Monday, February 25, 2008

The New Word

Evangelicals. What would New York be without them? You can be riding the train, minding your own business, when suddenly they emerge from the crowd and start testifying away fortissimo. Even better is when they identify you as a frum yid, and consequently either approach you for a little one-on-one discussion or simply preach just a tiny bit louder. I will admit to often wondering: if you really believe that your speech is truth, why do you have to yell it out? Would the message be less effective if it was relayed more quietly? I suppose the logic is that by interrupting our davening/reading/snoozing/first cup of coffee, we will be shocked into "awareness", if you will. Roused from our literal slumber, LOL.

A few days ago, a woman stood up midway through my commute and launched into a most fervent, repetitious, holy roller session. Riders around me were nodding solemnly in agreement as the woman carried on, although I was most pleased to see one frum gentleman whip out his gemara and start learning as a magen. As for me, I chose the time as opportune to recite a few pasukim of tehillim. I mean, maybe I was davening imperceptibly, but I was certain that my tefillah was transmitting nice and clear over the din.

When I arrived at work that morning, with the sounds of the "prophetess" ringing in my ears, yet another incident occurred. There I was in the kitchen innocently making my first cup of coffee when my reverie was disrupted by an office mate whose acquaintance I had not yet made. Her straight-to-the-point opener: "Are you an Orthodox Jew"?

My heart sank. Now I was going to have to deal with this at work! I bit my tongue and squelched the overwhelming urge to explain that I was in fact a Jewess, deciding instead to go with an uninterested "uh-huh". She was nonetheless encouraged, thus proving my suspicion that the conversation had more to do with her than me; I was simply the "prize" she was after. She proceeded by sharing that she loves learning about the various "feasts" of the Old Testament and tried to interest me in particular by mentioning one such feast that occurred in the springtime. I managed to escape the ordeal by informing her that the terminology she is familiar with is different than the terminology I am familiar with, and so I incited enough confusion to escape further discussion.

Sadly, I am lacking when it comes to dealings with religious yeshke-lovers. My husband, B'H', is the antithesis of me in this regard and can convert such attempts at conversation into glorifications of Torah. However, since my new workplace is now manifesting this spiritual pitfall, it looks like I am going to have to finally learn how to successfully negotiate these encounters. I suppose it is a lesson I should have mastered long ago.

That being said, I would greatly appreciate it if you could please share any strategies you may have for successfully managing encounters with evangelicals. Your suggestions could prove invaluable in helping safeguard not only myself but other frum yiddin as well.


1 comment:

  1. Though not a direct answer to this question, it relates.

    When I lived in Alabama, I developed a strong friendship with a pastor of a very evangelical church.

    This pastor had a D Div, and was a very educated man.

    One day, I told him that one reason were were able to be such good friends is that he never "witnessed" to me. And I asked him why he never did.

    His response floored me.

    He explained that he NEVER witnessed to an observant Jew, or to any Jew who he thought had a good chance of doing Teshuva.

    My shocked face brought about the following explanation:
    "We all are taught about G-d. G-d, or Hashem as you call Him is first of all IMMUTABLE, meaning unchangeable. Hashem is reliable, honest and keeps His word as well s all of His promises.
    "Throughout your Torah, G-d gives you many Mitzvos and tells you they are yours to follow for all generations, meaning forever.
    "This means that the Covenant between Hashem and the Jewish People is forever and NOT revocable!
    "Any 'New Covenant' G-d gives the Xtians can't possibly be a replacement for His original covenant with the Jewish people.
    "To believe that Hashem would simply cancel his original covenant with the Jews to make this 'New Covenant' is to call G-d an 'Indian giver' ... meaning He, G-d, the honest, reliable G-d, is a liar who changes His mind.
    "This cannot be.
    "Therefore, in my opinion, the New Covenant that Gd gave us through Jxxxx, is only for the gentiles. The Jewish Covenant still stants. To witness to a Jew is to trip him up. The Jew is responsible for all 613 mitzvos, not only the 7.
    "To tell a Jew, that now all he has to do is believe in Jxxxx, and he no longer needs to follow the commandments/mitzvos, IS TO ROB HIM OF SALVATION/OLAM HABAH!!!
    "That is why I never witness to an observant Jew, or one who may do Teshuva, which includes almost every Jew I meet."

    I was still shocked.
    I then asked him about the non-observant Jew who is so far gone that he will never return. He replied, "Such a Jew had no chance for Olam Habah anyway. Even according to the Mishna that says all Jews have a part of Olam Habah, the commentaries say that only means Jews who believe in it. The Jew who is that far away, that he trashes his religion, is totally not observant, obviously does NOT believe in Olam Habah. Or else he would be observant. So, he has not part in Olam Habah, he has no salvation. So, with him I can't hurt him. Maybe, just maybe Hashem will allow him to be saved by the New Covenant. I am not sure it could help him, for he IS responsible for the commandments, but what is there to lose if he is already throwing them aside."

    These words are as close to his words as I can remember, and I do remember the conversation as though it were yesterday.

    This same Pastor is partly responsible for my return in Teshuva. He always encouraged me to move back to a frum area, to make sure I do not drift "all the way away" ....
    He insisted, one friend to another that I go to Birmingham to daven, as the shul in our area was not really a kosher shul.

    Maybe there is something helpful in what he told me that could give you a response.