Nephew’s JW Fiancée Begins Conversion to Judaism Due to Passover Date
It’s been a while since I posted, but for those who remember, I came on here to get some information about Jehovah’s Witnesses because I have a nephew who was getting engaged to a girl who was a Jehovah’s Witness and, along with some other sites, I was recommended this one.
Since then we’ve been busy with Passover and Jehovah’s Witnesses have had something they call the Memorial of Christ’s Death (I believe I have that right). This clashing of the two observances apparently did more for this girl than anything else I ever saw in our months of conversations with her.
Respectfully, Jews do not proselytize. Yes, there are Jews-by-choice. These are people who, of their own desire, “join the Tribe” after some years of study and practice--something this girl has just begun to do. But prior to this, this girl was definitely heavily proselytizing my nephew and the rest of the family every chance she got (though she admits she thought she was being subtle about it---HA!). This is, from what I understand and from my own experience, what Jehovah’s Witnesses do--preach their unique gospel every chance they get to everyone because "we’ll die without it."
The Passover Date: Nisan 15
What changed everything for this girl was our inviting her over to celebrate Pesach or Passover with us by coming over for Seder. She said that she couldn’t because she would be busy on Saturday night to “observe the Memorial of Christ’s Death on Nisan the 14th.”
When we told her that the 14th of Nisan was on Thursday night after sundown and the Passover began on Friday after sundown, she was taken aback. At first she began to argue with us that we had our dates wrong, that Passover was on Saturday evening. We told her that it was on Friday. She said it had to be on the 14th, and that the 14th was on Saturday.
We showed her the Jewish calendar on our wall, and it clearly demonstrated that the 14th was Thursday evening after sundown, the 15th was Friday night, and that Saturday after sundown was the 16th of Nisan.
She still believed it to be in error (a mass-produced, printed calendar we purchased from a Judaica store). So we showed her Hebcal.com, the Internet Jewish calendar site, and we showed her from there that we were not in error: “Nisan 15, the (1st) Erev (Evening) of Passover, Friday Night. Seder/Candle lighting begins at . . . Local time.”
She then began to panic. “This can’t be right! Saturday has to be the 14th! The full moon will be visible over Jerusalem starting on Saturday night.”
“No,” I replied. “The full moon will be visible over Jerusalem beginning on Friday, the 15th. In fact, if you want, we can make a video call to my family in Jerusalem and we can ask them to show you the sky and you can see for yourself.”
She suddenly calmed down, sat on the sofa in my living room and began to speak softly. “No,” she said. “That is okay. I believe you.”
She did not attend her Memorial of Christ’s Death at her Kingdom Hall or any other meeting after that. She attended her first Passover Seder instead and has been studying Judaism.
JW vs. Jew
Today she is bravely walking down a new path her family doesn’t understand, but she seems to be the voice of power and strength in her household. When they told her that they will reject her and not speak to her if she becomes a Jew, she sat them down and told them they had better not and won’t allow their rejection if they know what’s good for them. I was there when she did this, and I’ve never seen a father (who was a man twice her size) cower to such a tiny person. She has a strong personality. (I don’t know if officially this will work. I doubt it, but this girl’s got fire.)
Still, despite her determination it is not coming easy, and I am glad. She is learning that she cannot accept things at face value as she did when she was a Jehovah’s Witness. It confuses her at times because she expects there to be a Bible verse for everything, and there isn’t. At least she has come to accept that this will take much time to understand where she is going and what she is learning.
For instance, we belong to the Reconstructing Judaism movement and our views are very different from what she has known as a Jehovah’s Witness. I share a few here so you who have been or still are Jehovah’s Witnesses might see what she is switching over to (JW view--from her--in bold):
God is a Spirit person.
God is not a person.
The Bible is the inspired Word of God, written by humans as direct instruments of God.
The Bible is a collection of writings of the Jewish people’s attempt to understand God, written by themselves, an ancient means of trying to comprehend the concept of God or what is godly through myth, fable, and history romanticized as liturgy and poetry.
There is one true religion, and those who follow it are God’s chosen.
