Resources from a Messianic perspective


The Life Story of Sharon Allen

I was born with the Hebrew name of Sura Rifka in 1945 in New York City. I was raised in an observant Jewish home. My mother kept a kosher kitchen and we followed the rabbinical injunctions, such as not using electricity on Shabbat. And, of course, all of the Jewish holidays were observed. My brother and I attended Hebrew School. We grew up knowing who we were within the Jewish community.

As a young adult I married a man from a similar Jewish background and started working in the garment center in New York. We had a daughter whom we named Elisa, with the Hebrew name of Chava Leah. When she was only a few years old, we received a Jewish divorce, called a get, and Elisa and I moved to Los Angeles.

For awhile we lived in the Fairfax district, the Orthodox section of town, and, after my parents joined us, we moved to Orange County, California. There I met a man named Ron Allen whom was to become my husband. He was a nominal Protestant who hadn't been to church since a teenager. Religion was the furthest thing from Ron's mind; business was his religion. But as Ron got to know our Jewish traditions, he embraced them as his own. Because of his warm and loving ways, my parents welcomed him into the family. My mother said about him, "He's so hamisha," which in Yiddish means, "He's so comfortable to be with."

We were active in the Chabad of Irvine Jewish Center, and we became attached to Rabbi Mendel Duchman. We started to discuss Ron's conversion to Judaism, and we both believed in raising Elisa Jewish. In addition, the consideration of burial and the afterlife for a Jew were of vital importance to me. I believed that if one is buried in a Jewish cemetery, one would roll underground all the way to Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel) and would be one of the first resurrected.

Another important consideration regarding Ron's conversion was with the Israeli Rabbinate, which accepted only Orthodox conversions. Only a kosher conversion would be suitable. As part of any Jewish conversion, the study of Jewish life, history and ethics are vital, and since he had been exposed to Yiddishkeit (Jewish lifestyle) in our home, I looked forward to Ron's education with Rabbi Duchman.

Before this conversion was to take place, I wanted to make Ron aware of the three ceremonies that would be required. I explained that males need to be circumcised, and that since he was already circumcised as a baby, the rabbi would draw a bit of blood as a symbolic gesture. It would also be necessary for him to be immersed in water in a mikvah, which is similar to baptism and symbolizes purification and identification with the Jewish people. The third ceremony, though not always done in Reform or Conservative conversions, must accompany an Orthodox or "kosher" conversion, and that is the renouncing of a person's prior beliefs before a Beit Din (a rabbinical court of rabbis).

Ron agreed to all of the ceremonies except the last one. He said he just didn't think he could renounce Jesus.

I was horrified! My husband had never mentioned Jesus and hadn't been to church for more than 30 years. Here we were leading a Jewish life, and my husband was telling me he couldn't renounce Jesus.

I was so upset. I said to Ron, "This is crazy. You're such a smart and logical person and such a successful businessman. How could you believe in something so pagan? It's a fantasy. It's like Greek mythology."

Then in the midst of my horror came this calming thought—I'll just begin to read the Jewish Bible and in no time at all I will be able to show my husband that Jesus could never have been the fulfillment of Scripture. I always knew that everything God wanted His Jewish people to know about the Messiah would be in my Jewish Bible.

I marched downstairs to the family room and took my Bible off the shelf. As I opened it that day, I prayed a very specific prayer to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to show me the truth and to help my husband become a Jew. That morning as my husband went to work and my daughter to school, I began to read my Bible. I started at page one, "In the beginning," and continued to read page after page. When Ron and Elisa returned home, I was still reading. The next morning when they left, I was reading. When they came home, I was still reading. This went on for days, for weeks, and then months. I was amazed at what I found written within the pages of my Jewish Bible.

You see, every Jew feels he or she basically knows what is in the Bible. That's because as children we attend Hebrew School, Yeshiva, or Cheder, then as adults we attend synagogue where we hear a portion read from the Torah and a portion from the Haftorah (the Prophets).

