What is Truth? (Part 1)
by Zev Porat
Until now, very few ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel have made a leap o faith to find salvation through Messiah Yeshua and fewer yet have proclaimed it publicly. This is the amazing story of one who did...
I 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 to Israel 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 and in 1965 I was born.
My father was offered a job in Los Angeles to be principal in a Hebrew day school and Rabbi of a synagogue, so I was raised 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.
I Join the Air ForceMy 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 any 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.
I Meet a New FriendOne 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, about 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 would have been to press the delete button and this guy would have been out of my life. But for some reason (which I understand now) I didn’t. 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. I couldn’t press the delete button.
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, Genesis 3, 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!”
Zev and his wife Lin, a top Asian chef from Shanghai. They met when Lin visited Israel to attend a food exhibition.
I Go on a Two-Year SearchBut then, after about 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. I showed him Isaiah 7:14. I showed him Jeremiah 31:31 – about the New Covenant. I showed him Genesis 3 and then I showed him Micah 5:2. (Micah 5:1 in Hebrew)
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,
In Hebrew the end of the verse is even stronger than in English. It says, “Mi Kedem, Mimey Olam” meaning “before the foundations of the world.”
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?
I Interview 32 RabbisAfter work I actually conducted a series of interviews with rabbis - 32 in all - during a period of over 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 faces 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 and 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!
I Hear a VoiceThe 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…
The Bread of Affliction (Part 2)
by Zev Porat
Zev Porat, raised an Orthodox Jew, shares the Good News
with Orthodox people - his passion.
Last month we carried the testimony of Zev Porat, born into an ultra-Orthodox family in Israel. By a chance Internet conversation in a chat room, Zev met Todd from California who proceeded to explain the Old Testament Scriptures to Zev over a four-year period. At the same time Zev visited 32 Israeli rabbis and asked them to explain the meaning of the Messianic Scriptures. When they were unable to give Zev any logical explanation, he became convinced that Yeshua is the Messiah. He finally gave Himself completely to the God of Israel and His Son Yeshua after a supernatural visitation.
After the incredible experience I had in the night hearing the voice of God, I was on fire! I wanted to tell everybody. I picked up the phone and told my mother. Her response was anguish and fury.
“Your father is twisting and turning in his grave because of what you have done! You are blaspheming the name of your family. You are supposed to be a rabbi. You are supposed to continue our tradition. How can you do this to us?”
I tried to tell her, “But Mom, it’s in the Jewish Bible. Let me sit with you and I’ll show you. You bring your Bible and I’ll show you that Yeshua is the Messiah. It is He, born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth. This is the Messiah of Israel!”
She said, “Go be a missionary! But don’t share with me!” But then she relented and said, “I will talk with you only in the presence of a rabbi.”
She took me to Rabbi Stigletz in Netanya who was a deprogrammer – one that tries to help parents explain to children that have begun to believe in Yeshua, that this is against the Old Testament and against Judaism.
He began by explaining to me that Yeshua Himself did not fully trust God. The proof was that he cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”
I explained to the good rabbi that Yeshua prayed that prayer because as God’s Lamb He took all the sins of the world upon Himself and therefore God who is righteous and pure could not look at Him while He was on the cross.
“Besides,” I said, “Yeshua was quoting the prayer that King David had written in Psalm 22.” It seemed to me the rabbi was taken by surprise. I’m not sure that he even knew this prayer was in the Psalms.
Anyway, the rabbi turned to my mother and said, “He’s brainwashed. He’s finished. I can’t help him.”
For two years she wouldn’t talk to me. But you know... a mother’s heart. She finally said she would see me as long as I wouldn’t talk to her about the Bible.
I also have a sister whose husband is a rabbi. I had one opportunity to sit down with her and share my faith.
After that she and her husband went to the rabbinical court and filed an injunction against me that I must keep 100 meters away from their seven children.
The rabbis demanded that I appear before their court. I wrote them a letter saying that I would not appear as I am not under their authority.
Yet it is very sad for me; today if you ask my sister about me, she won’t say that I believe in Messiah Yeshua. She will say that I died. And every six months they renew the injunction against me. I am praying for their salvation.
