THE STEVE SHERMAN STORY
Introduction by Jon Lieberman: In 1978, as I was glancing through the Indianapolis Star, I noticed a fascinating story about the new religious beliefs of a Jewish man, Steve Sherman. In the interview with the editor, Steve shared both his very strong traditional Jewish heritage and his many years of in-depth study of Judaism, Jewish history, and the Hebrew language.
High School: Graduated from North Central High School in 1964
Synagogue of youth: Beth-El Zedek Congregation: Conservative (now Reconstructionist)
College: Degree in History and Political Science from Indiana University, 1968
Graduate School: Law degree from Indiana University, 1972
Law clerk to Chief Justice of Supreme Court, 1973
Deputy attorney General before opening private practice in 1973-1974
Children: 5 children (ages 25-35 as of 2001): Steve has 3 children and Cathy has 2 children
Has a private Law practice today
The article went on to explain how he came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. I called Steve for an appointment and met with him to discuss his faith. Over the years I have been impressed with Steves sincerity, his intellect, and passion for the truth. He is a bold and yet compassionate man who loves God with all his heart, soul, and strength. Every year throughout the greater Indianapolis area, he conducts "Messiah in the Seders" (or "Christ in the Passover" Seders) for various churches, religious organizations and private home gatherings.
I personally interviewed Steve in 1997, listened to two audiotapes of his personal testimony (which were copies of a live taped talk he gave to two separate audiences), and then edited them. The following is a compilation of those talks and interview.
Introduction by Steve:
I grew up in an orthodox/conservative Jewish home. The slash means that the only thing that we didnt do was keep kosher. And if you are familiar with the Mosaic dietary laws, that meant no pork and no mixing of meat and milk products. We didnt have bacon and hambut boy, Ill tell you we did about everything else.
So I did know a whole lot about religion. I knew something about what religion required of a person. I wanted God to be proud of me and be happy with me, and so I tried my best to perform the various rituals and traditions of my faith.
We went to temple on Friday night, Saturday morning, and I also attended Sunday school. It seemed we spent the whole weekend at the synagogue! We celebrated the holidays both at Temple and at home and tried very much to keep all of the traditions of our faith. We lit the Sabbath candles every Friday night and said the traditional prayers over the wine and Challah bread.
My father thought the Bar Mitzvah was very important to me. I was trained to be the cantor for the morning service. I think that in a less demonstrative way, I was more religious than my father or grandfather, since I thought about it a lot as a kid. It really mattered to me but I just didn't know what to do about it.
I learned at an early age to respect people of different backgrounds. Every non- Jew that came into our family was accepted, and so I didnt have any real enmity toward gentiles.
Influence of my very kind observant Orthodox Jewish grandfather
Early on in my life, the most important person in my life was my paternal grandfather. He was the most devoted believer in the Jewish faith that I have ever met. He lived to be almost ninety-seven years old, and when I talk about him I would tell others he was the most righteous person that I had ever known. He was devout and in my mind as a youth, if anyone had a relationship with God, it was my grandfather. He believed God was his Creator; He prayed three times each day, as was the custom, and also prayed before he ate a meal and even before he drank any liquid.
He was so devout that before sunset on Friday he would instruct the family members that they needed someone to flip a light switch for him. He didnt want to desecrate the Sabbath by working. He couldnt even tear toilet paper off! The last Rabbi of his synagogue, right before his death, finally prevailed on him to let the maintenance man at the Temple drive him to services because my grandfather at that time was almost blind. The rabbi was afraid he would walk in front of a car. "Israel", the Rabbi said, "its ok, the maintenance man is a gentile, so dont worry about it. It wont be a violation of the Sabbath."
In my youth I became aware that I could never live up to the high standards and demands of the 613 Laws of Torah
Early on, as I scrutinized his meticulous observance of the mitzvot of Torah, I knew that I didnt have what it takes to be a devout religious person. I didnt want to get up at 4:00 am and put on a tallis and kippa and say my prayers. I knew in my soul that I wasnt going to be able to measure up to that holy man. I just decided that I wanted to be a regular person.
