I spent my youth in a way that did not produce envy in my peers. Every afternoon, for five days a week, I studied the Hebrew Scriptures at Hebrew School. What a place to spend my youth, with Mr. Katz and with Mr. Bugatch! They seemed to think that learning Hebrew was not punishment enough, that they had to add their own particular sadistic enjoyment to our seemingly perpetual misery. Friday night and Saturday found me in the Synagogue worshipping. For a while, as I grew older, I worshipped evening and morning each day in the synagogue. Every day, I would rise before dawn and, before going to the morning service, would, in obedience to rabbinic tradition, put on tefillin – the boxes containing God’s law – on my forehead and arm.
Then one cold, clear midwinter night my life was shattered. My father had a fatal heart attack and I ran for comfort and hope to the one place I thought I would find it – the synagogue. The doors were locked, and as I hammered on them I looked up into cold, crystal-clear, star-filled New York City night sky, and I cursed God. “I am through with You!” I said. That night, as I turned away from the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, little did I realize that He was far from through with me. The next twelve years of my life were not lived in the synagogue. In my rebellion against God, I went so far as to renounce the covenant name given to me at my circumcision: Elkanah. I modified it a little, for what for me were good reasons. I was no longer Elkanah. I was Kanah.
In the Bible there is nothing accidental about names. Abram means, “exalted father.” The name he receives from God, Abraham, means, “father of a multitude.” When Abraham was 99 years old and his wife Sarah was 89 years old, they were promised a son. In response, they laughed at God. One year later, Sarah gave birth to a son. They named him Isaac, which means, “laughter.”
Here is another example of the importance of names in the Bible. When Jacob and Esau were born, Jacob pulled at the heel of his brother. He was given his name Jacob for that action. The name Jacob means, “the grasper,” and all his life was spent grasping. Jacob grasped after the blessing. Jacob grasped after the birthright. Jacob lived up to his name when he met God and wrestled with Him. He said to God, “I want Your blessing.” God replied, “What is your name? You want a blessing, Grasper? Okay. Here is your blessing. No longer is your name Grasper. You have wrestled and grasped with God and with men. You have prevailed. Your name is no longer Jacob, The Grasper. You are Israel, for you have wrestled with God and prevailed.”
The Hebrew name Elkanah means, “Possessed by God.” I changed my name to Kanah. This name transliterated into English versions of the Bible is Cain. It means “possessed.” For the next twelve years, I was possessed with the world and with what it offered. I was possessed with getting ahead in life. I was possessed with Rich Ganz. I led what appeared to be a very laudable life. I moved ahead in what I desired to do. I went through university and graduate school. I was the all-time top student. I graduated at the top of my class, completing both the Master’s, Ph.D, and internship in only three years, instead of the norm of seven years.
You Can’t Get Out of Athens
One day at a staff meeting during my year of post-doctoral studies, the realization hit me that psychoanalysis, the area I thought provided the answer to life, was in fact complete nonsense. Up to that point, I had been searching for some form of therapy – individual therapy, group therapy, hypnotherapy, or some other kind of therapy – through which I could discover the meaning or purpose of our life; that is, what we are all about and why we are here. Instead, I discovered that it was all rubbish. However, instead of looking for the answer to life elsewhere, I cynically told myself that although psychoanalysis was meaningless, I was going to become very rich practicing it. If life was meaningless, I thought, at least I could have fun by being wealthy in a meaningless life. All I had to do was sit in a chair, listen to my patients, nod my head every few minutes, and charge $75 an hour (the going rate in the early 1970’s).
Following that year of post-doctoral study, I was selected for a teaching, training, practicing psychotherapy position at a major university medical center in the United States. To celebrate my selection from the 212 applicants to that position, Nancy and I planned a trip. Two years earlier we had met in Venice, Italy. Nancy was on her way to Greece. I had already been in Greece. That summer when we met, Nancy never made it to Greece. Now, I wanted to take Nancy to where she had been planning to go two years earlier. We had purchased tickets for Athens, but the night before we were to pick them up, Nancy suddenly awoke from a nightmare and sat bolt upright up in bed. She kept repeating, “We can’t get out of Athens! We can’t get out of Athens!” The next day, when we went to pick up our student-priced tickets, the ticket agent went into another office and came out frustrated. He told us that the tickets would get us into Athens, but went on to say, “I can’t get you out of Athens.” It turned out that all the student-priced tickets were completely booked for return flights for any time even remotely near the time I had to be back to begin my career at the medical center. I had debt and no money. I could not even think of full fare tickets at that time in my life.
Nancy listened to the ticket agent’s response and became terrified. She thought that she was in the Twilight Zone. She believed that something supernatural had happened to her with her dream and the response of the agent. The only interpretation she could place on it was something evil. During the intensity of this encounter, we changed our plans and found ourselves being inexplicably and inextricably drawn in a direction totally contrary to our agenda.
