How A Rabbi Found Peace
“Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee.” Job 22:21
The following is a true testimony of Dr. Max Wertheimer, written originally by himself.
[Reprinted and Edited in the USA in 1991 by THE HOPE OF ISRAEL P.O. Box 1700, Powder Springs, GA30127
Copyright © 1991, 1997, 1998 by THE HOPE OF ISRAEL. All rights reserved.]
Born of Orthodox Jewish parents, my earliest childhood impression was of my parents rising in the morning very early in order to spend a long time reading the Hebrew prayers. Even in the cold winter, before fires were kindled for their physical comfort, they carried on faithfully these early devotions. Insofar as their knowledge of God was concerned, they were a devout and God-fearing couple.
From the age of five to fifteen, my training was in a Jewish school, in Orthodox Judaism. A scholarly Hebrew instructed me in the five books of Moses. I went to the Gymnasium for my classical training and later was apprenticed to a manufacturer, doing office work. My associates at that time led me into the sinful pleasures of the world, and although I attended synagogue, and read my Hebrew prayers on the Sabbath, I drifted from the faith of my fathers.
A parental decision to send me to America to pursue my classical education brought me to Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I graduated in seven years, having meanwhile taken my degrees in letters and Hebrew literature, and four years later received my Master’s degree. We studied the Old Testament, translated it from Hebrew into the vernacular, went through Jewish history from beginning to the present day, and learned the oral laws.
After finishing the rabbinical course we were publicly ordained and inducted into the rabbinical office. My first call was to Dayton, Ohio, where I officiated as rabbi for ten years, during which I made many friends and received many tokens of love, which I treasure highly. In my Friday evening lectures I spoke on social, industrial, and economic questions, monotheism, ethical culture, the moral systems of the Jews, etc. In the Saturday morning addresses I took weekly sections of the Pentateuch, followed by a corresponding section of the Prophets. On Sunday I taught Sunday School from eight in the morning until five in the evening, with one hour intermission for dinner.
In 1895 a series of meetings was held in the Christian Church of Dayton, with various denominational pastors giving addresses on their religion. I stood proudly before that audience of professing Christians and told them why I was a Jew and would not believe in their Christ as my Messiah and Saviour. I gloried in Reformed Judaism, that acknowledged no need of an atoning sacrifice for sin, a religion of ethics which quieted qualms of conscience through a smug self-righteousness. In the audience sat a humble aged woman, a devout Christian, who was deeply stirred as she listened. “O God,” she prayed, “bring Dr. Wertheimer to realize his utter need of that Saviour he so boastingly rejects. Bring him if necessary to the very depths in order that he may know his need of my Lord Jesus Christ.”
What unforeseen forces were brought into action as a result of that unknown woman’s heart-cry. How perfectly satisfied with life I was that day: I had a young, attractive, accomplished wife, was rabbi of the B’nai Yeshorum Synagogue, had a beautiful home, a comfortable income, a place of prominence in the community, had become an honorary member of the Ministerial Association, was a member of the Present-Day Club, served as a chaplain in the Masonic Lodge, and was a popular speaker before women’s clubs, schools, civic organizations, etc. Had you visited my library at that time you would have found a wide range of reading. I had every book Bob Ingersool wrote, read them, and corresponded with the author. I was an oft invited guest speaker in every denominational church in the city. I was satisfied with life! My wife and I enjoyed the musical treats. We had a large home, two servants, a beautiful baby boy and daughter Rose.
Suddenly there came a change! My wife was taken seriously ill, and in spite of many physicians and specialists, she died, leaving me a distraught widower with two little children. After the funeral I put Rose in the care of my mother-in-law, advertised for a housekeeper for myself and boy, and found myself the most miserable of men. I could not sleep. I walked the streets, striving to forget the void, the vacancy in my heart and life. My dreams of a successful career and serene domestic life were all shattered. Where was comfort to be found? The heavens were brass when I called on the God of my fathers! How could I, as a rabbi, speak words of comfort to others when my own sorrow had brought me to despair? I investigated Spiritism, but found it utter fallacy. I attended meetings and read the literature of Theosophy and Christian Science, only to find it futile and hopeless. My experience was comparable to Job’s when he cried: “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and are spent without hope” (Job 7:6). The tenth year of my rabbinical office drew to its close. I decided not to accept reelection and resigned. I wanted to think over things! I would study. Where is the spirit and soul which gave charm to life, and made existence so sweet? What had become of all the faculties, the intents and purposes of that active, keen mind? I turned to my Bible!
