Until now, very few ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel have made a leap of faith to find salvation through Messiah Yeshua and fewer yet have proclaimed it publicly. This is the amazing story of one who did...
I, Zev Porat was born in Israel, raised in Bnei Brak – considered the most ultra-Orthodox city in Israel. There famous Rabbis live and thousands of men spend their entire life studying in the yeshivot (rabbinical schools).
To religious Jews, our ancestry is very important to us. So here is mine: My father, grandfather and ancestors were rabbis. Some were “dayans,” meaning “judges of rabbis.” My grandfather, Rabbi Pinhas Porat, escaped from the Holocaust in Poland. As he fled, he helped two women who were sisters escape with him. One sister died on the way and the other became my grandmother.
My mother wasn’t born into a religious home. Her father, Zev Goldman, was a member of the Knesset in the Likud party – now headed by Benjamin Netanyahu. But when she met my father, she was ready to become part of the ultra- Orthodox community.
My father was offered a position in Los Angeles to be principal in a Hebrew day school and Rabbi of a synagogue in southern California.
One day when we were leaving school, a group of Christians stood across the street handing out tracts and Christian literature.
My father was furious and told us to stay away from those people because they were dangerous. He told me that God would be angry with me if I just mentioned the name of Jesus because it was blasphemy and against Judaism.
I remember growing up being particularly scared of two things – the name of Jesus and pork.
After junior high my father sent me to a very Orthodox yeshiva – a rabbinical school – called “Emek” in downtown Los Angeles. I wore black clothes with the shtreimel, the big black hat, and peias, the long sidecurls.
My father and grandfather - the whole family - was expecting me to continue the tradition of becoming a rabbi - the most honored profession by far among Orthodox Jews.
But I never actually wanted to be religious. It was just too difficult for me, too intense with rules, rules, rules, and I begged to go to a public school. My father finally agreed on condition that I study in the afternoons at the synagogue.
I didn’t really connect with the kids in public school as I was “the rabbi’s son,” and not allowed to mix with the outside world. So I grew up without many friends.
Then my father suddenly died of a heart attack and we returned to Israel and buried him in a special cemetery in Bnai Brak – where rabbis and religious soldiers are buried.
My grandfather, Rabbi Pinhas Porat, was still alive and he took the place of my father, making sure he made time to keep me studying the Torah and Talmud. I loved my grandfather and was thankful that he cared for me as he did.
But it was time to make some decisions in my life. I decided to join the air force – something that ultra- Orthodox men don’t often do. But by this time I had taken off my shtreimel and was only wearing a yarmulka – a knitted skullcap. And I shaved off my beard. I was becoming less inclined to ultra-Orthodoxy.
In the air force I began to drift away from religion altogether and did everything that I was not allowed to do as an Orthodox Jew. I started going to bars, to drink and to get into fights. Eventually the Internet came along; I was doing everything on the Internet except the will of God.
I went to work for a large insurance company, and for extra money was a clerk at reception in a hotel two evenings a week.
One night a tour group from China arrived to visit a food exhibition in Tel Aviv. Out of the entire tour only one woman, Lin, could speak English, and so I registered the group and helped them settle into the hotel through Lin. I found out she was a top chef from Shanghai and somehow we clicked.
Soon we married. At home I still had pictures of rabbis on the wall and icons warding off the evil eye, while Lin lit incense to a statue of Buddha.
One day when I was in an Internet chat room someone asked me where I was from. When I said “Israel,” the guy began to talk with me about Jesus (Yeshua). I of course told him I am Jewish and I don’t want to hear about the New Testament because it is not for Jewish people. “Secondly,” I said, “I came to the chat room in order to run away from God and I don’t want to talk to you!”
The easiest thing could do is to press the delete button and this guy would have been out of my life. But for some reason (which I understand now) I could not delete him because at the first time, the keyboard was broken, the second time, the screen was black; the third time the lamp bulb was broken. So this guy – his name was Todd – told me his story. He was from Southern California (where I grew up), and he began to chat with me about the Good News.