I knew that Jewish tradition places a burden upon the religious man or woman. You need to do some stuff to please God. There is a whole list of things to do and not do. It is more than just the 10 commandments. In fact, there are 613 Laws in the in the Torah. Thank God the Rabbis got together and told us how to obey those 613 mitzvot.
God seemed very impersonal to me
I grew up believing that God was an impersonal far-away Being. I had this idea that it was Gods job to control the main functions of the universe as keeping the sun, moon, planets, and stars in their proper place. He was in charge of the weather (even including the catastrophes). He created the mountains, rivers, etc.; however, when it came to my life, I believed that my Jewish tradition, which I grew up with, told me that I needed to follow a prescribed set of Laws and rules in order to please Him. God, then, would watch and see how faithful I was to do them. My job was to please Him if I could, and there might be a reward later; if not, then I would be in severe trouble.
There is a popular song that Bette Midler sings, and the chorus has the words "he is watching us from a distance." That chorus describes how I felt about God. God, I thought, was not interested in the details of my life. So when I was growing up and struggling with some of the problems I was having, I didnt think God was there to be involved or help me.
My Bar Mitzvah, Yom Kippur and the feat of death
I attended Beth El Zedek congregation where I had my Bar Mitzvah. After my father died, a Jewish woman came to our house. Beth El was planning some events for the Jewish Community Center and she was talking about keeping "gentiles out." That sounded very strange to me. Why were we supposed to stay isolated from the gentiles?
At a young age I somehow became very concerned about people who were politically or ethnically oppressed societies. As a 10-year-old boy, I became very angry when the United States didn't go to the aid of the Hungarian nation in 1956 when the communists were overrunning them. My father, who noticed this ethical moral zeal I had said to me, "I did not raise you to be Christ-like." What an interesting thing to say, I thought! I think my father knew what it meant. The Hungarians of all eastern Europeans were probably the most anti-Semitic, with the exception of the Poles. My dad was very unforgiving of them and didnt want his son to have any compassion for them.
I remember as a young boy the fear that I had every year on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. The night before that Day, a very poignant melody is sung. (If you have ever seen the Al Jolson story, you will remember that very haunting melody.) Whats going on is this: Before God, we Jews are approaching God and asking Him to forgive us for all our sins from the previous year and requesting that He have mercy on us and grant us another year of life and prosperity. I can remember shivers running up and down my spine, wondering whether or not, this time, I had really messed up, which meant that God might not accept me for another year.
My non-religious phase of life
Beginning with high school and continuing through my undergraduate years at Indiana University, my attitude began to change about my obligations to be a religiously observant Jew. I just kind of forgot about trying to please God. For the most part, I stopped practicing Judaism, but I still did celebrate some of the Holidays as Hanukkah, and my all time favorite Jewish celebration, Passover. Basically, I thought my life was pretty much in order and that I didnt have any real spiritual needsthat is I didnt have any conscious sense that I needed a relationship with God. Everything was running smoothly and I thought I had my problems solved. Everything that I had accomplished, I had done all by myself -- at least that is what I thought.
I begin my law practice - I'm on the way to success, so I thought!
I moved to Indianapolis in November of 1974 and opened my Law practice. Im now in full control of my life, I thought. I even had one settlement with an insurance company and received a $50,000 check from my client, which was a big check for me in those days. I gave two-thirds to my client and kept one-third. I said to myself, "If this happen a few times a year, Ill be OK." So I didnt have a conscious sense that something was missing. But deep within me, I was aware of the fact that I was not a whole person and that there was a big difference between what people saw on the outside and what was true on the inside. I was struggling with internal conflicts in my soul and I slowly became aware of other things that needed to be resolved in my life.
