My Search For God
by Dr. Michael Schiffman
I was born into a traditional Jewish family in New York in August, 1955. From my earliest re- collections. I was taught about the existence of God, that He loved the Jewish people and watched over us. When we would go to Shul (synagogue), I was greatly impressed with the sense of God's awesomeness.
When I was eight years old I began my Jewish education, attending an orthodox Hebrew school after public school two days a week, plus Saturday services. It was at that point that I began to learn about the God of Israel. As we studied Jewish history from the Holy Scriptures, I found that God was personal. Throughout the Tanakh (the Old Testament Scriptures). I read the "Lord spoke to Abraham, the Lord spoke to Moses, the Lord spoke to David." The same was true about Elijah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and many others. I desired to know God in this way too. I found that even with the awe I felt in Shabbat services. I did not know God. I thought that the reason I did not know Him was that I had not had my Bar Mitzvah. so I looked forward with great anticipation to my 13th birthday, because I was preparing to meet God. But to my disappointment, I found that I did not know God any more after my Bar Mitzvah, than before. I was disappointed, but I thought that perhaps I was not observant enough to know God.
I began attending minyans (morning prayers) and donning t'fillin. But found that these did not bring me any closer to a relation-ship with God. I thought that I needed further education to know God as they did in the Holy Scriptures. I continued my Hebrew education for two years, yet I did not find God in the education. I had a talk with the rabbi and explained what I read in Scripture, and that I desired to know God in that way. He said, "You think you deserve to know God?" I had to admit I did not, but that did not satisfy me. Some of the people in the Scripture did not deserve it either, yet they knew Him. I was frustrated and felt let down.
I did not change my beliefs, but decided that God had obviously chosen not to know me, so I would stop trying so hard to know Him. I believed He was knowable, but only if He chose to reveal Himself. I had concluded that He did not wish to know me.
DIALOGUING WITH BELIEVERS- When I was l8, I moved from New York to Arizona where I attended Arizona State University. This was the first time I had lived in a place where Jewish people were a minority. Because of this circumstance, I was able to meet people of different backgrounds. and was able to exchange ideas with many people.
One great place to talk was in the dormitory cafeteria. We would sit around and atheists would argue with the born again believers, and I would just listen or give my "two cents worth" as well. One day the atheists were arguing with the evangelicals about whether or not it was possible to know God. The atheists were saying that God does not exist, but if He did, people could not know Him because He would be too busy creating universes somewhere. The evangelicals were saying that He is knowable. I argued in favor of the evangelicals, saying, that from a Jewish perspective, God could be knowable, but that He chooses not to be knowable.
After dinner, I continued the conversation with the evangelicals. They began to tell me about Jesus. I stopped them short and told them that Jesus is not for the Jews, and they could put away their New Testament, because I did not accept it as valid for me. They left me alone after that.
A week later, we got into another discussion in the cafeteria, & as we talked more about God, these evangelicals began to show me prophecies from the Tanakh about the Messiah that sounded like Jesus. Even though I had never seen a New Testament, I had seen the movies about the life of Jesus, & those prophecies sounded very much like the Jesus of the movies. I pointed out to these people that the Bibles they had were Christian bibles, & I could not trust their translations. For all I knew those passages could have been inserted in Christian bibles just to "fool" the Jewish people into believing in Jesus. To prove them wrong, I had my mother send me the Holy Scriptures I received at my Bar Mitzvah. I was shocked to find that the Jewish Bible had those same prophecies. I pointed out that Jesus was for Gentiles, & not for Jews such as myself. It was okay for them to believe, but not for me. (I did not know at that time that Jesus was very much for Jewish people and that His name was Yeshua). The only problem I had was that I found that the Scriptures I believed in spoke of Yeshua, but I felt He was not for Jewish people. I needed a reason to reject Him.
EMBRACING THE MESSIAH- I believed that the best place to find an excuse not to believe in Yeshua would be the church, because I believed they hated Jewish people. I asked my friends if I could attend church with them. I had never attended a church before. I thought it would be idolatrous, because they prayed to saints, and I thought they were anti-Semitic.
My friends took me to their Baptist church. There were no statues & no crosses. It was a very plain building. The people were friendly. I found no fault with them. The pastor spoke from Leviticus that morning. I could find no fault with the message. I did not care for the songs about Jesus, but since it was a church, I could not complain. I left there disappointed that I could find no reason to reject Jesus.
The next week I was talking with my friends, & they shared how Yeshua was the Messiah, & since He was, I was not accepting something non-Jewish, but rather believing in the Messiah who came for Israel. When I asked why the Jewish people did not recognize Him when He came, they showed me the New Covenant records of the thousands of Jewish people who believed. They showed me Isaiah 53:1 which says, "Who has believed our message, & to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed" They showed me Isaiah 59:2, which explained that it is our sins that separate us from God. I realized that God did want to know me, but my sins had kept me from knowing Him. Isaiah 53 said the Messiah would bear our sins.
The next day I was by myself thinking about these things, & an inaudible voice spoke to me saying. "You read the prophecies. Who did they speak of?" I said, "Jesus." The voice said, "You attended church. Was it anti-Semitic or idolatrous? “I said. "No." The voice said, "Who am I, & what are you going to do about it?" At that point I realized that Yeshua was speaking to me & I believed He was the Messiah. I prayed & asked Yeshua to come into my life, to give me atonement for my sins, & to be my Messiah. On that day, November 23, 1973. I entered into a personal relationship with the God of Abraham. Isaac, & Jacob, the God of my fathers, through the Messiah of Israel, Yeshua of Nazareth - the relationship I yearned for since my childhood.
reprinted with permission of the Messianic Literature Outreach
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