We now share with you an adaptation of the kind words shared by Rabbi Eckstein’s brother, Beryl Eckstein, during the rabbi’s funeral:
“The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the main thing is to have no fear at all” (translation of a Jewish song written by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov).
I stand before you in shock, pain, and sadness in attempt to give Kavod Acharon (respect) to my dear brother, Yechiel. HaRav Yechiel Zvi ben HaRav Shimon Aryeh U’Beilah (Rabbi’s Hebrew name).
From the time I was a child, I idolized my big brother. Yechiel was always larger than life. Although I could do everything he did, he simply could do it much better than me. We grew up in Ottawa, Canada, as the children of the rabbi of the city’s largest synagogue. Simply put, the eyes of the entire city were always upon us. Yechiel always thrived in this spotlight and soon thereafter took his skills to Yeshiva University High School in Manhattan.
A rock star and a key basketball player in MTA’s varsity, Yechiel’s team never lost a game. For years, I would wear his championship jacket. I thought it was cool. I came to New York to try and follow in his footsteps at MTA. My parents went on sabbatical to Israel and Yechiel had the responsibility, at 21 years old, of taking care of his kid brother.
I definitely cramped his style, but it was then that our bond as brothers truly began. He schlepped me everywhere. To Monsey (in New York) where he was a youth director, to Stamford, Connecticut, at his NCSY Leadership Seminars, and to his concerts where I entered for free because I was carrying his guitar. I was propelled into the public status as Yechiel’s kid brother.
Distance often separated us, but I never left his side and he never left mine. There was never a week that has gone by when we would not speak to each other before Shabbat (Sabbath). And when we were unable to talk because Yechiel was somewhere around the world, we would get an email from Korea, from South America, from all over simply saying I love you all, so much, Shabbat shalom. Life has its challenges and neither of us were immune to this, but no matter what mountain we had to climb, no matter what obstacle was in our way, we climbed it helping each other. And knowing we had each other’s back.
Me'ah dorot chalamti alayich lirot likvot be'or panayich. (Hebrew song: For a hundred generations I dreamt of you, to cry, to see the light of your face.) Yechiel sang that song two days ago. His aliyah (immigration to Israel) was such a tremendous part of the etzem (essence) of who he was. His life had new and invigorated meaning. Yechiel shared his journey of life with many special angels. People who I truly believe were sent by God to walk by his side with God guiding the way.
Our Shabbat table as children was one of joy, a true simcha (joy). Our parents engrained in each of us an obligation to community and chesed (loving kindness). Yechiel became who he is – was – because of the tremendous love, encouragement, and direction that he received from our parents who loved him so much.
Yechiel was a dreamer, an incredible visionary. The stories and accomplishments of my brother are legendary, but his true greatness was his ability to feel the pain and tears and care for each single soul in need.
Yechiel was blessed with three beautiful angels; Tamar, Talia, and Yael who accompanied him on his journey. There are no words to comfort you at this time. But there are also no words to describe the intense love that he had for each and every one of you. You each, in your own way, simply made him happy. His ultimate joy was spending time with each of his grandchildren. Having them in his life gave him tremendous pride and joy.
Yechiel, my dear brother, you are always by my side. Your lifetime of service to this world, to Am Yisrael (the people of Israel), to Torat Yisrael (refers to Jewish teachings regarding land of Israel), and to Medinat Yisrael (the land of Israel) now complete. May God bless your amazing, loving, and caring neshama (soul) with shalom (peace).
My dear Malach (angel) Yechiel, tayzchem l’shalom (may your departure be to peace) malachei hashalom (O angels of peace) t’heim yishmato baruch (may soul be blessed).