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Jews Find the Sweetness of Christ | Preface to Honey From the Rock | Roy Schoeman

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Honey from the Rock. The image is a rich one, particularly so from a Jewish-Catholic perspective. The phrase comes from Psalm 81, in which the Jewish people are promised that if they turn to God with their whole hearts, they will receive honey from the rock:

Sing aloud to God our strength;
   shout for joy to the God of Jacob!
Raise a song, sound the timbrel,
   the sweet lyre with the harp ....
He made it a decree in Joseph,
   when he went out over the land of Egypt.
I hear a voice I had not known:
"I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
   your hands were freed from the basket.
In distress you called, and I delivered you;
   I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
   I tested you at the waters of Meribah ....
   O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
I am the LORD your God,
   who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
   Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it ....
O that my people would listen to me,
   that Israel would walk in my ways! ..
I would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
   and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you."
(Ps 81:1-2, 5-7, 8b, 10, 13, 16)

The psalm reveals God's tender love for His people, the Jewish people. He reminds them of the protective love He showed for them in rescuing them from the land of Egypt, and then immediately reminds them of Meribah. For Meribah was where, shortly after the Jews had fled Egypt and entered the desert, they lost confidence in God and were convinced that they had been abandoned to die of thirst in the desert. It was there that they challenged Moses, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?" (Ex 17:3), at which point God told Moses to "take in your hand the rod [and] strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, that the people may drink" (Ex 17:5-6).

At Meribah God gave them water to drink, which was enough to sustain life. But in this psalm God promises ever so much more: that when Jews turn to Him with their whole hearts, He will give them honey--sweetness itself--rather than water to drink.

And this was precisely the experience of the Jews whose stories fill this book. They recount lives in which, before they found Christ, something essential--the essential--was missing from their lives, making them feel like the Jews of the exodus, crossing the desert, dying of thirst. Like the Jews of the exodus, they too gave up believing that God knew them and loved them, or, in most cases, even existed. They were figuratively, and in several cases literally, dying from their desperate "thirst" to know the real meaning in life--to know God, to love Him, to serve Him. And then, when through an unmerited gift of grace, God Himself our God, our Lord, our Savior, our Messiah, our born-Jewish Jesus--revealed Himself to them, He not only gave them water to drink, to sustain them in their crossing of this desert of exile on earth on the way to the Promised Land, Heaven, He did ever so much more than that. In the overflowing richness of the intimacy with Him that He made available through the sacraments of the Catholic Church, it was not just water, but honey, a river of pure sweetness, that He gave them to drink, truly honey from the rock.

It is no coincidence that the phrase immediately preceding "honey from the rock" is one that, in a currently popular Communion hymn, is used to refer to the Blessed Sacrament--"the gift of finest wheat". [1] For it is precisely the "gift of finest wheat", the most Holy Eucharist, which is ultimate honey from the rock: pure distilled consolation, distilled joy, distilled love, the Body, Blood, soul, and divinity of our Messiah Himself. Before becoming Catholic, it was as though trying to know God was like trying to suck water from a rock, maybe at times getting enough to moisten one's lips; but after becoming Catholic, once participating in the sacramental life of the Church, those few sparse drops became a geyser, a gusher, a tidal wave of grace sweeping one away in a flood of consolation, of intimacy with God Himself. Honey from the rock indeed--a raging river of honey, flooding one away into a sea of divine intimacy.

Some of the "converts" [2] in this book came from secularized, liberal, or even atheistic Jewish backgrounds, while others came from Orthodoxy [3] or even Hasidism. Some were unschooled in Judaism, while others were among the most highly trained Jews of their day. Some were rich and wildly successful, others down and out. But one thing they all had in common was a profound (dare I say, Jewish?) longing for God that gave them no peace until they found God Himself, peace Himself in the Catholic Church. They were all dying of thirst in the desert--some actually at the point of suicide in their frustrated despair at failing to find God. And it was at that point they found so much more than they had suspected even existed. Longing for a sip of water in the parched desert, they found a river of honey, honey from the rock.

But I will let them tell their own stories. [4] They are all unique. Alphonse Ratisbonne, a wealthy aristocratic Jewish French banker, was converted on the eve of his marriage by an unexpected, unsought, and most unwelcome (before the fact; most welcome after the fact!) apparition of the Blessed Mother herself and proceeded to call off his wedding to become a priest in the Holy Land. Hermann Cohen, one of the foremost musicians of his day, lived a wild life of fame and sensual indulgence until he was converted by an overpowering experience of the Blessed Sacrament. Rabbi Zolli, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, had an experience of Jesus while he was celebrating the Yom Kippur liturgy in the synagogue there, and he knew on the spot that was his last time officiating as Rabbi. Charlie Rich, a profoundly devout Hasidic Jew from Hungary, lost his faith on the streets of New York City and was converted by an extraordinary experience in front of a stained glass window of Jesus in an otherwise empty church. And on and on and on--sixteen such stories, as different as the individuals involved, but at the same time with haunting similarities.

