Immanuel" means "God with us."
This gave me the assurance that Jesus indeed is the Messiah in Whom has been fulfilled all the prophets' predictions. Meanwhile, I got a clear picture of the Messiah when I had the opportunity to hold in my hands a little book which I found to be the New Testament - a book about which K knew almost nothing. I began to read it the same way I would read my other book. I began at the beginning and read the words: "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham "and found to my surprise that I was reading a Jewish book about a Jew.
Reading gradually, I came to the conclusion that Jesus Christ was a Jew of the seed of Abraham and David; that He was born a Jewish virgin in a Jewish town, Bethlehem: into a Jewish tribe, the tribe of Judah.
I realized that He knew the Law and the Prophets, so I followed Him around reading and learning His beautiful sayings and teachings as He traveled, taught, and healed in the hills and valleys of the Holy Land, which became as spiritual food to me. His promise of forgiveness and eternal life to those who believe in Him drew me until one day I put my trust in Him. And I accepted Him as my Messiah and my personal Savior from my sins.
I have to assert that my heart does not condemn me for my new faith, for I feel I still am a Jew and never will cease to be a Jew. I did not abandon our heritage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Like Paul, I am able to say, even after accepting the Christ: "Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the offspring of Abraham? So am I."
So I repeat with pride the words of Rom. 1:16:
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." Romans 1:16.
The brilliant example of the life of the great Apostle Paul influenced me much and gave me the courage to accept the Lord Jesus as my personal Saviour. Paul was a zealous persecutor of Christ, and he became His most devout follower. He was a disciple of the great Doctor of the Law, Raban Gamaliel, at whose feet he sat and learned. It is supposed that Raban Gamaliel became a believer even before his famous pupil Saul. Here is what the Bible tells us:
The Jews were about to lay hands upon Peter and the other apostles because of their boldness in preaching Christ to them as Redeemer of Israel, and they took counsel to slay them.
"Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; and said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take head to yourselves what we intend to do as touching these men.
"Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to naught: but if it be of God, ye cannon overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God." (Acts 5:34, 35,38,39).
Two thousand years have passed since this humble Galilean, Jesus, walked the hills and valleys of Palestine, and still Christ is the Master of the world. His gospel message is still proclaimed. And the people throughout the world with joy still repeat his message:
"God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16).