Sephardic Law 1: Who is Sephardic?
Why are Orthodox Jews so obsessed with itsy-bitsy details? Is this really what G-d wants from us? In this short video, Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen gives us an important insight into the purpose of our doing the mitzvot.
I would like to submit this letter as a written record of my testimony concerning my return to Judaism. In 2001 September 11, 2001, I Gavriel ben David had a bat kol that instructed me to live as a Jew.
My ardent background consisted of first being raised in a Baptist church by my great-grandmother on my father’s side by Pennsylvania Upchurch and I later became an Altar Boy at the age of seven years of age at St. Martin’s Catholic Church where I served as an altar boy for 11 years. While in the military I had changed my faith to non-denominational and contemplated myself no longer a Catholic. In 1988 I was baptized at Buchanan Baptist Church and attended there for several months. Because of a doctrinal discrepancy, I immediately left and started going to a non-denominational church from 1988 to 2001, Trinity Fellowship Church in Amarillo Texas.
On September 11, 2001, an incredible change happened in my life, I was called to live as a Jew. I knew nothing of Judaism or what it meant to be Jewish, but I begin my pursuit to as- certain what it meant to be Jewish. One of the things I knew was Jews did not eat pork, and so, I immediately stopped eating and removed all foods from my diet that was declared unclean and was prohibited by the Bible. I also knew that Jews did not celebrate Christmas and in 2001, I stop celebrating Christmas.At that time in my life, things were very difficult within my family because of my wife, Christian herself, did not agree with my termination of Christmas.
This was a very difficult time for me in my life when I felt very alone and alienated from the world. In my prayers, I asked God, if I were crazy and was I doing what he wanted me to do. The very first Shabbat I celebrated was Parsha Miektz. The story of Joseph recognizing his brothers overwhelmed my heart, and I could not consummate reading the story because of the tears that flowed from eyes. I asked my wife to keep Shabbat with me that day, and it was then that my wife’s heart was touched and she began to see that I was very sincere and determined to do what God had asked me to do.
It was not long after this that while my daughter was in the hospital and the question still on my mind about me imagining all these things happening in my life and questioning my own sanity that I discovered a book while out getting a gift for my daughter. Mixed among books on music again God spoke to me and there was a book called my Journey to Jewish Orthodoxy by David Klinghoffer “The Lord Will Gather Me In” as I began to read the book my heart was touched and I had received my answer; I was doing what God wanted me to do.
It was in March of 2002 that I began preparing for Passover when my mother asked me about what I was doing. I informed her that I was preparing for Passover, and this was how Jews prepared by cleaning all the drawers in the kitchen and behind the furniture and re- moving the leaven from the house. My mother, with a strange look on her face, told me that every year about this time her mother had all the children remove everything out of the house and clean it. She said jokingly, “I thought she was punishing us.” I pondered what my mother had said about my grandmother and her doing the same thing that I was now doing.
Several weeks had passed since that incident with my mother, and we invited her to celebrate Shabbat with us. My mother joined us for Shabbat and my wife prepared herself to light the candles by covering her head with a scarf and began to light the candles. Lisa and I then called our three children to kneel before us so that we could bless them as we welcomed the Shabbat, and it was then that my mother began to cry. Lisa and I were confused and did not know why my mother was crying. I asked my mother, “What is wrong”? And her words change my life forever. My mother said to me,“Thank you, Junior, and I asked her,“thank me for what”? And my mother answered, “for letting me know whom I am” she said,“ I knew we weren’t Catholic, we did not do Catholic things.” My mother told me that every Friday night her mother would close the curtains and light candles and bless the kids, and she never knew why her mother did those things.
Since September 11, 2001, I have been trying to find proof of my Jewishness and at this time I have no legitimate proof outside my DNA and the testimony of my uncle’s and aunt and my mother Lorina Diaz concerning these traditions of lighting candles on Friday night and, also, the lighting of the Hanukkah candles. I do have relatives that have said we are Jewish through oral tradition. Also, I have a fourth cousin that is a Cohen with a family genealogy and history. I am writing this letter as a record of the Jewish people and to my own family of the journey that I have been on for these 15 years of my life. On January 12, 2017, I received the results of my uncle Yosef Diaz’s DNA test and I discovered that he was a Cohen match by the Jewish DNA group FamilyTree.com. This would make my grandfather Luz Diaz a Cohen and confirm the oral tradition of my family and our history.
I am convinced in my heart and my soul bears witness that I am connected to a land called Israel and to the Jewish people. My grandfather was Luz Ramirez Diaz and this is my uncle’s DNA.
Gavriel Ben David.