I Met Messiah

A Jewish Woman's encounter with Messiah

Five years ago my Abuelita (grandmother) passed away. The role she played in my life cannot be expressed in words. Her guidance and love did much to form the person I became. She instilled in me hard work, pride in my family and the importance of always fearing and respecting G-d.

I recall the countless times she reminded me that there is only one G-d. My Abuelita, "Lita" as we called her, was devoutly Catholic. At twelve she sent my father, her oldest son, to become a priest in Mexico. Obviously he did not become a priest and went on to become a Christian and then a youth pastor.

My upbringing was one of strict religious observance. I grew up in church. Very few of my childhood memories do not involve church or going to mass with my Lita. As a child I was always confused by the hypocrisy and countless differences between what the Bible said and how people acted. Ifelt like I took the bible more seriously than those around me. Why do Catholics and Christians do things so differently? As a young adult I went searching through many different sects of Christianity trying to find my home. Still I was left with questions no one could answer and wandered for several years spiritually lost.

At 18 my grandmother insisted that I go to Spain. She repeatedly told me I would not understand who I was unless I go. She saved and saved to send my female cousins and I. Sadly life got in the way and trip never took place. She sat with me for hours explaining our family lineage and ties to the Spanish crown. Her stories captivated me. Over and over she insisted that we were not Mexican. This baffled me because clearly my family lived in Mexico for over 500 years. She insisted I never forget what she told me or who I was.

As she became ill, I came to visit her more often to hear her stories and sit by her side. Unknowingly I came to see her shortly before she passed. When I arrived she insisted I take home a huge photograph she had of me on her wall. I refused explaining I would never hang such a huge baby picture of myself on my wall. If you knew my Lita, you already know who won this argument. So home I headed with an extremely large photo of myself at two years old in a big Mexican dress. The picture would end up collecting dust in my garage.

This was the last time I would have a conversation with my Lita. Looking back I think she knew it would be. I was honored to come and sit beside her while she took her last breaths in this world. But sadly she was beyond speaking by the time I got there. My last memories were lying beside her reading the psalms to her as she slowly left this world. The Psalms were her favorite bible passages to read. As a child she often asked me to read them to her. She would sit back and close her eyes with an almost angelic look on her face while I read them. After my Lita passed, I felt lost. She was not only my Lita but my spiritual mentor, the one person who fully understood me.

About six months after she passed I was doing a collage project and remembered the frame in my garage. It was perfect. So I began opening it up to reuse it.To my surprise I found tons of pictures hidden behind my photo. My Lita had hidden all our family photos. Even the immigration photo of her family coming to the United States. Her words echoed in my head "never forget who you are."

With all these photos and stories I decided to begin a family tree in her honor. It helped me feel close to her in some way and honor her memory. I now see she guided my steps in this all the way.

Soon I began digging through Mexican baptismal records and creating the Vasquez family tree. It became a bit of an obsession. Day and night I worked on it for over 6 months. As I got further and further back I began finding records of my family being Jewish in Spain? This made no sense we were Christians and very devout ones at that.

This led me to begin researching the Spanish Inquisition and Spanish history. I found records of my ancestors being burnt alive for putting on a white shirt on a Saturday? How could this be? I was overcome with emotion and questions. How could the church I loved and devoted my life to not be what I thought it was? How was it possible that my family was Jewish??

The more I learned about the Marranos or commonly called conversos the more customs and things my Lita did made sense. She taught me to always check my eggs for blood and toss them if I found even the smallest amount. Her enchiladas never had meat in them and her tacos never had cheese. She covered mirrors when people passed away in a home. She lit candles(Catholic ones) every Friday after she returned from mass. I recalled her telling me over and over that pork was not good for me, "just take a bite or two Mija then go eat the chicken."

This left me with many unanswered questions. I began recalling my childhood questions that were never answered. Why don't we keep the Sabbath why isn't church on Saturday like in the Ten Commandments? Why on some years does Passover happens over a month after Easter? Why can we eat pork but gay marriage is still wrong when both are in Leviticus? Why did Jesus keep all the Jewish holidays but we don't?? This led me to begin searching.

So one day I showed up at the door of the local synagogue in the town I lived in. I remember the first question the rabbi asked me was are you Jewish? I didn't know how to answer that question? Well kind of?? But I'm Christian? But my family...... He politely smiled seeing the obvious conflict in my answer and welcomed me to sit and learn Torah. I still wasn't exactly sure why I was there but I felt I had to be. By this point I was attempting to keep Shabbat and I had eliminated pork and shell fish from my diet.

I asked to join the synagogue's Hebrew class. The rabbi explained they had been meeting for almost a year and were far advanced beyond me. I didn't care I bought Hebrew primer and studied day and night until I caught up with the class. One day during the class a man made a comment regarding Christianity. I will never forget his words. He said "I will never understand how Christians think that because they broke G-d's law G-d sent a man to die for their sins(breaking G-d's law) so they can keep breaking G-d's law" I was speechless part of me wanted to defend the faith I had dedicated my entire life to, on the other hand his words stung and they made a lot of sense. I left even more confused. Why had this question shaken me so deeply? I went on attending class and at the same time attending multiple messianic groups in my area. None them seemed to have what I was looking for and often they were not even sure of what they believed. One I visited the pastor was announcing that week that they had decided G-d's name was a different name and they were changing all their prayers to using the new name... clearly this was not where I belonged but I met some amazingly nice people all seeking truth there.