Zev, far right, as a child held by aunt Hannah. At the head of the table is Zev's Grandfather, and to his right is his wife, Zev's grandmother, along with other family members. There are many other pictures - such as his Bar Mitzvah photos, but Zev's mother has denied access to them.
I have an aunt – my father’s sister – who lives in L.A. six months of the year and in Israel the other half. I was close to her when my family lived in California. She came to visit me.
Trying to encourage me she said, “Your family shouldn’t reject you because you are sick. Here are funds for a psychiatrist.” When I said, “No thank you,” she left.
Beloved Grandfather Leaves an InheritanceI had to tell my grandfather who I loved more than you can know. By this time he was very frail. But when I told him that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel, he suddenly stood up, opened the glass cabinet behind me and started to shout, “Goy (gentile)! Traitor! Get out of here!”
He started throwing plates at me and hit me in the head. My shirt was torn and my head bloody when I ran out of his home.
I had to go straight to the hospital to get stitches and until today I have a scar on my forehead. But I didn’t feel the physical pain because of the overwhelming pain I felt from my grandfather’s rejection. He was a father to me.
Zev stands behind his grandfather, Rabbi Pinhas Porat, aunt Hannah (who offered to send him to a psychiatries after he accepted Yeshua) and grandmother Porat... This picture was taken after Zev's army days when he became a secular Jew.
This was the last time I ever saw him. I tried to phone him several times, but he always said, “Deny Yeshua or don’t call.”
When I went to my grandfather’s funeral I found two security guards on hand – something that is not common at a funeral. When I walked into the Ponowich Cemetery these unusually large guards came up to me and told me I couldn’t attend the funeral.
I protested, “This is my grandfather’s funeral.” They answered, “You are not coming in here; the family says you don’t belong to them any more. You have betrayed your own family. You have backstabbed your people.”
I didn’t want to leave, but these two guys picked me up physically and put me out of the cemetery. It was very difficult for me to be thrown out of my own grandfather’s funeral.
Soon after, my grandfather’s lawyer contacted me and invited me to his office. Because I was the oldest son of my immediate family, my grandfather left me the part of the inheritance that would have gone to my father who had died some years before.
I walked into the office, which was also in our Orthodox town of Bnei-Brak, and he said, “Your grandfather left you four million shekels (which was then about one million dollars) and he left you land and a part of the house on condition that you sign right here that you don’t believe in Yeshua.”
I said, “I won’t do it.” The lawyer looked at me and said, “Nobody’s here, just sign the paper, take the four million and do what you want.”
I turned to the lawyer and said, “God is here.”
He said, “If you don’t sign this paper, that money will be transferred to your family.”
I answered, “If that’s God’s will, so be it, but tell them Yeshua gave them the money!” And I left.
But the money that I gave up was not half as painful as having lost my grandfather. My own father had passed away when I was 16. I am praying for the salvation of Israel, and very specifically for the rest of my family.
Yes, I would do it all over again – and again – because it is nothing compared to what Yeshua did for me!
Zev standing by his grandfather Porat's grave
Called In By The BossI had been working in a company called Granoflex for fourteen years. It was a medical company and by this time I was managing 37 workers.
After work, I would share Yeshua with everyone. My wife Lin and I were living in Tel Aviv while my office was in nearby Herzliya.
After about a year and 10 months of being a Messianic believer, I received a call from the CEO of the company asking me to come to his office.
I had never been to his office – in fact, I had never seen him before. I had only seen his signature on papers and emails.
When I walked in I noticed that he had a knitted skullcap which signifies he is a religious Jew.
He said, “Zev, sit down. I’ve been hearing things about you.”
I asked, “What kind of things?”
“You’ve been talking about Yeshu (the pronunciation a non-believer uses for Yeshua). You’d better stop this. You’re going to turn this place into a cult!”
I said, “First of all, Mr. Hamo, if I’ve been doing anything to jeopardize my job please tell me. I don’t speak about Yeshua at work; I do it after work.”
He responded, “I don’t want you to do it.”
I said, “Well, Moshe or David talk about football or basketball after work. What’s the difference?”
He answered, “You’re brain-washing the people. I won’t allow it. Come back in the morning to talk to me.”