I studied about Judaism, but it answered no questions, satisfied no craving of my heart. Then I began reading the New Testament and comparing it with the Old Testament. Many passages were read, pondered, meditated upon. One made a definite impression: the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, eleventh verse, last clause: (Isaiah 53:11b)”…by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” Here was the only mention of that phrase, “My RIGHTEOUS servant”, I could find. It is found nowhere else in the Word of God in either Testament. We have “David my servant,” “Isaiah, my servant,” “Daniel, my servant,” but here it is “My righteous servant.” I said to myself: “Who is that righteous servant? To whom does the prophet refer?” I argued: “Whoever that ‘righteous servant’ of Jehovah is, of one thing I am sure: he is not Israel, because that prophet declares Israel to be a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a leprous nation. The righteous servant of Jehovah must be One Who is holy. If it isn’t Israel, who could it be?” I decided it must be Isaiah. But in Isaiah 6:5 I found it could never be the prophet, for he confesses himself to be a guilty sinner and a man of unclean lips in God’s sight. “My righteous servant.” Who could it be? Then I began to study the context of the fifty-third chapter and in Isaiah 50:6 I found, “I gave my back to the smiters.” I pondered that: Who gave his back to the smiters? In the beginning of the chapter (Isaiah 50:1) it says: “Thus saith the LORD”. The LORD is the only speaker in the chapter. The LORD gave His back to the smiters? Has God a back? When and why was it smitten? Who smote it? Further in Isaiah 50:6, I read: “I gave … my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair:”. And still further: “I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” What did all this mean? Who had been so abused? When? Why? Did Jehovah have all these human characteristics? I studied more and more various prophetic utterances. In Psalm 110:1 it is written: “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Here was David himself, speaking of his own seed and calling Him “Lord”. How did He get up there? Why didn’t God specify? Why didn’t He speak so plainly to Israel that every Jew could understand?
In confusion I decided to begin at the first chapter of Isaiah and read the book through. I was stopped at the ninth chapter: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Here was a most incomprehensible thing!
I was faced with the doctrine of the Triune Godhead. We Jews have a popular monotheistic slogan: “Sh’ma Isroel, Adonai, Eloh-ynu, Adonai, Echod.” The word “echod” means ONE. Upon that word the doctrine of the unity of Jehovah is rooted and grounded – the entire philosophy of Judaism is based. Taught by the rabbis for ages, the word “echod” means ABSOLUTE unity. Now I could not believe it; my teaching was wrong! I began to study the word, and I discovered it meant, not ABSOLUTE unity, but COMPOSITE unity. Let me illustrate: Adam and Eve became one flesh; the Hebrew for one flesh is BOSOR-ECHOD, a composite unity. Moses sent twelve spies into Canaan, and they returned bearing a gigantic bunch of grapes. That cluster of grapes is called in Hebrew ESCHOL-ECHOD. With hundreds of grapes on the stem it should not have been an absolute unity; they are called in Hebrew “one cluster,” composite unity. (Numbers 13:23) There was wickedness committed in Gibeah of Benjamin, which disgraced Jehovah and His name and character. The other tribes were indignant and all the people arose AS ONE MAN. That is what I want you to see: at that time the men of Israel, besides Benjamin, were 400,000 men of war, yet they were “knit together as one man”. (In Hebrew: ISH ECHOD). (Judges20:11) Here again composite unity: thousands acted as one! These and other Scriptures showed conclusively that Echod cannot be an absolute unity.