After being in practice for eight months, in July of 1975, I was able to take a three-week vacation. I guess this was an indication that I wasnt as busy as I had hoped I would be! And, by the way, I was quite concerned about that. I thought an extended break would help me get refocused in my career, and I also needed some time off with my family after being driven so hard to get my Law degree.
An awesome experience and discovery on a family vacation to the Tetons in Wyoming
We went to the Grand Tetons in Jackson, Wyoming. The four of us actually camped in a 6 x 6 tent. The Grand Tetons is the most majestic range of mountains that I have ever witnessed with my own eyes. After arriving, the Ranger at one of the amphitheater talks tried to explain how the Mountains were formed. He said it was formed by a geological accident, called "fault blocking". He said that it doesn't happen like this very often and there are not very many examples of this. He described the process where a piece of earth goes one way and another piece goes another way up and down the mountain range.
I considered myself a logical, scientific type of person, and I initially bought into his theory. On Thursday of the first week we were there, we went to Idaho just to see if what he said about the western side was true. It turned out it was. We took the aerial tram from Tetons Village to the top of Rondeview Mountain. As I stepped out into the chilly air (probably about 48 degrees) at an elevation of 11,600 ft. above sea level, I could see 120 miles in every direction---the whole Tetons Range north toward Yellowstone and the city of Jackson, Wyoming. Then I turned again to look toward the Grand Tetons, 13,800 above sea 1evel, and somehow I got impressed with the idea that what I was seeing just might not be an accident.
Crisis in my Law practice
When I returned to my office and saw the small check that came in while I was gone, I instantly realized that unless I did something about our expenses, we were going to be in serious trouble. There were three of us and we each had wives and two children, and we werent making enough to handle our families of four. So what we decided to do was to tell our full-time secretary (and the only one who was regularly taking money each week), that we had to let her go. This turned out great for our secretary who not only went on to become a lawyer and worked for the State government, but she eventually landed a job with one of the large corporations specializing in environmental Law!
We all knew it would be difficult to find an efficient qualified part time secretary.
For about nine years I had not said any prayers to God personally other than those out of the Siddur, the synagogue prayer book. I just hadnt had any occasion to pray. I went back into my office and closed the door and really prayed what I thought was a kind of stupid prayer, that is -- stupid for someone who didnt think God wanted to get involved in the details of ones life. I said, God, "I know that you dont bother with things like this, but if you have some extra time, I would sure appreciate it if you could find someone who could work for us 24 hours a week and accept a small salary." I concluded this prayer with, "Amen."
I soon forgot I prayed that prayer and then proceeded to place an ad in the newspaper. The very first person who answered that ad was a woman named Barb Beecher. Barb came in for her interview and was real direct in terms of what she needed concerning the times in which she could be available for work. She asked what my office hours were. I said they are usually 8:30-5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. She then said, "I live in Carmel and I have two little girls and they need to be picked up at a certain hour, so I am going to have to leave every day at 2:30. Also, I cant work Wednesdays.
Im not real good at mathbut when you take 8:30-2:30, four times a week, it adds up to 24 hours? It would not be until months later that I would see the connection between Barb Beecher and that seemingly "stupid" prayer in my office.
I just discovered that my new secretary might be a "holy roller"!
Right away, I noticed something unusual about Barb. When I was upset or going crazy about meeting some deadline or responding to bad news about some aspect of a legal proceeding, Barb always had this inner calm and confidence about life. She just wouldnt let the clients adverse reactions on the phone unsettle her. This woman was living in a way that I had never seen anyone live before. She exhibited patience and peace and contentment that I had never seen.
My life was certainly not marked by those qualities. That was not how I lived. Deep down in side we are not always what we appear to be in the work place, or at home, church/synagogue, etc. I know that was true for me. As a lawyer I may have looked like I was good at solving other peoples problems, but all sorts of things were going on in my own life that made me realize I wasnt as good at solving problems as I thought. And I certainly couldnt deal with my own.