I was really scared now. The only believers we knew were a small group in northern Israel. We had not been going to a regular Messianic congregation because the ones I knew about were Charismatic and Todd, my Internet friend who had mentored me in the Bible for four years, had warned me against them.
I came back the next morning to Rafi Hamos’ office and sat down. He looked at me and said, "What’s it going to be?”
I looked straight at him and said, “Are you asking me to deny the Lord Yeshua?”
He answered, “Yes I am.”
I told him that I would never deny the Lord Yeshua.
He said, “Then you’re out of here,” and he terminated fourteen and a half years of work just like that, in two minutes. He said, “Go back to your office, clear your desk, return your car keys. You’re leaving, no compensation, no salary, that’s it.”
I went back to the office. I had been a believer for less than two years and except for my wife, I felt quite alone in my faith.
I told my colleagues at work what had happened. They were amazed and sad. They said, “He can’t do this! This isn’t legal. He can’t fire you without compensation! It’s wrong.” Of course I knew they were right.
I left crying and was still crying when I got home to Lin. Not knowing what to do I prayed for two days. Then the Lord led me to the Scripture, “Vengeance is mine.” I knew right there that God was telling me to leave my boss alone.
God would take care of him. I prayed for him; I prayed for his salvation and let it go. I had no salary, no compensation after fourteen and a half years of work. I would do it again for Yeshua.
Looking for a New JobNow I had a different problem. I started looking for a new job in the field that I knew – management.
But I had no resumé, no one to recommend me. The friends I had before I was a believer drifted away from me when I no longer went to the bars with them. Others left me because of my faith in Yeshua.
I went from place to place and submitted my resumé. I wrote that I worked as a manager in another place for fourteen and a half years and was fired for my faith in Yeshua.
I added that I would work for free six or seven days to prove myself; if I’m not good, don’t hire me, and don’t pay me.
The people would tell me, “No problem. We don’t care what you believe. We’ll call you.” No one ever called.
Five six, ten, eleven months went by. One day I read the Scripture: “If a man doesn’t work, he shall not eat.”
I understood God was telling me, “If you can’t find the job that you want, if you can’t find a job in management, you take any job, because any job is a blessing.”
I found a job where no one cared what I believe: I became a dishwasher.
In my managerial job I had made a very good salary and Lin was also working as a chef. We had bought an apartment and were paying on a mortgage – and were living a fairly high lifestyle.
But now having been out of work for 11 months with no unemployment compensation, we had used up all of our savings and found ourselves unable to keep our apartment.
With the debt we had, Lin’s job and my dishwashing job were not enough to even rent the smallest apartment in Tel Aviv.
Zev sharing with an ultra-Orthodox Jew about the truth found in the Old Testament
Water Front LivingI went out and bought an old clunker and we put everything we could inside the car – and headed for the beach. We put a tent up on the beach, and like my days in the army, we each took threehour guard duty while the other slept – guarding our belongings at night.
It wasn’t very safe because of the prostitutes, drug addicts and drunks walking around. We took cold showers on the beach at night.
One night Lin turned to me and said, “You know, we believe in Yeshua. Doesn’t the Bible say that God will take care of us? Doesn’t the Bible say that we are blessed?”
I thought about it a little and said, “You know, God has a blessing for us; God has a plan for us. God is not the one who put us here on the beach. God is not the author of evil, but God has allowed it. We will be blessed.”
Preaching on the BeachOne day, I felt the Lord saying to me, “I never challenged you to preach the Gospel only when you live in a hotel or a penthouse. I told you to preach the Gospel in season and out of season.”
So after my dishwashing hours, I would go out on the beach and share the Good News with people.
One night I was sharing with a religious man, and out of the blue he slugged me in the eye. Since he was an older man, people who saw the commotion thought I had hit the old man.
The police came and handcuffed me while I was trying to explain to them that I’m the one with the black eye. I told the officer I was sharing the Bible with this guy here and he hit me.
The police asked him, “Did you hit this man?” He answered, “Yes! He’s a goy (a Gentile)! Get him out of here! He’s a traitor!”
The police turned to me and asked where I live. I told him, “Right here on the beach.”
He said, “OK, why don’t you come down with me to the police station right now. This guy has just admitted to assaulting you. Fill out the forms and maybe you can sue this guy. You live on the street; maybe you can get some money out it.”
