When I met Benyamin Sargon, I was almost 35 years of age, and he was 85 years of age!
We were on a flight back to the United States from Israel, having just celebrated the entire Feast of Succot! It had been a joyous time, and here I was on the airplane seated beside this precious man who would soon become a very dear friend.
In those days, planes were not packed-out and there was room to spread out a little and I had moved to a seat on a row where Benyamin was sitting that had a few spaces between us. Before long, I had moved into the seat right next to him!
He had noticed that I was reading, and he asked about the book, whether it was some type of novel, and I said, "no, it's the Bible". He was quite surprised and began to speak very freely about the Scriptures and about himself. I loved him from the start as we had this "thing" between us immediately. I know it was the Ruach connecting our souls, as both of us quickly figured out we had a mutual love for the one true God, the God of Israel.
Benyamin's family originally came from India where they had settled eons ago after the dispersion of the Jews from the Land of Israel. (Note: Jews remain a definite religious minority in India, with the entire population of Jews in the country peaking in the '40's at about 20,000 people. In total, today, about 70,000 Jews of Indian descent have made Aliyah to Israel and and only about 5,000 remain in India.)
At the time I met Benyamin, he and his wife lived in Brookline, Massachusetts, where he had practiced law for many years before retiring. He was a very religious and observant Jewish man, and it was his practice to go to Israel to celebrate the Feasts.
As we flew toward the USA from Tel Aviv, Benyamin got out his Bible, the Tenach, and his Siddur (prayer book) and we began to share our favorite Scriptures. I remember one of the first ones he shared was Psalm 42...he said to me, "I love the Scripture about the deer panting for water", and it just so happens to be a favorite of mine, too, and I immediately responded, "Oh, I love that one, too! It's Psalm 42, right?" And this is how it all began - this friendship from heaven.
We began to read back and forth antiphonally, Benyamin reading in Hebrew, and I, of course, reading in English. We shared many other Scriptures, and shared our stories. He was so kind and loving and so unaffectedly intelligent. He knew both Old and New Testaments and very soon into our conversation declared that we both loved God and the only difference in what we believed was about Mashiach (Messiah) and the timing of his coming. He was not afraid to talk about Yeshua, although he did not acknowledge Him as Messiah. He didn't say He wasn't either.
As the flight went on (for those who have traveled back and forth to Israel, you know the flights are 11-12 hours long!), we were totally captivated with our new friendship and we talked the entire flight - we did not sleep at all. At one point, he read from the Siddur and I began to sing a song of the Lord in tongues. He was totally accepting, and I was totally amazed that this song was coming out of my mouth!
This was one of the most awe-filled experiences of my life because when I was done, he said to me, "I understand that language you were singing - I have studied it - it is ancient Aramaic". I told him about the gifts of the Ruach and about the gift of tongues and all the other wonders of the charismata still being poured out today. We were bonded in the Ruach from that time on. I don't remember if he told me the actual words that I sang but I know they were words of praise and worship to the God of Israel.
For years after this first meeting, and before Benyamin's death about 4 years later, we were able to meet up fairly often in Charlotte, NC, where I live, when he was traveling from Brookline to Dallas where he son lived (Interesting notes: his son was the conductor of the Dallas Symphony and his daughter and her family had made Aliyah and lived in Israel). He would schedule his flights so that he had a stopover in Charlotte, and I would go to the airport to meet him. Sometimes we would just stay in the airport and visit and sometimes we would go out and I would bring him back for his flight out. But these were the sweetest, most blessed meetings. We so loved each other and God together. In between times, we wrote letters to each other back and forth.
I am not sure if it was the last time I saw Benyamin or not when we had our last conversation about Messiah, but it was near to the time of his final departure from earth. We were in the Charlotte airport and had been catching up on all our goings-on. He still traveled by himself everywhere he went, so our conversations were very intensely private, and even though we shared much about our everyday lives, the connection we had was very spiritual.
He was speaking freely about being in his later years and that soon he would depart this world and that he was really not sure what to expect after this. I told him that I knew that heaven existed and that eternity is our destiny when we love the one true God. He said something like "I hope that is right", and I said "I know it is true!".
I told him that Yeshua haMashiach had promised eternal life for everyone who believes in Him. I am not sure exactly how I said the words but something like, "Benyamin, I know you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. I believe that there is one God - Father, Son and Spirit - and that you know Him". You know the Father and they are One. He said he hoped so and out of my mouth came the words of Yeshua that still comfort me today as I remember Benyamin - I told him that these are the words Jesus said:
"Don't let your heart be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in Me." (John14:1)
I then continued with my paraphrase of the next few verses...."In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you unto myself that where I am you will be also." (John 14:2-4)
Benyamin was comforted by those words. We were then able to speak fully and freely of the deliverance brought by our Yeshua, and I trust today that Benyamin gave his heart to Yeshua, the One Called Faithful and True, and that Benyamin and I will embrace again when we see each other in the Olam Haba (the world to come)!
I praise the Lord for this beautiful friendship of Jew and Gentile, and at the time, young and old, male and female. Our Father filled us with such joy on that Succot so many years ago.
May the God of All Glory be praised and may He bless you during this season of rejoicing at Succot!