Peter Rice: A Story
My grandfather was a humble cobbler from Austria. He settled down in the Boston area, and it was there that my father grew up. Like most Jewish boys, my father walked five miles in the snow to get to school, played stickball, and went to synagogue regularly. But when Dad went to synagogue, he always had problems with the rabbi because he needed better answers to his questions. He was that kind of student.
For instance, he would ask the rabbi, "Why do we repeat this or that certain prayer everyday?" He asked questions about life and death, and all he walked away with were more questions. So, when he got married, he purposed to raise his family with his own brand of Judaism. Our Judaism was so unique we even attended a liberal church for a while, rather than a synagogue. Then my father died and I began to search for something more permanent in life than the "Rice Family Judaism."
I was restless and eager to be part of the crowd. Like a lot of teenagers, we did things we shouldn’t have done. We went around and shoplifted. At first I felt very bad, because I had always been taught this was wrong. After a while, the guilt started to wear off a bit. Until, that is, a fateful day when I was caught and punished. That’s when I knew it was wrong.
When I got into high school, I thought that now that I was becoming an adult, I should do something a little bit more "important" with my life. The two most important things to do by my peers’ standards were taking drugs and surfing.
Soon I was so involved in the drug culture that I was not only taking drugs, but selling them. All the time, I was missing out on something. My life was going straight downhill. I knew I needed something supernatural in my life. Instead of turning to the Bible, like I should have, I turned instead to an occult bookstore which had just opened up across the street from my high school. I even became one of the charter members.
It was there that I learned about astrology, Ouija boards, and all kinds of things in which a nice Jewish boy like me shouldn’t have been involved. I thought that I was reasonably happy.
It was at this time that a Gentile Christian friend of mine gave me a book called The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. Being an avid reader, I accepted the book and I began to read through it. It was really fascinating to me. At first, I thought it was a book on the occult, but it definitely was not!! It was about Jesus coming back again.
As soon as I came to the part about Jesus, I tossed the book across the room, as I thought, "I’m Jewish; Jews don’t believe in Jesus." THAT WAS THAT.
But some wheels in my brain started turning, and I began to wonder about my own Jewish heritage. I became a little bit more religious; I started reading books about Judaism; I even read the Old Testament. One of the books I read was Proverbs, because I thought I might find some mystical wisdom from God. Instead, Proverbs turned out to be a very practical book, which talked about a very practical God. I certainly didn’t know God.
I wanted to talk to a Christian about Jesus, but I really didn’t know what "these Christians" might try. I could see myself going up to one of them and saying, "Excuse me, I’d like to know a little bit more about Jesus; I’m Jewish." I thought they’d take one of their big, black Bibles and beat me with it. I decided the only way to hear the Gospel was through Christian radio and T.V. At least I knew I could turn that off.
I started listening and watching, and, you guessed it, it all started to make sense. Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. He fulfilled the prophecies of old. I even snuck a Bible into my house, and hid it under my pillow, reading it at night. I was impressed with the person I met in those pages − Jesus.
"Maybe Jesus is the Messiah!" I thought. "No! It can’t be true. After all, my friends don’t believe in Jesus. The rabbis don’t believe in Jesus. My mother doesn’t even believe in Jesus." But I kept reading and wondering what I should do − was what the world and everyone else had been saying true, or was what the Bible seemed to be saying true?
With very little faith, on May 1, 1974, I got down on my knees and prayed, "Jesus, if you’re really there, and if you are the Messiah, come into my life." It wasn’t too long after that God worked a real miracle in my life. I lost my desire to take drugs and I started acting like a mensch (authentic person).
A year and a half later, my sister came to Christ. How much more fully I realize now something I learned when I first started to read the Bible:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…
− Proverbs 1:7