by Aden Friedman | April 02 2018
I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home in Cape Town, South Africa. By the time I had my bar mitzvah, my family had become quite religious and soon thereafter started attending an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic shul (synagogue). When I was sixteen, I was sent to study and tour in Israel through a yeshiva program, which was a great experience. When I returned from Israel, my family relocated to Johannesburg and moved into an Orthodox neighborhood. We continued attending a Hasidic shul, and I was sent to study at Yeshiva College, a Jewish day school. By the time I had graduated at age eighteen, I began to have a lot of questions about my relationship with God. I stopped attending shul and gradually stopped attending chagim (holiday) celebrations and Shabbat dinners.
In my search for meaning, I moved out of my parents’ house, as I thought independence would be the answer to many of my questions. It wasn’t long before I began to hang out with the wrong crowd and experiment with drugs and alcohol. I thought this would fill the emptiness I felt.
In 2010, I met a young woman named Cara, fell in love instantly and knew that she was the best thing ever to have happened to me. There was only one problem with Cara and, in particular, with her family—they were Christians. I had always been told that the idea that Jesus was the Messiah was totally unacceptable for Jews; Jesus could be the Messiah for the Gentiles, but certainly not for Jews. In our discussions, Cara’s father would tell me that Jesus was the Messiah for the world—first for the Jewish people and then for the Gentiles. What an odd thing to say, I thought. Doesn’t he know that Jewish people reject Jesus and his teachings? He also asked me why I knew so little about the most famous Jew that ever lived. I really did not have an adequate answer to that. Cara’s mom gave me a Bible, one with both the Old and New Testaments. I had heard many times that the New Testament was not something Jews should even consider reading. I was very surprised to learn from Cara’s family that the majority of the New Testament was written by Jews, to Jews, in a very Jewish context. However, this information wasn’t enough to keep me from hiding my Bible very far away in the back of my cupboard.
While all this was happening, my life seemed to be devoid of meaning. I didn’t like where I worked and was negative about pretty much everything. One night while lying on my bed, I tried talking to God. I asked Him if indeed He was real and still remembered me. I then started to ask Him if everything I was being told was true. Was Jesus the promised Messiah of Israel?
This question got me into an argument with myself! Throughout my life and in yeshiva, I had been taught that the Messiah who would come and redeem Israel would be from the line of King David. Did Christians even know that, if Jesus was not a descendant of David, he could not be the Messiah? I asked God to give me a sign that would answer my question and point me in the direction I needed to go in life.
After praying, I felt an overwhelming urge in my heart to get off my bed and walk towards the cupboard and get out the Bible I had hidden away a few months before. I had this strange yet confident feeling that the Bible would have the answer to all my questions. I grabbed it from the cupboard and opened it. It happened to open to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter one. I was completely overwhelmed when I read the very first sentence: “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham.” I could not believe my eyes. I knew that God had answered my prayers, and the moment I read these words, I knew they were the truth I had been searching for. My heart welled up with love, and I knew that my life would never be the same. I was being challenged to face the reality that Jesus was the promised Messiah of Israel who had come to reconcile the world with God.
After receiving Jesus as Messiah, something peculiar happened to me. I was living with a housemate at the time, and while we were sleeping, burglars entered our home and stole most of my possessions. I was devastated and wondered why such an awful thing would happen to me. After speaking to family members and friends about the burglary, I was encouraged to consider that maybe I had made a mistake by believing in Jesus. Maybe this was God punishing me. Someone even told me that God did not love me anymore.
I was crushed and wanted to know if there was any truth to this. I phoned Cara and told her my feelings; she suggested that we meet at a café to discuss the matter. The waiter who served us that day had a big smile on his face from the moment I walked in. We ordered coffee, and I proceeded to pour my heart out to Cara and ask her if it was possible that God didn’t love me and that I had made a huge mistake.
While this was happening, the waiter kept smiling at me. I wondered what it was about me that made this guy so happy. When our coffees arrived at the table, the smiling waiter looked at me and said, “I knew this day would come.” I replied, “What day?” And he said, “The day I would have to write this message for someone who had to hear it!” He handed me my cappuccino and in the foam of the coffee it was written in chocolate, “God loves you.” I was stunned! The waiter just felt prompted to do this and didn’t have a clue about my dilemma. Cara and I wept and were forever touched by this act of kindness. We knew at that moment what God’s true feelings were towards me and what His true feelings are towards all people: He loves us!
Since this incredible day, Cara and I have been married and share a wonderful life together. I thank God for everything He has given me and most of all for the peace and love that I have in my heart. I would encourage you to pick up a Bible and read it for yourself, for I know that finding the Messiah has been the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me.