Within the pages of my Jewish Bible, there is much written concerning the Messiah—where he would be born, how he would live his life, the miracles he would do. The Bible also speaks of his suffering and death. It frightened me because what I read sounded very much like what I had heard about Jesus.

I read the many passages about Malach ha Shem, the Messenger of the LORD. By carefully studying the passages covering His appearances and how he conducts himself, one can only deduce that this is no mere created being. He speaks as God and accepts the worship that can only be given to God Himself.

In addition, Yeshua—Jesus' Hebrew name, means "salvation." Everywhere in the Jewish Bible and our prayer books, whenever the word salvation appears, we are saying Yeshua.

In Isaiah 49:6 the Scriptures speak of a time when the Suffering Servant would lament to God about how He had failed to restore the twelve tribes of Israel. God responded by saying, "It is too small a thing for you to be a servant for Israel only. I will give you as a light to all the nations of the world." In the Hebrew, the word "nations" is goyim. So I had to ask myself the question, when did the Messiah come and fail to bring back the tribes of Israel and when did God give the Messiah to the goyim?

I learned that the ancient Jewish writers recognized that there were two pictures of the Messiah depicted in the pages of the Jewish Bible. They even had names for them—Moshiach Ben Yoseph ("Messiah, son of Joseph," the suffering servant) and Moshiach Ben David ("Messiah, son of David," the conquering king).

In Proverbs 30:4 I found that God has a son:

Who was it that ascended into heaven, and came down again? Who gathered the wind in his fists? Who bound the waters in a garment? Who set up all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou knowest it?

When I finished reading all the pages of my Jewish Bible, I was confused and frightened. The thought came to me, "Sharon, how dare you think that you could interpret the Bible by yourself, as if you knew as much as a rabbi." But then I would think about the passages I read where God told the children of Israel to come and hear His Word for themselves (Deut. 4:10,29; 11:18-20; Jer. 29:13).

I knew I couldn't stop there. There was too much at stake. How could I even bear the thought of being an outcast from my people? How absurd it was to think that a man the Gentiles call Jesus Christ could be the Messiah for the Jews. So I said to myself, "Sharon, you must have missed something."

I remembered that the rabbis say that you can't understand the Bible without the Jewish commentaries. So I bought the Rashi Commentaries, the Soncino Commentaries and the latest Jewish commentary called the ArtScroll Tanach Series. I also brought home texts from the Babylonian Talmud, the Encyclopedia Judaica, Midrash Rabbah, Mishneh Torah by Maimonides, Targum Onkelos, Targumin Jonathan, The Messiah Texts by Raphael Patai, and the Guide to the Perplexed by Maimonides. On and on I studied, day after day. With each text I studied, I thought maybe this one will hold the key to destroying the thought that this goyishe messiah is the "real thing."

I was fully accepted at Chabad and adhered to all the traditions. I even went to a cable television station periodically to hear the Rebbe Menachem M. Schneerson speak to his followers via satellite. I held this man in high esteem. All of us who listened to him believed that he spoke the truth. It always seemed in those days it could very well be true that one day he would be revealed as the Messiah. So here I was listening to this Jewish leader believing that he spoke the truth and yet, at the same time, I was researching ancient Jewish material to find the truth about Jesus!

I bought every anti-missionary book available. I was becoming more and more disturbed by my research. To this point I had studied only in private. The time had come for outside help so I turned to my rabbi. When Rabbi Duchman and his wife came to my home, we sat in the library and I showed them my books. I told them that when I read my Bible, I saw Jesus. When I asked him to help me, he replied, "Not to worry." He had just the man for me—a professional who works with people like myself. I was so grateful and relieved that I was going to get the help I needed and the answers I so desperately wanted.