There is no true religion, and not even the Jews are God’s chosen people. Judaism is a community and a people, and religion is but part of its cultural expression.
You must use God’s name in order for God to hear your prayers.
There is no indication that the Divine Name was ever pronounced or preserved. God is not a supernatural entity that literally hears prayers like a genie or fairy that grants wishes. Prayer is a means to connect with God, community, and even self on a spiritual level. As the old Jewish proverb goes: “Pray as if it all depends on God, but act as if it all depends on you.”
Without faith in God, one cannot practice the religion of God.
Many people reject God because they understand God as a being that can break the laws of nature and act like a person. The current theology of Judaism does not require that God be believed in or be supernatural or an entity, and this allows for many who practice Judaism to be atheist at the same time.
The main goal of worshiping God is to gain everlasting life.
Jews don’t worship God or do good or pray to gain eternal life. Many don’t even believe in the concept of an afterlife. There is good in doing good itself right now. Because God is often found not so much in some external spiritual experience as much as in some practical experience wherein we meet the real need of someone, bring about justice, care for someone, love someone, God is not so much where but when. So some Jews don’t see reward as something future but present when we strive to bring redemption to the world even now. Waiting to participate in eternity after we are dead is too late in the eyes of some when we can participate in it by doing something godly right now.
So things have changed dramatically for my nephew and his once-JW friend. As I wrote previously, I don’t get away often and have the free time to do so but I did want to add this here.
I will have to ask her one day just exactly what it was about the date that acted so dramatically upon her that made all this happen. It caused such panic in her originally, such fearful panic, then a panic of denial, and then immediate acceptance. It was very quick. But, after all, it was still just a date on a calendar. Maybe some of you will know more about this than me because of your experience as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I am also not sure why Jehovah’s Witnesses are claiming to follow the Jewish calendar for Christ’s Last Supper but ignoring the actual calendar itself when it’s available everywhere in this day and age on things like the Internet, again such as on Hebcal.com. I can understand them being stubborn and even claiming that the world is wrong and under Satan’s control and everything, but ignoring an actual calendar and being two whole days off? How do they get away with it?
Thanks for reading.
...but ignoring an actual calendar and being two whole days off? How do they get away with it?
The JW date for their Memorial actually does correspond with Seder once in a great while.
Part of their problem is they try to cram the entire Passion story into a twenty-four hour period. That puts them a day off, because in order to make it work, they celebrate the Memorial at the boundary of what they believe to be the 13th/14th, sometimes just a few minutes after sundown. (Despite the fact that their own Bible says the next daylight period after Passover was the 15th.)
A second part of the problem is they really don't know what they're doing and they can lose or gain a day that way. (Sometimes the two errors cancel each other out.)
JW's also reject Jewish leap years, so sometimes they're nearly a month off. Paradoxically, their Memorial follows a Metonic cycle of its own. (How can it not, being based on the moon?)
My guess is that your nephews fiancé is not a strong person at all.
Who knows, she might find some little Jewish teaching that she doesn't like and it wakes her up again.
Reconstructionism views Judaism not as a religion but a community, a culture made up of art, food, music, philosophy, archaeology, history, science, mathematics, and a religion too.
We have a saying in Reconstructing Judaism: "Our religious tradition has a vote on the way we act today, but not a veto."
There are no central beliefs to Judaism that anyone has to adhere to, and people can reject this or that teaching and remain a Jew. Being Jewish is who you are, not what teaching you accept or believe in like Western thought or Christianity demand.
So I am not sure what you mean. Can you explain how your words apply to Judaism and these concepts I have expressed here?
Respectfully, Jews do not proselytize. Yes, there are Jews-by-choice. These are people who, of their own desire, “join the Tribe” after some years of study and practice
You also said:
Reconstructionism views Judaism not as a religion but a community, a culture made up of art, food, music, philosophy, archaeology, history, science, mathematics, and a religion tooPerhaps you dont see the contradiction, but i think im seeing it as listener did. Shes a young girl searching for something, be it jwism or Judaism. I hope shes happy, but dont be fooled into thinking this some deeply thought out logical choice.
