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Beyond Bar Mitsvah

I was raised in the sixties on suburban Long Island in a typical Jewish family. My parents were very caring and involved in my life. They were not religious but they identified strongly with their Jewish roots. I began Hebrew school at 10 to be a Bar Mitzvah at 13. It was not important to my parents whether I excelled in Hebrew school or whether I continued to attend after my Bar Mitzvah, as long as I reached that milestone. My father tried to teach me that some Gentiles were nice people, but that "if you scratch the surface, you will find that deep down they all have some anti-Semitism in them." Even at a young age I remember feeling skeptical about this idea, and I was turned off at family gatherings by snobbish statements that my aunts and uncles made concerning the Gentiles. It seemed that everyone who was a "Christian" hated us, and although I did not believe it, I learned early that the dividing line of loyalty had been drawn. I believed in the existence of God very early, and I wanted to please Him. I did not know how, and I was afraid of being punished for practically anything. By 15, I began to seek Him by attending Friday night services regularly. But this phase did not last. By 17, I had a driver's license, a girlfriend, and varsity basketball games to play.

In college I began to believe that academic knowledge and success were the keys to a successful life. Fasting on Yom Kippur was losing its appeal and God became increasingly distant. Women were easy to find, and my relationships were unhealthy and selfish. My conscience, out of necessity, was dormant.

Although I had a successful anesthesiology practice in Phoenix by 30, the excessive work hours and my depressing love life drove me to despair. I sought comfort in sin, believing the lie that sin was freedom, but it only led to more sin. Deep down I was ashamed and devoid of self-respect.

In 1989, I broke my engagement to Robin, whom I had known for 5 years. The emotional fallout was devastating. After we hurt each other for the next 8 months, I noticed a change in her personality. She was calm, peaceful, loving, and joyful. She acquired a healthy detachment from me but remained a caring friend. I knew she was attending church and had found something meaningful, but I did not feel any connection to what she was doing.

By August 1990, my hopelessness was unbearable. I had lunch with Robin and pressed her for the secret of her joy. She was hesitant to tell me, stating that I would never believe her. I told her to humor me.

We went back to her house after lunch and sat down. She opened a pamphlet called "The Four Spiritual Laws" and we read it together. I learned that God loved me and had a wonderful plan for my life, that I was separated from Him because of my sin, that Jesus died on the cross to save me, and that I had to personally receive Him to be saved. I recited the sinner's prayer with a sincere heart. Robin hugged me joyfully. I knew my life had changed.

My first words were, "I know I am a Christian but I will never be able to tell my father." Robin replied, "Don't have any preconceived notions about what you can or cannot do with God's help." I did not understand what she meant.

Three months later, confronted with the command of baptism, I felt the Spirit's urging to confess Christ to my parents before I made my public declaration. I called them up in November 1990 and it was the worst conversation I have ever had. My father told me I had "mortally wounded" him and my mother was shattered. For the next two years we did not speak of this subject. After securing professional counseling, my father was finally ready to discuss Christ. I had a wonderful opportunity to witness to them, and at one point, my father's unbelief was rocked by my presentation of the Messianic prophecies of Isaiah 52 and 53. He was almost ready to confess Christ, but my mother and his Rabbi dragged him back into spiritual blindness. I have prayed for them for six years, and continue to pray. At present, I have a loving relationship with them. We have come a long way since that fateful phone call, and I have since grown in maturity and love for my Lord.

Gary Goldberg, MD

For further contact address
Remnant Ministries, Inc
P.O. Box 21100
Cleveland, Ohio 44121
(216) 291-2888

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