As mentioned last month, Ceil Rosen came to know Jesus before Moishe did, so the following portions of her story are included Moishe’s biography. This month they would have celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
How much do I owe you?” Ceil asked casually. Though her heart was racing, her voice was restrained.
“It was 69 cents, just like you thought,” Dorothy replied, handing Ceil a brown paper bag. She was too good a friend to raise questions about the contraband it contained.
Ceil counted out the coins. “Thanks so much,” she smiled, as she placed them in Dorothy’s hand.
As soon as Dorothy left, Ceil hastily pulled the thick black book from the bag. . . . Now, hands trembling, Ceil fumbled through the cheap newsprint pages, past the parts she recognized from years of Hebrew school. And then, there it was, about two thirds of the way through the Bible . . . the New Testament.
She began with the first verse of the first book of the New Testament: “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” What’s wrong with that? she thought. It’s saying that Jesus was Jewish!
She read voraciously until it was time to prepare dinner, then she hid the Bible beneath some papers in a desk drawer. From then on, whenever she had a few moments alone she read it. The more she read, the more impressed she was that it was a Jewish book about a Jewish person who claimed to be the Jewish Messiah.
No Christian had ever suggested anything like this to her; none had even suggested that she read this New Testament. It was, she thought, her private discovery. And she intended to keep it that way.
But it was not in Ceil’s nature to keep silent about her enthusiasmGÇ”and the more she read, the more she was drawn to Jesus. She “just knew” that he was real, and longed to talk to someone about the discovery. But just as she knew that Jesus was real, she also knew that parents, in-laws, friendsGÇ”even her husbandGÇ”would be furious if they knew what she was about.
Paradoxically, reading about Jesus seemed to both satisfy and yet intensify an inner hunger that Ceil never knew she had. And her growing belief in him presented another paradox: it seemed to complete the near perfect life she now enjoyed, while at the same time threatening to destroy it.
Marriage and motherhood had begun a wonderful new era in Ceil’s life. . . .
As a little girl, Ceil believed in God without question, and used to pray to him in her own words. Sometimes as she gazed at the candles her mother lit each Sabbath, she felt a mystical awe, as though the flickering flames embodied some special holiness. She experienced a similar feeling in synagogue whenever she looked at the ark where the Torah scrolls resided. When the men in their striped prayer shawls drew aside the velvet curtain to bring out the Torah, Ceil squeezed her eyes shut, not daring to look. She thought that God was behind the curtain, and sensed that he was too holy for her to look at.
Ceil’s parents taught her to recite Hebrew prayers at a young age. She obediently repeated the prayers each day, though she did not know what they meant. . . . At the age of six, she began Hebrew school and before long, she knew what the prayers meant . . . but they had already been instilled in her as mere sounds she was supposed to make, regardless of their meaning.
As she grew older, Ceil realized that as strict and observant as her family was in their total Jewish lifestyle, there were others who kept even more rules and regulations than her family. At the same time, most of her friends’ families were far less Orthodox and didn’t concern themselves with nearly as many rules.
Those discrepancies confused Ceil. . . . Before long, her confusion turned to apathy. By the time she was twelve, and had graduated from Hebrew school, she figured that if God existed at all, he was a rather unpleasant authority figure who exacted a heavy toll from Jews for the privilege of being his chosen people. Ceil was not especially thrilled to have been “chosen,” whatever that meant.
By the time Ceil was eighteen and married, she’d “had it” with being chosen and was ready to do some choosing of her own. . . . She still identified as a Jew, but was thankful to keep her own household where there was no need to follow the many rules and regulations. She was very content with her husband and new baby . . . and was very thankful for her in-laws, who treated her like she truly was their daughter.
All these positive circumstances had melted Ceil’s rebellion and left her feeling so grateful that she could no longer deny the God she had trusted as a very little girl. She wanted to know him, and she wanted her child to know him. But when she reached out with that first prayer, she never imagined that there would be more prayers, or that the answers to them would lead her to Jesus. Now with that forbidden black book challenging her, what was she to do?