His fiancee, I believe, has never really thought for herself. This is common amongst JWs. The poor thing... she must be devastated. The JWs who actually study and are familiar with the Jewish calendar know of the discrepency. Their excuse is that they use a pre-exilic calendar, but it's true that even regular calendars list the Passover. At least mine do. It's one of those things JWs just go along with like whatever.
I feel jealous that she got invited to a Passover Seder. I tried to invite myself over but it didn't work lol. There aren't a lot of Jewish families where I live but my son and I love learning about the Jewish culture. It's one of the things I miss about NY. I only know 1 family and she was nice enough to give me some extra dreidals for Hannukkah.
Also, I love The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel!!!
I don't know how much time you have spent with this young lady but have you considered that you may have bombarded her with you Jewish ideas?
Jehovah’s Witnesses observe the Memorial after sundown on Nisan 14, according to the reckoning of the Jewish calendar that was common in the first century. The Jewish day begins at sundown and extends until the following sundown. So Jesus died on the same Jewish calendar day that he instituted the Memorial. The beginning of the month of Nisan was the sunset after the new moon nearest the spring equinox became visible in Jerusalem. The Memorial date is 14 days thereafter. (Thus the date for the Memorial may not coincide with that of the Passover kept by modern-day Jews. Why not? The start of their calendar months is set to coincide with the astronomical new moon, not the visible new moon over Jerusalem, which may come 18 to 30 hours later. Also, most Jews today keep the Passover on Nisan 15, not on the 14th as did Jesus in harmony with what was stated in the Mosaic Law.)
I think Listener has hit upon an interesting point that divides the Western mind, often shaped by Christianity, from the Eastern mind, namely that religion is like a club that you join, and it is separate from your racial/ethnic/cultural even gender identity.
It isn't like that for Jews. We don't "join" Judaism. It isn't a religion we study and decide if we like or sign up.
We might belong to a certain Temple or synagogue or a different denomination from another Jew or even be an atheist or humanist member of Jewish society, but we are still Jewish.
Come Shabbat, we may still light candles, say prayers, stop work, keep certain traditions, etc., yet not adhere to any certain type of teaching our neighbor Jew does. We may not subscribe to the theology of the Jew who lives across the street, agree with the Jew who lives in Israel, or even adopt the religious views of our parents.
But come Yom Kippur we might still fast, come Passover we will still hold a Seder, we will still count the Omer until Shavout, still pray the Shema each morning and each night, and even, if asked, claim we do not believe in God if asked formally on a form. How is this? It escapes the mind of those who have been raised in the Western/Christian world. They cannot wrap their heads around it, I seem to notice.
For some, you say God and they think of the Christian concept: a spirit person who hears prayers and grants them and is or should be responsible for stopping the evil happening in the world today. This concept is very immature and even childish to the Jew.
Some Western atheists hear religion and think a club that is united by a common creed or articles of faith that you must accept. They don't know that these are Christian views and that there is no creed in Judaism or even faith for the most part in Judaism.
So tread lightly before you start speaking about what this woman is doing. She is joining a new culture for her because she is marrying a Jew and they plan to start a family. She wants to be a part of a common shared culture to raise her children in with her husband. She may end up being an atheist, but she wants to raise her children in such a culture that will allow her children to be free to do that be safe while she does that. The Jehovah's Witness culture won't allow for that, but ours, the Jewish culture will. She understands that. She is studying who we are, but not like Listener has mistakenly come to the conclusion of adopting some central set of beliefs--of which there are none.
Jehovah’s Witnesses observe the Memorial after sundown on Nisan 14,
JW's observe their Memorial after sundown on the day of the 13th, sometimes just a few minutes after the 14th has technically started.
That means that when JW's wake up and go to work the next day, it is still the 14th and will be until sundown
This puts them at odds with their own Bible, which clearly says the next day was the 15th.
"They departed from Ramʹe·sese in the first month, on the 15th day of the month. On the very day after the Passover the Israelites went out with confidence"