Jewish-Mormon Heritage

I'm feeling Jewish. Yeah, that doesn't happen that often and it has been inspired by my New Testament class. As a Mormon Cashew (half-Catholic, half-Jew, all Mormon) I usually feel particularly Jewish around Chanukah, Purim, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and Passover. But in my New Testament class we are reading a book: Between the Testaments which goes over the history of what happened between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. I really had never studied this particular part of history before. I knew about the rebuilding of Jerusalem, but I never was really sure when the Maccabees came into the historical record. Maccabees, for those who don't know are a Jewish family who fought against the Greeks who destroyed the temple and persecuted the Jews in Judea. We tell the story of the Maccabees every year at Chanukah. We have innumerable picture books and children's books at home from which I learned about how the Maccabees (meaning Hammer) fled to the hills after attacking the Greeks and staged a guerrilla war, which they finally won. When they came back into Jerusalem, they needed to clean the temple which had been desecrated by the Greeks and rededicate it. They needed sacred oil, prepared and dedicated by the priests to light the temple Menorah (which should always be lit) and rededicate the temple. According to my beloved picture books, they looked everywhere, but they could only find enough oil to burn in the Menorah for one night. The miracle of Chanukah is that the Menorah burnt on that oil for eight nights, which is how long it took for the priests to consecrate the oil.

This is story I knew from celebrating Chanukah growing up, but it is interesting to now learn about what was happening in the world around the Maccabees. I never knew who the Greeks who were attacking them really were and why they were attacking, except that the Jews were always getting attacked. It seems strange to only now be learning about Antiochus IV of the Seleucid Empire and his relations with the Jews and the Romans which led to the atrocities carried out against the Jews. It is only now that I am learning about the real history, that I am realizing the gaps in my own knowledge. The difference between the stories I was told and the real history of what happened is stark.

You are probably wondering why learning about this historical time period in particular is making me remember my Jewish heritage. I don't know. I always loved various parts of the Old Testament. I felt akin to those people who were somehow distantly related to me. My connection to those old prophets translated to feeling a strong connection to the old prophets in the Book of Mormon. But, besides loving the gospels and the words of Jesus they contained, I have never connected in the same way to the New Testament or the Doctrine and Covenants. I love the New Testament because I always remember the first time I really read and understood the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. I didn't realize I had a testimony until that day. But as to feeling a connection to Matthew or Paul or any of the Saints mentioned in Acts: I never did. I felt a connection to John and the Savior, but those are the only people I connected to, and the Savior wasn't even writing. But, today in seeing how the Old Testament and New Testament are connected through these hundreds of years of history, I almost feel like I'm coming to the New Testament from a completely different angle. That seems cheesy, but it's true. And I'm wondering what I will learn from this chance to relearn the New Testament and if I will be able to not only become closer to my Savior but to also come closer to the authors and Saints of the New Testament.


Anonymous said...

I really appreciated your "cashew"-perspective and post! Thank you. It 'is' fascinating how parts of the scriptures open to us at different times. I recall being immersed in 2 Kings for some time, following it like a live TV series, and then making the jump from there to the Book of Mormon, as a convert, where the story actually picks up. It was then that I had that aha moment and a witness that the Book of Mormon was the testimony of two nations running together.

Thanks again for sharing.

lauren said...

Reading Between the Testaments was honestly something of a chore for me. While it was interesting to learn about that period of time between the Old and New Testaments... I don't know. I guess history has never really been my thing. I enjoyed hearing your perspective of the book. It sounds like your personal connections to the people and events make them come alive for you. Perhaps if I find ways to connect these stories to my life they can become more real and more enjoyable for me too. Thanks for your inspirational post!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it is your na'shama seeking return to its Jewish Heritage and worship of HaShem. The door is always open for your return.