When Hanukkah came around I attended a messianic Hanukkah conference in California. Myself along with my parents and my children. It was great time and I remember sitting back watching everyone and feeling like something wasn't quite right. As if part of the puzzle was here but not all of it. The question kept coming up in my head why are they "acting" Jewish? Why not really be Jewish? I found myself feeling like it was offensive to be using the Jewish people's identity without their permission. I couldn't explain the feeling I had so I dismissed the question quickly and went on with my weekend.

During the conference an orthodox Jewish man from Israel was a guest speaker. As he spoke I suddenly felt like he was real, see this is what I was looking for. This is the real deal. I found myself watching how kindly he interacted with the Messianic's despite their clear differences of opinion. I watched how he respectfully excused himself during times of worship but never made a big deal. I came and asked him a lot of questions during that convention. Found myself more and more drawn to his booth. The comment I made to him in my complete ignorance was, "well I guess the only difference is we believe the messiah already came and you're still waiting?" He politely smiled and said "you and I have more in common than you think." I left the conference even more confused. I didn't want to "play Jewish." more and more I felt I wanted to be Jewish. But how could I? I believed in JC even though at this point I was now calling him Yeshua...

So as any person seeking truth I had to ask myself why do I believe in him? Thoughts of the inquisition and forced conversions flooded me. My family was forced to believe in a sense I had never chosen to either. After all it had been programmed in from birth. I began watching debates between rabbi's and pastors about the messiah and the 365 messianic prophecies. Needless to say the rabbi's answers stung as badly as the man's comment in the synagogue did. They were not emotion filled arguments to my surprise. They had logical sound answers. Answers like how can JC be from the line of David if Joseph isn't his father? (Tribal lineage is traced thru the father)Why do the gospels give two completely different lineages of him if they are the perfect word of G-d? How can the law change if over and over again the Bible says the law is forever? The questions went on and on.. My list of unanswered questioned continued to build.

I went to several pastors and none could answer me. They only warned I was on dangerous ground and should stop questioning. Anyone who knows me knows that didn't suffice as an answer. I wanted truth. I began going one by one through the 365 messianic prophecies. By about half way through I was crushed by what I didn't find. All of them were out of context or misquotes or some even blatantly mistranslated. Like the word for virgin.. Now that I could read Hebrew I could not deny I had been lied to. And I was angry.. Why had I been lied to?

I sat very quietly for about six months trying to figure out how to even speak this out loud. I was a good Christian girl, the verses had been drilled into my head if I deny JC before man he will deny me before the father. If you have ever been Christian the fear of eternal damnation feels very real. So I kept studying and silently wrestled with this realization.

Eventually I came to my parents and expressed my findings and my desire to convert. They were open but my father was clearly concerned. Keeping Shabbat and not eating pork was one thing, but denouncing my faith was another all together. He spent the next several months researching and digging and came to the same conclusion and also denounced Christianity.

Due to a messy divorce at the time, I was at a very low point in my life. I lost my home, cars, and all my possessions. Despite this I felt an overwhelming sense of peace in my journey toward truth. Intent on completing conversion I contacted a rabbi and he assisted me in completing a conservative conversion. Deep down I knew my long term goal was to complete an orthodox conversion. But I felt an immediate need to publicly denounce the faith I once so publicly proclaimed. So I moved into a camper with my two kids and we stayed in a campground and then beside a friends home to save to make our move into an orthodox community.

Six months later my goals began to become reality. I applied for jobs and got an interview. I drove 4 hours away to interview and accepted the job on the spot. I had no idea where we would live or where my kids would go to school but I knew this is where we had to be.. This was my path. I met with the rabbi and he helped me begin conversion classes and helped get my kids enrolled in a Jewish day school. The community helped me find a place to stay and I took a huge leap of faith and packed up and moved.

Fast forward to June of the next year and I was buying tickets to go before the Sephardic beit din in New York to complete my orthodox conversion. I cannot express the emotions I felt as I looked at the mikveh waters I was about to enter. It felt like I was coming home. When they asked me if I was sure about the decision I was making. I quickly responded yes. I had never been more sure of anything in my life. This was not a spur of the moment, emotion based decision. This was a result of five years of intense study, searching. This was the most educated yes I could have ever said.

My parents named me Danielle which means G-d is my judge. To a lot of my family I am Daniela, or Danielita. I feel my name suits me and so I kept my name as my Hebrew name with one addition. My Lita's name was Esther. How fitting to know she was named after a woman whose Jewish identity was hidden. The woman G-d used to to bring redemption and save the Jews. So in memory of her and her pushing me to find out who I am, I took on the Name Daniela Esther Bat Sarah.

I am the first person in my family in over 500 years to openly practice Judaism. I recently was in Mexico for Shabbat. As I lit my Shabbat candles I was overcome with the reality of the freedom I had. The freedom to light my candles in the open, to study Torah all Shabbat. To ask questions. As I sat overlooking the sea of Cortez I couldn't help but recall the many who had not been so lucky. It was very moving and humbling to think about. That Hashem allowed me to return to truth and openly practice Judaism in the land my family was not able to do so. Our generation has a gift. I came back to the United States from this trip with a renewed appreciation for my Anusim heritage. It felt as if I was lighting not only for myself but for those who never could.

The journey to Judaism is not always easy and is often filled with hardships. But it is important

to remember our obligation to not only those that came before us but for those that will come after us. To remember to never take for granted the freedom to study and learn. To practice our faith openly without fear or shame. As we arrived in Mexico I was asked a question by someone wondering why we were rushing on Friday to get to our rooms. "Somos Judios" (we are Jews) was my response. The freedom to speak those two simple words should never be one taken for granted.

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One for Israel Ministry is a team of dedicated Israeli's seeking to share the Truth about Messiah with our fellow Jews and the world. We share testimonies and help God's People connect with the Jewish Messiah and their roots. 


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