Friday, June 01, 2007

A Light to the Nations 3

My friend Richard Gibson has written this review of a biography of Ridley Hershell, one of the figures mentioned in my first LttN post.

All Love: A Biography of Ridley Herschell
By Geoffrey Henderson
Publisher: HTS Media, 2006
Available from CWI Bookroom, 166 Main Road, Sundridge, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN14 6EL, 01959 565955 ,here
£8.50 (including post & packaging within the UK)
199 Pages

All Love takes us to an almost forgotten yesteryear and to the story of an almost forgotten Jewish Christian giant, Ridley Haim Herschell, who was born to Orthodox Jewish parents in Strzelno, Poland in 1807. By the age of eleven, when he left home to study at a Yeshiva for two years, Haim was already fluent in Hebrew, German and Polish. At the age of fourteen, he studied Kabbalah for two years with his Hasidic relative Rabbi Aaron in Piotrkow Trybunalski. A year later, wanting to feed his mind even more, Haim went to study German literature in Berlin where, amongst other young doubters, who were losing their Protestant and Catholic faiths, Haim lost his faith in Judaism. In the years that followed, he dramatically strayed from the ways of his ancestors but, while living in Paris, through circumstances that are explained fully in the book, he was drawn back to his Judaic faith. In London he found to his astonishment that the Messiah promised to his people was none other than Jesus of Nazareth.

Ridley, as he was known by then, became involved with the charismatic son of Rabbi, Erasmus Haim Simon, and a number of other Jewish Christians in establishing the short-lived National Hebrew Church in London. Lacking the ability to understand the aspirations of these Jewish Christians, the Bishop of London withdrew his support from the Friends of the Hebrew Nation, which was the group seeking to establish a National Hebrew Church, thus almost extinguishing the dreams of a National Hebrew Church, the first gasping breath of a nascent Messianic Jewish movement.

Young Ridley Haim certainly travelled a bit and his wanderings didn't stop after his marriage to Helen Mowbray. However, the engagement of a Jewish man to an aristocratic English lady caused quite a stir. Attempts were made to blacken Herschell's character to the point that serious doubt was cast on whether he was truly a Christian. All this happened with the undercurrent of anti-Semitism in a Britain where Jews did not yet have full rights as citizens.

In forty one short chapters, Geoffrey Henderson manages to capture a staggering amount of detail about Herschell's colourful and varied life. Henderson's insights into nineteenth century Jewish life and culture and Jewish attitudes to Christianity are invaluable. His style is absorbing and easy to read, transporting us back in time and enabling us to enter into the pain of Herschell's family, who thought he had apostatized and become an idolater. We rejoice to hear how his brothers, too, came to faith and that three of them also became ministers of the gospel. In spite of the obstacles he had to overcome, Ridley became a well-known, respected non-conformist minister and was amongst the founders of The Evangelical Alliance and The British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel amongst the Jews, now Christian Witness to Israel.

All Love is written with imagination that will inspire the reader and excite the believer at what God can and will do with a life lived for Him.

Reviewed by Richard Gibson

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