Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Light and Dark (05/21/09)
TITLE: A Jew Finds Grace
By Nikki Rosen
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“Barach a ta, adoni elohanu melach olam…….”
The Rabbi’s voice, like that of a skilled singer, clear and melodious echoed throughout the temple hall as he recited the Jewish prayers. His body swayed in rhythm back and forth. The women and girls sat quietly on the left side of the congregation, their heads covered with white handkerchiefs, following along in their prayer books. On the other side of the room, the men and young boys, dressed in black suits, their blue and white talus’s (prayer cloth) draped over their heads and shoulders, stood together rocking back and forth in unison with the Rabbi. Their voices as one, responded intermittently at various intervals with prayers of acknowledgement and agreement.
I sat beside my mother and sister, gazing around the temple. My eyes rested on the Torah displayed on the front platform behind the Rabbi. The velvet curtains usually closed, had been opened, revealing the holy scriptures for all to see. Looking at the Torah was considered a sin when not done in specific ways and at certain times. The mood that morning in the synagogue was sacred.
After the service, we walked home. It was forbidden to drive on the Sabbath. Before entering our house, we kissed the mazuzah, a small decorative case that held scriptures from the book of Deuteronomy. We attached these to every door in our home in compliance with the teaching to write God’s commandments on the doorpost of our house.
Raised in a strict observant Jewish home, I learned from a young age, that in order to please God and earn His favour, I needed to adhere to a myriad of rules and obligations. We weren’t allowed to drive the car, answer the phone or doorbell, watch television, listen to the radio or turn the lights on during the Sabbath and on certain holidays. An endless list of do’s and don’ts centred around food and eating. We kept two sets of dishes, pots, pans and cutlery; one for meat products and one for milk. The two food groups could not come into contact with each other. All meats had to be blessed by a Rabbi and deemed ‘kosher’ or clean before we could consume them and certain foods were strictly forbidden such as pork or shell fish.
In my mid twenties, I experienced a dramatic encounter with Christ. I came to understand the Messiah spoken about in the book of Isaiah chapter 53, referred to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Convinced He was the way of salvation and peace, I committed my life to serving Him. I began to study the scriptures. As I poured over the Word, I discovered my efforts to abide by the Law with all its rules and traditions could never have brought me close to God. As I studied, I realized the purpose of the Law served only to point me to my need of grace and mercy. It was simply impossible to maintain all the required rules the old testament laid out.
When I lived my life trying to follow the letter of the Law, I walked in spiritual darkness. I tried by my own efforts to please God, but as I continued to read the Bible, “the unfolding of the Word gave light and understanding ” (psalms. 119:130). I discovered true access to the Father could only come through grace. Accepting God’s wonderful gift of salvation, I experienced a sense of freedom I had not felt before. The burden of trying to work my way into God’s favor, was replaced with a deep gratitude. His way of reconciliation between Him and man was given freely and not based on what I did or didn‘t do. All I had to do was accept God’s provision. Knowing that truth, turned the light on for me. By grace I am saved. It is a gift of God.
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