Nancy and I ended up in a little Dutch town looking for somewhere to stay. Every place was filled. No one we spoke to knew of any vacancies in the town. We were on the banks of the Rhine, night was falling, it was getting cold, and Nancy was frightened. She then did something she had not done since she was a child. She prayed. It was a very simple prayer: “God, if you are there, please find us a place to stay.” At that moment, out of the darkness of an alley, walked a man of average height, very pale complexion, with long blond hair and blue eyes. “Ask him,” Nancy said.
Tell Them Bucks Sent You
I was totally frustrated with the people in this town. I was tired of asking people where to stay. Almost angrily I asked, “Do you know where we can stay?” He said, “Of course. Just go three blocks down, turn right, walk another three blocks, and you will see where you are supposed to stay.” We started on our way, and then I realized that we had no name for this person who was sending us to this place. I ran back down the street. I reached him and asked, “Who shall I say sent me?” “Just tell them Bucks sent you,” he said. The whole thing seemed bizarre, but we followed his directions until we came to a house that I knew was where we were supposed to stay. At that moment, a young couple walked up to us and turned to walk into this house. I asked them if we could stay there for the night. They said, “Of course, come on in.” The most interesting thing about being invited in by them was that they themselves did not live there! We did not see them again for our entire stay at this house. About ten students of the last gold and silver making school in Europe lived in this house. We stayed there for ten days.
During these ten days, we saw everyone who had told us there was no place to stay. They were all friends with the young people who lived in this house. There was only one person we never, ever, saw again. For ten days everyone searched for Bucks. No one at the house, no one in the town had ever heard of him or recognized him from our description of him. One night, there was a school party and no one in the school had ever seen or met this young man. Over a year later I was still receiving letters from students who were still trying to find him.
On a certain day, Nancy and I decided to leave. We also decided to tell no one of our departure. As we opened the door to leave, a young couple was standing there. It was the same couple that had invited us in ten days earlier. They handed me a slip of paper with an address written on it, and told us that there were “some really beautiful people” there.
We did not know the name of the place to which we were going. We hitchhiked ride after ride. Finally, we were walking through a field at the end of a long day. I cried out, “Where are you leading me?” Nancy looked at me and said, “I am not leading you anywhere. I did not even want to go to this place.” I said to her, “I am not talking to you.” She looked at me nervously. “Who are you talking to?” All I could say is, “I don’t know.”
We arrived at the house whose address we had been given at about 5 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon. I had prepared a careful explanation as to why we were suddenly turning up on their doorstep. However, before I could say anything, the door opened and we were greeted: “Welcome. You’ve arrived.”
Quantum Mechanics and its Relationship to God
We walked into the house, and were ushered into a room where a lecture was about to begin. The lecturer was a professor of theoretical physics from M.I.T. The translator was an internationally esteemed scholar from the Free University of Amsterdam. The title of the lecture was Quantum Mechanics and its Relationship to God. I had no idea what they were talking about. I seemed to understand the Dutch more than I did the English! One thing I learned from this lecture: At least some Christians were certainly not as stupid as I had thought.
After the lecture, a young man came up to us and asked us, “How did you get to L’Abri?” I was a bit confused, so I asked him, “What is a L’Abri?” He said, “This is L’Abri.” He then asked me how Nancy and I got there. I told him a few of the details of our journey. His eyes grew wide, and all he could say was, “Praise God.” I found that to be a rather unintelligible response.
Nancy and I stayed day after day. The food was always good. There was no charge to stay there. Most interesting, though, was the discussion. The next few days were incredibly interesting. They were full of philosophical and religious discussion. As a man with no sense of God, I saw myself as nothing better than a chance accumulation of molecules in an absurd and meaningless world. I listened and talked to these people, questioning and mocking their beliefs. Then, one day, Hans Van Seventer asked me if he could read to me something from the Bible. I consented, and this is what he read:
See, My Servant will act wisely; He will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him – His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness – so will He sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of Him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand. Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.
I had heard the expression, “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” before, but I was not sure where. At that point, I suddenly understood what was happening. Hans was reading to me about Jesus. I thought, “Does he know what he is doing, reading this Christian stuff to a Jew?” I told myself to be patient.
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we considered Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. He was pierced for our transgressions.
Images of Renaissance paintings leapt to my mind. I was not an ordinary Jewish guy. I had a doctorate. I was cultured. I had seen paintings with crosses. I knew that their guy had been pierced. Hans was trying to read me stories about Jesus, and I felt the anger rising in me.