God revealed Himself to Abraham as Almighty (EL SHADDAI). The first letter of this word is Schin; it has three strokes joined as one. This letter is on the top of the phylacteries and on the casing of the door posts. Jews have always taken this letter as symbolical of the Godhead because it had three strokes (one for each Person of the Triune God), joined together as one, to show unity. But another question troubled me: if He Who was on the cross was truly an incarnation of Jehovah, then who was in Heaven? I turned to the eighteenth chapter of Genesis. Abraham had three visitors: two angels and a third whom he addressed fourteen times as Jehovah. Later, two went away, but the third said to Abraham, “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; … I will go down now and see whether they (Sodom and Gomorrah) have done altogether according to the cry of it”. Abraham interceded for them, the Lord went His way and Abraham went home. (Genesis 18:1-33) Now here is the point: we find Jehovah inspecting the moral condition of Sodom and Gomorrah and refusing to spare them because not even ten righteous citizens could be found within their borders. But in the next chapter we have this statement: “Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of Heaven”. (Genesis 19:24) How and why could there be two LORDS, one communing with Abraham and another in heavenly places? It must be one omnipresent GOD. Then if that were true, He could be simultaneously both in Heaven and on the earth as the Messiah (Christ).
I could hold out in unbelief no longer: I was convinced of the truth, of God being Christ Jesus. I cried: “Lord, I believe that Thou as Jehovah hast made the atonement for me. I believe that Jehovah died for me! I believe Thou hast the ability and power! From hence-forth I will publicly confess Yeshua as my Saviour and Lord!” Thus after months of searching I was convinced that Jesus was the righteous servant of Jehovah (JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU), “The Lord our righteousness!” (Jeremiah 23:6)
On March 30, 1904, I publicly confessed Christ (as my Messiah and Saviour). After a year of study, I served as a pastor for five years in Ada, Ohio. From there The New Covenant Mission in Pittsburgh, of which Maurice Ruben was founder and superintendent for many years, called me to be their pastor-evangelist. After two and a half years of this ministry, I was convinced that God was calling me to a wider sphere in preaching the Gospel to both Jew and Gentile, depending upon the Lord for the support of myself and family. In 1913, we returned to Ada, the little flock over which I had been under-shepherd for five years, being very dear to our hearts.
I started out in Bible teaching and God was ever faithful. Were I to write of all the manifestations of His goodness and grace, it would fill a book. Critical operations, publication of my books, supplying all our needs, He never failed to care and provide. In Christ I have found my only abiding comfort for every sorrow.
As a rabbi I had yearned to give the bereaved some hope on which to lean, but how could I give that which I did not possess? I gave sympathy, but in times of heart aching grief and tragedy, sympathy is of little comfort. But to the heartbroken how satisfying and glorious are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: “…I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die….” (John 11:25-26) And again: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath (Possesses now) everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24)
There is but one eternal life. There is but one source of eternal life; that is God’s Son. What a great and glorious message we, His redeemed ones, are commissioned to deliver today.
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If you are interested in knowing more about Christ being the Messiah, please write us. The Hope Of Israel. If you now realize that you are a sinner, deserving of the Judgment of God (hell fire), but believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah prophesied about in the Bible (Torah), you can wholeheartedly trust Him now as your Saviour and Lord (Adonai). By faith, without reservation, pray to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and confess to Him that you know you are a sinner, that you are guilty before Him, and truly sorry for your sins. Ask Jesus Christ the Messiah for His forgiveness, confess that He died on the tree while shedding His blood to pay the penalty for your sins, and that He was buried and rose again alive the third day proving He was the Christ. According to the Bible you are now saved from the Judgment to come.
Please let us know if you have trusted Christ the Messiah as your Saviour, so that we may rejoice with you because another precious, Jewish soul has been delivered from the flames of hell! Tens of thousands of dear Jewish people have already been delivered. The Torah (Bible) has the answer, don’t just take our word, but honestly search the truth for yourself in the Torah and God promises you that you will come to know the truth.
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