Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Valentine

This book, written by Tracie J. Peterson in 1997, concerns a 20 year old Jewish heroine named Darlene Lewy. It's a Christian romance novel set in the year 1835 in New York City, so the outcome is never in doubt. Lots of Hebrew prayers and Yiddish expressions pepper this book, naturally. Two Christians, Dennison Blackwell and his son Pierce Blackwell, come into contact with Darlene and her father Abraham early on in the novel. They have conversations of a theological nature from the very beginning. The Lewy family is Orthodox in their observance, observing Shabbat and kashrut and all the other strict religious traditions of Judaism.

Early on Pierce says to Darlene: "My father and your father have been discussing the Christian faith for some time now.... I'd be happy to enlighten you..." "I won't hear such blasphemy!" Darlene interrupted. "I won't be meshummad to my people."

Dennison says to his son: "You are a Christian, Pierce. You accepted Christ as your Savior at an early age and you've accepted the Bible as God's Holy Word. Darlene doesn't believe like you do, nor will she turn away from the faith of her fathers easily. Marrying a woman who is not of your faith is clearly a mistake. The Bible says to not be unequally yoked with nonbelievers."

Pierce's Aunt Eugenia is more concerned about social standing than theology. Pierce says to her: "I will marry for love, respect, admiration, and attraction, be that woman of Jewish heritage or not. I realize the importance of marrying a woman who loves God as I do, and if that woman should turn out to be a Jewess who embraces Christianity and recognizes Christ as the true Messiah, I shan't give her social standing or bank account a single thought."

Abraham Lewy's conversations with Dennison have caused controversy in the Jewish community. Darlene's friend Esther says: "I've heard it said that he's talking matters of God with the goyim.... [and] that there are talks of why the Christians believe we are wrong in not accepting their Messiah.... So has Avrom betrayed the faith of his fathers?"

Abraham starts to think that perhaps he should consider the claims of Jesus, and he begins attending church on Sundays (while also maintaining his synagogue attendance). He also shares his fear of death with Darlene and how that fear would be abated if he converted to Christianity and had the certainty of life eternal. Darlene speaks with the local cantor (Mr. Singer) about the matter, and he says to her: "He is a traitor to his people if he believes that Jesus is Messiah. He will be forsaken and there will be no fellowship with him. He will become as one dead to us and you will be as one orphaned.... He will surely perish if he turns from God. As will you. Will you become meshummad -- traitor to your faith and people? Will you trample under foot the traditions of your ancestors and break the heart of your dear, departed mother?" ... "Christians have sought to destroy us. They treat us as less than human and disregard us, malign us, and even kill our people, all in the name of Christiantiy. Can you find acceptability in such a faith?"

Abraham invites the Blackwells to share in their Passover Seder. At the end of the evening, Dennison and Pierce point out the similarities between Passover and Easter, and how Jesus was similar to a Passover lamb in his death. It is around this time period that Abraham comes to a strong faith in Jesus as the Messiah. He says to Darlene, "Today, I will accept Jesus into my heart.... These long months I have searched for answers to questions that have eluded me all of my life. The knowledge given to me through the Tanakh and the New Testament has answered these questions... It filled my longing and took away my emptiness."

Abraham says to Darlene: "I believe that Jesus came to save all people. I believe the faith of my fathers is valid and important, but falls short of a complete understanding of God's love and mercy. You must understand, Darlene, I do not throw away my Jewish heritage to take up on of Christianty. I am a Jew, but I also believe in Jesus. Darlene shook her head. "I don't see how this can be so. I've been taught since I can first remember that you cannot be both Jewish and Christian. I've been taught that Jesus is not the Messiah we seek, for if Jesus was Messiah why did He not set up his Mesianic Kingdom and restore Jerusalem?"

Darlene slowly begins to realize the truth of Christianity. Finally she makes the decision to believe in Jesus. One day she touched her mezuzah and "in that moment, it became more than an empty habit. In that moment, Darlene was filled with a sense of longing to know all of God's Words for His people. She glanced back at her father and felt a warmth of love for him and the Messiah she had finally come to recognize. "Jesus," she whispered the name and smiled."

Abraham dies in a tragic fire, and Darlene, rejected by the Jewish community for her newfound faith, is taken in by the Blackwell family. Despite rude treatment by Aunt Eugenia, Darlene comes to love Pierce (who had been struggled with being in love with Darlene almost the entire book, and who had been praying for her salvation, and who had been warned by his father not to marry out of the faith). Darlene and Pierce get married and live happily ever after.

Wandering Jude says: Par for the course when it comes to books of this genre. Oh, for some originality of plot, character development, and so forth!

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