I know it’s been a couple of weeks since my last post about What’s so important about the Olive Tree? where I discussed the complicated reality of not wanting to appear as though I support a doctrine of Replacement Theology. I’m going to get this done while I have a moment because I don’t want to wait even longer!
Having moved from the cultural context in which it was important not to perpetuate the idea that being Jewish by birth was important for inclusion to a community where it just never mattered at all, I became aware of a growing desire to find out more about my ancestry just for my own understanding. If I was not Jewish I could at least know, and say so, and still claim as my own the community that had always embraced me. If I was Jewish, so much of my life would make sense. Either way, the answer to the question, “Are you Jewish?” would be a lot easier to answer!
At first, the costs of the DNA tests that I originally heard about or could find online were not within what I could afford, so I determined to find out “some day” and let it go.
Then, someone online mentioned having done the ancestry.com DNA test. Someone asked about the cost and it turned out they were under $100! THAT was something I could do!!! I started getting excited about finally getting some answers. Regardless of the answer, I would no longer be an orphan of the world — I would know something about who I am and what genetic makeup produced me.
Tracing the branch back to the root
I ordered the test, appreciated the help of their customer service when the order was delayed in being fulfilled, sent back the saliva sample and waited. When it came, there it was . . . Scandinavian, English, Irish, Iberian Peninsula, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Italy/Greece and European Jewish. This is who I am. This is the journey my DNA traveled on its way to me.
Learning of the results resulted in a peace deep inside of me. It was like looking through a kaleidoscope and having all of the pretty pieces of glass be chaotic, and then shifting everything one click to the side and having them all fall into a beautiful mosaic of order.
Learning how to interpret the test results was the step that I didn’t expect! It means different things if you have regions listed instead of countries. The percentages do speak to “how much or little” of something you are, but even moreso to how far back and diluted that part of your code may be found.
My initial response when I saw the results was to tell my husband, “What do you want to bet, looking at these numbers and regions, that my Jewish ancestors were taken captive to Babylon and didn’t return to Israel when they were given the opportunity. Then they stayed as Babylon became Persia and then Greece and then Rome and then, at some point, took off over Eastern Europe and ended up in Scandinavia.” I was left with little hope of connecting those dots!
Obviously some cultures are better at keeping genealogies than others — and I would be more skeptical of some of the things I’m finding if the vast majority of the lines that are searchable weren’t utter dead ends either immediately or two to three generations back. It just so happens that Jewish and Scandinavian (along with Irish) are some amazing keepers of record! I knew this from studying Celtic Christianity a few years back (and finding my Irish ancestor whose tombstone stated that he was baptized by Patrick was definitely a highlight of this search through history!), but I had a sinking feeling that my search for my ancestors would not bear much fruit.
Instead, I uncovered some well researched and well documented records for one family line that had a branch go off into Scandinavia and just keep going. Back across Eastern Europe, to Rome. Back through Greece, and Persia, and Babylon, to the line of Judah. I approach all genealogical records with a very loose hold, knowing that we rely on records and not the type of proofs that we can always verify, but I was pleasantly surprised to find exactly what I predicted as I looked at the DNA results.
Now when someone asks if I’m Jewish I can confidently say yes. This doesn’t change anything about my personal history — I still wasn’t raised within the Jewish community, but that is the reality for many Jewish people.
I’m no more special than I was before I learned this.
God doesn’t love me more because of what I learned.
There is a popular concept in the homeschooling movement that speaks of providing our children with roots and wings. I want my children grounded in traditions and a solid foundation of family and faith (roots) and I want them to have vision and confidence to fly out of the nest and into the world toward whatever God has in store for them (wings).
My faith walk took me through so many things that gave me wings. One of the things that drew me to Hebraic study and Messianic worship was a desire for roots. As my faith grew deeper roots, I longed for them in my understanding of myself. Learning my genetic makeup gave me that.
My DNA didn’t start with me – it has been on a journey that has taken it from my ancestors, to me, and it has gone beyond me to my children. I see how I fit into the journey that my ancestors were on. I understand God’s promise to bless the children of those who love Him for a thousand generations. I am more deeply grateful for those who came before me — especially those I have identified and learned more about. I see how I came to be.
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