Todd then told me, “Listen, I’ll teach you the truth that’s found in the Bible. I’ll show you from the Old Testament.” Thank God this person knew the Old Testament! So for four years, almost on a daily basis, Todd taught me about the Messiah from the Tanach – the Old Testament. I started to understand Isaiah 53, Isaiah 9, Micah 5, Psalm 2, Psalm 110, Psalm 122, Isaiah 7:14.
It began to register. But then I told myself, “Even if this is true, I can’t believe it because I am a Jew!
After two years of Todd’s teaching, I began to have a terrible time sleeping. I had had problems in the past, but now it was worse. As I tossed and turned, I decided I was going to do my own investigation about the real Jewish Messiah. Todd would teach me on the Internet and then I carried out my own search. I combed through the libraries to do a history check. I studied the history of Judaism and Christianity. I became more confused.
Then I decided the best place to determine the truth would be to go to whom else? The rabbis, of course! First I went to my grandfather, Rabbi Pinchas Porat. He was 86 years old at that time and was a very calm man. I didn’t go to him and ask, “Who is the Messiah?” I never spoke to him about Yeshua. I simply showed him various places in the Bible – the Jewish Bible – that Todd had shown me on the Internet.
I showed him Isaiah 53, Isaiah 7:14, Micah 5:2. (Micah 5:1 in Hebrew), Jeremiah 31:31 – about the New Covenant.
My grandfather became very nervous about my questions. Very nervous. The more nervous he became, the closer I found myself moving toward the unthinkable – THE TRUTH! I knew there was something wrong with my grandfather’s behavior and I was determined now to get to the bottom of it.
Here was my question: Who is this baby in Micah 5:2? I wanted an answer.
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting."
I wanted an answer from the rabbis: Who is this child that has been in existence before the foundation of the world? One who would be the Ruler of Israel? Who was this Baby?
After work I actually conducted a series of interviews with rabbis - 32 in all - during a period of two years. I received 26 different answers to that same question. At the same time Todd was still speaking with me over the Internet.
I finally decided to go and meet with the Chief Rabbi of Israel – at that time Rabbi Israel Lau. Rabbi Lau knew my family very well because he had flown to California to conduct my Bar Mitzvah. I asked him a simple question, “Rabbi Israel Lau, I interviewed 32 rabbis, one of them being my own grandfather. I have received 26 different answers to this same question. Isn’t there one Bible?”
He just sat there smiling at me and said, “Zev, you asked 32 rabbis and received 26 answers. It’s OK, because there are 70 faces to the Torah – 70 answers to the Bible.” Rabbi Lau’s answer was not only disappointing, not only shocking, but he confirmed to me THE TRUTH at that very moment.
I left the office, being totally convinced of the Truth, but still in denial. I still said to myself, “I am a Jew. If I believe that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel I will lose my family, my friends, my job, my life. I cannot believe this.” That was my conclusion after four years of discussion on the Internet including two years of research and evaluation. The Bible truly speaks about the Jewish people being stiff-necked. As far as I was concerned, that is an understatement!
The next night a cold wave had hit Israel and we had no heating at that time in our bedroom. I went to sleep, but about 3:00 a.m. I broke out in a heavy sweat and began to shake. I realized instantly that I was having a supernatural visitation. I felt electricity going through my body and over my head I saw a cloud. Usually a cloud is “cloudy,” but this cloud was shiny and through that cloud was a very bright light. Then I heard a voice call my name twice. The voice said in Hebrew, “Zev, Zev, Isaiah 53 is the Messiah of Israel! Isaiah 53 is the Messiah of Israel! It is true!” I began to shake violently. I knew that I knew THE TRUTH.
As a religious Jew from a rabbinical family, I had been raised to believe that I had a relationship with God because I am a Jew. But this was the first time that I had ever actually experienced the presence of God. I was feeling something I had never felt before in my life. I had connected directly with God the Father through His Son Yeshua.
I woke up my wife who had heard and seen nothing, and I said, “Lin! It is true! The Messiah of Israel is Yeshua!” Lin, still a Buddhist, said, “Go back to bed, Zev. The guy from the Internet is brainwashing you.” I said, “No, Lin! He is the Messiah!” Then she saw that the whole bed was wet from my sweating – on this very cold night. She knew something had happened to me. Within a week she too accepted Yeshua as her Messiah and Lord…