Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Beloved Dissident

In 1998, Laurel West wrote a novel entitled Beloved Dissident and published by Messianic Jewish Publishers. Many of the characters in this Christian romance novel are Jewish, including Leah Beaumont (the main character, who is the granddaughter of a Holocaust victim) and David Rothman.

It is clear that the Beaumont family is Jewish because they celebrate Hannukah, including a gift exchange, lighting of the candles, and playing with dreydls and gelt. They seem to be somewhat observant as well. At one point Leah says, "Mama rarely cooks on the Sabbath, but only on the day before." But about one third of the way through the book we discover that Leah is a Messianic Jew. "The Messiah," she says, "is peace. And we've rejected him." [David Rothman’s] eyes widened. "Rejected? You... Don't tell me you think..." "I know. Yeshua -- Jesus -- is the Messiah of Israel." Revulsion stabbed his abdomen."

David thinks about Leah's belief in Jesus: "If Leah, from the beginning, had been dangerous, now she was worse -- a deception. A girl of the Covenant who bowed to Jesus, to three gods..... How does a person come to believe a lemon is an orange, he thought, or more unlikely, a plum? Someone's fed it to her with sugar.... Who had sold her this?"

Leah tells David about her family's belief in Jesus: "She said she had heard about him [Jesus] all her life. "The time came to decide: Messiah, or liar." "All your life," David said. She told him about an adoptive grandfather, a devout Catholic, and a "believing" grandmother, an observant Jew -- contradictory terms, he thought, if he understood her meaning. She said her father had accepted Yeshua's claim at age twelve, six years after the decision of his mother. "So it came through your father -- and his stepfather." ... Leah ... told [him] that her mother, nee Miriam Eppelman, had in her late teens, also "came to Yeshua" and "by the grace of God" later persuaded her older brother Joseph, an ordained rabbi, to believe as well. Their parents, because of it, disowned them both, and Grandfather Eppelman had died just three years ago without forgiving either one. David supposed Leah had been reared … Catholic, and said so, the words strange in his ears. "I did not choose Catholicism. I chose Yeshua." "Not Catholic, not Jewish..." She turned to him, kindled. "I am a Messianic Jew." "Leah," he whispered, " you worship a convicted insurrectionist, executed two thousand years ago. How can you call yourself any kind of Jew?" Leah responds by reading to him from the New Testament.

"He claims he's in the Torah," David said, revolted. "Everywhere Messiah's foretold: humble servant, conquering king." He wanted to laugh. "Conquering king?" "When he comes back." "From what? Death?" "That he's done." "So rumor has it," he said.... "Would you die for a rumor?" she asked. Only if I were unspeakably gullible, he mused without answering. "Thousands died for believing Yeshua had returned from death," she said. "Thousands died rather than believe it," he told her, laying a hand on her wrist.... "I'll pray for you," she said."

Leah tells David that Elohim in Hebrew is plural, and that Echad means a "plurality in unity -- like the temple's golden lamp stand, several in one. Like water, revealed as vapor, revealed as ice; god, revealed as Spirit, revealed as Son.... she showed him that he had not loved his God with all his heart as the Shema told him to do, nor had he kept the Law. Chatah, the falling short, she said -- that's why he needed mercy; so did she. The psalmist, quoting God, declared none good -- not one. And only blood atones."

Isaiah 52:13 through Isaiah 53: "he remembered asking Rabbi Feingold about it. He was a boy again, twelve. "who is this man who was so badly treated?" he had asked. "It is symbolic, the 'he'" the rabbi had told him. "It is the Jewish people, and it is prophetic. It foretells the Inquisition, the pogroms, the holocaust."

Leah invites David to her family's Seder. Some other messianic Jews were there, Ben Epstein and Mel, Art, and Esther Greenburg. David thinks, "It had been a distortion of the ceremony he knew, unchanged in form but explained to him in terms of "Yeshua the Messiah's" presence in nearly every part of it. He felt remiss before God, as if he had not celebrated it at all but had been shanghaied instead into some unreal world where scenes were shrunken or stretched, torn away from the old traditions and tossed to him in pieces to be sewn back together, if he could find a way."

David goes to a church to seek healing for his stutter. "Do you want to trust Jesus with this, David? the pastor asked gently. "is that why you've come forward?" David nodded. "You know him, then, as your Savior?" The implication was ridiculous. How could he know a man who had lived and died 2000 years ago? Or even one supposedly alive again in heaven? If the question was, did he accept Jesus as the Messiah, well, if he could heal him today as he had the blind man in the story, he, David, would concede that he, Jesus, was, indeed, the Anointed One of God. This was Jesus' chance. He nodded."

David visits Israel and has many conversations with his rabbi, who is a family friend. The rabbi tries to dissuade him from believing in Jesus by several different lines of argumentation.

In Israel, David hears a group of people singing and talking about "HaMashiach." "It was when the tenor had stepped forward to tell ... of his "coming to know Yeshua, Jesus, God's Anointed, whom Moses called a prophet like unto himself" that one of the men in black … interrupted in a resounding voice. "Blasphemy! There ought to be a name for you." ... "There is, sir." ... "I am a Messianic Jew, a believer in the New Covenant promised in Jeremiah 31. Do you believe the Bible?" "I believe you are a heretic," came the even reply. "You come from the States? Go home."" One of the Hasidim spits at the Messianic Jews. Later, David describes to Leah how he spoke with two sabras that he met at the outdoor meeting and how they explained many messianic prophecies, the Jewishness of the New Testament, and the Jewishness of the early Christians to him. Soon after, David becomes a believer.

David, now a new believer in Jesus, speaks of his rabbi's "spiritual blindness."

Leah decides to marry David instead of her gentile friend Jon, because of "the bond that David shared with her in the culture and the blood of their people, and in God's promise that their race would not perish before the Messiah came in triumph."

David's mother, when learning of his plans to marry Leah, says: "You'd turn your back on everything you are?" "What am I, Mama?" "The girl has sold her heritage." "The girl is the most Jewish person I know." Her hand moved swiftly, striking his cheek.... She sat down, stunned. "I'm sorry... I'm sorry."... Later, after David tells his mother about his plans to become a missionary to the Jewish people, she "lashed with all her strength. "There is as much chance that you are the Messiah as that Yeshua is." She spit the name and called it lunacy, to go where, even now, he might be killed."

Wandering Jude comments:

This novel is typical of the genre in many ways. A Jew is confronted with Messianic Jews who “witness” to him. He rejects the gospel, at first. He goes through much inner conflict. Eventually he gives in and accepts Jesus as his Savior. He is rejected by his family for his new beliefs. He becomes a missionary to the Jews.

In other words, the writing might be semi-lively, but the plot is trite and hackneyed. There is nothing new here that we have not seen hundreds of times before. Some of it seems like it might have happened, but much of it feels contrived. Wandering Jude is not impressed.

No comments: