My day ended in a motel where an Apache woman welcomed me at the check in counter while the stern faced great chief Geronimo gazed at me from the wall.
Yes, I was in Apache territory and B-H I found quiet place to rest for the night. A few hours before, I was going through terror in the territories of the Apache’s close cousins, the Navajos. No, no horseman chased me, for today’s Native Americans use pickup trucks! No one at all chased me; in fact there was no one in the desert besides me and my Suburban, a Suburban showing a loss of tire pressure on the tire pressure indicator. Every few minutes I was losing one pound of pressure. The temperature outside was over 100’F but the beautiful but empty road ahead didn’t promise any help in case I eventually needed it. As my Google map was showing me that I was approaching one of the major Navajo towns, the question was if I will make it without breaking down on the side of the road. Boruch Hashem I arrived in town with five pounds of pressure left in the tire. It took me few minutes to find the tire shop which was still open and able to help me. At the third tire shop I visited a large Navajo lady was sitting behind the desk. It is quite usual for a Navajo woman to operate the business as they seem to lead their families. However her husband showed up while the workers were busy with my tire.
The radio station was blaring from the loud speakers and I noticed that the language was in their native Navajo. On the wall hung a poster announcing a play, a theater performance called ‘Passion’. The actors were dressed in clothing resembling that which was worn two thousand years ago in Palestine and left no doubt in my mind what the performance was about. It was about the death of the man from Natzret.
I asked the owner of the business, the lady seating behind the desk if she saw the performance. She admitted that she had.
“Did you like it?” I asked.
“Yes.” - answered the lady. “It was played in our in language.”
“How did they portray Jews in this play, as good people or bad people?” - I asked.
At this moment I decided to reveal my identity as a Jew, partially at least, as I usually don’t go in to the details of my whole life story.
“I’m Jewish.” I said to her.
First she seemed not to understand what I was talking about as probably she never saw a Jew before in her life. I picked up my cowboy hat which I wear when I travel alone in the west and showed her my big velvet yarmulka. She was a little bit shocked I guess, as she stopped talking to me immersing herself in reading the newspaper.
A few minutes later her husband walked in. She told him something in Navajo and I understood that it was about me.
He asked me which church I pray in and I answered as I have answered this question in the past. (I describe this story in my book “Another Convert”) that I go to pray in a synagogue and not in a church. Being unaware about his level of knowledge of religious affairs I quickly started to explain.
- You see, the man about whom you believe was messiah was Jewish but we Jews don’t believe that he was messiah. We follow and do everything that Moses taught us.
He said “ I know who Moses was, we have a Bible translated to Navajo.”
I wasn’t surprised as it is known fact that the Bible has been translated to almost all languages spoken on our planet. Some alphabets and even vocabularies were created especially to bring the stories of the Patriarchs and the Jewish children, to the nations of the world. As I was curious I asked him, “How do you call Moses in the Navajo language? And Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?”
He said “We have their names in English but all the rest is in our language.”
Then the man started to describe some miracles which he performed or witnessed in the name of Hanotzri which is nothing new to me as I come from an environment where a big part of the faith was supported by such stories.
The Navajo man was also a kind of preacher of the ‘Gospel” to his people, perhaps he wanted to ‘save’ my poor soul as well, not knowing that I still remember the “gospel’ almost by heart which probably makes my knowledge of it better than most of the Christian preachers.
I allowed him to talk as my immunization shield for this kind of “good” acts of “saving my soul” is as thick as the walls of
. But two thoughts crossed (no pun intended) my
mind while the man continued to talk. Fort
Chazal teaches us that the two offshoots of our religion are considered as preparatory stages in the history of mankind, preparing nations to accept the One Creator and his moral requirements, and his chosen people as the spiritual leaders of humanity. You can find such statements everywhere, from Yehuda Halevi and the Rambam to Maharal and Rav Hirsh. Maharal seem to go as far as giving the goim that believe in One Creator the chalachic status of Gerim Toshvim. Rav Hirsh in turn, calls Muslims – half Jewish. It is fact that from the time when our father Abraham recognized Hashem and his Torah the age of Torah began, as Mesechtas ‘Avoida Zarah’ describes it. From one man – Abraham, emerged the nation who accepted the Law of God, from this nation emerged the teaching about this One God and moral conduct. Today the majority of mankind believes in some form in a Creator of heaven and earth and to a certain extent lives their lives according to the laws of morality.
I know, there is still much to do, we – mankind, are still deep in the forest of confusion and paganism. There is still much to do for us Jews.
The other thought which came to me while I was listening to the Navajo preacher was more of a personal kind. I thought back to the various mp3s I listened to as I was driving through the desert. I was listening to some of the deeper levels of our Torah getting high with some of the ideas derived sometimes from seemingly insignificant details of Torah Shebiksav – the written Torah. Some enzymes or other natural chemicals in my body are making me almost drunk when I learn and recognize the nature of the creation and the tasks of our existence on this Earth. I feel thrilled and extremely happy to have this opportunity to learn these issues as they are the essence of our being and a direct link of our connection to HBH. Every mitzva performed after recognition of its deeper meaning has new value and gives me new excitement.
I wouldn’t experience all of this if I would have stayed at the same level that the man talking to me was at. While for him it brought him to a higher level of humanity as he recognized G-d of Bible as the Creator and His basic moral requirements, for me that path was just not enough.
I never have enough of Him – the One and Only, and that’s how I wish it should be forever.