After observing her for several weeks, I was moved, strangely enough, to find out about why she was this way. I remember one morning while we still, unfortunately, had extra time on our hands that I went out to the reception area and asked her a very peculiar question. I said, "Barb, whats wrong with you?" She said, "What do you mean by whats wrong with me?"
I said, "I don't mean anything bad about it, but I am interested in why you are the way you are. You have peace, seem self-assured, you have confidence, and you dont get upset by the things I get upset about when clients call and try and take advantage of you. When a deadline is approaching, you are calm about it, while Im often in a corner jumping around. What is wrong with you? I thought that maybe she was taking medicine or something.
Her answer astounded me. She said, "Steve, it isnt me. It is because of the personal relationship with God that I have. It is through my faith in his Son, Jesus Christ, who died for me and forgave me my sins. And because of that He has given me peace and assurance and joy in my heart. It doesnt take all of the problems away, but one-by-one He works with me."
Well, I then exchanged I few pleasantries with her and quickly went back to my office, locked the door and said to myself, "Oh, no, a Holy Roller." You see I like most people flip through the TV channels and on occasion had heard those TV evangelists. I had heard all of that stuff on TV. And certainly for a Jew, to hear about Christ being the answer was a shock! And I thought that I would now have to hear all of that in my own office.
You see, I was taught from a young boy, not only what I was to believe in my religious tradition, but also what not to believe. I knew that I was supposed to get as far away from anyone who tried to talk to me about Christ. I was taught that the story about Jesus was a lie and that Christ was a blasphemer.
In spite of my natural aversion to hearing anything about Christianity, I kept coming back to Barb day after day and asking her more questions about this Jesus. Barb was the very first person in my whole life that confronted me with the New Testament claims that this Jesus was Almighty God in the flesh, who came down to earth to die for our sins.
At this time I couldnt even say his name, except in certain circumstances. I was an avid IU basketball fan and every time a referee made a bad call, or every very time Bob Knight got a technical or kicked out of the game, I said his name. Every time someone did a foolish thing on the road in front of me, I said his name. So when I began to ask her questions, I phrased them in this way, "What does that guy say about this? And what did your man do then?
I begin to question my secretary, Barb, and her husband, Ron about their faith.
I continued this method of questioning for about three to four weeks and finally I guess she thought it would be appropriate to introduce me to her husband, Ron. Ron spent the next eleven months sharing the Scriptures with me. He didnt give me fire and brimstone or shake a fist at me in a condemning way. He wasnt pushy. He just shared with me, in a very loving way, the biblical and theological truths that I didnt have up to that point which was that this God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Israel, wanted to have a personal relationship with me. He wanted to get in touch with the details of my life. And He wanted to be involved in everything in my life so He could change my reactions to lifes problems.
Ron told me about miracles. I knew about some of the recorded Old Testament miracles, but I really thought that they were fables. Ron told me about true miracles -- miracles in his own life. He told me that God had preserved his life for an extended period of time. He explained it sort of as "a new lease on life." He had suffered for a long time with cancer. He told me how through prayer he was now in remission. He shared with me, like Barb had done, that Gods grace and blessings are mediated through the finished work of Jesus on the cross.
As I listened to Ron, I thought that Ron was really going to have to do a super good job to convince me. I was a lawyer trained in critical thinking and analysis. I also had to deal with my religious traditions. I didnt have a background that predisposed me to have much enmity toward the gentiles. That would have posed a problem for me coming to Christ. I had, though, used the same excuse that many of my people have used before such as, "the holocaust was done in the name of Christ" and "Jews dont believe Jesus is the Messiah." I did, however, directly ask Ron to convince me of the truth of Jesus claims. That is when Ron took me back to the Scriptures, my Jewish Bible. At this time I thought that I was the only Jew in Indianapolis that was considering the claims of Jesus the Messiah. Ron had given me literature about other Messianic Jews, but I had a way of discounting their stories and their literature.