I turned to the police officer and said, “God bless this man; he doesn’t know what he was doing. I’m not pressing any charges against him.”
The police officer looked at me and said, “You’re crazy!” and left.
So here I am, a Messianic Jew, living on the beach with my wife, working as a dishwasher – and now with a black eye – and still looking for a job.
A Visit from the RabbisFrom time to time, I would speak to my mother and wish her “Shabbat Shalom” at the beginning of the Sabbath evening. I was her firstborn and she still appreciated my calling her to wish her a good Sabbath rest.
So one Friday evening I called her and said, “Mom, Shabbat Shalom!” She said, “Where are you? You haven’t called me for several weeks!”
I had to tell her, “Mom, we’re living on the beach; we don’t have a home anymore.”
My mother said to me, “This is what you deserve! I told you not to believe in that Yeshu guy! This is punishment from God! I warned you about this, and now you have lost everything. You lost your friends, you lost your job, you lost your home, you lost everything!”
I said, “Mom, God is going to bless me. God has a blessing for me.”
My mother’s response: “Meshuga! Crazy! This is a blessing?” And she hung up on me.
A day later at 11:00 p.m. we were sitting in our tent when seven ultra-Orthodox Jews – most of whom were from the famous anti-Messianic Yad L’Achim organization, together with two other rabbinical political officials whom I recognized from television – came into the tent.
I knew my mother had sent them and I was sure they had come to break my legs.
They came up to me and said, “Zev, we are not here to fight with you; we are here to talk with you. You made a mistake, Zev. You are supposed to be a rabbi. We forgive you. Come with us; we’ll put you back in a yeshiva (rabbinical school); we’ll get you a place to live,” and they pulled out a check in shekels – equivalent to $25,000. They said, “Take this and come with us!”
By now we had been living almost three months on the beach. I turned to them and said, “Thank you and may God bless you, but I will never deny the Lord Yeshua!”
They spat on me, turned away and cursed our Savior and left.
A Visitor at the Garden TombThe next day I took a bus to Jerusalem and went to the Garden Tomb. I just sat there praying and crying, praying and crying.
Usually, I have my Hebrew Bible with me, but this time I had taken the English Bible that Todd had sent me from California – a study Bible. There was no indication that I was a Messianic Jew.
As I was sitting in the garden with my English Bible, this man from Australia walked up to me and asked, “Are you a Messianic Jew?”
“I am. Yes I am.”
He said, “The Holy Spirit just told me to come and talk and pray with you.”
I told him why I had a black eye and what my situation was. I shared everything and we both broke into tears.
He looked at me and said, “The Lord Yeshua is going to bless you. The Lord Yeshua is going to bless you!”
Zev witnessing to whosoever will - always his passion
We exchanged email addresses and phone numbers. I shook his hand and left.
Three days later I received a phone call from an insurance company; they said they had been looking for me for some time.
“We have a check for 35,000 shekels (about $10,000) that has actually been sitting here for 10 years and belongs to you. That same day Lin and I got the money and that evening, believe it or not, we found an apartment for rent.
The very next day, we got another phone call from the family where my wife was working, doing banquets. Their father had left for the States and he left a bonus for Lin of $12,000. Incredible.
Since we did not yet have a congregation, we sowed a tithe into the Garden Tomb ministry in Jerusalem.
Next day – another phone call. The person said, “Mr. Porat you were here looking for a job.” (I had applied there eleven months ago.) “Are you still looking for a job?”
“Yes!” I told him.
It was from the Ministry of Defense, working for the army. It was a very good job in management. So within a few days God gave us finances, a place to live and a good job – blessing after blessing!
And then finally, a week after the man had prayed with me in the Garden Tomb, we got a phone call from someone inviting us to a Messianic Congregation. While in that congregation, I received teaching and love – and received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
My calling is to share Yeshua everywhere. I love street evangelism, and I spend time witnessing with my friends.
I visit Holocaust survivors, blessing them with food. I disciple new believers, bringing them into congregations – wherever they live. I pray for people in hospitals and I meet regularly with Yad L’Achim zealots – those whose life work is to come against the Messianic Jewish believers of Israel.
Most of all, Lin and I have found the Pearl of great price.
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