My Orthodox Grandpa
By Nikki H.
Because of family circumstances, my grandparents helped raise me and were like second parents. They were Orthodox Jews, so every morning and evening, Grandpa went to shul (synagogue) to pray, and they sent me to a Yeshiva (Jewish religious school) and to Hebrew school. I remember in the second grade telling my grandparents that I made a vow to God that I would never worship an idol (of course in my mind at the time, that meant the “Christian gods”).
I grew up hearing stories of how my grandparents’ seven brothers and sisters and parents all died in concentration camps. I was told the Nazis who murdered them wore on their belt buckles the words, “For the Glory of Christ.” After coming to know the Lord, I could barely talk about my grandparents without breaking down in tears. I loved them so much, and I could not see how they could ever come to know their Messiah.
My grandpa had a vague sense of what I believed, because over the years, we had many discussions about prophecy and the Scriptures; but every time I tried to actually share the Gospel with him, I would be thwarted by my grandmother or another relative (all of whom were certain that “it would be the death of him”). When my grandfather became ill and went into a nursing home, I felt compelled to go to Florida to try again to share the Gospel with him.
Everyone in my family had threatened to disown me if I dared to talk to him about God (they meant Jesus). I must admit I too secretly feared that in his state now, if I shared my faith, I could easily give him a heart attack.
In addition to the family and health concerns, I had another obstacle: Grandpa was hard of hearing. His nursing home was all Jewish, so in the past, when I had attempted to tell him that Jesus was the Messiah, I had to yell very loudly to be heard, and heads would turn in horror as I shouted “GRANDPA, JESUS IS THE MESSIAH!!” Despite all of this, I knew now that he was close to death and I had to make sure that he understood clearly…so off I went. Friends in my home church prayed for me.
Each of the five days I went to visit him, I shared one step of God’s plan. Though my family said he was not always lucid, every day that I showed up, my grandfather remembered with crystal clarity what I had shared with him the day before.
For the first three days, I did not mention Jesus, but explained God’s plan for relationship with us through sacrificial atonement. Finally, on the fourth day, I told Grandpa that this atonement would come through the Messiah. The next day I would tell him who the Messiah was.
The day came and this time I wheeled him into a private room. I asked him if he remembered what I was going to tell him that day.
“Yes,” he said. “You’re going to tell me who Messiah is. So, who is he?”
I explained that it was Yeshua (Jesus) and began to go through Isaiah 53. As I spoke, my Grandpa’s head began to nod off as though he was having a heart attack. I thought now I had really “done it.” I had killed my grandpa by telling him about Jesus. I prayed quietly and suddenly he looked up and began to argue with me (a good sign as to his lucidity, since I would have been a bit suspicious if he had just complied with what I said). He wanted to know why, if Yeshua was the Messiah, he was sick. Why was there war? Why did the Prince of Peace not bring peace? I explained that the Messiah came first to bring peace in our hearts and was coming again to bring peace on earth.
We had a great discussion that culminated with my asking Grandpa if I could say a prayer for him and ask God to reveal to him if indeed Yeshua (Jesus) was the Messiah.
Instead of my saying a prayer, my grandpa suddenly began to pray out loud all by himself. “God,” he said, “If this is true then I want to know. I want to know this Messiah Yeshua, as Bruchah (my Hebrew name) described.”
Tears began to flow down his eyes. He looked up at me and said. “Bruchah, you’re beautiful. Thank you.”
Grandpa died three weeks later. Before his passing my mother had asked Grandpa if he remembered my visit that day. “Of course,” he said. When she asked him what we discussed, he replied, “We discussed ‘heavenly things.'”
I believe I will see my Grandpa in heaven.