Ron began to show me in the ancient Masoretic text of the Jewish Bible many of the 313 messianic prophecies that my own people (the Jewish prophets) had written down. I was amazed to learn that the prophets predicted the actual town where the Messiah would be born (Bethlehem), and that he would suffer and die for the sins of the world (Isaiah 53). One of the most amazing prophecies was the crucifixion of Jesus, written by King David at around 1000 B.C.E. At the time of the writing of this passage in Psalms 22, the writer, David, had never even heard about this form of capital punishment since it had never been used in history!
Ron told me that the Jewish Bible includes more than just the Torah and the Prophets. He said that all but two of the twenty-six books of the New Testament itself were written by Jewish men. He shared that there is one Jewish Bible. I had always thought in terms of two Bibles: Our Bible, the Old Testament, called The Tanach, and the Christian Bible, the New Testament. This was a new concept for me. He then proceeded to actually show me the fulfillment of those prophecies in the New Testament.
I searched through the Bible for eleven months for answers to the ultimate Jewish dilemma
By the end of the eleven months I was intellectually convinced that this Jesus, this carpenter from Nazareth, was the Messiah. They got my head, but they didnt have my heart because I still needed some more proof. I was afraid that if I believed in Jesus that I would have to give up many of my treasured religious traditions.
What about my favorite Jewish holiday, Passover?
My favorite Jewish holiday was Passover. It still is. I loved celebrating the great miracle of our redemption after our ancestors had been slaves for 400 years. Its neat Moses, the10 plagues, the opening of Red Sea. The whole family got together at this holiday. I dont mean just the immediate family, but grandma and grandpa and aunts and uncles were all there. I just loved that holiday. I mean, I just loved it. . And you knowone of the things that I was worried aboutand I pointed this out loud to God as I was struggling with the idea of whether to believe what was begin shared with me, was that I would have to give up Passover.
A broken man receives his Messiah
In July of 1976, almost eight months after Barb first shared with me, I was in bed and in tears wanting to believe what they had been sharing with me. I was still struggling and I asked Jesus to come out of heaven momentarily and hold my hand physically. If Jesus would do that, then I was going to believe it was all really true. Well, nothing happened. I went to sleep and then the next morning I asked my wife where a New Testament might be. I had never personally opened it myself. Since it had been, for me, a forbidden book, I had absolutely no idea where to turn to.
The Bible remarkably opens up to a penetrating and convicting text:
As I held the New Testament, it seemed to just naturally fall open to a passage in the gospel of John where, after the death of Jesus, Thomas is with the disciples and he expresses his unbelief in the resurrection. Thomas tells them that he cant believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. He said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." Eight days later Jesus appears suddenly in the room with Thomas and his disciples and says, Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Thomas did what everyone would do today. He fell on his face and said, "My Lord and My God." Then Jesus said to Thomas, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
God, at that moment, in a way that I cant explain, was speaking directly to me right out of the pages of the book! God was saying, "I am not going to hold your hand. I am not going to prove it to you scientifically, but if you will believe in me with your heart by faith, I will change your life."
This stubborn attorney finally comes to the end of a long journey
The following month I took my family on another vacation. This time Im in a larger room, not in a 6x6 family tent, in Manatee National Forest, which is up the Eastern Shore of Lake Michigan. All by myself, with brokenness and tears, as my wife and kids were asleep, I prayed a simple prayer. It went like this: "Lord I have been running my life all by myself for 29 years and it isnt working. I know it, and You know it. But I now know that You came here in the person of Jesus the Messiah to die on a cross to forgive me of all my sins. And I thank you for it and now I ask you to be my Lord and my Savior. Come into my life and make me the kind of person you want me to be."
I didnt see any lightning bolts, visions, or experience any instantaneous change. If you had asked my kids and wife the next morning whether I was converted or not, they would say, "converted to what," because I was pretty much the same old guy, at least at the start. But he has changed my life in numerous ways.