He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
So Jesus just took away your sins! I could not stand it. What a thoroughly irresponsible way out of guilt. It was just a cheap way out of long-term psychoanalysis. What Hans was telling me was “the Catholic way.” From the age of seven, when I had walked into a Catholic church, it was indelibly imprinted in my mind. Jesus was a Catholic: Scandinavian, very delicate, tall, thin, slightly anorexic, with long silken blond hair and piercing blue eyes. I had gotten as far as the vestibule of that Catholic church, when I looked at one of the statues and thought that the ground was going to open and swallow me up. I thought that I was damned forever just for looking at that statue. I ran eight blocks home to get away from what I considered to be an unpardonable sin. But these “Catholics” had it all worked out. No long-term therapy. Jesus pays and they go free. What a deal!
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgement He was taken away; and who can speak of His descendents? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of My people He was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, but with the rich in His death…
As Hans read this to me, I remembered pictures of Jesus on the cross, and the two thieves, one on either side of Him. Three crosses. I knew that stuff. I was not going to be fooled.
…though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer. Though the Lord makes His life a guilt offering, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
These people never stop. Here they go with that myth about the resurrection. Why can’t they accept the fact that once a person is dead, he is dead? Grow up! Put away your infantile neuroses and realize that when you are dead, you are dead. That is it.
He will see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant will justify many, for He will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give Him a portion among the great, and He will divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Hans was finished reading. He looked at me and said, “What do you think?”
By this time, I was, of course, quite ready to give them the benefit of my insights. Hans was obviously quoting to me from their Gentile Bible. I responded without a moment’s hesitation: “Anyone who was there at that cross could have written that stuff! What does that prove?”
Hans handed me the Bible, and in a millisecond of receiving it my life was shattered. The name that I saw at the top of the page was Isaiah! Hans had been reading to me from my Bible, from my Hebrew Scriptures, and I felt as though someone had taken a sword and cut me to pieces. Hans then told me, as I sat with my eyes transfixed on that name, Isaiah, “It was written 700 years before Jesus was born.” I felt as if I had been stabbed to death. I felt myself moaning. Why couldn’t it be Krishna? Why couldn’t it be Buddha? Why does it have to be Him? I knew at that instant that if Jesus wrote history about Himself in my Bible, that if the Gentile God was the Jewish God and He was truly God, then I had to submit everything to Him for the rest of my life. It was with this conviction that I left L’Abri. I had no doubt about Jesus. I was terrified about what this might mean for me.
A Bird’s Eye View of the Bible
During our stay at L’Abri, someone gave Nancy a tape by Edith Schaeffer entitled, A Bird’s-Eye View of the Bible. This tape was an overview of the theme of the Bible – the Lamb of God – from Genesis through the Revelation. From Nancy’s earliest days until her confirmation, she had been familiar with the phrase, “Behold the Lamb of God.” She had always wondered why Jesus was given that name. Just as I had learned from Isaiah that Messiah was to be a sacrifice for sin, Nancy discovered the same truth from that title given to Jesus. After listening to the tape, she went out to the apple orchard at L’Abri and surrendered her life to Jesus Christ.
A Vital Addendum
I returned to the United States blazing with passion for Yeshua, even while I was still holding something back. Nancy and I found a little house group that was meeting near us. The thought of going into a church building left me feeling physically ill. The idea of meeting in a house, however, seemed fine. It did not seem Christian in the cathedral, statues, Gentile kind of way.
The main teacher from this group visited Nancy and me one night and spoke to me about what I had realized at the very instant Isaiah’s name leapt off the page of what I had thought was the Gentile Bible. I believed everything that was written in Tanach concerning Jesus. All that remained was for me to not let my fears keep me from holding nothing of my life back from Him. I had been wrestling with the implications of such action for the month following my hearing of Isaiah.
Later that night, October 16, 1972, Mr. and Mrs. T. E. Koshy were present, as was Nancy. I was on my face on the floor of our living room. An incredible piece of music was playing in the background, as I made that commitment to hold nothing back in my life from Yeshua.
P.S. Our radio had been left on. The music in the background played all through the time I wrestled and fell, and rose. It so haunted me, that the next day I called the radio station to find out what it was that they had played during that time.The man from the radio station who had played that piece, told me that it was Gustav Mahler’s eighth symphony. I asked him, “What is the eighth symphony?” He said, “This is Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand.” I asked him, “A thousand what?” He replied, “A thousand angels.” He went on to say that Mahler, a Jewish composer, referred to the New Testament Scriptures which spoke of a thousand angels in heaven rejoicing when one sinner comes to faith in Jesus. He said that, for some reason, he had chosen to play that part of Mahler’s symphony three times in a row that night. This was exactly the time I was on my face until I rose up again, a new man.
That, my friends, is the end of the old, and the beginning of the new.