In today's world of soft drinks, sugar, and ice cream, we may not appreciate honey the same way as did the Jews of three thousand years ago, who knew nothing else as sweet. Perhaps those born Catholic, in a somewhat analogous way, have a harder time fully appreciating the unique gift of the Catholic Church than do those who, like the Jews in this book, went through much of their lives wishing and hoping, but not really believing, that they could have intimacy with God. May the deep appreciation of the Jews in this book for the "honey from the rock" they eventually found sharpen the taste buds of those who always have lived with the taste of it, so to speak, in their mouths; and may it inspire those still wandering in the desert to strike the rock, receive the rivers of milk and honey waiting for them, and "taste and see the sweetness of the Lord" (Ps 34:8). [5]


[1] It is, of course, only wheat prior to the Consecration, after which "there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood." Council of Trent (ii), Denzinger 1642.

[2] "Converts" is, of course, the usual term, but most of those in this book consider(ed) themselves "fulfilled Jews" rather than converts, since they did not "turn away" from Judaism, but rather they entered Judaism's completed or fulfilled form, the Catholic Church, i.e. "post-messianic" Judaism.

[3] Judaism in the United States is divided into three principle groups: Orthodox Jews, the most observant of traditional Jewish practices and laws; Conservative Jews, who are somewhat less so; and Reform Jews, the least traditionally observant of the three groups. In addition there are the Hasidim, the "ultra-Orthodox", who are by far the strictest in their practices and usually live in separate communities.

[4] All of the accounts in this book are based on the converts' own words, except that of Sister Katzmann, which is an account written by her religious community.

[5] This wording is Charlie Rich's translation. Having grown up as a Hasidic Jew, he read the Psalms in the original Hebrew.--ED.

Honey from the Rock: Sixteen Jews Find the Sweetness of Christ

Compiled by Roy Schoeman

Roy Schoeman, a Jewish convert to Catholicism, and best-selling author of Salvation Is From The Jews, once again shows the clear links between Judaism and Catholicism in these inspiring stories of sixteen Jews who became "fulfilled Jews", as Schoeman says, through their spiritual journeys to the Catholic Church.

The sixteen people whose stories are told here are a variety of Jews, including some who came from secularized, liberal or even atheistic backgrounds, while others came from Orthodox Judaism. Some were well trained Jews, others unschooled in Judaism; some rich and wildly successful, others down and out. But their common link was they all had a profound longing for God that gave them no peace until they found God Himself in the Catholic Church.

Some of these converts are famous people like Edith Stein, Alphonse Ratisbonne, Karl Stern, and Rabbi Zolli, while others are less well known, but all have powerful stories of life-changing spiritual transformations.

"Roy Schoeman's work, Honey from the Rock illuminates the essential link between the Jewish faith and Catholicism through the lives of those who were born into the Jewish faith and have come to know the fulfillment of their faith in Christ and His Catholic Church. I recommend Honey from the Rock to anyone who desires to understand the revealed faith of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and His Mystical Body, the Church. Honey from the Rock illustrates in a most concrete way the truth expounded so well by Roy Schoeman in his earlier work, Salvation is from the Jews, which I also wholeheartedly recommend." -- Raymond L. Burke, Archbishop of Saint Louis

"This is a gripping book sketching powerfully the Jewish metaphysical restlessness that nothing can satisfy until they taste Honey from the Divine Rock and recognize in Christ the King of the Jews and the Roman Catholic church as fulfillment of Judaism. This book is a constellation made up of sixteen sons and daughters of Israel for whom overwhelming talents, wordly success, money, pleasure brought nothing but despair. Each one of them had its own path; but what is striking is the role played by the Holy Virgin and the holy hunger for the Eucharist in some of the most amazing conversions. This book will bring joy to its readers and rekindle their hope in the power of God's grace at a time when the ship of Holy Church is battered by the waves of secularism, relativism, infidelity and betrayal." -- Alice von Hildebrand

Related IgnatiusInsight.com Links/Articles:

Judaism Fulfilled | An Interview with Roy H. Schoeman
The Jews and the Second Coming | Roy H. Schoeman
Eugenio Zolli's Path to Rome | Stephen Sparrow

Roy H. Schoeman, was born in a suburb of New York City of “Conservative" Jewish parents who had fled Nazi Germany.  His Jewish education and formation was received under some of the most prominent Rabbis in contemporary American Jewry, including Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, probably the foremost Conservative Rabbi in the U.S. and his hometown Rabbi growing up;  Rabbi Arthur Green, later the head of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College who was his religion teacher and mentor during high school and early college; and Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, a prominent Hasidic Rabbi with whom he lived in Israel for several months.

His secular education included a B.Sc. from M.I.T. and an M.B.A. magna cum laude from Harvard Business School. Midway through a career of teaching and consulting (he had been appointed to the faculty of the Harvard Business School) he experienced an unexpected and instantaneous conversion to Christianity which led to a dramatic refocus of his activities. Since then he has pursued theological studies at several seminaries, written the acclaimed book Salvation Is From the Jews, helped produce and host a Catholic Television talk show, and edited and written for several Catholic books and reviews. His website is www.SalvationIsFromTheJews.com.

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