For example, I may mistakenly go through the car wash and forget to put the antenna and it breaks off. Now before my commitment to Jesus, I would have been absolutely inconsolable. Now something has happened to me. I didnt make it happen and it isnt that I just got older and gained this wisdom along with my grey hair. I know me and what I am made of.
The urge to be wealthy is gone. The unwillingness to care what other people are going through isnt there anymore. All of the problems and the things God needs to change in me arent changed yet. He is still working and every once in a while I am still cooperating. Sometimes I resist, but God is always diligently making the effort to get my life to be the kind of life He intended it to be in the first place.
I have peace about death. And yet I was morbidly fearful to die prior to my conversion. I had no idea what was going to happen. Now I know. This is a major transformation in my life. There is no explanation for it except that it is supernatural.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." and so now I know that I am going to have eternity. I dont deserve it. No one deserves it but it is a gift we get.
I believe God gave me my grandpa to show me ultimately how great my need for a Savior was. I could never keep all of the demands of Torah. I now see that my inability to keep the Torah pointed to my need of a Savior.
God is not finished yet. When he gets my cooperation, which isnt always, He works on those things. Even today one of the most exciting things is to keep track of how God is working in my life.
One of the things I was told to do, as a new believer, was to take a little notepad and keep track of what He does. Here I am a lawyer and thought that I was self-sufficient and could handle all the problems of my life. Even though I appeared to be a gregarious, outgoing, and a neat guy, inside my soul I was in turmoil. And this Jesus came and changed that. If you had told me this 20 years ago, I would have turned my back on you and not listened. But because God was drawing me to Him, I came to know Him and my life has never been the same.
I am still a lawyer and have been in practice almost 26 years. If I, a true skeptic, can be convinced in his intellect and his heart, (I still have my intellect and still have questions), dont you suppose it could also happen to you and that your life could be transformed in the same way.
Revelation 3:20 says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." So the invitation has gone out to anyone who will hear and believe. You dont have to clean up your act first. You dont have to promise to be a good boy forever. We will still fail and miss His standards. The truth is that He will forgive your past, present and the future missteps or sins.
Postscript: God says, "my son, Steve, have a I gotta a plan for you..."
Remember when I said that I was afraid to give up Passover. Be careful what you tell God you are worried about because He can take care of it. I believe God heard me say that and he probably called over Gabriel and said, "Gabriel, come over here. Stephen is saying that He wouldnt believe in me because he thinks he will lose Passover. Make a note of it, Were going to fix it." Would you believe that one of things that I have the privilege of doing, since my conversion experience, over these last 25 years, is that during lent from Ash Wed to Easter, I go around to the various churches and share Christ in the Passover and I dont do less than 10 of them. As a practicing Jew I had two to do. See what happens. Sometimes I tell Godduring Passover seasonOk thats enough!
Also, remember Barb Beecher, the secretary who was a believer in Jesus. The reason she needed Wednesdays off was because she had a Bible study that day.
Our God in heaventhank you that this gospel was not fashioned by men. Who could have made up 313 predictions about the life of one man? We know that it is true - not made up. I would ask that the same Spirit that drew me now also draw those who read my personal story. You said that if you would be lifted up (from the earth) you would draw all men to yourself."
As I reflect on that first trip to the Tetons, I believe that God was reintroducing to me the majesty of His creation. How else could He get my attention. No one was sharing any messages with me and I didnt connect this with God speaking to my mind until after the veil was taken off of my eyes and I knew that Jesus was my Messiah.
I never was disowned by anyone except my Aunt, my father's sister, who I hadn't heard from since 1978 when my mother died. Other than the loss of contact with Uncle Jack, I never had anyone rebuke me. That is the reason why many Jews don't search out the truth regarding the claims that Jesus made.
If you have further questions about anything written in the testimony, please send me an email, write, or call me. I will also provide Steve with your email address if you would like to talk to him directly. - - - Jon Lieberman