He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:29-31 (The Israel Bible™)
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, who died yesterday at his Jerusalem home, was considered a giant of interfaith dialogue. It was he, who realized the potential for increased and improved relations between Christians and Jews. After nearly two millennia of enmity and mistrust, his founding of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews in 1983 was a key point in repairing the breakdown.
Every Sunday through Friday, President and Founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ or The Fellowship), Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, sent out daily devotionals along with a scripture verse and the Hebrew Word of the Day to encourage understanding of Israel, the Jewish faith and Christianity’s Jewish roots. These devotionals have been a blessing to thousands of people over the years. Here are the summaries of Rabbi Eckstein’s top 10 devotionals of 2018:
Holy Land Moments Daily Devotionals (Click links to learn more!)
So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back. — (Numbers 12:15)
Rabbi Eckstein told an incredible story of kindness and encouraged us all to go the extra mile when it comes to being kind. He wrote, “Kindness is like a boomerang; eventually, it will make its way back to you when you are in need.”
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, OBM, spoke at my son’s Bar Mitzvah three nights ago. Here is the moving speech. I can’t believe such a hero of the Jewish people is gone.
Posted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on Wednesday, February 6, 2019
“When a calf, a lamb or a goat is born, it is to remain with its mother for seven days. From the eighth day on, it will be acceptable as a food offering presented to the LORD.” — (Leviticus 22:27)
Rabbi Eckstein reflected on a seemingly “senseless cruel practice” he witnessed on a farm in northern Israel and connects it to the people of Israel’s relationship with God. He wrote, “if we pray, and our prayers are not answered in the way that we like, we must understand that it’s not because God doesn’t love us; it’s because He loves us so much that He won’t give us something that is not good for us. God wants to give even more than our desire to receive. As we pray with that perspective, knowing that God is on our side and wanting to help us out, when the answer is “no,” we can take comfort knowing it’s because God has something even better in mind.”
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” – (Genesis 1:1)
Considering that the Bible is neither a history book nor a storybook – it is an instruction manual for living – Jewish Sages have asked why the Bible begins with “in the beginning” instead of the first commandment given to man or a story with a moral. Rabbi Eckstein explained, “The Sages explain that God begins the Bible with Creation so that we would know that He created the world and has all authority over the universe. The land on this earth is His to give and His to take away. Only He has the right to do so. He states very clearly in the Bible that He gave the land of Israel, a small portion of the entire earth, to the children of Israel. No one, not even the United Nations, has the right to take that land away.”
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. — (Micah 6:8)
Rabbi Eckstein recalled a story that aired on the news about a little boy who invited a homeless man to eat with him at a restaurant. He wrote, “Simple loving acts that bring glory to the Lord – that’s all God asks,” and encourages readers to do a simple act of kindness. He urges, “It doesn’t take much to serve God and bring glory to His name. Help a stranger, be extra kind to someone who is down, provide some words of encouragement, or even buy a stranger a meal. God doesn’t ask much from us, yet He does everything for us. The least we can do is contribute what we can.”
“Say to the Israelites: ‘Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD is guilty and must confess the sin they have committed. They must make full restitution for the wrong they have done, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the person they have wronged.’” — (Numbers 5:6–7)
“Confession is a doorway to freedom and forgiveness,” wrote Rabbi Eckstein, noting that Judaism requires confession of our sins only in the presence of one being — the presence of God. Nevertheless, we confess aloud so not so that God can hear them (after all, God knows our thoughts!). We confess so we can hear them. He added, “ Speaking is more powerful than thinking. God didn’t think the world into existence; He spoke it into existence. So, too, our words have power. When we confess our sins, we break down barriers that block our soul. We let go of toxins that poison our spirit. Most importantly, we engage God in our cleansing process, and it is only He Who can truly purify our souls.”
“‘I myself will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled.’” — (Leviticus 26:32)
Even when God punishes us, we can find His everlasting love shining through. Everything that He causes to happen in our lives – even the hard stuff – is ultimately a blessing. Even the fact that Israel was not a desirable land for over 2,000 years has allowed the Jewish people to return as they have. Noted Rabbi Eckstein, “The lesson for us is that God is always on our side. Even when it seems like our circumstances in life are less than desirable, there is always a hidden blessing. As the psalmist put it: “your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).
“The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on the sacred linen garments and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the tent of meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the members of the community.” — (Leviticus 16:32–33)
On Yom Kippur, why is charity singled out as one of the three components that can undo our wrongdoings and change things for the better? The Jewish sages teach that charity is so powerful that it can save a person from death. Rabbi Eckstein asked, “What is so extraordinary about giving charity?” He explained, “How we treat others is how God will treat us,” urging readers to give life and joy to others. If we do so, perhaps God will bless us with another year of life and joy as well.