Akiva Potessio, formerly known as Pastor Scott Potestio, led church congregations in Walsenburg and Pueblo Colorado from 2005 – 2007. His learning led him to leave the church and his followers, he and his family converted to Judaism . He lives with his wife and three children in Denver. Come meet Akiva and hear about his journey, join him at Chabad of Boulder, 4900 Sioux Drive, Boulder on Decemeber 14, 6:00 pm. RSVP or for more information click here. Here are Four Questions for Akiva:
1- What caused you to be interested in Judaism?
While we owe a great deal to Rabbi Itche Kadoozy and his inspiring show, (for the uninitiated, view chabad.org and it’s show, itche Kadoozy) it was Rabbi Yisroel Noach Weinberg’s zt”l, shiurim on the 48 ways, 6 Constant Commandments and the Path of the Just, that brought us across the threshold with clarity, meaning and purpose. The initial impetus, however, was the Torah itself. In 2000, my wife and I were already avid Bible students so the study of Sabbath and permitted foods was our first taste of Judaism and how sweet it is! “Taste and see that Hashem is good” (Tehillim 34:9)!
2- What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
Chanukah! The kosher jelly doughnut eating contests hooked us early! There are 2 Chanukah concepts, however, that are especially meaningful to us because they exemplify and typify our experience. First is the halachah for the Chanukah Menorah by Bais Hillel. We start with one light on the first day of and by the 8th day all lights are kindled. This adding of lamps or candles, typifies the ever growing light of Torah. This was and is our experience: Torah light pierced our lives and it continues to expand, grow and illuminate continuously. Second is the principle of the dwindling light ofGreeceas is seen by the teaching of Bais Shamai. Bais Shamai taught that there should be 8 lights on the first day of Chanukah and to kindle one less each day. This typifies the continuous dimming of the light ofGreece- the ideals and philosophies of the world. This is also a continuous process in our lives. The light of Torah ever increases, the light of Greece continually decreases.
3- What challenges did you not anticipate in your journey?
By far the greatest challenge was being by a Yid on Shabbos who uses Vodka for kiddush! May the Moshiach and the Geulah come immediately, the Jewish people have suffered intensely since the first Korban. Scattered throughout the world to there raise the lost and hidden sparks, they have had to strive for simcha and the geula sometimes in midst of confusion and tears. That suffering that’s just under the surface of smiles, laughter and l’chaims, sometimes manifests itself to those most in need of laughter, acceptance and a warm embrace – but all for the best. Most unanticipated to us was touching this suffering – feeling distant and all alone, there were times we longed for the tents of Avraham and Sarah. The time will come, may it happen immediately, that we will be like dreamers! The suffering of the past will be like the memory of a dim fading dream and the happiness, joy and laughter will spread from our lips to the four corners of the earth.
4- Any advice to those on their own spiritual journey?
Let your approach to the Almighty be in this order: First – love the Jewish people; second – love the Torah; third – Love G-d. If you approach G-d in this order, your relationship with Him will be real, true, meaningful, and filled with love and light. Consider the opposite approach that can be an illusion: there are those that love G-d but not the Torah, and there are those that love the Torah but not the Jews. Would this approach be considered the love of the true Torah, or of the true G-d? But if you love the Jewish people, you can love the Book of the Jewish people, and if you can love the Book of the Jewish people, you will have a proper and healthy love of the G-d of the Jewish people, blessed be He. One other piece of advice, very important: the first time you see Gefilte fish, trust your instincts!