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For the week ending 5 March 2016 / 25 Adar I 5776

Yoel Yedidyah - Part 2

by Rabbi Shlomo Simon
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

Age: 25
Yaounde, Cameroon
Diploma in Business Administration, BS Accounting, Diploma in Financial Planning, Diploma in Journalism

Currently in Ohr Somayach’s Mechina Program

Part Two: Meeting His First Jews

Sydney was quite foreign to Yoel. He felt alone. He had never lived in a country populated with white people, many of whom seemed quite racist. Even the large Pentecostal Church that he joined on his arrival in Sydney was not very friendly to him. There was only one other African in the large congregation, and he mostly avoided Yoel.

Yoel applied himself to his studies, and in due course received a degree in accounting, and afterwards a diploma in financial planning. He still attended the church and studied the Bible assiduously, but he had many questions about the inconsistencies that he saw between the practice of Christians and the verses he read. He couldn’t reconcile the differences between the Old and New Testaments. He directed these questions to the pastor of his church, but the answers given were unconvincing, and when he persisted he was told to stop asking questions. Salvation was through faith, not questions, he was told. An intellectual approach to religion was frowned upon. When Yoel kept asking questions anyway, he was seen as a troublemaker, and eventually was made to feel that he had no place at the church. In fact, he couldn’t find any spiritually in the church. He wanted a relationship with G-d — but it wasn’t there. Yoel decided to leave the church and find his own path through prayer and study — his “quiet time” with the Creator.

At about this time he had opened a small business in the city, and was renting space from brothers who owned the building. Every afternoon, Yoel would set aside time to pray and read his Bible. One day, one of the brothers came into his office, saw him studying, and asked what he was reading. Yoel told him. In the course of conversation the landlord mentioned to him he and his family were Jews.

Yoel was amazed. Until he met the brothers, Yoel had never met a Jew (at least to his knowledge). He had imagined them as a mythical people who lived thousands of years ago. As a boy he had been taught in his catechism classes that because the Jews had killed the messiah and rejected the savior, they were cursed throughout history and brought strife and misery wherever they went, and for that reason there would never be peace in the Middle East. As a result of this rejection, the Jews were actually replaced by the Christians who had now become the “new Jews”. He had no idea that Jews actually practiced their religion in this day and age or that there were communities of them anywhere in the world except for a country named Israel, which was causing problems for the Middle East and the world. But that country also seemed rather mysterious and mythical to him. And yet now, here in Sydney, there were living, breathing Jews in his very office.

To be continued…

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