Izzy here. Shabbat's just around the corner! Here are some things that I hope will enrich your Shabbat experience.
Guess what I just watched this short video. Like, the whole thing. Considering my short attention span, that's a rare occurence! But to see the story of the revival of Hebrew in under 10 minutes, with vintage pics and video excerpts - I couldn't stop! Watch it yourself here https://youtu.be/pgjq8uqQ79E or at the end of this email.
And if you want to hear a longer version of this miraculous story, watch me tell it in the thirteenth lesson of Hebrew Quest starting at 52:20 right here https://youtu.be/yY3O8ByYNwI?t=52m30s or at the end of this email.
Steven is following Yeshua and learning Hebrew! Here's his story.
My first and middle name is Steven Daniel. My parents named me after 2 great Jewish men from the Bible. Both were faced with persecution by the societies they lived in solely because of their faith; and both endured to the end. I doubt my parents intended it when they named me, but I seem to also find myself living in a society that is very much against my religious beliefs. Yeshua said, "In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world."
The photo is of the four of us siblings all dressed up for a wedding and standing in birth order. I'm number 3. I grew up in the Northwestern United States in a Nondenominational Christian family. I have 2 great parents who love me and my siblings a lot. We went to church every Sunday. My Grandfather was the preacher. We prayed before every meal. We were home schooled. We went to VBS summer camps. We went to youth groups. All our friends were church folks.
The first time I left the United States I was 5 years old and my family was traveling to Laos for 1 month. Laos is a Communist country. It is 66% Buddhist, 31.7% Ethnic cult, and 1.5% Christian. Christianity considered by the Lao Communist government as a renegade religion and is outlawed with the exception of the closely watched Roman Catholic Church. While in Laos my family sometimes went to the Catholic church and sometimes went to an undocumented Anglican church that met in a hotel room. Christianity was not discussed openly in public and any preaching of the Gospel was only done one-on-one behind closed doors. That was my first exposure to a world where what I believed was not acceptable.
Through my teenage years, and the beginnings of college, I remained a good church kid while many of my friends, who I grew up with in church, drifted away into the patterns of this world. About that time a new church movement started to catch on in the Northwest; one that was more modern and "cool" for people like my friends I grew up with. Men's retreats included activities like visiting the pub, smoking pipes and using occasional bad words: all things that were taboos to me as a kid. I started to get involved more with this "new type of church." It got me to start asking questions about things I had always just assumed the answers about without really seeking the scriptures, like if alcohol and tobacco were okay. I was beginning to re-examine the Bible to see what it actually said about these things. That was the start of what would become a very large snowball.
Somewhere on that road I started to wonder about the Sabbath. Even on Sundays we had always still done work around the house or worked on fixing the car or something like that. There was no real observance of a full day of rest. Through some things I had been reading I started to get interested a little bit in Judaism and the Hebrew language. My sister's best friend was Jewish (so I thought) so I told her I wanted to learn more about Judaism. The next time she came over to see my sister she brought for me a stack of 4 or 5 books to read at my leisure. At the time I hadn't realized that she wasn't like Jewish Jewish; she was Messianic. And her dad was a well-known Messianic teacher so naturally some of the books she gave me were written by her dad and others by other Messianic teachers. God had a perfect plan for getting my attention on the Hebrew roots of Christianity.
What I read about the Hebrew roots was just making way too much sense for me to ignore it. I was learning about the Sabbath and about Festivals and about clean and unclean, and I had discovered that Jesus and all of His disciples were Jews who remained faithful to the Torah their whole lives.
Meanwhile, I had found out that there was a free Biblical Hebrew class once a week about 5km from my house, so I started going. The teacher was my sister's best friend's dad. I started to get to know him and his family a little bit better at this point and as Passover was approaching I asked him after class one day if I could come to a Passover celebration, so he welcomed me to the Seder at his house. IT BLEW MY MIND!!! That week all the pieces really started to click for me. I grew up knowing the Gospel. I know Jesus came to die for us, but it wasn't until I understood what the Passover was that I could really understand what THE PASSOVER LAMB had done for us. I had understood before that I needed Jesus in order for me to not go to Hell when I died, but now I understood that I was a slave in Egypt with no chance of freedom and there was chametz in my heart that had to be gotten rid of and that there had to be blood shed for my exodus to happen. Yeshua did all of that for me! That was a real life-changer.
I started going to the Messianic congregation. I started to take the Saturday Sabbath very seriously. I changed my eating habits. Those were the obvious ex- ternal changes, but there was also a true transformation going on in my heart too.
I started to become much more aware of the little country in the Middle East called Israel. The Psalms especially seemed to say that this land was something extraordinary. I read things like, "If I forget you Jerusalem may my right hand lose its skill" and, "Wait for the Lord and keep His way and He will exalt you to inherit the Land." I had a growing desire to come to Israel and in 2011 I came to the Holy Land for the first time with some amazing people to help the Israeli farmers with their grape and olive harvest. For 6 weeks I saw, walked on, and worked the mountainous heartland of Israel where 80% of the stories in the Bible actually happened so many years ago. That was when I knew that Israel would be the only place in this world that I could call home.
In 2013 I was able to go Israel again to study modern Hebrew for the Summer. It was an intense ulpan program with 25 hours of class time and usually another 25 hours of homework each week. It was a priceless experience that improved my Hebrew by leaps and bounds and built friendships that I hope will last a lifetime. After 3 months in the Land I returned to the USA with a plan to make it to Jerusalem again in time for Passover the following year.
When I came back to Israel this time I came with hopes of finding a way to stay. I volun- teered as a shepherd on a goat farm, I studied in yeshiva, I did more ulpan, I made more friends, and eventually I decided to study in university here. Now I am studying for my Bachelor's degree at Hebrew University. I live with Israeli roommates and I take classes like Chemistry and Physics and Calculus in Hebrew.
Israel is a country that has freedom for all religions but Judaism in general is still quite hostile toward Christianity. It has been known to happen that people preaching the Gospel on the streets have been beaten up for it. Families have disowned, and even had funerals, for relatives who started to believe in Yeshua as the Messiah and the Son of God. The idea of maintaining Jewish acceptance of the Torah and also believing in Yeshua is like the biggest abomination of a religion in the eyes of many Jews here. It's often viewed as a slick trick by the Christians in attempt convert the Jews. Some Messianic synagogues have been burned. Some known Messianic leaders have been attacked and one even received a package bomb at his house. He survived the explosion, thank God. The situation here is nothing like in North Korea, Iraq, Laos, or even Gaza, but there still is persecution here.
My name is Steven Daniel. Please continually pray for the persecuted believers around the world. And please pray for Jewish eyes to be opened to the truth of the Messiah. For them to see the Passover Lamb as I finally saw Him.
Are you following Yeshua in a Hebrew way? If so, the Holy Language tribe would love to hear your story, and we would love to help you tell it! Here's how.
Modern Hebrew with Elihana Elia this Monday evening, watch here!
Biblical Hebrew with Rabbi Derek Leman this Thursday evening, watch here!
Live Shabbat services this Friday evening and Saturday morning, join us here!