Two nights later I received a phone call from Rabbi Ben Tzion Kravitz, a man known as a deprogrammer. He listened to my story and agreed to come to my house. When the rabbi arrived, I introduced him to Ron, who then retired to the upstairs where he spent the day working. For the next ten hours the rabbi and I discussed the Bible, Jewish history and tradition. He had a very modern approach to the Scriptures and I had a very traditional one. After reading the Talmud, Midrash, Targumim and other commentaries, I wanted to talk about what our forefathers believed and what the ancient Jewish writings had to say concerning the Messiah.

After many conversations the rabbi suggested that I talk to someone else. He recommended Gerald Sigal from Brooklyn, author of The Jewish Response to Christian Missionaries. So Mr. Sigal began calling every Monday night. We would discuss various topics and then he would pose a question that I would research during the week and then give him an answer the following Monday.

For example, one week Mr. Sigal said that the genealogy of Jesus was faulty because, in Judaism, no women were ever included in genealogies. But I read the long list of genealogies in First Chronicles in Historical Records of the Jewish Bible, which included women in those records. Women's names were included where a father had only daughters and no sons, or where there was more than one wife or concubines.

Our conversations continued for some time until Mr. Sigal told Rabbi Kravitz that I was "too far gone" to be helped. Rabbi Kravitz was upset with me and said I should have accepted whatever Mr. Sigal said. He accused me of not really wanting to know the truth. The rabbi didn't understand that I was desperately seeking the truth and would go to any lengths to find it.

A short time later, I received a phone call from Rabbi Duchman. He told me about an internationally known deprogrammer, Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet, who would be speaking at my daughter's yeshiva. I said I would attend.

The night when Rabbi Shochet spoke became a turning point in my search for the truth. His speech centered on Jewish home life and the problems facing the family. He also discussed various religions and how they differed from Judaism.

After the rabbi completed his talk, he asked for questions. One person asked what could be done to protect children from Christian influences. The rabbi stated that if traditions were respected and followed within a Jewish home, there would be less chance for a child to go astray. Another person expressed his concern about missionaries who wanted to teach his children about Jesus. The rabbi reiterated the value of having Jewish traditions in the home, but also stressed the importance of sending our children to Jewish day schools and Yeshivas.

The third question came from a man who asked what he should do when his child comes home asking about Scriptures that are unfamiliar to the parents. At this point, Rabbi Schochet grabbed the sides of the podium and shouted to the audience, "Never under any circumstances does a knowledgeable Jew ever turn to That Man!" ("That Man" being a name that Jews call Jesus when they don't want to say his name).

I felt that the rabbi was speaking directly to me, so I took Ron's hand and whispered, "Should I say something?"

Ron said, "Yes."

I then grabbed Elisa's hand and asked her the same question. She, too, said "Yes."

So I raised my hand and asked, "Rabbi, what do you tell someone like me who knows Yiddishkeit, follows Judaism, has a Jewish home, and yet, when I read the Jewish Bible, I see That Man!?"

With so many Jewish families and rabbis in the room, my question hit like a bombshell. For the next four or five hours Rabbi Schochet and I discussed Yiddishkeit, Jewish customs, the Bible, and more. Finally, when midnight approached, he said what he considered to be the words that would show me and everyone else in the room why Jesus could not be the promised Messiah. He shouted to the audience that Jesus committed blasphemy from the cross. In an angry, mocking tone, he quoted Jesus saying, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

I was horrified at the rabbi's tone of voice and his accusation that Jesus had committed blasphemy. I told him there were many ways that Jesus could have made that statement. He could have cried out in a plaintive voice or in a pleading or beseeching voice. But Rabbi Schochet refused to see my point of view. I found it amazing that in his anger, he apparently forgot that the statement made by Jesus on the cross was first said by our own beloved King David in Psalm 22. And would any Jew dare to say that David committed blasphemy?

I don't profess to be a Hebrew scholar nor a Bible scholar. I'm only an ordinary Jewish woman who loves Yiddishkeit and who just wanted to know the truth. That night I told my husband and daughter, "I have no more doubts. Jesus is my Jewish Messiah."

A short time later, Ron and Elisa also became believers. Today we still live in Orange County and continue to live an observant Jewish lifestyle.